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Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 13 – Youyen Hua Hin Balcony

Published by on August 24, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

For our last night in Hua Hin, we decided to have dinner in a Thai restaurant near our hotel, called Youyen Balcony. This restaurant is quite well-known for serving traditional Thai dishes and snacks, and is recommended by many tourist blogs.

Since it is only a few doors down from our hotel, we took the scenic route there, i.e. walking on the beach instead of taking main road.

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It was a good opportunity to take some sunset beach photos en route to dinner. Although, generally, the beach here is nothing to shout about compared to the stretch near Centara, the view of the sky during the setting sun (“the golden hour”) is quite spectacular.

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For the benefit of those coming from the main road, we’ve also taken some pictures of the front entrance.

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Balcony has two branches in Hua Hin, so make sure you get to the right one. The restaurant is a simple renovated old bungalow facing the sea. Sitting with a view of the sea, wind blowing in your hair, its a perfect ambience for our dinner.

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Dinner was quite good, and the pad thai was definitely much better than most of the others we’ve had here.

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We’d highly recommended coming here for dinner if you are want to try traditional Thai food after having too much street food. It’s a bit out of the way from the town centre, but the ambience and affordable pricing is a big attraction. Our meal for 4 pax came to THB 1,160.

Next – Back to Bangkok.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 12 – Eighteen Below Ice Cream!

Published by on August 20, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

After our morning in Plearnwan, we took a cab to 18 Below Ice Cream, a place very near our hotel. This place serves freshly made ice-cream and drinks in a very cosy setting.

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They have a very nice courtyard for outdoor seating and photo opportunity.

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But the biggest attraction here is their ice cream and ice cold drinks. Here’s our order.

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Both the drinks and ice cream was delicious, and we really loved it. If you have in Hua Hin, do drop by this place to cool off in the heat.

Next – Youyen Hua Hin Balcony.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 11 – Plearnwan

Published by on August 20, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

Thursday was day 4, our last full day in Hua Hin. So far we’ve done pretty well on our itinerary, covering all of our planned stops. For today, we are going to Plearnwan Eco Vintage Village. This place, popularly known as Plearnwan, is an open air shopping arcade with a 60’s vintage team. The décor is main timber village, and the shops are a mixture of vintage clothes, toys, antiques and food stalls.

I really like the whole timber and rusted zinc / aluminium theme of the place, makes it look quite authentic.

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There are basically two floors of shops. Above the higher floor, there are hotel rooms available if you want the whole experience of staying in a noisy 60’s village.

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Nice cat guarding the pastry shop.

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Didn’t take many photos of the shops, but they have tops of souvenirs for sales and other interesting shops. The one that really caught my eye was this vintage console and handheld game collection.

I still have that rare silver coloured backlit Gameboy! that’s the one second from the right.

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At the end of the mall, there is a fun fair area with a ferris wheel and carnival games like, whack-the-mole, ring toss and knock-down-the-cans. A bit like real-life version of iPhone games based on old real-life carnival games. The ferris wheel, though, looked a little dodgy. Probably not the safest in the world.

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By late morning, the weather was getting a little warm so we sat down for some cold drinks and snacks. The egg waffles were just okay, nothing compared to the HK version. The mango sticky rice was really good, though.

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This is the traffic warden. Might scare off some small kids. Since we were slightly out of town, we couldn’t get a tuk-tuk, so scary clown traffic warden and his colleague helped get a taxi from across the road. It was a big SUV, and the 10 minute ride cost us THB 150, the most expensive ride we took while in Hua Hin. Plus, the driver was rather unfriendly, not having change for us, so upon reaching our destination we had to get change from the shop.

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Since Plearnwan is slightly out of the way from the town centre, I would suggest to do it as part of a day tour with other destinations. Or at least book a tuk-tuk to wait for you until you finish. You would probably spend 2-3 hours here especially if you have something to eat. But I found this place rather quaint, and worth a visit. We bought an vintage designed watch for my daughter (THB 200) and the vintage games store was really interesting. But food stalls were rather limited so you might want to plan to eat somewhere else.

Next – 18 Below Ice Cream!

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 10 – Inu Cafe

Published by on August 14, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

A few weeks before coming to Thailand, someone sent me a list of must-go cafes in Hua Hin, and Inu Cafe was one of them. Inu Cafe is a dog café, which are becoming very popular here in Thailand. More specifically, a café with Shiba Inu dogs (hence the strange name for the café). Shiba Inu is a group of rare breed originating from Japan, similar to spitz. However, unlike spitz, they are not noisy, and are world reknowned for their independent spirit.

If I were to describe them they look like a cross between a tiny wolf and a fox, but with white, grey or brown fur.

We actually came yesterday, but didn’t realize it was closed on Tuesday. So today we came again. It’s actually located in a semi-detached house in a housing estate. If you didn’t know what to look for, you’ll easily miss it.

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And once you are in the heavy metal sliding door, you’re greeted by happy Shiba dogs! They’re all busy running around and jumping its tough to get a good pic of them.

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There are 12 shibas here, but today only 7 are out to play. We were the only guests in this tiny café, so after awhile, the dogs get settled and you can play with them.

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I’ve been a dog person all my life (grew up with dogs) but this is probably the first time I’ve encountered a Shiba dog. And I can say they are incredible obedient and adorable!

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Even small kids can interact with them (so okay, my kid isn’t very small). Some of the dogs are more passive than the others, I guess since it was mid-afternoon some of them have been tired playing all day.

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(this one got tired and fell asleep waiting for my food)

We were here for a late lunch, so we ordered some of their signature dishes. They serve Western inspired food like pasta and burgers, and at quite good prices.

Since they knew we came yesterday when they were closed, they served us a dish of complimentary cheese nachos.

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This was the rest of our meals, some pork dish and burger.

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Meanwhile, while we ate, the dogs are patiently waiting for us to drop food for them. No such luck. Dogs shouldn’t eat human food as they could fall sick.

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After lunch and some ice cold drinks, more time to play with the dogs.

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Then finally its time to say goodbye to all of them. One day, if we ever come back to Hua Hin…

Next – Plearnwan Eco Vintage Village.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 9 – The Grand Night Market

Published by on August 13, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

***
Yesterday we received reports of twin bomb blasts in Hua Hin. Our prayers go out to the families affected.
***

After some rest back at the hotel, we ventured out to town again at night for dinner. It was drizzling, so we hailed a tuk-tuk downtown. As we mentioned earlier, there are at least 5 night markets in Hua Hin. We had already visited Chatchai and Chatsila night markets, so tonight we went to Grand Night Market.

Grand Night Market isn’t grand or big, it is named so because it is located in front of the Grand Plaza Hotel. It is situated in a open square which looks like a car park of some sort, sandwiched between the hotel and San Paulo Hospital.

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First thing on the agenda, eat. At the side of the market, there is a row of food stalls selling local food. After a quick survey, we settled on this place run by a few young Thais.

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We ordered our usual fluffy egg omelet and pad Thai. Of all the pad thai we had in Hua Hin, this was the best.

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After dinner, we took a walk around the market. Grand night market is smaller than the other main market, and due to the drizzle, the place was rather deserted.

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(cute puppies for sale!)

Found a stall selling second hand books.

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Another stall selling freshwater fish, akin to the one in SS2 PJ.

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Grand Night Market isn’t as vibrant as the main market, so I’d advise you to come only if you been to the other one.

Next – Inu Cafe.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 8 – The Museum at Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas

Published by on August 7, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

At the other end of the main road from the Railway Station, just beside the beach is the Centara Grand Beach Resort & Villas (formerly known as Sofitel). This stretch of beach is known to be the best in Hua Hin, hence all the best luxury hotels are here. However, the reason we walked the long mile here is for the Railway Museum in Centara.

Well, there is little doubt that the Centara is a beautiful hotel, with its expansive grounds and colonial design.

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(pathway to Museum)

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An interesting feature is their well manicured topiary garden.

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(trust me, you need to see this elephant in person. It is truly impressive)

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The Museum is part of café within the hotel (café is also called the Museum). The high tea here is very popular, but we didn’t go for it.

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The collection is rather small but interesting, with some notes explaining their significance and use in the old railway station.

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If you come here, do take time to check out Centara. The hotel is really beautiful and charming. We didn’t take any photos, but don’t miss it if you have the opportunity.

Next – Grand Night Market

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 7 – Hua Hin Railway Station

Published by on August 7, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

Ask any local what is the biggest tourist attraction in town, the answer is inevitably “Railway Station”. This 105 year old station is said to be the most beautiful in all of Thailand. So our trip to Hua Hin wasn’t complete until we visit the station.

So after being dropped off from the Vineyard, we walked about 2 km to the station. It is near the centre of town, right in front of a busy roundabout. On the way I spotted this second-hand bookstore. Must be doing brisk business with all the international tourists here.

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Near the station there is a monument to Pone Kingpetch, the first Thai boxing world champion.

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At the end of the road is the railway station, resplendent in yellow, white and red. This white and red theme is used throughout Hua Hin on their road signs.

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In addition to being a tourist attraction, this station is still in operation.

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But obviously this train isn’t in use, though.

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This is the Royal Pavilion, for the royal family to wait for the train. Although in recent times I don’t think it is used so often anymore.

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The Hua Hin Railway Station is a very small station, with no entrance fee. Good for a quick visit, photo ops, but other than not much else to do.

Next – Railway Museum at Centara Grand.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 6 – Hua Hin Hills Vineyard

Published by on August 6, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

Today we had made prior bookings to visit Hua Hin Hills Vineyard, one of the few vineyards in Thailand. It is rather surprising grapes can grow so well here, when the weather isn’t all that different from Malaysia. To get there, you can either hire your own transport (usually as part of a day trip), or book the Vineyard’s own shuttle. the shuttle leaves from downtown twice a day, 10.30am and 3.00pm. It is best to book in advance for this shuttle, they only have 10 seats. And you’ll need to pay the transport fee of THB 300 per person at least a day in advance.

So in the morning we took a leisurely breakfast, followed by a tuk-tuk to the pick up point at Villa Market.

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(Today we had sunny side up eggs and omelette)

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(This is a wine bar that serves as an outpost for the vineyard)

The transport is a new van, and the trip takes about 40 minutes. En route you can see some interesting sights, like the Artist village, and a very famous temple called Wat Huay Mongkol.

Once you reach the Vineyard, it is quite an impressive sight.

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Guests arriving through their shuttle are greeted with a smile and go through a comprehensive tour experience. First up, you’re ushered to nice restaurant / bar. This open air building is a little reminiscent of the Boh Tea Centre in Sungai Palas.

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There you are served with a glass of refreshing, ice-cold grape juice, while enjoying the breathtaking view of the entire vineyard and hills far away.

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Then you are brought on a open air 4WD tour of the vineyard. A local guide will follow along to explain the different types of grapes (7 types) and the planting-to-harvesting process. Harvesting is only during February-March, so unless you are there during this period, you won’t get to see it.

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(one of the seven types)

It is interesting to note the winepress and distillery is in Bangkok, not here, so you won’t get to see it.

After the quick tour, you can walk through the entire vineyard by yourself. In addition to seeing the grapes up close, there are a lot of beautiful flowers and shrubs to admire.

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For a small fee, you’ll also get to ride on hairy elephant. Although this guy tends to stop and eat the grass every few yards.

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After walking through the vineyard, you can go back to the restaurant and order some lunch. we weren’t hungry so we just ordered some grape cheesecake. You can also try their wine tasting menu (we didn’t).

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This place is very interesting and beautiful, but it takes half a day. Lots of good photo ops if the weather is good.

Next – Hua Hin Railway Station.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 5 – Night Market & Chatsila Market

Published by on July 31, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

For the casual visitor to Hua Hin, the biggest attraction here is the night market. Similar the ones spread all over Bangkok and most major Thai cities and towns. You can’t miss it, its right in the centre of town, happens every night of the year. Ask any local or your hotel, they’ll tell you what’s the fastest way to get there.

But to be clear there, are at least five night markets in Hua Hin (in addition to a few day markets). The biggest one is called just Chatchai or just Night Market and is located on the western end of Dechanuchit Alley from the railway tracks to the main Petchkasem Road. The other markets are Cicada Market (Artist market open on Fridays to Sundays only), Grand Night Market (in front of the Grand Hotel Plaza), and another nameless, smaller market. Out of the five, we managed to visit three of the five. We left Hua Hin on Thursday so we couldn’t make it for Cicada.

So on Tuesday, after spending the whole day visiting the floating market, Swiss Sweet Farm and Santorini Park, in the early evening, we took a slow walk down to the Night Market for dinner and a walkabout.

The walk from our hotel is slightly less than 2km, and it was interesting to see the shops and sights along the way. In the evenings, Hua Hin settles down into a quiet town.

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There is no particular area called Chinatown here, but there are definitely a lot of Thais of Chinese descent, as evident in the shops in this row. Here’s a stall selling soya milk and herbal tea.

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Apparently, sale of fireworks in Thailand is legal.

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First stop at the Night Market is the pad thai stall. This stall was touted by a Thai vlogger as the best in town, so we gave it a try. We ordered 3 pad thai and one fried egg omelette (another local staple).

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The dish on the left is the fried egg omelette. The pad thai was just okay, we definitely had much better in Bangkok (the very best being Thip Samai). Over the 5 days in Hua Hin we tried many pad thai, and most of them were average at best. I guess Bangkok is still the food centre.

The Night Market is very interesting, but rather small compared to Bangkok or Chiang Mai. But it is compact and varied in the stuff they sell, instead of the same few items repeated over many stalls.

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Towards the end of the night market, there are a few restaurants displaying live seafood where they will grill it for you to eat.

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We spent a lot time shopping for souvenirs for my friends and colleagues here.

After turning back from the market, we decided to go to Chatsila Market. This smaller market is actually on the next street, and there is an entrance from main night market. Chatsila is a quieter market, with more emphasis on souvenirs and handicraft.

At the entrance to Chatsila, there’s seating area surrounded by food stalls. We stopped here for some ice cream and mango sticky rice.

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The latest trend in local markets is portraits done with airbrush.

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At the end of Chatsila, there is a free museum of 60’s stuff on the first floor. I remember my family having a TV just like this.

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Although I’ve seen a phone like this one.

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Next – Hua Hin Hills Vineyard.

Hua Hin & Bangkok 2016 : Part 4 – Swiss Sheep Farm

Published by on July 31, 2016

This is part of an ongoing travelogue. To start at the beginning, please click here.

After exiting Santorini Park, we had to wait for our driver for about 20 minutes. Turns out we went off for his lunch and didn’t expect we would finish so soon. Next stop on our itinerary was Swiss Sheep Farm, which is just down the road across the highway. Swiss Sheep Farm is actually the biggest attraction around these parts, some people do day trips from Bangkok just to visit this place. Entrance fee is THB120 per person.

This place is really nice. The whole area is a wide open field, with a few small buildings / barns, modeled just like an actual (but cleaner and tidier) farm. There’s a coffee place right at the entrance (that’s a big plus for me), and a souvenir shop & snacks at the exit.

You’d probably ask – its basically just sheep, right? Oh but there’s a lot more than that.

There are ponies and donkeys.

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More ponies.

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Bunnies. And llamas (although you have to pay extra to see those, which we didn’t)

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And more horses.

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But the biggest attraction is the sheep. There’s an enclosure where you can feed the baby sheep.

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Most of them are very eager for the milk, but sometimes they’ll too full they barely move.

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You can also feed stalks to the adult sheep.

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There’s also a goat milking demo, where you can try it yourself. But they way they lock down on the goat, especially the head with the horns and her hind legs, you know she can be very dangerous if she is wrongly handled.

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After finishing with the farm, we were done with the places we wanted to see. Since it was quite early in the afternoon, our driver suggested to visit The Venezia, which is shopping area modeled after Venice in Italy. It’s a bit like the Venetian shopping arcade in Macau, except this was outdoors. However, when we got there, there was a power outage, so it was temporarily closed. Very strange, isn’t it? A tourist attraction like this should have their own generators, right?

Anyway, it was no big loss, we hadn’t even heard of the place before today, so we went back to our hotel in Hua Hin.

We went down to the beach to catch the evening sun. Like I said earlier, the beach here isn’t all that great, but the views can be quite nice in the evening golden hour.

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Next – We try the Night Market and Chatsila Market.

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