Those seeking the idyllic beach holiday in a town rustically underdeveloped and unspoiled by commercialism will find Utopia in Thailand's Hua Hin...
About a two-and-a-half-hour drive south of Bangkok, Hua Hin is Thailand's oldest resort and the destination of choice for Thais who languish in this tranquil retreat while tourists pack in the likes of Koh Samui and Phuket.
A popular getaway for residents of Thailand's congested capital since the 1920s, Hua Hin still retains its quiet charm and provincial flavour. Sure, the lone Pizza Hut has found its way into the landscape, but side-street food stalls still dominate and there isn't a girly bar in sight.
Tucked well into the lane it occupies, the Anantara is decked in traditional Thai architecture, exotic wooden interiors and tropical gardens that offer sanctuary to those searching for quality "quiet time". Best known as the host of the annual King's Cup Elephant Polo tournaments, Anantara offers the entire package - fine dining, a luxurious spa and plush accommodations.
Though Hua Hin's landscape is predominantly low-rise, with wooden cottages circa 1960s lining the coast, there is a smattering of seemingly out-of-place concrete towers built during a short-lived condo boom that was stopped in its tracks when the Asian financial crisis struck in 1997.
Images of the King and Queen are depicted almost everywhere you turn, reminders that Hua Hin remains idyllic because it is the country's Royal playground. As such, unlike more touristy beach towns like Koh Panghan, Samui and Pattaya, travellers won't soon be chasing down the next full moon rave.Instead, now that the King has taken up permanent residence here - the air in Hua Hin is better for his heart condition, or so we hear - this town looks set to remain a peaceful getaway for a discerning few...
How to get there by road: From Bangkok, drive for about 3 hours along the highway 35 (Thon Buri-Pak Thao route) via Samut Songkhram then turn left to the Highway No. 4 (Phetkasem Road) via Phetchaburi and Hua Hin to Prachuap Khiri Khan, a total distance of 281 kilometres. Another route might otherwise be taken from Bangkok via Buddhamonthon, Nakhon Pathom, Ratchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan, a total distance of 320 kilometres. Regular buses leave Bangkok's Southern Bus Terminal for Hua Hin and Prachuap Khri Khan many times daily. Call (+66) 435-1199 (air-conditioned bus) or (+66) 434-5557-8 (non air-conditioned bus) for more information. By rail: Trains leave Hualamphong (Bangkok Railway Station) for Hua Hin 12 times daily and Prachuap Khan 9 times daily. Please check timetable before travelling at the nearest station or Information Unit in Bangkok Station, Tel: (+66) 223-7010, (+66) 2237020.