A couple weeks ago, when my children were released from school for spring break, we were eager to get away and experience something new. Many of the expat families we know who travel around Asia have recommended Hua Hin, Thailand. I had visited Thailand only once in the eleven years I’ve lived in Asia, and I happened to catch a virus that, for the whole week, made my head feel like it was going to explode. With so many recommendations for the particular resort that we stayed at and the great deal we found on air tickets, we couldn’t resist the temptation to go and give it another try. I was ready to make some new memories of Thailand—ones that included the country itself rather than feeling miserable and unable to get out of bed.
We went with the recommendation of several other families we know and stayed at Dolphin Bay Resort which is about forty-five kilometers outside Hua Hin. The best thing about this resort is that it is family friendly, and it has something for everyone. The lodgings range from small rooms that would be perfect for a couple traveling on their own to three-bedroom villas ideal for large families or families who are traveling together.
The resort is about a three-hour car ride from the Bangkok airport. You can arrange transport through the hotel for 3500 Baht each way. (At the time of our trip, it was about 35 Baht for each USD.) If you or your children are prone to car-sickness, be prepared. For the return trip, my daughter began our fifteen-hour journey by vomiting everywhere. A sponge bath in the airport restroom certainly helped, but this was not the best way to begin a long trip back to Beijing.
Cafe Loma, the restaurant attached to the resort, has a robust menu made up of both Western and Thai dishes. The prices (as with everything in Thailand) are very reasonable. I had no trouble finding things for my picky eaters to eat here. The Thai dishes are especially well-done with hearty portion sizes.
The breakfast buffet at Cafe Loma is superb. It sounds a bit odd, but I enjoyed the buffet here more than some of the breakfast buffets in other very upscale hotels here in Beijing. Cafe Loma has a simple selection of items, all of which they do very well, and I never had any trouble finding things my children loved. The fresh fruit in Thailand is divine. Prices for the buffet were not included with our room, but were well worth the 150 Baht for each adult and 100 Baht for each child.
I anticipate this being a favorite for us and, just like the families who gave us the recommendation, I envision us coming back again and again.
One of our favorite things to do when we travel is to go exploring with no particular plans or expectations and see what treasures we can stumble across. The roads around Dolphin Bay Resort are pretty tame and this is an excellent place to rent scooters. We came across fishing villages, caves, and beautiful beaches. The resort is close to a national park with various sites of interest. The entrance to the park is 200 Baht for adults and 100 Baht for kids. The tickets can be used for multiple park sites within the same day.
With a five- and three-year-old, it’s difficult to go scootering, so we rented a scooter with a funny little side-car for 500 Baht per day, and we spent two days exploring. The first day we found and hiked up to a cave. Another day we came across a beach and enjoyed a picnic.
Because it’s a popular place among our friends in Asia, at Dolphin Bay we happened to run into a family we knew years ago in Korea. They had been to Hua Hin multiple times and gave us advice on what kinds of things we should look for while exploring. I mentioned the possibility of going to a cave and asked if it would be kid-friendly. He told us that he had broken his arm on the trail up to one of the caves that had a steep 450-meter hike that gets slippery after a rain. “So, no,” he said. “It probably would be a bit much for the kids.”
We decided that maybe cave exploring would have to wait and we’d see the caves on another trip, when the kids were a bit older. But then while we were out and about, we stumbled across Sai Cave and read on the sign that it was a mere 280-meter hike. And it hadn’t rained in a while. So we decided to take a chance and give it a try. We could turn back if the kids couldn’t handle it. Perhaps not our wisest parenting decision, but it turned out okay in the end.
It might seem that 280 meters isn’t that much, but it was steep and tricky. My five-year-old was able to make it up and down with only some verbal coaching—“Son! Use your hands! They’ll get dirty, but you can wash it off.” My three-year-old was much too trusting—if she felt my fingertips on her, she assumed I’d be able to catch her. She managed to climb (almost) all by herself, but we ended up needing to use a lot of muscle power to get her back down again.
That being said, it was worth it. The cave was stunning. And we were the only ones there. We crossed paths with two other families—one while we were coming and another while we were going. I was thankful for the flashlight we happened to have packed in our backpack. The hike would have been worthless had we not had a flashlight.
Black Mountain Waterpark
There are a couple waterparks near Hua Hin, but we decided to go with the recommendations of our friends who said that Black Mountain Waterpark would be the most suitable for small children. We rented a car for 1200 Baht for the day and drove ourselves the forty-five minutes there. The adult entrance fee was 600 Baht each. My children were both under 110 cm, so their entrance was free. The entrance fee for children 110 to 140 cm was 300 Baht. The kids had a fantastic time.
I love to run, and though I usually limit myself to three runs a week (I do cross-training on the other days), this was such a perfect place to run, I simply couldn’t help myself. There is nothing like getting up at 6:00 and running through a sleepy beach town in Thailand.
My Favorite Mommy-Momments on This Trip
I’ve shared before why I love traveling with my young children. This trip was no different. Even if they sometimes limit what or how much we can do during a day, I can’t help but to look at my kids and soak up the moment—My daughter utterly exhausted and falling asleep on my lap in the scooter; my son finding a piece of Styrofoam on the beach and using it to pretend he’s a superhero that can throw boulders across the sky. It’s the simple moments during our wanderings that I find myself the most blessed.
After our cave exploration, my son was so proud he did the climb all by himself. He said the cave was really fun, but he was so drained that when we climbed back into the scooter, he couldn’t help but to ask, breathless and exhausted, “Mommy, are we done adventuring yet?”
I want to remember what it feels like to have my three-year-old daughter hold my hand as I gasped for breath trying to ease my way into a very cold swimming pool, “Don’t worry Mommy,” she said, “I’m right here. I’m right next to you. I’ll help you, Mommy. I have you. It’s okay. You can do it.”
I love those precious moments. I think the best part about traveling is that I take the time to notice them.