Sorry for the delay in responding but we've been away over Easter.
PomsMum: You wouldn't be able to walk from the Anantara to town but the hotel had a shuttle service when we were there. It might be worth looking at their inclusive deals, as although I am the kind of person who hardly ever eats in the hotel, we ended up eating there quite a bit as it has great food (also, I was pregnant and lazy!). They have lots of French guests so the Head Chef is French and he is always walking around the restaurants checking that things are up to his standards. He even comes to the breakfast buffet to inspect it every day.
Re. Hua Hins beach, it is long and straight and quite dull. If you check out trip advisor and look at traveller photos you will probably see some shots of it. I am probably being spoilt. It is fine just not as nice as other beaches in other places. If you are an Aussie (as your name suggests), youll have seen WAY nicer at home.
MaggieW: The Sofitel is right next door to the Hilton and both are very much in the thick of things. They are right next to the beach, the restaurants and the shopping (there is even a Boots!). The Anantara is out of town. Probably ten minutes in a taxi or on the shuttle bus. Sorry, but I cant remember exactly.
The reason why I didn't like the Hilton is that is a highrise and it felt like it could have been a 70s hotel anywhere in the world. Also, there seemed to be lots of drunk yobs there (please don't take offense anyone who has been there that wasn't this category!) Check out trip advisor. I think the traveller photos and reviews should give you an idea of whether you will like it or not.
However, all in all, I would chose to go to Hua Hin with kids for a short break over other Thai destinations because of the proximity to Bangkok and the (comparative) lack of sleazy sex tourism. If you are thinking of going for two weeks, it is probably worth getting a flight somewhere else in the country that has nicer beaches.
Of course, the current political situation probably puts a slightly different perspective on our Thai holiday next month...
I know lots of people who have stayed at the Sofitel in Hua Hin and raved about it - I gather the beach is nice there, even if it's not so good in other parts of Hua Hin.
I stayed in Phuket, here which was great, really child-friendly (apart from the kids club was pretty hopeless but we wouldn't have used it anyway) and delicious food either from the restaurant or from the restuarants on the beach.
I stayed in Koh Samui but about 9 years ago. You can fly there from Bangkok. I've heard that since I was there its become more Westernized - ie; there's a McDonalds, a Starbucks, etc. Not sure how true it is.
There were beautiful beaches and in the middle of the island fab waterfalls, etc. It was lovely.
I stayed in a bungalow complex called Wanna Samui which was a bit off the beaten track in the south-east of the island. Right on the beach and it had some very nice lovely brick/concrete a/c bungalows as well as the more traditional wooden shacks. It had a pool and a very cheap restaurant serving the best food I've ever had.
Thanks Balthamos - ditto PomsMum's question re beach being rubbish? Also, are the hotels you mention in the thick of things? And finally (!) what puts you off the Hilton? I'm quite happy to avoid big chain hotels for something smaller and more interesting, but don't want to be too far away from restaurants etc.
I've been thinking perhaps we'll do 3 days in Bangkok then go to Hua Hin for 5 or so days and then perhaps spend the next week in Koh Samui. What do you think?
Again in Bangkok, don't mind if not a big name chain hotel, happier with something smaller, but definitely do want a pool/s as we'll chill out there first after arriving from London.
Sorry for the hijack but - Balthamos - can you elaboarte on why the beach is rubbish at Hua Hin - this is somewhere I'm thinking of taking my dc (3 & 5) at Christmas time. Also - can you walk into the town from the Anatara thus making a room only type deal sensible?
I've travelled lots in Thailand over the years - indeed my parents took us there when we were kids and it is great for families cos the Thais are so good with children. However, I've not been since having kids myself (see my post about going to Bangkok next month) but I hope my advice helps anyway.
Out of all the 'resorts, Id try Hua Hin. It is only about 2 1/2 - 3 hours drive from Bangkok airport (we last went in 2007 and it took us just under 3 hours to get from arrivals at Bangkok airport to the reception desk in our hotel). So, you can all just chill out in the car and not worry about any internal flights!
The hotels are fab, specifically the Sofitel and the Anantara - (although many people like the Hilton, which is VERY family oriented and is in a great location, but is not really my cup of tea). Most importantly, as a town, Hua Hin is quite small, compact and chilled.
Also, because many Thais go there for there holidays (as well as westerners) it doesn't have as much of the obvious seedy sex tourism that is so apparent in other parts of Thailand (although there is still some).
The only downside is that the beach is rubbish. However, on balance I think for family travel, the pluses outweigh that. Wed definitely go back with DD.
We're stopping in Thailand on our way to NZ in July but there's a strong chance DH may not be able to come now because of work.
I would really still like to take DS 7 and DD 5 to Bangkok and a quietish beachy type place in Thailand so would appreciate advice. Had thought of Koh Samui or Koh Chang - definitely don't want to go to the Phuket-side coast. Any thoughts? What accommodation recommendations for there and also Bangkok please? Any help appreciated!!