FASHION, as everyone knows, is cyclical: in this year, out the next, but if you stay around for long enough your hour will come round again. So it has proved with Hua Hin. The first beach resort in Thailand - its popularity dates back to the establishment of a summer palace there by King Rama VII in the 1920s - Hua Hin has always been popular with the Thais. Foreign visitors have tended to prefer the glitzier approach taken in Phuket and Pattaya, or the more downmarket attractions of Koh Samui or Koh Samet. Hua Hin, however, has retained its special appeal to the Thai aristocracy and monied classes, many of whom maintain private homes in the area and make use of the excellent selection of golfing and country club facilities. Hua Hin boasts the Royal Hua Hin Golf Course, opened in 1924, making it the oldest public course in Thailand. Thai residents and foreigners used to come to Hua Hin in the 1920s and 1930s. Now, visitors from overseas are beginning to rediscover its charm. The word resort generally conjures up an image of clusters of anonymous international-style hotels dedicated to the usual beach and swimming pool leisure pursuits. Although Hua Hin does have several - including one with a Butlins-style activities board offering community singing and napkin-folding classes among its options - the overall style is distinctively Thai and in quiet good taste. The original fishing port, around which the resort was constructed, is still active and fresh seafood from the Gulf of Thailand is one of the attractions. Most visitors gravitate to the curving beach along which the resort hotels are located, but for those wishing to travel further afield there are coastal excursions, and Hua Hin is conveniently located for side trips to Cha-Am or the provincial capital of Petchaburi. The most attractive of the modern resort-style properties is the Thai Dusit Resort and Polo Club, but for any serious connoisseur of Asian hospitality half the point of going to Hua Hin is to stay at the Hotel Sofitel. The Sofitel is one of the great old hotels of Asia, and one of the few to have escaped some gross act of architectural vandalism on the part of modern management. Built in a European style in the 1920s, and recently restored and extended in a manner faithful to the original building, the Sofitel stands for old-fashioned gracious living. It also has most of the amenities you would expect of a modern resort hotel, except for the tacky ones, along with the traditional Thai style of service. Many visitors to Hua Hin staying elsewhere come to look over the building, which along with the town's historic railway station is a recognised tourist attraction. The topiary in the gardens is a popular draw. Hua Hin owes its relative prosperity to the rail link from Bangkok to Malaysia and Singapore, which reached the town in 1911. The hotel was built and originally operated by the railway company, and is only a few minutes' walk from the station.