Hau Hin is a beach town 3 hours south of Bangkok by bus which offer foreigners everything Bangkok has to offer but in a concentrated area - a narrow town only a couple of kilometers wide at its widest.
The bus to Hau Hin from Bangkok's southern bus terminal runs near every hour and the bus station offers a variety of food options while you wait for your bus to load (10 minutes before departing). Just recently It has become either illegal or socially unacceptable to drink alcohol on the bus.
The Hau Hin bus station is located at what could be considered mid-town and is surrounded by food and rooming options with air con available for as little as 500 baht a night but honestly 800 a night at Jings Guest House gets you a cleaner, bigger room - and of course you could stay at the Hilton if that is within your budget. One block north is the night market strip and to the east on the same street about a 10 minute walk is the Hilton's public beachfront.
Very few beaches are not leased and thus not covered with lounge chairs and shade umbrellas serving cold refreshments and hot food. A 15-minute walk on the beach south of the Hilton you will find the ocean surf to not have any of the barnacle and cracked oyster shell covered boulders and rocks as you will find in front of the Hilton. Unfortunately Thai's will be Thai's and means the beaches are littered with litter from bottle caps to bags to plastic cups, jugs, pieces of rope broken class, garbage of every sort and it appears Hau Hin as a city hasn't the means to properly clean up the mess and make the beaches clean, safe and enjoyable. September - October storms add jellyfish, small sea urchins and sea cucumbers ) to the water and the beaches. Don't pick up the sea cucumbers as they will share their clear quills with you. Sea urchins are generally small and dead so their already broken spines are of little consequence unless you should step directly on the top of one.
There are 3 or more modern malls in Hau Hin, with a new, larger mall under construction, offering all the trimmings of modern malls and night markets for shoppers.
There is great variety in both foreign and Thai cuisine to check out, from those that shouldn't be making pizza to rack of smoked ribs. Food quality is hit or miss, as many restaurants are lacking in quality. There is a very good restaurant,Cool Relax, approximately two blocks south of the bus station on the right hand side offering Swiss and Thai cuisine place in either an open-air terrace dinner setting or inside their air-conditioned dining room.
The night market strip includes many restaurant options. Unfortunately they do not understand a baked potato without sour cream, chives and bacon bits is just a buttered potato. Their steaks are 1 cm thick before cooking and they should be a minimum of 2 cm thick before cooking.
Of course it offers the nightlife of bars and all that goes with that. Its red-light district is contained and avoidable.
There are a great many foreigner-oriented condo and housing projects available for rent or purchase if one is looking for a retirement location. Two-bedroom ranch-style homes can be purchased for 2.4 million baht ($60,000 U.S.), and in town, one-bedroom kitchenette condos are available for the same price or can be rented for near $1,000 U.S. per month.
It is a golfers' paradise with many courses to play. Fishermen can take in ocean fishing or landlocked fishing. Scuba and snorkeling island coral is just offshore.
The airport is located at the north end of town and is where the green tuk tuks (10 baht per ride) turn around and return to the town center. Taxis don't have meters. You can rent a motorcycle for 200 to 250 baht for the day (take date and time stamped pictures of all existing damage) before you drive away.
Visa runs will soon be only 90 minutes out of town as recently an old border crossing has opened to trade and is expected to soon also offer passport visa runs.
Several international hospitals are available if you should find yourself in need of high-quality medical care.
Cooking school options are limited, with schools running only when they have sufficient minimum number of prepaid students, but there are high-quality classes offered by Chef LeeZ, Thailand Trip Advisor #1 culinary arts Thai cooking school since 2011, only three hours away in Bangkok.
The alternate to retiring in Thailand's mainland is retiring to a Thailand island such as Kho Samui and that is a romantic thought, but when you are on an island and when there is a severe weather or power related problems you will know you are on an island and may be without water, food, power or escape for days on end. You may have to be emergency (army) air evacuated. Also in a couple of months you will have explored the island and then what to do with your time?
Hau Hin as a mainland town and is a mini Bangkok surrounded by a variety of options for everybody and is only a couple of hours to Bangkok. It is proposed to receive a bullet train in the near future and then it will be only 1 hour from Bangkok.
If you are considering Thailand's mainland for your next trip or as a possible retirement spot you really should give Hau Hin, a generous amount of your Thailand time.
May your Thailand experience be safe and wondrous!