I am currently on a minibus on my way to Bangkok from Hua Hin, trying not to get nauseous from the tumultuous driving while typing. I am not one who typically gets motion sickness – I haven’t been since I was little. But these van rides remind me of the drives to LBI as a kid. Something about that ride always made me lose my cookies and these minibuses have a similar effect.
It is Christmas Eve Eve and we are finishing up a fabulous weekend in Hua Hin (pronounced WHA-Hin) a beach resort town about 3 hours southwest of Bangkok, on the other side of the Gulf of Thailand from Chonburi. (I wish there was a boat that would drive me from Chonburi to Hua Hin across the Gulf, it seems like a straight shot. I think this would be a good business venture if anyone would like to invest. I’ll get my boating license here, I probably just need to sign a paper and pay like $10) I digress, per usual.
The past month my friend Jess and I have been planning to come to Hua Hin pre-Christmas weekend for one reason and one reason only: wine. Jess somehow stumbled upon a vineyard, one of the few in Thailand, Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, located about a half hour inland from the coastal town. A little more investigating and we learned that the vineyard supposedly had half decent wine (for Thai standards) would pick you up from Hua Hin, drive you to the vineyard, give you some of their homemade grape juice, ride an elephant through the vines, then give you some tapas, a wine tasting and souvenir for roughly $50. Merry Christmas to us.
As December rolled along all fell into place. Jess’ friend, Kate, who has been teaching here since May was going to be staying in Hua Hin for Christmas in a townhouse at the Baan Thai Villas with her parents and we were invited to stay with them. Wine, elephants, free accommodations, quality time with parents and the beach. Cheers to that.
After another adventure of a journey (Choburi->;BKK->;Hua Hin, you cannot get the same place, the same way, in the same amount of time, ever, in this country) we arrived in Hua Hin at around 10PM. We picked up some fruit, made it to the townhouse which was a bit outside of downtown in Khao Takiab, and settled in for a long winters nap.
Waking up at around 8 the next day we were ready to get in some beach action before the vineyard. We had breakfast at the villa’s restaurant with Kate and her parents, swapped teaching stories, and made our way to the beach in Khao Takiab, which is different then the Hua Hin beach, its cleaner and wider. It was a great beach, a bit touristy, but you could rent beach chairs and umbrellas for less than $2 and the water was actually cooler then I had felt at other beaches, quite refreshing.
Late afternoon we set off to the meeting point of our tour which was a wine store the vineyard owned in town. Into a van and a short ride later out of the city and we were at a beautiful little vineyard in the hills, with nothing but one restaurant, rolling nature, vines and wines. It was perfect.
We began our tour with a welcome drink of their grape juice, which reminded me of Passover and was delicious. From there we got to get on our elephant, Honey and meander through the vines with our guide “Jack” who told us he moved to Hua Hin from northeast Thailand, by Laos, 6 years earlier with Honey. “Why did you move here, Jack?” “With my elephant.” Oh, okay. Don’t know if that was true but he was fun to talk to. It was probably around 5:00PM, which is typically my favorite time of day anywhere in the world. The sun starts to set, the day starts to unwind, the temperature starts to cool. It is always been my favorite time of day. No matter where I am. It was peaceful, the 6 of us, Jess, Kate, her parents, Esther and I, just taking the vineyard in at an elephants pace. All was calm, all was bright.
After Honey took us for our loopdee-loop, we were taken back to the restaurant to begin our tapas and tasting. The first wine was a white, similar to a sauvignon blanc and served with a chilled apple and crab meat salad. Both were really refreshing and crisp. I really liked the wine, it definetely wasn’t the best I have had, but it was the best I had had in the last 2 months. The second tapas was a creamyyyy goat cheese with grapes and an orange and vanilla vinaigrette. The wine was a white shiraz which was meh. I really didn’t care about the wine because that was my first real encounter with cheese in 2 months. It was divine. Last tapas was a smoked duck salad with their Shiraz. The smoked duck over the salad had great flavor and was a great dish, very different. The Shiraz was okay. Either way the food and wine were all interesting and it was nice to sit and have a really nice, refined meal, in such a gorgeous setting. Even if the wine isn’t that great, the people at Hua Hin Hills were so nice, the ambiance is really lovely and its worth the trip. But definetely get the tour to drive you in and out, its a bit hard to get to, I can’t imagine trying to figure it out on my own, after drinking wine.
We made it back to downtown Hua Hin a little after 7PM and decided to get a bit more to eat since the tapas were rather small. We had a great family style meal of different seafoods and vegetables and some curry and then ventured through the night market to get trinkets and postcards. We saw some chestnuts, roasting, on an open Wok. How festive. We headed back to the townhouse around 9PM, we were all a little tuckered out from the beach, vineyard and shopping (tough life) and wanted to wake up to see sunrise on this hill near the townhouse “Monkey Mountain”. The hill was supposed to have great views of Hua Hin, a temple and some monkeys, obviously. We scheduled for a song tao to pick us up at around 6AM so we could make it up the hill a bit before sunrise.
We got the song tao a bit late, rushed up the mountain, walked around the closed gate and started walking up the hill in search of a viewpoint to see the sunset and get some good photos.
We just took a pit stop to get gas, use the restroom (squatter) and grab some snacks (watermelon). Thailand fact- All fruit to-go is served in a plastic baggy with a wood skewer. Most food to-go in general is actually served like that. They will put anything in a little plastic bag with a wood skewer. Anyway, back to Monkey Mountain.
We didn’t find a good vantage point or vista. Instead we found a lot of stray dogs and monkeys. The gross monkeys we saw in Hua Hin. And we saw some monks and the temple, but it was like 100 baht to go up into it and we weren’t really interested. We just wanted to see the sunrise. But the monkeys were in the way. Everywhere we wanted to go they would start coming towards us and it felt like the Wizard of Oz and for once we were cheering on the stray dogs because they were keeping the monkeys away. Easily the weirdest morning of my life. We lasted about 10 minutes and then began to run down the hill because our song tao left. We made it to the bottom of the hill at approximately 6:45 with nothing to do. A german bakery we wanted to try in town didn’t open until 8AM and our song tao was long gone. So we decided to start walking.
About 10KMs later, and getting to see the gradual progression of a fishing town wake up, we made it to the bakery. And it was awesome. Easily the best breakfast I have had in Thailand. We all got omelets with onions, potatoes and bacon in it. And it came with basically a personal basket of fresh bread and rolls. Heaven on earth. And we were able to buy little treats to bring home and give to our Thai teachers for Christmas. So win/win. Because trying to dip my homemade Buckeye Balls here was a fail/fail.
We hadn’t had enough walking for one morning so ventured a little further into town to the wine store that the vineyard owned to buy some wine for Kate’s parents to thank them for their generosity. They were the nicest people, welcomed us with open arms into their vacation and home and were so lovely, we probably owed them a case of wine, but just settled on a bottle they liked from Chile. When we got home we went to the beach for about an hour before beginning the trek back to Bangkok.
And here I am! It was great spending a weekend with new people in a beautiful place with some parents near the holidays. It still doesn’t feel quite like Christmas here (mostly because I am not used to being in shorts and not having to do slave labor at home) but the closer I get back to Chonburi the more I realize tomorrow it will be Christmas Eve, I will have school and Christmas day will not be spent with my family. Which is going to be really hard. So this weekend was a wonderful, relaxing, parental-filled distraction. Hua Hin you did me good. Thank you.