I took a weekend trip into Prachuap, a quiet seaside town 4 hours south of Bangkok. It was great to see how much the pace of life slows once you get out of Bangkok. Finally found a bit of fresh air, a breeze, and some quiet. The bus dropped me off along the harbor, and I quickly proceeded to rent a bike so that I could take in the sights. The seaside here is gorgeous– something how I imagine hawaii would look. There are plenty of palm trees, purple and pink aromatic flowers, and miles of sparsely populated beachfront, all set to the backdrop of round, ash-colored mountains. As you look up into the hills, the rock formations resemble caves that you can’t help but wish you could explore. I picked a spot with many multicolored umbrellas, right on the beachfront, and had some of the popular Thai beach snacks– papaya salad with fresh shrimp, fried chicken, and beer. The fried chicken is eaten with sweet chili sauce– you know the one that people eat on everything back home? It has a very specific purpose here; it is only used for dipping fried chicken. (I still put it on anything– sometimes just a bowl of rice– and call it a meal.)
Next to Prachuap there is a military base called Ao Manao. Military men and their families live in their own little guarded town and train for service. I think there aren’t many young women who pass through these parts because I was treated like a celebrity! Groups of young Thai men stared, yelled, and waved as I rode by. It was an interesting contrast to the mostly shy Thai guys I’m used to by now, who I’ve learned are too timid to check you out until you have already passed by them and can’t see them staring. The beaches here were phenomenal– it’s too bad no one’s allowed to swim there (I tried, and was kindly asked to leave.)
When it started to get dark, I biked back into town to look for a place to stay. I found a little guesthouse with rooms for only 5 dollars a night! They were worth about that… I felt like I was staying in a barn stall, what with the windowless space only big enough for a small bed, and a half-wall to let in some sunlight. Well, it’s a place to lay my head.
I head out to see what went on at night in this little place. After walking a few blocks, I stumbled upon a night market, selling all kinds of Thai snacks and cheap trinkets. After trying about 5 different items, I discovered my new favorite snack food: dried, sweet shredded pork. I would have to say this stuff is the bacon of Thailand, and I will be having a lot more of it. What, you say that pork isn’t supposed to be sweet? Well, there are a lot of things that are surprisingly sweet here, like chicken sandwiches and seafood pizza. But the sweetness usually works, go figure.
I gathered my noms and found a perch overlooking the harbor, where many locals were sitting and chatting, catching up with friends. The night was lit by these eerie green lights on the water, which apparently are used to catch squid. The squid come to the surface to investigate the lights, and then it’s game over. Hmm.
After that, I was spent. I headed back to my stable to snooze.
The next day I got back on my bike and headed in the opposite direction from the day before. My first stop was a monkey sanctuary, a hill where all of the monkeys in the area live because they are not allowed into the town proper. Climbing the hill, I realized these monkeys were not at all afraid of humans, but in fact seemed to enjoy terrorizing/stealing from people who passed by. Honestly, I was pretty terrified, not because I’m afraid of monkeys but because of the rabies problem prevalent in this area. I was very careful not to disturb anyone, and this made for a slow progression up the hill because there were monkeys literally EVERYWHERE.
At the top of the hill, there is a temple and a few buildings, which seemed to be abandoned. The monkeys had made a playground of the place; one was vigorously ringing the church bell, another was swinging from the entrance gate, and the rest were chasing each other around the paths. There seemed to be complete anarchy among these little guys, who would steal food from each other’s hands and hump anyone they pleased. Seeing all these monkeys interact made me wonder if we humans would act that way, given a little less order in our society. It also reminded me primates’ basic curiosity towards one another– I saw many monkeys looking inside each other’s mouths and under each other’s armpits and basically anywhere else they wanted. I think, deep down, we’re all just real curious too.
After the monkey sanctuary, and further down the road, I found many more tiny fishing villages. It’s cool how easy it is to get off the beaten path around here. Many of the townspeople greeted me as if they had very rarely seen anyone foreign pass through.
Once I got tired of pedaling, I found a nice private beach for myself and finally took a nice swim. Now this was the life– floating in the ocean with no one else in sight, with two huge mountains framing my view of the sky. I spent the rest of the day there, without a care in the world, until it was time to catch my bus home. What a trip!