Taking a taxi to Thailand beach hotel Aleenta Hua Hin as night falls, we haven’t a clue what lies ahead. As we twist and turn into remoter-looking backwaters, we keep expecting the hotel to loom up like a glittering casino round every next corner, so we’re surprised and pleased when we pull up outside a discreetly glowing doorway on the roadside.
We learn eventually that we’re not in the town of Pranburi itself, but in a coastal neighbourhood called Pak Nam Pran, which has always been a favourite beach-house spot for rich Thais, and has latterly become a strip of boutique hotels. Well, ‘strip’ isn’t quite right; it’s still relatively undeveloped and, if you take a walk at night, you’re more likely to meet an owl than a hen party.
Reception staff are charming and welcoming, and we’re guided quickly to our room after a brief explanation of what’s where. Aleenta Hua Hin seems the antithesis of the luxury big-hitters, with its cosy bar and restaurant (for grown-ups only) and pretty little swimming pool – the only communal spaces in the main resort. Private space is the big thing here, and we’re thrilled with what we’ve been given. Outdoors, we get a little square of lawn, a plunge pool, day-beds for sunbathing and a breakfast table. And the sea! The sea, right there! I mean, we never actually have breakfast on the little lawn, because we’d get wet, but being this close to the elements is super-sexy, it must be said.
Inside, the room has been done out in simple, almost rustic-chic style, with a dark-purple bedspread and lots of cushions, a thoughtful array of lighting, a bamboo unit with all the amenities – fruit, water, books and iPod dock – and a smooth stone floor. We hardly leave the room.
No one bothers us while we’re here, apart from when we ring for room service, and the staff always wait until we open the door ourselves. Tonight, though – our first night – we sally forth to dine in the hotel restaurant, curious to see who else is staying here.
The clientele, we determine astutely, is very honeymoon, Aleenta’s breezy beach bungalows providing a backdrop for paired-off chilling out. It’s hard to imagine coming here not as a couple, even though the hotel has a family-oriented annex down the road. It’s late, so we order just some good tom kha kai, the classic Thai coconutty chicken soup, and vegetable tempura. Mr Smith notices some hilariously 1980s-looking cocktails arriving at the next table; we’ve been on a bit of a health kick, so we hold back. For now.
The crashing ocean lulls us to sleep, and nothing wakes us apart from our physical incapacity to sleep forever. Even when we do ‘get up’, it’s hardly a rush for the shower. We call room service for a spot of breakfast and investigate the iPod that comes with the room. It looks promising to start with, but I’m sad to find there’s a surfeit of chart jazz on there, and not even a whole Beethoven symphony. Still, we know next time to bring our own iPods, which will give us a bit more to get fractious about. At the moment, all is harmony between Mr Smith and me; we’re contentedly quiet, but the nuzzle count is way up. Sorry if that’s too much information, but it’s important to convey that the ‘romantic atmosphere’ at Aleenta is effective.
I can be curiously churlish when it comes to ‘romantic atmosphere’, and I loathe the scent of the essential-oil burner that has been lit in a corner of the room. ‘Why don’t you ring reception and complain that the room smells too nice,’ suggests Mr Smith. ‘And ask if they can bring something more fetid and dungy to waft around us?’ ‘Ha,’ I say, and pick up the oil burner in order to pop it outside, so it can waft its aromatherapeutic potion towards the surging waves. Alas, it is very hot, and I swiftly up-end it onto the floor. After that, everything goes a bit menthol. I decide I’d better learn to love the smell and crawl humbly into bed with Mr Smith. ‘Don’t worry, love,’ he soothes. ‘Now we know what it’s like to be really minted.’
When the sun reaches its height, we decide to do our duty as English roses, and head to the pool to sunbathe, covered in factor 30. The pool and deck are very relaxing; and we are joined by an older Canadian couple, who chat quietly and take dips in the sparkling pool. When the hour is right, we fall happily off the wagon, with a pair of creamy tropical cocktails replete with cherries and those ageless little paper parasols.
Aleenta Hua Hin is utterly charming and, somehow, quite quirky, though I can’t put my finger on why that is. It might be the deadpan restaurant mâitre d’, or the fact that the bicycle Mr Smith takes for a twilight spin has no brakes. It might be the lack of corporate gloss. Or it could just be that you’re so removed from the hurly-burly here – it really does feel like the back end of beyond – that you loosen up and start to find almost everything quite amusing. As every tropical lovebird knows, there’s no use crying over spilt mint.