We love life here in Bangkok, we really do… But, it’s great to get out of the city every once in a while… And one of those “once in a while” times was this weekend.
Mothers day here in Thailand is celebrated on August 12th, which is the birthday of Queen Sirikit the” mother of all Thai people”, with Mothers day being a public holiday Jo decided we’d take the opportunity to get away from the city, our choice of destination? Hua Hin, we’ve been there a couple of times before, sadly our previous visits were during lockdown where bars were closed due to COVID… well… Officially closed… As I wrote in a previous blog, we did manage to find an illegal beach bar on a previous visit, so booze was available… But the idea of Hua Hin being a party destination was something new to us.
There are various options when it comes to travelling from Bangkok to Hua Hin… We could fly (a tad expensive), we could get a taxi (relatively inexpensive but you are stuck in a car for three hours) we could get a taxi to Pattaya and then jump on a ferry (No way am I being stuck on a boat!) or we could catch a train… We’ve gone the taxi route in the past… This time we opted to travel by train.
Hua Lamphong Station is a strange place… Not the strangest place I’ve visited while living in Asia, but it IS a strange place, it’s a building sort of stuck in a little pocket in time… It belongs in the past but here it is, stuck in the middle of the city (it’s due to be closed and made into a museum as soon as the new modern train station is opened) and bustling with life. Full of life. The place is packed full of people.
The station is loud… There are the sounds you would expect to hear at any train station, there are people talking loudly, a random kid is walking around with a parakeet perched on his shoulder, fortune tellers have set stalls up near to the ticket counters, at one end of the station is a huge golden display with pictures of Queen Sirikit and glamorous looking Thais are wearing traditional dress wandering around the place… It is an assault on the senses… An assault that intensifies when from out of nowhere, loud music is played and the glamorous looking Thais perform an impromptu fashion show in the middle of the train station.
We sit and drink coffee as various people wander up and down the station area dressed in flamboyant costumes as a few people watching politely applaud, I wonder who these people are, and I wonder if they enjoy this spectacle or if deep down they feel a bit of a tit.
The parade ends and Jo decides she needs the toilet, I’m almost certain the parade had nothing to do with her needing the toilet, I just think it was good timing.
Jo heads off to the ladies and I wait with our cases, I can’t stand facing the toilets (that would be weird) so I stand facing what looks like a display of gold material… After a few seconds I realise the display of material is actually a clothes rack… A short time after, I realise a rather attractive Thai woman is changing out of her glamorous golden dress and I’m looking right at her… I turn away (the last thing I want to do is get called a peeping Tom in Thailand) just as the kid with the parakeet on his shoulder walks out of the mens toilets, he misses his step and falls to the ground, his parakeet didn’t even flinch, not even a flap of his brightly coloured feathers… That was one gangster parakeet.
Jo emerged from the toilets and we made our way to the train.
According to Jos calculations, the journey to Hua Hin should have taken four hours, our seats were comfortable, we had plenty of leg room and to make things even better, we were given a blanket, we settled ourselves down and were ready to enjoy our journey… The trains are old, the police officers patrolling the carriages looked really grumpy, I was looking at the gun strapped to the officers belt and wondered if he’s ever had to use it while guarding a train, does Thailand have an issue with bandits like in the old cowboy movies? Is our journey going to be interrupted by armed robbers chasing us down on horseback? Of course not. A train can outrun a horse easy!
Well… A normal train could outrun a horse… Not THIS train, this particular train seemed to be stuck in one gear and that one gear was slow.
Over an hour had passed and we were still in Bangkok… Our train crawled at a walking pace through the city, both Me and Jo had wrapped ourselves up in our blankets, both of us hoping the train would speed up… Eventually, our train did indeed speed up, just before it pulled into a station and sat there for almost an hour while waiting for another train to clear the track.
Our planned four hour journey eventually came to end after five hours.
We got to our hotel just after 10 pm, we debated just calling it a night and going to bed, but we were both hungry so decided to pop down to the bar on the ground floor of our hotel, have one drink and order dinner…
The bar is advertised as a steak house, this, of course, put me in the frame of mind of “oh yes, I’m having a steak!” However, this is a COVID world and dear friends a COVID world is a cruel world.
Due to COVID, a lot of businesses have had to make changes… The change the steak house made was to change to just selling Thai food… As the manager told us, he couldn’t fill his fridges with meat that was just going to be thrown away because he had no customers to sell it to… A fair point I thought.
We changed our plan to having one drink and ordering food to be delivered, neither of us fancied Thai food so we ordered ourselves a drink… Y’know, just the one drink.
Seated near us in the bar was a small group of Thais, they were chatting and drinking Sang Som (A Thai rum), as Me and Jo enjoyed our drink we were offered shot glasses filled with Sang Som, I’ve drunk it before, but always with a mixer… Never as a shot.
We accepted the drinks and soon we chatting with the Thais and taking turns on choosing the music in the bar (good old Youtube), our food arrived and the bar owner told us we could sit and eat there, we ordered more drinks and were treated to a few more shots of Sang Som by the Thais in the bar… I’m not sure what time we eventually went to bed, I just know we were drunk… So much for “just one drink” right?
Thursday was a mixture of recovering from Wednesday’s “just one drink” session and Jo doing some work… I flicked through the numerous TV channels as Jo tapped away at her keyboard, I held the remote control in my hand hoping to find something to watch, after a while a stumbled across some pro wrestling, which is great, afterall I enjoy a little bit of wrestling, after a few seconds I realised I recognised the two wrestlers on the screen, then I realised I was actually watching a wrestling match I’d seen live at the Download festival back in the UK… Yes folks, sure enough, I spotted myself (along with Jo and the boys) in the crowd, there I was, laying on my bed in Thailand watching myself watching a wrestling match.
Bars have been allowed to open in Thailand for a while now, they have to close at midnight (more on that later) but at least, they are open.
Bangkok has Soi Cowboy, Patong has Bangla Road, Pattaya has Walking street… Hua Hin has Soi Bintabaht ( A road I keep calling Soi Bitterballen for some reason) it’s the main bar area and is full of (yes you guessed it) beer bars and restaurants, again the cruelty of COVID is evident here as bars are devoid of customers… There are customers, but nowhere near the numbers these areas have been used to previously, we played pool, we drank, we chose music for the bar (again thanks to good old Youtube) we drank, we chatted to some of the girls working the bar, we drank, we drank and… Yes, we drank.
I’m a little unsure of what actually happened in that bar on Thursday night, I know we drank, I know we chatted to the girls… I also have some memory of an Italian man telling me he loved Freddie Mercury (after I’d played some Queen songs on Youtube) I also seem to remember the bar we were in having a “Queen off” with the bar over the road as their customers began to choose Queen songs too… I remember the Italian buying us shots of Lemoncello, I remember a girl being sick… I remember waking up on Friday with one bitch of a hangover.
With both of us feeling a little delicate we chose to designate Friday as “no drinking alcohol before 7 PM day” after breakfast we walked along the beach, we rented sunbeds and sat by the sea, Jo relaxed as I tried to read a book I’d bought a few weeks back for a previous trip but never got around to actually reading.
The book I was reading was called “farang”, it’s written by an ex-pat and is all about his life and adventures living in Thailand… It’s not a straight forward “this is my story” book, it’s just a compilation of adventures (and misadventures) he’s had while living as a farang in the land of smiles… Pretty much like I do with these blogs… Which got me thinking, maybe I could tidy up my writing and see how these blogs would look like in a collected format… Just a thought.
After a while we noticed dark clouds gathering in the distance, we decided to head back to our hotel and avoid the approaching rain.
It was still raining lightly as we headed out toward the bar area, we decided to go to a Greek restaurant for food which was delicious, but again a little depressing as it seemed like we were the only customers, God I wish COVID would just fuck off.
After dinner we made our way toward the bars, we decided against going to the bar we went to last night, we wanted to see what Soi Bintabaht had to offer.
Within a few minutes of entering the bar area, we succumbed to the catcalls of the bar staff of a small dimly lit bar at the end of the soi, we ordered drinks and watched the world go by… Or tried to… The bar manager had placed a huge mirror on one of the walls of the bar, yes, it did create the optical illusion of a doubling the size of the bar, but it also created the illusion of making it appear people were approaching from one side of the street, only to appear on the other side instead… It was really confusing and a tad unsettling… As was the cheap (in quality, not price) booze the bar was serving… Just one drink here we thought before moving on.
We paid our bill and continued on our way, we found ourselves in another bar, scantily clad girls were sat with men outside as we made our way to a table near the rear of the bar, a bar girl approached us and introduced herself, it turned out she was actually from Bangkok and had only come to Hua Hin because Soi Cowboy had no customers, we ordered more drinks and chose some music (youtube again!) as the girls charmed the men and made small talk with us as they passed us while heading to the bar to keep the glasses full… A bar across the road began to play a Thai dance song which Jo took an immediate liking to… She asked the girls what it was called (it’s in Thai but sounds something like Lam Bad), in a matter of minutes the girls had found it on Youtube and they and Jo were dancing like mad to it, as I sat drinking enjoying the entertainment.
We left the bar and made our way into the night, we found a quiet bar and had a drink there, we chatted to one of the girls who was working there for a short while, before finishing our drink and heading off to another bar.
A bar near the top of the road seemed to be quite busy, the music was generic dance music but the atmosphere seemed quite good, we paid our bill and made our way over to the bar.
The bar did indeed have a really good atmosphere, and it also seemed to be (in comparison to other bars) quite busy, we sat down and ordered drinks, soon we were joined by a couple of girls, we chatted, we bought the girls a drink, we were having a really good time, as midnight approached we decided it was time to head home, as we paid our bill the manager introduced herself to us, a tall, beautiful, woman named “A” (Aye) she thanked us for coming to the bar and offered to buy us a drink, Jo had tequila and I chose Sambuca… At this point, all hell broke loose.
The scene had been so calm.
Everything was peaceful… Everyone was happy.
Suddenly one of the girls we had been chatting too was straddling another girl at the bar and raining punches down on her… Girls were screaming, people were trying to separate them… “A” went into action, she dove right into the fight and immediately bought it to a close… It was obvious that “A” is not a woman to be meddled with… The girls were sent to opposite sides of the bar and, as soon as the violence had been dealt with, cool as a cucumber “A” came back over to us, “They had a misunderstanding” she said… “Do you think?” was my reply.
We spent Saturday at a beachside resort outside of the main town of Hua Hin, it’s a place we have been to before and a place we knew was ideal for relaxing, it also has a brilliant deal for people like us just needing a base to chill out at, 500 baht gets us a bed on the beach, full use of the hotel facilities plus the 500 baht is added as a credit against your bar and food bill… Brilliant.
We spent a few hours relaxing on the beach, Jo swam in the pool as I read some more of my “farang” book… Sadly, as is often the case during the rainy season, the clouds rolled in and rain began to fall, we made our way into the main hotel area and played cards as the storm raged on.
Soon it was time to head back to our own hotel, we stood by the bar and settled the bill… Which went a little like this.
Jo: Can we settle the bill
Girl behind the bar : Of course (goes over to till)
Eastern European man standing by the bar: IS THE COCONUT FRESH?
Girl: (brings bill over) You still have some credit available, would you like some soft drinks to take with you?
European: I MAY ORDER MILKSHAKE
Jo: Water maybe?
European: IS IT TOPPED WITH CREAM?
Girl: (Opens fridge to get water)
European: I MAY ORDER CHOCOLATE!
Me and Jo: What a rude prick.
We left the resort and headed back to our hotel to get ready for our last night out, we had (sort of) agreed that being as we were travelling on Sunday we should maybe not drink so much on Saturday… Sounds like a plan right?
Saturday night did not get off to the best of starts, the cheap alcohol (cheap in quality) had left me with terrible indigestion, I felt quite ill if I am honest, We went out for dinner (Greek again) but headed back to our hotel so I could take some medication and hopefully feel a little better.
After an hour I felt well enough to head out, Soi Bintabaht was empty, we had one drink before heading off to another street that we had been told about by our waitress at the breakfast bar we have been going to every morning, it turns out she works two jobs… Breakfast waitress by day, barmaid by night.
Soi 80… Jo wanted to give it a try, I wasn’t too keen, but you know how this goes… What Jo wants, Jo gets.
We walked up to the top of the Soi to get the lay of the land, the bars did seem a little busier here, we turned around and started to walk back down to find a bar to drink in… Then SHE happened.
We walked hand in hand (Old romantics you see) down the road, we had seen a bar close by that seemed quite busy and were heading in that direction… Suddenly our path was blocked by a force of nature named Charlie (well, I think that was her name)
I’ve said it before in previous blogs, and you have no doubt heard this before about Thailand… We have Ladyboys.
During our time here we have encountered different types of Ladyboys… We’ve seen beautiful Ariana Grande lookalike ladyboys In Patong, We’ve sat drinking in bars with chatty friendly Ladyboys (also in Patong), we’ve seen “just a dude wearing lipstick” ladyboys in Pattaya, last night in the catfight bar we spoke briefly to a young “denim skirt and a T-shirt” wearing ladyboy… And then we have Charlie.
Charlie was a little under 6ft, wearing a satin top which barely covered her breasts, a short skirt, a bandaged knee (She’d fallen off her motorbike the day before) a desire to end every sentence with “DARRRHLING!” and an undying desire to get me and Jo into her bar for a drink.
We sat, we ordered drinks… I realised I needed to visit the toilet “Hong Nam Mai?” I asked… Before I could protest, Charlie was leading me by hand to the toilets, I heard laughter as I was dragged to the back of the bar, I returned (unaccosted I might add) to a smiling Jo who told me as I was dragged off another bargirl had gone over to her to check “If he’s alright?” Charlie got madder and madder, she loudly talked about her boyfriend, she ignored various phone calls that continually lit up the screen on her mobile phone, it all got a bit too loud for us… We paid our bill, Charlie made us promise we would return… I fear we may have to break that promise… Charlie was a bit too much to handle.
We found our way to another bar, the call of rock music was just too strong for us to fight.
We ordered drinks, a man toward the end of the bar was using a computer to pick songs (again, good old Youtube) a waitress told us we could pick music too, so off I went on a mission to educate these people on good old fashioned British blues rock.
A Squeal of brakes.
I feel I must discuss the phenomena knowns as “wannabe youtube bar DJS”
Lots of bars use Youtube as a way of allowing their customers to control the music, which, in theory, is a great idea… Some bars use Spotify or some other music provider, a system that lets a person add songs to a queue, this system works pretty well and it’s a system I’m happy with… Then you have the bars that use Youtube, this is where problems can occur… I’ll explain.
There are various types of “wannabe bar DJs”
There’s me, I’ll choose a song, let it play out, if nobody else tries to add a song, I will pick another.
Then there’s “the runner”… The runner will pick a song, he’ll let the song play out, but as his song ends he will actually run to the laptop (or whatever is being used to choose the music) and put on another song.
Then we have “the hoverer”… The hoverer will “hover” around the laptop, as soon as his song finishes he will put another song… He’s like a runner… Minus the actual running.
And then we have the evilest DJ of all… The “perch”… The perch will sit in front of the laptop… He will not let anyone have any choice in music, he IS the music.
The bar we were in had a “hoverer” I managed to sneak past him in order to put a song on but after my one victory “the hoverer” would not let it happen again, in fairness the music he was choosing was quite good but still he was labelled a hoverer.
Me and Jo decided we would adopt a “One drink per bar” strategy for the remainder of the night… So we paid our bill and left.
We found ourselves in another bar… We played pool as the music played, a decent selection… At first.
The bar had acquired “a perch”.
An annoying American was sat in front of the laptop, every song he picked, he’d turn to his friend and give him a stupid “look how cool I am” grin… At one point he chose “Total eclipse of the heart” people were singing along to it… So he stopped it and put “Take on Me” by A-Ha instead… Now I could have walked over and picked a tune, but I’d read this perch, I knew what he was like… Had I have chosen a song he would have cut it short for HE IS THE MUSIC… He chose “losing my religion” by R.E.M… But cut it short in order to play a lower quality live version of the same track… All with his stupid “look at me” grin… We finished our drinks and headed off into the night.
We spoke to a girl at another bar who told us that yes, the bars do close at midnight… But some bars (may have) paid the police so they can remain open till 1 AM… We found one such bar and had one more drink before heading back to our hotel.
Our route home took us through the now empty Soi Bintabaht… As we approached it, we bumped into “A”, the manager from the bar we’d visited the night before, she asked us why we hadn’t gone to her bar then told us she was going to drink at a place nearby… Suddenly, she grabbed both of us by the hand and the three of us were walking hand in hand to this mysterious place.
There were things about “A” that stood out… Obviously she was a no-nonsense woman who demanded respect in her bar…Fair enough… “A” had a very camp young man walking with her who seemed to have one job… He was her personal handbag holder… Where she went, he went, holding her bag… As we walked (hand in hand) into the bar complex various people approached “A” and paid respects, it seemed everyone knew her… “A” explained” how she owned high percentages in various bars in town, every bar we walked through, people walked to her and spoke to her… I whispered to Jo “I think she’s a gangster” eventually we entered a dark club, “A” introduced us to her brother and a French man who she described as her brother from another mother… “A” ordered drinks as more people appeared around our group… One of the girls we had spoken to in “A”s bar appeared (not the girl who had been fighting) and joined us… Another girl appeared and greeted us like she knew us, we had no idea who she was… Well, we didn’t until she stood a little bit away from us and the light in the club hit her in a certain way and I realised it was the denim skirt wearing ladyboy we’d spoken to in the bar, looking around the club it was full of so many different types of people, everyone just having fun, everyone enjoying each others company, everyone having a great time… Acceptance… No judgement.
Jo danced on a ministage with the girl from the bar, we finished our drinks and we said our goodbyes to this new group of friends…”A” was no longer in the club, she was outside holding court with a group of people… her handbag holder still in tow… We said our goodbyes, exchanged hugs and left.
It was the early hours of Sunday morning, we were tired, we were drunk and despite the fact we had eaten dinner earlier, we were both a little bit hungry.
Hua Hin had read our minds… Hua Hin knew we were drunk and hungry… Directly outside of the bar complex was a little stall selling kebabs, we walked over and as Jo was ordering food, lurking in the shadows was a girl we had spoken to briefly the night before, I smiled and she emerged from the shadows for a quick chat, she hadn’t been the chattiest person in the world when we spoke to her before, but now she seemed like a different person, I asked her if her bar had been busy tonight, she matter of factly replied that she hadn’t worked that bar tonight “I work freelance” she said, “I do massage during the day time”… By now Jo was holding our food, “Oh he doesn’t like massages” she said, “He’s too ticklish!” … We said our goodbyes and wandered off into the night eating our delicious kebab.
It’s been an interesting few days here in Hua Hin, I want to come back once COVID is done with, I want this town to get back to where it was before that virus came around and buggered it, I want to come back and meet these people again, I want to experience Hua Hin when it’s full of people, full of life.
Until next time…