Friday, 12 March 2010

Driven to distraction in Hua Hin

To treat the drive to Hua Hin as a pedal-to-the-metal exercise is to miss the point entirely.

Depending on the traffic, it's about a two hour drive straight from Bangkok. But to me the beauty of it is a few of the key distractions along the way ...

Outlet Shops: Of great interest to the distaff gender are the factory outlet stores located near the Cha-Am area. Don't worry about missing them -- you'll see the signs for kilometres before hand: Premium Outlet, Factory Outlet, etc. They are shopping malls in their own right, with many brands of shoes, fashion, sports goods, etc, all set up with either the latest or run-out models (I'm not talking models of the human mannequin kind here). Plus coffee shops, etc. So it's very civilised.

We stopped at Premium Outlet at my companion's request, nay, insistence. I somewhat begrudingly followed her. But then soon perked up at the sight of a Pierre Cardin shoe shop selling smart leather shoes for about 3000-plus baht. And shirts: I had a field day, walking out of X-ACT with four new shirts, each of which cost 350 baht (a shade over 10 Aussie dollars!) Jing jing!

Adidas. Hush Puppies. Nike. Camel Activewear. Plus dozens of women's labels and kids stuff too.

The Wooden Palace: The next distraction or attraction is the Maruekatayawan Palace (try saying that after a dozen Singha beers!). More collquuially  coloqueal commonly known as the Wooden Palace it is the world's longest golden teak construction. It was designed as a royal retreat by Rama V1 himself in 1924, with three double-storeyed wings giving commanding views over the Gulf of Thailand. Open daily from 8am to 4pm, you can hire bicycles to pedal through the lush gardens too. Follow the signed turnoff to Rama V1 camp.

PlearnWan Village: And a new attraction that's a real eye-opener to traditional Thai life is just on the northern outskirts of Hua Hin. PlearnWan is like a living museum (they bill it as an 'eco-vintage' village), a recreation of Thai village life with two storey wooden buildings surrounding a lawn. There's a market place and souvenir shops. The facade of wood and corrugated iron is a masterpiece of modern design. Entry is free, so stop and have a good look around this charming place while you stretch your legs.

So, once you've taken in all of these, you'll find it's taken you at least half a day to get to or from Hua Hin. But that's fine, because -- in the spirit of the languid royal retreat that it is -- hey, take it easy, what's the hurry?

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