Once a quiet fishing village, Hua Hin became a popular summer getaway destination for Thais in the 1920s, when the Royal Family built their summer palaces there. Located on the eastern coast of the country and the shores of the Gulf of Thailand, it has year-round temperatures in the mid-20s C, making it a perfect beach getaway for those living in the sweltering chaos of Bangkok. It’s a three-hour drive or four-hour train journey from the capital and with its population of about 85,000 people it’s laidback enough to feel like a beach town but still has all the modern conveniences of any Western city.
There are daily markets all over the city which are the cheapest places to buy the freshest produce. There are, of course, many international grocery stores to get those imported goods that remind you of home, but they do come at a cost. Living here and buying locally is not just a good way to keep your cost of living down, it helps to support local families too.
Healthcare facilities in Hua Hin are excellent. You’ll find the JCI-accredited Bangkok International Hospital right in the centre of town and many of the doctors and nurses are fluent in English, making it a popular choice for expats.
The city itself runs parallel to the beach, which is lined with fancy hotels and seafood restaurants. The restaurant scene has benefitted from Hua Hin’s international expats, you can savour everything from fresh, right-off-the-boat seafood, to Indian and Greek food. Peppered in between the great restaurants are plenty of bars and lounges, some with live music nightly.
Although Hua Hin is a smaller scale resort, it still packs a punch and you certainly won’t be bored here. There’s cosmopolitan shopping centres, blockbuster movie theatres and international grocery stores selling everything from French wine to Norwegian salmon. It’s also quickly becoming one of Thailand’s premier golfing destinations, with seven different courses around the area and a few driving ranges to practice on.
And of course, there’s the beach. The six-kilometre long stretch is a kite surfer’s dream during the windy months of February to April and October to January. With a few different schools to choose from, it’s a perfect place to learn the sport because of the shallow and calm waters of the Gulf. If the beaches don’t excite you, there’s an eco water park, Vana Nava, built into the jungle. It boasts the largest waterslide in Thailand, as well as an infinity pool and surf simulators. Or, just 45 minutes away, you can pay a visit to an award winning vineyard, home to elephants and a restaurant that overlooks its 1.6 hectares of grapes.
Hua Hin has an artsy feel. The nightly Cicada Market is a fun event for locally made crafts, as well as a place to get a drink and cheap eats. There is also an artist village, which is a co-op for local artists, with a coffee shop, a stage for live music and classes for anyone wanting to learn new skills. It was founded in 1998, and each artist has their own space to work in as well as to sell their art. Just walking through the maze of studios and seeing everything from antiques to glass blowing is awe inspiring. Some of these artists are well known throughout Thailand and display in galleries in Bangkok. It’s a great place to look when you want to furnish your new home and also to get involved with the local scene.