A small slice of paradise – Hua Hin

by Leonard H. Le Blanc III

Back in 1824, according to historical lore, the agricultural areas around Phetchaburi were hit with a severe drought. Some farmers were forced to migrate South. They discovered a stretch of beach with dazzling white sands and rows of rocks along the shoreline. With fertile land and abundant fishing, they settled in a village called ‘Samoe Riang’ (or ‘Row of Rocks’). Later the area became known as ‘Laem Hin’ (or Stony Cape).

This small slice of paradise remained hidden to outsiders for many decades. In 1909, a British -Canadian railway engineer and the Chief of the Southern Railway Division, named Henry Gittens, was surveying a rail line to the South in the general Laem Hin area. He also found a white pristine beach while searching for a suitable railway station. Gittens reported his findings of this unknown beach paradise to his superior, H.R.H. Prince Purachatra, Commander of the Royal State Railways. Soon the word spread to the other royal and noble households. By the time Hua Hin railway station opened in 1911 the area was quickly becoming popular and attracted Thai visitors.

The first royal member to build a residence was H.R.H. Prince Nares. He named his resort home ‘Sansamran-Sukaves’. It was located on the Southside of Laem Hin village. He gave it the name Hua Hin to differentiate it from the village. Soon the name Hua Hin came to mean the entire beach resort district. Due to its many natural charms, Hua Hin slowly became a vacation destination for many royal members, including the Monarch himself, and other noble families. At the same time, small wooden houses were built, called Sukaves Bungalows. These residences received many royal guests. King Rama VI also quickly saw the area’s potential in wishing to develop Hua Hin into a major tourism destination.    

In 1917, the Royal State Railway Department procured a plot of land on the stony cape and built multiple wooden houses. By 1921, the rail connection between Bangkok and Malacca was completed. That meant there would be a demand for an adequate overnight stay facility in Hua Hin. To serve this clientele, the Railway Hotel was built. Then the luxury hotel, Hotel Hua Hin, was built in 1922. Also opened at the same time were tennis courts and Thailand’s first golf course, the Royal Hua Hin Golf Course. In 1924, King Rama VI’s summer palace was completed. Named ‘Marukhathayawan Palace’, it was located on a beach halfway between Cha-am and Hua Hin. The palace was built using golden teak and a gingerbread architectural style with Thai influences.  This palace is now open to visitors.

King Rama VII often visited Hua Hin and borrowed his uncle’s, H.R.H. Prince Nares, Sukaves residence. In 1928, he decided to build a resort residence for H.M. Queen Rambhaibhannee using his own private funds. The palace was called ‘Phra Ratchawang Klai Kangwon’. ‘Klai Kangwon’ means ‘Far from worries.’ The palace was constructed in a Mediterranean style with a Thai influence. Within the palace grounds are four royal mansions with names that rhyme: Piemsuk, Plukkasem, Erb Preme and Emme Predi. 

Hua Hin was the location of one of the most dramatic events in Thai history. While out at the Royal Golf Course on 24 June 1932, King Rama VII received a message that stated a bloodless coup had occurred which changed the absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. He replied the next day that he had granted his permission for constitutional authority to be transferred to the Thai people. It was a wise decision that avoided bloodshed.

After these dramatic political events, Hua Hin gradually progressed through the decades developing into a popular public resort for many Thais and was less focused on being a royal retreat. Although unaffected by the events of WWII, Hua Hin saw little tourism due to wartime transportation restrictions.

Starting in the early 1950s, Hua Hin gradually started to become an extremely popular resort it is today. During the reign of H.M. King Rama IX, King Bhumibhol and Queen Sirikit often visited Hua Hin. During H.M.’s vacation time, he spent many visits to remote villages and bringing care and comfort to those less fortunate. In fact, the first initiated Royal Project was a drought alleviation initiative in a small community South of Hua Hin. Subsequently, there were hundreds of similar projects improving the standard of living for Thailand’s citizens.

Hua Hin has always retained its charms and scenic attractions for visitors.

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