12.20.2015 - 12.22.2015 91 °F
Now, this is living! What a relaxing beach-town experience in Huang Hin, Thailand. Hua Hin is a small resort town about 2.5 hours south of Bangkok (by train or car). In the 1920's a railway station was built, and tourism to the area increased. The beach town was chosen by the current sitting monarch as the location of his private residence for two years. It has a small-town vibe, but clearly a community supporting tourism.
We arrived in Hua Hin from Bangkok by train (450 Thai Baht per person for the best train ticket - about US $13). The train ended up being delayed 30 minutes with us arriving at 11:30am after departing 8:30am. We bought the tickets directly at the train station in person the night before we left. We were not able to purchase Thai train tickets from outside the country, although it might be possible through a third party travel agency. The train ride wasn't as picturesque as originally described and takes a bit longer than a car, so we opted for a personal car to drive us back to Bangkok at the end of our stay. We booked the car back to Bangkok through our hotel for 3000 Baht (about US $83), which gave us the flexibility to leave at the time we preferred. Everyone in Bangkok claims Hua Hin is only two hours away but after making the trip in a train and by car, we don't really see a reasonable way to get there in under three hours.
The whole town is relatively walkable. The train station is quaint and tuk tuks are plentiful. Basically all tuk tuk rides in Hue Hin are 100 Baht (UD $3) no matter the distance. When you get into town they will try to charge you 200 Baht for a ride to your hotel from the train station. We just said we expected to pay 100 Baht and then settled on 120 Baht. Our hotel had its own tuk tuk that would drop us off around town for free.
We stayed at Putharasca hotel in the Oceanside villas. Well worth the splurge. We used our Amex points, but I think the cost at high season isn't too crazy for what you get. The hotel selected their best ocean view villa for our honeymoon stay and surprised us with a special cake, flowers, and a lovely card (which also came with a free lizard that we found later in the evening). We received such a warm welcome. Our hotel backed up right against the ocean, so you could hear the waves and walk right down to the outdoor loungers to hang out right at the water. The beach at Huan Hin is rocky and has Jelly fish, so it's not the picturesque crystal clear water experience that one might think of. The city's charm and pace as well as weather and beach vibe is what drew us in.
We went to a night market here and found that the Thai night markets had much more interesting features and products than those in China and Hong Kong. In Hue Hin the markets there are touristy items like elephant pants (loose flowy pants with elephant prints on them), little Thai purses and pouches, and street patsy. The markets also have some local products and experiences such as modern clothes that locals shop for, lingerie at the "ladies markets", and places to stop for drinks. We negotiated everything at the markets, and almost never paid the asking baht price.
At the night market they also have fish foot spas, where you place your feet in a tank of small fish (toothless Garra rufa fish) that nibble at your feet and eat off the dead skin cells. It was a crazy feeling. We did more research later and found that there care be hygiene concerns with these spas, if they do not clean them appropriately, so you may want to pass or make sure to find a higher end spa.
Speaking of spa treatments, we got a Thai massage at our hotel with a salt scrub that was amazing. I totally different type of massage than the usual European deep tissue. They use their elbows and full arms and stand on the table including stretching with the massage. It looked like many people were enjoying the street massages as well for very little price. So another option is to stop here and there for 15 minutes massages around town.
The last little tidbit on Hua Hin is a deep cut seafood restaurant on the water at the north part of town. We got the recommendation from our concierge in Bangkok, and it was great. It was sort of hidden down an ally that opens to strings of lights in the trees, and what seemed like mostly Thai and Chinese tourists rather than Westerners. The food was good. We had the deep friend garlic fish as well as some seafood with yellow curry. Also be sure to ask for rice whenever you order, it doesn't come standard with the dishes.
That's it for Hua Hin. If you're looking for a Thai beach town that is lower key and charming, Huang Hin is great. A place like Phuket has much more of a night life and the beaches are more exotic looking. Phuket is far enough from Bangkok that you need to take a plane.
We leave you with this pic of Kurt trying to look cool: