Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas in Hua Hin can stake a valid claim to be the hotel that kick-started Thailand’s tourism industry.
It first opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1923 as The Hua Hin Railway Hotel, but the story of this characterful heritage property goes back further to the romantic days of Old Siam when its local surroundings began to be recognised by the Thai Royal Family. This was in the latter years of the 19th century when the Royal Family took note of Hua Hin’s vivid beauty as they sailed past the headland during a pleasure cruise in the royal steamer Siam Orasumphol. After a railway was built from Bangkok to Hua Hin members of the Royal Family, aristocrats and the Bangkok elite were inspired to build bungalows for themselves at the town, creating a sought-after seaside holiday destination. Once this railway was extended onwards into British Malaya in 1916, Hua Hin became a popular overnight stop for passengers. A demand for more than basic accommodation in Hua Hin was given royal approval by Prince Purachatra, and the Hotel Division of the Thai Royal State Railway began construction of the western-style Railway Hotel. This fine colonial building with its deep heritage and history – now Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas – is the flagship property of Thailand’s Centara Hotels & Resorts and one of eight prestige Centara Grand properties throughout the country. It’s all been carefully and sympathetically upgraded over the years, but still, it retains the expansive gardens laid out in the early days and an air of colonial teak-wood elegance from when it provided first class accommodation for visitors to King Rama VI’s summer palace.
Following the hotel’s grand opening in 1923, the railway introduced modern express trains with sleeping berths, which meant Hua Hin could concentrate on being a seaside holiday destination, instead of an overnight stop for stressed train passengers. Tourists flocked to enjoy Hua Hin’s sea air, new golf course, fishing and other sporting attractions – and The Railway Hotel was at the heart of all this booming tourism. Nowadays Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas is still at the epicentre of Hua Hin’s tourist vibrancy, but with contemporary offerings and services such as exciting food and beverage options and spa and leisure facilities, all contained within its Old-World setting. The grand legacy of this pioneer of Thailand’s tourism industry lives on in its graceful architecture, proudly steeped in Thai history.
Cast and Crew of the 1984 Oscar-nominated film The Killing Fields take a break during filming at the hotel.