Grand. It’s a word that some hotels use when they really shouldn’t but as I ate breakfast to the sounds of a harp player and looked out at large topiaries in the garden of my beautiful colonial style heritage hotel it’s a word that most definitely fit.
In fact that morning I was feeling pretty grand myself, and from the looks on some of my fellow guests’ faces, I wasn’t the only one.
The Centara Grand Beach Resort and Villas in Hua Hin has a special place in Thailand’s oldest beach resort town.
The hotel’s history goes back to 1923 when the southern railway line from Bangkok to Malaysia was completed.
Back then Hua Hin was a sleepy coastal village and the first Railway Hotel was built and used as a guest house for the royal family and as a place for aristocracy and early international travellers to stay.
Today the hotel holds onto that old grandeur. The guestrooms have high ceilings and polished hardwood floors, and in the original part of the building those are the same floorboards that have been walked for almost 100 years.
And inside the rooms? Well, why not take a little look…
While Hua Hin has become rather busy over those 100 years and is now home to lots of condominiums, the Centara Grand is like its own little oasis.
The resort has 32 acres of grounds in the middle of the popular beach resort area, which is the sort of real estate it would be impossible to get a hold of today. As such it can afford to have large manicured gardens, four swimming pools each with their own children’s pool, two tennis courts, a garden maze for the children, and much more.
I loved the colonial feel to the hotel and there were times when I felt like I’d either stepped back in time or into a movie set as I made my down the large sweeping staircases.
I also felt like I’d just missed Edward Scissorhands every time I turned a corner in one of the gardens, which were filled with topiaries from small birds to huge elephants that are bigger than the real thing.
High Tea Time is a Good Time at Centara Grand Hua Hin
High Tea lovers like myself are in luck as the Centara Grand hosts a number of high teas in the historic Museum Coffee and Tea Corner.
Located in the original hotel lobby where you are surrounded by mementos from that railway era, there’s a high tea buffet on Fridays with a mix of sandwiches, biscuits, scones and cakes, and then on Saturdays it’s the Chocolate High Tea Buffet which as the name suggests is all about chocolate and Sundays is a Heritage Afternoon Tea Buffet with classic French pastries, sandwiches and home made cakes.
The Museum Coffee and Tea Corner is also where you’ll find the winner of last year’s Centara Barista Competition, Ms Onuma Laohakittikarn.
When I heard about how she’d taken out the title with her “Banilla Coffee” I decided I had to try it. It turns out it’s a mix of espresso with vanilla syrup, Thai banana and coconut milk foam, and oh it’s tasty but also a dessert in itself. Best enjoyed separately to a high tea so you can pace yourself with all of those cakes and other sweet things.
Even if you’re not staying at Centara Grand, it’s worth popping in for a high tea or to have dinner or drinks in one of their restaurants or bars. The teas are around 700 Baht PP, or around 27 Aussie dollars and also give you the chance to visit those beautiful gardens.
The harpist who helped to start my day so beautifully at breakfast also plays at the high teas.
Chiara Capobianco is from Milan and has been travelling the world as a solo harpist since 1990. I only discovered that she can play over 1000 songs on the harp and takes requests after I left, which feels like a lost opportunity to come up with some songs I’d love to hear given that harp treatment. Ah well, next time.
Coming Back For More
Having decided that I definitely wanted to come back and stay for a nice long relaxing holiday I wasn’t surprised when I had lunch with the General Manager and heard about how some guests keep coming back for more.
When Peter Nilsson first started at Centara Grand Beach Resort he met one woman who was checking in for her 67th time.
Another couple has been coming back since they married there in the 1940s, and one man was telling tales about how he used to go tiger hunting just outside the property back in those days.
Of course, tiger hunting is definitely not okay these days, although I’m told there are still tigers and elephants in the nearby jungle as there are a number of national parks not far from the resort.
I didn’t quite make it to the national parks on this trip so didn’t have to be on the lookout for tigers, but I did manage to do some very important research in the spa.
As soon as I walked into the spa I could feel my spirit lifting. Oh how I love those magical smells and the good vibes that can be found in a good spa.
Spa Cenvaree is inspired by traditional thai healing and has nine suites for massages, a section dedicated to traditional Thai massage as well as an area for manicures and pedicures.
I went for the signature Salt Pot Muscles Melter, which I was told is a bit of a favourite with guests.
The treatment uses hot salt compresses to release tension and it was heavenly. Having packs of salt placed on my body didn’t sound that interesting at first, but just like hot stones are placed on your body to relax certain muscles in a hot stone massage, here the coarse salt is wrapped in fabric, so it’s hot but also has an interesting texture to it.
As well as placing it on the body to relax muscles, they then press the hot salt packs, which are about the size of a fist, along your body and release some of the oils and herbs they’ve been mixed with, including Pettigrain, eucalyptus and lavender.
And as I write this my body is remembering how wonderful it felt, and how lovely it was to finish my spa treatment, wander through manicured gardens back to my room and read a book on my balcony in that warm frangipani scented air.
Oh to be back there now. That really would be grand.
Amanda Woods stayed as a guest of the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas Hua Hin but as usual all opinions remain her own.
Staying in Bangkok before or after Hua Hin? You may want to check out the Centara Watergate Pavillion in the midst of Bangkok’s fashion district. Or if you’re heading to Sri Lanka you may like to see my review of the Centara Ceysands Resort in that beautiful part of the world.