In April 2023, I checked into the SO Studio at SO Sofitel Hua Hin. Located near Cha-am Beach some 20km north of Hua Hin, the 108-room resort is 40 minutes from the city’s central area where most of Hua Hin’s hotels, restaurants and malls are located as well as 3 hours away by car from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Other hotels in Hua Hin include Hilton Hua Hin Resort & Spa, InterContinental Hua Hin Resort as well as The Standard, Hua Hin.
The UTW (“Under Ten Words”): Exhilarating, adventure-filled, whimsical French-chic beach getaway in Hua Hin.
The must-dos (if any): Enjoy breakfast and dinner at White Oven, attempt the obstacle course at Wibit Adventure Float, enjoy water sports such as jetskiing or using an underwater scooter, visit the Nayang Bat Cave.
SO SOFITEL HUA HIN
Comprising 99 room and 9 villas, the beachside resort has facilities and activities which cater to both couples and families with children alike. Designed by Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag (behind Alila Luang Prabang and Emquartier) and interior designer Donatien Carratier (who designed Park Hyatt Maldives, Sofitel Luang Prabang and JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa), the resort’s Alice in Wonderland-esque and whimsical ‘Evolution of Life’ theme takes reference from the Grand Gallerie de l’Evolution natural history museum in Paris. As you ascend the steps towards the elevated reception lobby, you first pass a resting spotted leopard before being greeted by a group of wild animal sculptures standing within a large reflecting pond. Rabbits are present everywhere – a giant white polyhedral bunny holding a time piece greets you at the arrival driveway; multiple rabbits run across a lawn and past a giant chess board towards a wall of magical mirrors near the breakfast venue; leporids lurk in the toilet, next to the bathtub and on the headboard of guest rooms; and a colony of rabbits crowd around one of the holes at the SO Wonderland Adventure Golf course, which also boasts, inter alia, a mermaid, a giant spider (and its correspondingly-sized web) and a cat wearing a witch’s hat near a cauldron.
The resort’s key attraction would be the Wibit Adventure Float, an inflatable Ninja Warrior-esque obstacle course within the resort’s Signature Pool which attracts both children and their parents alike. The obstacle course is so popular that the resort organises a mini-competition on selected afternoons for those keen to be the fastest contestant to finish the course, with winnable prizes including complimentary access to certain payable activities such as usage of underwater scooters. As I eventually learnt when I (unsuccessfully) attempted the course, conquering the obstacle course requires a combination of balance, fearlessness and resoluteness, most of which I lack, and the station which requires you to navigate around a rubbery knob-like protrusion was where I gave up and slid despondently into the waters, all the while slightly resenting the nimble navigators who tumbled with ease past me to the subsequent monkey bar station.
Those who seek a less strenuous and stressful aquatic experience can visit the resort’s two other pools – the beachfront SO Pool in front of signature restaurant White Oven; or the relatively private and adults-only Solarium Pool located next to the SO/ FIT gym along with a recreational room with billiard, foosball, air hockey and ping pong facilities.
The Kids Tent next to the Signature Pool is the beating heart which powers most of the resort’s leisure activities. Aside from hosting indoor activities for the little ‘uns, the venue is where you can rent underwater scooters for use at the Signature Pool, golf equipment for the SO Wonderland Adventure Golf course as well as e-scooters and bicycles to explore the resort’s three cycling paths (green is rudimentary within the resort, orange explores a garden space and blue passes rows of palm trees next to the beach). The resort also offers pickleball, tennis and basketball courts.
The resort offers direct access to the idyllic Cha-Am Beach where you can partake in beach activities such as sofa boat and banana boat rides. During my stay, I attempted my first ever jetski ride, which turned out to be a frequently heart-racing affair. Whenever the jetski flew up into the air and landed with a splash of explosive saline all around, my body would violently propel itself off the seat, and I would clutch the straps of the rider’s life jacket desperately whilst resisting the urge to wrap my hands around his waist for better stability.
In terms of wellness, aside from the three swimming pools and SO/ FIT gym, guests can visit the beautifully designed SO/ SPA for facial, massage and beauty treatments. I went for a Thai Massage, which differs from the usual “essential oils/disposable black panties” experience in that it involves the wearing of thin, white and flowy Thai pyjamas whilst your therapist initiates deep stretches using your entire body with nary a drop of massage oil. After an hour of containing my inner anguish and minimising visible grimacing every time I felt the therapist’s high-pressure touch on my legs day-massacred thighs, I retreated to the SO Cocoon Deep Relaxation Area, a stunning enclosed space with glittering walls that makes you feel like you are coursing through star-filled galaxies on a floating bed.
One of the resort’s signature adventure activities is the visit to the nearby Nayang Bat Cave. Guests are ferried to a private residence about 15 minutes away from the resort and, from the comfort of benches on a rooftop terrace whilst enjoying chilled beverages and canapes, you watch a mesmerising aerial display of millions of bats streaming out of the cave in sinuous, serpentine waves to search for food, all against the backdrop of orange sunset sky.
Boasting a balcony which overlooks the Signature Pool with the popular Wibit Adventure Float, the 68sqm open-concept SO Studio sports a modern French aesthetic with strong nature imagery. The bed frame and chandelier are modelled after tree branches; butterfly figures are perched on the living room wall alongside a monochromatic photograph from New Zealand environmental artist Martin Hill which depicts a quiet stream with bright yellow flowers; the curtains which serve as partitions separating the bedroom and the bathroom areas play it all forest wallpaper; and the mirror above the deep soak bathtub looks like something the Evil Queen speaks to whenever she wonders who is the most alabaster of the land. I drifted off to bed immediately – and felt no peas whatsoever – on the comfortable Sofitel MyBed, a staple across all Sofitel and SO Sofitel properties. In a stroke of design genius, the TV is mounted on the back of the suitcase-design wardrobe which is capable of being swivelled such that the TV can face whichever direction you wish, including the marble bathtub.
The pantry is equipped with an Illy coffee machine and stocked with Dilmah specialty teas, while the complimentary minibar comprises carton drinks and sodas. The bathroom has double vanities, while the spacious rainfall shower has a sitting ledge as well as SO Sofitel-branded bathroom amenities.
Breakfast is served at White Oven, the resort’s signature poolside restaurant which specialises in Thai cuisine and seafood. The restaurant offers an extensive breakfast buffet comprising Thai specialities such as Braised Pork Leg, Green Curry with Pork and Hainanese Chicken Rice which changes daily; Thai Spicy Fish Curry and Spicy Chilli Paste Crab to pair with Thai Rice Noodles; an egg station which offers daily specials such as Pan Fried Egg with Chicken Sausage, Overload Croissant Scramble & Spinach and Scrambled Eggs with BBQ Pork; a pastry section offering your usual doughnuts and croissants along with egglet waffles, french toast and delectable Thai Coconut Pancakes (kanom krok); and a noodle soup station offering rotational specials such as Boiled Pork Blood Soup, Tom Yum Noodle Soup and Chicken Soup with Five Spice.
Aside from the impressive variety and ever-changing nature of the buffet that made every next morning quite the fun discovery experience, I would also commend the Iced Thai Milk Tea which reels in the sweetness and offers a smoky tea experience as well as the Chilli Paste Dipping with Dried Shredded Fish from the chilli section which was positively Korean banchan-esque, seductively spicy and utterly addictive.
With the resort being quite a distance from central Hua Hin city, having meals at White Oven would be quite a natural and rational choice during your stay, and the restaurant’s Thai dishes do not disappoint. My favourites from their a la carte menu were the Crispy Sea Bass in Sour Curry with Vegetables (fried sea bass, vegetable, sour curry paste, tamarind, fish sauce), which was an appetite-whetting delight which possessed a tantalising sourness and just a tease of spice, as well as the moreish Mackerel Fried Rice with Crispy Pork Rind (wok-fried rice mackerel, crispy pork rind, egg, shallot, green mango) and sensually soft Grilled Australian Angus Beef Tenderloin (Australian Angus beef tenderloin, spicy tamarind, roasted rice dipping). From the dessert menu, the savoury Rice Dumpling with Warm Coconut Milk (Thai rice dumpling, warm coconut milk, pumpkin, boiled egg) as well as creamy Thai Tea Panna Cotta (Thai tea, soy milk, honey) were highlights.
Those seeking a smokier, more luxurious evening can go for one of the sets from the Thai Premium BBQ Buffet menu, with the Australian & American Beef & Seafood Set (US short ribs, Australian striploin, Australian chuck roll, sea bass fillet, rugby fish ball, crab stick, fresh squid, crispy squid, white shrimp, New Zealand mussel) being the most premium. While the meats from the sets are fixed in quantity, the ingredients for the steamboat – think vegetables, egg tofu and mushrooms – are free-flow, and you can order add-on meats such as Kojibuta Striploin, Salmon Fillet, the alluringly fragrant Chicken Thigh with Sesame or the sensational Pork Bacon.
The resort’s other main dining concept is Beach Society, which serves Western cuisine and refreshing cocktails in a casual beachfront outdoor setting. The menu comprises beach bites such as White Wine Vongole, Crispy Calamari and Crunchy Baby Prawn; sandwiches and burgers such as Lobster Roll and SO/ Beach Burger (200g Wagyu beef patty, maple glazed bacon, tomato, lettuce, caramelized onion); pastas such as Crab Meat Angel Hair and Braised Beef Pappardelle (red wine braised beef, porcini mushroom, parmigiano cheese); flatbreads such as Double Pepperoni and Hawaiian; seafood such as Bouchot Mussel, Salmon Fillet and Whole Fish of the Day (salt crusted, Thai herbs, Thai seafood sauce, tartar sauce); and meats such as Barbary Duck Breast and Kurobuta Pork Chop. I had the Tuna Spaghetti Aglio Olio E Peperoncino (yellowfin tuna garlic, chilli, olive oil), which was daringly spicy even without the aid of any bird’s eye chilli, as well as the indulgent Surf and Turf (sirloin steak 250g, half Phuket lobster, tiger prawn, garlic butter, red wine jus, Thai seafood sauce).
The bar serves a variety of breezy, playful cocktails such as Stormy Weather (tequila infused with nori, green mango, mango sticky rice, lime) and Captain’s Mule (dark rum, golden falernum, pineapple, sea salt lemon sacrum, ginger beer).
Rounding up the list of F&B concepts are SO Sundae, a poolside ice cream bar next to the Signature Pool which also serves a variety of cakes and beverages, as well as rooftop bar HI-SO which was closed during my visit.
While the resort’s location is rather far from the main Hua Hin area, the resort ensures you have little reason to leave with an impressive array of activities that would keep a childless adult suitably entertained, and the F&B programme (in particular White Oven and its breakfast offerings) was commendable with many highlights. Consider me genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed myself.
SO Sofitel Hua Hin
115 Moo 7 Tambol Bangkao
Phetchaburi, 76120 Hua Hin