Undoubtedly one of the nicest beach resort towns in Thailand but many say it's gone very touristy these days. Is Hua Hin a place for a teacher to settle and find work?
The Lonely Planet guidebook says......?
Hua Hin is unlike any other beach resort in Thailand. If you're looking for bright lights and the frantic all-night action of cabarets and discos, you may be disappointed here. However, if you enjoy walks through the quiet winding streets of a friendly coastal village, sampling delicious seafood in restaurants overlooking the brightly lit fishing boats on the Gulf of Thailand or a round of golf on one of the several international standard links, Hua Hin could very well be what you're looking for. Hua Hin has a special character all its own.
In general, what are the pickings like for an EFL teacher?
There is only one school with a proper English programme, Somtawin, and while staff turnover is quite high, this would be where someone new to Hua Hin should start. From my own experience, gaining a work permit went smoothly enough and I didn't have any problems with unpaid wages or the like.
Working conditions are standard though wages aren't high (around 30,000); teachers get free schooling for one child though which helps. There are also a sprinkling of other positions available - a few at Selasian School, Stamford University and the odd hotel/spa job.
How far from Bangkok or civilization?
It's about three hours south of Bangkok. A private taxi will cost you B2,000+ from the airport. A grey mini van from behind the stalls at Victory Monument was about B180 last time I took one - one of the big buses from Bangkok to Hua Hin is less, however I never took this option. Hua Hin is completely self-contained though and I only every traveled to Bangkok a couple of times for events. It has a population of around 60,000.
What's the place like for nightlife, eating out etc?
We have our very own girlie bar strip, Soi Bintabaht! Remembering that this is a royal resort, I don't think things will ever get too raucous here. There are plenty of bars around town and even a proper nightclub (Hilton); the karaoke bars stay open till dawn. There's a movie theatre though there aren't always movies in English. Cheap dvds at the markets and restaurants galore. Pools, beach, beauty parlours, sports, kite-surfing, gym, every type of western takeaway etc...
How much to rent a house or basic apartment?
Condochain rents self contained apartments (including pool and gym) from 7,000 per month, basic 2 bed/bath attached houses start around 7,000, and something nicer a little further out of town, 10,000 baht. Oh, and plenty of cheap guesthouses if that's what you prefer.
Shopping malls, department stores?
The three-storey Market Village Mall houses the usual variety of stores including Tesco Lotus, etc, and there is the smaller Hua Hin Mall. Apart from that there are several night markets all within walking distance of each other where you can find anything you might need.
How is mobile / internet coverage?
Will you be stared at? and what's the likelihood of a good beating?
Maybe if you are white, blonde and female like me! But no, Hua Hin is a fast growing tourist destination and a white face is not out of place. There is a little crime, like anywhere, but nothing anyone should worry about.
Taxis, buses....or horse and cart?
Motorcycle taxis would be your biggest source of transport as Hua Hin isn't very big, 30 - 40 baht should get you to one end of town from the other. Songthaews and buses have their set routes and are very cheap and pretty reliable. Also tuk-tuks or private taxi cars.
Main advantages of living there?
Hua Hin runs along the coast so you are never far from the beach, hire your lounger for the day and be waited on hand and foot (just remember the merchandise sellers will inflate their prices for you ridiculously so bargain hard for that silk bedspread or D&G dress). Far enough from Bangkok for a slower paced life, close enough you could go every weekend if you wanted.
And what are the downsides?
Lack of opportunity to make very much money, and not too much to do for the kids. And, since this is my account, I will say that like any touristy part of Thailand, seeing old etc etc men with young bargirls can get tiresome.
Any local attractions?
Monkey Mountain, elephant riding, annual Jazz Festival, Pala-u waterfall... the bars right on the beach can be quite an attraction.
Where's the best place to meet other farangs or are they best avoided?
Any bar really - but the Somtawin teachers are often found at 'The Boat' pub, near the night market (reasonably priced beer and good food).
Hua Hin has always been dear to my heart. I lived there for two months in the early 90's when you were one of literally a dozen ex-pat residents and I've been back numerous times over the past 18 years (usually for a two or three day weekend break). Being a foreigner, you felt like quite a novelty back in 1991 but those days are long gone of course. The package tourist masses discovered Hua Hin in the late 90's and the atmosphere of a cosy fishing village was lost forever.
That's not a bad thing though. What Hua Hin always has in its favor now is that it's an attractive small-town international beach resort that still has an unmistakable 'Thainess' to it.
Whether or not that appeals to an English teacher desperate for work is another matter. The beach is decent. There are numerous restaurants and bars to suit all tastes and budgets and if Hua Hin wears a bit thin, you've got the resorts of Cha'am and Khao Takiab, both a short distance away.
As Halee says, it's also very easy to go to Bangkok if you're missing the bright lights. Minibuses run regularly from central Hua Hin to Bangkok's Victory Monument area.
In my opinion, Hua Hin would suit the teacher who's already got a few shekels under the mattress and isn't relying on 40,000 baht a month full-time contracts but perhaps a few hours 'here and there'.
In other words someone who sees themselves as 'semi-retired' and able to take it easy. I was there with my Mom and Dad, and both of them agreed that it would make a wonderful place to retire to.