Published on November 3, 2007
The Sofitel Hua Hin is a truly lovely and charming hotel. There's just no other way to describe it. I've never heard of anyone who didn't enjoy their stay, nor met anyone who didn't want to return.
Wrapped in 76 beach-hugging rai, it exudes taste, heritage and serenity. There's nothing in your face except greenery, history, colonial architecture and, of course, the sea. It is quite rightly considered one of Southeast Asia's most romantic hotels. There is a real sense of a time gone by, dipped in sepia, yet also of time standing quite still. Its not so much about the hotel ageing well, its about not ageing at all - and it looks better now than it ever did. It's rare and remarkable.
This grand old lady somehow manages to change without really appearing to change. But change it most certainly has. From the initial opening of the Railway Hotel on January 1, 1923, the hotel has had plenty of time to evolve, adjust, extend and upgrade the premises to 21st-century standards - all without losing its original charm. Sensitivity is a quality the architects have applied to virtually every aspect at the hotel. It's been an enormous challenge - and a real achievement.
The latest renovations are to the 42 colonial-style bungalows just to the left of the main hotel grounds. I stayed in one of these five years ago and went looking for it - and thought I had found it - but they had all been so cleverly reconfigured that I was never quite sure. What was once called the Central Hua Hin Village is now simply, Villas Hua Hin. The environment is pleasingly much the same, with the villas nestled among windings paths, verdant gardens and lush jungle - all beautifully lit at night. But the villas themselves are a revelation. Not only have they been thoroughly upgraded, marble-topped private pools have been added.
There are now four Deluxe Spa Villas (61 square metres). Okay, it's a spa rather than a pool, but it's bigger than most people's bathrooms. Then there are 16 Deluxe Pool Villas (76sqm) with a 3x5 sqm pool, and finally 22 Premium Deluxe Villas with a very generous 140sqm of space to pad about in - which also come with the same size pool. The Premium Deluxe are truly gorgeous units.
All the wooden villas are cream, lattice-fenced, with sea-view balconies. They are very private and extremely comfortable. The colour scheme is extended inside giving a bright, airy, minimalist feel. There's an Asian signature with a contemporary flourish. Colonial chic sounds a bit, well, old-fashioned, but that's exactly what they are, and the alchemy works perfectly. It's a clever use of space. Each villa comes with every conceivable gizmo you will need - large flat-screen TV, DVD player and Internet connection. The marble and glass bathrooms are spacious, immaculate and come with showerheads the size of giant sunflowers. And there's a huge bathtub on legs. The main bedroom has a lofty ceiling and a seriously comfortable bed.
The Sofitel has always been blessed with good service, having had the luxury of time to produce staff that are courteous, helpful and professional. It's the perfect hideaway for couples who simply want to chill in a beautiful place with a beautiful setting. You'll never want to leave. And you don't have to. Just being here is the all the itinerary you need.
Another advantage of staying in the Villa area is that you have full roaming rights to the entire hotel without actually being in it. You can venture out to use any of the four restaurants, bars, pools, and facilities - not to mention the beach - and then retreat to you own "home". In fact, staying in the Villas also gives you exclusive use of the Rajpruek Lounge, right next to the Garden Pool, where you can breakfast away from the main restaurant - and sip a free cocktail before dinner.
Speaking of which, couples may want to plum for the Palm Restaurant for their evening meal, which specialises in fusion seafood. You can either sit in the elegant dining room, a raised sala, or eat right next to the beach under the stars looking out on the Gulf. Romantic or what?
Wish I were there enjoying it instead of sitting here writing about it.
For information about rates visit, www.sofitel.com/sofitel/fichehotel/gb/sof/0891/fiche_hotel.shtml.