By Train from Bangkok to Hua Hin
Hua Hin by train
The joy of travelling around Thailand by train seems to be unexperienced by many travellers to Thailand because they imagine that it is going to be an unpleasant experience when in fact the opposite is true. It is incredibly cheap and you get a chance to see the Thai countryside close up. OK, it is not so comfortable in Ordinary class but still easily bearable and in pleasant weather, i.e. not raining, then trundling along with the windows open providing a cool breeze through the carriages, the experience is a good and enjoyable one. The one caveat though is that you cannot be on a tight schedule because the trains tend to run late most of the time!!
Hua Hin is a beach resort on the coast of the Gulf of Thailand and is easily accessed by taxi, coach, minibus or train. I have been to Ayudhya by train several times now and kept on promising to myself I would go to Hua Hin by train too but somehow I never got around to it until now.
Typically travellers from Bangkok will get the train from Hua Lamphong, the main train station. Realistically there is no need to book and the seats are not reserved in any event. However in my case I got the train from Bang Sue as it was the station closest to where I am staying and 20 minutes or so downline from the main station.There are a number of trains that go to Hua Hin each day but the most convenient seemed to be the 9.20 a.m. from Hua Lamphong, leaving Bang Sue at 9.40 a.m. eta Hua Hin 1.35 p.m.
I got a bus to Bang Sue and, being that there was no conductor aboard, there was no fare. The ticket office at Bang Sue is some way down the platform away from where the bus stopped. I asked for a ticket to Hua Hin and was told that the cost was 44 baht, about $1.50 or less than £1! Interestingly I have noticed that all the ticket people I have dealt with on State Railways of Thailand (SRT) speak good English....I wonder if that is a requirement?
The train arrived pretty much on time but after hanging around for a further 15 minutes an announcement came through in Thai but I managed to work out that they were saying that there was going to be a small delay! We eventually left the station about 30 mins behind schedule. I had a good seat facing the engine and the weather was fine but it seemed that just a few minutes after we had finally got going that we stopped again, caused by all the works that are going on for the extension lines to the MRT or underground system which will continue overland from Bang Sue,the current terminus. Ten minutes later we started again and crossed Rama 7 Bridge, we were now officially south of Bangkok and on our way.
The train to Hua Hin is a 'stopper', i.e. it stops at virtually every station along the route, and that is why a 200km or so journey takes over 4 hours! Nevertheless the journey itself was not boring with many interesting sights to observe on both sides of the carriage. These on top of the antics on the train itself with vendors continually plying their way up and down the train selling cold drinks, coffee, snacks and boxed lunches with more vendors joining at various stops along the way. The first main stop, Ratchburi, came up after about 2 hours and then Petchburi and hour later. By now we were already an hour late and with all the stopping any hope of making up time quickly evaporated. We passed some very rural areas, distinguished by their smell, where pigs and cows were being reared. But also there were many rice paddies and fruit orchards as well as horses, goats, ducks and also lots of storks and other wading birds taking advantage of the newly harvested rice fields.
Finally we appeared to be travelling parallel to the cost and passing Cha Am, a spa resort a few miles north of Hua Him confirmed that. At last the train started to slow up and we pulled in to Hua Hin station, one hour behind schedule. But to be fair it had been an easy journey at the delays had only been at the start, otherwise it had all been smooth railing!
The Bar and Restaurant area and beach
Getting off the train it is hard to miss the ornate red and cream building immediately next to the main station building, this is the Royal Waiting Room from the days that Thai Royalty also travelled by train (there is a palace neraby.) It is one of the sights of Hua Hin. Leaving the station the first impression is of a long road leading away from the station, but to where. Well if there were no buildings in the way it would lead straight to the sea!
If you have booked your accommodation then the likelihood is that there will be someone to meet you and take you there, this is particularly so of the major hotels. However of you are a traveller like me going on spec your best bet is to go straight down the road away from the station and somewhere near the end turn left into the main bar and restaurant area. In amongst these lanes you will find lots of 'hotels' and gust houses that offer rooms anywhere from as low as 100 baht upwards (low season). However I suggest that you do your own research for a place to stay as from what I saw the quality varies considerably and, typically Thai, there is no consistency.
I checked in to my guest house, just bed and bathroom for Baht 300 a night, and went out to get a feel for the place. What a strange place! It is like Khao San Road all mixed together with several 5* hotels. Good guest houses, restaurants and bars live juxtaposed with what can best be described as 'dives'. A few souvenir shops and and 7-11 aplenty. This part of toen obviously catering to the holiday crowd which, based on the amount of signs around, seems to be majority Scandinavian. Wandering around you will soon find the fishing pier with the odd Thai Navy boat laying alongside. Looking south down the shoreline you see the various seafood restaurants which are over the water at high tide, a Chinese temple then past the Hilton Hotel to the long stretch of beach. I retraced my footsteps past the seafood reastaurants staying close to the shoreline and found the Chinese temple. Pass by here and a small cafe above the beach, down some steps and you have found the main beach. First up are loads of beach bar/ restaurants which whilst I am told throb in high season are rather quiet in June! Once past these you find yourself at the start of a long expanse of white sand. To begin with the water has a few largish rocks scattered about but then these stop and you are left with a long stretch of fine white sand. The water is clean but shallow, ideal for kids. Naturally there were loads of people ploughing up and down the beach offering everything from cold drinks and snacks to clothes or a massage and this was low season! Any way I declined all these offers, dusk was falling and I made my way back along the beach, up the steps past the temple to the seafood restaurants. I chose the one which had the prawns, crabs etc still swimming in tanks at street level and went up the steps to the restaurant. A table overlooking the water,menu please but first an ice cold Singha beer!! Ordered some steamed prawns, deep fried squid and fried rice. Delicious and now to bed, it had been a long day, the night life can wait to tomorrow.