Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

When I first visited Hua Hin a few years ago, I never thought I’d be going back again. But in a strange of twist of fate (if such a thing exists), here I was on the bus with S, on my way to this beachside town in Thailand.

Hua Hin is a four-hour bus or car ride away from Bangkok. Since it’s not as popular as Pattaya and Phuket, there are fewer tourists, which means no jostling crowds, no overcrowded beaches and less chances of bumping into people you know. 🙂

We stayed at the Wora Bura Hua Hin Resort & Spa, a tiny David compared to the Goliath that is Sheraton Hua Hin at the outskirts of the town (fabulous hotel). But while it’s not as big as the Sheraton, it’s got what you need in any beach resort, but with lots of old-world charm and personal attention.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We were welcomed at the Wora Bura reception with warm smiles and a lemongrass cooler. Traditional square tiling, whitewashed pillars and greenery subtly highlighted the hotel’s Thai provenance.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

With only 70-odd rooms in Wora Bura identified by Thai cities and towns instead of room numbers, the Wora Bura has that homely feel you don’t get in a chain hotel. The beach is just a short walk away (from any room), as is the swimming pool, the spa, the breakfast room and the beach-facing restaurant. A gazillion extra brownie points for this, because we didn’t need to walk around the hotel forever or call for a buggy.

Wora Bura Resort: Quaint Thai haven in Hua Hin

Our stay began with a late lunch at the restaurant by the beach, where Mr S tucked into Thai seafood fare. The restaurant may have just half a dozen tables, but with their attentive service, gentle sea breeze and the beach view, we relished our extended lunch hour.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

We strolled back to our room through the manicured garden, across tiny bridges and the swimming pool as kids played Marco Polo. We briefly stopped to admire a gorgeous villa room named Phuket, with fancy drapes and a cute porch.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

Our room had a Thai décor theme, true to the spirit of the resort. It was not just earthy accents, but rustic-looking doors and padlock, a wooden key (no plastic key cards!) and the old-style tiles that made us feel like we were in Thailand. A refreshing change from standard-décor hotel chain-rooms that often lack a local touch.

The hotel steps lead to the main beach of the town, which is quite clean and not really crowded. You can lounge on the hotel deck chairs, chill on the beach, frolick in the water, scream at the tiny crabs, collect shells…. We did all of this!

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

The highlight of our stay at Wora Bura was our spa experience. Our hour-long couples’ massage was in an airy room (with private bathroom) cooled to the right temperature, and expert masseuses who spoke some English. The massages we’d selected were the “light” ones, but they were still rigorous enough to rejuvenate us. By the end of the massage, I was ready for the (tiring) bus ride to Bangkok airport. I slept through most of the bus journey back to Bangkok (something I can never do), that’s how relaxed I was.

Wora Bura resort Hua Hin

When we checked out, we knew that our stay at Wora Bura had been way too short. We were there only one night, but managed to pack in the 18 hours we were there. We’d have loved more time to relax in the hotel and explore the town. The hotel had a free shuttle service that dropped us to town and night market.

A third trip to Hua Hin? Who knows?! If yes, my chosen place of stay will be Wora Bura Resort. 🙂

Three magical meals from Vietnam

It was on the second day of our Vietnam trip last month when S and I admitted that we didn’t like Vietnamese food. After having heard so much about Vietnamese cuisine, our expectations from the food were high. But the meals we’d had were disappointing, mostly due to lack of flavour and finesse (except the breakfast we had at our Hanoi hotel- Essence Palace).

We finally resigned ourselves to the fact that perhaps Vietnamese cuisine wasn’t right for us. Or was overrated.

But on the third day of our trip, we took a flight to Dong Hoi and headed to Phong Nha, home to the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park. That’s when our luck with Vietnamese food turned.

Magical Meal One: DIY Vietnamese spring rolls in Phong Nha

In Phong Nha, we spent the morning at Paradise Cave (stunning!) and then headed with our group to the Dark Cave restaurant for lunch. The meal there consisted of spring rolls. Yep, just spring rolls. Simple meal, yet strangely satisfying. We were served a giant platter with spring roll stuffings and the paper, and we had to build and roll our own spring rolls.

This is what the non-vegetarian and vegetarian platters looked like:

Vietnam food DIY spring rolls

Vietnam food DIY spring rolls

And my vegetarian spring roll with tofu:

Vietnam food DIY spring rolls

I shared the vegetarian platter of tofu, vegetables, dip and sticky rice with a French girl, and we ate several rolls before wrapping up (pun intended) and heading to the Dark Cave for a fun-filled afternoon.

Magical Meal Two: Traditional dishes at Sapa

Sapa Town is a hillside town, teeming with hundreds of tourists who come for trekking in the valley and beyond. And because its economy is largely tourist-driven, there are dozens of restaurants serving all possible cuisines. But like any capitalist will tell you, the more the market players, the merrier. The customers usually wins with so many options. So after wandering about town and debating where to eat, S and I finally headed to Sapa Village restaurant. Great staff, but our food took a while to come. But when our dishes arrived, we knew the wait was totally worth it.

These are the curries we had (vegetables and chicken):

Vietnamese coconut curry

Vietnamese coconut curry

The curries had been cooked in tender coconut, and the warm aroma of spices with the rustic texture and delicious curry had us reaching for our spoons already. This delightful meal, cooked with excellent flavours, fresh ingredients and the chef’s love (we hope!) was just what we needed after a long day.

Magical Meal Three: Modern Vietnamese in Hanoi

We didn’t know that Gia Ngu restaurant in our hotel served such excellent food till we found raving reviews online. The small and chic restaurant serves a Vietnamese cuisine with a modern touch, with equal focus on taste, presentation, service and concept. S reported that their breakfast pho was excellent, and so we gave it a go for dinner one evening.

The food was so good we ended up having two meals there, and we enjoyed both times. But the hands-down winner was the steamed fish.

Vietnamese food Gia Ngu restaurant

The chefs have stuck to local seasonings and flavours for their dishes, but the concepts are western. For instance the grilled chicken may seem to be cooked and served the “western” way, but the flavours were definitely Vietnamese.

Vietnamese food Gia Ngu restaurant

Vietnam is a beautiful country with a cuisine and both must be explored, whether you’re a meat eater or a vegetarian like me. Despite our rocky start with local food, we flew back home with excellent food memories. And no, Vietnamese food isn’t overrated.