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Published: February 25th 2017
Saturday 25th February
Yes, We've skipped yesterday - mainly because we did beggar all! Friday was THE laziest day of all while we reflected upon what/where we've done/been and how we should spend our last 48 hours here in beautiful Southern Thailand.
Saturday morning dawns, a bit humid, very hot and muggy, with a couple of distant thunder rumbles to indicate that the weather forcasters could be correct in their prediction of a thunderstorm and 4cm of rain. We would dearly love to witness a tropical thunderstorm - they are really something to behold! But no, all quietens down and the sun sneaks out.
By 10.00am we are breakfasted and have a rough and cunning plan! Not having ventured North further than the Hua Hin Fishing Lodge, we decide upon a circuitous route - Pak Nam Pran (home base) - Cha-Am (Khao Nang Phanthurat National Park) - Hua Hin (Maruekhathaiyawan, King's former Summer Palace) - Cicada Night Market, Hua Hin - Pran Buri (Weekly Saturday Night Market) - Home.
First leg of the plan, Leo driving, Paula navigating - we take the wrong exit off Route 4 Highway. An
hour's journey takes an hour and a half - but hey! We get there and in one piece. Thai driving has to be learned, then unlearned! Too much to explain here, but highways go on for hundreds of kms, offering only U-Turns if you want to get off to the Right! Only problem then is that you have to cut across two or three lanes of fast-moving kamikaze traffic, including Twin trailer-ed trucks, All overloaded with Lumber or Molasses and hordes of mopeds and scooters, and fight for a bit of road going in the opposite direction, from 0mph to 60mph in about 5 seconds! Piece of Cake! Best undertaken on an empty stomach because once or twice Paula has wanted to eject her breakfast!
So, to Khao Nang Phanthurat National Park is said to be the largest Forest Park in Thailand. We did not realise the distinction between 'National Park' and 'Forest Park' so we perhaps had higher hopes than we should have. However, entrance was free, parking easy near Visitor Centre and a fairly decent map of the Park provided. As usual, we set off Leo has Stick in hand to warn off the Monkeys
following the Map , but quickly realise we are in fact travelling along the ONE path we're NOT supposed to take - marked in red! Wevisit the Phantaurat Mirror (all good Concrete steps but steep, yet safe) a cremation ground, a shrine with Wonder Woman as it's centerpiece (why not we ask, the deceased clearly had a 'thing' for the American Superhero) and a Holy Well, which looked more like a sewage recycling pond, before climbing upwards to the 'no go' area. The path had clearly collapsed close to the summit, so we tentatively backtracked to the start point.
Not to be deterred, we set off again a few hundred meters along the flat track and start to climb yet again, towards the famed Mayom Cave. Paula decides that she'd had enough after about 15 minutes of rising terrain, steps steeply ascending, hued from natural rocks and dodgy, crumbling wooden railway sleepers, no handrails, no ropes, just stamina. Suddenly, the cave doesn't seem worth it. It's not so much the going up, her brain working on the 'how will we get down theory'. In the meantime, Leo pushes bravely on, finds the cave, returns to Paula and
agrees, let's go down and back to base! It's claimed the trek is a mere 3km, but it feels like 10kms, adding the 36 deg Celsius, high humidity, unsafe terrain, and a definite NO after porcupine cave incident. There are many wildlife species in the Park including Leopards , Monkeys and Apes but apart from the Macaques around the car park we heard man,y but saw nothing.
Leaving the Park we head towards the Palace which is between Cha Am and Hua Hin, remembering our previous codicile on major Thai highways despite our vigilance, we manage to miss the turning and end up in the outskirts of hua hin. Long overdue for a coffee, we pull off onto a side road and find a beach side restaurant named Chomtalay Beach Restaurant for refreshments and, realising we are starving hungry and it's 2pm, lunch!
The menu is basic and leans towards rice and seafood dishes. So we share scallops served in shells in a butter curry sauce, fried rice with crab and a cold drink apiece. Definitely hit the spot. There were a party of young Chinese Ladies at the next table, so Paula wanders across and
asks if they were familiar with the former King's Summer Residence and it's whereabouts? The ladies said 'sure' as they had perfect American English, and gave directions. So off we went, and within five minutes we were inside the Army/Air Force enclosure, prior to parking up at the wrong area and learning all about the environmental and ecological issues relating to modern Thailand, before scuttling off to the Palace 'proper'. We are respectfully covered(almost, Paula has to borrow a black cloth 'tube' to cover her legs) and we are given a 30 minute window to explore. To be honest, 30 minutes was enough. The campus incorporated marshland, through to beach, and was limited due to the destruction by Death-Watch Beetle and Dry-Rot. There is a major rebuild ongoing at the moment, limiting access and enjoyment, which will take much money and many months to complete.
Photos taken, we return to the car and head for 3rd point of the plan, Cicada Market, Hua Hin. It is 5pm and things should be really hotting up! Parked easily next to the Anari Hotel, and we wander through, to see the initial stages of what will be an awesome night
market.. There is nothing more urgent on our agenda than a decent cup of coffee, and after a wander, realize no coffee here, live music yes, food yes, artisan goods yes, but not quite what we seek. Returning to car once again, spot lovely coffee shop, enjoy our brew then head to Point 4 - Pran Buri Night Market..
Despite being low on Fuel, Paula driving we decide to go via the coast scenic road, but after 15 minutes find ourselves on a dirt track in the Booneys following the only railway line in Thailand, passing Hill Billy shacks and increasingly bad terrain we realize this is a mistake, and make a three point turn in what could have been a Dog/Cock fighting illegal something with music up in the high decibels, retracing our steps, we go all the way back to Hua Hin, with the petrol gauge flashing empty and several heated exchanges as to routes etc, we find a filling station. Thank God!
Refueled, a happy couple again, we enjoy a leisurely drive back along Route 4 to our final stop, Pran Buri Market. We park up paying 20 baht for the privilege, and are directed
to a parking spot then walk towards the light!. what a spectacle. We have parked at the railway station and must cross the tracks to gain entrance to the Night Market. There is a hum and atmosphere as we approach and wow! Smells, sights, sounds. Pran Buri is a local market, not a tourist market, so much is given to food, food and more food. There is nothing familiar to us from previous markets. Nothing touristy, just Thais at their weekly market. We bought a Cap for Leo, nothing else, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Some nice Antique shops with genuine product but nothing really appealed.As a footnote, the amount of Mosquitoes around every light source were perturbing and in any Western Country the Municipality would have been out in force Killing the Bgrs. Concluded a lovely day home for light supper, Blog and Leo hopes an England Win!
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