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Hua Hin Beach

Hua Hin is Thailand's oldest beach town resort. Situated on the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand and only 200 kilometers from the capital, Bangkok, it offers the ultimate getaway destination for the city's elite. Hua Hin became popular with the Royal Family following the construction of the southern railway in the 1920's, travel became more accessible and a demand for luxury resorts and hotels grew. The first of these was the Railway Hotel which is now the Sofitel Central, still one of Hua Hin's most popular hotels.

With a population of some 75,000, Hua Hin is a relatively small holiday town in comparison to Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. However, it is expanding all the time as our destination becomes more and more popular.

Hua HinGetting around is easy as the centre of town is very concentrated and it is possible to explore the heart by foot. Whether you're staying at one of the up-market hotels, a guesthouse or in accommodation slighly further afield, you're unlikely to be more than a few kilometres away from the major banks, the Post Office and other facilities that are associated with a tourist destination.

There is good variety of transport available in town. Motorcycle taxis are readily available, but bear in mind that most riders do not supply helmets for pillion passengers. Tuk tuks (3 or 4 wheeled, open sided taxis) are again easy to find, particularly in the centre of town and for those want a more recognised form of taxi service, there are plenty of drivers around to take you home.

Public transport consists of songtaews, these green trucks leave every 15 minutes or so and cost 10 baht to and from Khao Takiab to the centre of town and also from there out to the airport for a further 10 baht. You simply flag one down and get on. The first songtaews run from around 6am and the last ones at around 6.30pm.

For those that are in no rush you can travel by rickshaw or trishaw. These are three wheeled bicycles that are often seen cruising the back streets of Hua Hin and are a great way to take in the town. Some of the major hotels organize rickshaw tours where you end up in a large convoy snaking your way through downtown Hua Hin

Beaches in and around Hua Hin

There are 5 local beaches accessible from Hua Hin town center so you have plenty of choice of where to catch those rays and take a swim in the Gulf of Thailand.

Cha-am beach is around 28 kilometers north of Hua Hin. It's very well-known within the area and like the norbreck castle hotel in the UK is very close to the beach, you can't miss it once you see it. The beach road is lined on one side with local vendors selling everything from seashells to grilled squid and on the other a row of trees, the beach and ocean. It is very quiet and relaxing during the week and gets busy at weekends with locals from the city enjoying themselves on the beach. You can have a blast on a jet ski, take a ride on a banana boat or simply relax in the shade of a tree by the ocean. Cha-am has retained its traditional ambience and popularity with locals and visitors.

Hua Hin beach stretches some 7 kilometers from the town center to Khao Takiab. It remains little developed compared to other Thai resorts and considering its size you can always find a quiet little spot. Its name (Hua Hin � head stone) is derived from the rock formations that can be seen on the beach in front of the Sofitel Central Hotel. For those who are a little more adventurous, pony rides can be taken and for those simply wanting to relax there are plenty of deck chairs, sun loungers and beach umbrellas available for a small hourly charge.

Khao Takiab beach (chopstick hill) can be seen some 7 kilometers south of Hua Hin. The hill has a temple at the top and there are troops of monkeys that can be fed. For this reason it is also often referred to as �Monkey Mountain�. The beach at Khao Takiap is actually better behind the hill at Blue Wave where there are big expanses of beach and calm shallow waters ideal for children. Locals sometimes play football, volleyball and takraw on the wide flat sands of Khao Takiap beach. Green songtaews (twin benched pickup with a roof!) run frequently to Khao Takiab from town for 10 Baht, and a motorcycle taxi should cost no more than 100 Baht. More info can be found on the Khao Takiab Guide.

Khao Kalok is a bit of a mission to get to but well worth it. Drive to Pranburi and head towards Paknampran then take the second major turning on the right (not the Sam Roi Yod one). Follow this road for about 10km and make a right at the t-junction, follow the road round and follow the signs, it takes about 40 minutes. There is a long beach with a concentration of good restaurants at the end, also has a large rock outcrop with a hole through it that shelters part of the beach (there are always Thais hiding under it).

Ao Manao (Prachuab) has got to be one of my favourite spots. It takes an hour to get there. Drive to Prachuab, turn off towards the city and follow the English signs to Ao Manao which will take you through the city, over a runway and into an army base. When you see the colour of the water here you'll think you're on the Andaman. Very popular with Thais and very few westerners here, the beach is great, ideal for kids (although does get jellys in the season) and loads of food options. No better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Suan Son is further south of town, approximately 15 kilometers. It is named after the numerous pine treesHua Hin that fringe the beach. This is a popular spot for locals and you�ll be hard pushed to see other westerners. The beach is wide and uncluttered and the ocean clear and inviting.

Khao Tao has a beautiful, secluded little bay around 20 kilometers south of Hua Hin. Its deserted beach and delightful seaside restaurants make it a great venue for a day out of town where you can relax with good local food and a swim in the ocean. You can take the local bus to the signposted turn off Petchkasem Road, then get a motorcycle taxi or charter a tuk-tuk to take you all the way to the local beaches of Had Sai Yai and Had Sai Noi.

Khao Takiab
Take a green songtaew for 10 baht from town south to Khao Takiab (as mentioned above). The journey is around 7km and will take about 10 � 15 minutes. You�ll pass through the village before stopping at the end of the road at Chopstick hill (Khao Takiab). Walk past the restaurant to the beach and you�ll see the standing Buddha of Khao Takiab, positioned to ward off evil spirits from the sea. You can climb the stairs to the temple complex at the top after making a small donation to the monks. The top will reward you with some spectacular views back across Hua Hin and to Cha-am (on a clear day). There is currently a lot of development occuring on Khao Takiab so you�ll need to find your way through the works to the temples. The hill is also known for its monkeys, or �macaques�, that live there. You can feed them but don�t get too close and watch your belongings.

Ban Krut is a small coastal town around 45 minutes drive south of Prachuab. It is sign posted off the main highway and takes a further 20 minutes or so to get to the beach. There are a number of resorts along the long stretch of golden beach and the area is very popular with Thais, expecially at the weekends and holidays. Probably too far to go for a day out but it makes a great little break for a night away by the beach.

Bangsaphan is only 20 minutes from Ban Krut. There are a few expats living in this small, quiet town and it also is popular with locals. Accommodation options are somewhat limited but there is one three star resort and a number of beach bungalows. There is even a little beach bar to while away the hours nursing a cold beer and watching the tide come in. Other attractions near Bangsaphan include Koh Talu, a small island and the first place south of Bangkok where you can go scuba diving and snorkelling.

Three hours drive south of Hua Hin brings you to Chumphon. The main long beach with golden sands and crystal clear seas is located around 15km north of the city. Follow the signs to the Cabana resort to get to the beach. There is also a scenic road that runs along the coast from Bangsapan. Accommodation options are limited and it will appear that the Cabana has the monopoly (it certainly does on the web) but there are several other guesthouses and resorts to choose from along the beach. Diving and snorkelling trips can be taken out to the islands of Koh Ngam Yai and Koh Ngam Noi an hour away and you can also take the Lomprayah or standard ferry to Koh Tao from town. There are more beaches further south of Chumphon.

Animals
West of Hua Hin on the road to Pala-U is an elephant village where you can witness these pachyderms in their natural habitat and even go for a ride on one. A butterfly garden is located opposite Klaigungwon Palace, 3km north on town center.

A little known animal park can be found 10km north of Hua Hin. To get there, take Soi Huay Sai on the left about 1km after Palm Hills as you're traveling north. Continue on this soi for some 4km and the park is on your right. Entrance is free. You'll be able to see a number of deer, plenty of birds and monkeys, namely macaques, langurs and gibbons. Some are roaming free. There are decent spots to picnic, but bring your own supplies as there are no shops.

Temples
There are several temples in and around Hua Hin, the main being Wat Hua Hin in the center of town. This large complex is home to the many monks that can be seen collecting alms in the early morning. The temple at Bor Fai (Wat Bor Fai) has some impressive ponds teeming with catfish which you can feed after a small donation to the monks. It's located about 5km north of Hua Hin (turn left after the PTT station opposite Anantara Resort). There are also the previously mentioned temples at Khao Takiab and one or two out to the west of Hua Hin with some impressive Buddha statues.

Royal Palaces
The Kings Palace in Hua Hin � Klaigungwon is now only accessible by invitation. However the residence of Rama VI to the north of Hua Hin is open to the general public. Well worth a look as it boasts some impressive gardens and beach pagodas. It has now been fully restored to its former glory and is the longest golden teak palace in the world.

Hua Hin Railway Station

The Thai Royal Family used to visit Hua Hin regularly by train, so the railway station is steeped in history. It's well worth while taking a look around and seeing The Royal Waiting Room and a fine example of an old steam locomotive. The station is situated at the top (Western) end of Damnoern Kasem Road.

Markets
Hua Hin boasts no shortage of local markets, the most popular one being the night market in the center of town. This opens daily from around 6pm till late and offers all manner of hawker food, some clothing, and a few tourist items such as wooden elephants, trinkets etc. This market is a little touristy and therefore prices are a bit higher that other local markets.

Chat Chai day market is just along from the night market and is mostly undercover. Here you can buy fruit, vegetables, fish, and meat at local prices. It has recently been through a total refurbishment and is no longer as dim and dingy as before. A visit is worth the experience to watch the locals go through their daily shopping routines. Join in as well, you'll enjoy it.

The weekend market at the Grand Hotel runs from Thursday to Sunday and offers something different again. Here you can shop for clothes, books, plants, toys, pets and tropical fish. This is another evening market starting at around 5pm.

In my opinion the best all round and probably the largest market in Hua hin is at Pae Mai on Tuesdays (across the railway next to the driving range). This one gets very busy and is extremely popular with the locals. Here you can get anything; fresh produce, clothing, motorcycle accessories, electrical appliances, tools, household items and much more. Its definitely worth a visit.

Hua Hin Market Village is the town's first major shopping mall. Situated some 2km south of the center on Petchkasem Road, it offers ample parking facilities and a good range of fashion outlets, food courts and smaller local shops and stalls. The big names there include Tesco Lotus, Home Pro, Boots, KFC and Starbucks. There is a bowling alley and Major Cineplex on the top floor. Not many films have English soundtracks.

Festivals
Hua Hin also has several festivals throughout the year. The Hua Hin International Kite Festival is held every two years in March when the winds are always favourable. In 2008, it was held over the weekend of 8/9th March. After 10 years, the event has become international with competitors coming from all over Thailand, Canada, New Zealand, China, France, India and Singapore. It's a colourful day out for the whole family and other acivities include shopping and eating - there are plenty of food stalls. It takes place at The Rama VI Army Camp just north of Hua Hin.

The annual Hua Hin Jazz Festival is usually held on the first week of June. It has grown rapidly over the years and is now a major international event in Thailand. It can get very crowded, so try to get their early to secure a good vantage point on the beach.

Hua HinDuring the whole of August, Hua Hin and Cha-Am host The Hua Hin Golf Festival. Every day during the month, green fees are heavily discounted - except for any Sunday when official tournaments are being held. Entrance to these is usually 1,200 Baht and there are always some great prizes up for grabs. Participating courses vary from year-to-year, so be sure to check first.

The Hua Hin Regatta also takes place in August. In 2008, it was held over the first weekend in the month. It's a colourful spectacle with over 300 competitors taking part in a variety of classes. Spectating is free from the beach. Should you be interested in taking part, further details can be obtained from: The Yacht Racing Association of Thailand, Navy Headquarters, Building No. 5, Royal Thai Navy, Bangkok 10600. Tel: 02 4720852.

The Hua Hin Vintage Car Rally generally takes place in December when the weather is fine. There have been five events so far and a fine array of motor vehicles make the 225km journey from Bangkok to Hua Hin on the first day. On the second, they parade around Hua Hin following a route that takes in Hua Hin Railway Station to Klaikangwon Palace and back again. Lovers of old cars will find the rally a delight to visit. There is always a fine selection of cars in pristine condition, including E-Type Jaguars, Mercedes, Alfa Romeos, Fiats and many more. The vehicles can be inspected outside the side entrance to The Sofitel Central Hotel on Damnoern Kasem Road.

In addition, there is also an annual food festival in November where local hotels set up stands offering their finest cuisine. Try different foods from South East Asia or just relax by the Singha Tent and take in the entertainment. Every year around April time a huge market is setup along Neabkehardt road offering all kinds of hawker foods, very good value clothing and even a funfare for the kids.

Fishing Pier
Most of the fishing fleet has been relocated further south to Paknampran and Prachuabkirikhan, nevertheless a few boats still dock there and it's interesting to see their daily catch. You can also sample some of this fine seafood at the local restaurants in the area. The immediate vicinity is actually the old fishing village that Hua Hin once was. The maze of narrow lanes, containing many of the original wooden houses, is a must for photographers.

Public Sports
If you want to swim or use the gym there are good facilities at Palm Hills Country Club (7km north) at 200 Baht per person to enjoy the pool and Sport Villa (3km south). Pool use here is 50 baht per person. In addition, some of the major hotels will allow you to use their pool facilities for a small fee, especially in the low season. Hua Hin Grand Sport has a well equipped free-style gym and martial arts training and fighting. Check out Hua Hin Sport for full details on sports and activities in Hua Hin.

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