After eight days in Bangkok, wrangling my cousin’s twins and exploring temples and markets, we were excited to to head to the beach. The journey to Thailand had been so arduous with the babies, my cousin’s Climate Change Conference hectic, so we opted not to fly and found a local getaway where we could unwind.
Hua Hin was a popular seaside resort for Thai elite and the King’s summer residence, and now it is popular with Scandinavian and Baltic package tours. It is about a three-hour drive from Bangkok and our hotel organized a van and driver—no car seats of course. The roads were in good shape and traffic not too horrendous, but keeping the babes occupied was certainly hard. We had a giant bag of toys and board books, cheerio type snacks and all the bottle accoutrements and tried to hold them tight, but you can imagine the gymnastics involved.
We stayed at a small friendly, family resort I would highly recommend called Anantasila Villa by the Sea. The pool, rooms and public areas were beautifully appointed and inviting, and the outdoor eating area was dreamy. The breakfast buffet was so impressive—we ate so much—we just had two meals each day. There was a dim sum bar, a crepe stand and myriad other Asian, tropical and Western choices. Navigating the buffet was comical, holding a baby while trying to dish up food. My cousin’s son Moses put his foot in a bowl of Thousand Island dressing and before we could alert the staff another guest had scooped some out for his salad…oh well. Sitting on our balcony or in the reception area was relaxing even with our two charges. We met French, New Zealand, Indian, American and Estonian families and the kids all played together in the pool.
The resort was on the Gulf of Siam, picturesque and uncrowded. The beach was lovely. The water, however, seemed a bit dirty (not the fabled turquoise water you imagine). Signs warning of jellyfish were a bit off putting, but then again we had two babies to occupy so it was fine for dips, dunks, wave playing and the pool was glorious. There were two beach massage stations with tables and umbrellas. I was lucky to have two massages, two days back to back which—at $8 a pop—was luxurious but affordable. There is nothing like a Thai massage under an umbrella in the tropics, with the sound of the surf and the warmth of the the sun, to lull you into a state of nirvana. It was so needed to keep me together given the physical demands of childcare.
There is plenty to do in this bustling metropolis by the sea, lots of water sports, shopping and spa activities. We stayed pretty close to the hotel and enjoyed the relaxation and slower pace. We did go to a posh night market on a large tuk-tuk—our only experience on the rickety open mopeds crossed with bicycles— which are a popular and cheap mode of transport all over Thailand.
The Cicada Night Market was appealing because there were a lot of local artists and artisans selling their beautiful wares. I was expecting more local crafts but there were incredible painters, shoemakers and other designers. I bought a cutting board and a great tankini bathing suit, and my cousin found wonderfully unique baby clothes. The food was scrumptious and the whole atmosphere pretty upscale.
The King had died a few days before our trip, so the normal idolatry and billboard-sized shrines were replaced by memorials and candlelight vigils. I—of course—had not brought black clothes with me given the climate, but the hotel concierge offered black ribbons to wear out of respect for the fallen monarch. Even at the Cicada Night market, there was a beautiful shrine and at one point everyone stopped the commercial frenzy and the band played the national anthem for the King—it took me a few moments to get what was going on.
On our trip back to Bangkok we drove directly to the airport, which was even faster than our trip to Hua Hin. Although, a trip to an island would be divine, if you only have a few days, Hua Hin has a lot to offer.