Role Playing in Hua Hin

By profession, I am a trainer.  I have a wide range of background experience but people development (and managing people development) is where my heart and skill lies.  When Tawn’s boss found this out, I was invited to join part of their team for a weekend training session in Hua Hin.  Their industry is Public Relations, their training was about creating client value, and they needed someone to play the role of a prospective client for some of the training exercises. 

Glowing lanterns (in a vaguely northern Thai style) in the early evening.

Hua Hin is a popular beach resort about a three-hour drive southwest of Krungthep (Bangkok).  It is the home of His Majesty the King’s beach palace and so is a much cleaner and more desirable place than, say, Pattaya.  In the past few years Hua Hin has also become much too popular and is now overgrown with high end hotels and fancy resorts.  In other words, it has gone upscale and lost the inexpensiveness and carefree charm that made it a fun getaway spot for locals.  Still, it retains its good weather, nice ambience, lovely beach, and tasty seafood.  So who was I to refuse an all expenses paid two night trip to a beach resort there?

Beach, pool area, and the restored 90-year old teak house, right.

I’ll write more about the food in the coming days, but let me share some pictures of the resort.  The resort, called Baan Talay Dao (“Home of the Sea and Stars”) centers around an authentic 90-year old teak wood house in which the training was held.  It is a smaller resort, family owned and operated, and has probably been in operation for years and years.  With the sprucing up of the rest of Hua Hin, it looks like they made a lot of effort sometime in the past few years to freshen up the resort’s facade and it now has a “boutique” look and feel.

Private villas – note the grotto with the Virgin Mary in it, which you don’t see all that often here in Thailand!

The property includes a combination of town-house style two-story buildings along with individual villas closer to the beach.  The buildings are well-maintained and the landscaping is very lush.  Inside the rooms, though, you can see the age of the facility.  Not because things aren’t well maintained – they are – but simply because of the amenities offered and the roughness of the construction.  I’ve seen this a lot in these boutique resorts in Thailand and that is why the price is $50-150 less a night than, say, the Intercontinental, the Sheraton, or the Marriott.

The townhouse section of the resort faces a reflecting fish pond and some beautiful trees.

There is a full-service restaurant downstairs from the teak house and you can either sit in the shade underneath or out in the open air overlooking the beach.  Their breakfast buffet is pretty impressive for a small resort and the dinner I ate the first night – a curried seafood dish called hor mok talay – was one of the best things I’ve eaten this month. 

Hua Hin is on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand hidden against a ridge of mountains on the narrow isthmus that is shared between Thailand and Myanmar.  The benefit of this ridge of mountains is that the frightening storm clouds that blow over them tend not to drop their rain on Hua Hin, instead continuing up the Gulf and gathering more force before dropping their rain closer to Krungthep.  This made for some very pleasant (and pleasantly breezy) late afternoons and early evenings as I enjoyed the relatively cool temperatures and watched the clouds, excpecting them to let fat drops of rain fall on me in response.  Thankfully, this didn’t happen.

The path to the beach.

The two days of training were pleasant.  I had met most of Tawn’s colleagues on several occassions before (he wasn’t at the training, though) and so it was a pleasure to spend more time with them.  Not only did I learn a lot about the PR industry, which was fascinating, but I discovered that as a group they are the biggest foodies (sea-foodies, to be precise) I’ve met in Thailand, which is why I’ll write about the food in a later entry.


Singing in the Shower at Alila

After several weeks of particularly intense work in both our jobs, Tawn and I decided to take a weekend break in nearby Cha-Am.  At a travel expo held at Central World Plaza a few months ago, we purchased a voucher for two nights at Alila, one of the newest luxury resorts in Thailand, at a great price.


P107 Two hours south of Khrungthep, Alila is tucked away down a quiet road.  The architecture of the seventy-room resort is modern with clean lines, sparse furnishings, and a lot of peace and quiet. 

The six buildings are laid out surrounding a center complex that houses a restaurant, a spa, one of two swimming pools, a bar and a library.  The complex is topped by a second restaurant that floats amidst a huge reflecting pool. 

The walls of the complex are lined with steel cages containing rocks, making for a stark and dramatic visual, while the complex is flanked by footpaths that lead to the beach and a row of trees that contrast the hard and soft sides of nature.

The minimalist design is unfussy and extends to the rooms, which are spacious with very high ceilings and lots of light.  They are also very high-tech with an Apple iTV in each room, loaded with your choice of movies and music – they actually contact you before your stay and ask for your preferences of genres. 

Despite the stark design, there are many cozy touches: tea candles, incense burners,  an essential oil diffuser, and several light settings from “welcome” to “intimate” so you can set the desired mood.

The highlight has to be the bathroom, with its large windows, stand-alone bathtub, and the shower, which is situated in the middle of the room, in the open, with water that falls from the ceiling like an April storm.  We wanted to take some pictures to convey the fun nature of the shower and thankfully there were some umbrellas located near the front door.

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After settling into the hotel, we headed to “Red” (the pool-side bar) for the complimentary afternoon tea.  It was crowded so the hostess suggested that we might light to take our tea in the adjacent library.  Shortly after the tea arrived, the hostess returned and said that a table had opened up and asked whether we would like to move.

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P118 After an early dinner of Thai food at “Clouds”, the open-air restaurant that overlooks the reflecting pool, we called it a night and tried to catch up on all the sleep we’ve missed out on over the past few weeks.

We woke up bright and early in the morning, ready to attend the one-hour yoga class taught around the heated pool in the sanctuary-like spa.  It was a good workout and stimulated our appetites for breakfast.

Left, the stairway from the downstairs restaurant to the upstairs “Clouds”.

The misty, cool weather of our evening arrival had given way to a sunny and warm morning.  There was a stiff ocean breeze, though, so the heat was tolerable.

Breakfast was a buffet, as it seems is normally the case at almost every hotel and resort in Thailand.  The selection of food – Thai, Chinese, and Western – was extensive and the quality was very good.  It turns out that the chef is a farang and one result of this is that the quality of the baked goods is very high.  The croissants were magnificent and Tawn had sandwiches twice during our stay, just to enjoy the really good bread.

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P109 After our late breakfast – and a suitable period of waiting – I enjoyed the pool area for a swim.  The water was very warm, so I didn’t swim that long, but the design of the area is very relaxing and peaceful.


We spent part of our day relaxing in the room watching some movies and reading.  Then, when the sun had moved a bit more to the west, we went to the beach and enjoyed the sand and water.  It started to mist lightly, which added a rainbow to our beach view.

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We returned to the room for a mid-afternoon snack and another movie.  This was a deconstructed caesar salad and a bowl of wild mushroom soup.  Very tasty.


As sunset neared, we returned upstairs to Clouds, taking a sofa on the marble-clad deck to watch the water and sip some cocktails and share a club sandwich.

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As the sun lowered towards the mountains that separate this narrow stretch of Thailand from Burma, they back-lit the dark clouds of the afternoon thunderstorm that approached us but mercifully swung to the north of us.


The mosquitos, which had largely been absent the night before, were out and several sprays of a lemongrass solution didn’t dissuade them so we headed indoors for dinner.  One very nice thing was that the restaurants didn’t charge a corkage fee and we had brought two bottles with us to enjoy over the weekend.

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From top left, clockwise: Mashed potatoes, breadsticks, T-bone steak with onion relish, a pair of fish sandwiches.

For dessert, we enjoyed a fresh fruit sabayon with crushed pistachio nuts on top, and a “floating island” with fresh berries on a vanilla pudding.

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On our way back to the room, Tawn considered a late night dip in the pool.  Thankfully, I was able to talk him out of it.


Here’s a video recap of the weekend:

P139 We really enjoyed our stay at Alila and it reinforced that we should do more of these weekend getaways, as it makes for a wonderful mental break from our busy lives.