Friday, 12 March 2010
Hua Hin has been known as a royal retreat since the 1920s when the Palace was put in by King Rama V1, the railway station, the golf course, and so on. Lesser known though is that the first member of the royal family to build his summer home here was HRH Prince Krisda Bhiniharn Krom Phra Naresra Varariddhi (the escape artist formerly known as Prince).
He established a lovely home right on the beach adjacent the site of what would become the Sofitel Grand Centara (in those days the Railway Hotel) with unfettered views out across the emerald waters of the Gulf of Thailand. And that home stands to this day, in all its double-storey noble grandeur.
It is surrounded now by the guest villas of Baan Laksasubha, amid lush tropical gardens bursting with blooming bougainvilleas. I am welcomed by ML Laksasubha Kridakon (otherwise known as Lak, pronounced luck). The ML denotes royal lineage, she being the great grand-daughter of the aforementioned prince. Looking casual in her sarong ('You can't be hi-so all the time'), she is charm personified, and when she introduces me to her mother, it is easy to see where it comes from: her parents travelled the world as diplomats.
And this is where Lak got the inspiration for the design and decor of the villas she considers to be an extension of her house. 'It was the look and feel of what I grew up with,' she explains of the white-on-white feel which is very Hua Hin. Louvred shutters. Painted rattan furniture. A lightness, airiness. Bright and breezy. 'It's a mixture of the Cote D'Azure and Canberra,' she laughs. Her parents were based in Paris and the Aussie capital (she grew up there), among other postings. Blue striped accents hint at the former, giving everything a casual summery feel.
The villas themselves are comfortable and homely. Exactly the sort of place you want to throw your bags down in for a couple of days (well, a couple of weeks actually) and forget about the rest of the world. Lak spends Thursdays to Sundays down here, the rest of her time in Bangkok running a kindergarten operation. Her love of kids -- she has two of her own, just graduating from university in Melbourne -- comes through in the family friendly atmosphere she has created here. Kids paddle around in the pool, and enjoy pony rides on the beach. And when they've had enough outdoors, they can run inside and watch a DVD on the in-room player.
Stressed parents can enjoy a massage at the Zaanti Spa, savour a sunset drink on the sofas overlooking the sea, then eat at the hotel's reasonably priced restaurant or take the short walk into town to Hua Hin's famed wharfside seafood restaurants where an oyster, king prawn, steamed fish, etc, etc fiesta runs you around 1200 baht per couple.
Now I know why Hua Hin is known as the royal retreat. I always come away feeling like a king ... and I'm sure my pampered princess would agree.