Green Hua Hin, Eco Resorts in Pranburi and Cha-Am
In Thailand‘s Hua Hin and neighbouring Pranburi and Cha-Am a handful of eco-friendly resorts, spas, and a winery, are endeavouring to do their bit to reduce their environmental footprint, from establishing kitchen gardens and using local organic produce to recycling and supporting green initiatives.
Thirty kilometers south of Hua Hin, petite Pranburi with its low-rise resorts, wooden chalets and retro holiday homes, resembles Hua Hin in its early days.
The slower pace of life is immediately evident. Dogs doze in the middle of the quiet beachfront road, chickens scratch at its sandy verges, and Thai families putter by on motorbikes, shouting ‘hello’ to passersby. Offshore, colorful fishing boats bob in the bay.
Laidback beachfront Aleenta exemplifies the sort of sustainable small resort that many aspire to be like.
Initiated by owner and managing director Anchalika Kijkanakorn, Aleenta’s green philosophy and wide-ranging eco-initiatives include energy and water conservation, solar water heating, waste management, recycling, bio-degradable water bottles, and a big focus on slow food and farm-to-table cuisine.
“It’s important,” she says. “It’s something we have to do. There’s no question.”
At its experimental organic farm where seeds and growing techniques are tested before planting and harvesting crops on larger plots, Aleenta’s Sustainability Guru, James Noble, sips coffee with the resort’s chefs, farmers and gardeners.
They hold weekly staff meetings on boulders amidst fragrant herbs and vegetables, a mushroom house, and smoking houses where they smoke free-range chicken, duck, fish, and watermelon.
Minutes earlier, they were picking peanuts which the kitchen will use in satay sauce, Massaman curry, spicy som tam salad, and the satay ice cream that stars on an avant-garde Thai-inspired sushi board.
Chefs working alongside gardeners and farmers is rare in Thailand, yet they’re here most mornings selecting the produce they’ll use that day.
“We go together to the garden to check how things are growing, see what’s ready and plan our menu,” explains Head Chef Pronporom Khanwong.
“We work with our Head Farmer, Ba (aunty) Wit, and ask her to grow things. If she doesn’t think they will work, she tells us – she knows the soil and seasons better than us. When we have meetings here, we look around and feel very proud.”
One of Aleenta’s two restaurants, The Cellar, is dedicated to farm to table dining, offering local wines from Siam Wineries and dishes with a zero carbon footprint, made from organic local produce grown on Aleenta’s farms or bought from local suppliers and markets within 30 kilometres of the resort.
Aleenta’s farms operate like co-operatives, in partnership with the community, Aleenta providing seeds and equipment and villagers farming the land, sharing crops, and selling the surplus at a farmer’s market.
A new ‘five-star kibbutz’ experience enables guests to stay for free in return for volunteering, teaching village kids, mending fishing nets, and working the farm.
Ten kilometres north of Hua Hin at Cha’Am, award-winning Yaiya (‘grandmother’ in Thai) is a similarly low-rise, low-key, waterfront eco-resort currently being dwarfed by energy-sucking high-rise condos sprouting around it.
The charming property of timber villas backed by a breezy block of spacious studios was built by its owners, Krisda Rochanakorn, founding principal of award-winning architectural firm Habita, and wife Duangruedee, who runs the day to day, even helping the kitchen with breakfast.
Yaiya offers a pared-back and more eco-friendly version of the kind of barefoot luxury Rochanakorn pioneered in Thailand with Habita, which is responsible for a long list of luxury resorts, distinguished by natural materials and an ability to blend in with their environment, including many Six Senses and Anantara resorts.
Like the other properties, Yaiya conserves and recycles its water, manages its waste, uses grey water to feed its gardens, and had an organic farm on the adjoining block until construction on the condo began. Now they buy organic produce from the Royal projects.
“Here we concentrate on how to be at one with nature. We want to serve as a model,” says Duangruedee, who believes small things make a difference, educating staff to be more eco-conscious, by gestures such as buying them bento boxes to use instead of wasteful packaging.
“But it’s very difficult to be green now,” explains Krisda, lamenting Hua Hin’s early days when the first tourists visited solely for the sea breezes.
“If we were all totally committed, there would be no air-conditioning, no pool. But guests complain when we ask them to set the AC to 25. Tourism comes with a lot of responsibilities. It will take time, but education about sustainability is key.”
Paknampran Beach, Pranburi, Hua Hin
1390/19 Petchkasem Road, Cha-am, Hua Hin