Ever since our experience in Paris we approach new destinations with a little skepticism, mostly to keep our expectations in check. We’ve been lucky in our travels to have visited several places where within minutes of arriving we just know we’ll love it. There’s something about these places that just feels right, everything is balanced and perfect. Finding these places – oases in a desert of touristy and overrate destinations – is one of the most rewarding parts of our trip. Hua Hin, Thailand is NOT one of these places.
Like anyone considering a trip to Hua Hin it started in Bangkok. We had a little under a week to kill before our next booked flight and we’re looking for a change of pace from the big city for a few days. The “clean, sleepy, family-friendly” beach town of Hua Hin is only a 2-3 hour drive to the south and was way more practical than flying anywhere. It’s touted as a getaway for the well-to-do from Bangkok – the king even has a vacation home (palace) here. Our expectations were of a Thai Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket – a quaint, upscale escape from the big city. The reality feels more like rockaway beach in queens – here’s why..
The People: I couldn’t take pictures, so allow me to describe the typical couple. Lets start with the man: He’s 50 but probably older, western, overweight, often covered in tattoos stretched beyond recognition, and shifty-eyed with a look of guilt shared only with those who’ve either just stolen something or farted in a crowded elevator. Now the lady: Mid 20’s, Thai, very basic English, half (or less) the weight of her man and dressed in a way that Bethany’s mom would definitely disapprove of. In beach towns like Pattaya these couples are as common as sand – which is why avoided it altogether. Sadly it seems Hua Hin has inherited some Pattaya seediness.
The Beach: Here’s a fun game that no one wants to play on a beach vacation. It’s called “what’s that?” the choices are: trash, poisonous jellyfish, or horse shit. Bethany and I took a walk on Hua Hin beach for a few miles and played this the entire way. Locals offering horse rides on the beach are abundant and many people sign up for a trot down the stretch of sand. Unfortunately there are no sanitary regulations / enforcement, so no one picks up after the horses. And then there are the jellyfish – it took a while before we saw the first one, but where there’s one there are many and sure enough they’re everywhere. Our time at the beach (and the guessing game) ended abruptly when we became distracted and both stepped within 6 inches of a round beached jellyfish the size of a Brooklyn style pizza.
The Food: Bottom line – It’s just not as good as it is anywhere else we’ve been in Thailand. Picture menus abound, prices are high (for Thailand) and tripadvisor lists multiple Irish pubs in the top 10 restaurants. On a raw, rainy New England day in late fall very little sounds better to me than a brew and some fish and chips, but not in 90 degree heat at the beach in Thailand.
So where does that leave us? If you’re one of the people I described above, buy tickets while they’re cheap and plan to stay a while. If not, avoid it. Stay put in the city or invest the time to get down to southern Thailand. It’s been almost 6 months since we left the states and we’ve come to realize that not everywhere we visit is a place we’ll want to return to. There’s no substitute for experience, good or bad, and Hua Hin is a lesson learned for us.