Paradise in Hua Hin, Thailand

Paradise in Hua Hin, Thailand

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Hua Hin, Central Thailand

Leaving the 3rd world for the 1st: “It’s not bad”. Leaving the 1st world for the luxury 1st world… is even less bad.

Arriving into Bagkok airport felt like coming back home again. It was 5:30am when we arrived — but we were able to buy a SIM card to “localize” Scott’s cell phone, then call and book a hotel, take a taxi there, check-in, and be sound asleep in our fluffy beds by 8:30am. We spent a couple days in Bangkok running errands and getting thoroughly over our food poisoning. Then it was off to a new city: Hua Hin, a resort town southwest of Bangkok.
We took the train from Bangkok down to Hua Hin, about 4 hours. Second Class but with A/C — didn’t seem particularly cool until you went into a non-A/C car… Cost about six bucks — $1.5 per hour of travel. We’d brought all nature of snacks etc. but turns out vendors ply the train with all kinds of goodies. I got a tasty lunch for about 75 cents, but declined multiple offers of fruits and sweets. Thais love sweets… maybe that’s why they smile so much. Dentists must do well.
We arrived around 5pm, maybe 15 minutes later than scheduled; negotiated a songtaew (local equivalent of a taxi: converted pickup trucks with two bench seats (song means two, taew means “bench”). My fading but functional Thai language skills got the price down from 300 baht to 100 — about $2.50 for the both of us. There seems to be a direct relationship in Thailand between how much you speak the language… and what you pay for things. Kathy said something like “Your Thai lessons seems to have paid for themselves on this trip”. This makes me immensely proud :). Studying Thai language seems a bit quixotic — doesn’t share the world-popularity of say, French — but it works great in Thailand!

So “Where the heck is Hua Hin?” Bangkok is in central Thailand, and there’s a gulf about 25km to the south. Imagine an upside-down “U” with Bangkok at the top. Take the left (west) fork and you get to Hua Hin. take the right fork, its Pattaya — another resort town but with a far seedier reputation.
We’re at the Hyatt Hua Hin resort, staying on frequent-flyer (“frequent stayer?”) points. Hyatt “charges” different amounts of frequent flyer points based on the quality (or perhaps the demand, or both) of the particular hotel. Most resorts are 25,000 points per night. Hua Hin was 5,000, the lowest per-night charge. It is certainly an anomaly, as the resort is absolutely lovely: directly on the gulf, several restaurants, manicured grounds. There are relatively few people here; we’re guessing that either there’s a glut of hotel rooms in Hua Hin, or the location is complicated to get to — whatever. Or maybe they just screwed up on their website ( — check out the property) — but Kathy really “scored” on this place. Of course, with resort quality comes higher prices — full breakfast is about $10, drinks in the $3-$5 range, and so forth. Doesn’t seem like a lot of money (Kathy commented that prices were about what we’d pay in Nashua) — but when you’ve been traveling in the 3rd world and getting meals for 50c, you get a bit touchy over $10 for breakfast. The location is fairly isolated, but we’ve already found local restaurants and small markets to keep us in water, soda and beer — without breaking the bank. And because we’re “long time stayers” (7 nights) — we get discounts, free internet access — and some other goodies. It’s not bad.
Over dinner, Kathy and I pondered how we feel about “hanging out” in the lap of luxury. On this trip we have run the gauntlet of accommodations, from “sleepsacks” on desert sands, to dingy hotels, to elegant havelis, to a 1st world resort. It’s a combination of pleasure and guilt (sort of like eating expensive chocolate): we have an appreciation of how the locals live and the disparity between them and us –yet we worked hard to get the “privileges” we now enjoy. Staying in the 3rd world allows you to enjoy this “1st world bubble” much more.
Our 1st full day here we did… nothing. Went for a swim, lounged by the pool, slept, ate. Visited the internet cafe, which threatens to vastly increase the cost of our holiday here — they get about 20c per minute for internet service (contrast this with 25c per hour) in Bangkok. But we’re “on” to a local Internet provider’s phone #, and we’ll see how the hotel zings us on that cost.
Monday (we think) — another day surrounded by coconut palms, waterfalls, and countless staff who are without exception cheery and helpful. Must be dreaming. This web page is coming to you from our porch, which is amply sized for two, with chairs, table and lamps… and a handy electrical outlet for the PC. Today was as uneventful as yesterday, ‘cept we took the hotel’s car into “town” (such as it is; think of any American beach area in the dead of winter (population-wise) — but with 90 degree weather. Fetched some much-needed supplies (tonic water, Coke & Diet, bottle of wine) as buying them from the hotel could bankrupt us. Besides, it gives us the feeling that we’re getting away with something.
We spent the entire week being lazy bums – sleep till 8 or so; read the paper and have coffee on the balcony, head down for a late breakfast. Spend the morning reading or napping, or picking up something in town. Have a late lunch followed by a swim in the pool. Nap and read some more. Cocktails and snacks on the balcony. Wander out of the resort complex to score a tasty Thai dinner for $3 (for two).
<7 days pass…we spend about $100 for the entire week — not bad for life in a 5 star>

Ahhh! Unrequited Meat Lust

3/6/04 Yikes!, we’ve been eating Thai and Indian food for a month +. Truth be known, we love Thai food (and Indian food for that matter). But we’re suffering from BDS — yes, Beef Deficiency Syndrome. Desperately seeking steak. We’ve scoped out a few choices: the 1st two are noisy and expensive. The 3rd, “Koala Blue”, has a simpler menu with what we seek, and more reasonable prices. Only suspicious part is there is nobody eating there. But, we cast this aspect aside and sit down in the place. The staff (both of them) are very nice… but the meal was dreadful. We both order fillet mignon, medium-rare, peppercorn sauce. We’re not sure what we got (faux fillet Scott thinks, a cheaper cut of meat the French are fond of). It is tasteless and tough. The sauce tastes like pre-manufactured hollandaise with peppercorns thrown in for good like. Kathy’s is raw. They merely threatened it with cooking. And the wine — an Italian Merlot — was horrid. They even managed to screw up fresh asparagus.
Culinary nightmares are made of this.

But Sausage Satisfies (you could do würst)

3/7/04 We once again make the arduous journey into town (ok its only 4 km, takes 10 minutes and costs us about $3 round trip), having spotted an advert for a promising German deli (“Over 30 cheeses”). We’ve already got a decent bottle of red (we hope) at the hotel– the proverbial jug of wine. We supplement it with a king’s ransom of gorgonzola, cheddar, pepper salami, parma ham, olives cured in oil, fresh breads (the proverbial loaf). In lieu of dinner, we gorge on these goodies, consume the entire bottle of wine, and pledge an oath not to be the only customer in an “Australian” grill in Thailand.
We had a couple extra days before we had to go to Pattaya to meet some friends, so decided to stay at the Hyatt for another 3 days. The hotel had no regular rooms, so we had to move to the Club level. You gotta do what you gotta do.
The 10 days at a 5 star resort ended up costing us about $150. Not bad.

Next: Pattaya

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