Elephant’s Leg

Thailand 5 78 - Khao Takiap, Hua Hin 13-11-05

View from Khao Takiab

Hua Hin is the best beach spot within easy reach of Bangkok – by a long way, in my opinion.

Pattaya remains the busiest, but its popularity is more due to it being Thailand’s sex central – and unabashed position as such – rather than its unremarkable beach, dirty sea and culture-less city centre.

Cha-Am and Bang Saen have a nice atmosphere to them, but their beaches are gritty, with parasols spoiling most of the views (Thais like to be beside the seaside as much as Europeans, but hate the prospect of the sunshine darkening their skin).

Ko Samet and Ko Chang are both wonderful, but at around 4-5 hours’ drive from Bangkok, plus a ferry ride, they’re just a tad too far for a short hop.

Hua Hin, then, at 2-3 hours’ drive from Bangkok, is not only viable but also offers a lot that the aforementioned seaside spots don’t. I went there last weekend, my fifth trip there, and enjoyed it as always.

The beach is not world class, such as you’d find in Thailand’s picture-perfect south, but is certainly attractive. Fine, almost-white sand squeaks underfoot, while the water is clean and clear. The dreaded parasols can be found in the stretch of beach closest to the city centre, but it’s only a short walk to find long stretches of uninterrupted sand.

The seafood restaurants are great and the night market is one of the best in Thailand. The bar scene is a little low-key, with only one nightclub that I know of, one stretch of foreigner-oriented girly pubs and/or sports bars, and a few quieter drinking holes, but this adds to the relaxed feel of the town. If I want vibrant nightlife, Bangkok has it in spades, so sometimes it’s nice to be somewhere a little more chilled out.

Indeed, there’s something of a “middle-aged” feel to the place. The majority of the western tourists in Hua Hin fit this age bracket. Well, that is somewhat true of Pattaya too, although the difference is that in Hua Hin they are mostly couples, while in Pattaya they are mostly men on the prowl. Hua Hin is attractive to this demographic because it is laid-back, safe, developed and close enough to Bangkok for those who don’t have the time or inclination to go further.

The city itself is nice enough, but there are also a number of attractions nearby, whether the Chinese temple and its resident macaques at Khao Takiab, or Kaeng Krachan and Khao Sam Roi Yod national parks, the Buddha Cave, zoo and Monkey Island.

If I have one criticism, it’s that there is not much “Thai-ness” to Hua Hin. There is still an element of its former fishing village ambience to be found in the pier-style wooden guesthouses and restaurants along Naresdamri Road, but for the main part the city is now geared up for the predominantly European – and significantly Scandinavian – tourist and expat customer base. Western restaurants outnumber Thai, while tailor shops are even more ubiquitous here than elsewhere in Thailand, and many pubs proudly fly British, German and Scandinavian flags.

But I suppose this is inevitable, and at least it’s not yet Westernised enough to have a Queen Victoria pub (as seen in Pattaya) or a Yorkshire Inn (Phuket). If I want the full Thai cultural hit, I can find it in many places in Bangkok, and of course much of wider Thailand remains off the mass tourism trail. The appeal of Hua Hin is that it is a beach town accessible from Bangkok without having to get on a plane or long-haul bus or train. Furthermore it is clean, safe and attractive – which none of the other “local” beach towns can offer all of.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I prefer Patters, old chap. Hua Hin is boring.

Comment by Sir Mark

Depends what you’re looking for. Admittedly Hua Hin is short on Russian mafia, socially outcast farangs and opportunities to have pudenda shoved in your face while you’re trying to have a drink, but aside from that I think it’s a nice place!

Comment by elephantsleg

[…] follow), and he was so old school that he didn’t use email. Instead, I would have to travel to Hua Hin, where he lived, to collect and deliver the chapters. We would then typically discuss my […]

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