On Wednesday, Caitlin, Connie, Jessica, Kirsti and I made last minute plans to finally go to the beach.
Usana and I left Nong Khae at around 4pm on Friday afternoon in order for me to catch the minivan down to Hua Hin with Caitlin. The infamous Bangkok traffic got the better of me, and my one hour journey to the capital turned into a tremondous four hours, causing me to miss the last minivan to Hua Hun. Determined that I would eventually get to a beach, my only option was to catch a sleeper train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong, that would arrive into Hua Hin at 0230. Usana was adamant that the train was too dangerous for me to travel alone in the night, and it took a hefty amount of persistence to persuade her that she didn’t need to come all the way with me.
After buying my ticket, Usana took me get dinner. For the first time since being in Thailand there were no street food vendors in our immediate vicinity, so we detoured back to get my dream 7/11 meal; deliciously soft and sticky steamed BBQ pork buns, chocolate milk, coconut juice and caramelised peanuts. Before leaving me to enjoy my feast and wait for the train by myself, Usana sternly gave this thorough do’s and don’t’s list to abide by for my impending journey:
– Do not speak to anyone.
– Do not smile, you have beautiful smile. Do not smile at anybody.
– Do not sleep on the train.
– Keep your eyes open and stare out of the train window the whole journey.
– Do not get your iPad or phone out. Pretend you are poor.
– Do not accept from food from anyone. They want to poison you.
– Do not move from this chair until you get on train.
I laughed hysterically and mocked her for worrying so much, but sat paralysed and glued to my seat the moment she left. Hualamphong was without a doubt the scariest place I’d been to in Thailand. My two hour wait for the train was incredibly overwhelming, primarily due to it being the first time I was actually travelling by the infamous sleeper train, and by myself in Thailand. Dispersed between the weary, harem pant clad travellers were an unnerving amount of street beggars of all ages, roaming the station scouting a place to sleep for the night.
Naturally, the train was late. The grey carriages were like something from a scene of Slumdog Millionaire in appearance, with uncomfortably hard seats and a surprisingly generous amount of legroom. Hualamphong had been so unbearably hot and sticky, that I welcomed the blasting air con of the train for all of about five minuites. Frozen, figuratively and literally, I welcomed the blankets that were flung at all the passengers from the train attendant, who then proceeded to hand out complimentary drinks and snacks. As it was a sleeper train, all the lights were turned out, and I heeded Usana’s advice and sat in complete darkness staring out the train window for four hours.
Regretfully, I learnt I needn’t have bothered as the train guard came to get me as we pulled into Hua Hin at half two in the morning. Having got up at 4am the previous morning to prepare for a school trip with Watnongtake, bleary eyed I stumbled out of the station. Three men bellowed ‘taxi’ at me from across the road, and reluctantly, I had no choice but to accept. A small Thai man passed me a stool to use to clamber up into the back of his pick up truck, and asked me a worryingly amount of times what my hotel was called and if it was even in Hua Hun.
100baht and two minutes later, I arrived at the hotel to Caitlin, Jessica and Kirsti all up waiting for me. I am notoriously an awful packer, with my priorities always in the wrong place. My packing faux pars were outed at Heathrow back in June when I had double the luggage of all my fellow travellers. Caitlin shook her head in disbelief at my having bought 10 bikinis, 3 towels and enough toiletries to stock a large Superdrug, and Usana and Somsri still giggle over the fact that I bought 10 pairs of shoes with me.
In a bid to shake off my bad reputation, I packed only a canvas bag for the weekend. Upon arriving, we realised my ‘packing lightly’ was effectively not bring anything at all. Rummaging for make up remover, I discovered I’d only packed one pair of shorts and one top and no toiletries whatsoever, yet managed to bring 4 bikinis,10 pairs of socks and a full yoga outfit.
We met Connie, who was staying at another hotel, for breakfast and headed for the beach. The glistening sea was visible behind the quaint cafés along the seafront and we ran down a little alley that guided the way from the street to the sand. Frankly, it was utterly disappointing. I pictured idyllic beaches with white sand and crystal waters, and we were standing on a gloomily overcast standard beach.
Determined to find our Thai paradise, we wandered along the shore away from the ports and jettys. The further we walked, the softer the sand became and the clearer the sea and we eventually found our exotic haven to frolick and bask in the sun.
Having drank coconuts, swam in the sea and taken a few too many selfies, we headed to the jazz festival in the evening. With Hua Hin being the residency of the Thai royal family, and jazz music favoured by King Bhumibol, the town regularly holds free festivals. The band on stage were executing wonderfully a jazz rendition of ‘Crazy in Love’ as we entered, and we joined the hundreds of people sat on blankets in the moonlight to watch the performances.
The following morning, we got up at 5am for yoga whilst watching the sunrise. Kirsti led the session, and gracefully showed us the positions that we didn’t even know we could bend our bodies in to.
After an hour of yoga, we meditated as the sun rose, at which point a stray, dishevelled, three legged dog came to sit directly in front of me, completely ruining all of my zen.
Feeling tranquil and calm, we headed back to our hotel to nap before check out before ending our weekend with a decadently delicious breakfast of banana, coconut and caramelised cashew pancakes.