A royal Thailand adventure in Hua HinPosted on: 27 September 2010 by Mark O'haire
Drenched in sunshine nearly all year round, it's no wonder more than 14 million tourists head to Thailand's cities and beaches for their annual holiday.
But it's not just the almost-guaranteed good weather or golden-white sands that attract families, couples and backpackers in their droves to this south-east Asian country.
Here you can also discover a wealth of culture and history.
There are stunning temples to visit, spicy foods to tantalise your taste buds, exhilarating tuk-tuk journeys for the brave and enough snorkelling and Scuba diving to keep both beginners and the experienced entertained.
It's also home to some of the most friendly people in the word-which is how the country earned the name .
That said, if two weeks lazing on a sun lounger, drinking Siam Sunray cocktails and being massaged on the beach with the sound of the waves gently lapping at the shore is what you're after, you've found the right place.
The most difficult decision you will make all holiday is where to stay in this vast country.
In terms of cities, most travellers arrive in Bangkok. However, to escape the hustle and bustle without going too far, many tourists are now heading three hours south to Hua Hin.
Here, you can see a more traditional way of life.
Starting out as a quaint fishing village, I discover that Hua Hin hasn't lost its links to its roots as I wander around the city admiring its historical architecture and narrow streets-which aren't yet crammed full of bars and restaurants.
The much-loved Thai royal family still stays in the "Far From Worries" Palace which the then king ordered built in 1922.
There are also 5km of clean beaches that you can swim in all year round.
I'm staying in the independently owned Delft Blue Seas Villa in Khao Takiab, which is a 15-minute moped ride from Hua Hin centre.
It's a stunning four-bedroom, four-bathroom beachside bungalow with a private pool in lush tropical gardens.
The villa also has a huge open-plan kitchen and dining room as well as office space for those who need to work and travel. It's also just a one-minute walk from the white sands of Khao Takiab beach, so the perfect place to soak up the sun.
Hua Hin's proximity to Thailand's capital city also means it's a popular destination for Bangkok workers to head to during the weekend - so expect Saturdays and Sundays to bustle with Thais.
If you're looking for home comforts, there's a massive shopping mall, or head to the Chatchai Night Market, open from 6pm til 11pm, where you will find countless stalls selling freshly cooked Thai delights for as little as 30Bt (60p) as well as clothes, CDs, souvenirs and artwork.
The influence of the French, Germans and Scandinavians is obvious when it comes to the city's restaurants. You can dine on traditional dishes such as spinach with cheese, pizza, lasagne or fried camembert in any number of eateries.
For frogs' legs and a glass of Bordeaux head to Brasserie de Paris where a meal for two will cost about 1,000Bt (£20), or for spicy red curry and noodles, Moon Smile & Platoo comes highly recommended and is good value for money at 200Bt (£4) for a main course with a drink.
As well as the beaches and the bars, many tourists come to Hua Hin for golf. Book a golf tour or rent equipment at the Hua Hin Golf Centre.
Or, if you're in the city in September, why not watch an elephant polo match? Obviously slower-paced than horse polo, the rules are the same, but this is definitely a sight to behold, and is just one of the many things that sets Thailand apart from other holiday destinations.
The Land of Smiles really does have something for everyone-you'll find adrenaline fuelled activities and lazy days on the beach, budget and luxury as well as go-go bars and quiet drinks-its beauty lies in its contrasts.
One thing is for sure though, if you choose to spend time here, you're guaranteed not to have a dull moment-and that's what great holidays are all about.
By Carol Driver
Best time to go:
Hua Hin: Hot season between March and June with 29C average temperature. Rainy season between July and October. Cool season between November and February.
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