Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thailand Part 6: Hua Hin

The last new city I went to is called Hua Hin.

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As you can see from the map, I was very close to Burma. I briefly considered a little day trip across the border. After a bit of reading, though, Burma didn't seem like the happiest place to visit, and I decided against it.

My travel buddies and I went to Hua Hin on a crowded bus. I really enjoyed the experience: the ticket buying conversations at the bus station, worriedly parting with my luggage so that it could be stowed below and hoping that nothing got stolen, gazing out the window at nothing while cruising through the countryside. It was a bit rustic and nothing bad happened. What more can you ask for? There were three employees working on the bus: one guy was like the crier who would simply announce what stop was next and in how many minutes in a loud annoying voice, a rough looking lady collected tickets and money and stuffed them into a large metal cylinder, and the driver, who might've also been the guy who stuffed our bags under the bus. It was quite an operation.

The second we hopped off the bus, Mike and I were giggling about the police. Several that we saw had large golden arches on their vests.

No, it's not the drive-thru window. Its a police box, brought to you by McDonald's. Thailand has mini police stations everywhere just like Japan does. Their strategy is a bit different, however. In Japan, the police are meant to be seen to act as a deterrent and to give directions, etc. In Thailand the windows of the boxes were often tinted as in this picture. I assume it's meant to make people unsure if an officer is inside or not, and keep people in line even when vacant. An interesting approach.

I spotted one of those bag sodas I mentioned in an earlier post.

Hua Hin is touristy beach resort town. However it is popular with Thai vacationers as well which I think helps it avoid completely turning into a foreigner theme park. We spent a few days here, but it was time mostly spent chilling out without any strenuous exploring.

Clarence and I took care of the Bangkok hotel arrangements and Mike and Allison did Hua Hin. Those two were a bit more budget minded so I wondered about what kind of hotel they would choose. I imagined some sort of beach shack with hammocks inside but the place they picked had even nicer rooms than the Best Western in Bangkok. There was a little kitchen and the shower was so big it must've been designed for someone in a wheelchair.

A plate of brightly colored sweets had been placed on a dresser. The woman who showed us to our room explained that they were a gift from the hotel to celebrate New Years.

At one point I noticed that we had a visitor. The little guy seemed to be pretending he was invisible, as it didn't move an inch while I was in the room. It didn't crawl in my mouth while I was asleep, so I'd say we are pretty good friends.

We spent some time chilling on the beach. There was a long line of little restaurants, one of which we stopped and had a relaxing dinner. The four of us started the new year on the sand, with fireworks being set off near and far.

You wanna know whats way better than a market? A night market. They were selling pretty much the same stuff as everywhere, minus the possible heat exhaustion. My shoes didn't really fit my beach bum lifestyle, so I bought a pair of super cheap flip flops. I think that was my only purchase in Hua Hin.

I took advantage of our large amount of unstructured time and went on a fruit eating rampage. I got some advise from my local grocer about what to buy, bought a large knife, and then I did some chopping back at the hotel room.

I'd say the star of the night was the mango. They were so sweet. I think this is my new favorite fruit.

These little guys are longans. They are pretty much small lychees.

Wikipedia says they are also known as dragon eyes, which makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. These are super good. My only complaint is that they are so small that it takes a whole lot of peeling to get a decent amount of fruit.

Those two were the big successes. But I took a risk buying a bunch of stuff I didn't understand, and the experiment wasn't without its setbacks.

I think this is a pomelo. It was pretty much a giant grapefruit with a really thick skin. It tasted awful. Wikipedia thinks that the US is the top producer of pomelo, yet I've never seen one for sale. I think I know why.

I think this is a green apple guava. I don't know if it just wasn't ripe or what, but it also tasted really bad. The Thai word for guava, farang, also means "foreigner". I don't know what that's about.

When it was time to return to Bangkok, we had some issues obtaining transportation.

This picture is the Hua Hin train station. It's old and a pretty big deal. I don't recall exactly why we decided to not take the train. I think it was just too long of a wait until the next train to Bangkok. We ended up just taking a taxi. Yes it wasn't very exciting, but it was direct and not incredibly expensive when divided four ways.

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