Just because Hua Hin is lesser known than Phuket, Chiang Mai or Koh Samui doesn’t mean it’s less worthy of your time. Sure, the beaches are rougher and more grey than you might expect. And if you’re after the hustle and noise of the big city then you might be more drawn to the neon streets of Bangkok. But Hua Hin offers an interesting mix of vibrant night life with a genuine coastal charm. It sits somewhere in the middle, part seaside resort town, part burgeoning metropolis. If you’re from Australia think the Gold Coast, with a bigger heart. We stayed for a week and had a fantastic time. If we’re ever back in Thailand I’m sure we’ll visit again. Here are five things you can do in Hua Hin which definitely won’t disappoint.
1. Visit Wat Khao Takiap aka ‘Monkey Mountain’
I’ve dreamt of having a monkey friend ever since I could remember. Maybe it was reading adventure stories when I was a kid. Imagining myself sailing off on exciting pirate adventures with a cheeky primate companion on my shoulder. Whatever it was, my love of monkeys has endured. Until I visited Wat Khao Takiap, I hadn’t actually had the chance to see one in person. Afterwards, I’d seen several hundred and felt lucky to have gotten out without being mugged by a huge mob of them. If you love monkeys, amazing birds eye views of beautiful coastal cities and golden Buddhist temples then you’re going to love Monkey Mountain.
It cost us 150 baht / $5.60 AUD / $4.20 USD per person for the ride there in the back of a red taxi truck. On the way back home the same kind of taxi only charged us 10 baht / $0.37 AUD / $0.28 USD each, so either the second taxi driver was really generous, or the first guy ripped us off.
You can buy buckets of food (mixed grain etc.) for 50 baht / $1.90 AUD / $1.40 USD each from a lady who works out of a little shack in the middle of the monkey feeding area. the whole shack is covered in chicken wire and the lady stays barricaded inside with a long stick to keep the monkeys out when a customer comes to the door. When you get the bucket of food be prepared to throw it away from yourself quickly otherwise you’ll be surrounded by about a hundred hungry, shrieking monkeys in a matter of seconds.
Scary, but wonderful.
2. Trek to the Phraya Nakhon aka ‘Cave Temple’
If your visit to Thailand has seen you grow fat and lazy on all the cheap pad thai and beer and you’ve given up walking anywhere in favour of tuk tuk rides, then a hike up the nearly-vertical-jungle-mountain-of-doom aka Phraya Nakhon might be just what the doctor ordered. Apart from the fitness benefits/a possible heart attack, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful sights in the world at the end of your trek. A gilded buddhist temple inside a giant forest cave which opens up to a blue sky letting in sunbeams and butterflies. It’s a truly spectacular place.
The hike sucked. The hike was also great. It was the most physical thing we did in Thailand. Our hotel driver said it was a small walk but it took us at least an hour each way, up a near vertical slope in some places. Some children gave up and started crying on their way up and their parents had to carry them. We had to stop quite a few times to regain our breath. The path was very unstable and the rocks embedded in the path were slippery. But the walk was definitely worth it.
I almost don’t want to show photos of the view of the cave as you walk through the last tunnel into the giant sun filled cavern, because I don’t want to take away from the magic of that moment. That being said, we looked at photos before going, and they really don’t do it justice. It’s amazing being inside the cave. So vast and quiet and cool and yet filled with sunlight and trees and a beautiful golden temple right where the strongest beams of light hit the sandy floor of the room.
3. Go on a bar crawl
The walking streets that criss-cross along the waterfront in central Hua Hin are packed full of small bars and restaurants. Each shopfront is only a couple of metres wide but stretches back a way from the street. There are reggae bars, Ibiza clubs, Australian golf themed pubs, pizza restaurants, cheap Thai food stalls, German beer houses and upmarket wine haunts. It’s one of the most vibrant drinking and eating streets that we’ve been to. Down the side alleys you can find temples and small concrete exercise parks as well as open air markets and tour guides. The bar crawl streets are also a five minute walk from the beach.
4. Make new furry friends at D Cat Cafe
D Cat Cafe is one of the best Cat Cafe’s we’ve ever visited. It’s only a ten minute walk from the centre of town. They have two beautiful Bengal kittens as well as the adult Bengal mother. There’s also some Scottish folds, long hairs and other assorted adorable kitties. There’s no hourly rate for visiting and the food is very cheap – the same price as what you’d pay at a non-cat cafe. It’s air conditioned and has free wi-fi and the staff are very friendly. If you’re a cat lover you’re going to be in heaven.
5. Indulge in some luxury shopping (or just hang out in the fancy shopping malls)
Sure you can go to a shopping centre in nearly any city in the world, but not every shopping centre has a giant whale statue out the front, or an inside waterfall.
There’s two main shopping malls in Hua Hin, Blu Port and Market Village. We recommend checking out Blu Port. As well as some amazing interior decorating, including the aforementioned waterfalls, there’s also a food-court with outlets from all over the world, including a lot of American stores that Jeyn missed from back home. There’s a decent range of electronics, gift and fashion stores including a large H&M which had a big sale going when we were there, with a lot of items selling for only 100 baht / $3.75 AUD / $2.83 USD.
Another bonus of Blu Port is it’s the only place we found in Thailand where every store takes card payments and the usual pressure from shop keepers to buy wasn’t the same. You’re free to browse as much as you want and there’s no pressure to buy. If you want some luxury accommodation to go with your luxury shopping we highly recommend checking out Putahracsa Resort. You can read about our stay there in a previous blog post here.