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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 12.569, 99.9524
While I was taking half of a TEFL course in Hua Hin, there were two weekend field trips that our little class took. The first weekend we were there nothing was planned, so three of us checked out Hua Hin's floating market, hoping it was similar to the famous floating market in Bangkok. This one was a disappointment. We 3 all rode out on one scooter; it appears everybody in Thailand rides scooters. I generally try to walk everywhere possible, but the floating market was too far away, and it was quite hot. Once we got there and parked the scooter, we looked for a way to enter; because we all look Western, we were directed to an opening that led to the boats. It cost 100Baht each (about $3 pp) to ride the boats; even when we told them we just wanted to go to the market they insisted we pay the entrance fee and ride the little canoe-type boat around the little pond. So we did. It turned out (very typical here) that we were the object of many photographs, and, probably, a lot of jokes too, as people who knew simply walked into the market and avoided paying for, or taking, the boat ride. This market was all tourist junk anyway, but at least we checked it out.
The second weekend was my last scheduled weekend in Hua Hin, and trips were scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday we had planned to go swimming in the Gulf of Thailand (wonderful swimming!), but took a slight detour before doing that. Everyone was on scooters, 2 or 3 to a scooter, and we followed Jaco (one of our teachers) as he led us to a new beach (we thought). Instead we chugged up a hill, and then a mountainside, and, after leaving the scooters and climbing, on foot now, a little trail up even higher, we realized where we were: Monkey Mountain! Monkeys were everywhere; small monkeys under three feet high. They came right up close to people. I hadn't brought my camera because I thought we were just going swimming, so unfortunately I have no pictures. There must have been hundreds, if not thousands of monkeys monkeying around! It was quite amazing. We saw alpha males, and less dominant males, we saw pregnant females, and females with their babies clinging to them, and toddler monkeys playing; we saw monkeys picking up trash and chewing on it to see if it was edible, and monkeys biting through soda cans, trying to get the drops left inside.
If you stretch your head way back, and look up, at the very top of Monkey Mountain is a temple. The 100 or so steps to reach this temple are very steep; it looks like you need to climb right into the sky! The monkeys do it easily, of course. Two of us decided we needed to climb to the temple, so we started up. I was quickly stopped, as I had shorts on (we had thought we were going swimming), but the ladies who take care of the concession stand at the bottom of the steps are very prepared for ignorant visitors; they simply pick one of their sarongs and wrap it around any offending female. The one they tied on me was very beautiful; I would have liked to buy it. So we started up the stairs again; now I was hampered by wearing a long skirt, but we made it.
From the top of the stairs you can see the whole of Hua Hin harbor, stretching both north and south. Beautiful. The temple was beautiful too, but very small. The two of us went in and kneeled down, just for a bit; one monk was chanting and the other few people there were chanting along with him, so we very discretely left. On three of the sides surrounding this temple hang iron bells of various sizes, from about one foot to perhaps 2 1/2 feet in size. Some monkeys sit on the bells, but I wanted to hear their tones. I mentioned this to my companion, and a young Thai man overheard and told us we could use one of the sticks that are placed there, but that each bell must be hit in sequence, avoiding none. So I chose a stick, and started around. Some bells had lovely tones, others sounded more like a thunk. A large monkey sat on the very last bell, but the next to last bell had the most beautiful sound of all! I wanted to hit it again, it was such a beautiful sound, but decided not to do that, and I didn't want to go around the temple hitting all the bells a second time just to hear that one, next to last, gorgeous sounding bell.
We viewed the ocean scene spread before us one more time before descending the steep stairs; for me it is always much harder going down than climbing up, and this time it was even worse because workers were cleaning the temple steps by spraying water over them making them quite slippery. Monkeys raced us down; they beat. At the bottom we watched more monkeys trying to steal food from unsuspecting visitors, and monkeys chasing other monkeys off the roofs they claimed for their own. The monkeys have ultimate freedom on Monkey Mountain, but I did not see any actually go into the temple on top. Perhaps they are not Buddhist.
After watching our fill of monkeys, we walked back down to the scooters. Everyone else rode the scooters down the steep hills, but I chose to walk back to town, not quite trusting the brakes (or the young, impetuous drivers) to stop us from careening into all the people and traffic at the bottom. Climbing onboard once more, we then rode to a beach new to us, to swim in the beautiful warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand, and wash off the dust from Monkey Mountain.
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