After hitting the beach, check out these local attractions
Visitors arriving in Hua Hin by train disembark on a picturesque platform that is home to the iconic Royal Waiting Room, which was moved from Sanam Chan Palace in Nakhon Pathom to its current resting place. In many ways, arriving by train this “retro railway station” provides the ideal introduction to historic Hua Hin. In 1911, while the southern train line to Malaysia was still being built, the railway station opened in the freshly renamed city of Hua Hin (translation: “stone head”). The Royal Siamese Railways (RSR) saw potential for development—what with the area’s soft white sands and gently rolling hills—and in the 1920s the RSR directed an Italian architect named A. Rigazzi to build the Railway Hotel. It consisted of two stories of brick and wood, with a mere 14 rooms, a lounge, a bar, a billiards room, and a restaurant. Decades later, the property was featured in the 1975 film The Killing Fields (doubling for a colonial building in Phnom Penh). Later, in 1986, the State Railway of Thailand granted the Central Group of Hotels and Accor the rights to the property, beginning a period of careful restoration that would reshape and update the resort. Nowadays it operates as the exquisite Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin.
Another link to the past can be found in the region’s two royal residences. The Klai Kangwon Royal Palace—the King’s summer residence, completed in 1933— shows clear European influence, and the main residence, called Phra Tamnak Piem Suk, would not be out of place on the Mediterranean coast, with its Roman colonnade, flat-tiled Spanish roof, and elegant gardens. By contrast Mrigadayavan Palace, in neighbouring Cha-Am, was designed primarily by King Rama VI, who used golden teakwood to finish the project. Completed in 1923, it features a long covered walkway extending to the sea, and breezy living and drawing rooms. Unlike Klai Kangwon, visitors can stroll through the grounds of this colourful, well-manicured seaside estate and visit the museum rooms on the upper floor of the interconnected pavilions. Open every day, except Wednesdays, from 8am to 4pm (5pm on weekends).
Built in 2009 and located on Phetkasem Rd (between Soi 38 and 40), Plearnwan is a 3-level Eco Vintage Market featuring replica wooden village shops and buildings. It’s a great place to do some one-of-a-kind clothing and souvenir shopping, or catch a weekend classic film screening. There’s also retro carnival games, and eateries serving everything from noodle soup and other Thai classics, to designer ice cream and gelato. Also check out the 60s inspired lounge dedicated to Thai whiskey. Open daily from 9am (Fri-Sat till 10pm, Sun-Thu till 9pm).
Also known as the Hua Hin Artist Village, this arts centre opened in 1998 on a 10 rai site up in the hills just to the West of central Hua Hin. It is the base for many artists, and the residence of Hua Hin’s most famous artist, Tawee Kesa-ngam. The “village” includes large galleries of arts and antiques, artist studios, a coffee and gift shop, and classrooms where visitors can sign up for art lessons. Open daily (except Mondays) from 10am till 5pm.
Standing in a line, against a backdrop of forested hills in Rajabhakti Park, are seven giant statues of great Kings from Thai history. The bronze statues, each measuring nearly 14 metres tall, honour King Ramkhamhaeng (Sukhothai era), King Naresuan and King Narai (Ayutthaya era), King Taksin (Thonburi era), and from the current ruling Chakri dynasty Kings Rama I, IV, and V. Each statue carries a plate with the name of the King and period of reign. The park is located off Phetkasem road towards Pranburi (4 km past Vana Nava Water Park). The park is free to enter and open daily during daylight hours.
Although the famous Hua Hin Night Market, which runs daily from 5pm till about 11pm, is a not-to-be-missed attraction in town, the Cicada Market—which opened in 2010—is an equally enticing venue. Created as a place for artists, creators, and designers to exhibit their wares, the market is open on Friday and Saturday, from 4pm to 11pm, and on Sundays till 10pm. Located on Khao Takieb-Hua Hin Road, at the entrance to the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the entire market area features an abundance of shopping outlets and eateries, as well as a venue for live performances and art exhibitions.
From February to May, Hua Hin is ideal for kitesurfing, and the folks at Hua Hin Kitesurfing—a branch of KiteBoardingAsia (KBA)—insist that anyone can easily learn. Package prices start at B4,000 for a day-long introductory lesson with one of the school’s instructors, and go as high as B43,000 for a 14-night holiday package, including nine days of kitesurfing lessons. Visit www.huahinkitesurfing.com for more information. Meanwhile, away from the waves, Hua Hin Bike Tours offers amazing half-day, full-day and multi-day tours. Explore the beaches, travel to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, drop in on the Monsoon Valley Vineyard, or cycle all the way to the Myanmar border (it’s just 12 km away). Check out www.huahinbiketours.com to find out more.
For Art’s Sake
As one of Thailand’s many 3-D art museums, For Art’s Sake (22/141 Phetkasem Rd) is a great place to take dozens of fun photos posing in front of optical illusion scenes painted on the walls and floors. The museum is divided in several zones, each with its own theme, and there are several local Hua Hin scenes like wind surfing, playing in the sand on the beach, kite surfing, and with the train at Hua Hin railway station. Other “zones” include thrill rides, scary monsters, and perspectives that create the illusion of endless spaces. Open daily from 10am until 9pm (adults B300, children B200).