Having a car could be equated to freedom in some ways. Such as the option to make a road journey at any time we wish. Now in small and compact cities such a mode of transportation might not be warranted. But once you are out of the urban sprawl, one could be “handicapped” without own transport.
So the adventures on this journey might not had been possible, without having driven. Unless one has much more time to do the same. Which we unfortunately don’t. Sigh. Sometimes we also dream of being young and without obligations (financial or relationship-wise), and having that option to drop everything – and go travel the world.
You would have seen the drive route from Bangkok to Hua Hin (here). This page chronicles the days thereafter. So here goes.
| 17th September
Having spent the previous night in Bangkok and getting out to the night market, it was time to drive. +200km towards the summer retreat of the Thai royals in days past.
|We started our onward drive southwards to Hua Hin, stopping at Bannutawan to make some purchases of Thai Snacks. It was a place where locals stop too because of a nearby temple and was it crowded! Along the way we also made another stop at The Baguette (Cha-am branch) where we bought some pies for our dinner later in the evening. These pies we bought tasted rather good and affordable!
Lunch though was at a place called Pleyuan (66 6, Thetsaban Ban Lat 22 Alley, Phetchaburi 76150. Tel: +66 89 081 2559). To be honest it seemed out of the way as we drove into what seemed like a residential enclave.
|The restaurant is frequented mostly by locals and is definitely not a place one comes by easily. And they have a corner filled with vintage collectibles too, cars and plates included… how would you like to dine with the alien predator looking over your shoulder?|
|Later in the evening we drove into town and joined in the fun of browsing the Cicada market. It seems to be classier, in the sense that there are many more artisans amongst the vendors. Also the wares on display seem to be of better quality too, which enticed Suan to buy some gifts for her friends. Food stalls in the market cannot be missing and there is a large seating area. There is an amphitheater where ticketed performance can be enjoyed after you’ve shopped and dined. One thing is the lack of parking here, but for 50 baht our car was left nearer to the Tamarind market lot.|
|The situation at the Tamarind market differs from that of Cicada in our opinion. The flooring is of gravel ground, unlike that of Cicada which has its own reserved compound – though both are only opened from Friday-Sunday. A live band performs though every night, as one enjoys a meal or drink. Having come over from Cicada, we did not spend a lot of time here.|
It was a rather long day of driving and we determined to settle down at the Boat House Condo. It consists of 3 tower blocks and sections of landed property. We cannot see the beach from the unit we were given though. And it was a duplex that we got, so had to climb up the stairs to the bedroom… The apartment seemed primed for 4-persons’ stay as the couch was laid out for us when we checked in. But alas there was but two.
We did not have dinner outside tonight, but instead dropped by the local supermarket to stock up on necessities. Tip: it appears that alcoholic drinks are not permitted to be sold between 2-5pm every day. There we were with our trolley of beer, only to have to return them to the shelves!
We spent a morning getting to Khao Sam Roi Yot national park and exploring the marshlands before getting to the beach and then back to Hua Hin for lunch.
|About an hour south from Hua Hin, we are headed for the marshlands of the Khao San Roi Yot national park. Actually the park is rather large, and this is but just one section of it. We drove through a village of the same name, with a large Chinese temple and local cemetery before coming to the entrance. And bam we were smacked by a scene so beautiful that we could hardly wait to get out of the car.|
|Entrance is 200 baht/pp and covers entry to a couple of other parts such as the caves and even a beach of this ~100km² park. Hence to make full use of it, one is inclined to visit all the sites. But not for us. We preferred to spend more time here in the marshes, where the morning cloudless skies turned into a heavenly looking scene. Herons on the lookout for fish in the water while we were on the hunt for a perfect spot to take photos.|
|Look at the clouds! The marsh is home not only to fishes but also wetland birds such as herons and the swamp hen. While the crown jewel is said to be the cave where there is a pavilion, but we think the marsh deserves this title more as the largest freshwater marsh in the country (~20km²). And the mountains in the background are certainly a wonderful combined view of the water and sky. The 1km long boardwalk can be accessed freely, but seems some parts are closed off to the public. This is mainly due to the fact that the wood planks are in poor condition and from the website of the park, no plans to fix them too…|
|Actually we did not know that Swamp Hens ate a kind of plant in the marsh. Here was one that was too busy to notice us, as it stripped the exterior of the plant to nibble on the soft inside.
We did not climb to the viewpoint at Khao Daeng, though we did picture the temple there. For one thing Suan was not keen, and having read about the macaques, decided we should skip. Next stop was the Sam Phraya beach and we got there at low tide. So we could see the sand stretching far out into the sea.
|Well, it was getting close to noon time and we heard our stomachs growl at us to head back for lunch. And today aside from seeking a seafood munch we wanted to buy some mango sticky rice from this famous road side stall (+66 32 511 704 for those seeking this place on GPS). It cost 120 baht per serving and it seems everyone was buying many packs… so Suan bought two instead of one to share.|
|Chaolay restaurant is located nearby the mango sticky rice stall and hosts a wonderful view of the bay. There is literally no parking and the tiny alley that they call streets can hardly fit a car. Food’s ok though a little pricey. You know, the nice thing about driving is that you can decided when you’d like to go out. Not during the height of midday, so we enjoyed a siesta back in the condo.|
|And when it came to dinner time, nearby the Condo is the You Yen restaurant situated at the beach. Actually we think they are a combination of two joints. It has the beach on its front, great views as one watch the skies darken while dining. Now one does not really come to Hua Hin for the beach, because it isn’t as nice, but that does not stop the model from posing. Dinner was a mix of east and west, with a lot of beer to wash it down with.|
It was a wonderful day. No doubt we did not spend time climbing up Khao Daeng (which some said is infested with macaques), we did enjoy the wonder of the views at the marshland. And spend more time in the marsh we highly recommend, though the best time to be there is in the early morning.
Indeed it seems a pity to have only seen two places after spending 200 baht per person for the national park tickets. Remember what we said about driving? For sure one can also come here with a tour package or charter a car/van. Because coming here by any other means would be challenging to put it mildly. Of course those who actually stay in resorts in the vicinity of the park would have no issues we think.
It was such an adventure to look or Mrigadayavan palace. Because it was important to find the right military base to get through to it… one that is actually no longer active.
|Google map kept asking us to drive through an active military base… but eventually we found the right one – that has been decommissioned. Now you pay 30 baht/pp for entry. Initially we thought that the palace was closed as the access gate was locked. So we headed to the botanical garden instead. And there was this beautiful array of potted bonsai arranged in a wave like pattern. At the top of the small hill appears to be the statue of the King whom this palace was built. There is a building with a large lawn where evening drinks are served apparently, perhaps for important guests… Eventually we found the entrance at the side of the garden and commenced out palace tour.|
|Don’t you think the architecture looks like stilt houses? There was a traditional Thai orchestra that was practicing as we walked on the ground level. It seems the upper level is no longer accessible to the public. We saw numerous places on the ground floor where there are support beams in place. Perhaps it is to limit too much weight and stress of tourists walking on these wooden walkways… Hopefully restorative works will be completed soon that they can be visited again. Because you are on your own and there isn’t much in the way of artefacts, the tour can be over in a relatively short time.|
|Time for lunch (again?). And today we drove to another restaurant near the condo. Neem Trees is quite popular, because as the lunch hour wore on more customers turned up. filling the parking lot.|
|We also had a big mission today, for after lunch we were seeking dessert. To achieve that we drove all the way back to Hua Hin town. Baan Gliwang is where we had our durian cake and pumpkin sticky rice. While the durian cake was more like chunks of the fruit stuffed into cake, the pumpkin dessert is interesting. It was made into the shape of a pumpkin with a delightful dash of green serving to represent the stalk. Very dainty indeed. Once again this establishment has its back (or front) to the beach. Hence another terrific site to enjoy dessert, coffee (tea for Suan) and the breeze. No dinner tonight, since this was all too rich for the stomach – can you imagine we actually bought some KFC from Bluport mall…|
If one visited the palace with high expectations of grandeur, one might be disappointed. Because it was not built with that intent. For it was to be a retreat of the royals, unwinding from the pomp and formality of courtly life back in the capital. You can only be enamored with that up to a point. Back to basics. That’s what we think this palace was all about.
But today our main source of enjoyment was the food. We cannot understand nor believe how folks who write food blogs seem to be constantly eating on the go. One fabulous lunch followed by delectable dessert was all it took to fill us! So much that we resorted to simple fast food for dinner. Can you imagine that?
Finally touched Hua Hin railway station and the royal waiting room. And we also visited southern Thailand’s only vineyard. Then it was back to town for some shopping.
|We parked at a small lot at the station and walked right into the stations which has no fence. This is the famous royal waiting room that is fenced up and probably never in use. An actually an operating station, there were folks (locals and tourists alike) waiting for the train. The Victorian nature of the station stems from an upgrade initiated by a returning Prince who headed the railways nearly 80 years ago. So this one is called the ‘most beautiful station in Thailand’. And if you ever take the train journey from Hua Hin to Bangkok (and/or vice versa), the duration is ~5 hours.|
|There is a roundabout in front of the station. And on it are relics of the past – eg cabins that are on display. They are now converted into public libraries. Lots of hype, but the awe is over in a couple of minutes. However for us, we were there on a different mission. Nearby is Krua Kannikar, an establishment that specializes in chicken dishes only. This is a small road, very hard to park… Though we did along the road hugging the side. Why were we there? Lunch of course!|
|The food was reasonably delicious as it was affordable. We were early (1130am) and was probably the first customer to sit down. But it was not long before a stream of locals came in. The resident cashier was asleep when we wanted to pay, so we handed the money to a proxy instead.|
|After lunch it was time to drive to a vineyard in the mountains of Prachuap province (~60km away). This is one of the few wineries of the country (started growing only in 2003), and produces sparkling as well too. We had expected it to be quiet, but we were wrong. Not only are there lots of tourists, there are sizeable number of locals coming too. Unfortunately it rained rather heavily while we were there, cutting short the potential touring around of the vineyard.|
|But made the best we did, for some tasting of their wines is a must and with desserts to complement too. This helped us pass the time while the heavens opened up. Groups coming from Hua Hin are frequent, so this is a feature that many tourists opt for while staying in the city.|
You know the think about photos. They can be seductively deceiving. If one looks at the Instagram photos of Hua Hin train station, it might seem romantically beautiful. But then it is just another train station with a nice waiting room. Ten photos later, all that romanticized feeling is over…
Our drive to the vineyard was an interesting one. For as we drove up the mountains, all we could see were bushes and forests, of the tropical kind. So one cannot imagine the fields of vines that would normally adorn a winery. At least of the kind we are used to seeing in Europe and the US. But here we were in the middle of the sub tropics walking about vines that were bearing fruit. And we sampled some of the products too.
It was incredible to know that wines are now made almost anywhere in the world. Come here to taste theirs. It’s quite good really.
Today we spent time exploring the Bluport shopping complex. This one’s a new mall that is apparently only opened a year back. It was supposedly an easy day of window shopping but we still ended up with quite some shopping.
|We did not intend originally to have lunch at Wilaiwan but merely to browse. But the menu beckoned to us and we decided to stay. In fact we had more than lunch. For we had quite a bit of dessert too that was mighty fine. All very nice as one might imagine from the photo of the menu we took. Can’t help but to recommend their roasted duck breast because it was sooo good!|
|After this heavy meal it was time to head out to explore the Bluport mall in detail. Now the last time we came here just for a quick visit to pick up groceries etc. Today we are truly exploring it. Apparently new – ie opened only in late 2016, the mall has an anchor tenant that operates both a food hall and a departmental store. Which is far better than the Market Place further down the road. Parking (4 hours) is also free and can be extended after achieving a said amount of spending at the mall. Here Mel found fried pork skin, which he returned to buy more. And for Suan it was a day to buy dresses and souvenirs.|
|As it was a weekday, the mall was not very busy. So it was fantastic to browse with little in the way of crowds to deal with. The free Wi-Fi worked wonders for Mel as he surfed to update instagram, and Suan definitely found the bargains she looked for when it came to clothing. Better than the night markets! It’s true, to us it seems malls like these are giving the night markets a run for their money. With facilities (ie air-conditioning, toilets etc), the convenience of these places easily won us over. Atmosphere aside of course.|
|Finally Suan got to have a meal at a local branch of Greyhound cafe. Can’t imagine how small the signature tiny chicken wings are… In Singapore they go for ~S$20 while it only cost us 140 baht for the same serving here in Thailand. How one wish to earn Singapore salary and have Thai cost of living!|
To be honest, we did not do any sightseeing today. Unless the exploration of local shopping malls is considered. For it was a day to wake up late, drive out for a late lunch, do some window shopping to work off the calories and call it a day.
Vacations should be about this right? Besides, we had promised no blogging for the entire week. Aside from updating some pictures to Instagram, we spent time doing what couples should… shopping of course! What did you think it should be?
Went to Bluport shopping mall again, just for lunch. And then onto the Baguette’s branch in town to stock up on pies for dinner. Time to pack our bags for tomorrow we fly home!
|We ventured back to the mall today specifically for lunch only at the MK restaurant. Finally made it into one after seeing all of them in the other cities (of Thailand). And after the hot pot lunch we finally succumbed to the Durian ice cream on a cone from Swenson’s (60 baht). The sticky rice version would cost 89 baht. Drove to the Baguette store near town to stock up on pies before driving back to the condo for a little walk to the beach. It was incredible to see how the entire compound seemed lifeless – ie literally no residents at all. Only one landed property had occupants while the rest seems either unsold, or owners do not live there… talk about overbuilding…|
Real estate. At the time of writing this journalog, there was a lot of hype about it. Not just in Hua Hin but also in our little red dot. There never seems to be a bad time to invest in real estate. And we saw for ourselves the boom in construction all over the city – Hua Hin that is.
The condo where we put up for the week was one such development that remains to this day relatively unoccupied. The number of lights in the evenings attest to the lack of residents. Not to mention it seems condo staff seem to outnumber the few residents (like us) more like 10:1! Where are all the owners? Did they buy the units to live in, as a holiday home, to rent out or as a place to store their money?
Don’t get us wrong, the condo was fantastic as you can see with size of the development, the facilities and location (ie the beach right in front). So
barbers realtors will be all over these ‘attributes’. In fact the development was so vast we had to drive from the apartment complexes to the strata-titled landed housing lots that were by the beach. Can you hear the agents in the background whispering into your ears how valuable this investment can be?
Drove back to the hotel we stayed the first night, for dim sum! Wow nearly got into a fender bender. The roads are quite risky! Then it was off to the airport for the flight home.
|Sneaked in a picture of the snack stop at Bannutawan on the arduous drive journey back. We are headed for the Dusit Princess Srinakarin for a dim sum lunch before getting to the airport. Along the way, we topped up 150 baht of petrol (91 blend) while driving across Bangkok’s ring roads. Interesting to know they have rest stops along these city highways too.|
|“The Chinese” restaurant serves both a buffet dim sum or ala carte. We chose the latter since we were pressed for time. For we were in a hurry. After ordering about 7 dishes and polishing it off we headed onto the airport. And it was a pity we did not stay longer, for the ambience was indeed very nice. Well, there is always a next time. Now we’ve got the car with ¾ tank of petrol and we returned it as such. And while getting to the place to drop off the car was not difficult, contacting the National Car folks was incredibly hard as there was only one associate manning the booth.|
|After getting through customs we were given a choice of using either the Royal Orchid or Orchid business class lounge. We chose the latter. The other would have sleeping pods we understood. Well, next time perhaps. The food selection was ok, not fantastic but good (it has enough beer). And it had a view too at the glass windows at the end – looks like the interior of a spaceship in some ways to us… anyway, time to get back into the mood of going home.|
Our drive was a simple one. Not filled with being on the road constantly every day.
So approximately a 800km of driving wasn’t much in fact. There are definitely may sights to be seen, places to go etc. Question is: does road trips have to be hectic? And we did not hire a GPS, merely using Google map and navigation on the phone throughout the journey.
For that one needs mobile data. And we bought a SIM card with 2GB of data for just 299 baht at the airport. Actually it could have been a DIY purchase. Simply scan your passport at the machine, choose a plan and pay. The SIM card is dispensed from the vending machine and you can install it into the phone and start surfing. Same as we did in Phuket. However the ladies at the booth were very eager to help us in the purchase so it was hassle free.
How did you find this itinerary? Did you find it useful for your own plan to drive around Thailand, in particular Hua Hin?