The countryside South of Bangkok, once one makes it past the farthest reaches of the gigantic city, is absolutely stunning. Lush green trees outline even more colorful fields that glisten in the intermittent showers of monsoon season.
My first thought was of a full-page spread from National Geographic. By the time we reached this view, however, we were already approaching hour three of our open car train journey, with an inside heat index that must have exceed one hundred and twenty. I was rapidly losing interest in the rainbows and tropical sunshine.
The two rows between us and the front of the train car were claimed by a family of four young boys, one sleeping father and one angel of a mother. The six year old in the seat directly ahead of me was far more interested in Luke and I than the passing country side. Gesturing apologies for his silent fascination, his mother pulled him back behind the seat, whispering loudly, "English". When this produced no response, she tried again; "Elmo? A, B, C…". Shyly, he finished our alphabet and sunk deeper into his seat. Ultimately, our new friendship paid off when, to his mom's proud delight, he gifted me a paper and plywood fan.
Halfway through hour five, mountains rose from the fields and we reached our destination: the seaside town of Hua Hin. (Also the resort town of choice for the Thai royal family.)
Despite its royal purpose, Hua Hin is wonderfully quaint and low-key, and the highlight of our stay was no different. On a last-minute whim we signed up for a Thai cooking class in which Luke and I were the only two students. From the comfort of her home, our instructor led us each through four dishes, from grinding coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle to stir-frying pad thai in a wok pan. (We even carved flowers out of long red peppers as garnish.)
In the evening, the streets of town come alive for blocks at a time with night markets. Wares and snacks of every fashion and variety can be found crammed onto the sidewalks and pavement.
After two short days, we packed up and wrapped up our stay in Hua Hin. A bus (air-conditioned transport this time) drove us farther down the coast to Chumpon, where a catamaran ferry awaited us. The pier to the boat led us over the most gorgeous water I had ever seen – but as it turned out, it wasn't even the best water of that day.
More to come, friends.