A Quick Recharge in Hua Hin, Thailand.
A Quick Recharge in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Time really does fly. Just under two years ago I began posting about my 2015 travels across Thailand. Over the course of two months I put out 13 articles covering my adventures in Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Sangkhlaburi and Phetchaburi. This took me to roughly the halfway point of my travels.
Thus it seemed like a good opportunity to take a break and write about other countries. Somehow, that little break has turned into nearly two years! Needless to say it’s high time that I put out the second half of my escapades and file Thailand under that most treasured of blogging drawers: done and dusted.
After my eventful stay in the monkey metropolis of Phetchaburi, the time had finally come to head down south for some exploring around Thailand’s world famous coastline. The plan had been to go directly to Krabi, a transport hub town which serves as a gateway to some of Thailand’s most beautiful islands.
However, at the last moment I decided I just couldn’t face the 9-hour minibus ride. Moreover, I had recently launched my first blog, Leighton Literature. With plenty of writing and design work to do, I resolved to delay the trip and take a few days off. What’s more, I reckoned my body needed a recharge after the frenetic travels of the previous three weeks. Scanning Google Maps, I saw that the city of Hua Hin was just an hour away by bus. Yeah, that’ll do, I thought.
A Quick Recharge in Hua Hin, Thailand..
I arrived in the city with no desire whatsoever for exploring. Even finding a place to stay had seemed like a chore, though I ultimately took care of my booking on the bus. My digs was the cosy and leafy Victor Guesthouse, located on a side street off Naresdami Road, the main drag. I see they’ve had a grand refit and expansion in recent years.
I immediately felt at home in Hua Hin, where the quietness at Victor Guesthouse enabled me to sleep long and soundly. When I eventually dragged myself up each day, I’d head out to Natcha Restaurant for four or five hours of blogging. I liked this slow-moving cafe the moment I entered. The owner, a local lady, had taken it over from her mum and dad, who’d opened the joint back in the 1960s.
With courteous nods and warm smiles, she brought me my many coffees and the dishes I ordered. I loved the fact that her place was so calm, but also felt bad that she didn’t have a few more customers. In fact, the only other interaction I had during my visits was with a local lottery vendor. Every day she came by, stopped in front of me, and launched into a muttering monologue. Then moved on soundlessly after my sympathetic smile.
I have such fond memories of those peaceful afternoons at Natcha Restaurant. It was here that I fumbled with a batch of my earliest articles and began figuring out how I wanted my website to look. Around midday I’d pause for lunch to devour a plate of Pad Thai or Chicken & Veggie Stir-fry with cashew nuts.
On my last day in town, Mama Natcha treated me to a complimentary dessert, Thai Khao Lam. While not incredibly appealing to look at, I did enjoy this coal-roasted bamboo tube of sweet, sticky rice.
Mixed with sugar, red beans and coconut cream, it went really well with my hot, frothy cappuccino. It was such a kind gesture, I wish I could’ve done more to promote her restaurant online. Permanently closed says Google, when one looks up Natcha today.
In the late afternoons I would take a long stroll down Hat Hua Hin Beach. Always ignoring the high-pitched calls of the tuk-tuk drivers along the way. There were too many tuk-tuks in that city and not enough takers. Indeed I often came across long rows of empty vehicles, their owners having long given up on the prospect of a ride.
A Quick Recharge in Hua Hin, Thailand.
I found myself pleasantly surprised by the beach, which was pretty and had a solid history behind it as one of the country’s oldest seaside resorts. I say surprised because I’d read numerous articles describing Hat Hua Hin as “unspectacular” and “ordinary”. Well… I supposed in Thailand it was up against some stiff competition.
Situated on the Gulf of Thailand’s west coast, the city started out as a traditional fishing village. Its fortunes transformed with the arrival of a railway line from Bangkok in 1903. This sparked a flurry of development, including a fancy hotel and numerous cafes, restaurants, stores and markets.
Before long, Thai noblemen and aristocracy began flocking to Hua Hin to sample its clean white sands and crystal waters. By 1911 even royalty had set up camp when Prince Nares, Thailand’s Minister of Public Works, built himself a grand private residence.
According to various online accounts, Hua Hin fell on hard times during World War II. Bombs fell, resorts closed, royalty fled. Later, the city enjoyed only a modest comeback between the 1960s and 1980s. By the 90s it had fallen victim to southern Thailand’s eruption of popularity. Right enough, most backpackers and expats fly into Bangkok before heading straight for the islands, ignoring Hua Hin altogether.
A bit of a sad story for the people of Hua Hin, then. Especially those whose income relies so heavily on passing tourism. For me though, strolling along the five kilometres of Hat Hua Hin Beach each day, the vibe was just perfect
With large stretches of empty sand all to myself, these were great opportunities for reflection. A chance to plan my upcoming weeks in the south. To map out, in my head, a rough itinerary for Singapore and Malaysia following the end of my initial 30-day stay in Thailand. Here and there I’d come across scatterings of people, all locals, or at least domestic tourists. A boy picking shells out of a rock pool….
… a family working together on constructing a sandcastle. Spot the guy who’s clearly not a team player.
It was also pleasing to see that the beach was good for water sports. One late afternoon I saw a group on a company outing piling into a banana boat for some high-speed antics.
Next, I caught the rare sight of another westerner. The brave soul was kite surfing, an activity I am definitely more comfortable watching than doing. He seemed to be hanging on for dear life. Or maybe that’s the stance of a professional, who knows.
A Quick Recharge in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Elsewhere I encountered a few surfers, in addition to this trusty dog who’d been asked to keep an eye on his owner’s board. A task he was taking very seriously. “Move along please, nothing to see here”.
Similarly curious was this quartet of empty deckchairs and a lone beach bag. Where had they gone? Were they even coming back? I guessed Hua Hin was pretty safe for them to just leave for a while, unconcerned about their stuff.
Sunset and dusk were the best, of course. I had been expecting, at the very least, a bit more foot traffic at this magical time of the evening. But it was truly a non-event and I was able to enjoy the shifting colours mostly for myself.
It was around sunset one evening that I believe I saw my first and only Thai cowboy. He and his steed were plodding, as slowly as you could imagine, back towards the city in the opposite direction from me. It was a nice moment in which, and I kid you not, he actually tilted his hat at me as he went. Priceless.
I’m certainly glad I decided to take a brief recharge in Hua Hin. It was the first time in the entire trip that I’d taken my foot off the gas and the rewards were obvious.
When I think about Hua Hin now I find myself reflecting on a beautiful but somewhat forgotten corner of Thailand. I remember fondly my early missteps in travel blogging. And wonder what happened to the lady who owned Natcha Restaurant. In my mind’s eye the cowboy continues to trot up and down the sands on horseback. And that doggy is still sitting patiently by the surfboard thinking: “Ok, this really has been too long”.
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I think you hit the jackpot by finding the place that others overlook… as is sometimes the way!
It was just the right location at the right moment. Somehow I always treasure these kind of places as much (if not more) than the major destinations when I’m on the road. Thanks for swinging by Helen.
Looks like the perfect place to recharge! The beach looks so beautiful and peaceful.
The entire city was surprisingly drowsy considering Hua Hin has a population of around sixty five thousand people. Hard to believe a few more folk didn’t come out for a beach walk at sunset.
I had to look the horse up. I think it’s a polo horse, and they have the international Asian Beach Polo Championship in Hua Hin. Who knew 🙂
That’s some good detective work, I would never have known. There’s something so positive about seeing a horses trotting up and down a beach. Warms the heart for some reason. Thanks for reading and contributing, much appreciated.
I hope others see the benefits of this place and no longer ignore it. Looks like a good place to relax as opposed to the islands. That Thai Cowboy cracked me up. Thanks for taking us somewhere warm Leighton. It is -26 feels like -34 here today and not likely to get much warmer before Saturday. Cheers. Allan
Hey Allan, -26 degrees is unthinkably cold in my book. I think I have only ever experienced those kind of temps once in my life. It was back in 2010 when I visited the International Ice Festival in the Chinese city of Harbin. I remember thinking: “Imagine ****ing living here!” Stay warm and well.
It’s really sad that so many restaurants and other places you’ve enjoyed have gone out of business in recent years.
Every time I write up an article about my old travels I’m left wondering if the hotel/cafe/bar/restaurant I went to is still going. I’d say it’s gotten to the point where it’s pretty much 50-50 if the place still exists. Thanks for dropping by, Diana.
Looks like the perfect place to take a break. I could see myself strolling along the beach, occasionally wading out in the surf, and then sitting in the sun or shade to read my beach book. Even has photo worthy food and hopefully some cold beer. Love these hidden gems you keep finding.
Cheers Memo. When I began writing this one up I did wonder: do I actually have anything to say? Thankfully I managed to bumble through. I would definitely go back to Hua Hin should Sladja and I ever make it to Thailand.
another wonderful read as usual leighton. i took a look at blog articles about hua hin and indeed there aren’t as many as with surrounding cities and towns. its curious how these things pan out isn’t it? from rubbing shoulders with royalty to a forgotten outpost. you have a knack for finding these places, that’s for sure. love the thai cowboy.
Thanks Stan. It’s another special place for me precisely because it didn’t have all that much going on. I just liked the cut of Hua Hin’s jib, if you get my drift.
A lovely post about what sounds like a forgotten place. It is certainly a good alternative for a holiday to the islands and more popular coastal towns in Thailand which get quite crowded. I love all the beach activity photos, especially the cowboy of course. That’s a very handsome horse. Hua Hin has an interesting history and a lot of charm, hopefully it will get more attention and love from travellers. Looks like a good quiet place for digital nomads as well. In particular those that are not drawn to places like Chiang Mai which have become dig nomad havens.
Absolutely. I think there must be a number of Hua Hin’s scattered across Thailand. Places that don’t draw in the crowds but have their own little slice of Thai coast loveliness. Thanks for your considered thoughts Anoush, they’re always appreciated.
What a shame that Natcha Restaurant has closed – especially when you consider how long it has been in the family. I agree; the beach with its white sand at Hua Hin is beautiful. I like the photo of the deckchairs and the colors of the setting sun … sometimes time off from all the craziness in this world is needed (and we should take it without feeling guilty).
Oh btw, I also always watch the kite surfers in our home town – they make it look so easy. But Berto took a few lessons and decided it was better to paddle in his kayak 😉.
Ha ha, Berto is an adventurer for sure. At least he tried it, these kinds of activities hold zero interest for me. I’m glad you like the look of Hua Hin Corna, and that you found some worth in the little details. These are the moments that shine in sedate blog posts like this I think.
A beautiful place to recharge, indeed! I could feel the peace of Hua Hin through your words and photos. That beach is absolutely stunning- how incredible that so much of it was empty during your visit. It’s so rewarding during long stretches of travel to find places like this that are devoid of the tourist cram!
I’m glad this resonates Laura, thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Because I only had a few days, and because it was so beautiful and quiet, Hua Hin will always be special to me.
We had planned to go to Hua Hin from Phetburi too, but now I can’t remember why we didn’t go. It looks like it was just the quiet place you needed. Love that last picture of the boat on the beach, and what a funny site of the ‘cowboy’ on the beach! Maggie
I think unless you have endless time there will always be places like Hua Hin that you choose to cut. I can think of a few places that I had to drop as the trip progressed and I felt I didn’t have the time to spare. Thanks Maggie for checking out my few days in this lovely corner of Thailand.
Not a place I’ve ever forgotten. We also recharged here doing nothing but go to the beach.
Ah that’s great that you also made it to Hua Hin! I was wondering if another reader had spent any time here and you’re the one. Somehow I doubt there’ll be another. Thanks for dropping in Mallee!
Such wonderful memories! We definitely need to recharge our batteries from time to time, and I’m so glad you found great places to do that. I have Thailand on my wish list for awhile now, but I keep pushing it until we’ll have more time🙂
Hey Christie, thanks for reading about my time in Hua Hin. I have loads of articles on Thailand, so feel free to dive into that if and when your Thai trip comes to fruition. Appreciate your comment!
I will!! Hopefully in a couple of years😊
I love how you immerse yourself into whatever place you’re in, Leighton. Hua Hin sounds like the perfect place to kick back. I absolutely love the way the city looks: clean, colorful, chill. The beach is beautiful, and so are the people. It’s sad that Natcha didn’t last, but the lovely hotel sure did – I Googled it and it looks fab. As always, I enjoyed the post immensely.
Thankee, Kellye. It was indeed a clean city, I didn’t actually think of that. And believe me, that isn’t always the case in Thailand. I always feel sad when I think about these businesses that are gone and in which I had special moments over the years. The Natcha owner was/is a lovely woman, I can only hope that it was her decision to call time on the place and not something that was forced upon her.
This post evoked a lot of wistful nostalgia, especially for a lesser-known part of such a touristy country as Thailand itself. I’d never heard of Hua Hin until I read your post, and while I’m sad that it doesn’t have as many tourists as those in the rest of the country, I think having less tourists offers a more-peaceful and less-chaotic experience to Thailand itself. Turned out to be a great place to recharge, indeed!
Hey Rebecca, thanks a lot. I enjoy putting out these kinds of places, a little way from the well-trodden path. It’s the kind of place Sladja and I might consider living in for a few months if we ever take this digital roadshow of ours to Thailand. Hope all is well in L.A.!
there is a great atmosphere in this article. makes me wanna pack my bags and head for Hua Hin
Thanks Max, appreciate you taking a look and saying hi! There will be plenty more chapters of Thai travel coming out on my pages over the next month.
Sometimes when there’s a need to recharge you just find the perfect spot, as you obviously did here. Love the surfboard guard dog doing his duty so reliably. When we resume our SE Asia trip in two weeks’ time, we’re not revisiting Thailand, but we were sorely tempted. Such a beautiful place filled with beautiful people.
With so much to see in Asia, it’s no surprise you aren’t returning to Thailand. There’s always a new chapter somewhere waiting. For me, Laos, The Philippines and Indonesia are the ones I’d like to chalk off if we ever head back that way. Thanks for checking in.
Laos is beautiful, fascinating and leaves you with an unrivalled feeling of sorrow due to the effects of the Vietnam War on this innocent, peaceful nation
Good call on taking a pause to recharge. It looks like spending time in Hua Hin was exactly what you needed. The beaches look stunning and a great place to just relax and people watch.
Thanks for dropping by. Hua Hin was a lovely stop gap between my adventures in the north and my arrival in the south.
You found the perfect place to rest, recharge, and reboot; well done! Too bad about the restaurant; it’s always so sad to see a great place close. I loved reading about the cowboy tipping his hat; I can almost hear him say, “howdy partner”.
Ha ha, thanks Tricia. I wonder how you say “Howdy Partner” in Thai. Thanks for checking out my brief but delightful stay in Hua Hin.
I love places like this that are unassuming and content. The beaches are all the more lovely because it is not packed with visitors and instagrammers. And the cowboy hat tilt is fantastic. There’s something really tender in thinking that her restaurant provided the space where your blogging adventure began and what a beautiful tribute to her for creating that space. 🙂
Aw thanks Meg. And of course she has no idea of her restaurant’s importance in my travel/writing journey. I wish I could let her know somehow. Thanks for taking a look at Hua Hin, it’s definitely an underrated spot in The Land of Smiles.
You never know, maybe one day she’ll stumble across your blog and excitedly tell her friends that she knew you and in that moment she’ll know of her impact. 🙂
Hua Hin looks totally unspoilt and what a lovely spot to relax and watch the sunset. Such a shame to read that some of the local businesses have fared badly over the last few years though.
Thanks for stopping by Marion, Hua Hin is a lovely spot and one I’d happily return to for another few nights if the stars were ever to align.
It looks like the perfect place to relax. I love the photo of the dog on the beach with the surfboard! And I can’t believe how empty the beaches are – sometimes getting off the main tourist track is the most rewarding part of travel 🙂
It did seem unfathomably quiet to me considering the beach was in the centre of a small city. I mean come on people… Anyway, the vibe was very much my gain and I certainly savoured those few days in Hua Hin. Thanks for saying hi Hannah.
Nice angle, looking for unpopular places in a popular country, it brings out some contrasts.
Looking for unpopular places in a country sounds like an interesting project! I wish I’d thought of that actually ha ha. As it was, and as is so often the case, I just kinda stumbled on Hua Hin. Thanks for dropping by!
This area seems so relaxing, and the beaches look incredible. The cowboy seems pretty cool too!
Thanks for looking at my article on Hua Hin, Allie.
Here’s a part of Thailand one (aka me) doesn’t see often. Love the relaxed atmosphere and the almost secluded beach.
Hey Amarachi! Thanks for taking a look at my time in Hua Hin. It’s a bit scandalous that it has taken me two years to kick off the second half of this series, but it’s a case of better late than never I guess.
That chicken & veggie Stir-fry with cashew nuts reminds us very much about our favorite dish at a guesthouse that we used to frequent in Bangkok. Thanks for sharing this.
I’ve had various versions of this dish across Thailand and they never fail to the spot! Glad it was a winner for you too, thanks for reading!
I could recharge here for a few days I’m feeling inspired to visit my favorite Thai restaurant. Your comment on the dog by the surfboard brought a laugh!
Is that a Thai restaurant in Denver or further afield? We found a pretty good Thai restaurant recently in the Georgian city of Kutaisi of all places.
There are many Thai restaurants in Denver and vicinity. This one is close to me, in another mountain town, Evergreen, a 30 minute drive as opposed to about an hour to Denver.
Wow that’s brilliant, so you are spoilt for choice.
I haven’t been keeping up with the Denver restaurants, but if I’m down there for some other reason, I’ll chose one of the older ones I know.
very interesting post. Never been thailand, thank you for sharing info. interesting to know that in thailand there is tuk tuk. you can call it Bemo ( this transport not available again in Bali )
I didn’t hear the word bemo during my travels, thanks for reading!