Monday 19 October 2015

Thailand week 2 - Hua Hin

We were really excited when we found we would be in Thailand for Thai New Year - less excited when it took us many hours longer than planned to drive from Bangkok since everyone was leaving the city for the coast!
 We chose Hua Hin for our second week as it's relatively close to Bangkok but also as we knew it would be a good base for seeing some of the countryside on that peninsula. The town itself was once a small fishing village but has become a popular tourist beach town with everything that entails - good and bad.
 We hired a villa on the outskirts of town - planning a much quieter week than Bangkok had been (wouldn't be hard!) and a car. It was the right choice - the villa, pool and relaxing veranda were perfect at the end of a hard days sightseeing.
There were a few local eateries within walking distance but it was unfeasibly hot so we drove pretty much everywhere. The locals were so friendly and welcoming - they love visitors!
Here's what we did in Hua Hin, starting with Songkran:

Thai New Year is called Songkran - and lasts from 13th - 15th April each year. It has become a giant water festival - but originates from the age old practise of water washing away your sins and bad luck. There are versions of the festival all over the world - and the idea of dousing someone with water is common in many religions.

Our friend in Bangkok, Donna, had helped us get kitted out in appropriate 'songkran shirts'. 
The teen wore his for a maximum of 10 mins before deciding he would rather die that be seen in matching shirts! 
(we got a photo first!)

I knew it would be a water fight- but had no idea on what scale. LITERally everyone was out on the streets and none was safe. (although I had read that it was inproper to soak monks, 
babies and policemen!)

People took to the streets with oil drums, water guns, buckets, hoses...anything that would allow them to soak people passing. Whole side streets became one big party and there was bands and giant hoses at all major places such as shopping centres. It was AMAZING.

It officially goes on for a couple of days but we continued to get soaked for a good few days afterwards in rural areas.

Another favourite night was the Cicada night market. The whole market is lit by lanterns and full of live music. It was better stuff than your average night market - if the boys hadn't been missing their fake tat (and therefore a bit moany) 
I might have spent a fortune!

Right near our villa was a temple (Wat Bor Fai) where for a donation to the monks you could have a bucket of food to feed the sacred catfish. 
They were huge. 
And Ugly.

My absolute favourite trip  (and one which ranks up there in the 'best days of my life' category) was a trip to the 
Phraya Nakhon Cave.
It's about an hour south of Hua Hin and is within the National Park.
You can access it from a remote beach (Laem Sala) which is only accessible by walking over a hill or hiring a boat from a small village called Bang Pu.

At that point it's a steep climb up a mountain - which in soaring heat makes you seriously question yourself. Until you arrive.
And then you see why it is so often listed in 'amazing places' 
type lists.
It's breathtaking.

I couldn't do it justice with my camera so credit to Niels Mickers for this amazing photo.

 My favourite days were when we took a drive south to some of the more remote areas of the peninsula. We came across the fishing boats of dreams, tiny villages, seafood shacks with no tourists except us (so everyone watched us with a degree of happy bemusement) And even better than all that the most amazing scenery - real Thailand. And then just when you thought it couldn't get any better a beautiful temple would appear.

Occasionally we found a roadside cafe where tourists were clearly a rarity... 
and everyone watched us eat!

fish drying

On another trip out we visited Pranburi mangrove forest walk - and saw birds, lizards, fish, crabs and an elusive kingfisher

Another great day (which we shared with loads of Thai as it was still a public holiday) was to Pala U waterfalls. in the Kaeng Krachan National Park.  

It's about 60km west of Hua Hin near the Burmese borderland is surrounded by forest over 1000 years old and full of rare wild animals. On the way there we passed signs telling us what to do if elephants approached the car!! It didn't say wee - which is what I would undoubtedly have done. 

We didn't see any elephants, but we did see monkeys along the route.

The first thing we did was sort out lunch out - even in the middle of the forest there were street food sellers. It was a communal affair! Those more prepared had bought a picnic - there were hundreds of families so there was a great atmosphere.

On the way to the waterfall we passed thousands of butterflies!

 Then a series of bridges and walkways that would make the health and safety officers in the UK lose a lot of sleep led you up a series of waterfalls and swim holes. There are 16 in all but it gets hard going after about 4. I think we made it to 6.

Of course GB and Kenzie had to get in - much to the amusement of the locals they joined. All fully clothed - as despite the reputation of some parts of Bangkok the Thai are in fact incredibly modest.

 Kenzie slipped at one point and hurt his foot. He can be a bit of a drama queen so we gave him short shrift and told him to get on with it. Then felt bad the following day when his (swollen) foot was black and blue!

On our last day in Hua Hin we visited the beach (beautiful but deserted - far too hot!) and chopstick, or monkey mountain. It was a perfect place to remember all that was good about our trip. There was a HUGE gold Buddha at the bottom of the mountain, a monk chanting, beautiful fishing boats and wading birds to watch,  monkeys everywhere and a fantastic lunch literally on the beach served by a s/he. Crazy, moving, bizarre, beautiful, poignant and tasty all in one too short day. 

catapult belonging to a monk...for pelting cheeky monkeys!!

Thailand was the most wonderful place to visit - and although we all returned absolutely knackered we all absolutely loved it!
Fee x