I have, at the time of writing, lived in Pattaya, Thailand for ten months and I have enjoyed every minute my time here. The land of smiles has, for the most part, defeated my clinical depression to the point that I rarely have to rely on medication. Considering the many years I suffered from this debilitating illness, this is by no means something I claim lightly.
Thailand is a beautiful country. I have hardly touched the surface of what it has to offer in terms of tourist attractions.
I have visited Bangkok, Roi Et, Chantaburi and of course Pattaya I have travelled around on foot, bike and bus, to learn what the city of Pattaya has to offer. There is an abundance of must see and do tourist attractions in Chonburi Province. It is not just Walking Street I can assure you.
I was afforded the opportunity to visit the town of Hua Hin on the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand when the new passenger ferry services came into operation early January 2017.
The ferry is of a catamaran design and glides over the waves at an average speed of 27 knots or 30mph. Security is high at both sides with airport style scanners and searches before you are permitted into the waiting areas.
The staff are polite and helpful at the ports of Pattaya and Hua Hin. They even salute their passengers as they depart the ship.
The ticket allocation was a bit of a disaster on the outward bound trip but the staff handled the situation well and we were actually given premium seats as an alternative to the ones paid for.
The journey takes around two hours and is effortless. We booked business class for that little bit of additional comfort. The extra cost is minimal and worth paying for a tranquil area, with padded seating and free coffee during the trip.
Upon arrival in Hua Hin, it was evident that the traffic was nowhere near as chaotic as the city of Pattaya, where everyone appears to be in a hurry and lacking patience. My new home city is well known for its accidents and deaths on its roads. Hua Hin was far more relaxed. People travel with less haste and display superior commonsense. The roads were in better condition too, and even had pavements on most of them. Hard to believe but it is true!
There were plenty of tourists but the majority are older married couples. There are no Go-Go Bars to be found in Hua Hin and although it does have a fair sized area of sexy bars, it is not in your face the way it is in Pattaya.
There is also a large ladyboy contingent within these bars and I found it difficult to tell who was and who was not a ladyboy. There are many gay men, the camp type too. However, none of this should put you off visiting these bars.
There is fun and hilarity and non stop entertainment to be had, for these people know how to enjoy themselves and never force themselves on to anyone. They simply enjoy their work and put a lot of effort into assuring the customer is happy. We had a fantastic time singing and dancing along with the bar staff.
I found the prices higher than in Pattaya, which was surprising. From a can of coke being six baht dearer to the average meal being 25% higher.
There is no bin to hold your drinks bill in, so you have no idea how much you are spending till you ask for the bill. I prefer the Pattaya method, where I can check the contents of the bin and see how much I have to pay at any time.
The town has much to offer its visitors. The Hua Hin Safari is a must. It has Elephant Rides/Shows, Cobras and Crocodile Events and much more.
The highlight for me however, were the tigers. Not any old tigers here. No drugs are used, for there is no requirement. No these are babies. You can handle a four week old cub and have your photo taken with it. You can bottle feed an eight month old tiger, which is a massive creature and not much smaller than the parents. Lie down beside them and rub their belly, let their rough tongues run over your leg or arm.
This is an amazing experience and one that you should do. It is not cheap, costing around £25 but it is probably a once in a lifetime experience and if the truth be told, I would have paid £50 to get close to these animals. You can spend as much or as little time with the tigers as you wish. There is no one rushing you or asking you to move on.
The temples around the town are awesome and again, you have to visit Wat Huay Mongkol Temple for instance or the seven kings statues at Rajabhakti Park.
Another truly inspiring and exceptional place is Monkey Mountain. As the title suggests this is a mountain featuring an abundance of monkeys, that you really can get up close and personal with.
You can purchase food and stand amongst them as they climb all over you to access the edibles. You will do well to retain ownership of the bucket of fruit for more than 45 seconds, for they will climb up your body, sit on your head and basically turn the bucket upside down and empty its contents on the ground. Great videos and photos to be obtained here.
There is a Floating Market, which I found disappointing in comparison to the equivalent in Pattaya, for there were no boats in the water, shepherding customers around. They were present but there was no one to take you out on the water. Maybe it was their day off, who knows. The market itself is very good but that one aspect let it down.
We spent three days in the town and had an absolute ball. The people are friendly, there is plenty to do and restaurants galore. Some of the eating places are excellent and they are always chokablok with diners.
Taxis are slightly different in Hua Hin. They have the traditional Tuk Tuk, which is not available in Pattaya. They have the standard Taxi Meter cars but not so many. They also have what I can only describe as a small, unstable looking van, with the back removed and replaced by open railings.
They have baht bus style taxis but these only have eight seats as opposed to the twelve of Pattaya and of course there are taxi bikes and private cars too. Oh and the cycle rickshaw is also to be found in Hua Hin.
Fishing plays a large part of the local life in Hua Hin. From small boats to individuals collecting crabs in the sea. There is plenty of evidence at the markets too where a multitude and vast variety of fish can be purchased.
My biggest regret from this trip was losing two memory cards with over 500 images that unless I revisit the town, cannot be replaced.
For this reason I have had to use photos from the places we visited to populate this post and for that I apologise.
I did have a walk along one of the many quiet beaches, where I snapped fishermen at work, children frollicking in the sea and enjoyed the tranquility on a very hot and humid day.
Hua Hin is a town I will return to, hopefully before I depart Thailand. A one day trip is all I need to obtain the images I have lost. The ferry and hotel will be under 3000 baht. My personal taxi cost me around 2000 baht on my last outing and food possibly 1500 baht. So adding it all up, £150 will cover another trip to this fabulous town.
Oh and £25 to hold those baby tigers!
Please note that the images without my logo on them were not taken by me and utilised from Hua Hin sources. Thanks to those who captured the scenes.