Once-sleepy Hua Hin is turning into an ultra-modern, fast-paced little town with swanky properties springing up everywhere. Refusing to go with the flow in the bustling old town is Monsoon, a foodies sanctuary with a style all its own.
For more than five years, Monsoon has stood out from the cluster of bars along Hilton Walking Street thanks to its stunning retro oriental decor. The cafe is situated in a row of houses almost a century old. Upstairs is a dining area, with the ground floor taken up by a lounge and bar with an array of colourful bottles lined up in a huge wooden cupboard. A homey and rustic atmosphere pervades, and there's a soothing rhythm of chill-out and relaxing house music.
"All the furniture, every single piece, was imported from Vietnam," says Phuket-born Nattakarn Theparsorn who runs Monsoon with her Vietnamese partner Stella So. "She [So] did all the interior design. She owns a design company in Vietnam and has done work for hotels, guesthouses and upmarket apartments there. I run the bar and take care of the business while she's away. Everything you see here is unique, though you may have come across copies of our pieces." Apart from the bar, the duo also owns a furniture outlet under the same name just outside Hua Hin town. In the past, patrons of the former have visited the shop to buy decor to take home as souvenirs. Smaller items from Vietnam such as pillowcases, lamp shades and fans are also available for sale in one corner of the bar.
Nattakarn worked in several hotels in Phuket as sales director before moving to Hua Hin. "My husband got transferred here and I've lived here ever since. I like the charm of the town and its people, but I do miss big cities sometimes - just sometimes."
There's no air-conditioning in the bar, so bagging a spot outside is recommended on a hot day. From your perch at one of the wooden mother-of-pearl inlaid tables on a pavement camouflaged by green shrubbery, you can observe Hua Hin's nightlife while enjoying a drink and a chat. Though the street is small and busy, you still get the privacy you need. For even more seclusion, go over to the back of the house where there's a small garden. "This area used to be an empty space when we first rented the house. It's the only thing we added, the rest is the original structure," says Nattakarn. "We wanted to have a green space for our guests to hang out in, far from the street clamour. Sometimes we have barbecue dinners here, too."
Afternoon tea is served from 2pm, with dinner following from 6. On offer are Thai, Western and Vietnamese dishes. For cocktails, don't miss Monsoon's sweet, but not too sour, Mojito, or the refreshing smooth Caipirinha. Signature drinks are the Hua Hin Lover (Thai whiskey, Midori, banana cream, lime and Triple Sec) and the Colonial Collection (Jim Beam, Triple Sec and lime).
All cocktails are Bt140.
Beer and wine are also provided. Small beers
(Singha, Heineken, Erdinger and Corona) are Bt130 to Bt150. A glass of house red or white wine will set you back Bt130, while soft drinks and mocktails cost between Bt50 and Bt120.
(Hilton Walking Street) Hua Hin, Prachuap Khiri Khan
2pm to midnight daily
(032) 531 062