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!

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…

Wednesday Write-Up: Writers Block

I am having a little bit of writers block today. Maybe it is the adorable two-year old wanting me to play a Thai dice game with her. Maybe it is the excitement of having awesome guests staying with us that have traveled all the way from our hometown to journey through Southeast Asia. Maybe it is the heavenly hot days that we have been blessed with since 2014 started. Maybe it is a little of all of these. We have been out showing our friends, Sean and Laura, the best Hua Hin has to offer and it has been great actually knowing what to do and where to go. Hua Hin is not really the town for us (we are big city dwellers much more), but the classic Thai tourism is pretty good here.

Today we went to the Hutsadin Elephant Foundation here in Hua Hin and rode on elephants. It was our friends’ first time on an elephant and they loved it, as did we. I will forever love and want to be around elephants. I would highly recommend if you want to go on an elephant “trek” you support this foundation that takes in used and abused elephants and nurses them back to health. I had written a post in the past (Elephants on Parade) about two other elephant shows/treks in Hua Hin and, while they were okay, this one I felt really good about going to.

Our friend, Laura, taking a picture of Song Kran, the youngest elephant at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation

Our friend, Laura, taking a picture of Song Kran, the youngest elephant at Hutsadin Elephant Foundation

One funny story for today… As we were riding on the back of a giant (probably 10-12 feet tall?) 40-year-old male elephant with tusks as long as my arms, Zoë asked, “What are we gonna do today?”  Chad and I both laughed as we realized what a charmed life she is leading right now (and us as well)… riding on elephants has become so common place to her that she was already asking what was next. It reminded me, yet again, of how incredibly blessed we are to be on this adventure.

So, I am off to see and do more, and hopefully this writers block will lift by Friday. I am sure it will. I just have to get back on the proverbial horse (or should I say elephant).

Is there anything you have always wanted to see or wondered about Thailand? Leave a comment and maybe I can help. Maybe it will help alleviate this writers block. Thanks for reading everyone!

Memories of 2013: Part 3

2014 has been off to a wonderful start, not only here in the blogosphere, but in our lives, too. I cannot wait to tell you all about the things we have planned in the coming months and the things we have already discovered and are doing so far this month.

Thank you again, truly, for reading, following, and sharing our blog. Our aim is to keep in touch with those we love, help fellow travelers, and to connect with people from all walks of life around the globe. Here’s to hoping that in 2014 all of these things will continue to flourish and thrive! xoxoxo

This is the final portion of our travels in 2013. We spent the last three months mostly in Hua Hin, Thailand, with some trips to Bangkok in between. These are my favorite pictures from October through December. I have linked the corresponding posts about Thailand under the pictures. If you want to read more of my posts on Thailand, type Thailand in the search box on the right hand side of your screen.

1-IMG_8559We made it to Bangkok and Z loved hiding in the apartment we rented off airbnb.com. Can you find her?

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Chad after one of our first Thai meals in Bangkok. He refuses to wear a flower behind his ear anymore, I don’t know why… I think it’s very handsome!

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Hanging out on our balcony during our stay in Sea Harmony Guesthouse Hua Hin, Thailand. This was by far our favorite guesthouse in Thailand!

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Our pool at our villa here in Khao Tao near Hua Hin. We can’t actually swim at night as the mosquitoes will eat us alive, but it sure is pretty.

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My mom (Zoë’s Nana) came to visit us! Woo Hoo! (She wrote a guest post here. Thanks Mom!)

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After picking up my Mom in Bangkok, we returned to this in Hua Hin. A massive storm hit the town and flooded the whole area. It also knocked our power out for two days and left us without running water for 12 days! It was a great welcome to Thailand for my mom.

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On an elephant “trek” with the whole gang!

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Pranburi Mangrove Nature Trail. Our little trail guide, Zoë. This was one of the most beautiful places in Hua Hin in my opinion.

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Santa came and filled our stockings! One part of Christmas in Thailand meant using our (clean) socks for stockings.

Thank you again for reading and following us along on our world travels! Happy 2014!

Pranburi Forest Park

This past Monday we decided to head out and do something a bit different. We didn’t feel like treading to the beach, we definitely didn’t feel like going to the mall (blech!), we felt like being outdoors and partaking in some physical activity.

If you know me, you already know that I hate most physical activity in nature. In fact even though I love to take long walks (3 or 4 miles a day if I could), I usually prefer to walk city streets with nice wide sidewalks. I know it isn’t rugged or anything, but, hey, its still exercise, am I right?

We felt the need to be outdoorsy that day so we took the trek (okay drove) over to Pranburi Forest Park. It is about a 10 minute drive from our house in Khao Tao, and only about a half hour drive from Hua Hin city center.

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Pranburi Forest Park reminded us of the beach/forest national parks back in Northern California. Sandwiched between the mangrove forest and the beach are tall evergreens which shade the flat landscape split into campsites. There are proper park ranger offices, community gathering areas, picnic areas, cabins for rent, and clean looking bathrooms and showers. The whole park has clear signage telling about the types of plants and tree’s (albeit most of them were in Thai, with just the names of in English). There is ample and easy parking throughout the park if you drive yourself. If you do not have your own transportation, most taxis or song-taews can easily drive you.

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The Mangrove Nature Trail is a raised wooden walkway through the heart of the mangrove forest. I have never seen a more gorgeous part of nature in my whole life, I was truly made speechless by the quiet, shady trees that grow in salt water pools. I will let the pictures show you as I really cannot describe it except to say that it made me thankful to be alive and incredibly blessed to be surrounded by such beauty.

The walkway through the mangroves

The walkway through the mangroves

Along the walkway, there is signage describing the wildlife, plant life, and landscape surrounding you. There are also blue little crabs that run along the tree roots. Make sure to keep your eyes open for them, they move fast.

Can you see the little crab on the root?

Can you see the little crab on the root?

The walkway is normally a full circle (about 1 km long), but half of it is currently blocked off. The trail now ends at a little dock where the river meets the mangroves. You can grab a taxi boat for 500 baht here. We decided to try it out, so we loaded up the stroller (which by the way, we were able to use the stroller easily the whole way through the trail), and hopped in ready for an adventure.

Getting on the taxi boat

Getting on the taxi boat

The taxi boat was covered and had 6 seats. Our taxi boat driver was a lovely woman who spoke no english but made sure that we saw all the sights along the way. We made our way down the shallow river, through the nearby fishing town, down to the ocean inlet. There were numerous large fishing boats manned with both men and women hanging their nets, selling their wares, and cleaning their boats. It is a wonderful place to take pictures and see how Thai fishermen (fisherpeople?) go about their daily work. Our driver also stopped along the way a couple of times to show us Water Monitors in the trees and water. She got really close to them and I may have squealed in fright a couple of times. EEK!

There's a Water Monitor in that brush...EEEE!

There’s a Water Monitor in that brush…EEEE!

At the end of our boat ride, she gave us the choice (using hand gestures mostly) to either go back to the mangrove forest trail or venture out into the ocean a bit and be dropped off at the beach. We chose the beach as it was closer to our car and Z was close to a nap. The ocean was calm and the view from the boat was just amazing, you can see all the way to Hua Hin along the coast.

The coastline (I believe those buildings are in the village of Pranburi)

The coastline (I believe those buildings are in the village of Pranburi)

As we jumped into the surf and made our way to the beach at the end of our trip, Chad and I both felt elated and thankful.

Walking ashore

Walking ashore

Our outing at Pranburi Forest Park reminded us why we are traveling. We are traveling to see all of God’s lovely creation, different cultures, yes, even Water Monitors in the wild up close and personal. I would highly recommend you check out Pranburi Forest Park if you are in the area.

Have you ever been in a mangrove forest? What did you think?

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