Last Days in Hua Hin, Visiting the Beach and Saying Goodbye

This has been a bit long in the making, I’ve had a few personal issues which led to me sort of shutting down and panicking for a brief moment.. Now I’m back on form, thought I’d write about my trip on a bike down to Sam Roi Yot beach.

The day after arriving to Peter and Dtor’s and realising that it’s quite far out from the centre of Hua Hin, decided to hire a bike for the next two days. Peter recommended a good rental place, and once again I was free to go where I pleased.

The first day all I really did was get to know the surroundings – especially my way back and forth from Peter and Dtor’s, and catching up on blogging at ‘The Shed‘ guest house with a plethora of shakes. For those following my Facebook, this was the first time I also got stopped by the traffic cops for my non-Thai appearance and asked for my licence:

Loud whistling
“License”
“Oh, I didn’t think I needed a licence to drive this”
“License at home?”
“No license”
“Over there please” “What happen to nose?”
“Oh this? It was sunburn”

Two more traffic cops sat behind a desk, both of whom didn’t speak English asked for my passport via the English speaking traffic cop.

“Where you go”
Told them Peter’s village name
“When you leave?”
“A few days I think”
“You from England?”
“Yes, London”
“Ah Chelsea!”
“Yes but I’m an Arsenal fan”
“Not the same since Robin Van Persie left”
“Ha!” “So you support Chelsea?”
“No, Man Utd”

Whereupon I was issued a 200 Baht fine, they were remarkably pleasant I must add, given a slip of paper, and asked politely to go on my way.

“But I still don’t have a license, can I drive the bike?”
“Yes, 24 hours with ticket”
“Thank you, I’m so very sorry I really didn’t know you need a license”
“It okay, okay, you like Thai girls?”
“Yeah but that’s not why I’m here”
“Oh you like men?”
“Ha, no”
Laughter from all the cops
“Okay, good luck, happy new year, bye”

Straight to ‘The Shed’ again to Google license necessity for Thailand! Turns out they were right, so I guess I was just unlucky to get stopped, you do need a license but no-one ever asks for it when you hire a bike – oh, and as a side note, you should never hand your passport out – take a photocopy and give it to the rental place – if they don’t accept it then go to another.. If you’re stopped and you don’t have a passport then you could get in big trouble.

And, as Dtor said when I told her, it’s cheaper than a taxi fare! Ha, so true.. I guess at the end of the day it’s gonna happen, and worse will befall you if you get angry about it or with them, so smile, say sorry, go about your day.

After finishing up the blogs it was around time to head home before it got dark. Driving around is dodgy enough in the day, I’m a bit like my mum when it comes to driving in the dark, forget it! If you add my virgin driving skills together with insane drivers on Thai roads, and the only protection a styrofoam helmet, I’d rather not risk it.

Peter suggested that we go back into town, that he was going to drive us in, he’d switch the car for the bike, and drive home on it, then I could see the night market and check out Boots the chemist! Ha, 5,400 miles away from home and there’s a bloody Boots here! Then I could head over to the shop for about 10 to 10 and get a lift back with Dtor after she closed the shop. Peter also suggested that I could stay another night, which I gladly accepted, and we headed into Hua Hin.

I didn’t go to the night market, I was set on doing the last blog I’d photographed for, all about the Family Tree and its beautiful products. So, after visiting Boots, getting some Tylenol, Ibruprofen and some back ache pads – headed back to ‘The Shed’ and sat and blogged (and got bitten by mozzies all to hell).

Finally finished it at 9:30, so sat and enjoyed life passing by, and a very generous glass of Merlot from the Mancunian owner, then headed back to the shop just 5 minutes away.

When I got there, supposed to be closing at 10, a pair of Chinese girls were racking up the total by buying lots of the beautiful soaps and lotions from the Bangkok women’s group. However, they were after a huge discount – and getting quite stressy when they weren’t offered it – fair enough haggling is bound to happen, but these girls were asking for more than it was profitable for the shop to let them go at.. You have to make more than you buy the item for and I saw for a moment, just how calm and balanced Dtor is! I’d have straight kicked them out of the shop.. and I dare them to try that to an Arabian merchant haha! They’d get laughed out of the shop.

But, then a really nice pair of ladies walked in, one from Sweden, one from Denmark, they’d become very good friends in the last day just by being neighbours in their hotel.. Such warmth and smiles in direct comparison to the two Chinese girls previous. After they’d bought some beautiful jewellery and been given a small gift FoC from Dtor, they left beaming and we could shut the shop up.

After telling Dtor how amazing I thought she handled the rude Chinese girls, we had a great chat about Buddhism and the principles.. now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a religious man, neither am I some hippy, but Buddhism and it’s way of life suddenly seemed really appealing.. For one it’s nothing like Christianity, Catholicism, or any of the main organised religions.. You study and learn, and – at after a certain point you can choose to become a buddhist if you wish, or not, or whatever you like.. Instead of having to become a Christian/etc.. and then learning more about it – I find buddhism fascinating, positive, rewarding and maybe I’ll read some more about it.

We said goodnight, and I slept, as usual, to Blackadder playing on my laptop!

Beach day!

The previous day Peter had mentioned Sam Roi Yot beach as a long, but well worth it ride.. we were both up around 8:00, and after coffee and a cigarette he suggested leaving early to make the most of it, and it’s around an hour and a half’s drive away.

Hopped on the scooter, and drove – I still can’t get over what an amazing experience this is! Within 20 minutes I was outside Hua Hin and the roads were less busy.. Peter had given me some awesome directions which I saved as a pic to my iPhone, as I knew I may not be within wifi range out in the sticks. It took slightly longer than 2 hours, mostly because I went one turning too far and drove for 10 minutes before realising my mistake, asking a local for the Tesco Lotus which is a key landmark for the route, and heading on my way.

Water mirages on one of the many long stretches of road en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Water mirages on one of the many long stretches of road en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Stunning scenery.. peaceful, quiet, no cars on the road, to the left and right were mountains, farms and – okay, at one point – some nasty swamp that I’d hate to be living near to!

One of the swamps en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot beach

One of the swamps en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot beach

Stunning roadside scenery en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

Stunning roadside scenery en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot

One of the many cattle farms en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot, a cow pictured

One of the many cattle farms en route from Hua Hin to Sam Roi Yot, a cow pictured

Is this a Heron...? I'm not sure, but there's loads of them in Thailand

Is this a Heron…? I’m not sure, but there’s loads of them in Thailand

The real beauty was, after turning off at Tesco Lotus it was nigh on a straight road all the way there! I eventually arrived to Sam Roi Yot beach, running low on fuel so I needed to refill – found a road side local shop with a petrol pump and decided the 50 Baht per litre was a bit expensive, and only got one litre, then sat in a beachside bar having a well deserved mango and passion fruit shake! (The best shake I’ve had so far). Possibly the only down side was that it’s a place for high end tourists, and people that can afford a beach-side condo.. At the bar I had eyes on me for my tattoos, and travelly appearance. Mostly by a German family who clearly had money.. I had my ‘dude it’s a free country’ hat on, and ignored, enjoying the sun and shake.

This beach is damn long.. like at least two miles, I drove up and down it once before heading to the far end, parking up the bike, changing into shorts and t-shirt, taking off the flip flops and walked a mile up the beach half in and half out of the water.

This gave me a lot of time to think, and photograph of course!

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

Wise from the last motorcycle outing, I’d covered my arms and neck with sun cream… but, stupidly not my legs (the last 4 days have been very painful, and would be more so if it wasn’t for the Aloe Vera from Dtor – thank you so much!!) I’d walked as far as I could so I turned back, stopped halfway for a shake and a meal, the owner of the place had a real nice bike, a Honda Steed:

Honda Steed belonging to the owner of the Monkey Beach Bar, Sam Roi Yot Beach, Thailand

Honda Steed belonging to the owner of the Monkey Beach Bar, Sam Roi Yot Beach, Thailand

One thing I’ve noticed in Thailand, heat haze! Jeez, makes it near impossible for a photographer to get some good shots of anything more than 500 metres away.. There were islands just offshore, but thanks to the haze they haven’t come out well in the photos.

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

The beach at Sam Roi Yot

I finally reached my bike, thankful it was still there, after about 2 hours walking (and burning my legs).. so I changed back to long sleeve and bottoms, and set off back home. I could have felt sad for leaving such a beautiful vista behind, except put me on a motorbike and watch me smile!

I arrived back in Hua Hin in just under the time it took me to get to Sam Roi Yot – near the San Paulo hospital though were traffic cops, they eyed me – waved their implements in their hands and whistled whilst pointing me to park up.. bar-stewards!! Knowing I had the ticket from yesterday, and although it was out of time (by around 2 hours) the traffic cop pulled me over.

“License”
“Ah, no I don’t have a license”
“400 Baht”
“400? Oh, but I have this from yesterday” and pulled out the slip
“Ah, 200 Baht”
“Really? But..” oh stuff it, act nice, say sorry, hand over the cash

Then, the guy looks around and pockets the 200 Baht.. sneakily.. little sneaky so and so!

“Do I get a ticket? Like this??”
“No, now go, bye”

Well, cheaper than a taxi fare, and 200 Baht cheaper than he originally wanted. But sensed this was going to be a regular occurence in Hua Hin, so I was glad my bike was going back in the morning.. maybe if you’re going to rent a bike, try and think of it costing 350 Baht per day, rather than the hire of 150.. that way if you get lucky you’re saving money if you don’t get stopped by the traffic cops!

Back to Dtor and Peter’s place to help with the online marketing of The Family Tree, before going to sleep..

The next day I was heading back to Bangkok, never outstay your welcome of course! And before heading to the minivan, Peter and Dtor offered to buy me breakfast and I went with them whilst they went to the local school that Louie would like to go to in May, I stayed in the car whilst they made their best effort to come across as nice people (not very hard) and to try and beat the insane competition to secure a place for Louie. Now I know what dogs feel like when they’re locked in a car! Wow.. sweat dripping off me, I eventually fell asleep – feeling lucky that I’d brought some water with me.

They came back and we headed to nearr the shop, me and Dtor went for a shake in the awesome place next door to the shop, but I soon finished and waved goodbye to Dtor and Peter, the kids and the awesome and unique place that’s Hua Hin, destined for bustly Bangkok!

 

A BMX With A Motor Became My First Truly Eye-Opening Experience In Thailand

After the longest journey in the world, arriving in Krabi proved to be far too relaxing.. as I said it’s more sedate here, but also a hub of tourism due to the central location for trips to the various islands dotted around.

This may be also because I chose to stay in a hostel, rather than hotel, but so many French, German and English folks come to Krabi. And generally they stay at Pak-Up hostel.

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel in Krabi

The outside of the Pak-Up hostel

Here is where I met Alyx..

She was on the same long-ass train as me as well as the following buses.. Immediately heard her French accent as she talked on the train to a Thai girl, asking for advice on Thai language whilst here. While I didn’t speak to her on the train, as soon as we arrived to Surat Thani and heard her say ‘Krabi’ to one of the station attendants I knew that I wanted to speak to her and find out her story.

So it was, from day 1 to now I feel a strong connection to Alyx, very easy going and respectful, but also likes a beer and a smoke. We discussed plans (or she discussed her plans, I admitted my lack thereof) and she’s heading to Ao Ton Say (or Sai, you can’t Google Maps this place), a secluded and small island for Christmas with her friends (for French it’s Xmas eve that’s the main day) I was invited to join, throughout the two days of full on conversation we spoke of her plans and it did sound very good to go to one of the beaches, but I felt it wasn’t the right time to change my plans – and I had the hostel booked for 5 days, so, despite agreeing at first, and subsequently feeling bad for going back on my word, she understood.

What an amazing two days!

I’ve met a lot of people in my life, but rarely you find someone where the conversation is flowing and rare moments of silence. This was the 48 hours in Alyx’s company. Everything from deep to political to life in general. The one thing I valued most was an exchange of language. She spoke extremely good English, and I now understand I speak very good French. At lots of times during the conversation a word would crop up one of us wouldn’t understand and so the next 5 minutes would be explaining the word. This was neither a sexual nor physical attraction, but a very visceral and deep understanding of our lives and so the flow was perfect.

So

Arriving in Krabi during the rain, and each subsequent morning for the next two days, I had thought this could be a washout place. But, the Pak-Up hostel was super awesome, clean and centrally located, and most of all cheap.. There is cheaper, and I’ll have to find these places, but it’s a great place and definitely worth staying in if you ever hit Krabi Town.

One of the benefits is there’s people from all walks of life, and all areas of the world staying here.. You’re always guaranteed a friendly conversation and because of the nature, everyone is open to being talked to and talking to. I have to share with a potential 7 others, but by the time I hit the sack everyone’s asleep so there’s no real interaction inside the dorm.

Skype was a lifesaving and a homesick inspiring experience

I’d promised Olivia and my family a Skype the first Sunday that I arrived. The 23rd was my first date where I’d said I’d be online at 7pm here, 12 noon there.. So, as it came to it I found a place with Wifi and Chang, happened to be with Alyx but she sat reading GQ whilst I spent the next hour and a half Skyping with no sound, but everyone could hear me.

Speaking with my family made me homesick for Christmas dinner, mum’s mashed potatoes, family conversation, the sleep at 3pm and the arguments for the next 5 days.. speaking with Olivia made me happy – she was looking forward to her own family time and of course excited. Speaking with Rob and Karina grounded me and made me realise that I missed their faces and their company a lot. I won’t say in particular what it was that made me – but Rob and Karina know!

Me and Alyx whiled away the hours when Bernie turned up, from Canada, and has been to Thailand 6 times.. we enjoyed each other’s company and shared the stories that you share when meeting people for the first time. And then Dominic turned up, also French, but professed to not know English at all but actually spoke perfect English – so this forced me even more to practice the language after English I know the most. It turned out that Dominic was going to the same place as Alyx and so she had a travelling companion, of the same nationality to spend time with.

Next morning’s breakfast was coffee and a pineapple shake..mmmmmmmmmm… this is awesome, nice espresso and an even nicer and more refreshing shake (sans le lait, bien sur ! Pure pineapple)

The beautiful pineapple shakes in Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

A pineapple shake at Chokdee Restaurant, Krabi

The faking dog

This dog faked a back leg ailment, every 5 minutes after dragging himself down the road he’d stand up and walk back up to drag himself again

But.. followed by the first Chang, then the second, then the day degraded from there.. Sadly this was not either Alyx’ or my bad influence, we were both as bad as each other.. But also not to say that the day was ruined, again we talked very fluidly and discussed life issues, politics, exchanging vocabulary and more.

For the French, Xmas eve is the day to celebrate, so she had planned to go to Ao Ton Say that day, but as the day progressed and the beer flowed it got to a point where the last boat had sailed and she had to stay one more day. Bad for her to miss meeting her friends for the special day, but good for conversation and discussion.

We said goodnight and I said I’d come say hello in Chokdee restaurant/bar tomorrow morning. And so Alyx and then Dominic turned up and we.. well, they talked for 2 hours before departing for Ao Ton Say. I met my best friend during the trip, a ginger cat who seemed to want to ‘do a Kitsy’ and sit on me all day!

My new best friend, the ginger cat

My new best friend, the ginger cat

Then came the first defining moment for me of the trip.. I hadn’t blogged (I had written in my journal) but I was very aware I was just having conversation for 2 days and nothing more, no pictures. Which… isn’t a bad thing, but was against the primary purpose of my trip – to photo blog. So once Alyx left I felt a lot more in harmony with myself and the desire to experience Krabi after 3 days of not doing so.

The first day I’d spoken to my cousin Jenty and she’d said her friend is in Krabi, so to meet up. I’d organised a meeting at Viva the pizza restaurant. Turned up at 8 and she said she’d be there with friends. I turned up and didn’t know what she looked like, there was a group of people to my right and all of a sudden a Portsmouth accent piped up “Are you Matt?” and so for an hour or so I discussed my options with some expats and came away.. well.. none really the wiser but happy to hear a familiar accent during my far East travels. I had my first glass of red wine since landing which was a good, but expensive (it’s the same price for red wine as it is in the UK) experience, and met my first vegan (who asked for no cheese on the pizza, Pizza Express-style)

I returned to my hostel and unloaded, went back out for a smoke and met a couple of guys (I forget their names) one from Finland, and one from Japan.. The Japanese guy was doing the world on a long boat! Wow! And so with his broken English and my non-Japanese we managed to talk about their travels for an hour..

The Japanese longboatman that I met

The Japanese longboatman that I met

Afterwards I met another French guy Alain, from Bordeaux, and once again I find myself connecting most with the French.. maybe I should have been born French! Alain is super cool, and on a similar wavelength to me, similar aged daughter and life situation. We decided that if I head to Laos in the next 15 days, we should meet up – I’d like to, he’s switched on and once again the conversation was flowing..

Then around 5 others turned up and we all talked, all from different places in the world – Germany, France, England and South Korea. The decision was to go up to the roof bar and get a “Black Cock Bucket” which I’m still not sure what it is.. vodka definitely, but not harsh tasting like vodka. We talked, drank and played Jenga (record 31 stacks by the way!) but the night was ending, Alain had to visa run the next day so left first, then one by one we all dissipated and I went to sleep relatively early (2am).

I was very aware of what the couple from London told me during my visit to Krabi, that they’d hired a bike and just gone somewhere and enjoyed – they were not wrong! – Next morning I hired a motorbike for 150 Baht (£3) until 7 pm, this was around 1pm, so tomorrow I’ll hire one earlier and make the most of it.

Wow

I’ve never ridden a motorbike before, this was the first time in my entire life. I felt ashamed to ask the bike rental guy how to operate a bike.. but it had to happen – I started and stopped the bike, asked how it restarted, then how it went forward and how you could refuel it.

The initial embarrassment was replaced with an amazing sense of free spirit! I mean I’ve ridden a BMX before, for many years, but once you add a motor it’s a whole different story. I went North, East, South and West of Krabi because I could, relatively quickly. I was aware that the beautiful limestone cliffs I’ve seen everywhere were on the road following the river North, so first step was to drive as straight as I could towards these.

En-route there were a few, but in fact they’re dotted everywhere as I’m hearing.. so tomorrow I’ll maybe hit Ao Nang, or nearby, because it’s so close (and Bernie the Canadian recommended) I was even looking at buying a bike of my own, but they’re no cheaper there than here – around 50,000 Baht (£1,000) so out of my price range.. maybe £50 perhaps, but not a grand.

I went and came back to Krabi a lot, but towards the end of my rental, and fuel gauge, I drove out North again.. at one point I saw a road sign to a waterfall and decided to drive the 22km there.. fair enough my fuel was short so around 7km from the goal I headed back to avoid a potential charge for missing the 7pm return time.

This is a really liberating experience, wind in your hair, as fast as your 50cc will allow, on relatively quiet – and straight – roads. I recommend this to anyone visiting Thailand, but please be careful – the drivers don’t give a crap about safety, especially the car drivers. So if you’re not careful you could end up in a bad way like the French guy, Mat (also a photographer) that I met.

I settled down to blog in the hostel and Alain turned up again so we chatted at length before his trip to Koh Tao tomorrow.. this is why this is being posted around 7:30 instead of 5pm UK time!

I’ve enjoyed Krabi but I think my time is near to ending here. I don’t really want to spend a lot of time in one place so tomorrow after the bike ride, and to maintain the 2 days minimum at the Good Dreams guesthouse to satisfy the 150 Baht price (£3) instead of a single night 200 Baht (£4) price, I’ll look at where to go next – definitely North to stay with Ella’s brother Peter in Hua Hin, but not sure about the journey on the way.

If I can offer you any advice though, it’s to hire – and be sensible with – a motorbike in Krabi. I’ll leave you with some of the beautiful sights from along the way, and fill you in when I get to the internet next.

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

Some mysterious building on a hill near Krabi

More limestone rock near Krabi town

More limestone rock near Krabi town

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Me, on a motorbike! With beard!

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Limestone Rock near Krabi Town

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Just one of the beautiful limestone rock outcrops near Krabi

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

Beautiful scenery near Krabi town

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

A random boat near Krabi town harbour

The river near Krabi

The river near Krabi