Hua Hin – Thailand’s Royal Retreat

news: Hua Hin – Thailand’s Royal Retreat

By Nigel Wright

Hua Hin is a popular beach resort around 200kms south of Bangkok on Thailand’s east coast. Whilst not as famous as Pattaya, Phuket, Samui or Krabi, its ease of access by road from Bangkok Airport makes it an attractive option for a few days stopover whilst on route from Europe to Australia or New Zealand. For transport from the airport, it is better to pre-book a car (via the internet) from Hua Hin rather than rely on an expensive airport taxi.

The resort is full of interest, has a safe sandy beach, a wide choice of accommodation and local people who will ensure you receive a warm welcome. This is a perfect place to rest, relax, linger awhile and enjoy Thailand’s renowned hospitality. You won’t, of course, be the first to discover the charms of Hua Hin as you will be following in the hallowed footsteps of the Thai Royal Family!

Royal connections

A Thai Royal prince, who came on a hunting trip with Russian nobility, initially put Hua Hin on the map in the early 20th century. He liked the place so much that he built a beach villa and his brother, King Rama VI, followed soon afterwards, constructing a magnificent beach-side retreat in golden teak wood. Later, King Rama VII built a second palace, called Klaikangwon, meaning “far from worries”, which is still used today by the Thai Royal Family.

Khao Takiab is a prominent coastal hill just to the south of Hua Hin, perched above a traditional fishing village with a vibrant daily fish market. On top of the hill is a temple called Wat Khao Lad, which is more popularly known as the Monkey Temple. It can be reached by a steep climb, made somewhat easier by a well-constructed access road.

The sea views across the bay to Hua Hin are excellent. We were warned to beware the resident monkeys, whose nimble fingers have become supremely adept at removing small items from unsuspecting tourists. The coffee shop at the temple sits inside a large locked cage. Tucked safely within this cage, we enjoyed our morning coffee and tasty Thai pastries, whilst a large troop of chattering monkeys peered at us from the outside, poking their fingers through the bars and calling us to try and grab our attention. It was just like a zoo but with roles reversed!

Further down the hill lies a picturesque Chinese-style temple. A large rotund figure of Budai, more commonly known as the ‘Laughing Buddha’, greeted us at the entrance. This cheerful folklore deity is admired for his wisdom of contentment and it is believed that rubbing his belly brings wealth, good luck and prosperity!

There was also a striking image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, with her many heads and arms. The Buddha himself is said to have given her multiple heads and arms so that she could both hear the cries of those suffering and reach out to all those in need.

The Anantara Resort

We chose the Anantara Resort for our own short vacation in Hua Hin. This wonderful hotel is set in a lush tropical landscape just to the north of the town. The large well-appointed rooms are constructed mainly of wood and each has a balcony or private area overlooking the sea, beautiful gardens or the ornamental lagoon.

There are attractive discounts for those that book early through the hotel website. The resort has many dining options and we chose the Rim Nam Restaurant, sampling some exquisite Thai cuisine in a romantic setting close to the magnificent swimming pool. The service was outstanding and we dined each night to the accompaniment of tranquil Thai melodies played on the jara-khe, a stringed instrument like a zither.

An unexpected but pleasant surprise was the chance to converse in Portuguese with some of the hotel guests, who were attending the wedding of a young man from Faro and a charming lady from India. They were married on the beach in a simple Catholic Church ceremony with a flaming red tropical sunset providing a perfect backdrop. The dedicated hotel staff had left nothing to chance and treated this young couple just as if they were modern-day Thai royalty!

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Nigel Wright, and his wife Sue, moved to Portugal seven years ago and live in the countryside near Paderne with their three dogs. They lived and worked in the Far East and Middle East during the 1980s and 90s, and although now retired, still continue to travel and enjoy new cultural experiences. His other interests include tennis, gardening, photography and petanque.