Charming Hua Hin
I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Thailand. That goes for almost everything I come across in this country; the dangerously chaotic traffic, the bad roads and pavements, the predominantly ugly buildings and streets, the shabby shops, the bars and the cheap restaurants – that all serve poor Mont Claire wine from South-Africa (could it be any further away?) out of boxes, the white too warm, the red too cold, and rosé they’ve never heard of – begging monks who bless and open the new shops, shops that might, maybe because of that, go bust within a year, the deceivingly beautiful women – if women at all; watch out, because before you know it they appear to be transgender – telling you they love you, even though they don’t know you; the long beaches, and yes, sometimes even the sea, because it’s too hot; the police, who take action when an accident or crime occurs, only when they can make a quick buck; the tuktuk –and taxi drivers, it’s in their blood to rip you off and … and in Hua Hin it’s no different. Nevertheless, I’ve been living there for a number of years and I love it.
Because when you learn, among other things – there’s more misery to come – to adopt the above – the fact remains that when you get up in the morning – because it’s once more a beautiful day – you never have to wonder what to wear, that the beach is a 5-minute bike ride away, there are ten magnificent golf courses within a radius of less than thirty minutes’ drive, the chances that you will be golfing in the rain are extremely slim, that the daily groceries are available within a two-minute walk, that you and your mate can once again demonstrate your talent for billiards at the pool table, that a beautiful, affordable and fun girl for one night is always available and is able to cure your loneliness in a very uncomplicated way and that the pace of life in Hua Hin is exceptionally calm and enjoyable.
Hua Hin is somewhere between a village and a city. A small-town feeling comes over you when you arrive, but here and there you get an urban view, because of the high-rise Hilton or Marriott and the presence of some towering condominiums further along the coast. Some people say it’s the mundane side of Thailand. That partly has to do with the fact that HM King Bhumibol (recently deceased), watching you from the huge posters throughout Thailand, has his summer palace in Hua Hin. A summer residence located on a piece of land that could easily contain at least thirty football pitches. The palace is located on the coast and the grounds border a main road, with guards in sentry boxes every hundred yards. At sea, the Gulf of Thailand, five warships are permanently placed to make sure His Majesty will not be harmed. The beach along the palace is heavily guarded from both sides, hermetically closed off.
Seen objectively, Hua Hin is just another cozy Thai coastal town, with beaches and palm trees, but in no way comparable to the so-called allure that Cannes possesses.
Thailand has no mundane features whatsoever. When you find yourself in a fancy hotel or restaurant at all, you should be so lucky that a by then apologetically smiling Thai waiter has any idea how to open a serious bottle of wine. It’s no easy job to explain to a regular Thai (does he even exist?) what etiquette is and futile to explain why people would like to pay extra for that.
Sometimes you do see some posh cars driving by in the narrow streets of Hua Hin’s center and if you pay close attention, a couple of times the same ones every night, but like in any other town in Thailand, it is overrun by motorbikes, thousands of them. Most of the time not at all mundanely parked, but preferably in the middle of the pavement, in front of entrances to shops and houses. It’s hard to walk on any pavement in a normal fashion, also because all sorts of merchandise and billboards are set out there or because the pavement has turned into part of a restaurant.
It’s quite a hassle sometimes to reach the night market coming from the coast, where you also find the center and entertainment district. In order to go out, to eat, play pool and drink beer you have to get back. A wide and terribly busy main road, the continuing road, cuts through the town. Crossing from the East of the city to the West, or the other way around, is close to Russian roulette. The big long evening market starts from this road and ends at the picturesque and really beautiful Hua Hin train station.
This station was built and designed in a style that kind of characterizes the whole of Hua Hin. Many council buildings, street signs, bus stops, and the fairly new tourist office all have the same style and design. Very special and characteristic. The word that comes to mind when I see these ornaments is ‘charming’.
And maybe the same goes for the description of Hua Hin. A place where daily life comfortably continues on with people doing their own different things. Mine are amply described above. What occupies me and what frightens me sometimes is how quickly days go by. Take today for example: getting up, shower, yogurt, squeezed oranges, and then writing this piece with lots of coffee that sighs gently an exit through my Douwe Egberts coffee machine, a sound that also makes me happy. Another half day has passed.
Life in Hua Hin is good.
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