Holiday where Thailand’s royals do

Holiday where Thailand’s royals do
Elephants amble lazily between neat rows of green vines but, even after a few glasses of locally-produced shiraz with lunch, these pachyderms definitely don’t look pink.
The view from Hua Hin Hills Vineyard’s Sala restaurant encompasses an expanse of grapes against a backdrop of hilly Thai jungle. Cooling sea breezes waft gently across this agricultural oddity.
Thai wine has improved greatly in recent years. Gone is the era of sugary plonk. Drier drops are now heavily promoted and winning awards. Some of the half-dozen major vineyards scattered in different parts of Thailand have hired wine experts from France, New Zealand and Australia’s Margaret River region to improve their product.
Hua Hin’s winery is on the itineraries of many tourists visiting this beachside destination. For those who don’t take taxis or hotel cars, the vineyard runs shuttles to and from a winery built partly on a former training ground for working elephants.
Several elephants work in the vineyard while others take visitors for rides between the grapes. Pushbikes are an option for anyone leery of pachyderms. Before lunch, some tourists gather for games of petanque while others design and paint their own labels on bottles of wine.
Sala Wine Bar and Bistro cannily mixes western and Thai cuisines, which can be accompanied by locally-produced wines, with Monsoon Valley shiraz a particular favourite for foreigners who often buy bottles to take home, according to a manager.
Crammed – much like Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui – with hotels, shops, restaurants and bars, Hua Hin is nonetheless more laid-back. It has everything its rivals offer but somehow the mood is less strident. With its emphasis on fashionable health spas, the town has managed to cultivate a more upscale image than its rivals for the tourist dollar.
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