Since the sixties, Thailand has been thought of as a Holy Grail destination for backpackers, gap year travelers and spirituality seekers. With its golden temples, mist covered mountains and tropical beaches, it provides the perfect blend of culture and relaxation. As journalist Bernard Kalb once observed, “…the people [here] seem to have found the magic elixir. Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.” Yet, as with many of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, major cities like Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai have become exceptionally crowded. To experience Thailand as backpackers did in the sixties, you’ve got to leave the beaten path. The seaside resort of Hua Hin is just outside of the capital and every bit as beautiful as Koh Samui, Krabi or Koh Lipe. Here are six reasons you should make Hua Hin, Thailand your next vacation destination.
1. It’s a Lot Less Touristy Than Bangkok
Hua Hin is the type of town that local Thais choose for their holiday destinations. While less than 200km from Bangkok, it is surprisingly quiet and serene. It provides everything tourists need in a coastal resort – gorgeous beaches, great restaurants, lively bars – but the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed. If the constant noise and drama of Bangkok is discouraging, head to Hua Hin where hipsters mingle with retirees, sun worshippers, young families and culture vultures.
2. The Local Cuisine Is Life Affirming
Bangkok isn’t the only place to taste authentic Thai cuisine. When vacationing in Hua Hin, leave your diet at the door. There’s so much to choose from here that you’ll find yourself making plans to return just for the food. Lung Ja Seafood, at the Hua Hin Night Market, is a legendary spot for fresh lobster. If you’re looking for Pad Thai to die for, swing by Moom Muum Noodle and Rice Café. Or, just hit the streets to find a trendy café, upmarket restaurant, street food vendor or even local cooking classes.
3. The Night Markets Are Great for Bargains
Speaking of night markets, you’ll find no fewer than three in Hua Hin – the Hua Hin Night Market, Cicada Market and Tamarind Market. Together, they cover everything an intrepid tourist might need from a nocturnal stroll through the town. Hua Hin Night Market is reminiscent of the markets in Bangkok, with colorful arts and crafts and tasty street snacks. Cicada Market is a little more artistic with live performances, exhibitions and handmade trinkets. For local cuisine sold at knockdown prices, take a walk through Tamarind Market.
4. The World Is Right Here In Hua Hin
Some of the most unique areas of Hua Hin are modelled on European landscapes and cultures. For instance, Santorini Park in the Cha Am district is designed to look, well…like a Santorini neighbourhood, complete with cobbled streets and snow white buildings. There’s also Venezia (yes, you guessed it, with a Venetian theme), the Swiss Sheep Farm and Camel Republic which is a homage to Morocco. Who would have thought, from a quiet corner of Thailand, you could take a trip around Europe.
5. There Are Plenty of Beautiful Beaches
Sun seekers need not worry; there are plenty of beaches to choose from in Hua Hin. As with most tourist destinations, they range from quiet and serene (Pranburi) to the liveliest of holidaymaking spots (Hua Hin Beach). If you fancy a little bit of wildlife spotting with your sunbathing, consider Khao Takaib Beach. It is situated close to the famous Monkey Mountain, so there’s a good chance you’ll spot a mischievous monkey or three. Cha Am Beach is a peaceful stretch of sand for those in search of sea, sunshine and swaying palm trees.
6. Unspoiled Nature Is a Stone’s Throw Away
Hua Hin is relaxed and peaceful for the most part but it’s still very different to the wilder, more rugged Thai landscapes. Fortunately, for tourists who like a challenge, the Sam Roi Yot National Park is around sixty minutes away by car. It’s a bit of a trek – and you may need to get up early for the trip – but it is more than worthwhile. Sam Roi Yot is home to the Khao Daeng Viewpoint, a spectacular lookout trail which gives unrivaled views of the Hua Hin coastline. Don’t forget to stop by the Thung Sam Roi Yot Freshwater Marsh as it boasts rare species of water birds, songbirds, amphibians and more.
So, if you’re considering a trip to Thailand, why not do things differently? If you dare to leave the beaten path, you could find yourself exploring Hua Hin, a true hidden gem of this most beautiful of countries.