On the grounds that it is a gleaming white tuktuk that conveys us from the architecturally jaunty railway station at Hua Hin to our beachside boutique hotel Putahracsa, Mr Smith is anticipating our hotel to be a bit of all-white. We’ve embarked on a round of Great Expectations, the game couples play when they’ve just spent two weeks roughing it in north Thailand and Laos. I’m looking forward to calm, privacy, clean surfaces… Mr Smith, apart from high hopes of snowy drapes and acres of fabric-conditioned duvet, desires ‘a bit less hysterical cock-crowing before 6am’. You could say Putahracsa is bound to please us, post-trek; on the other hand, such extreme thirst for luxury might be hard to satisfy.
The hotel, we swiftly find out, satisfies in every way. It is divided in two by an unthreatening road running north from Hua Hin’s touristy centre. Our room is on the reception side, a lazy moment away from pool, spa and bar/breakfast room. Immediately, we’re thrilled by the spacious, luxurious scale. It is alluringly clean and calm; most of what we can see is white or wood, a la classic, uncluttered Ibiza. Too tired to nest properly, I let a few things dribble out my bags out onto the floor, before noticing that Mr Smith’s strategy of escaping onto the big, soft, white raft, aka the bed, looks a smashing idea. We lie here happily for quite some time, perfectly idle. There’s a single artwork, next to the French windows: a close-up on some snowdrops, reminding us nicely of what we’re missing back home.
I’ve once or twice made the mistake of relaxing sartorially on holiday, and felt like a right bumpkin arriving at a cocktail bar in Birkenstocks. Not this time: my super-tall Prada espadrilles have accompanied us through leech-infested jungle to make it to dinner in Hua Hin. The restaurant at Putahracsa is on the ocean side of the set-up, facing out to sea and some festive-looking ships festooned with fairy lights (stationed there, we are told, in honour of the visiting King, who is to Hua Hin as HM the Queen is to north Norfolk). In order that neither of us miss the sea view, we’re placed side by side, and eat our salad and seabass sitting much as though we’re watching Newsnight; our fellow diners, mainly holidaying couples, do the same.
We don’t realise till we’ve hung out in Hua Hin for a few days how spoilt we are to have this restaurant at our fingertips – it’s one of the best in town. We enjoy the well-spaced, indulgently big tables, the sense of peace and privacy, and the sophisticated, unfussy food. The next day, though, and the rest of our stay, we stick to the non-sea side of Putahracsa. Hua Hin may be a beach resort, but the windy strand isn’t half as appealing as our poolside set-up. It’s sheltered and well-groomed, and there’s a lovely, private atmosphere: the staff are warm and attentive, and our fellow guests are a Euro/Thai mix of couples young and old, and a few families. It’s neither monastically quiet nor remotely raucous. Our room is on the ground floor, its little terrace literally 20 seconds from the grassy poolside; there are good chunky sun loungers, and it’s homely being able to potter back to the room to get a book or get some fruit (laid on so we always have enough).
One of Mr Smith’s endearing foibles is his daily renewed desire to try everything at the buffet breakfast, even though he isn’t that hungry. I underscore his gluttony by eating only what I would at home, with allowances made for watermelon, which I decide to start eating for breakfast when we get back. There’s a well-nigh Californian choice of brown breads, and the service is utterly charming. All the staff are kind and patient, frequently scoring 11 out of 10 for helpfulness.
Because of the much-vaunted royal connections, we imagined Hua Hin would be something like a Thai St Tropez. We find more of a Costa del Bangkok, with scores of souvenir shops, inauthentic bazaars and restaurants with photographic menus – never a good look, gastronomically. But there good places to eat and drink if you know where to look, and, though the centre’s not terribly chic, it’s welcoming and sort of fun. The coolest bit of town turns out to be near Putahracsa, as luck would have it. Do we go for whisky and T pop among young Thais, or live jazz and cocktails overlooking the beach, or shall we dine at a true Hua Hin institution? We can’t resist an old trouper, and Baan Itsaara is right up our street, a classic seaside spot with peeling blue paint, a dining room open to the sea breeze and real Thai food (spicy means spicy).
We’d advise visitors to Putahracsa to treat Hua Hin as a sideshow. The hotel is compellingly comfortable, with a big DVD library, the habit-forming poolside and the spa, into which I disappear for a few hours after lunch. It was awaft with lovely scents, and I think the treatment was amazing (I was deeply unconscious for most of it), and cancelled even thinking strenuously for the rest of the afternoon, evening and night. Mr Smith was horizontal elsewhere, with a hat on his face, as happy as can be. We didn’t come to party… and Putahracsa allowed us to collapse and be contented, providing life’s basic luxuries and the perfect breakfast/sunbathe/fruitshake timetable for our trip to Hua Hin.