Hua Hin (HuaHin), the in-beach town for Bangkok’s elite is on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand, 170km south of Bangkok, lying astride the southern Highway 4 from km 224 to km 245. Following the international trend for recuperative spa resorts in1920’s, Hua Hin became a popular retreat for Thai Royal Family, Bangkok’s high society, and affluent foreigners. Although Hua Hin’s fortunes declined after WW II, its historical connections have helped it become popular again with a new generation of Bangkokians. The town has two main streets. For those who arrive on the train, the main street, Damnern Kasem boulevard leads from the stately Hua Hin railway station straight to the main Hua Hin beachm a distance of of 1km, passing various goverment offices and ending on the beach front by the side of the former Royal Railway Hotel, now the five-star Sofitel Central Hotel.
Another main street is the southern Petchkasem Highway, which passes through the town, on both sides of which are the markets, main shops and restaurants. However, the deluxe hotels and condos are out on the beach front.
Hua Hin is, actually, the genesis of beach holidays for Thailand. The town used to be the summer capital of Thailand in the days of the monarchy.
It all started with a hunting trip arranged for the visiting Grand Duke of Russia, a royal visitor to King RamaV’s court back at the turn of the century. The hunting party was led by Prince Chakrabhongse, himself a royal student graduated in Imperial Russia. The prince came upon a strech of fabulous beach in Hua Hin, a fishing vilage of Prachuab Khirikhan province, and fell in love with the site. He later returned to build there the first beach villa of Thailand in Hua Hin, short distance from the site discovered during the hunt.
King Rama VI then build the first royal summer palace outside Hua Hin, at the site where the deer hunting party saw the beach. His successor, King Rama VII built another one in Hua Hin, naming it Klai Kangwon Palace, which is still in use by the Royal Family.
Thereafter, the royalties and the cream of Bangkok society followed suite, building stately beach villas in a row down the shoreline. The Southern railway was extended to Hua Hin in 1922. A stately Railway Hotel was built in the style of the grand hotels of Europe, serving afternoon tea, champagne dinner, with regular garden party and ballroom dancing. Then, the Royal State Railway Golf Course, the first and some say the most beautiful in Thailand, was built on a wooded hill estate across the track from Hua Hin Station. The uphill-downhill fairways lead through thickets of 100-year old trees. Glimpses of the blue sea can be seen from several tee offs. After the transition to democratic system in 1932, Hua Hin faided into near oblivion.
In the post World War II era, after the economy picked up, the beaches on the eastern coast were discovered, first Bang Saen and then Pattaya which attracted Thai and foreing visitors en mass, more for the promises of having the good times on the beach than peaceful relaxation, which started the Pattaya real estate boom up to now.
That was a boon for Hua Hin, which in the mean time, discerning investors had quietly developed choice beach properties for upmarket clientele. Luxury condos and five-star hotels have gone up along the beach line. Scenic, new 18-hole golf courses made their appearances in the vicinity. All these developments were the start to the continious expansion of Hua Hin to present day.
On weekdays, Hua Hin leads a normal life as an ordinary upcountry town. Come weekends, the curbs outside restaurants on the main streets are lined with thoroughbred machines, the like of Mercedes, BMW, Jaguars as the villa and condo dwelllers come out for their meals. After meal time, the town is back to normal again.
By and large, Hua Hin does not have brassy beer bars and racy nightlife as on the other side of the Gulf. The superior beaches, wide open endless stretches of fine powdery white sand, are relatively uncrowded and clean, the pace of life calm and relaxing, an ideal place to bring the family for their annual holiday.
Now Hua Hin is more popular as ever with Thais and foreign families. Hua Hin has eight 5 star hotels and more 5 star hotels are settling in Royal Hua Hin. Hua Hin has many attractions for the tourists. Among others there are many yearly festivals held here like: Chinese new year, Songkran Festival, Loy Kratong, Hua Hin Jazz Festival, Hua Hin & Cha-am Golf Festival and the world famous Hua Hin Kings Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.