the second stamp, part three

For the final leg of our Thai adventure, Kara and I hit up Hua Hin for a little beach time.

Originally we wanted to go to Phuket or one of the islands down that way. But once we started researching and developed a concrete timeline we realized that it just wouldn't work. So Kara did some research and found out about Hua Hin, a beach town just a 3 hour drive from Bangkok frequented by locals. As we found out once we got there, it's also frequented by Scandinavians and Germans.

We hopped a minibus from Bangkok to Hua Hin and checked into our guesthouse. The guesthouse was amazing. It sat in the area the local fisherman cast out from. The house itself sat on stilts in the water. When we arrived it was low tide, so the water was a ways out from the building itself.

Naturally as soon as we could we hit the beach to check it out.

Thai beaches are unique. Instead of having beachgoers bring their own umbrellas and chairs, there were chairs & umbrellas available for rent. Vendors set up little sections and each section offered not only drinks, but full meals. Naturally they were far more expensive than going out into the village but it was nice knowing the option was there.

After setting up our chairs we ran straight for the water...

...and straight into a bunch of rocks hiding under the waves. I stubbed my toes, jamming one and cutting another. Kara whacked her shins. We had the same reaction: maybe we should be careful here. Since we were kids, the two of us have always sprinted full-tilt into the waves. Not so much in Hua Hin. After that initial encounter we stopped running and started slowly picking our way further out.

While we were out in the water, which was the perfect temperature and not too rough, we watched the locals splash around.

A group of guys around our age were swimming near us. As it turns out, when you put twenty something men in the ocean they all act the same, regardless of nationality. They threw things around. They splashed each other. They even threw each other around.

Their swimwear, however, was quite different.

None of the Thai people wore swimsuits. They swam fully clothed, some even in jeans. The only exception were two little boys who couldn't have been older than 2 or 3. They swam in absolutely nothing.

There were also some men on ponies. While their vests said Volunteer Police they would give rides for money, retrieve jet skis, and just generally wander about the beach. In addition to our horseback friends, there were vendors selling everything from trinkets to boiled eggs to ice cream bars. They weren't annoying though. Well, the scarf guy was but the rest weren't. If you said no, they immediately moved on. We bought ice cream from one lady. She was sold out of the ice cream bar we wanted so she offered us the more expensive version for a discount. The ice cream lady was the sweetest, smiliest woman; she would smile away whenever she saw us and wave.

After a few hours on the beach we headed to the room to get cleaned up for dinner. When we got back, we discovered that the tide had come in and the water was all the way under our room. It was magical listening to the waves underneath us in the room at night.

For dinner, we went to a local restaurant where we had delicious fish, pineapple fried rice, and garlic bread. I know, I know. But we saw a plate go out to another table and couldn't resist. Garlic bread, or garly bread, was always huge in the Hoffman house so we both have a soft spot for it.

Rain was predicted for the next day so we scuttled to the beach bright and early. After sitting for a while, we headed out into the water.

As we were both slowly picking our way through the rocks, Kara suddenly fell. As it turns out, her foot had slipped in the crevice between two hidden rocks. When she lifted her leg out of the water, it was clear that it was bleeding a good bit. I scrambled out of the water (carefully) to retrieve her towel since Kara didn't want to frighten the other people on the beach while she slowly scooted out of the water on her butt. Once we were back at the chairs it became immediately obvious that she would need some bandages. I asked around and finally found someone who had some bandaids. It turns out the man who was in charge of our section of chairs had some and came over with a handful. After wiping off Kara's leg with a paper towel, he carefully stuck the bandages onto her leg. Unfortunately for Kara, he stuck them on longways, meaning that the sticky part was physically on her cuts. He also spent the rest of the day warning anyone who sat in our section to not go into the water straight out because there were rocks and people had gotten hurt.

When lunchtime rolled around I went in search of food and more medical care. Thankfully there were tons of pharmacies in Hua Hin close to the water. I picked up a travel size bottle of hydrogen peroxide and some big bandages before looking for food. Sadly none of the food vendors were out and about. The only thing I was able to find was two old women selling mango sticky rice. I requested one and even though they acknowledged me, the women just kept talking and peeling mangoes. I wish I had their mango peeling skills. Every time I've tried to peel a mango, I end up losing most of the mango in the process. It's maddeningly time consuming and messy.

But not for these women. For these women it was ridiculously easy.

A little later we tried the water again but it stung too much so we stayed under our umbrellas.

Sadly the forecast proved accurate and that afternoon it started raining. Our initial plan was to wait out the rain under the umbrellas. As we quickly found out, the umbrellas leaked so we got wet anyways. Eventually we gave up and headed home through the rain slowly (poor Kara couldn't go very quickly on her leg).

Back in the room we showered and took it easy as we waited for the rain to subside. Kara had a chance to really clean her wound and we got our first real look at it.

As you can tell, it's quite angry. 

Once the rain stopped we set out to find a post office so Kara could mail the postcards she'd bought. We got to where it was supposed to be only to discover it had temporarily been moved. After quite a long walk and several stops to ask for directions, we finally made it to the temporary post office...to find out that it was closed for the day. On the way back we grabbed some iodine for Kara's leg and then rested a bit more in the room.

Dinner on Saturday was amazing.

On the weekends, Hua Hin hosts a huge night market, the Chatsila Night Market. The market was only a ten minute walk from our guesthouse so we wandered over once the sun went down in search of food. Not only are there tons of food vendors selling everything from beautiful seafood fresh from the ocean to delicious noodle dishes, there are vendors selling bootleg DVDs, souvenirs, and amazing handmade items. 

We decided to walk the length of the market before making a food decision. The plan was to grab a smorgasboard of items and eat them on the rooftop dining area of the guesthouse, overlooking the ocean. 

We wound up with a spiralized potato on a stick, a fried noodle dish, roti with nutella & peanut butter, spring rolls, and a thai iced tea each.

Back on the roof of the guesthouse, we were joined for dinner by about a million little brown lizards. For the most part they hung out by the lights, hunting bugs. But when Kara stepped away to grab something from the pharmacy while I talked to Mom, the one little bugger got bold and started going after her food. Suddenly, there was a lizard on the table right next to the fried noodles. I shooed him away. Two seconds later, his little head reappeared over the side of the table. I shooed him away. He reappeared two seconds later. I shooed. He reappeared. This went on until Kara got back.

Finally it was time to call it a night.

Thailand is an amazing country. The people smile so much, it's amazing. They're warm and friendly, and much like the Indians, always willing to lend a helping hand.

I can't say enough about the street food. It's amazing. From the best fresh fruit you've ever eaten to mind blowing grilled meats, there's something for all palates. It's a beautiful blend of sweet and spicy in many of the dishes. It fills you up but doesn't way you down. It feels fresh and buoyant in a way, much like the entire country.

Thailand is also a very accessible country. It's amazing easy to get around without taking cabs everywhere. It's crazy cheap, which is perfect for younger travelers. The exchange rate was roughly 35 baht to $1. We bought grilled pork for 5 baht a piece. Each of us only needed about two pieces. Seriously. It's fantastic. It feels more familiar to the West, which made for such a big contrast with India. It's kind of funny: as the trip went on, our destinations slowly got more and more Westernized.

But while it feels familiar, it also feels completely different. It's a difference that's hard to capture. There's quite a blend of old and new throughout Thailand. That's one of the things I loved about it. It still felt uniquely Thai.

Given the chance I would go back in a heartbeat. Without a doubt.

No comments:

Post a Comment