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Trip Report: Road trip to the South - Hua Hin, Chumphon, Khao Lak

Trip Report: Road trip to the South - Hua Hin, Chumphon, Khao Lak

Jun 3rd, 2006, 11:49 PM
  #1  
mlb
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Trip Report: Road trip to the South - Hua Hin, Chumphon, Khao Lak

I just thought I would add a brief trip report of my recent road trip to southern Thailand from Bangkok. A little background, this is my 4th trip to Thailand and I normally stay from about 6 weeks to 2 months each summer. I primarily visit family in Bangkok while here, but also normally get away on a few trips each year. Of course, when I am not in Thailand I keep current on what is happening by reading the fodorís faithful! I do not get a chance to post much, but I do enjoy keeping up to date on this site.

We went down for the middle two weeks in May and had a nice time although the La-Nina pattern combined with the start of the SW monsoons has really been giving the entire Kingdom quite a bit of rain. We had rain on 10 out of 14 days with some days it raining all day. Here is a rundown of where we went and stayed with a brief synopsis of each location:

Hua Hin (on way down): stayed 2 nights at the Sofitel - this is our 3rd time staying at this resort and as other have posted, it is very nice, colonial, and classic. Our room was a little worn, but that can add to the charm of this historic hotel. I love the breakfasts at the Sofitel, one of the main reasons I stay here....I was surprised at how busy Hua Hin was on this trip. Lots of tourists, more than I can remember during the off-season in the past 4 years. The town is really growing fast! I visited the new mall while there and also checked out a few new resorts; one (Wora Bura) I stayed at for 3 nights on the way back to Bangkok. The other (The Rock) I looked at, but did not like how compact the resort was - basically the entire plot of land was the hotel. The rooms, however, were very nicely done in a modern contemporary style similar to the Veranda Resort and Spa between HH and Cha-am (another favorite more contemporary resort).

We ate this time at LaMer, based upon recommendations on this site and from family. Unfortunately, we were underwhelmed by the meal. The seafood wasnít particularly fresh and there was someone singing very loudly at the karoke bar. I got the feeling of Pattaya while at this restaurant and that is definitely not one of my favorite places in Thailand.

We did eat some excellent seafood at a restaurant in Pranburi and Iíll try to get that information to anyone interested. It was a VERY basic restaurant (basically a roof over a concrete slab with tables) but had excellent crab and fish.

Next up was a resort about 50km south of Chumphon called Tusita Resort and Spa. We stayed here for 1 night on the way down and 2 on the way back north. It took us about 3.5 hours to get there from Hua Hin. This resort is quite new, opened late last year and is under new management (the GM has only been there 1 month). It is a nice resort with very large accommodations. In fact there are at most 2 rooms per bungalow with some of the larger rooms taking the entire bungalow. The resort is built upon stilts with wooden walkways between the rooms. Each room also has a very large front porch and sitting area and within the rooms, all the latest technologies from digital TV to CD players. The resort is quite compact, but well landscaped. One item to note is that this resort is not on the beach, but about .5 km from Arunothai beach. This beach is nice, with a great view of the islands off the coast of Chumphon, but it isnít as nice as some of the other beaches in Chumphon (i.e. the sand is a little darker and it contains a bit more litter). The management said that they were just okayed to build several pool villas to add to the resort. In addition, another smaller (6 room resort) is also being built right on the beach by the same owners. This one, also touted to be 5 stars, will be open late this year. We drove to the construction site and it appears to be on schedule and will have a very nice view of the islands and ocean. Plus they have trucked in some white sand from nearby, so their beach should be nice. Food at this resort was good overall; however, they do cater to more Thai tastes at breakfast. The coffee I was served was instant ;-) however, the omelette was very good.

Our final stop was for 6 nights at the Sarojin Resort near Khao Lak. The Sarojin is currently running great specials and we took advantage of this for our stay there. The garden residence was very large with modern style and a great open style bathroom. A very nice room indeed. I think what I was most impressed with though was the staff. Very, very nice people from the restaurant staff to the front desk and housekeeping. In addition, we ate at the Edge which is their Thai restaurant for most of our meals as they were absolutely delicious! Excellently prepared dishes. The only drawback of our stay was a problem with german cockroaches. We actually had to switch rooms after 2 nights as we had encountered 12 roaches in these 2 nights. After switching rooms, only 4 roaches were killed the remaining 4 nights; however, this many roaches is a bit disturbing for a resort that has one so many accolades. If it wasnít for the roaches, this resort wouldíve been my favorite of the entire trip! During our stay at the Sarojin we traveled to Phuket for the day (about 1.25 hours) and also Phang-Nga Bay (about 1 hour) for a boat tour on one of the rare sunny days. Concerning the tsunami damage, you will see a lot of rebuilding and some damage, but it will certainly not ruin your trip.

On our trip back, we stopped for 2 nights once again at Tusita Resort and then drove up to Hua Hin where we stayed at the Wora Bura Resort for 3 nights on a great package they currently have on their website - stay 2 nights, get one night free, plus a free thai set dinner. This was the nicest resort we stayed on our trip. The deluxe room was very large (not as big or smartly designed as the Sarojinís) but still very nice. The overall decor was very well done - mixing colonial with thai style in the era of Rama V. The landscaping and pool is great as well as the service at all levels. Plus since the hotel is new, it has all the modern conveniences. We will definitely stay here again when visiting Hua Hin. As reported, there is construction on both sides of the resort, but the disturbance was minimal as it has been negotiated that the construction crews only work between 10am-6pm and only 3 days each week. Surprisingly, it does appear they adhere to these rules. The included Thai set dinner, by the way, was even too much food for 3 people and was quite good. Breakfast was also good, but not quite to the caliber of the Sofitel.

Overall, this was a great trip and leisurely driving to the south is by far the best way to see Thailand! I sincerely hope that all the resorts mentioned continue to keep their properties maintained and their service levels high. One concern we always have is that sometimes what starts as a wonderful resort in Thailand, ends up rundown in just a few short years - especially the locally owned and managed resorts. We hope that this is not the case for these resorts as all 3 (Tusita, Sarojin, and Wora Bura) are currently very nice and given the concern listed above, I would still recommend them especially when running specials during the low season.
mlb is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 03:33 AM
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Thanks for the report. I completely agree about the Sofitel in HH. We found it wonderful and charming. How was the driving?
Gpanda is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 03:54 AM
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I do that same route a lot too, have not been to the Tusita, we always stay at the Cabana which of course is a lot cheaper !
I love that coastline, Bang Saphan and Baan Krut area is nice and we had a great time at the Banito resort with all extended family, great time!
La Mer used to be good but to be honest haven't been there for a while, did you go to "Let's Sea", between the Hyatt and Wora Bura, it's a great restaurant.
The Rock is so narrow, I don't know if you went to the beach bar but when you walk down the walkway at the side I go constantly slapped in the face by the foliage! Narrow or what!
Reminds me I must tell Bob that the Barman there is(hopefully still so) from the Marriott.
What is such a shame about the Wora Bura is that they haven't bothered to make some way to get across that waste ground to the main road, I know it's not their land but it would help.
I don't know if they have changed but when we were there I found it a great pity they didn't have a nice bar with sit-up bar down at the small restaurant near the beach, would have made a great difference.
I mentioned just recently how busy Hua Hin has become, the new Sheraton opens north of th airport later in the year.
The Sofitel there is timeless, did you try the Japanese on the corner ?
The mall is a great bonus.
I am always trying to encourage more people to try down that coastal route, you really do get to see a lot, ok, the road scenery isn't worth much until you get past Surat but those places like Pranburi, Bang saphanb and Chumphon are nice.
Big new for Chumphon area is Novotel area opening a resort there at the end of the year, did you see any large construction that could be it ? But it's a large area, they say they are putting an 18 hole course next to it next year.
Bob and Karen are staying at the Hyatt ( one of his deals ) but thw Wora was an option so I am sure they will be taking a look.
JamesA is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 05:20 AM
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i'm disappointed to read about la mer....we have had such good meals there and the view has to be the best in HH....perhaps i will take it off our list??

any comments on la villa?? it has been suggested as a good italian place in HH....also the supatra is highly suggested as one of the best currently in HH area???

my latest quote for the wora bura was over $200 for the base line room, and that just seemed high to me for an unknown place, although the pics do look very lovely...

our experiences, in thailand and elsewhere around less developed places, is that properties often start out as fantastic, but soon fall into a hole because of poor, or lack of, maintenance....odd really as owners put so much $$/BB/etc. into setting them up and staffing them and then allow them to deteriorate very fast....i must admit that this is one thing that drives me and others to use the big international chains as they seem to be able to maintain a level of maintenance and service that you can rely on...that is, of course, part of their unspoken guarantee.... it is not 100% of course either, and i am sure there are tons of examples where it has not been true, but by and large i have found that it works...chains differ of course....that is part of my allure with marriott properties...with one exception, in miami, we have never been disappointed with marriotts....in fact 5 miles from our house is one of the oldest marriott hotels in their chain (newton, ma) and they keep it up to snuff even after all these years and very heavy usage...amazing really...

mlb...thanks for your report...any comments on bkk?? restaurants, hotels, shopping?? anything new and exciting?? thanks again..
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 08:48 AM
  #5  
mlb
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JamesA: I thought you would like my report - I know you have suggested this trip many times to those on the board and I agree it is worth taking. If you break the trip up into smaller segments stopping at Hua Hin and Chumphon, then it really isn't that bad. Now with that said, my wife drove (who is a native Bangkokian), and this made it possible. I'm not sure if I could've done it myself since driving habits in Thailand are so different than the US.

I didn't see the Novotel going up around Chumphon - that will really be nice. Our trip initially included spending 3 nights at Koh Tao, but the weather made us change plans. We were going to take the Lomprayah from Chumphon - very accessible from here...too bad the weather didn't cooperate. We did stop at Rama VI's memorial in Chumphon (father of the Royal Thai Navy). This was nice to see with a great coastal location.

I agree that the entry into Wora Bura could be improved, but they did at least keep the entry clean of nails and other construction debris. Also, we did not try Let's Sea although we did stop there and look around. It looks very nice in a great location and I bet they have some good food. While in Hua Hin we ate at Wora Bura for 2 nights and at the new mall one night. We also ate in Pranburi at a local restaurant called "Krua Jaow" or "Jaow's Kitchen". Unfortunately, the name of it is only in Thai. It is right on the beach in Pranburi and if you ask someone they may know it...very basic but good. We also ate some great snacks at the night market (the original one across from S&P). Try the coconut ice cream with small corn kernels in it - delicious! Also, try the grilled pork balls and finally the roti (a fried dough cooked in oil and butter) topped with condensed milk and suger...yummy. Of course, these are not health foods at all, but once in awhile ;-)

Bob, I agree with you completely about new resorts quickly falling into disrepair and yes the Int'l resorts due tend to be better managed and they also have a chain of command for hearing complaints. What I often times do is go to a new resort nearly every year simply because it is likely in the best shape. In Thailand since so many resorts are opening, this is quite possible.

Okay, I'm currently in Bangkok until the end of the month and I'll try to drop an e-mail once in awhile about outstanding places....a few good places that we've tried: Chili Cafe in Siam Paragon (good - very spicy!), Oriental Cafe in Paragon is very good as well - similar to the one in Emporium but larger, Greyhound Cafe - now in both Paragon and Siam Center is also good (great Cha Manao here - iced lime tea), "Bahn Nam Keang Din" a very good thai/western restaurant (German themed) in Putthamonthon sai 3 (about 20 mintues southwest of Bangkok), "Gin Lom Chom Saphan" another good thai restaurant close to the Rama VIII bridge on the Bank of Thailand side of the river.....finally for a fun dessert try "Mohn Nom Sod" by the giant swing and the Bangkok City Building - they serve thick homemade bread lightly toasted with butter and many different toppings and great "cha manao". It is always packed late at night and the walls are covered with celebrity photos of those who have eaten there...fun place! If I come across anymore I'll let you all know.....
mlb is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 04:08 PM
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La Villa is town, there are several Italian places, I can't remember which one we went to some time ago but near City Beach, was good, another is Mama Mia's up the road from the Sofitel.
Supatra, view is great of the Golden Duddha at night as it;s so near, I found the service slow and the wine prices beyond the beyond. You can also pop in there for a drink and check the menu and see how you feel, but I hope you will find Let's Sea a favorite, food is well presented, staff are charming and smart, location is great, Friday and Saturday gets packed with the Bangkok BMW and Merc crowd but if you get a reservation you'll be fine, I would go for the indoor area overlooking the beach, then later as tables clear you can move forward a little for dessert and coffee and a nice brandy overlooking the water. It's a nice atmosphere. The Head barman at the Rock used to be at the Marriott. The beach bar is nicer to eat than the main restaurant at the Rock because the main one is at the front next to the road. The Mall has western Sizzler, MK, Santa Fe plus Fuji Japanese and others. Some nice art shops and stalls in the mall too.
In town center up from Sofitel now is NY Deli ( this great for coffee and sandwich if you are in town in the day )plus American Steakhouse. Japanese at corner of Sofitel ( Sofitel operated ).

mlb, that's why we like the Cabana in Chumphon, it has been there for as long as I can remember, a little worn but nice service, I always suggest even for a lunch stop on the way.
Tell me - Is the Tusita worth a lunchstop ? - Surprised very much to hear was not actualy on the beach !
Sofitel are opening on Koh Nang Yuan next to Koh Tao next year, should be a gem. This is the small island so often shown in photos of Thailand but often it never mentions where it is.
http://www.nangyuan.com

Accor ( Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis ) are growing very fast in Thailand, and with Novotel running the hotel at the new airport getting an 'Accor Card' for rewards is a good move for the future. They are a good "chain" to join as they cover the quality Sofitels right down through Novotels to the cheaper Mercure and Ibis. We sent staff up to CM last week and got the Novotel ( 3 star+ ) for under B 1,000 ( costs about USD 24 ) with a special Novotel promotion, now that is a bargain!
JamesA is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 04:09 PM
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Soprry of course that should be Golden Buddha.
JamesA is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 07:50 PM
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la villa had been suggested as a good italian in HH by an expat...i will check back with him again..

let's sea is on the list for a sat. nite so i noted to make a res...

have dropped la mer...

thanks james

rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 09:00 PM
  #9  
mlb
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JamesA: Tusita would be worth a luch stop especially if you try the restaurant right next to Tusita. It actually sort of connects to the resort and is a seafood restaurant. We ate a meal here and it was very good and quite reasonable (most everything <300bht). Tusita actually cooks some of their meals here and brings them across to the resort. I think this restaurant is owned by the same owners as Tusita and was their original business at this site. The owners main business is palm sugar. I don't remember the name of this restaurant but you can't miss it - right next to Tusita's restuarant - a small pond or moat separates the two.

Also for Bob and others interested in Hua Hin, check out this website for a new resort scheduled to open in September:

http://www.putahracsa.com

I was at the travel show at Queen Sirikit Convention Center yesterday and they had a nice booth. I already knew about this resort because it is managed by the same group that is running Tusita, and given what I saw at Tusita I think this one will be nice as well. They have some great opening rates but I'm not sure how long they will last: 3,999 bht for their deluxe room (which I think is half of a villa). This room will eventually go for 11,000! For a standard room, which also looked nice the opening rate I saw was 2,999 which I think is nett including breakfast. Anyone heading to Hua Hin after September may want to check this one out - I didn't look it up when I was down there but it appears to be on the beach a little north of HH.
mlb is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 09:56 AM
  #10  
mlb
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Moving this thread up for those interested in staying in Hua Hin to see info about this resort. I may be heading back to Hua Hin tomorrow to stay for a few nights at another new resort (soft opening)...if so, I'll update again.

Oh and another restuarant in Bangkok worth mentioning is called "Hemlock" and is on Phra Ahtit Road across from the Chao Phyra River quite close to Khao San Road. Excellent Thai food and very reasonable - plus a cool atmosphere and good jazz.

Cheers.
mlb is offline  
Jun 7th, 2006, 07:04 PM
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might it be the new sheraton??
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 01:47 AM
  #12  
mlb
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I just wanted to add a response I received from The Sarojin concerning the roaches encountered at the resort. As you can see, there customer service is as excellent as the resort property.

Response from The Sarojin

"Naturally, we were deeply concerned to know of the pest problem raised by"MLB" and immediately arranged for our Pest Control Company (Advance
Services Limited) to attend a meeting at the resort to review our pest control policy and its implementation.

The Sarojin has an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system for routinely treating and managing pests of all types. In this instance, the pests
are identified as "Asian Cockroaches" and not "German Cockroaches".

Whilst the appearance is similar there are some fundamental and critically important differences between the two types. Asian cockroaches live and breed in damp landscape and wooded locations and are not property dwellers, unlike the German variety. In addition, they are prolific fliers, again unlike the German variety. In Thailand, through the months of February and May, adults take flight and are attracted to certain light sources, brightly lit
areas and light coloured surfaces. They become most active at sundown. The presence of the "Asian" pest inside a property is as a result of the
pest flying into the property as a result of open doors or windows or gaps that permit the same. They do not naturally dwell or breed inside
properties.

In general, treatment of residual sprays for the Asian variety is ineffective as they take flight and have strong resistance. Toxic pelletized baits in garden areas provide the most reliable control for
certain dwellings. However, their ability to fly significant distances on the wind make effective treatment in a wide area extremely difficult,
particularly if the surrounding area is open landscape. They are prevalent throughout Southern Thailand and are an indication of natural, mulchy
and damp landscape rather than any sense of poor hygiene.

Whilst The Sarojin strives to maintain a clean and well maintained property commensurate with its 5 star status, given its rural and natural setting it
will always find that nature is present within the resort grounds. An integrated approach is the only ongoing way to manage the seasonal trends of insects and pests and this is the standard and procedure to which The Sarojin strictly adheres to.

Weekly pest control of the landscape and both external and internal property areas is carried out in order to manage the environment.

Naturally, we are very sorry that you experienced this particular pest and wish to reaffirm that we take this matter extremely seriously and will
continue to manage to the best of our ability and on an ongoing basis control and prevention.
mlb is offline  
Jun 9th, 2006, 07:40 AM
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given the language, this person is western i would say....far more info that we need however...haha
rhkkmk is offline  
Jun 27th, 2006, 06:58 AM
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Tried again, just couldn't find the Tusita turn off again, saw lots of advertisment signs along the road, but no luck, will try when we drive tomorrow heading back north.
JamesA is offline  
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