When the first whiff of sea breeze hits you, you know that your vacation has officially begun. That’s exactly what happened when I drove into Hua Hin, a small town on the Gulf of Thailand. After a three-hour drive from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, a just woken up Hua Hin greeted me with a refreshing welcome drink, the minute the car stopped outside my resort in this seaside town.
Thailand has always been one of the favourite Asian destinations for India travellers. The country wins you over with its tropical beaches, ornate temples, flavourful food and shopping hubs. After Krabi, Phuket, Phi Phi and Koh Samui, Hua Hin is emerging as the ‘it’ destination to enjoy a tropical vacay in style.
Once a quiet fishing village, Hua Hin has grown into a fashionable escape, offering activities like kitesurfing, water sports and golfing, to name a few. Its popularity as a weekend getaway, especially among city residents, grew in the 1920s when the Thai royal family built their summer palace here, Klai Kang Won (which means ‘far from worries’). Now, it attracts people from around the world and offers something to both luxury and budget travellers.
The vanilla sand coastline of the Hua Hin beach is dotted with high-end resorts and seafood shacks. And it is here where I found my coastal escape from the city blues at Avani+ Hua Hin Resort.
When you come into the grand presence of a white reception with bronze accents, and little fish ponds on both sides of the lobby, you have arrived at Avani+ Hua Hin Resort in Cha Am.
The property is all about ultra-modern rooms, breezy beachfront dining, a spa that smells like rainforests, restaurants that won’t make you feel homesick, four great pools to have some fun in the sun and a few extras to spoil yourself.
The constant in all the 196 rooms, suites and villas at Avani+ are gorgeous views of either the pool or the lush gardens or the silent sea. My room was a deluxe pool access room with a swim literally a hop away from the balcony. And hop I did into a state of relaxation.
From rooms with an outdoor jacuzzi to family suites overlooking the calming greens; from lagoon+plunge pool villas to romantic sea view villas with a private pool, all bedrooms are charming in their own way. You’ll find tropical tones of white, wood and sea green, and floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outdoors in. Here, the rooms will make you feel one with nature while in the lap of luxury.
As you take a few steps through the reception, there’s a spa to your right and a restaurant to your left. And my priorities led me straight to the lavish breakfast after check-in, where an elaborate buffet of Continental, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Indian dishes was spread out.
At the helm in the kitchen is John Ranaudo, whose profile includes distinguished brands like Marriott, Centara and Amari. Under his chiefship, Avani+ hosts six eateries including two restaurants--STAA specialising in Thai and international cuisines (their pad Thai and mango sticky rice are as exotic as their breakfast spread); Brezza with its Mediterranean expertise (for laidback evenings with your loved ones and butter garlic seafood platter); two resto-bars--Blue Biscuit and Terrace Bar; Aqua, the pool side bar for drinks and light snacks; and a designer deli called The Pantry.
It was at STAA where I met Chef Kuldeep Nautiyal and experienced homely Indian food in Thailand. With him as Chef De Cuisine, vegetarians in India don’t have a reason to give Thailand a miss anymore. And his yellow daal and bhindi will ensure you don’t miss home in this foreign country.
From six types of aromatic oil treatments and the richly rhassoul ritual to basic salon services such as facials and touch-ups, AvaniSpa is where you go to pamper yourself. Their masseuse use time-tested techniques and natural ingredients like lemongrass, frangipani and sakura to melt your worries away. Floating candles, a mixed aroma of therapeutic oils, soothing music and large water pots are constant reminders at the two-storey spa that you’re in the right place.
Go for the best with the VIP suite or a couple’s treatment room for spa bliss a deux have a traditional Thai massage. There’s also a hammam at the spa for those who love steam baths.
The resort is only two years old, but there’s already a buzz about it for two reasons--it lays the foundation to Hua Hin’s largest (900 sqm) ballroom that can accommodate around 800 guests, and the number of weddings it hosts throughout the year. From a white wedding in front of the waves to a Thai water ceremony in the ballroom or a multi-day Indian extravaganza in the lawns, the resort conjures picture-perfect weddings.
A baraat procession through tropical gardens; religious ceremonies with a stage and beachfront mandap; a mehendi gathering beneath the swaying palms; a sangeet in the ballroom followed by a poolside after-party--choose your ideal setting and top it off with a personalised theme decor. In addition, authentic Indian delicacies from Indian Chef Kuldeep's kitchen, and other arrangements such as dhol or live DJ are all taken care of by Avani+.
Fifty shaadi guests or 950, luxurious experience is a promise. You can even request a proposal from the dedicated wedding planners here to give wings to the wedding of your dreams.
The property also has a gym, AvaniFit, stocked with the latest cardio machines, weights and yoga mats; their conference rooms are a hotseller among businessmen looking to host glamorous launches, formal meetings and intimate gatherings; and then there is AvaniKids--a safe space for children where they can play games and have their own pool to splash around while you enjoy some me-time.
Hua Hin is accessible via air, train, bus, or car from Bangkok (which is four-and-a-half hours from Delhi). You can apply for a visa online, or get a visa on arrival at Bangkok’s international airport.
By air: There is a small airstrip in Hua Hin where chartered flights operate to and from Bangkok.
By rail: The railway station is located right in the centre of the town where daily trains from Bangkok operate. The journey time from Bangkok to Hua Hin is approximately four hours.
By bus: AC and non-AC buses operate from Bangkok’s Southern Bus Terminal to Srasong Road in Hua Hin. Buses heading towards other destinations like Pranburi and Petchburi stop at the Clock Tower located in the heart of Hua Hin. Buses will take you approximately three hours.
By road: Or, like me, you can hire a car from Bangkok and drive to Hua Hin. It takes three hours to reach Hua Hin by road and the drive is convenient.
To enjoy summer in Hua Hin, March to May are your months. During these months, Hua Hin’s tropical climate has high humidity with no precipitation, which means yay water sports! For the rest of the year, the weather remains pleasant with occasional bouts of rainfall, especially in August and September.
Hua Hin is one of the top tourist destinations of Thailand for its great amount of attractions and activities. The city has many incredible beaches, mountains, viewpoints, temples, night markets, water parks, and fine dining restaurants to choose from. Here’s what you can do when in Hua Hin:
The seaside community of 60,000 residents is a fine example of warm and welcoming Thai hospitality. And you can expect nothing less from people here.
Price of Avani+ Hua Hin Resort: Rs 10,000 upwards per night; book here
Images: Writer, Avani