"HAVE you been to Hua Hin?" asked Nico of Agoda. I shook my head. "You should go visit, it's a beach resort town. It's like the Hamptons of Thailand."
And so I did. On my most recent visit to Thailand, I took two days off from "work" and went south of the Big Mango.
In the northern part of the Malay Peninsula in Thailand is the Prachup Khiri Khan Province. Hua Hin, formerly named Samore Riang ("row of rocks") is one of its eight districts, roughly a three-hour drive from Bangkok by car.
The building of the Thailand's southern railway (connecting the district with Bangkok along with various destinations along the way) may have turned Hua Hin to be the first and most popular beach resort in the country, but turning it into Hampton-like may be credited to the Rama VII's decision to build a summer palace in the area close to the beach. He named the palace Klai Kang Won, which means "far from worries," which became the full-time residence of the present King of Thailand.
As to the name Hua Hin, it was Prince Krom Phra Naresworarit who named the beach as such. This was after he built Sukaves, the group of palaces he built at Ban Laem Hin.
I only had two days to explore Hua Hin. At my desired pace, that's impossible. Though there are a few attractions around town, I opted to check out the spots within walking distance from The Rock, my residence for this short getaway. But thanks to one of the hotel's nice staff, he pointed me to a few more when I took the van to the town center and back.
Hua Hin Beach is a six-kilometer stretch of shoreline from a rocky headland to Khao Takiab, a hill with a Buddhist temple. Along this stretch are towering hotels to private beach houses.
Khao Takiab temple on "Monkey Mountain" is where the 19-meter tall standing golden Buddha (Phra Pang Haan Yad) stands. You can't miss it if you walk along the shoreline.
The top of the mountain is reachable by stairs. It can be tiring but the reward is a picturesque view of the Hua Hin coastline. Check out the small fishing village behind this mountain. The fresh catch of the day is available for sale or to feast on.
Cicada Market is not the usual weekend market. It's a bit more upscale in terms of presentation, but just like the rest of the markets around Thailand, it is a showcase of the local artists' creativity in handmade products, fashion, visual and performing arts, and food.
The market in spread across a green expanse and divided into four venues referred to as Art A La Mode (arts and crafts, fashion, souvenirs, etc.), Cicada Art Factory (two 2-level white buildings for art exhibitions), Amphitheatre (a venue for live performances) and Cicada Cuisine (the food zone).
Hua Hin Railway Station is iconic and said to be Thailand's most beautiful train station. The wooden building rebuilt in 1968 used to be a royal pavilion in Sanamchan Palace, Nakhon Pathom Province.
Leaving a few more attractions unvisited gives me a good reason to return to this beautiful resort town. I think I will, perhaps longer on the next one.
For more photos about this story, and other travel and lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com