Hua Hin: the Thai seaside resort that rolls out the red carpet

The world's longest-reigning monarch turns 80 this week. He's bound to celebrate at this royal playground, says Andrew Spooner

On Wednesday, Thailand's revered king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest-reigning monarch, turns 80. To say that the Thais worship the man is an understatement. His picture hangs in almost every house, restaurant, bar, caf, office and shop in the country. He enjoys the kind of popularity that British royalty can only dream about.

So, where is King Bhumibol likely to hold his birthday celebrations? He'll probably spend some time in Hua Hin. "Our King loves to come to Hua Hin. In fact, he almost lives here these days," says Narongchai "Andy" Suparat, the guest activity manager at the Six Senses Hideaway Resort who is taking me on a tour of the town. We are standing on a hill overlooking both Hua Hin and the ocean. "I think he must like the climate and the peace and quiet. Everyone in the town is incredibly proud he has chosen us."

Yet, King Bhumibol (inset) isn't the first Thai monarch to choose Hua Hin as his preferred getaway. Located about 160 miles south of Bangkok and set along a gorgeous sweeping beach looking out at the Gulf of Thailand, Hua Hin has been drawing royalty for almost a hundred years. "In the 1920s King Rama VII had a railway line built here from Bangkok," says Andy. "He even constructed a massive palace."

The royal court, associated hangers-on and Bangkok's elite followed Rama VII south. With dozens of grand villas being built, along with attractions such as Thailand's first golf course and one of Asia's most famous luxury stopovers the still surviving Railway Station Hotel the great and the good of Thailand descended on Hua Hin in their droves. They, much like the present monarch, are still coming, but these days a whole other industry has been built around Hua Hin's attractions upmarket, international tourism.

Outside of Phuket and Bangkok, Hua Hin has the biggest collection of top-rated hotels in Thailand. Sheratons, Marriotts, Hyatts, Anantaras and Six Senses sit alongside what the cognoscenti regard as Thailand's cutest and best-preserved resort town. "We've managed to keep many of the 1920s buildings," says Andy as we take in Hua Hin's antique, wooden railway station, rows of frangipani-adorned white-clapboard villas and the distinctive town centre. "Most other Thai resort towns have just built new structures," says Andy, "but we wanted to maintain a more relaxed and traditional atmosphere."

After a stroll past the run of Hua Hin's original wooden fishermen's piers on the shoreline and through the tangle of backstreets, Andy and I arrive at the corner of Naebkehardt and Dechanuchit roads and one of the resort town's most famous noodle shops, Jeak Peak. "This place has been here for 62 years," says Andy, as massive bowls of seafood noodle soup and plates of pork satay are brought to our table. It's hard to know where to start yet we still manage to clear the lot, finishing with bright-tasting, iced lime sodas the perfect palate cleanser and an easy drink with which to watch the world go by.

One of Hua Hin's draws for today's international guests is its spas. The original headline- grabber was the five-star celebrity detox resort, Chiva-Som. Currently in the ascendant is the Six Senses Earth Spa, my next stop to experience the kind of indulgence for which this town is famed.

"I'm going to do a series of shamanistic massages and movements to help release some of the old, negative energy that is in your system," says self-styled holistic consultant, Roger Moore, as he begins to pound my prone body. Notions of indulgence seem far-fetched such is the ferocity of Roger's treatment. But I'm not worried Roger's client list is stuffed full of famously litigious celebrities clients so I know I'm safe.

"How do you feel?" says Roger, as the pounding finishes. Relieved is the first thing that comes to mind, yet it is with renewed vigour that I depart from the spa and head to the far more relaxed environs of my private pool in my private villa.

It doesn't take long for the combined soporific effects of Roger's treatment, the heat, a staggering passion-fruit parfait, and a long, lazy dip to induce the desired effect. I'm beginning to understand why Thailand's monarch digs Hua Hin so much. I mean if somebody like me can get treated like a king what happens to the real thing?

How to get there

Return flights to Bangkok with Etihad Airways cost from 490 through April at DialAFlight (020-7463 8900; dialaflight.com). Six Senses Hideaway at Hua Hin offers pool villas from 259 per night (020-8780 3571; sixsenses.com).

Further information

For a monthly e-newsletter about Thailand, contact the Tourist Authority of Thailand (0870-900 2007; tourismthailand .co.uk). Andrew Spooner is the author of Footprint Books' Thailand Handbook, price 14.99 (footprintbooks.com)

Further reading For opposing views of Thai royalty read 'The Revolutionary King', by William Stevenson, Robinson Publishing (9.99), or 'The King Never Smiles' by Paul Handley, Yale University Press (22.50)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected