Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand
It is easy to forget that Thailand is not all beaches and azure waters. At some point we’d have to leave the coast and head to the hotter, dryer inland regions. Most of the time, swimming in the sea is the only way to cool down each day, so we wanted to make the most of it.
Nickiy also had to kick start the platelet factory in her bones, so this required a lot of rest and papaya, as far as I could tell. So we’d travel a wee distance then stop for a few days (on a beach) then repeat the process. First on our list was Khanom, about 100km north of our hospital location. This sleepy little place had a raised bamboo hut which could not really support the weight of humans and the nearest place to eat was about 2km away. I’m sure many would have buckled and ridden along the road to the restaurants, but riding at night in Thailand wasn’t nearly as appealing as a cold beer and a walk along the beach through clouds of fireflies. Amazingly we also got a proper photo of us here, and it turned out, a photo of the crazy owner on our bike!
Our next leg north finally put us on the the narrow bit of Thailand, and level with the start of Myanmar to the west. We’d been to Chumphon before, after getting off a late train from Bangkok on our way to the islands. We headed just north of the city to a place catchily titled, Thungwualaen Beach. We avoided some rain as we got ever-so-close then just as we thought it had cleared it began again. We got fully drenched and lost the gloves off the back, so had to go back and find them crushed into the soaking road. Neither of us could see properly but it was only 5km to our beach destination. Ridiculous!
We timed our stay perfectly to coincide with the annual local reggae beach festival. We were quite looking forward to this free, relaxed music on the beach as we watched them set up the speaker gantries, lights and stage. As night fell, the lights complimented the squid jigging boats floating in the bay and reflected off the families picnicking on the beach. Then it seemed to go a bit wrong as someone tried to fit Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver to a not-quite-reggae beat. Unfortunately the vocalist came on and she couldn’t sing in tune, or bless her little Thai socks, even pronounce most of the words. So we made it through that travesty of travesties to be confronted with more; Mungo Jerry In The Summertime ska-style. Oh dear. How hard can it be? Surely you’ve gotta throw some Jamaican numbers in there somewhere.
After the sandflies had had a good go at eating every part of our anatomy, and the ‘reggae’ stage had been torn down, we moved up to the narrowest part of Thailand, Prachuap Khiri Khan. Thailand is so narrow here that just by climbing the hill above the beach, you can look into Myanmar only 15km away to the west. And it looked hilly and jungley, if that is a word. It wasn’t far from this town in 1941 that the Japanese first landed and began their friendly takeover of Thailand. Their landing spot was chosen fairly carefully, as this is where Wing 5 of the Royal Thai Air Force have their home. Clearly they fly some of the most fearsome planes ever made; the Fairchild AU-23 Peacemaker! One of the cool things about this air base is that you can come and go through it as you please (signing in and out, of course) so you can go to this famous beach invasion spot. They love this beach so much that the RTAF clean it themselves every week, or perhaps that is the same as latrine duty, who knows?
So we buggered up our accommodation here. We needed to get away from hotel and hospital air conditioning so went with the fan-only option but without air-con we just could not shift the heat out of our guest house bedroom. We had two fans on full blast all the time. Night time temperature in the room seemed to be about 31 degrees. Windows opened directly to the sea just made no difference. We had cold showers every time we spent a few minutes in the room. We didn’t sleep much. It could have all been solved for another $5 a night more….
We did, however, get to spend this minuscule saving on the freshest and most varied seafood we had encountered so far. This temporary roadside dining area lay opposite the beach promenade and was always busy with locals. Prachuap was one of the few coastal towns that hadn’t built all the way up to the water’s edge. Instead it had made a wide promenade where people could freely sit and drink and enjoy the views of the sandy crescent. This made for a really relaxed town atmosphere. Plus it was always cooler outside than in our room!
Our final look at the sea was in Hua Hin about 100km further north. This place may be where the King spends much of his year, but it was pretty grim. The city was sprawling and congested. The beach was, well, a bit like the one they put on the Thames some years. And the water looked a bit like the Thames too. There are a lot of ex-pats in Hua Hin and this means that they have some very fancy supermarkets. We didn’t want to pass up that opportunity so we bought some camembert and fresh bread and had a seaside picnic for a change. They also have a good night market in Hua Hin, and this seemed like a logical place to get dinner. Unfortunately it was too far to walk so we braved the sheer mayhem of night-time driving, blinking through the airborne grit and blowing the horn pretty much continually.