For nearly a century, the Thai Royal Family has chosen to holiday in its own backyard – specifically, at the seaside resort of Hua Hin. And with good reason – idyllically located just three hours south of Bangkok on a calm bay fringed by pure white sand and coconut palms, this former fishing village offers the ultimate beach escape: easily accessible, vibrant and culturally rich, yet far enough removed from tourist mayhem to retain an air of tranquillity.
Hua Hin’s royal endorsement began at the turn of the 20th century, when Prince Chakrabongse stumbled upon the sleepy fishing village during a hunting trip, later returning to build the first beach villa on the dazzling crescent of sand. In the 1920s, on the advice of his physician, King Rama VI built a summer retreat on the beach called ‘The Royal House of Love and Hope’; in his wake, the Thai nobility flocked south to escape the Bangkok heat, making Hua Hin the most fashionable weekend destination for the elite.
Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who sadly passed away last year, also adored Hua Hin, and for many years used a palace built in 1928, known as ‘Klaikangwon’ or ‘Far From Worries’, as his main residence.
Until recently, however, Hua Hin was largely ignored by international travellers who instead flocked to Phuket, Koh Samui and Pattaya for their beach holidays. But finally the royal secret is out, and Hua Hin is rightfully being hailed as one of Thailand’s most appealing seaside destinations.
It’s little surprise, then, that the upscale Swiss hotel management company, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, has chosen Hua Hin as the location of its newest property in Thailand. Located on a private strip of sand just 15 minutes from the centre of town, the Mövenpick Asara Resort & Spa Hua Hin is seemingly plucked from a postcard, with absolute beach frontage complete with resplendent day
beds under palm trees, overlooked by an infinity pool and lush tropical gardens.
Families are a major focus at this resort, with spacious residences consisting of 96 suites, pool villas and beachfront villas as well as a large array of leisure options including a dedicated kids’ club, a canopy-shaded swimming pool just for little guests and adventure activities including catamaran trips into the Gulf of Thailand, sea kayaking and daily excursions to local sights such as temples and markets.
One of the most popular day trips is to Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, famed for the cathedral-like Phraya Nakhon Cave, where shafts of light pierce the limestone to reveal a much-photographed classical Thai pavilion, built in 1890 to commemorate a visit by King Rama V – yet another royal association with the region! Be prepared for quite a hike to get to this cave – it’s a 430-metre climb up uneven steps, which can be quite challenging in the humidity!
A much cooler experience (literally!) is a visit to Mrigadayavan Palace, King Rama VI’s summer palace built in 1923. A classic example of raised Thai architecture, the teak pavilions are linked by long covered corridors, designed to catch the sea breeze as natural air conditioning. The palace is open daily, and gives a glimpse into the royal lifestyle that made Hua Hin what it is today.
The addition of the Hua Hin resort brings Mövenpick’s Thailand offerings to a total of six, with another three properties slated to open in the near future. There are currently two Mövenpick hotels on the southern island of Phuket: one at Bangtao Beach in the exclusive Laguna compound, and the other just metres away from the lovely sands of Karon Beach.
For families, Mövenpick Karon Beach ticks all the boxes, with its Little Birds Kids’ Club focusing on educational and cultural offerings including eco-trails, birdwatching, visits to an organic garden, cooking classes and dance classes. By honing in on these traditional Thai experiences, children – and their parents, who are invited to join the activities – learn to appreciate the uniqueness of the destination, creating special memories that will impact throughout their lives.
Families are also at the fore at the five-star Mövenpick Siam Hotel Na Jomtien in Pattaya, where children under the age of six eat for free and older children receive half-price meals. The younger guests are also given the opportunity to explore hidden talents, with Junior Artist, Chef, Golfer, Musician and Rider programs designed to inspire and entertain with fun, hands-on activities. For instance, Junior Riders are given a one- or three-day introduction to horse riding in partnership with the Thailand Equestrian Federation, learning how to groom a horse, ride and evenexplore the basics of the sport of polo – an incredible experience for a pony-mad child!
For visitors to the vibrant capital city of Bangkok, two Mövenpick properties offer luxurious facilities for both business and leisure guests: Mövenpick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 and Mövenpick Residences Ekkamai. The latter consists of spacious self-contained serviced apartments featuring all the comforts of home; while the former is a five-star hotel with a rooftop pool, a 24-hour tuk-tuk shuttle to the Skytrain (which will quickly whisk you to some of the best shopping in Asia) and versatile conference facilities for 120 guests.
Of course, no visit to Bangkok is complete without experiencing the local Thai tradition of dining on the streets – and just a few sois from the Sukhumvit 15 hotel is Soi 11, renowned as one of the most reliable places to try street food. There are also countless delectable restaurants in Bangkok, including the hotel’s own Lelawadee Restaurant, which offers authentic Thai flavours and the freshest of ingredients in an atmospheric indoor/outdoor setting overlooking a waterfall and central garden.
And of course, nothing says Bangkok like a rooftop bar! The Rainforest Rooftop Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Sukhumvit 15 offers panoramic views of the spectacular Bangkok skyline with classic cocktails and tapas-style snacks. Yet another classic Thai experience fit for a king! •
Photography by various establishments.
• Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts: movenpick.com