Regal retreat

A regal retreat

Hua hin’s a beautiful seaside town. It has striking distance of Bangkok. It was a hot favourite with the Thai royals. It’s a sleepy seaside town barely 200km from the Thai capital. Hua Hin has pristine beaches, blue waters. And it has somehow stayed off the map of the madding tourist crowds that flock to Pattaya and phuket.

But for more than a century Hua Hin has been a favourite haunt of the Thai royals and discriminating locals. They have also figured it’s a great weekend getaway. Although some experts have discovered the beauties of Hua Hin. It’s off the regular tourist spot.

Hua Hin makes an appearance in the history books in the 1830s. It was a time when nearby Phetchaburi faced a killer famine and farmers began migrating from the area. As they headed towards the capital, they discovered a tiny fishing village sitting pretty on silky white sands. It was a rocky beach so they named it Samore Riang (rows of rock). It was later called Hin Riang, Lam Hin (stone cape) and, finally, Hua Hin (stone head). (regal retreat)

The story goes that Prince Chakrabongse, one of the royals, accompanied by as Russian nobleman come to the area on a hunting trip in the early 1900s. And instantly he fell in love with it. So much so that he built himself a beach villa. The likes of which one had never seen in the area.

Sometime later king Rama Vi visited the place like the prince. He a fell in love with the beautiful and serene place. And he immediately ordered the construction of the maruekatayawan Royal palace, a wooden summer palace along the beach. A few years later, King Rama VII built another royal palace. The aptly named new palace-phra Ratchawang klai Kangwon, which translates into a palace far from worries’ – became a favoured royal retreat. Inevitably, other royals and nobles followed suit and several beach bungalows sprang up along the coast.

In 1911, a rail connection was laid from Bangkok to Hua Hin. And on the tiny railway station, beautiful pavilion in red and taupe was constructed as waiting room for the royals. Today, the classical Thai structure is a tourist attraction in itself. And the station is also one of Thailand’s most beautiful.

Over the next decade after the trains first puffed into Hua Hin, the fishing village metamorphosed into a buzzing royal resort. And the Thai Royal State Railway also decided to build a western-style hotel designed by an Italian architect. Bang opposite the station, it opened in 1923 as the Railway Hotel. Now the Sofitel Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas, it became famous when the film The killing Fields was shot there. (regal retreat)




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