Moonrise kingdom

Kalyani Prasher | Updated on September 28, 2018

For old times’ sake: The quaint railway station with its Victorian aesthetics from Thai king Rama VI’s reign

Sights and sounds: Visitors relaxing at Avani Hua Hin Resort & Villas

Hua Hin, a mere three-hour drive from Bangkok, is meant for quiet contemplation and breathtaking ocean views

As I walk up the winding green path of Khao Hin Lek Fai, a lookout point from where you can see sweeping views of Hua Hin, I think I can hear rain. But I know it’s not raining; I am under a brilliant blue sky, walking amidst tall trees swaying gently in the mild morning breeze.

“It’s cicadas,” says Meng, my tour guide.

I am truly astonished, having never heard such thunderously loud cicadas before. As I wonder about the endless marvels of nature, Meng continues talking.

“Very tasty, and full of vitamin C.”

I see. Stir-fried cicadas are a popular Thai snack, I learn. I make a mental note of checking that out because Meng has a sense of humour, and one never knows when he is jesting. (He was not.)

The viewpoint is not high, at just about 160m above sea level, but from its deck you can see all of Hua Hin as it spreads along the west of Gulf of Thailand. Only three hours from Bangkok, this town has been an eye-opener for me. Hua Hin proves to be a gem of a destination with an abundance of natural beauty, historical sites and a temperate climate. Every single day during my stay there, it starts out being somewhat warm but turns rainy and cool by 4 pm, opening up possibilties for lovely dinners out in the open.

One such dinner is at Brezza, the Italian restaurant at the Avani Hua Hin Resort & Villas, where the live band is so good that a couple moves aside some chairs and tables and starts waltzing. I eat a perfectly prepared fettuccine aglio olio with grilled prawns: it is light, tasty and full of flavours of chilli, olive oil and garlic. As I sit enjoying my dinner and the breeze, drinking gin-and-tonic, and listening to the singer croon, a murmur goes around the restaurant that makes me look behind.

There is a glorious moon rising above the sea, glowing much like the sun but without any of its power to stub out darkness. I have never seen a moonrise before — always assumed they appear white and wane in the sky at some point — and this is one of the most memorable moments of my life.

For the design geek

The sea is right next to you at Avani Hua Hin, my hotel for three nights. It is a scenic place with a modern design sensibility, spread over a vast area. Its 196 rooms, suites and villas together form a space so large that you feel you are living in a beautiful neighbourhood, as you often go past people cycling between their room and the restaurants. My pool villa comes with an open-plan bedroom, living room and pool area (segregated by a glass wall), all designed in a seamless way to give you a sense of space.

I spend most of my time at the hotel at the Beach Garden though — the viewing deck just above the beach where I stare at the sea for hours as it thunders and roars, while rain clouds threaten to open up every evening.

Hua Hin is a place to relax and unwind, unlike its hectic neighbour Bangkok where you party and shop. Gentle pleasures such as taking in nature, going for a massage, walking along the sea, exploring the town and its history, make up most of your days. One thing you must see, however, is the old railway station, built during the reign of Rama VI. It opened in 1911, was renovated in 1926 to give it a ‘Victorian feel’ and continues to function today. It is a charming red-and-white wooden building oblivious to changing times, where people line up in its old-world waiting room to catch their commute to the big city. Different from any other station, or building you will see in Thailand, this one is a treat for architecture buffs.

Unwind and chill

My love for national parks makes me hunt down the closest one, two hours away from Hua Hin. Meng and I set off for Kuiburi National Park on a bright day, hoping to see some elephants and gaurs — its two most significant residents, and, of course, birds. The drive was stunning, and when we turned away from the highway Myanmar’s Tenasserim hills came into view. Lush, green, high, they look over the national park from the other side of the border. Looking up at them, I also notice the dark clouds coming in, which soon burst open into rain like I have never seen before. So yes, my national park trip is a bit of a washout but, hey, that leaves me something to do the next time I am around. I return to the beach garden, ordered myself a G&T, and decide to vegetate. The night market is only 30 minutes away but I am experiencing a Thailand break different from any other, and do not want to disturb it with the usual stuff. This time I can really hear it rain.

Kalyani Prasher is a Delhi-based freelance writer

Published on September 27, 2018

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