by John K. Lindgren – January 2016
“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes”… crooned David Bowie aka “Ziggie Stardust” the recently departed avant-garde rock icon, who once visited Thailand in the 80s.
Now, changes, transformations to the better is what Hua Hin town by-the-sea in Prachuab Khirikhan province is undergoing. This tranquil, beach resort once boasted only one five-star property: Royal Garden Resort next to the dilapidated old Railway Hotel with its overgrown gardens where the Oscar winning Hollywood movie “Killing Fields” was the backdrop for “Le Phnom Hotel” Phnom Penh, Democratic Kampuchea.
Today in Hua Hin we find a half a dozen international luxury chain hotels, ultra chic boutique hotels, community malls, cineplex movie theaters, a legendary night market and one Starbucks store. Hua Hin has become a world-class tropical beach, golf, tennis and family holiday destination.
However, the sun-kissed long beaches, vast pristine national parks, gilded Buddhist temples and the secluded, Klai Kangwon (Sans Souci) Palace of the Thai royal family who discovered Hua Hin in 1920s still remain. All this and more – only a three hours drive south of bustling, humid, noisy and often traffic-clogged Bangkok megacity.
On our Friday arrival driving past Chiva Som’s iconic white lighthouse looking structure and across the railway bridge, straight on and then a right turn: Banyan The Resort minutes from the center of Hua Hin town. This will be the ‘base camp’ during our Hua Hin Experience. And what a base camp. A full service five-star resort property boasting 11 private pool and 75 private jacuzzi villas nestled along a meandering canal in a delightfully landscaped environment dotted with palm trees.
Our off-white, stylish, contemporary mansion like, crimson roofed 120 square meter villa comes with two bedrooms, gleaming teakwood floors, soaring ceilings permeated with natural light. Tasteful Thai interior decor, Buddhist inspired objets d’art and a living room spacious enough for small cocktail receptions. Entertainment: flat-screen satellite-TV and free Wi-Fi. The minibar is a proper fridge in the fully equipped spick-and-span kitchenette. Bathroom boasts rain shower and super premium delicious Swiss Aigner amenities. Outdoor a private lawn terrace with daybeds and al-fresco shower. Only steps a way is the bubbling jacuzzi and the inviting azure blue infinite pool with inspiring vistas.
When the appetite kicks in. The gourmands and gourmets head for the the Coral Restaurant serving delectable international and Thai cuisine. The restaurant also provides spacious outdoor seating. For the afternoon, cup of freshly brewed Java and chocolate pastry at Yauatcha, The Banyan Resort’s cosy coffee-shop cum reading room
A quick dip in the private jacuzzi Shower, slip-ons and resort attire. Ready. Our affable electric buggy driver Khun Vichen takes us on ‘inspection tour’ around the property.
First the Splash Pool Bar located in center of the resort serves tempting snacks, burgers, ice-cream, pizza and Thai dishes. The swimming pool is embraced by a gentle breeze and always is hugely popular with kids. For us it’s the Splash Pool Bar ice cream tasting. Two scoops plain vanilla, thank you.
Next station: The Banyan Resort Spa Villa, a soothing, lemongrass scented retreat with tall spacious treatment rooms for relaxation, rejuvenation and well-deserved pampering from head to toe. The spa menu features a full range of signature treatments; aromatherapy,facials, massage, manicure and pedicure.
Wanna keep fit during your stay? Just Do It! At the Goodlife Fitness Center equipped with high-tech weight training and cardiovascular equipment.
Time and tide wait for no man. Next Banyan Golf Club affiliated with Banyan The Resort. This is an award winning 18-hole championship golf course situated a short drive from the resort nestled the verdant rolling hills of Western Hua Hin with a breathtaking vista stretching all way to the Burmese (Myanmar) mountains.
The fairways, greens, roughs, bunkers and tees look impeccable. inviting, also for an ex golfer like me. The pro shop and locker rooms are all flawless. This could well be an exclusive members only country-club in California or Florida, USA. Our inspection ends at the popular Mulligans Pub overlooking the first tee box and the ninth green. Mulligan’s terrace provides breathtaking sunset views and delectable food and drink to match it.
A bunch of happy golfers at the next table talk about their golf round. “That long put – I sank it!” His partner, “I was so close to a hole-in-one on the par three”, I hear someone saying in Finnish.
Wanna play? Banyan The Resort guests have courtesy shuttle service and preferential fees – especially weekdays and late afternoon tee-off. The Banyan The club offers special afternoon rate, 3 pm onwards only 1700 ++ Baht , GPS equipped Golf carts (to help you with the distance for your next shot) 750 Baht. Caddie fee 300 Baht.
Our Hua Hin experience continues. Back from the Banyan Golf course near the old railway, “Tennis anyone?” we arrive at True Arena Hua Hin, South East Asia’s premier tennis, sports and recreational center.
The brand new True Arena offers 11 world-class tennis courts including the ultra modern indoor gymnasium for badminton, basketball, volleyball, futsal. Plus four-story 5,000 square meter clubhouse. On the 1st floor ‘Maria’ the international all day club restaurant. Take the elevator up. Voila! The rooftop a bar and the infinity pool. But, True Arena’s highlight is the sunken center court featuring the blue plexicushion surface unique to Southeast Asia. Capacity of 5,000 seats. Recently, World Class tennis returned to Hua Hin for the 2016 World Tennis Thailand Championship held headlining US tennis legend Venus Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.
Next stop on our whistle-stop tour the Urban Mangrove or “MEPSEC” (Mangrove Ecosystem Preservation & Science Education Center) by the exclusive Chiva Som Spa Hua Hin. The last remaining urban mangrove in Hua Hin, part of Preserve Hua Hin Group founded in 2004 operating under the royal patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. For the visitors experience; a new 7-million Baht walkway has been erected around the mangrove park, in support for a green, sustainable future for all. MEPSEC is situated on 18 rais of flat marshland at the foot of Khao Krai Lart Temple in the vicinity the well known Hua Hin landmark Chop-Stick Mountain Khao Ta-Kiep.
So, you have not been to Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, Hin Hin lately? Now, it’s high to visit Thailand’s original beach resort beach resort and play a round of golf (or just enjoy a knock your socks off sunset dinner), a game of tennis or badminton, experience an urban mangrove park or just chill-out, decompress at your own The Banyan Resort jacuzzi or pool villa. Trust me you won’t regret it!