Monday, May 7, 2007

Vacationing in Thailand this year?

Thinking about a Thai vacation this summer? The New York Times has a good travel article on Hua Hin beach just three hours south of Bangkok by train. Thailand's oldest resort, is mostly favored by Thai families, and it's less noisy than Phuket resorts.

Because Thailand's revered royal family spends much of its time in Hua Hin — in a palace of marble and teak named, aptly, Far From Worries — developers may be reluctant to overbuild, knowing that the king has made sustainable development a centerpiece of his reign.

The laid-back, small-scale life has also made Hua Hin Thailand's pioneer in boutique hotels and spas. (The Hua Hin area set the world record for the largest group massage.) Thirty minutes south of Hua Hin town, I drive to Aleenta, an intimate boutique hotel in the beach village of Pranburi made up of bungalow-style buildings with gleaming white walls and thatched roofs. Aleenta seems to attract Thai artists seeking a private but avant-garde resort — I overhear two Thai men with thin goatees and long ponytails discussing the latest films to hit Bangkok art theaters.

Aleenta's burnt siena walls, curving outdoor staircases and crimson tiles give it the feel of a Mediterranean or Mexican beach resort. A resort at the end of nowhere: in the lap pool adjacent to a swim-up bar, I paddle around without seeing another guest.Aleenta also quickly coddles me with homey touches. My room, the size of a large New York studio and built from natural wood, thatch and smooth tile, looks out onto a lonely longtail fishing boat bobbing in the surf outside. The hotel staff has programmed an iPod in my room, and when I request coffee at bizarre, late-night hours, they laugh and bring Thai java. At the hotel's Frangipani Wing, where cooks teach Thai cuisine in an open kitchen, the chef takes time to demonstrate to me how she makes piquant Thai salads of fresh squid, basil and chopped chilies.

-- Joshua Kurlantzick, New York Times

I think I'm ready for a vacation. How about you?