Contagious travels in Hua Hin

Sawasdeekhap / Namaste / Alright there,

And the drum keeps banging the rhythm to the beat… and the beat goes on, and the beat goes on…

In an era when British comedian Joe Lycett, had changed his name by deed poll to Hugo Boss, to take on the corporate bullies and claim some of the German fashion brand’s name, it isn’t difficult to be reminded that now is a huge time for popularity. Every Tom, Dick and Prince Harry has their 15 minutes of fame. Being a YouTuber can be a lucrative profession. In my mind it ranks down there with unblocking a U-bend on a toilet. But, who am I to judge? I don’t ask for followers or likes. You can take it or leave it, but please keep reading, or I will cry into my cornflakes tomorrow. Again. Tears and milk. Remember that every morning? Well, you don’t have to look far. Hysteria and pain is everywhere. You should have seen my reaction when they postponed the Thai football leagues.

Centuries of studies into the seasonal flu, versus weeks of study into the current SARS-CoV-2  that leads to Covid-19 brings my thoughts to one fact. There are too many so called experts, political or otherwise, tampering with and slinging news at the public in many nations. Okay, some have strong censorship and can control it a wee bit, but right now, go to almost any western media source and there are live streams and blogs dedicated to death tolls and outbreaks. Our minds are at risk of contracting God knows what. I should be sorry for my use of a possibly fictional character to those with a negative disposition to God. I could have used other prophets and so on, but some people are a tad more militant in their replies these days. Thinking of which, a certain Supreme Leader’s Expediency Council member has fell victim to this dreadful outbreak. As have at least two other top members of parliament – and their military leader was taken out by US missiles recently. Expect a power vacuum in Iran then.

Australia burnt at an alarming rate. Many other forest fires popped up around the globe. Then flash flooding and droughts and biblical locust invasions. Wayne Rooney returns against Man Utd too. What next? Armageddon by an asteroid? Well, we’ll all have so much toilet paper stockpiled, it should bounce back into outer space. If not, feel free to land here: 53.4631° N, 2.2913° W. There’s always and has always been something bad going on around the world but rarely do we have chance as a species to really share the plight of humanity. We’ve blissfully hidden the climatic change issue behind the smog of car fumes and turned a blinded eye to the seas of plastic. Hoaxes, lies and damned statistics. What’s the point in worrying? What’s the worst that could happen? Everybody’s dead Dave. There’s even a drought in Hua Hin, Thailand, where I am. The waterfall at Pala-U is more of a dry wall installation. It is a good job Gerry and I didn’t cycle the 75km to see it. Saddle sore and disappointment.

IMG_20200228_173925Hua Hin is a lovely place. I’m told it is a good town for a gentle introduction to Thailand. Less ping pong balls, and more deckchairs. I’ve only been sexually assaulted twice by rather aggressive and overzealous characters. Just being polite and saying no has worked. Oh, and a rather large sidestep whilst removing a hand from up your shorts. And telling someone to put the scissors down. Keep calm and carry on. Since arriving in Thailand, I departed the Bangkok International airport for 294 baht, by an air-conditioned bus to Hua Hin. Gerry had said look out for the Airport and Stamford International University. Here I was escorted by a shuttle taxi van to Chanta Village. On arriving here, I met Eddie and his wife Amy, also seeking refuge from sunny Dongguan, China. They own a place in the village but had let it out until May. So, Eddie and Amy had rented somewhere nearby. Gerry had invited me along to cut the rental costs. 8,300 baht (about 204 quid) for a month each. Although after two weeks we had to move across the road, as the condominium owner was to return (and they haven’t yet, annoyingly). Still, we ended up paying the same, with electricity a little on top. There’s the added benefit of a private room (I started with bunk beds and moved to a room with a double bed) and a swimming pool. Who can complain at that?! And, kitchen facilities, to prepare cheap eats and survive the outbreak.

IMG_20200225_090812To date I have visited Cha Am’s beach and harbour, on a reasonably round cycle ride of about 55km. The journey took in Wat Marikathaywan, some mangroves at Sirindhorn International Environmental park, Cha Am Forest Park (and education centre based along a section of the main road from Hua Hin to Bangkok), and passed by the Thai-Victorian era Maruekathaiyawan Palace. The journey between the latter and Cha Am itself, involved two double punctures to front and rear tyres, that cost 60 baht to repair in a motorcycle garage. All’s well that ends well.

IMG_20200227_152659In the future, I want to ride up and see some caves at Khao Nang Phanturat. An impressive six-armed Buddha denying all senses outside the statue of King Naresuan and Neranchararam temple was worthy of a quick stop – and here a man greeted Gerry and I in the oddest of ways, using his little English to create a conversation that made little sense. Brave and happy man. I won’t laugh at him, because my Thai stretches to hello, thanks and left or right, and forwards. One day, I’ll master stop and some numbers.

wx_camera_1582609364233Around the corner from where we’re staying, and north a bit, you can find the Venezia resort. I’ll avoid a false Venice right now (not because people are avoiding the real one due the bug outbreak). It looks kind of plastic and uninviting. The Cha Am area actually is on the line of where we’re staying, marking a border with Hua Hin. The beaches here are golden soft sands and lovely. Cha Am’s central beach is practically washed away by tidal erosion but good enough for a swim for a few hours like we did. We stopped for a lovely Pad Thai and salad at the oddly-out-of-place-named Apple Crumble restaurant. I had one of the best iced cappuccinos ever. On the beach we chilled on loungers and had a dip, being pummeled by wave after wave, some much higher than 2 metres, but still fairly safe to jump in and through.

IMG_20200228_163705Another day, a solo cycle ride to Pranburi Forest Park, south of Hua Hin allowed me to see an impressive mangrove forest from a wooden raised pathway and appreciate the many crab species from above. The beach views out to sea and the general feel of the well-managed forest park made for a calming meander following a hard slog against the wind. On the return leg of the journey, I swung left into the Ratchabak Park – to witness the awesome standing Seven Kings of Siam. As statues go, against a sunset or sunrise, these are a splendour and a half! The Seven Kings of Siam, sounds like a movie. There should be such a series (if there already isn’t). The history of each king is rich and diverse. Thailand is a rich land of freedom and the Thai history has royally shaped the present. These statues stick out far and wide. They’re sighted in a facility for training NCOs. They’re sacred. People come here on pilgrimage. I’d recommend to anyone to have a gander and learn a little history whilst you’re at it from the magnificent seven.

wx_camera_1583407256590With sweeping views north and south, and obviously out to sea, Hua Hin beach is just the place to get some perspective on the lay of the land. Set down a ginnel from the Hilton Hotel and the main bar and restaurant areas, it is easily accessible with plenty of things to keep you there all day. Sun loungers, massages, deck chairs, juicy fruits and rockpooling are just a few things to busy away time. Then, there’s swimming, running on the fine sands and other such activities. You can see kite-surfing to the north and fishing boats to the harbour a little south. Not the worst way to relax.

IMG_20200219_195613First, Hua Hin Railway Station is a living museum, with active trains and all the electronic boards of a modern station. The royal pavilion is grand. It is unique. It had an air conditioning unit for a reason. Beyond the dramatic Guard’s Room, Police Station and numerous old station relics, you can find an old railway hand-cart in one direction (south) and an old steam engine on a siding (northbound). The evening makes for a pleasant time to take photos and it even feels a tad romantic, even to a solo traveller like me.

IMG_20200221_164711Firstly, I could pan the Wat Khao Takiap temple area for a visit. I won’t. It is worthy of a pre-informed visit. Don’t show me your gums and teeth at my comments. Nor, show it to the monkeys or the many stray dogs. If you have a catapult, or a watergun, consider taking it. Beware of anything shiny and anything sweet. If you value your appearance, blend in. We, the human race, created this shrine, and we fed the monkeys, and all the other animals there. The monkeys bred, and bred and from my recent visit, even the one with a wonky leg was having a go at breeding. There is some serious erosin around the brow of the far temple, so take care. If you’ve got that far, then you have no doubt passed hundreds of (long-tailed?) macaques. They’re not that bad. They’re just surviving and doing a reasonably good job of it too. Respect them, and respect the views. It is worth a wander. Forewarned is forearmed. Don’t feed the monkeys.

IMG_20200302_002456Soi Bintabaht Walking Street is essentially a street full of bars, snack sellers and hawkers trying to flog you Man Utd posters or other cheap tack. However, it is a great place to watch sports on the telebox, natter away to friends, play pool (billiards to some), engage in mindless conversation with strangers and watch people amble by. Yes, it is a girly bar area, but everyone is friendly enough, apart from the lady who wanted to rearrange my downstairs forest, but even she was joking. I hope. There are plenty of sidestreets and ginnels, each offering similar bars or slightly more classy food restaurants. It is very friendly and it is easy to forget that some people aren’t lucky enough to be high-power bankers or run cruise liners. Here the bar staff and friendly strangers can be the most down to earth and real that you can find. Be careful of the scissors though. Snip, snip. I wouldn’t mind but I’m not overly hairy…

wx_camera_1581849088144There are two huge malls here. One shopping centre is called BluPort. Some places are a little expensive (their sport shop sells Manchester City shirts and shorts though with 40 percent off). Plenty of food places and choice. Almost everything is here including a cinema and banks etc. The thing I visited for was the Hua Hin immigration office for visa advice. They’re open from 08.30 to 15.30 Monday to Friday. I found that should I need to I can extend my visa by 30 days, then a further 7 days without leaving the country. Now that’s useful. The other mall or shopping centre is called Market Village. Again, some places are a little expensive (Puma do sell Manchester City shirts though); and some are useful (Tesco Lotus is a fairly big store) and then there’s a Home Depot or something like that (for water hand pumps and so on). Plenty of food places and choice. Electronic goods on the third floor, by a cinema and banks etc. Now, I had left Nepal with very little summer clothing. I’d donated most of my winter clothing and hiking gear to a local charity in Kathmandu. So, on arrival to Hua Hin, I grabbed two pairs of shorts for 400 baht. Since then, I’ve grabbed one further pair of shorts. And one t-shirt. Everything I had was long-sleeved and too hot.  I’m in fully committed survival mode after all.

See you on the other side…

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