This weekend, a busted up knee, constant back pain and a hacking cough could not prevent me from joining Pae, Bubbles and Mom and Dad for a quick jaunt down to the beach in Hua Hin, one of the more accessible sun-and-fun spots away from the big city. The parents came down to visit for a week since the three of us weren't able to make it home to Ubon for the traditional family celebration of both New Years as well as birthdays of Cowboy (P'Neung, Pae's big brother) and N'Mai (Cousin) who were both born January 1st.We had planned the weekend for Saturday-Sunday, but once the family showed up in town after their 8+ hour drive from the east, Pae got a message saying that her crossover training for the Boeing 747's that her airline flies internationally was to start early morning on Sunday. That news, good news because she would be certified on 747's as well as the MD-80 series aircraft she currently flies, kinda threw a wrench into the whole weekend plan but we reformulated the plan for a super-quick hitter and still planned to make the 3 hour drive.
I ended up making most of the trip lying on my back in the back of the big Toyota Fortuner because my back couldn't handle gravity much less the added vertical pressure of the three hour drive on what I'm guessing is a ruptured disk between two vertebrate in my upper back. Nothing like a constant reminder that you're alive...shocks up and down your spine and arm with every tiny bump in the road.
When we got to Hua Hin, early evening, we checked into the hotel that Pae found for us and got directions to a new place that oped up called "Plern Wan". Plern Wan is a little olden days themed collection of stores and food places, with a ferris wheel, carnival games and even a small theater. It was a very antiquey looking place, and being newly opened, very popular with the Thai tourists.We then went to the "Walking Street/Night Market" at town center. In the daytime it's just another street with businesses on either side, deserted looking in fact, but at night it transforms into a gathering point for foreign and Thai tourists alike, with food, souvenirs, clothes, caricature sketching, and all of the normal tourist trap types of things where money can be made. For us, after doing the night market once or twice a year, there were places we can't miss in the near one kilometer long stretch of open air market.
One of these places is a smoothie stand that makes probably the best fresh mango smoothies in the Kingdom. For 140 baht (approx. $4.00) we got two strawberry smoothies and two mango smoothies as well as a strawberry-banana concoction for me. I would pay that much for good smoothie anywhere in the world, but here we get FIVE for just as cheap!
We had seafood for dinner, of course, being in such close proximity to the Gulf of Siam. We walked the strip to see what food places looked 1. crowded and 2. yummy. We noticed that out of say 10 large places, 9 of them were jam packed with white faces...all of the restaurants are out in the open under the Hua Hin night sky, all of them grill both steak and seafood right out in the open, and all of them have alcohol. Some have entertainment, but since there are just in a row, one after another after another, not all of them are blasting live bands or pirated music.We decided to go to the place we saw next to a 7-11 that was pretty much all Thai customers, figuring Thais ate there because it was more familiar in its service and taste (meaning they didn't dumb down the flavors of the dishes to fit the western palate). We weren't disappointed as we sat and enjoyed a big thing of tom yam goong (spicy shrimp stew), clams fried with egg and flour, steamed "blood clams" (my name for the dish of course), giant grilled shrimp, Deep fried whole fish topped with mango salad, shrimp with cashews (not very Thai but I think the family always orders something like that when I'm with them, still not sure if I can eat Thai-Thai food), and shrimp balls with sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. I'm sure I know the Thai names for these dishes, but I'll not even try! The food came in waves, this picture taken at about the half-way point. One dish that we ordered never actually came and we ended up cancelling the order...WE SUMMARILY DESTROYED EACH DISH as the spread sat almost quivering before the five of us with really no hope of any other fate than a slow digestion.This trip was Pae's treat by the way! Since she saved most of her first paycheck from flight attendanting, she wanted to treat her parents to a nice weekend together. As we were leaving Bangkok to Hua Hin she actually got a message on her phone telling her that her 747 training was moved to Monday rather than Sunday! Now we had an extra day to play with, rather than rushing and trying to pack everything into a short one day trip. Obviously, food was probably one of the biggest highlights of the trip, as is with almost every trip we go on!
There was the beach, Hua Hin Beach that is packed with European tourists and retired expatriates, and Cha-Am beach a few clicks up the road that caters to mostly Thai tourists. It was sunny but windy...no rain...great beach weather.One cool thing that happened while in Hua Hin was that Pae had decided that we should all eat Eggs and such for breakfast, since we hadn't had a western breakfast for quite a while. On the way home from the night market, near where we parked the car, we passed S&P Bakery. There was a menu outside with pictures of scrambled eggs, bacon, juice and pancakes. Pae smiled, eyes widened like a kid in a candy shop and it was decided! Breakfast here, tomorrow morning! Indeed we did have eggs at S&P the next morning and who walks in to pick up some take out? Boyd Kosiyabong, singer/songwriter. And not just any singer...but what MJ was/is to pop, what Elvis was/is to rock, what O'Reily and Hannity are to foaming-at-the-mouth right-wing fanatic conservatism, P'Boyd is to Thai love songs and ballads. It was pretty exciting to see him, take a picture and thank him for his music in person.On the way home we stopped off at the floating market in Amphawa and I took a bunch of pictures there. That's one for later on in the week though...I need to go teach conduction, convection and radiation to third graders!
We had a great weekend down south of Bangkok. It was good to see the family and good for me and Pae to get away from work and away from BKK life for a few days. It was also good to visit Hua Hin again...it may be a while before we can visit together again...
Aloha and don't forget to click on the picture of the European in a Speedo... I know you can't resist! It just screams "set as background" if you ask me!!