Thailand’s original resort offers fun for all the family

Choosing the right destination with the right mix of entertainment is the secret to making your Thai trip down memory lane as unforgettable as it was the first time. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 17 January 2020

Thailand’s original resort offers fun for all the family

  • Hua Hin hosts a horde of delights for foodies, culture vultures and fun-seekers

HUA HIN: Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing for anyone seeking to recapture the magic of a youthful adventure. It’s just never the same, and neither are you.

As a Thai t-shirt designer might say: “Same same, but different.”

Returning to a place 20 years on and expecting to relive that youthful wonder inevitably disappoints — especially when that place is Thailand, beloved by generations of first-time backpackers armed with their Lonely Planet guide, a book of travelers cheques (Millennials, you can Google that bit) and unplayable knock-off DVD’s purchased on the Khao San Road — Bangkok’s Champs Elysees of tat. Back then, you could pop in your Discman earphones and stroll along the beach in your oversize Bermuda shorts, munching on a 10-baht bowl of Pad Thai noodles without a care in the world.

Fast forward two decades and it is, of course, all so different. The old Discman doesn’t work anymore, the Bermudas don’t fit and that bowl of noodles now costs 90 baht.




 The most delicately flavored Penang curry is a must-have meal in Thiland. (Shutterstock)

And, in my case, there are three small people following me everywhere demanding constant entertainment and asking haughtily why there are no nuggets on the menu.

Thailand with kids can be a challenge. While the tourism offering in the country has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, many resorts are still geared toward couples or solo travelers. And if you have more than two children, accommodation can be expensive, as hotels often insist that you book two rooms.

Choosing the right destination with the right mix of entertainment for both the big and little people is the secret to making your Thai trip down memory lane as unforgettable as it was the first time.

The original — but now often-overlooked — resort of Hua Hin is one such place. It’s steeped in history, culture and amazing markets and has lots to entertain kids, from water-slide jungles to elephant parks.




While the tourism offering in the country has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, many resorts are still geared toward couples or solo travelers. (Shutterstock)

Unlike some of the better-known island resorts, which can involve a lot of travel, you can reach Hua Hin in under three hours from Bangkok’s international airport and there are lots of easy travel options, from a bus which leaves every hour from the arrivals terminal to private transfers and public taxis.

We start our Hua Hin holiday with a few days in the colonial-style Centara Resort, which gives you a sense of what it would have been like to be a tourist in the 1920’s when the Thai royal family started to holiday here. The hotel has the kind of understated elegance that is becoming increasingly rare in the age of multinational hospitality groups, but there is still enough going on to keep the kids happy, from pool games to a session with a Muay Thai boxer.

The Centara is a five-minute stroll from one of Hua Hin’s main attractions, the buzzing Night Market, where you can feast on barbequed lobster — or snack on a bag of deep-fried crickets and grasshoppers, if your tastes are more eclectic. The market is a shoppers’ paradise — and not just if you’re looking for a fake designer T-Shirt or some novelty fish-shaped flip flops. The kids snap up two football kits, Tottenham and Ajax, which look like the real thing but probably aren’t, for just 200 baht (less than $7) each.




You can reach Hua Hin in under three hours from Bangkok’s international airport. (Shutterstock)

The other essential shopping experience in Hua Hin is the serene Cicada Market, which opens at the weekend. Here, you buy tokens that can be spent on a vast array of street food that smells divine and tastes just as good, based on the few generously proportioned dishes we ordered — most of which can be bought for less than $5. Make sure you eat before you browse, because the smell of the food here makes it difficult to focus on anything other than your belly.

After feasting on some delicious fried rice served in a decapitated pineapple, chicken satay, and the most delicately flavored Penang curry, it’s time to have a waddle around the market and see what’s on display.

There are a number of really good caricaturists at work and the kids are delighted with their depictions — both of which take just five minutes. Even though they are not wearing the football kits they bought the previous evening in the Night Market, the artist reproduces them perfectly, complete with sponsor logo, which is impressive, and at just $5, a bargain.




The market is a shoppers’ paradise — and not just if you’re looking for a fake designer T-Shirt or some novelty fish-shaped flip flops. (Shutterstock)

There is also some amazing fine art on display here and having arrived with no intention of buying, we somehow leave with a considerably lighter wallet and not one but three beautiful oil paintings by local artist Tumagon Pichai.

Having feasted on both the gastronomic and cultural delights of Hua Hin, we finish our stay at the Holiday Inn, which is the highlight for the kids, in large part because of the attached waterpark, but also because of the delicious breakfast buffet served on the seventh floor of what is the city’s tallest building,

The suite we stay in is cleverly designed, with an annex to the main bedroom that has bunk beds and is decorated like a playroom. Instead of room keys we are given wristbands that allow you to access both your room and the adjoining waterpark, which also has a high ropes course and keeps the children busy for our entire stay.




The country's charm is undiminished. (Shutterstock)

Our two weeks go by in the blink of an eye and all our worries about traveling in Thailand with young children are happily unrealized. The kids are mesmerized by everything they see, from the teeming markets to the coconut-fringed beaches.

For sure, Thailand is not as I remember it as a young single, independent traveler. Mass tourism has arrived here and everything is much, much more expensive. But the country's charm is undiminished, the food is just as delicious and the Thais we meet, even in the most tourist-weary places we visit, are just as friendly.

It's not like it was in the Nineties but where is?

Same same, but different.


Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

Updated 26 February 2020

Saudi designer and musician: ‘You don’t need an excuse to fail’

  • An accomplished pianist, composer and artist Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work

DAMMAM: Saudi graphic designer, artist, musician and entrepreneur Labeed Assidmi is known for his passion and hard work.

Assidmi is a designer and art director for corporate events at Saudi Aramco. However, it’s not all he’s known for. An accomplished pianist and composer, he has been playing piano since he was a child and is often asked to perform at events. He also owns and operates the company Pinnizer, where he sells retro and Saudi-centric lapel pins.

He wants people to know that there are different levels to what he does and how he wants to be perceived. “I want to be known as a designer first, a musician second and a pin maker last,” he said.

His passion for design began with a trip to Disneyland, where he saw how effectively a logo could be used with the iconic image of Mickey Mouse. “They were so creative with it. It was everywhere; the hats, the shirts, the buses, the tickets and the food. It was never boring. I started to think about what kind of job a person could have that would allow them to create these things. I knew that that was what I wanted to do.”

After studying graphic design in the US, he returned to Saudi Arabia to pursue a career as a designer. He said that becoming a designer can unlock plenty of paths for aspiring creatives: “Design is like an airport, there are so many directions you can go in as long as you know the principles.”

His journey in music started in the fourth grade “on the half-functional keyboard that everyone had somewhere in their house during that era.” He tinkered around with it until he managed to teach himself a few simple tunes.

He started taking the piano more seriously in college, eventually composing songs.

“I always play my own songs, I don’t really like doing covers,” he said.

He finds composing and playing music cathartic, and an effective way of stretching his creative muscles without overexerting himself. “When I’m not making art, I’m making music, and vice versa. I love the piano, it’s my escape from everything,” he said.

He also supports local musicians and wants to see more people enter the field. “I do perform sometimes at my own events, but lately I’ve been trying to give local talent a chance. I know how many of them are out there that just need someone to take a chance on them and give them their big break.”

As for Pinnizer, he said that pin collecting had started growing in popularity as a pastime in the Kingdom, but he knew that there were few places to get pins with imagery familiar to his generation. “I found a gap in the market and decided to capitalize on it by creating designs with characters and symbols that were familiar to us,” he said.

Assidmi designs all the pins himself, and works with a company in China to produce molds for them, which he then sells on his website. He has created pins with iconic images of the past such as the old logos of Saudi TV and Saudi Airlines, as well as anime characters like Grendizer and Maroko.

“When people see my pins, and their voice goes up an octave when they give that nostalgic little ‘oh my God!’, I know I’ve succeeded,” he said.

He admits that balancing the triple workload and still managing to make time for himself and family is tough, but he has ways of getting around it.

He believes that compartmentalizing different aspects of your life into “pillars” can help people see the bigger picture and avoid getting too caught up in one thing.

Assidmi hopes that he can be an inspiration to future generations of Saudis, especially people who want to enter a creative field but don’t believe in themselves.

“My purpose is to leave a legacy that inspires people, to have people see what I’ve done and realize that this is something that they can do to. That’s how I want to be remembered.”

Shop Pinnizer at https://salla.sa/pinnizer/ or follow Assidmi on Instagram @labeed and his work at @labeed.design and @pinnizer