Sunday, 28 April 2019

Krabi Viewpoint

Krabi Viewpoint

We like to take the opportunity to do a hike whenever we go on holiday, even if we are going somewhere more noted for its beaches than its hiking. When we went on a recent trip to Krabi we had heard about a very special view that you can hike up to and we needed no second invitation! This is at the Hon-Nak Mountain which is just shy of 500 m above sea level. It was the last day of our trip and so we took a taxi to the trailhead and left instructions with the driver to pick us up again a few hours later so we could be in time for our flight back to Bangkok. This meant that we had to get to the top and back in the time we had available. The sign at the bottom of the trail suggested that the entire distance was 4km each way.

Entry Shrine
At the bottom off the trial that were lots of warnings about fitness levels and shoe wear. A number of people thought that going out in flip flops was a good idea and were either turned away by the guard at the bottom who signed people in and out of the hike, or if they made it past him soon realised the folly of what they were trying to do when they saw the state of the path. The bottom was actually not too bad with a broad gravelly path and a slow ascent through thick forest with a babbling stream for company. Soon we were to cross the stream on a small bridge and left it behind entirely. As we climbed away from the stream we passed by a small shrine and a path junction. We weren’t tempted by this alternative route. From here on the only sounds we heard were the relentless cicadas and the odd whoop from mostly unseen birdlife. 
Forest Flower
It is strange walking through a forest where you don’t know any of the tree species. There were some interpretive boards along the way and in one case giving the latin name for the predominant species. I have to say I was none the wiser although I did learn that this particular species likes the buffer zone between true rainforest and coastal habitats. The forest was thick and dense and it was impossible to see in more than a couple of dozen metres. Clearly the air quality is good here for many of the trees were covered in lichen, a good indicator of fresh air. We were thankful for the shade for it was already hot work going up the slope and the water we all carried certainly helped with keeping cool.
As we climbed we passed by some bamboo - it looked absolutely huge but the interpretive board suggested that it was only a medium sized species growing about 5m tall and having a trunk diameter of 4-6cm. This particular species is apparently very useful in Thailand and used for a good many products including crafts and delicious dishes to eat. Further on and we came upon a slightly different forest zone that included ferns and rattan suggesting that this area was a little wetter and therefore supported life varieties.
Eventually we reached the bottom of a flight of steps and although it was hot work climbing them it did mean that we managed to gain quite a bit of height fairly quickly. At the top of the steps the nature of the path changed too - it was now a lot narrower, steeper and had the additional hazard of a lot of tree roots and rocks so we had to watch our step quite carefully. No doubt this would have finally finished off any walkers wearing only flip-flops. We clambered up this section and when it started flattening out we saw an even bigger flight of steps ahead of us. Once up there we were already thinking that we had nearly reached the end of the climbing especially as the onward path flattened out considerably! How wrong we were! We were glad that we had taken advantage of some sit down time at the bench at the top though.
Tree Roots
The relatively level stretch was delightful and along the way we learned about termites from the latest interpretive board. They live in rather curious looking mounds that are seen at intervals on the forest floor. They perform a very important function in the health of the forest and the mounds that they form hide a very hierarchical society with a king, queen, soldiers and workers all taking their place in the colony. As far as human life was concerned we started to meet the odd few people coming the other way now. They gave the alarming news that we were only about half way and there was still a lot more climbing to be done too. The path got still narrower and it was clear that there was a lot less in the way of tree maintenance here with the path often weaving between trunks.
After some relatively level ground we came upon another sharp climb with no steps this time but with tree roots to help us out as we headed upwards.  At the top of this part we managed to lose the trees briefly and this gave us a tantalising view out across the bay and the islands beyond.  Without the tree cover we realised how hot it was though and were relieved when we managed to dive back under cover.  Any notion that we were done though was soon snuffed out as we continued upwards.  We managed to cross to the other side of the mountain top and get a view out the other side which was even better than the  first.  We were still not done however as the path managed to ease itself away from the view and plot a course through the dense forest climbing ever higher.  By now we were actually wondering how long the path was for it seemed much further than the 4km suggested.
1km to go
As we continued to head up we soon came upon a sign that said 1Km - I think we were all a bit incredulous at this point as the distance seemed to be elastic.  However, if true we had reached the 3/4 point on the walk and had therefore invested enough to want to get to the top no matter the heat and humidity.  We were also meeting a number of people coming down who were most encouraging and telling us that the view was very worth it.  We plodded on getting slightly slower with each step.  Before reaching the  top we had to negotiate some rock formations and the auburn zone, a rather strange area of vegetation that has that colour courtesy of the underlying geology and influence from the sea.  
It wasn't much further past here that we reached the summit and the first view that we saw at Khao Ngon Nak Scenic Point was out across the strange karst landscape to the north of the coast.  The limestone here has formed very distinctive shaped rocky hills that punctuate the otherwise flat landscape.  It really is a beautiful sight; quite unlike anything I have ever seen before and definitely justified the climb and effort put in to get here.  We weren't quite done though - in order to see the sea we had to climb a bit higher and so after getting our breath back we pushed on the short distance to the very top.  Here I found a big rock to climb upon where I got a grandstand view of the surrounding coastline and countryside.  It was quite breathtaking!  I spent ages here admiring the scenery - it helped that there was a bit of a breeze to cool us all down.  Having expended so much effort to get here the view deserved a good amount of time.
After 30 minutes or so at the top we started our descent.  On the way down I decided to go and take a look at the two other side paths leading off from the main route.  The first led to a pond while the second to a waterfall.  However on account of the dry season and the lack of rain for a good many weeks beforehand there was almost no water in either feature and to be honest neither were really worth the effort, although arguably the waterfall was slightly better.  I'm not sure if I'm saying this because the walk down to it was longer or whether I genuinely enjoyed it more though.  Both features are probably better seen at the tail end of the rainy season.
The way down didn't see to take nearly as long as going up as you might expect.  However some sections were trickier on account of the steepness of the path; the tree roots and the loose surface.  There were a few occasions were we almost came to grief but luckily we all made it down in one piece.  As we descended it was our turn to be encouraging to the greater numbers of people now venturing up the path.  When we saw the numbers of people we were quite pleased that we had gone up when we did as we had the place to ourselves while these people will have to share it with lots of others...  We managed to get down to the bottom with an hour to spare before the taxi came back for us - plenty of time for a well deserved ice cream and drink at the inevitable cafe at the car park.  Thailand always delivers on this - they take every opportunity to provide refreshments whenever there are a few people that are would-be customers.
This is a relatively short walk but the fabulous viewpoint at the top more than justifies the effort you need to expend to get to the top.  Being Thailand it's probably best to leave as early as you can in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat and any possible thunderstorms.  Try and pick the clearest day that you can so that you get the most from the viewpoint.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

The Ancient City

Golden Erawan
I wasn't sure whether to include this in my blog or not because strictly speaking it is a museum rather than a walk or cycle ride.  However I have done so on  the basis that the route around the museum is 10km and I performed it all by bicycle.  The Ancient City (Muang Boran in Thai), also known as Ancient Siam was the brainchild of the eccentric millionaire Lek Viriyaphant and opened to the public in 1963.  It is billed as the world's largest outdoor museum and is arranged in an approximation to the shape of the country of Thailand.  The museum features over 100 replicas of the most celebrated buildings in Thailand, either ones that are still in existence or ones that have been lost to history.  There are a few that have been moved here and reconstructed. Each of the buildings are located in approximately the same place in the museum that they appear in real life. Originally the idea was that this museum was to have become a golf course with miniatures of the buildings.  He changed his mind when he realised that many of the buildings he wanted to portray were neglected, ruined or had been destroyed.  It now functions mostly as a place of education.

Golden Temple
In order to explore the Ancient City there are three options; one can go by electric tram (perhaps the most popular option), by bicycle or walking.  The latter isn't popular because of the length of time it takes to get round and most Thai people don't like walking for extended periods, which is understandable given the tropical heat.  It is a much easier place to get to now as the Sukhumvit BTS (Skytrain) line now reaches to Kheha, only a short song thaew ride from the entrance.  It takes approximately one hour to get here from the city centre of Bangkok.

The Buddha Image of Dvaravarti Period
Despite the warning from the lady at the counter that it was 23km right round (it isn't - just over 10km is a more reasonable estimate) I chose the bicycle option - the museum is entirely flat and there is a marked cycle route around the museum.  The bikes are pretty old school - most have a shopper basket on the front (useful for my camera case) and no gears.  They look like the traditional bikes that I always imagined Communist-era Chinese people to have used.  Anyhow the one I chose went quite well in spite of its limitations.  I entered the museum across what was effectively the Malaysian border at the southern end of the country.  This end of the museum is free to enter and if you are unsure whether it is the place for you it might be a good idea to look around this thin southern section before committing to buying a ticket as it is quite expensive to get in (there are deals to be found online, or you can get a discount if you live in Thailand).

Sanphet Prasat Palace Ayutthaya
Perhaps the first place you will want to linger is the old market town which is also the first place you can find places to buy things, whether they be souvenirs, drinks or snacks.  There were lots of vendors eager to sell to me but it was a bit early so I merely smiled sweetly and carried on, taking a sharp left on my way out to head over to Buddhavas of the Substanceless Universe temple over the bridge and just off site.  This magnificent golden temple really shone in the sunlight and I took my time to have a good look around.  This was one of only two places I saw an appreciable number of people in the whole museum.

Prang Sam Yod, Lop Buri
Outside the temple was the stupa of Phra Maha That in Ratchaburi, one of a number of similar structures throughout the museum.  Perhaps it was because it was the first of its type that attracted my attention.  The original stands in a suburb of Ratchaburi, a town to the south-west of Bangkok and dates from the 13th or 14th century.  It was just beyond here that my 'ticket' was checked and I entered the paid for area.  I say ticket but it was actually just a green sticker - hardly fraud-proof but it satisfied the guard who smiled and waved me on.  As I continued onwards I was a little confused about which way to go and this would be a recurring theme as I went around.  I initially took a left turn only to realised shortly afterwards that I appeared to be going against the flow and so u-turned and continued round to the right at the turn.

The Courage of the People of Bang Rachan
I was greeted with replicas of the royal palaces of Bangkok - places I have yet to visit.  They are very ornately presented and apart from the fact that they are smaller than the real thing they are incredible facsimiles - a lot of attention to detail has been done.  I took a look inside the 'Dusit Palace' - the paintings inside were exquisite and I would never have known that they were mere copies.  Further on and the Ramayana Garden caught my eye, showing a tableau of an ancient Indian epic that was originally housed at the nearby city of Ayutthaya and destroyed by the Burmese when they ransacked the place in the 1760s.  I am not sure how true to the original it was but it was a fascinating scene with mythical beasts aplenty among an artificial waterfall.  The myths and legends depicted in the tableau are too lengthy and complex to reprise here but essentially are a kind of soap opera of love, banishment, retribution, the fight of good versus evil and a few mythical creatures thrown in to spice things up a bit.  It made for the most fascinating set of stories that really brought it to life.

Pavilion From Kamphaeng Phet
The next monument that caught my eye was a little to the north and was a tribute to the men and women who put up a brave fight in Sing Buri against the Burmese Invaders.  They repelled the attacks seven times before the Burmese eventually took the fort by tunneling underneath the wall.  The piece is a fairly graphic show of strength by the locals even if ultimately it was all in vain.  A little further on and I reached the floating market, which is one of the showpiece items at the museum.  It was approaching lunchtime and the woks were getting going for the few visitors there were around and I availed myself of some lunch on one of the houses on stilts in this area.

Floating Market
Feeling fortified I continued on my way looping around the Sukhotoi Palace and passing a very fine bronze bare breasted woman riding a peacock that was surely not life sized.  It was as I looped around this part of the museum that I began to realise the sheer scale of the place for it had opened out in just the same way as Thailand does to expose a huge hinterland with an astonishing array of buildings, gardens and monuments.  To say that the place is finished could not be further from the truth - there are still new projects in the process of being constructed to fill in gaps.  As I got further round the track it also became obvious that there were more people tending the gardens than visiting.  I felt sad about this but also realised that I was there on a weekday and although during peak tourist season it is a bit further afield than most visitors would want to come.  That is a shame because I was blown away by the place - its audacity and attention to detail was quite remarkable.

The Grand Hall of Wat Maha That, Sukhothai
I soon came upon the large water feature to the west of the museum.  In the water was a whole fleet of royal barges lined up and looking like they were ready to receive any royal visitor that came their way.  My pathway led between lakes for a short stretch and off to my right was a large fish sculpture below a temple on an island that begged to be investigated further.  It turned out to be the Ananda Fish, one of the seven cosmic fishes living in the ocean.  Ancient people believed that a wriggle of the tail could cause an earthquake, an explanation that seems quite reasonable long before the theory of plate tectonics gave us a different explanation in the 20th Century.

Sumeru Mountain
I could see off in the distance another good looking sala on stilts in the lake next door to a Chinese junk but my instincts told me that I was supposed to turn right when I got to the further extent of the road and sure enough I found myself in an area known as the northern Thai village, which was supposed to be a replica showing what you might expect of you visited that part of Thailand.  I won't know until I come back next time though for the village was overrun with a huge group of scouts on a day trip.  I didn't linger!

Thai Junk
I looped around the northern perimeter road until getting to the far east of the country.  Sadly here I wasn't able to go up to a temple built on a massive artificial cliff as it was in the process of being refurbished.  I had to make do with being at the bottom looking up but even from below I could see it was quite impressive.  I did a double take as I looked at the watercourse below for one of the statues started to move!  I quickly realised that it was a real water buffalo and not a fake one as I had initially taken it to be.

The Garden of Phra Aphaimani, Rayong
As far as bicycling was concerned I was getting a little weary of stop starting and parking up the bike ever few moments.  If the site had been not quite so large I probably would have been tempted to probably cycle around twice with the first lap to get me acquainted with the place and the second to stop and look more closely.  The heat precluded that idea although I think I could feasibly have walked it.  My highlight out east was probably the Phanom Rung Sanctuary at Buriram - it looked stunning built from red sandstone and flanked on most sides by bamboo.

The Ramayana Garden
Slowly but surely I found myself drawn back towards Bangkok - that is probably how many travellers view Thailand.  Having already looked once before I didn't linger this time but stopped short of the royal palaces to visit somewhere I have been in real life - the palace at Bang Pa-In (see my earlier blog entry for details of that visit).  The facsimile was good but not a patch on the real thing and so apart from taking a look at the peacocks that were living here I moved on to head out to the far west this time.  I'm not sure that the cycle route is the best circuit of the place - there seemed to be several overlaps along the way.

The Great Battle of Yuthahathi
In the far western corner of the museum I came upon the Pavilion of the Enlightened.  I think this is a vision of a building rather than one that actually existed but I would forgive the artistic licence in this astonishing golden building on stilts and demanded a good look around.  Strangely it was far better looking from the shore than it was looking around inside - there were parts of it that looked a bit tired and other parts that were being used to store chairs and all rather disappointing.  The next place was much more interesting - a rendition of Bodhisattva Avalokitesavara performing a miracle - it was an awesome sight with water seeming to come out of the mouths of more than a dozen serpents as the Buddha looks serenely on in the centre of the piece.

Rainbow Bridge
Next to this piece was some botanic gardens being beautifully cared for by an army of Thai gardeners very sensibly covered so much from the sun that it was barely possible to see any bare skin whatsoever.  Some of this area was off limits though - it looked like a new display was going to be put there.  By now I was wearying and getting hot myself and sensing that I had seen most of the exhibits I decided to head back towards the exit stopping to look at the Chinese Junk, the sala next door and some of the other buildings that I had missed on the way round as I returned to base. 

Bodhisattva Avalokitesavara Performing a Miracle
It took about three hours for my tour round and by now I had a pretty good feel for the place even if I felt like I had barely scratched the surface in terms of what was on offer.  If I had taken the audio tour and read all the signage on the way it would have taken days.  On that basis there is plenty of scope for another visit!  If you find yourself in Bangkok for a few days I highly recommend a trip here especially if you are planning to head to other parts of the country or merely seeking some inspiration on where to go next.
Mondop of Boddhisatva Avolokitesavera

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Hua Hin

Vintage Loco at Hua Hin
Hua Hin is a seaside resort that is about 150 miles away from Bangkok and very popular with western holidaymakers principally because of its inexpensive and plentiful accommodation and the lengthy sandy beach.  It is also an easy place to get to from the capital either driving, by minibus or in my case by train.  The latter is a good option because unusually the station is conveniently located in the centre of town.  It was an enjoyable four hour journey by rail and coming this way enabled me to see a whole section of countryside that I wouldn't otherwise have seen.  The last hour in particular is quite scenic as the railway heads through paddy fields and coconut plantations.

Royal Pavilion at Hua Hin Station
I started my walk at the delightful Hua Hin station.  The locals are very proud of their station and justifiably so - the Royal waiting room is decked out in a beautiful red colour scheme fit for any king.  The platforms are festooned with flowers and a vintage steam engine takes pride of place on static display on the far side of the platforms.  Outside the main entrance are some old railcars that have been converted into a cafe/ restaurant, somehow adding to the almost museum like quality of the station.  It is unusual to see a railway station in Thailand that celebrates the railway - most are functional affairs.  I took some time to wander around and enjoy the ambiance of the place.  Unusually the station was built before most of the town, hence its central location.

Been Shopping
It was a useful starting point for my walk as it is probably the one building that the local townsfolk are proud of.  I walked along the side of the track until reaching the next level crossing where I took a left turn to start heading up the hill to the viewpoint that is supposed to be worth seeing.  The suggested route by Google up the side of a large golf course didn't look too promising so I doubled back to the railway track and proceeded along another block before heading up the main road.  I swapped a leafy residential street frequented by soi dogs for a another that was dominated by market stalls and workshops.  Initially they were so busy that I had to dodge my way round them but they soon thinned out and the road became initially residential and then surprisingly quickly it became rural.
Flintstone Hill View South

As I started to climb the hill with the viewpoint I passed a truck full of Leo beer and wondered how long a lorry that size would last me.  Possibly a couple of years?  I wound my way around a couple of abandoned cars that have clearly sat here for a good long time - it's a sight I have seen in the UK for several years and wondered whether the authorities do anything about them here?  Slowly the residential area gave way to countryside but before I left the houses entirely I passed by a whole gang of monkeys that I assume live on the golf course beyond the wall that I was following on my left hand side.  They seemed pretty resourceful - one nonchalantly crossed the road in front of me carrying a large coconut, almost as if he had been out shopping for it.  Many of the rest of them were into all sorts of fruit but especially the cliche banana.

Flintstone Hill View North
Soon I was passed by a rather curious looking truck - I wasn't sure what it was at first for it looked like a song thaew but I realised that it had billboards stuck to  the side of it proclaiming support for one of the candidates in the forthcoming Thai election.  Loudspeakers relayed some kind of message that I assume was meaningful to voters, all the while sounding like some kind of radio jingle such was the melodic tone of what was being said.  I was rather amused by the whole thing but I can imagine that voters will become very annoyed by these as the weeks drag on.

Rama VII Memorial
I passed by a Buddhist temple and the road suddenly became a lot steeper.  It was a bit of a slog up the hill but I was thankful for a pavement all the way.  At the top of the hill I turned left at a crossroads and on the other side of the road some Muay Thai sparring was going on between a Western woman and a Thai opponent.  It was quite intense and I paused for a brief moment to watch.  Any notion that I could take a picture was scotched by the fact that most of the audience around the fight turned to look at me.  I took the hint and continued up to the viewpoint.  When I got there I found the ubiquitous refreshment buildings and food stands but few people about to enjoy them.  I took a left turn and climbed up onto a dome of rock that had the most amazing view across Hua Hin and down to the south and to Khao Takiab and Monkey Mountain, where I would ultimately be headed.

Back In Town
I got talking to a French couple who joined me to look at the view.  They, like me, have moved to Thailand and in this case largely because of the sunshine.  I have to admit that it was notionally still winter when I completed this walk and yet our temperatures were in the low thirties Celsius.  Definitely better than  the cold and the rain that I would be experiencing in England!  I sat and enjoyed the view for some time and in particular the antics of the monkeys chasing each other around the  trees below me.  After a while I decided to continue around to the other parts of the viewpoint (known locally as Flintstone Hill by the way) and soon realised that there was not just a viewpoint but a nicely manicured park too.

Fishing Fleet
I went from viewpoint to viewpoint and each one had a slightly different view, and a different group of tourists too.  First up was a view purely out over town and the sea beyond that was frequented by a group of European ladies, none of whom really spoke much English but enough for me to be understood when I offered to take their picture.  I've got into the habit of doing this in Thailand - it breaks down barriers and I'm sure for the parties involved they don't have to struggle to get a crappy selfie.  An unintended consequence can be that I end up being the subject in one of their pictures, but it's a small price to pay.  A little further on and I took a path to a rather strange looking veranda type lookout.  Some people apparently climb out of it to get better selfies - looking at the steep drop below I'm surprised that there aren't more injuries or fatalities.  The view didn't offer a great deal more than the last one so I moved on quite quickly.  I was surprised to see a number of cacti growing happily on the hill - I never thought Thailand arid enough to support them.

The last viewpoint provided another chance to chat - this time to a very friendly Swiss couple from Zurich.  We took the opportunity to swap photo opportunities and I had the rare distinction therefore of having a picture of me on one of these walks.  I lingered for a bit before taking a look at the memorial to King Rama VII in whose name the park is dedicated.  Rama VII reigned from 1925 to 1935 and is notable for being the last absolute monarch in Thailand.  He abdicated and moved to Europe following the change of regime to constitutional monarchy.  He established a royal palace in Hua Hin that served as recently as 2006 as the full time home of King Rama IX.  The park is a credit to him and he is clearly remembered fondly by the inhabitants of Hua Hin.

Beach Babe
I retraced my steps back down the hill to the town of Hua Hin.  Sadly the Muay Thai had concluded and everyone who had been there had now departed.  Halfway down the hill I got a cheery wave from the Swiss couple who passed me on a little moped but much of the activity I had seen on the way up had disappeared.  I continued across the railway and straight down to the seafront, battling through the line-ups of masseurs and restaurant owners all desperate for my business.  I opted instead for the relative peace and quiet  of the pier that I had spotted at Flintstone Hill.  It was busier than I expected when I got there, with a number of fishermen trying their luck.  Many of them were catching fish too, although they weren't much bigger than dainty snacks.

Chinese Temple
The pier marked the beginning of the next stage of the walk along the seafront.  Before I could reach the beach I had to walk along another of the busy tourist streets dodging the motorcycles and the carts carrying goods between restaurants.  There is quite the eating scene here - I saw French, Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Swedish and German restaurants just to name a few choices.  I guess each batch of tourists have their own choices.  I took the opportunity to take a side road to the left which led me into a small Chinese temple.  It was full of the bright colours and paintings that I had seen in similar temples in Bangkok - they are distinctive and very different from Thai temples.

Hat Seller
Just past the temple I climbed down on to the sandy beach that would be my footpath for the next 7km.  The shoes that I had worn to carry me up Flinststone Hill now seemed completely inappropriate as I wanted to put my hot feet in the warm sea.  I was confronted by an odd sight ahead of me which necessitated me going in the sea - it wasn't just a question of me having a paddle for the sake of it.  The hotel alongside the beach had stationed tables and chairs on the beach, with many actually in the sea at the point of high tide!  I had to therefore go around them by going in the water.  Luckily that was the first and last obstacle to my progress along the sand.  Now my shoes were off though I wanted to keep them off and did most of the rest of the walk barefoot, to my knowledge the furthest I have ever walked in this state.

Perusing The Menu
I'd like to say that the walk down to Khao Takiab and Monkey Mountain was full of scenic beauty and lots of features to look at along the way but I would be fibbing.  That isn't to say that it is a lovely walk because it is but other than taking in the activity of the beach, a little wildlife and the architecture of the hotels alongside the beach there isn't much to report.  I was entertained by a couple of wildlife sights however - the first was a large egret that seemed to follow me down the beach.  Whether he thought I was a fisherman I'm not sure but I certainly didn't have any food for it.  The other sight was a lot smaller - pretty well camouflaged crabs that were no bigger than my thumbnail.  As soon as I got close they skittered across the sand and buried themselves in a weak spot in the beach.

Most of the other interest was human in nature - western tourists playing football, jogging, walking just like me, watersports and all the other activities that you would see at any resort in the world.  The only Thai people I saw were largely there to service the holidaymakers every need, selling them hats, barbecue food or running horse rides.  I meandered along the beach, sometimes in and sometimes out of the water.  It was rather a meditative kind of walk all the while faced with the large  Buddha looking out from Monkey Hill.

Eventually I got to the end of the beach and my shoes had to go back on as I left the sand.  I climbed up the rock passing the inevitable refreshment booths at the bottom and found a set of steps that took me to the top of Khao Takiab (translates as Chopstick Hill).  When I got to the top of the steps I immediately saw the monkeys that call this place home.  I had been warned about their thieving behaviour before coming but in truth most that I saw were looking fairly lazy and there were many groups simply spending time picking fleas off each other.  None seemed remotely interested in me.  Neither were a group of very lazy looking cats that had decided that the fan left in the temple was too good to miss.  It all felt a bit siesta like in the Buddhist temple at the top of the hill.  I contented myself there with the view back along the beach, which was definitely worth the effort of getting here.

Chopstick Hill
Having reached my goal I decided not to walk back and instead wandered into the  small town at the back of the hill and found the song thaew that took me back into the centre of Hua Hin for the princely sum of 25p (10 Baht).  It was a bit crowded but strangely only with western people - that is something I have never had to deal with in Bangkok!  I liked Hua Hin - it is a sedate kind of place and due to its ease and cheapness of getting here from Bangkok I can see me coming again.  Maybe I need to find some other walks in this area.

Hua Hin Beach