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Low-key Hua Hin

Hua Hin has long been Thailand's quiet destination. When it does make noise, it's charming: the blare of a trumpet or the low hum of a classic car. Befitting its status as the royal and high-society retreat, Hua Hin has managed to retain a subdued sophistication over the years, even as its hotel industry has expanded to accommodate larger numbers of tourists.

Archaic modes of transport - horses on the beach and the railway that transformed Hua Hin decades ago - are living symbols of its history and embody the appeal of the seaside resort. Compared to other southern destinations like Samui and Phuket, the nightlife in Hua Hin is tame and development is controlled (resulting in a stronger infrastructure). The upmarket emphasis has taken it off most backpackers' itineraries.

At the same time, its restaurant scene has become increasingly cosmopolitan and the five-star hotel options have expanded.

When Hua Hin does host events, they fit the town's profile and sense of history: the annual jazz fest, for example. The organizers don't hype it, choosing to focus on domestic tourists. Similarly, the vintage car rally brings back the spirit of a bygone era when Hua Hin became the destination for Thailand's elite and royalty.

Hua Hin's success and style has spilled over to nearby Pran Buri, also low-profile but upmarket, with boutique hotels and rustic elegance.

This month, while Phuket steals the December spotlight with massive ceremonies, Hua Hin and Pran Buri will be hosting a low-profile but interesting series of events - a mountain concert, the annual vintage car rally, and an inaugural beach party in Pran Buri catering to urbanites.

This last event, called "escape: pranburi" and hosted by local travel mag anywhere, will transform a long strip of Sam Roi Yod beach into a Beach Club with full facilities, such as VIP lounging area, bars, spa salas, food outlets, sports gear for activities and a music stage with a lineup of DJs.

The concert, set on Hin Lek Fai mountain overlooking Hua Hin, is sponsored by ?ber-resort Chiva Som, and will feature members of the National Symphony and Silpakorn University orchestras as backup to a band playing 60s rock.

Hosted by the Preserve Hua Hin Group, the event will raise funds to clean local beaches. Besides the music, there will be an exhibition of paintings by local artists and a food fair hosted by some of the five-star resorts.

"We want people to see that Hua Hin has a variety of beautiful areas to visit so we are holding the concert on Hin Lek Fai Hill," says group chairman Krip Rojanastien.

The final event of note this month is the vintage car rally. The rally sets off in Bangkok, concluding at the Hua Hin's former Railway Hotel, an elegant Victorian-style resort hotel now operated by Sofitel and Central. As a closing event, the refined hotel hosts a Gastby-esque "back to the 20s party."

Only in Hua Hin could you break out your tux.
Thai Day December 05 http://www.manager.co.th

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