Friday, November 29, 2013

Karon Beach

Our hotel is conveniently situated at the north end of Kata Beach. We're happy up here. You don't want to be in the middle of the beach because there's a Club Med that spans almost the entire length of the beach and you can't get through it, so you have to walk around it. The south end has more restaurants and bars, but up here has quick access to Karon Beach for a little change of scenery.

Just a 15 minute walk from our hotel put us at the south end of Karon Beach.

As you can see, today was gorgeous. We laid out for a few hours on our his & hers towels we picked up in Hua Hin.

Then we went to go play in the beautiful warm water. Seriously, so nice. And then the waves started picking up...

I've always wanted to get a picture inside the curl of a wave like the ones you see in surfer magazines. Turns out they're a lot harder to get than I thought. They crash too early or too late or the curl's not big enough or the picture isn't level or there's people in the way or water on the lens. I took about 40 pictures and videos, most of which were examples of all the things I just listed. But I'm really happy with a few of them. I'm really excited to make that video. I'll embed it here later. But here's my favorite picture for now...

After a few hours, we went back over to Kata Beach. We like it better than Karon. The sand is nicer and it's wider and a little less crowded. Laying out here was cut a little short when a 30-minute rain storm came through. We hid out under some trees and then we found a vacant stall tent when it got really heavy.

When we finally decided to call it a day, we stopped to get some rotee, which is a Thai banana pancake. It was surprisingly yummy.

We ate dinner in the same area at the south end of the beach. This time we ate at a place that gave us free garlic bread and minestrone soup. It was called Tomato Restaurant. And it was awesome. Thai food with Italian appetizers. :)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Kata Beach

We took a way too expensive taxi (we negotiated down to 350 baht for the 20 minute drive) from Patong down two beaches to Kata. It's a cute little town with a nice beach that is far less crowded than Patong Beach. We picked out a spot that happened to be right next to the lift off spot for the parasailing people. It was fun to see people "Running! Running! Running" and then pop into the air.

As you can see, it was a pretty cloudy day today. The sun popped out a few times, but not for very long. It's amazing how different a beach looks in the sun compared to a cloudy day.

After a few hours of laying out (Isa is reading Divergent) we walked along the beach for sunset...

...and then wandered through town looking for food. We were hoping that Kata would be a little less expensive than Patong, and we were happy in that every restaurant offered discounts and deals. We ate at one that gave us free fruit and veggies (all you can eat, YUM!) and all Thai food on the menu was just 99 baht. So we ate a lot.

One last thing about Kata, it's like little Russia here. We felt out of place on the beach. We were completely surrounded by people speaking Russian, and it was weird. We've never been in a place with so many white people and still felt like such a minority.

Oh, and here's a picture of our hotel room. It's pretty sweet.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Patong Beach and Bangla Road

Our plan today was to go to the beach and hang out on Bangla Road. That's it. Needless to say, we rocked it.

We had heard bad things about Patong Beach, but we found all the negative things to be completely wrong. We heard it was full of trash, but we'll let you be the judge of that.

The sand was actually really nice. And we loved these little butterfly shells.

The reviews say this beach is super crowded, but we didn't think it was that bad. There were a lot of people, but there was a lot of space too.

And we even had a cruise ship in town this day, so at least a few of these people are from the ship.

There's lots of activities on the beach, from the jetskis you saw earlier to parasailing and anything else you want to do.

We went for lunch on the beach. I can't tell you how much we love eating food on the beach. It's seriously one of our favorite things ever.

After our beach times, we went home to change and then headed back out to Bangla Road.

Bangla Road is the naughty part of town. It's basically one long block of debauchery. Night clubs, peep shows, ping pong shows, pole dancing, strip shows, bars, and (everyone's favorite spectacle) ladyboys. Some people swear you can tell which ones are ladyboys and which are actual girls, based on their adam's apple or their hands, but I can't. Some of them are crazy hot, but they're dudes. Or at least used to be. It's a trippy thing to wrap your head around. They're also pretty strong and forceful (again, because they're actually guys), and they don't like people taking their pictures without paying. So here are some screengrabs from when I was shooting in incognito mode.

As you can see in both pictures, they're not shy. The guys often get more than just a picture.

You know we're not quite the party type, so you're not going to get any sketchy details since we walked straight down the middle of the street and declined all salacious offers. Except for one thing that we just couldn't reject.

Has anybody ever heard of Swensen's? They have signs up all over that say, "America's Favorite Ice Cream." We thought it was a good ploy because Asians love American stuff, even if it's not actually in America. But then there we are, two American's eating their ice cream, so all the Asians must be thinking, "It's true! This must be America's favorite ice cream if they're eating it!" In Swensen's defense though, it's pretty darn good.

But here's something that's undeniably American:


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hua Hin to Phuket

Travel day today. We started this morning in Hua Hin, at sunrise. We had heard sunrises are special in Hua Hin because the monks walk along the beach. Since this was our last day in Hua Hin (ever - we're definitely not coming back), we decided to wake up and run over to the beach. Except when the time came, Isa opted to stay in bed and just look at my pictures later.

Although I did see a monk, it didn't look like much of a tradition. It seemed more like a monk happened to be walking on the beach. Most of the beach was completely deserted.

After that, we ate breakfast, bought some snacks for our flight, packed our bags, and walked up the road to where we had seen a minibus stop yesterday. We booked a trip back to Bangkok for 180B each. That took us to Victory Monument.

Then we felt like locals at this point, since we're so familiar with this area. We took a local bus up to Mo Chit, ate some skewer meat from a street cart, and caught the A1 bus to Don Mueang Airport. It's the same bus we took when we first flew in from Xi'an, so we knew which one to catch without even looking it up.

Then we caught a 3:30 flight from DMK down to Phuket, just about 90 minutes. We were so excited to fly in and see a proper tropical island.

From the airport, we caught a shared minibus into Patong for 180B each - crazy that it cost the same to go 2.5 hours from Hua Hin to Bangkok as it did the 45 minutes from the airport to our hotel. We had heard that things are more expensive down here in the islands, and that appears to be true so far.

After dropping our stuff off at the hotel and resting for a bit, we ventured back out after dark and walked over to Bangla Road just to check it out. I forgot my camera back at the hotel, but we'll be back tomorrow night for sure. It's a crazy couple blocks of nightclubs and ladyboys.

Then we walked on the beach for a bit and found a nice restaurant with tables on the sand. I can't tell you how much we enjoy eating on the beach. Something about yummy food in your belly, sand in between your toes, the sounds and smell of the ocean, the feel of the light breeze. It's the best.

And the food was fantastic for 100B each.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Exploring Hua Hin

So first things first we rented a scooter at the place right next to our hotel. One day, 200 baht (about $6.50 US). Good deal. What we didn't realize is the gas gauge was not broken - it was empty when we got it. :( That will come into play in a minute.

We drove directly out to Wat Huay Mongkol.

This is a giant statue of a famous Thai monk (Luang Phor Thuad) that sits on a hill about 20 minutes inland from Hua Hin. Apparently this monk is well known for his enlightenment and for performing miracles and his mere presence (even as a statue) guarantees your safety. Which may come into play in a minute. :(

The whole thing is free - free parking too. I'm not sure if we would pay to see this, but it's definitely worth seeing for free.

As you walk around the statue, you find other images and statues covered in gold. We found out that you could purchase these little stickers and pay your respects by sticking them on the statue of your choosing.

They're like little gold post-it notes.
At the base of the hill, on both sides, sit exquisitely carved elephants with three trunks.

We left just as seven coach buses arrived together, so it was a good time to take off for sure. We drove for about two or three minutes and then stalled. Weird, right? I got it going again, only to stall a few seconds later again. :( I thought it had died, but when I opened the gas tank, it was dry as a bone.

Out of Gas. Middle of Nowhere.

So here we are, 20 minutes outside Hua Hin, with no idea where to go or what to do. No phone. No ability to communicate. Stuck.

So we said a prayer. Because that's pretty much all we could do.

So I start pushing the moto down the road in the direction of town, and barely a minute later, a kid on a moto stopped to help us. He had zero english ability, but using hand gestures and foot gestures, he got Isa on the back of his moto and me on ours. We're so grateful he was patient with us because we had NO idea what he was trying to accomplish. We knew he wanted to help us, but we couldn't figure out what he could do without a rope or a truck. Then he managed to get behind me just to one side, he put his foot on my back foot rest and he started to move, pushing me along. We started slowly, then quicker and quicker. We drove for about a mile or so, crossing a large intersection that we just prayed wouldn't have any cars coming so we wouldn't have to stop - we didn't, whew! - and he pushed us into a gas station.

If you were ever wondering if God answers prayers, now you know. My goodness were we grateful for that kid. And it looks like Luang Phor Thuad's statue indeed helped guarantee our safety. :)

With a full tank of gas, we took off toward the beach.

Khao Takiab

We parked in the dirt parking lot leading into the beach on the far side of the hill and wandered out onto the sand.

We decided not to hang out here because we wanted to go up monkey mountain (that's the other side of the hill in the picture above - it's actually called Chopstick Mountain, but everyone calls it monkey mountain because, well, you'll see).

You can drive most of the way up the hill and park in the lot just below the temple, right next to this sign.

Which is serious, because if you do decide to feed them, they swarm and it's crazy.

But if you keep your food in your bag, they just hang out with you.

We hiked up the stairs to the temple on top (well, it's actually about half the way up - I couldn't find a way to get to the peak).

But even if it's not the very top, the temple still gives you a pretty good view of the coastline.

We returned to our moto and drove around to the backside of the mountain and found a vacant platform with a few pagodas and statues. It was interesting and photogenic, especially on a nice day like today.

There were a few rogue monkeys down here, one of which tried to run off with my water bottle after he stole it from my backpack. I chased him down and he dropped it and ran off. I need my water when it's this hot!

At the base of the hill, we stopped by a cute little fishing village. We were going to grab some fresh food because a friend of ours said it was delicious, but none of it looked quite right and so we chickened out.

From here, we drove north of Hua Hin toward Cha-Am in search of a better beach. We failed. So we returned to Hua Hin and set up camp near the town center.

Hua Hin Beach

We watched people playing games, horses strutting by, and the sun setting. (Well, kinda. It set behind us, but the sky was still cool.)

That's monkey mountain and the temple in the distance.

For a pre-dinner snack, we stopped and got Rotee, a Thai favorite. It's like a crepe with bananas or nutella and fried crispy. It was yummy.

Then we headed over to the night market. Full day. Good day.


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