Wednesday 17 June 2015 – Phuket to Hua Hin, Thailand
Up early for the 550km haul by bus to Hua Hin. Fortunately, the breakfast room was open when I checked out at 6.30am. Short walk to the local bus station to find nobody at the travel agent I’d booked with, so sat down outside. Within a couple of minutes an airconditioned van came and picked me up. One other passenger, Eddy from Germany, who was headed to Penang.
The long-distance bus station is (surprise surprise) located on the outskirts of town. The driver waited until the ticket window opened. I’d paid for a ‘VIP’ coach. Goodness knows if that’s what I got. It wasn’t a double decker as most VIP coaches are, but most of those are on the Bangkok express run. My coach as comfortable, but a bit run-down, although we did have a steward who provided water, biscuits and, later, a voucher for lunch at a roadside restaurant. The major discomfort was the aircon being turned to the ‘arctic’ setting. I hadn’t brought a jacket and was shivering by the time we stopped for lunch near Champon a bit after 2pm.
The restaurant was a huge and very organised affair, clearly set up to serve travellers on long road trips. Our few passengers sat at one of maybe 75 tables in one of the huge dining rooms. A selection of dishes sat on a lazy susan, a waitress took our vouchers and gave us plates of rice and we helped ourselves. As food provided to a price, it was very good, mostly vegetables but with some chicken in a yellow curry, beef in a salad dish and fish balls in a soup. There were fresh vegetables too, watermelon and iced water to drink. Lunch over in about 10 minutes I needed the loo. These too were set up in great order. Each boot held a squat toilet and a Japanese style bath so travellers can really refresh themselves if they wish.
Outside of the coach window, the landscape unfolded. We left Phang Nga’s limestone karsts for plantations of rubber and palm oil. Further north, great fields of pineapples could be seen. A road sign indicating a turnoff for Myanmar reminded me that the border here was very close, with Thailand occupying just a few miles of the width of the peninsula about half way up.
Large photographs of the Royal family are everywhere – inside businesses and homes as well as outside. Apart from directional road signs and advertising hoardings, of which there are a great quantity, most language was in Thai script so I needed Google Maps to tell me where we were. A couple of impressive mountain ranges appeared on the way, one to the left which may have been on or near the Burmese border, and another, very striking, on the right just south of Hua Hin.
We finally reached Hua Hin around 6.15pm, having departed Phuket at 8.30am. Of course, the bus station was a couple of kilometres further from my hotel than indicated when I looked on Google Maps (I’d booked the hotel deliberately to be close to both the bus and train stations). So rather than provide any satisfaction to the tuk-tuk crooks I dragged my bag along the footpath past the usual obstacles of broken cement, barriers, parked cars and scooters, taxi touts. Fortunately, Google Maps guided me unerringly to MyPlace@HuaHin, a sweet small hotel near the centre of town and the first of this trip to offer a pool, if only a small one. I availed myself of this as the brisk walk had warmed me after the chill of the long coach ride.
I deposited a load of dirty clothes at a laundry place across the road before exploring the nearby night market – very touristy – and settling for a dinner of fishcakes, crab omelette and stir-fried pork at a restaurant on the corner near the hotel.