5 Tips For Traveling by Overnight Bus

We just traveled by overnight bus from Hua Hin, Thailand to Phuket, Thailand. Chad and I were excited. We love being on the road to a new destination, and our favorite ways of getting from place to place are either by train or bus. Despite the longer time traveling than by airplane, we both feel so much more accomplished and “travel-y” ( yes, that is the best word I could come up with… A little bit sad I know).
This time on our overnight travels, I had some revelations as I laid awake most of the night and I wanted to share them with you. These could be applicable for any overnight bus, but especially for the ones in Thailand.
FIVE TIPS FOR TAKING AN OVERNIGHT BUS
1. Wear leather, pleather, or vinyl pants as that’s the only way you’re not going to slide down the seats when they recline. Leather seats on a sleeping bus seem like a good idea, until you actually have to sleep in them.
2. Those winter clothes at H&M I told you about here, i found out they are sold for travel on the VIP overnight bus. Okay, that’s probably not the only reason, but they keep the bus at an artificial snowy degree most likely near -20 C. Winter layers are recommended.
3. Yes, there is a bathroom, a tiny stinky bathroom. But it’s better than nothing in a pinch. Bring spray hand sanitizer and it will help you clean the toilet without having to touch it.
4. On the subject of the bathroom, also make sure to bring your own tissue as it is not usually provided. I choose to believe that that is the reason the bathrooms are always wet everywhere (many people here wash themselves with hoses next to the toilet and do not use toilet tissue) and not that some guy (or many guys) peed everywhere because the bus was moving so crazily.
5. I have never used my blow up neck pillow on our trip so far, but I used it on this bus ride and thanked my lucky stars that I chose to bring it with me. My last recommendation, is to bring some sort of neck pillow if you want to sleep.

Now it’s your turn to give your tips for traveling on an overnight bus, leave them in the comments!

Monday Montage: A Sense of Peace

We leave for Phuket on a VIP bus tomorrow night at 11:00 pm. And I am feeling calm. Our bags are not packed. Albeit we have given much away that we have accumulated over the past three months. But, our bags are not packed. And yet, I still feel calm. I have no list written on what we need to do. I have no idea really how we are going to get it all done in time. And yet, I am calm.

So I have been thinking about it, because with all this calmness, I have time to think a bit… There are three possibilities as to why I am swimming in this sea of tranquility: 1) I am in a state of denial and am subconsciously totally freaking out, 2) I have been traveling long enough now to feel like packing and moving again is just, well… a piece of cake, or 3) God has given me enough peace to know that He has our move in control. Most likely it is a little of each. Regardless I am happy, excited, and calm.

And with that, here are my photos for this week. I hope that you enjoy them and have a great Monday!

This unicorn statue is in front of the Market Village Hua Hin and Z loves it!

This unicorn statue is in front of the Market Village Hua Hin and Z loves it!

Zoë loves ice cream... I know, this can't really be considered a "travel" photo, but I just think she is so darn cute!

Zoë loves ice cream… I know, this can’t really be considered a “travel” photo, but I just think she is so darn cute!

Chad and Z fishing at The Hua Hin Fishing Lodge

Chad and Z fishing at The Hua Hin Fishing Lodge

Chad and Z caught a catfish (and released it), but look at Zoë's face, it cracks me up!

Chad and Z caught a catfish (and released it), but look at Zoë’s face, it cracks me up!

A quick snack of crickets, grasshoppers, and meal worms. I loved the crickets and grasshoppers... the meal worms were a bit too squishy.

A quick snack of crickets, grasshoppers, and meal worms. I loved the crickets and grasshoppers… the meal worms were a bit too squishy.

Can you spot the typo? I see this every time we drive into town and it makes me laugh every time.

Can you spot the typo? I see this every time we drive into town and it makes me laugh every time.

Hua Hin traffic as seen from the drivers seat.

Hua Hin traffic as seen from the drivers seat.

We found a playground at a place called "Magic Balloon" and Zoë found out she loves the trampoline.

We found a playground at a place called “Magic Balloon” and Zoë found out she loves the trampoline.

The "Magic Balloon" that you can take up into the air for a overpriced fee.

The “Magic Balloon” that you can take up into the air for a overpriced fee.

The Skinny on the Beaches of Hua Hin

Not all of us are looking for the same kind of things when we go to a beach, some of us want quiet solitude, some want good music and parties, some want… well, the list could go on and on because every one has their own desires and thoughts on what makes a beach a “good” one. So I have decided to compare and contrast the beaches with a checklist of sorts. I have chosen ten different things that I think make or break a beach.

Before I begin, I must let you know that we have not been to EVERY beach in the Hua Hin area. We have only been to five, so those are the ones that I am including in this post. If you have been to any of the other ones, please leave a comment and tell us about them!

On that note… Here we go!

HUA HIN BEACH

Hua Hin Beach

LOCATION:  This beach is located right smack dab in the city center of Hua Hin.

AMENITIES/LUXURIES: Beach chairs with umbrellas for rent (unsure about price as we could not find someone to help us), People selling various clothing items, souvenirs, toys, and snacks come by somewhat often and love to haggle. Horse riding lessons on the beach for 300 baht an hour.

CLEANLINESS: This beach was not very clean. There were remnants of horse poo in certain areas, plastic garbage littered everywhere, and my final NO on cleanliness as far as Hua Hin Beach goes, is that we found a used needle and syringe washed up right next to where Zoë was playing.

CROWDS: This beach is very crowded where there are beds, they are packed like sardines. There is more room where there are not any beds, at least when we were there.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS: There are resorts lining this beach and I didn’t see any restaurants that were actually lining the beach.

SUN/SHADE: Unless you rent a chair and umbrella, there is very little shade on this beach. I am a sun lover, but it was even too much sun  for me.

WATER QUALITY: Murky, but warm. You do have to watch out for jellyfish, which can be difficult since you cannot see down to the bottom despite the depth.

SAND TYPE/QUALITY: Fine, white sand

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: The only safety hazards that I could tell were jellyfish,  the possibility of Zoë running in front of a horse (one of my few paranoia’s I admit) and the used needle on the beach.

PARKING/TRANSPORTATION: There is very little parking here. If you do get parking it costs 40 baht.  Taking a tuk tuk or songtaew from anywhere in Hua Hin city will cost about 100-150 baht, from outside the city limits 150-300 baht.

TAKIAB BEACH

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LOCATION: About 7 KM south of Hua Hin city center.

AMENITIES/LUXURIES: Beach beds with umbrella’s for rent for 50 baht a day. People selling various clothing items, souvenirs, toys, and snacks come by very often and love to haggle. Women will come to your beach bed and give you a massage, pedicure, or manicure for a very low price. Bathrooms and showers up and down the beach, usually at a 5 baht price tag. Horse riding lessons on the beach for 300 baht an hour.

CLEANLINESS: Very clean, the only thing marring the beach are the many seashells that are along the shore

CROWDS: Can be crowded in the later afternoon, but you can always find a bed for rent somewhere along the beach.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS: Many different restaurants line the beach, when you rent a bed, usually a restaurant comes along with it and you can get your food/drinks brought right to you. Most of the food that I have tried has been okay, but the fact that you can get Thai food brought right to you always makes me think it tastes better.

SUN/SHADE: Not much natural shade, but umbrellas come with every bed rented. You can ask them for more or less umbrellas (or shade), depending on how much you want to leave looking bronze (or like a lobster).

WATER QUALITY: Murky, but warm

SAND TYPE/QUALITY: Yellow, coarse sand littered with pretty seashells (great for little ones who like to hunt for them).

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: You need to watch out for jellyfish in the water and horses up and down the beach.

PARKING/TRANSPORTATION: There is parking on each end of the beach and at a couple of places in the middle. We have never had am issue finding a place to park. If you are taking a tuk tuk or songtaew the price will be 150-250 baht from Hua Hin city center, possibly more from other areas around Hua Hin.

SAI NOI BEACH

(I apologize, I seem to have lost my picture of Sai Noi beach! I will take one and add it to this post soon.)

LOCATION: About 15 Km from Hua Hin city center

AMENITIES/LUXURIES: There are people renting out beach chairs, tables, and umbrellas. I have not rented any of them so I am not sure of the price (but I am sure it’s inexpensive… probably 20-50 baht). There are bathrooms and showers at a cost of 5-20 baht.

CLEANLINESS: The beach is lined with washed up seashells, sea debris, and garbage of all sorts. The last time that we went there it was also crawling with sand fleas. We haven’t been back since, but some friends of ours like going there so maybe it’s better now.

CROWDS: Very little, mostly locals when we have been there.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS: There are two restaurants that line the beach. We have tried one and the food was ok. I believe that you can order food to where you sit on the beach if you want.

SUN/SHADE: There is good amounts of both natural shaded areas and sunny areas.

WATER QUALITY: Murky, the most murky of all the beaches we have been to. Colder water.

SAND TYPE/QUALITY: Yellow sand, rough texture, almost like pebbles on part of the beach.

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: This beach has a pretty extreme drop off in the water, so the waves are almost always choppy and you have to keep a very close eye on your children. There was broken glass on the beach also.

PARKING/TRANSPORTATION: There is parking up and down the street to the beach and we never had any issue finding a spot. To take a tuk tuk or songtaew it will cost you 300 + baht from Hua Hin city center.

PRANBURI NATIONAL PARK BEACH

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LOCATION: About 30 km south of Hua Hin city center.

AMENITIES/LUXURIES:  There are bathrooms up a ways inside the state park area. I think that they are free to use.

CLEANLINESS: This beach is the most pristine that I have found in the area. It seems almost untouched by humans, no garbage, etc.

CROWDS: Whenever we have gone to this beach there are very few others there. One day there were about 5 kite surfers and that seemed busy.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS: None that I know of.

SUN/SHADE: There is plenty of both.

WATER QUALITY: Pure, clean, and clear. The water here is the closest to tropical beach type water that I have seen around here.

SAND TYPE/QUALITY: Yellow sand, rough in texture, with sand grass spattered about.

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: As far as I have seen, it is pretty safe. I am not telling you to take your eyes off your children, but the water is shallow and clear and not wavy. You should probably keep an eye open for jellyfish.

PARKING/TRANSPORTATION: There is plenty of parking throughout the park area. If you take a tuk tuk or songtaew be prepared to pay 800-1000 baht from Hua Hin city center.

SUAN SON (ARMY) BEACH

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LOCATION: About 10 KM from Hua Hin city center.

AMENITIES/LUXURIES: Chairs for rent 20 baht, umbrellas for another 20 baht, low tables for 10 baht. There is a massage place up off the beach and a coffee cart. There is a market a bit of a walk from the beach that sells swimwear, toys, souvenirs, etc.

CLEANLINESS: This beach is pretty clean, there is some plastic garbage occasionally.

CROWDS: Not too crowded, you can always stake a pretty large area with no one around if you want to.

FOOD/RESTAURANTS: There is one of the cheapest and most delicious restaurants right off the beach. If you like green curry, you MUST try it at this restaurant!

SUN/SHADE: You will only get sun here during the morning hours, any time after 1 pm the massive trees block the sun almost completely.

WATER QUALITY: Murky and a little cold

SAND TYPE/QUALITY: Yellow/grey sand, rough in texture.

SAFETY FOR CHILDREN: This beach is very safe for all ages, it stays shallow for a long distance and then has a sand bar further out that causes the water to be calm near the shore. Watch out for jellyfish though.

PARKING/TRANSPORTATION: There is plenty of parking here, be aware that it does cost 20 baht to enter the park in your own car/scooter. To take a tuk tuk or songtaew will cost you at least 300 baht.

*** ONE LAST NOTE: All of these beaches have high tides that are up to the top of the beach until the afternoon usually at this time of year. Make sure to check with your hotel staff or the internet for times when the tide recedes.

Those are the details on the beaches here in Hua Hin area that we have enjoyed (or said we would never return to). What do you look for in a beach? What beach have you been to that you think is perfect and that we should see someday? Leave a comment and let us know!

Wednesday Write-Up: Quick Tips for a Quick Trip to KL

There are a plethora of blog posts out there about the things to do in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia. While researching for our very quick visa run, I noticed a common theme in all of the travel blog posts that I read, most of them were about the Batu Caves, the Petronas Towers, Petaling Street or China Town, and Little India. All of the posts were great and informative, but I hate to beat a dead horse, so my goal with the trip and for my subsequent blog post was to eat a ton of yummy meals and document them for you here.

Unfortunately the short period of time that we were in KL got the better of that plan, and so this blog is a little bit about the food we ate (not nearly enough if you ask me, you all know I live to eat good food!) and some tips that I wish I would have known before going.

So without further ado… THE FOOD OF KL

Okay, so really I shouldn’t title it as that, I should title it “The Food One Can Stuff Themselves With in Two Days in KL.”  That “One” being me, of course. I really do wish I had a larger stomach capacity sometimes, especially when in KL.

We arrived on a Tuesday afternoon and checked into our cute little bed and breakfast (Rainforest B & B) and immediately started looking online for where to eat. Chad had heard of a pub that served good microbrew beers called Taps Beer Bar and we really wanted to check it out. While Thailand has a good set of cheap beers to choose from, Chad is a beer connoisseur and amateur brewer himself and has been craving “good hoppy” beer for some time.  We knew that it was meant to be when the restaurant was literally around the corner from our hotel.

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Good beer and cider? Yes, please!

Good beer and cider? Yes, please!

Taps Beer Bar had more of a tapas and western pub food menu, but their beer list, and more importantly their cider list (my personal favorite) was impressive to say the least. Chad tried a few different micro-brews, and I tried a few fruity ciders, while Zoë kept herself busy eating delicious Belgian French Fries (not on the menu, but ask for them and you will get these savory parmesan covered thick cut fries for about 10 RM) and vegetarian nachos and running and climbing all over the couches that we were sitting on. Luckily the place was empty the whole time we were there, so no one could judge us on our exceptional parenting of our wild two and half year old climber.

After eating (ok, drinking) ourselves to extreme fullness and satisfaction, we walked around a bit and checked out the neighborhood. The place we stayed was in a prime location, within walking distance to the Petronas Towers, Bukit Bintang Shopping Plaza, and China Town.  We went and checked out the BB Plaza and the mall which housed an H & M. We did this until we processed our previous meal enough to then try out a curry buffet and restaurant that was on Jalan Nagasari, the main road right around the corner from our hotel.

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Walking around our neighborhood, and we ran into Chinatown

Walking around our neighborhood, and we ran into Chinatown.

Unfortunately, I did not get the name of this restaurant, but their naan bread was amazing, and the chicken masala I ate was lovely and had just enough spice to leave a bit of a burn after I was finished. This was also the restaurant where I tried my first 100 Plus, a soda that reminded me a bit of Squirt back in the States, but was a bit crisper and less sugary. This became my addiction for the time we were in KL (I actually still crave it and wish they carried it here in Thailand).

My new addiction.

My new addiction.

The next morning, we had a pitiful breakfast of corn flakes and bananas at our hotel. It was free so we decided to make do with it. It was really disappointing to waste precious eating space on such a disappointing free breakfast. We decided to walk to the Petronas Towers to burn off some of the breakfast and make room for lunch (or at least that’s what I was doing, I think Chad and Z were sightseeing and not thinking of food… I know… I don’t understand it either).

A wonderful B&B, but not the best free breakfast.

A wonderful B&B, but not the best free breakfast.

After we went to the Petrosains Discovery Centre, it was lunch time! We took a taxi back to a place called Nagasari Curry House which was directly across the street from our hotel (I could not have wished for a better place to stay as far as location… if you can… stay at Rainforest B&B!). Chad and I were starving, we ordered quickly and then waited… and waited… and waited. In all reality it took about 20 minutes, but when you are hungry, 20 minutes is an eternity! When my butter chicken, Chad’s curry chicken, our rice, butter naan, and cheese naan (or cheese pizza to Z) were set upon our cheap laminate table, we realized that the wait was well worth it. I would like to say that Chad and I ate in a civilized manner, but the flavors and our hunger won over, and people probably thought that Z was actually being raised by wolves.

The way it looks just does not do it's deliciousness justice.

The way it looks just does not do it’s deliciousness justice.

There was only one problem with our luncheon at Curry House, we were too stuffed when we left! We couldn’t bring ourselves to eat anything until much later, and sadly to say it was mediocre mall food at the Petronas Towers (we went back to take Zoë to the Aquaria KLCC). I will probably regret that for the rest of my life, yes I am being a bit overdramatic, but yummy food is just that important to me.

The next day we decided to forgo the free breakfast, and went to a cafe a couple doors down from the Rainforest that had lovely gourmet breakfasts. I had an omlette with sautéed mushrooms and tomato compote, and Chad had their “Big Breakfast”, which consisted of tons of bacon, eggs, and toast. We were satisfied and then had to head to the airport to travel back to Thailand.

All in all, the food we did try, made me want to try more. I will HAVE to go back to Malaysia and just become a foodie and eat for a month straight or something. Must eat more food…

Now for THE INVALUABLE QUICK TIPS FOR A QUICK TRIP IN KL

1. If you decide to go to the Petronas Towers and do some shopping or go to the Petrosains Discovery Centre make sure that you find a small booth on the ground floor that gives out  the “Tourist Privilege Card” to anyone with a foreign ID or passport. This card will save you 10-20% at many of the stores and the Discovery Centre. We saved 20% off the admission price for the Petrosains, which was well worth the 5 minutes it took to get the card.

2. If you choose to take a taxi in KL, make sure that you ask if they will use the meter, and if they won’t, wait for the next taxi. There are so many taxi’s and you will not have to wait long to get a different one if the first one refuses. This will save you lots of money, once we started demanding that they use the meter, our fares were cut in half.

3. At the Petronas Towers there is a taxi booth that charges 2 RM extra to call a taxi for you. Chad and I decided to try it once and learned the hard way. Not only do you pay the extra 2 RM, but then the taxi meter starts a 4 Rm more than normal. You end up paying a lot more for a taxi ride. Just go out to the street and find your own taxi (its only about a 1 minute walk from there to the main road that has taxi’s lined up and waiting.

4. If you decide to go to the Aquaria KLCC, make sure that you check out their feeding times before you go. We arrived there about 20 minutes after most of the feedings had finished.

5. At the KL International Airport, there are buses that will take you to your hotel doorstep for 18 RM each. There is a booth for the bus as you arrive, but it is in the restricted area, so make sure to have some RM before you arrive… OR, you can go directly to the bus station area and buy your tickets there for the same price.

6. For all you ladies out there, KL is primarily a Muslim city. Be aware of the differences in what women wear. KL is extremely diverse in culture and dress, but one of the things I didn’t really see anywhere were women wearing tank tops or shorts, which of course is all that I packed. Obviously I did not research dress “codes” at all. If you are going to KL and are female, make sure to pack knee length skirts/dresses, short/long sleeve shirts, and capris. It is really hot and humid, so you can bring pants if you can handle the heat. I felt a little under-dressed the whole time we were there.

Do you have any tips for travel in Kuala Lumpur or in Malaysia in general? Leave a comment so others can travel to KL and have all the tips they will need in one place!

Phraya Nakhon – Cave of Wonders

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“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Joseph Campbell

As the boat rounded the small jetty, we got a splash of sea water. The captain righted his course and pulled around toward the bay. The sandy beach lay before us, its white sand sparkling in the afternoon sun. Being on the East Coast meant that the darkness would only come quicker, especially with the tall mountain shadowing the shore.

As we ground to a soft halt in the shallow water, we looked at our destination. Somewhere in front of us, set into the rocky promenade was a cave. A hole in the ground that we meant to explore.

Our way there.

Our way there.

Earlier that day, we had almost decided against it. To be honest, I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I used the excuse of not wanting to leave Zoë and Jenny by themselves, but that was quickly dismissed by my giving wife. Jenny and I had wanted to explore the Tham Phraya Nakhon Cave since we had arrived in Hua Hin, but we were worried the hike might be a little much for our young daughter’s legs.

If you read this blog often, you might realize that there are very few things we won’t do with the little one. We firmly believe that kids should not be an excuse… even if occasionally we would like to blame her for our own lack of enthusiasm at doing something strenuous. We aren’t lazy, we just prefer lounging on beaches, or navigating city sidewalks, or perhaps dining on foreign delicacies. Hiking isn’t really either of our strong suits.

However, this cave had piqued our curiosity. It had been discovered over 200 years ago by a stranded sailor, and in 1896 the Thai people had erected a pagoda for a visiting King Rama V. A pagoda in a cave, with natural lighting from the holes in the ceiling was enough to make us almost eager for a grueling trek adventure. But we read that the hike was almost 500 meters up a steep, rocky path and that was the easy option. One could take the long hike, without the boat ride, and then the climb would double. Just what we dreamed of…

Steep, but doable.

Steep, but doable.

So when our two friends arrived, we realized that if we were ever to explore this hidden gem, then one of us would have to do it without the other, since we didn’t want to risk getting halfway up the mountain with an exhausted toddler. I was the designated photographer, so we decided I should take our guests on an exploratory mission.

First off, the state park that houses the cave is one of those places that takes your breath away as you approach. The drive south from Hua Hin is very pleasant, and takes about 40 minutes upon a very well paved road. As we passed coconut farms, and several wats and villages, I was impressed at just how easy it was to get there with nothing more than a simple map to guide me. But nothing could have prepared me for the dragon-spined mountains, or the stunning beaches and islands that they sheltered. It was one of those moments, that happen often in this Land of Smiles, where I was simply awed at the natural treasures the land held.

The road led to a small beach-side market, with a few restaurants, shops, and fresh coconut merchants hawking their wares. I was even surprised to find the nicest outdoor playground I had seen in Thailand. I instantly regretted not bringing Z and Jenny along, as they could have easily spent the afternoon on the playground and in the shops. Jenny cannot get enough of slides and swings, and Zoë is glad when her mom burns off some of her extra energy…

Anyhow, there was a quaint hand painted sign that indicated where the boats could be found, and another sign with an arrow leading into the much longer path over the mountain and to the cave. We of course elected for the boat ride. I am a sucker for boats and take every opportunity I can to be on the water.

Follow the signs for service.

Follow the signs for service.

The boat was 500 baht, or more depending on our itinerary. We could have optioned to see a couple of islands as well, but decided we would save that for another day. There was also an additional 200 baht fee, per person, for the state park entrance fee. It seemed steep, but we forked over the cash and moved ahead.

So it was that we reached the other beach after the boat ride. We had to wade through knee-high surf, with cameras held high above our heads but it was refreshing and added to the sense of excitement of the journey. As we reached the path that led to the cave a guide came forward and offered assistance for a few hundred more baht. We politely declined and decided on going our own way, even though it was getting late and we were a bit worried about finding our way back in the dark.

Boats and friends. Great times.

We met a few other travelers, all coming back from the cave, and they assured us it wasn’t too much of a climb. One group did recommend we take more water as it got hot and we would probably need it. We heeded their advice, and stopped at a restaurant that was at the beginning of the trail. There were some nice bathrooms, and even a few bungalows for rent, but it did look like the park was being deserted and once again we worried it was getting too late.

So we hurried up the path. The steps were man-made, but had been worked into the rock in a way that almost seemed natural. Also the stones were well-worn and at times fairly slippery. We quickly were covered in sweat, but pushed on as fast as we dared as the afternoons shadows were growing long. The hike in total took about 30-45 minutes, which isn’t much but it was all uphill until the end. There was a small stopping point, half-way up the trail that offered a magnificent view of the coastline and islands below.

Stunning. I want to go back.

Stunning. I want to go back.

As we reached the caves, there was an overwhelming sense of silence. The first turn downwards revealed stalactites and stalagmites that formed the walls around the entrance. Little statues of tigers and Buddhas marked the turns down into the caves. My ears popped as we descended as it was quite the change in altitude, and I watched my footing closely on the slick stones.

Tiny Statues

And then we entered the cave.

Nothing could have prepared me for the sheer awesomeness of what we beheld. The light poured in through the collapsed dome of the first cave. Staring straight up I could see what was called “Death Bridge,” a bridge of stone that separated the ceiling into two and was aptly named. It was eerie and stunning at the same time, and none of us spoke much… Just enough to dispel the silence of the massive cave.

Don't fall...

Don’t fall…

And it truly was much larger than we had previously thought. There was actually two caves, and the first was just a teaser for the second. The second required walking down a short wooden path, and under a narrow ceiling and that was where we found the pagoda. It was like walking into a scene from Indiana Jones, where at any moment I expected them to pull away the curtain or for someone to shout “action.” The little pagoda sat on a small dirt mound, surrounded by vegetation and stones. It was all so clean and surreal, and there were paths leading around and about the room.

We made our way in.

We made our way in.

Pagoda. Laura.

We explored quickly, it wasn’t dark, but it was fast approaching and we still had to make it back down the hill. One of the most fascinating things we found was the hand painted insignias of the last three kings of Thailand. It would have been harder to leave, there was so much to explore, but the coming night, and the presence of a creepy blind eyed dog wearing a t-shirt made us want to leave. Plus there were no other tourists and we felt a slight sense of unease.

So we bustled back out of the underground wonder, and rushed down the path to the campground. Supposedly there are cute monkeys that play along the trail, but we saw only a squirrel who made us all jump as it bustled about. We reached the beach without any further ado, except that the strange dog followed us down, but he probably was as bothered by us as we were of him.

He was sweet... I hope.

He was sweet… I hope.

Wish we had seen these... but that squirrel was entertaining.

Wish we had seen these… but that squirrel was entertaining.

As we waded back out into the ocean we noticed that our boat wasn’t there. We had a number that was supposed to indicate our return boat, but the only one left was broken and the captain was trying to fix. We stood like awkward beggars, and finally he allowed us on, which was a relief as there simply was no one else around. We worried we may have been forgotten if we hadn’t pushed our way aboard, and were very glad to see our car in the parking lot were we had left it.

It wasn't as late as I feared, and the sunset was spectacular.

It wasn’t as late as I feared, and the sunset was spectacular.

In all it was an amazing trip, and one I would highly recommend. I think Zoë could have handled it just fine, but I am glad we didn’t dive into the unknown with her there. I would have probably been very anxiety ridden concerned if she had been there, but overall she would have been fine. If we do go back it will be in the early part of the day, with plenty of time to spare. But a rushed adventure is still a journey, and I for one am glad we went.

If you have been to or know of any other amazing hidden gems here or elsewhere in the world, please drop us a line and let us know what they are! To future adventures!

Chad

Monkey Mountain, Khao Takiab

Today was our friends’ last day in Hua Hin and so we all decided that seeing and feeding monkeys would be a great way to spend the day. We originally tried to go to Monkey Island south of town in Pran Buri, where you have to take a long tail boat to the island and can feed the monkeys that heavily populate it. When we arrived at Pran Buri National Park, the wind was high making the ocean a bit choppy. After talking to some people who were returning from their boat trip who were soaked to the skin from the big waves crashing into their boat, we decided to head back to Monkey Mountain in Khao Takiab.

Monkey Mountain, or Chopstick hill as it is also known, is easily reached on foot or by car in the town of Khao Takiab, south of Hua Hin. We did not realize that it could be reached by car, so we walked up the mountain. It was a pretty easy climb, despite the 152 steps up the mountain. There were a couple of temples, on the way to the area where the monkeys reside, that kindly had a box of slingshots, and some rocks for use if a monkey got out of hand. Chad and Sean took one each just in case.

Entrance to the walkway to Monkey Mountain

Entrance to the walkway to Monkey Mountain

Giant golden Buddha on the way up the mountain

Giant golden Buddha on the way up the mountain

Finally I found someone who has bigger feet than me in Thailand! :)

Finally I found someone who has bigger feet than me in Thailand! 🙂

On our way up, we had stopped and gotten ourselves some beverages. That turned out to be a lifesaver,  as our friend Laura found out. When we arrived at the main monkey area, we noticed our first monkey. He was an older, grumpy looking guy. As we noticed him, he noticed Laura and decided to run at her. She ran (what person wouldn’t) as the rest of us stood laughing (Sorry Laura!) at the sight. The slingshots that Chad and Sean had grabbed earlier were forgotten in the moment. Laura’s only defense from the oncoming attack was her Mojito. She deftly threw the plastic cup at the monkeys head, and he stopped chasing her. He then picked up the now lidless cup that was still half full and walked off, finishing Laura’s yummy drink. So the moral of this story is, make sure to have a drink of some sort in hand when traveling to Monkey Mountain. Okay, there is not really a moral to this story, except to tell you about Monkey Mountain, but having some kind of drink in your hand may be your last defense to ward off monkey attacks.

There were little shops to buy souvenirs (the same kind as in all the other souvenir shops in Thailand, and just as inexpensive as everywhere else). We stopped at a mini mart of some kind that was surrounded and crawling with monkeys of all sizes and ages. After Laura’s brush with death adventure, we were all a little wary of the little critters climbing all over everything. Honestly, most of them just went about their business and didn’t seem to really even notice us. They moved around us without event. I decided to be brave and buy some peanuts for 50 baht at the mini-mart there. As the woman was preparing the basket of peanuts inside, the monkeys began flocking around the door. I lost my confidence that they would not swarm me for the peanuts and asked the storekeeper to feed them to the monkeys. She kindly did so without making fun of me, and the resulting sea of monkeys quickly gathered all the thrown peanuts and then immediately dispersed to eat their snack. I kind of regret not throwing the peanuts myself, but maybe next time.

Checking out the monkeys with a wee bit of distance between us

Checking out the monkeys with a bit of distance between us

After we took some pictures of the monkeys and surroundings, we felt we had seen enough and we made our way back down the mountain. It is so much easier to walk down 152 stairs than up, let me tell you!

Heading down the 152 stairs... easy peasy

Heading down the 152 stairs… easy peasy

I think we spent about an hour and a half on our Monkey Mountain adventure and I think it was a great way to spend the afternoon. It was cheap (we only spent the 50 baht for the peanuts) and easy to get to. Zoë started out a little scared of the monkeys after the one ran at Laura, but enjoyed looking at the monkeys from the safety of my arms. I would recommend anyone traveling to Hua Hin, check out Monkey Mountain. It is good for all ages with easy access for all. Just make sure you bring a beverage of some kind…