Hua Hin's saving grace
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd March, 2017
Package tourists pack the night market. Touts pounce on every corner. Seedy bars and “massage” shops dominate what could have been preserved as an old town. Development has been poorly planned along the traffic-choked main drag, and authorities are cracking down on land encroachment and gouged prices on the beach. At first glance, the resort city of Hua Hin lacks charm.
Yet a little poke around reveals that Hua Hin shouldn’t be written off just yet. We discovered its brightest spot down Naeb Kehardt, a frangipani-lined street that shoots north from the tacky tourist area. Unlike the far southern end of town and its impressive Wat Khao Takiab, Naeb Kehardt has no single big attraction to lure travellers. But when it comes to atmosphere, this is where we want to be.
Revitalised in recent years, the neighbourhood plays host to several stately old houses beside the sea, romantic resorts, cosy art galleries and nightspots with names like “Thong Lor”, after Bangkok’s trendiest hood. On weekends, Naeb Kehardt seems to attract the same crowd of fashion-conscious young Thais who frequent the hipster bars found along the real Thong Lor Road, some 200 kilometres north of Hua Hin.
The best of this refreshing area is clustered on and around Soi Hua Hin 51, a stumpy street that cuts east from Phetkasem Road, meeting Naeb Kehardt on its way to a quiet stretch of beach. Near the sandy end of the road, a makeshift kitchen materialises on Saturdays and Sundays to serve what we reckon is the finest Isaan (Northeast Thai) food in town. Smoke billows from the grill as the mostly Thai clientele line up for a stool.
Fear not if you arrive on a weekday (or can’t handle an authentically spicy plate of som tam); the area boasts several other culinary highlights. Chief among them is You Yen, a long-running seaside restaurant serving hearty Thai and Chinese fare, burgers and baked goods around a restored century-old house. The slow-roasted pork shoulder, massaman curry and chilli pastes are to die for, and the ambiance is perfect for a lazy beer or espresso under the palms.
For a cheaper bite, a range of street-style food can be had at Hua Hin Memory, a curiously composed arrangement of fake lighthouses, windmills, vintage boats (or at least pieces of them) and plenty of open-air seating. Next to that is Gallery Drip, the second location of what we feel is Bangkok’s best coffee shop, brewing Ethiopian Yirgacheffe for artsy twenty-somethings. For something sweet, head over to Eighteen Below, an upscale cafe scooping out some very good ice cream.
The area is also graced with some of the most stylish places to stay in Hua Hin. There’s Naab K Heart and Mooz, both mid-size flashpacker spots with edgy attitudes, popular restaurants and lounge-able atmospheres. Couples with cash might do better at Green Gallery or Baan Talay Chine, both tastefully done mini-resorts with fair claims to the title of “boutique”. For families in search of seclusion and a swimming pool at reasonable rates, Pool 51 Villas should do the trick.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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