Experiencing the Creep – Hua Hin, Thailand

My travels have taken me to some really interesting places, and I have gotten to have some crazy experiences during that time. I feel grateful that I have been able to live this life, and I look forward to more of these experiences as I move on. I think back at the old town celebration that I wander in on in Lucern, or watching the Spain World Cup Game with a bunch of locals in Salamanca. I treasure the moments of standing in the rain with my friends in Gamcheon Cultural Village in Busan, or being the only couple in the ryokan in Magome. I will never forget wandering the Hobbiton movie set outside of Mata Mata, New Zealand, or enjoying a drink on the docks just outside of Dubrovnik before it became the biggest destination site when visiting Europe. The memories keep coming too. I have enjoyed a steak dinner in the hills outside of Hua Hin, and stumbled on a jazz music festival. The will be filed away with the other memories that I have collected, but there has been a change in the way I have travelled lately, and I am starting to recognize that change.

I used to look at the big huge fancy hotels and resorts from a distance. Most of the places I used to stay in were hostels. They were the only places I could afford. Sometimes, I could pull an extra couple of dollars together for a private room, but most of the time I was sharing a room with up to fifty other people, and would not spend a lot of time there. It was just a place to put my stuff, and lay my head down at when I had worn myself out by running around checking out the sites. It was part of the adventure and there were many moments from these places that hold a special place in my memory, but a few years back, we decided that we had outgrown the hostel experience and we only find hotels or Air B+Bs from here on out.

The places were still not the height of luxury. The bigger concern when picking the place had to do with location. It was important that we were close to the city center so we could easily wander around and see what we traveled so far to see. Sometimes that meant finding a place right on the beach so when I walked out my door, I could watch the waves crash on the sand.

But which spot we stayed at, it started to get fancier and fancier. Where we would run to a grocery store to find something to cook or find a local hot spot for dinner, we now found places with fancy restaurants attached to the grounds. Breakfast would be a quick affair with a bowl of cereal made with milk that we had placed in our tiny fridges, but now we make sure to find a place where it is included in the price of the stay.

Sometimes we would find a park to share some cheese and crackers that we bought off a local street vendor. Now the park is part of the hotel experience, and if we want some snacks we can order room service and have it brought to us. In other words, the last few times I have gone out for a quick trip, things have changed significantly. Part of this might be because, we have found ourselves in Thailand during a worldwide pandemic and the is country that is so dependent on tourism has so incredible deals going on right now. But if I am being honest, it is also about the change in lifestyle. As I have grown older and moved my way up in the world of academia, I have been able to afford places like this more often. I also find that I enjoy this moment of relaxation during my busy schedule, so I buy into it even more.

But the bigger question, the thing that has been bugging me about this, pops up. Is something lost because of this change? Am I getting the most out of my traveling experience because of the change to booking resorts? I have wandered away from the hotel a couple of times while I have been here this weekend, but most of the time was spent lounging around the pool and soaking in the moment. Granted, this was a quick weekend that I was taking before a longer break comes up, and I will definitely spend more time experiencing things during the three week break, but I find myself spending more time relaxing on vacation instead of trying to take as much of it in as I can. I do come back refreshed and ready to take on the next challenge, but the little stories aren’t as plentiful when I live a pampered lifestyle.

Some call it the creep. It is that moment in your life where you make enough money to enjoy the easy life a little more often, but at the expense of finding those same experiences for a little less. At the same time, the better pay comes with more responsibility, and I do need that time to relax or my life will be one big bundle of stress. I guess like many other things in life, it comes down to finding that balance between the two. I need to fight against the creep from time to time. I need to find those more humble experiences where I take in what life brings to me. This does not mean that I will go back to staying at hostels, but I do not need to find the biggest resort where I do not need to do much of anything. I need to find that place that gives me enough relaxation so I feel ready to go out and take in the place in the world where I have found myself. It is the whole reason I travel. I need to get back to experiencing the world. I have enjoyed this quick respite, but I am ready to take on the world again.

And as thing start to open up again and the vaccines get delivered to places around the world, I find that this year of trying to make the most out of the situation I found myself in will soon be behind me. I look forward to the new opportunities out there, and I can’t wait to see where my next adventure will take me.

Until next time, stay safe, and find the most out the time given to you.

Cicada Market – Hua Hin, Thailand

There are two ways to dine out in Thailand. There are the big fancy restaurants that serve meals from traditional Thai food to fare that could be found all over the world. There is also the street food that is extremely cheap and most of the time just as good. There is a little danger with this type of food because you might fall victim to the Thailand tummy or the Bangkok belly, but I have never had this experience since I have been out here though I have been witness to those who have. There is a simple rule of thumb when it comes to eating street food in Thailand, go to the places that have long lines and then you know the food you are getting will always be fresh and free from the things that might cause the rumble down below.

If I am Hua Hin, there are two street markets that allow for this great experience of dining with the street food. There is the old night market further in town and though a great, fun experience, does not necessarily meet with the higher standards of cleanliness that the other place does, the Cicada Market which can be found further on the southern part of the city. This is a newer market, and it boasts numerous venders who are all trying to sell you the greatest culinary delights for relatively cheap prices. It only takes place on the weekends, but it is definitely worth the voyage down there to check it out.

First off, the food down there is great. They sell all of your favorite Thai dishes from chicken satay to pineapple fried rice served in the husk of the pineapple where the delicious ingredient for the dish came from. They also have other quick street food fare that can be found in other places around the world such as wood stove pizza and Korean bar-b-q. Each dish is relatively inexpensive, so it is fun to walk around and have a little bit of this dish followed by a little bit of that dish.

The Cicada market also creates an atmosphere that is a blend of carnival as well as cultural. They have clowns walking around on stilts, people making balloon animals, and booths performing magic tricks, all around two stages where various juggling and comedic acts will perform, or if you prefer something a little more adult, you can go and watch a rock band perform next to the beer garden. There are also little niches where bands will set up to play traditional Thai music, or break dance to electronic beats produced by some of the country’s best DJs.

Considering that it also a market, there is also a section dedicated to various vendors selling their wares. This is a little different than what can be seen in a traditional market in Thailand though. Most of those places have quick products that can be found in most places around the country. You have knock off coffee mugs set next to t-shirts and phone cases. The items that are sold here are actually produced by the people selling them. There is a certain type of artistic quality that can be found at this market which makes it feel like that what you are buying can only be found in this little corner of Hua Hin. It also makes wandering through the market really fun because you see a lot of strange items that you would never find anywhere else.

It is my second time coming down to this market and if I ever find myself in Hua Hin over a weekend, I would make sure that I would come back here again. It is a must see for anybody visiting this city and I would recommend that when you come you bring a healthy appetite with you because you are going to want to spend a lot of your time here satisfying it.

Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

Honorable Mention – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.

 

A Weekend on the Coast – Hua Hin, Thailand

An aerial view of Huua Hin looking over the Bintabath section of the town

It had been awhile since I felt like I had gone on a real vacation. I had taken a night or two to spend some time in downtown Bangkok and explore that area, and before that I had visited my family back in the United States, but it had been a long time since I had gone to a new destination and enjoyed the comforts of that place. I didn’t think much about this as I left Bangkok for the first time, and made the three-hour trek down the coast to the town of Hua Hin, but what I found when I finally arrived there was a great city with lots to offer that I was able to enjoy a wonderful experience at this great destination.

The wide open space available on the beaches during the off season months

The most obvious attraction in this city is of course the beach. It stretches all the way down the main strip with many hotels perched above its sandy shores. I went down here during the perfect time. Even though it was a national holiday last weekend, there were still not a lot of people enjoying the beach. I could easily find a spot where I would be comfortable enjoying the sun and warm water, and still feel like I had the beach to myself. I do not know if this would be the case during the height of tourism season in January, February and March, but in October, it was perfect.

The view of the beach from one of the restaurants found there

If got too sunny, I could go to one of the various restaurants along the beach and park myself underneath their umbrellas, and enjoy a drink or a bite to eat. The food wasn’t that great, but the shady spot where I could watch the tide come in and sip on a beer was the perfect way to enjoy the afternoon. My favorite part of this was watching them taking the umbrellas down and replace them behind me as the water threatened to get them wet. I started the time in this shady retreat in the back row, but by the time I left I found myself almost able to put my toes in the water, and I didn’t have to do a thing to get closer to the water than just sit there.

A food stall in the Cicada Market

Hua Hin also has two night markets that it can boast about. The first one is the older market closer to town that has most of the traditional things that you can find at a market in Thailand, clothes, various household items, and street food. The nice thing about this market is the restaurants that line the street behind the vendors. They have set up places along the street where you can sit down and watch the various people shop while enjoying some of the street food that you have found.

The dining area in the Cicada Market

I liked the Cicada Market on the southern end of town a lot more. It was a little more upscale, and most of the people working the booths were the artists that produced the items that they are selling. If you are looking for that unique gift or memento from this part of the world, this is the perfect place to find it. They also have to amphitheaters where bands or acts will play to entertain you in between the moments of shopping. In the center, you can also find various stalls selling their versions of Thai street food. This place had some of the best street food that I have fond in Thailand, and it was still pretty inexpensive. I had a hard time stopping myself from eating too much because there was too much good smelling food that was being offered.

The Black and White platter from Prime Steakhouse

This isn’t the only place to find good food in the city. There is the bar section of town Bintabath. This is a fun place to go barhopping because they all seem to be located in this area. Besides finding a good drink or a nice pool table, you can also get an amazing sit down meal. My favorite place was the Prime Steakhouse. It was a little pricey, but the meal could easily have been in my top five for steaks I have eaten on all of my travels in the world. It also has a beautiful, relaxing and comforting atmosphere that makes the time you spend here just as good as the food.

A marching street band I came across on my last day in town

I only got to spend one weekend in Hua Hin, and every corner I turned there was a new site to see, or a new experience to be had. I know that I had barely scraped the surface of what this little corner of Thailand had to offer, but after spending a couple nights here, I know that I have found a gem that I want to return back to soon.

A view of the sunset from the bar on top of the Hilton Hotel along the beach

Most of my attention was directed towards the shore while I was out there, and it was only the sunset on my last night there that allowed me to see that there was another side to this place that I had not even seen, the mountains and the fun hikes that hid themselves over there. I know I will be back someday because it is so close and the perfect little retreat for those long weekends I get, but until then, I will have to explore the rest of Thailand and see what it has to offer me.

 

Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

I know that there is only one Indiana Jones movie that takes him into Asia, and for most people, it is not the best installment in the series, but thanks to recent efforts, it is not longer considered the worst by some people. Despite this fact, I had a great morning adventure that made me feel like I was Indiana Jones, exploring the wilderness of some forgotten forest in search of a secret temple. It made me feel the magic that I have heard about the country of Thailand for the first time since I have moved here, and it is truly one of the hidden gems that the country has to offer.

I have taken a weekend trip down to Hua Hin, a beach resort town on the eastern coast about three hours south of Bangkok. And even though the town has a lot to offer, and I have had a lot of fun exploring its nightlife, it is this morning side trip that will probably stick in my mind longer than any other event, and be the thing I remember about the place. I got up early and grab a taxi to go see the wonder of Phraya Nakhon Cave, and I do not regret the decision.

Basically, the forty-five minute cab ride from town costed me 700 baht, and took me down to Sam Roi Yot National Park which is the entrance to a path that would take me to this hidden cave. For another 200 baht, I was able to buy entrance into the national park, and I had a choice to make. I could take a half an hour hike over a rocky out cropping to get to the trailhead, or rent a boat that would take me there in ten minutes.

I went with the later choice, and I am glad that I did. There is a big collection of water taxis that sit on the edge of the beach, and the take people back and forth to the beach on the other side of the mountain.

They were constantly going back and forth, and I didn’t have to wait for a second to catch a boat either way. It always fun to travel by boat as well. Smelling the fresh salt water as the boat skims over the mild wake helps to build up anticipation for the experience that is going to follow.

When the boat landed on the other beach, it took a little while of walking through the sand before I reached the trailhead. This is where the ease of the boat ride really paid off. I had gotten to the trail head at about 9:30 in the morning, and even though it is starting to cool off a bit in Thailand, it is still really hot and humid as I traversed up the rocky stone path that took me to the entrance of the cave.

It was also nice that I went early. There were a couple of people that were on the path as I went up, but they were far enough between that it made it feel like I was out there by myself. On my way back, there were a lot more people coming up, so I was glad that I had started early so I would not have to deal with these crowds as I made it to the treasure at the end.

As I went through the trek, I was amazed by the natural surroundings. I was definitely in the tropics as the foliage crowded in around me, and the humidity made me sweat. Monkeys jumped from above in the trees, and every once in a while they got close enough where I could see them. Rock formations poked out from the overhanging recesses that I found along the trek, and I really thought that I was getting some place where very few people had ever seen. From time to time, I would come across something that would remind me that this was a sacred place for the people of Thailand as I would see a statue or a sign indicating that I was still going in the right direction.

As I made it further into my decent, the landscape changed even more. I found myself in a natural cave carved out by the wind, rain and spraying ocean water. It started to cool off a bit more as I found myself surrounded by the cliff faces, and I could marvel more at the natural way that things were carved above, around and below.

Finally, I turned a corner, and for the first time I could see the treasure that I had come down here to see in the first place. It was like Indiana Jones standing at the edge of a long hallway in which the end of it stood the golden statue bathed in a shimmering light. What I had found was a lot bigger, and only pictures of it would be the things that I would be able to bring back with me. And I wouldn’t realize how stunning those pictures would be until I made that final turn.

There it was, the temple that was framed in the morning light from the opening of this cave out in the middle of the hills in Thailand. It was the perfect time of the day to come out here to see this as well because the lighting was perfect. I could see how an hour later, it would not be as dramatic, but it really stood out during the time that I was there. The strange thing was not that many people were out there to look at as well. I could move around and pick the perfect shots and not have to worry about some random tourist getting in the way of me snapping that picture. I couldn’t understand why this was true except for maybe the fact that it took about an hour and a half to get to from Hua Hin, and it would take people away from the comfort of the beach and convenient bar street. And even though it does require some physical exertion and does take away the whole morning, it was completely the trek that I made. It is a must go see if you ever find yourself in Hua Hin, but you do have to plan ahead for it because it is best experienced in the morning. I am glad that I made the voyage.