We get it. Most Malaysians love Thailand – it’s a quick couple of hours away by flight and it’s one of those countries where you won’t feel like you’re forking out half your current savings for a week’s worth of leisure. But if you’re bored of shopping in Bangkok or so done with stuffing your face in Pattaya, where else in Thailand can satiate your humble hunger of wanderlust while looking like you’re having a ball of a time?
Enter Hua Hin, a seaside beach town that’s also only a 2-hour flight away from KL – and lucky us, we can now get there directly via AirAsia at just RM78 one way (no joke). #Throwback to a century ago, this was where Thai royals built their summer palaces so they could flock here for a stylish staycation. Now, this sophisticated destination still maintains its charming old-school vibes, but with the addition of new attractions and sights to see sans the premium prices.
We recently visited Hua Hin for a quick long weekend, and checked into Avani Hua Hin Resort & Villas upon arrival due to its strategic location in town. Not far from it are these pretty places we’d recommend you bookmark – they’ll surpass your IG aesthetic benchmark but more importantly, won’t
make you starve for the rest of the month burn a hole in your pocket, because believe it or not, we did all these things for less than RM50 each (if not for free)!
1. Santorini Park
How much: THB150 (approx. RM18)
You could easily fool anyone scrolling through their social media feed that you’re currently strolling around the gorgeous gem in Greece. After all, Hua Hin’s Santorini Park in Cha-Am is a very photogenic dupe of the actual island, complete with blocks of whitewashed buildings, brightly-hued windows and balconies, as well as stone-paved walkways that offer plenty photo-ops at every corner.
It also houses small cafes, amusement park rides and games (tickets sold separately), art museums and branded boutiques.
2. Hua Hin International Jazz Festival
How much: Free
If jazz is the music genre that sings to your soul, this is where you’ll be serenaded by the beach – cushioned by bean bags and comforted by food and booze no less – during a romantic sunset. This year’s festival took place on the 18th and 19th of May, but it happens every year so keep a lookout for it in 2019!
Besides bringing together jazz lovers from Thailand and all around the world in one place with performances from both international and local artists, this event also honours the musical composition by the late King Bhumibol Adelyadej Rama 9.
PS: It starts at 5pm onwards till late!
3. Monsoon Valley Vineyard restaurant
How much: From THB100 (approx. RM12) onwards
It may be hard to believe, but it is possible to grow grapes in Thailand thanks to the soil, monsoon and climate condition in the hills of Hua Hin. It goes without saying that wine-tasting is mandatory here, and you can take your pick from their cellar before you start sipping and taking in the serene panoramic view of the vineyard from its al-fresco dining setting.
Wine-tasting sets (sans tapas pairing):
- Sweet wines: THB240 (approx. RM30)
- Premium wines: THB290 (approx. RM36)
- Flagship wines: THB820 (approx. RM102)
- Grand tasting set: THB1,050 (approx. RM131)
Keen on exploring the vineyard? They have the following modes of transport at affordable costs:
- Jeep tour: THB100 (approx. RM12) + get a free welcome drink!
- Mountain biking: THB100 (approx. RM12) for 30 minutes; THB150 (approx. RM18) for 60 minutes
- Elephant ride: THB300 (approx. RM37) for 15 minutes; THB500 (approx. RM62) for 30 minutes
4. Cicada Market
How much: Free entrance; coupon booklets for sale from THB100 (approx. RM12)
Slightly fancier than your usual pasar malam, this art-themed open-air concept weekend market is divided into four sections:
- Art a la Mode: think vendors selling clothes, jewellery, homeware and handmade items that occupy the majority of the outdoor area
- Art Indoors: an art gallery-cum-roofed section displaying paintings, sketches, sculptures as well as arty knick-knacks and souvenirs for sale
- Art of Act: creative talents come together for live performances be it a musical, drama, dance and so forth
- Art of Eating: this comprises an array of food stalls in a laid-back garden ambience. From local delicacies to western delights ranging from savoury and spicy to sweet treats, choices are aplenty to satisfy your taste buds. Thirsty for a tipple? There’s a separate beer garden and bar serving up alcoholic drinks!
If you appreciate art in all forms, this is the market for you!
Opening hours: Fridays & Saturdays, 4pm – 11pm; Sundays 4pm – 10pm
5. Hua Hin beach
How much: Free
It’ll be blasphemous not to visit the town’s main beach, which measures about 6.5 kilometres long. Parts of the sandy stretch are dotted by beachside bars and restaurants, which is where the livelier atmosphere is, but if you’re looking for something more secluded, walk a bit further and you’ll find some peace and quiet along the way.
Your best bet would be staying at a resort directly facing the beach because we all know what that means: beachside barbecues, fresh seafood served on the sand at sunset, and an intimate date night accompanied by the soothing soundtrack of the crashing waves. My last night here was spent at Anantara Hua Hin Resort, where we even got the chance to learn how to make Tom Yum from the chef and even pick herbs right off their garden!
Another bonus? Resort guests get to enjoy free airport pick-up service to and fro if you fly with AirAsia.
6. Phraya Nakhon Cave
How much: THB200 (approx. RM25)
This mystical landmark located about 45 minutes away from town is a must-visit in my book. Once there, you have two options: A) rent a boat for about THB150 (approx. RM18) to Laem Sala beach, or B) take a 30-minute trek above the hill that will bring you to the same beach. When you arrive, a 430-metre climb awaits, leading you to two hidden caves in about 30 minutes.
If you arrive before 11am, you’ll be greeted by rays of sunlight cascading from the first cave’s open ceiling. The second cave, which is really what you’re here to see, is even more beautiful because of what lies in it – a majestic little temple built since 1890 sitting atop a golden-green pavilion. Like the first cave, light from its hollow ceiling gives it a natural spotlight that’s even more breathtaking when silence falls.
7. Hua Hin railway station
How much: Free
Thailand’s old-world charm is not entirely lost as evident at one of its oldest railway stations that was built during King Rama VI’s reign. Back then, there were no roads leading to Hua Hin, so most locals would get there from Bangkok by boat. Then, trains emerged as a relatively new alternative and the rest as they say is history.
Today, trains still operate at the iconic crimson-coloured wooden building, which is juxtaposed by modern architecture in the beach town. With the Royal Waiting Room and 305 unit Baldwin steam locomotive on display, it’s become quite the hot spot too, among both locals and tourists.
8. Mrigadayavan Palace
How much: THB30 (approx. RM4)
Also built as a summer getaway in the 1920s during the reign of King Rama VI, this historic site comprises colonial-style teak buildings featuring intricate fretwork patterns up on stilts that’s surrounded by lush greenery. With such exquisite exterior, it’s a shame though that its interior is currently inaccessible due to renovations. Still, worth a visit for its lovely layout since entrance is cheap.
Tip: Make sure your arms and legs are covered, otherwise you’d have to pay THB20 (approx. RM2.50) for a sarong.
9. Chatsila Night Market
How much: Free
Forget fridge magnets. For quirky finds that’ll make awesome souvenirs, visit this nearby night market that’s open daily. Apart from the usual street food vendors and massage pit-stops, you can browse through vintage and handmade items for sale – and trust me when I say you’ll stumble upon some seriously interesting memorabilia!
Opening hours: 6pm to 11pm daily
See? Nothing above RM50, unless of course, you’re willing to splurge like a royal if you feel like it. Psst… if you don’t want to miss the cheap one-way fare of RM78 via AirAsia, be sure to book from now until 24 June 2018 for a travel period of anytime between 11 and 26 October 2018.
Happy travels to Hua Hin!