After landing in Hua Hin on AirAsia’s inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur, the plane is showered by a water salute and we are greeted by smiling faces, orchid garlands and sweet juices served in champagne flutes. At the entrance to the airport, Thai dancers gracefully sway in detailed orange and gold sabais that shimmer under the sun’s unrelenting rays. It is a warm welcome, made sweeter by our speedy drive straight to lunch.
Located 150km south of Bangkok, Hua Hin is considered the favourite holiday destination of Thai royalty, offering beautiful beaches, sumptuous cuisine as well as various activities. The city hosts a jazz festival once a year on the beach, with stalls offering cocktails and salty snacks as you listen to soulful hits by musicians from all over the world. To soak up the festival vibes from afar and for the best view in town, visit Hilton’s White Lotus Skybar. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the North and South beaches on comfy couches, sipping your favourite cocktail.
Known as a golfer’s paradise because of its numerous lush courses, Hua Hin also attracts tourists from other parts of Thailand, namely Bangkok.
There are plenty of recreational activities for visitors, which make it a holiday destination worth revisiting. A quick drive from Sanctuary Lakes Hua Hin’s luxury villas is Greenfield Valley, a fisherman’s haven. For a little extra, you can even eat the fish you catch.
Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy a meal at The Sala, a restaurant that overlooks Monsoon Valley’s largest vineyard. We were completely bowled over by the endless vines and green hills with the backdrop of blue skies and fluffy white clouds. You can enjoy a tour of the vineyard, and if you’re feeling adventurous, a mountain bike trail.
But if you’re a water baby like myself and are looking to enjoy your meal with a glorious sunset by the beach, head to Supatra by the Sea for Thai delicacies such as Tom Yum soup and Gung Che Num Pa, a raw prawn dish.
The Pala-U waterfall at Kaeng Krachan National Park is a definite must-see, or should I say, must-climb. Home to multiple species of butterflies and birds, the waterfall has 15 levels. You need to ask for special permission from the park rangers to go higher than level five. Athletes that we are, we only make it to level three but are thoroughly consumed by the natural beauty that surrounded us.
We visit the Cicada Market that offers unusual crafts, handmade decor, beautiful art and, on some days, theatrical treats in one amphitheatre and local musical talent on the other stage. Catering to all interests, the market also has a bar and various bites. If you’re looking for typical night market fare, Chatchai Market has everything from magnets and keychains to grilled giant prawns.
For a retro feel, Plearnwan is the place to be. The market is decorated with rare antiques and the stalls there sell all manner of food. Alongside the Insta-perfect backdrops for photos, there are also mini-carnival rides and shops selling holiday attire.
Another retro spot for authentic Thai cuisine is the Air Space restaurant. The decor is inspired by early aviation technology, including a Wright Brothers plane suspended above the diners. The glasshouse-like structure is filled with old relics, including typewriters and rotary dial telephones. Hua Hin truly has something for everyone.
5 more iconic places you must visit in Hua Hin:
The Hua Hin Railway Station
Built during the reign of King Rama VI, the red-and-white structure is considered one of the most beautiful train stations in Thailand. The locals say you haven’t been to Hua Hin until you have taken a photo with the iconic Hua Hin sign board.
Seven towering bronze statues built in honour of past Thai kings, by the Royal Thai Army are the park’s showpieces. Measuring nearly 14m tall, the statues bear plaques with the name of the kings and the years of their reign.
Located between Cha-am and Hua Hin, the royal palace is a seaside summer retreat built in 1923 by King Rama VI. Constructed entirely of teak, the structure is raised on 1,080 concrete pillars. The cream-and-powder-blue palace includes corridors that lead to bathing pavilions on the beach.
Wat Huay MongKol
Here, you can find the world’s largest statue of Luang Phor Thuad, one of Thailand’s famed monks. At 12m tall and 10m wide, the statue dwarfs the surrounding structures, which include two wooden elephant statues. This place of worship is surrounded by lush greenery.
Khao Takiab Mountain
The mountain, beside which is a 20m tall standing Buddha statue, is also called Monkey Mountain for the hordes of simians that inhabit it. The Wat Khao Lad temple as well as a Chinese temple built within it afford stunning views of Hua Hin and the sea.
This article first appeared on July 9, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.