Cha-am and Hua Hin, Beaches of Love, Hope, and Happiness
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When people think of some beaches not too far from Bangkok to spend a weekend at, I’m sure most of the time they will think of Bangsaen or Pattaya. For me, however, instead of going to the eastern coast of Thailand, I always prefer heading southwest pass the gulf of Thailand to Cha-am beach in Petchburi and Hua Hin beach in Prachuab Kirikan. Both are the beaches I’ve been familiar to since I was little. My family used to always enjoy our weekend here for their right amount of tourists, clean and splendid beaches, and the fact that there were many other tourist attractions in the area apart from only the beaches. This time I left my home late in the morning so I could arrive at Cha-am beach at lunch time as planned. The ambience here was still the same as when I was little. I remembered crossing the road hand in hand with my little sister from our hotel to the beach. And every time, we would see a few horses waiting to offer their service to the tourists. Though my sister and I have never ridden on them, those horses were still there, offering the ride the way their seniors had done before. Some were trotting along the beach with tourists on their backs; some were waiting to be of service under the shade of pine trees. While I was observing, grilled chicken and Somtam vendor walked my way and so I had my lunch. But my destination today was not to chill at the quiet beach here, but the famous seaside Royal Palace of Petchburi province: Mritadayavan Palace. This palace was built in the era of King Rama VI to serve as a summer palace. More importantly, the King also directed the building process and designed the plan of the area around the palace himself as well. Though the name “Maritadayavan -- the forest of forgiveness” was the name of the forest wherein, according to Tripitaka, the Buddha’s first sermon took place, people usually called it the palace of love and hope. This was probably due to the beauty and the pastel color of this one-story wooden building. Wooden window panels painted in bluish green stood out from the beige terrace and teakwood pillars. The pinkish red cement tiles on the roof extended to a seaside pavilion where white sand beach and a wonderful garden located. The quiet atmosphere with cool sea breeze sweeping softly upland made this palace everlastingly impressive to those who came to visit always. Every time I revisited this palace and got the chance to stand in the seaside wooden pavilion, looking far out into the glittering light of the sun reflecting on the surface of the sea always gave me the sense of hopefulness and love. I took my time to myself for a while before going back to my hotel and prepare for a night at Hua Hin. Before making a turn to my hotel I decided to take some photos with Hua Hin Train Station, a landmark of Hua Hin. You haven’t reached Hua Hin until you take a photo of yourself and this Victorian-influenced building. One half of the building was made of wood and another was cement, true to the traditional train station in the past. Window panels painted bright red contrasted to the beige and yellow paint of the building made the place so alive that even those who didn’t travel by train had to make a stop in admiration. Apart from the building, there was also the old steam engine since World War Two and the King Rama VI pavilion which was carefully designed by Thai traditional artists to match with the train station building. This pavilion was used as a resting place for the King when His Majesty wished to travel by train. Before leaving, I couldn’t forget to take a photo of myself and the train station sign of Hua Hin, another landmark, then I was ready for the nightlife. I took a shower to freshen up myself from a long day then I walked to Hua Hin Night Market. The market opened from six in the evening until midnight everyday, and gave the impression of a walking street rather the real market. The market was at Dechanuchit road and there were a huge deal of food shops offering all kinds of delicious food and exquisite dessert. There were also several types of souvenirs and goods in a reasonable price. However, what made Hua Hin Night Market stand out from other markets are the sincerity and the warmth you could find from the smiling faces of local people and shop vendors here. Many tourists, Thai and foreign, have been greatly impressed and have decided to come back year after year for this reason. Another place you couldn’t afford to miss when you visit Hua Hin. After stuffing myself with food and dessert at Hua Hin Night Market, it was time for me to chill out and enjoy myself with some jazz music and the sound of the wave at Hua Hin beach. More than ten years, Hua Hin Jazz festival has been held at Hua Hin beach annually for jazz lovers all over the country. If we compared the characteristics of the city to the style of music, Pattaya would be juvenile rockers screaming and jumping, and Hua Hin would be thirtyish workers loving every minute of soothing jazz music and the sound of the wave. Sitting there watching many artists took turn to sing and entertain, I couldn’t help smiling with myself for the happiness in the air that I was able to feel with only my heart. Lovers, friends, families, foreigners; all looked so blissful when they interacted with those singers on the stage cheerfully. For me, this was the moment that defined happiness. The happiness that came from within and from being able to do what we wanted to do without expectation, the real and pure happiness. The next morning, I woke up when it was still dark in the morning to go three kilometers to the west of Hua Hin beach and arrived at the Hin Lek Fai view point a little before six o’clock. There were already a few people and photographers there, preparing to catch the first ray of the sun slowly appearing at the horizon of Hua Hin sea. Though the period before the dawn was a little gloomy, everything turned bright and full of hope once the sun appeared. The new day was always filled with life and hope. The morning light made me able to see the whole city of Hua Hin more clearly. There were altogether 16 view points on this Hin Lek Fai hill, six of which were major view points. I stopped and truly admired the stunning view of the entire city and the beach that extended to Cha-am at the fifth view point. Houses and trees and the peaceful sea that reflected the sky filled with shiny golden clouds of the morning was celestial, a view so divine and worth waking up so early. Before heading back to Bangkok, I made a stop to have lunch at Hua Hin Floating Market. The place has been recently opened and was designed to match with the traditional look of Hua Hin train station. Though it did not truly represent the spirit and the way of life of Hua Hin people, the place was tastefully built and smartly designed that it has already become another attraction of Hua Hin city for tourists from all over the world already. Another place you shouldn’t miss with any reason on the way back from Hua Hin to Bangkok was Plearn Waan, the place that represented the Thainess in the past. Shops here provided food and toys we used to play when we were young and couldn’t find anymore. This, again, restated the feeling of nostalgia and resilience we could only find in the city of Hua Hin.