18th – 19th June 2006
Over the next couple of days I continued to hone my swimming skills and was reaching 20 lengths. That was not all at once I should add, it involved popping in and out of the pool for a rest and also chatting to the frog who still declined my offer to kiss him and turn him into a prince.
I also shared taxi to look at the shops and stalls at Cha-Am Beach which seemed to be Thailand’s equivalent of Blackpool with lots of tat and dreadful smelling food (just with squid and octopus rather than hot dogs). Added to this it rained all the time and it was incredibly hot and sticky. Then I had 30 minutes of heaven with a shoulder and neck massage back at the hotel. During the course of this my feet were washed and I was pounded all the way down my back my head and my face, then given a cup of ginger tea and a hot towel.
That evening it was my turn for the rickshaw ride. When we set off at 6pm it was still raining. We drove to the dock in Hua Hin where the fishing boats bring in their catches. There was very little activity there, just one boat getting ready to leave and a few women cleaning earlier catches. Then it was back on the bus to the railway station where rickshaws were waiting for us – one for each person. We rode through the town in a convoy through some very narrow back streets, then along some fairly major roads to a restaurant where we had a lovely meal. In fact it was so lovely that I will tell you exactly what we had! First of all it was soup with pork, vegetables and glass noodles, then chicken wrapped in banana leaves with crispy noodles, rice with sweet and sour fish chicken and cashew nuts, crispy stir-fry pork and stir-fry vegetables, followed by fresh fruit and coffee. By the end of the meal it had stopped raining, so our guide decided we should go back to the market. Unfortunately the rain returned but still we all descended and walked through the night market. If we had been hungry, there was a fascinating array of food and drink!
20th June 2006
It was time for another grand day out. We set off at 7:30, driving south for about 150 km. Our first stop was a temple on the coast and the first sight of it was a huge gold Buddha which local people had funded to mark the Queen’s 60th birthday. We had to climb up a lot of steps to visit the temple which was built to mark the King’s 50th anniversary in 1996. From the temple we had about an hour’s drive to see the border with Myanmar. There was little to see other than a road disappearing over a hilltop. Then we went for lunch at Prachuap Khiri Khan, a small town on the coast. It is described as “a relaxed place; quite the antithesis of Hua Hin”.
Finally, on our way back to Cha-Am, we stopped to see a small enterprise making paper from pineapple leaves. We were allowed to try out part of the process – firstly spreading out the pulp over a frame and then taking the dried paper off the frame. I decided to buy some little gifts here because I thought it was an enterprise that really deserved supporting.
21st – 22nd June 2006
Having forgotten to use the insect spray on the previous day I was covered with big bites – in fact they were megabites! The day was spent mostly continuing to improvinng my swimming skills and taking my clothes to the laundry.
On the second day we had our last Saga trip which was, perhaps the least successful. We headed for a project, which had been started by the King, for farmers living on very poor land. When we arrived we were unable to watch a slideshow about the project as the main building was being restored, so we set off to see a farm which is part of the project but there was no one there! Then off to a co-operative selling nuts, dried fruits and handbags made of sisal. Across the road was a school for children living in the project. Some classes were doing maths, some were reading and one was even doing fruit carving (much better than I achieved!). We had come armed with books and pencils as we are always encouraged to do by Saga. Then it was off to visit the most beautiful temple, via a roadside cafe selling wonderful desserts and iced coffee. The temple was a Khmer temple from the 12th century.
Our final visit of the day was to a Palace built by King Rama VI. It was designed by a German and was very obviously European. The main thing of note was a huge banyan tree growing in the grounds. It appeared that several trunks had developed from the one original trunk and which have spread huge branches and shoots which have touched the ground and rooted. It was like walking into a small room but all from the one tree.
The route back to the hotel took us via Cha-Am beach which was not anymore prepossessing in its entire length in the sunshine than it was when we saw a little bit of it the other day!