If I were to ask you with no prior knowledge of the subject (and without having read this blog) which you'd prefer: an overnight train in Germany or one in Thailand. Surely you'd instantly think of Germany's stereotypical obsession with order, rule and efficiency and you'd weigh that against rail travel in any developing nation and you'd go with zee German's, right?! WRONG! Don't feel bad, before this trip I would have said the same. But the fact of the matter is the Thai's got it dialed! We had a big trip from Koh Lipe to Hua Hin which entailed speedboat to minivan to overnight train combo. The speedboat was awesome, mini- van just sort of what ever, but I was positively terrified about the train ride. Turns out, it was all for not. The sleeper train is slick: two seats face each other and when needed slide together to form a bed. Meanwhile the upper bunk folds down on demand revealing mattress pads, crisp, clean sheets, pillows with cases and blankets. There is a removable table that can go in between the seats before bed conversion which G and I used for playing cards, having a few beers to ease into the 14 hour ordeal, and to eat the delicious dinner we had purchased at the awesome grocery store across from the train station. And, while I wouldn't go so far as to say that it was the best night of sleep on the trip I can say that there have been many worse that have taken place in real beds in stationary rooms.
The train left late, which was no surprise, and stopped a lot along the way, also no surprise but it actually worked out in our favor since we were meant to arrive in Hua Hin at about 5am and due to the delays we arrived at a much more reasonable hour of 8am. We made our way to the hotel where we dropped our stuff (our room wasn't ready yet) and had a quick wash up in the lobby bathroom before heading out to get our day going. See we had picked Hua Hin as a stopover to break the trip between Lipe and Bangkok up a bit and also because of it's proximity to a sweet sounding National Park called Sam Roi Yot.
First order of business; get some wheels. $6 for a scooter for the day: check. Actually I lie; first order was a heavy caffeine session at a certain green logoed chain coffee shop that shall remain un-named. Third order of business; ride. And ride we did; it turns out the N.P. was a little farther then we thought. We ended up doing about 100km round trip which is a lot farther then it sounds when there are two of you on a tiny scooter and you are having to navigate Thai traffic, Thai street signs and the scorching Thai heat.
But it was well worth the trip. We hiked up and over the headlands and onto a beach where fisherman netted for shrimp and a few brave souls went for a swim. It was a nice enough beach, but after where we'd been the last few weeks it was easy to snobbishly dismiss it as unsuitable for us to swim in. There we turned inland and hiked up to Prah Yanakorn cave. All I can say is: Dude, that place is sweet! You hike up and then sort of descend down into this cave. There are all sorts of interesting things to rock-dork out on; stalagmites, stalactites, etc. etc. I myself am not a rock dork so took them in with only a passing interest.
The main attraction, however, is impossible not to take a huge interest in. It's a small, but ornate temple built in a cavern that has a huge hole in the roof which allows light to stream in and illuminate the temple and the surrounding trees. I photo- dorked out trying to get some good shots; not sure I did it justice. The list of superlatives could go on and on: majestic and captivating are two that come to mind...but if you want more descriptions just get a Thesaurus. It's all those things combined.
We spent a good hour wandering the cavern and taking in the view from different angles before finally trudging back out of the cave and over the headlands to where our trusty little motorscooter awaited. We figured that was enough activity for the day seeing as we had slept on a train, it was HOT, and the ride itself was long enough tone an adventure of it's own.
As we pulled back into town we noticed a huge mall with a neon sign up for a bowling alley so we indulged our inner Lebowski and pulled in. First, we had to eat something...we found a decent looking sushi place and got involved. A nice change, but let the record state that sushi is better in (dare I say) Sydney then in Hua Hin, Thailand. After our meal was complete (it took forever considering how small it was)...we headed up to scope the scene at the bowling alley. It was totally packed with rambunctious looking Thai teenagers and it's no mid-western 24 lane job to start with, so we ended up giving it a miss. Too crowded to be any fun. We returned to the scooter thankful for an hour of A/C and a few pieces of tuna anyhow.
That afternoon we cruised the town a little on the scooter, but mainly just laid low. We had some fiery dinner on the fisherman's wharf spot over the water after trying to go to the 'Brewery' in town and having to walk out upon discovering that despite their name they are not a brewery, and in fact only sell the same 4 brands of beer you can get all over Thailand but for 4x the price. Weak move, guys!
We stopped in to catch a few minutes of a one-man live jazz show performed by the nice old Danish guy who we had rented our motorscooter from earlier that day. Let's just say he won't be moving to New Orleans anytime soon, but for Hua Hin, Thailand he's pretty legit.
In the morning we ventured downstairs to cash in our 'free breakfast' voucher that came with our room. Literally, a piece of whitebread toast, cube of butter, and the filthiest cup of instant coffee you'll ever find. Why bother with the 'free breakfast' offer...please just spare us the expectations and heartbreak and yourselves a few loaves of whitebread.
Feeling slightly twitchy from the cup of warm dirt water, we loaded our packs and strode across town looking for the bus terminal to head north as Bangkok awaited. We found it, although a dodgy sounding tout told us we had just missed the last 'big bus' and that all that was left were 'VIP minivans'. I never trust people who say stuff like that, but to our considerable dismay his story was confirmed by the nice old lady at the Government Bus Station. And so minivan it wound be. But that, as they say, is a different story...