InterContinental Hua Hin Resort
What is it? The InterContinental is the latest upmarket hotel in the Thai beach resort of Hua Hin, the destination of choice for the country's royal family. The king's seal of approval hasn't done the local tourist industry any harm. It's handy for Bangkok, too; Hua Hin is a 21/2-hour drive from the capital or a 35-minute flight on the property's private aircraft.
What is it like? All 119 luxurious but unpretentious guest suites have ocean views, with an outdoor sundeck or private pool. White wood panelling, lattice screens and sepia prints create a regal theme, inspired, no doubt, by the nearby royal palace. Rooms come with an array of audio-visual gizmos including flat-screen televisions, DVD players, complimentary Wifi and iPod docks.
What's on the menu? Choose from Thai, Italian and international cuisine or chill at the weekly beach barbecue. Keen cooks can attend a Thai master class hosted by chef Arnon 'Kent' Masanglong. It begins with a visit to the fish market to select the best of the morning's catch, then it's off to Chatchai Market for vegetables, spices and herbs. Chef Kent often appears on Thai television and stallholders banter with him as he squeezes, smells and tastes the produce. Back at the hotel, he gives an interactive cooking demonstration that results in a piquant green fish curry that you'll want to recreate as soon as you get home.
Anything else to do nearby? If you tire of the five kilometres of white beach, the Maruekatayawan, or Wooden Palace, built in 1923 by King Rama VI, is the usual starting point. There are plenty of temples and local markets to explore and golfers are spoiled for choice with eight courses within 30 minutes' drive. The Hua Hin Hills Vineyard is an enjoyable half-day detour into the cool foothills to sample medal-winning wines before an excellent lunch in the beautiful restaurant. Elephant rides are available - nervy visitors can be confident the giant creatures are more sure-footed than most of their passengers.
What's the bottom line? Grand deluxe suites (below) start at 6,000 baht (HK$1,570) a night. For the seriously wealthy, La Residence is a restored 19th-century house where a minimum two-night stay, based on four guests sharing, will set you back an eye-watering US$17,000.
The InterContinental Hua Hin Resort is at 33/33 Petchkasem Road, Hua Hin, Thailand, tel: +66 (0) 32 616 999; www.intercontinental.com.