Happy 2017, my friends! It turned out 2016 was my year of vacationing like the Thais do. After seven years of visiting their country, why not take a cue from those that know it best, after all? I’ve always found it fascinating to note the differences between destinations loved by domestic travelers, and those favored by their international counterparts… to explore them myself? Even better.
I earned my first nod of local approval by planning two separate trips to Khao Yai, both to the National Park and to the wine region in the countryside. Next, I set my sights on Hua Hin, site of the royal family’s seaside retreat and arguably the country’s most popular beach resort among its own people.
I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about.
Coming from our birthday bash weekend in Bangkok, Hua Hin was a simple — though lengthy — train ride away. After a fabulous stay at the Amari Watergate in the big city, Ian and I broke off from the group to check out the brand’s sister resort, Amari Hua Hin.
We made the mistake of not buying our tickets ahead of time and got stuck in third class, which was a bit rough for a four to five hour ride. Yet all thoughts of hard wooden seats and sweaty cars were forgotten when the sun started to dip and the Thai countryside lit up with late afternoon glow.
And it was all worth it the moment the train pulled into Hua Hin’s historic station. Frankly, we weren’t planning on doing much sightseeing over the next three nights — we were traveled out and mostly just looking for some alone time! — and so we were quite pleased to check off at least one local sight.
The iconic train station was once the royal waiting room during Rama VI’s reign, and now serves as both a gateway to the popular getaway, as well as a prime example of local architecture.
A short tuk tuk ride later, we’d arrived at the Amari Hua Hin. Located just ten minutes south of the heart of town, the Amari is just close enough to take advantage of local dining and nightlife and just far enough away to feel like you’re out of the hustle and bustle.
From the moment we started check-in, we could tell this hotel was going to be distinctly different from the Amari Watergate in Bangkok. While that property had been fabulously located and spoiled for amenities, this one was swoon-level chic, with thoughtful design details and bright pops of color tucked into every corner. This was my kind of place.
I was in hotel heaven.
We stayed in a standard room, and since we arrived to our room after dark and the housekeeping left something to be desired — really our only complaint about the Amari brand — I never really got to photograph our room in it’s just-checked-in glory.
However, we did get the chance to peek at one of the hotel’s four suites and had to pretty much wipe the drool off our faces as we did so — if you’re headed this way and have the means to do so, spring for one of these babies (standard rooms start at around $100, while suites go for about $200).
So what was on the itinerary if sightseeing was out of the question? With the exception of our trip to the area’s winery, which I’ll cover in a separate post, it was all about pool, beach, spa… and watching movies in bed. Sometimes even adventure-loving travel bloggers just want a vacation.
The next day we kicked things off at the hotel pool, where we nibbled on snacks from the Aqua Pool bar and marveled at having the place nearly entirely to ourselves even when the hotel was almost at full capacity. Thai people cherish light skin the same way Americans worship tans, meaning you’ll rarely struggle to find an empty seat if you hit the pool mid-day at a Thai beach resort.
When we tired of that pool, we hoped down to the Shoreline Beach Club. Just a short walk or a free thirty second shuttle ride away from the hotel, Shoreline allowed us to enjoy the ocean breezes and views and the luxury of a hotel pool that we didn’t have to sneak into all at once. I absolutely loved this gem and we spent plenty of time here, walking the beach at low tide, eating dinner under the stars and reading between the pool and ocean.
The beach in Hua Hin is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in Thailand. The islands I’ve visited are sultry and tropical, full of piercing turquoise water, smooth as glass, and blinding white sand. Hua Hin is quaint and charming, with an endless shoreline, wild waves and a strong salty smell that reminds me of the beaches of my childhood. I was swooning.
The next morning, we decided to tick off a few more of the hotel’s hotspots. I was very much in a fitness routine at this point (universe, help me get back to that place) and was delighted by how beautiful the onsite fitness center was. Not only that, but I had it completely to myself throughout both my cardio and a weight circuit.
The best way to reward yourself for a workout? Why, a trip to the spa of course!
After just one visit at the Amari Watergate in Bangkok I was already a Breeze Spa devotee, and so I couldn’t have been more thrilled to return, this time with Ian in tow, to the Amari Hua Hin version. The stylish and hip branding was comfortingly consistent, though this particular spa had a slightly more beachy feel appropriate to the setting.
We settled in for the Hua Hin Seaside Escape package, which was glorious and involved being exfoliated with crushed seashells.
In general, the spa is my happy place, and this day was no exception. I’m in love with the Breeze branding, products, and treatments — if they opened one in Koh Tao I’d be their most loyal customer!
That afternoon, we retreated to the Coral Lounge for high tea. This gorgeous lobby bar won me over from the second I stepped through the door with its dramatic red coral chandeliers — luckily not for sale in any giftshop, or I would have really struggled to repack my suitcase — and its impeccable design details all around.
I don’t normally jump at the chance for proper tea service, but this one was pretty phenomenal. I’m getting hungry just thinking about those sliders and scones!
Our last day at the Amari was all about soaking up every last second of vacation vibes — that, and eating. We kicked things off as we had twice already with breakfast at Mosaic, the hotel’s included breakfast restaurant. With five different restaurant options onsite — plus room service — we never returned to Mosaic for any other meals, but we did love starting our days here.
Later that afternoon after packing up, we had a beautiful lunch at Reef Deli, where we’d also enjoyed dinner on our first night. My highlight was a dessert called Sweet Mango Caviar, made up of coconut and pandan cake served with vanilla ice cream and topped with mango “caviar.” Yum!
Throughout our stay, we were impressed with the prices at the hotel’s onsite restaurants. When we met briefly with the hotel’s manager, he explained that for Amari’s many Thai guests, eating at Hua Hin’s famous seafront seafood restaurants is one of the main attractions, and so they have to price themselves competitively to remain an attractive option.
I really savored this short getaway and understood more than ever why people don’t just go traveling but also take vacations. I live a life blessed by beach time, setting my own schedule and a lot of other things that most people associate with being on vacation. Yet the one thing I can’t just get on a whim is quality time with my favorite man! Ian and I live separately, work opposite hours (I work during the day and Ian manages a bar six nights a week), and both value quality time alone and with our friends. And so when we do get away like this, we really savor it. And I can’t imagine a more perfect place to do so than this particular beach town and this particular hotel.
Hua Hin really left an impression on me. Considering it’s prime location between Bangkok and Koh Tao, it’s kind of wild it took me so long to get there. But while this may have been a long overdue first trip, I feel almost certain it won’t be my last.
Stay tuned for a post about Hua Hin’s winery!
Many thanks to Amari Hua Hin for hosting us for two nights. As always, you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.
Happy New Year!! You stay at the most amazing places! This hotel looks absolutely fabulous! I hadn’t heard of Hua Hin before, but it seems nice and relaxing. I certainly like the idea of an “endless shore line” right about now 🙂
I do love me a design hotel 😉 And yes, I love beaches long enough to just walk for an hour and never have to turn around!
I love travelling, do a fair bit of it the last few years, want to do a fair bit more this year it is cool and great fun. All your photos make this trip you took look like such a great trip and you look good my friend, my days of wearing a swim suit are long gone let alone a bikini
I love that quip that says, “How to have a beach body? Step One: Have a body. Step Two: Go to beach.” I say no one is ever too old for a swim suit and a swim 🙂
Hua Hin looks so amazing! This is my kind of vacation. That beach is so interesting, as all the photos of Thailand I’ve seen are such calm waters.
Yup, that’s the biggest thing that stood out to me too! And the ocean actually SMELLED like the ocean at home, too, which was so lovely. I really felt like I was back on the East Coast!
What a beautiful place! I feel you on wanting a pure vacation every now and then. I’m hoping to do the same when I go to Greece this spring!
Greece! What! I need to know more…
Mango sticky rice is best out of a foam box 🙂
Or, if you go to Octave rooftop bar in Thonglor, out of a martini glass 😉
Lucky you. And This hotel is so you.
It really is, right?! It just screamed Wanderland to me 🙂
Oh, I love the pops of yellow in the room! More hotels should utilize that color, it makes everything more cheerful!
I DID end up checking out the Breeze in Bangkok and now my skin is smoother than it’s been since I was about 3 years old 😛 The mani/pedi was disappointing though 🙁 Although it wasn’t in the spa but rather the salon, which I didn’t realize until after I had booked it. So maybe that’s why.
Amen for vacation! The location independent lifestyle, though it may be lived in a tropical paradise, is definitely not a vaca! haha..just had one myself, and it was the perfect end to 2016! Happy New Year! (PS-It’s super trippy/amazing to see my banner on your site! YAY!)
Love having you 🙂 Sorry to hear the nail salon was a bit of a letdown… I find a good manicure/pedicure is REALLY hard to find in Thailand for some reason. I have way better luck at home, which seems odd in the land of spa treatments!
Hi Alex, Happy New Year. Cherishing those special people whilst doing what you love always brings a smile to my face too. 🙂
What more could you ask for in a vacation!
Ahhh, another unbiased sponsored trip to a beach that is a big zippo.
You would serve your readers better to report on how most of Thailands beaches are now overcrowded, overdeveloped, overpriced, and polluted messes. Many need to be leveled.
I know, I have been to them all 30 years ago and have recently returned. It’s a disgrace what they have become.
Mike, I’m sorry to hear that you were so disappointed by your return trip to Thailand. I can certainly relate to the feeling of sadness that a once beloved destination has changed. However, I have to presume that you are exaggerating when you say you’ll been to “all” of Thailand’s beaches — that would be quite a feat! I’m sure you can admit that there must be some gems left among them. Hua Hin doesn’t try to be undiscovered, undeveloped, or anything of the sort… it’s a city by the sea, but that has it’s charms as well. If you no longer see the beauty of Thailand, there are many new corners of the world waiting to be discovered! Happy travels.
I absolutely love the yellow backsplash (but really, are you surprised?) and those lounge chairs! They’d fit in perfectly at Chez van Luna!
Hotel as home inspiration? I think that could be a fun blog post 😉
I really like your blog and have enjoyed reading about your travels. But I felt the need to comment after reading this post. When you described how Thais cherish pale skin the way that “Americans worship tans” just really rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe to you it was just a throw away line, but as an African-American traveler, I deal with the perceptions that go along with my skin color both at home and abroad. While that may not be part of your experiences and something that you have never had to think about, I would just hope that you give it a little more thought next time. Thanks.
Hey Sarah… you are right. And I apologize. It was a thoughtless, quickly dashed off line but I’m glad that you did point it out to me and did make me think about it. Words matter and I should have chosen mine more carefully. Please never hesitate to call me out when I carelessly offend. That’s how we all learn and grow! PS: I’m going to edit the post.
Thanks for your thoughtful response.
Happy New Year! I am glad you had such a lovely time, relaxing in Hua Hin. I didn’t realise there was a train connecting Bangkok to this seaside place! How much was the ticket? Will have to take a weekend trip once we move 🙂 The Amari hotel looks incredible and that bath tub in the suite – wow!
Hey Katie, we went third class so the train was 188 baht, or around $5 US dollars. So cheap!
First, I LOVE all of your pictures, all the time! Second, this looks like an awesome little getaway!
Aw, thanks Megan! Always a pleasure to photograph a beautiful place like this.
Nice! I love nice hotels so much it’s hard for me to get up and leave them sometimes…I’m a big fan of movies and room service 🙂
That’s my problem! When Ian and I were talking about Jamaica this summer I said we are going back to basics… nothing but cheapie guesthouses… otherwise I never leave! Ha ha.
I can’t get over the decor of the hotel! It’s gorgeous. I can see why just staying put was more than worth it for a few days.
Yes, we truly loved it here. I have a feeling we’ll be back in Hua Hin again, anyway! Because the little taste we got from our wine tasting and long beach walks was lovely!
The place look exactly same to the Elyon-Best western where I lodged when I visited Sri Lanka. These photographs remind me those memories. My husband and I chose to spend our honeymoon there. Colombo city is similar to this.
Ah, I’m dying to visit Sri Lanka one of these days! Sounds beautiful 🙂
You must Alex. Make sure you visit the beaches in Negombo. You will love the place. Taste the sea food there.
Thanks for the tips! One of these days 🙂
I will be reaching Hua Hin in 2 hours time! Great reading about your Hua Hin experience on my bus ride. Can’t wait to try the seafood. 🙂
Enjoy, Derek! I love that place. Check out the winery if you get a chance!
I have a plan to do Hua Hin trip. Which month you visited.
The photos are good. Which camera body, lens you used normally and in those hotel photos?
You used builtin flash or external flash or no flash.
Can you give some details and tips for that photos. Thanks in advance…
Hey there! We visited in February, and you can see a full list of my camera gear up on the Obsessions page from the navigation at the top of the page 🙂 Hope that helps!
Nice little article on Hua Hin. I have been living there for 6 years and enjoy every bit of it.
Hope to see you there again.
Hi Damien! Now that The Standard is opening in Hua Hin, I’m itching to go back! Someday soon I hope!