Seaside Stallions and Public Nudity – Hua Hin
This being Thailand the mini-bus we had chartered to take us down to Hua Hin after school on Friday night took considerably longer than expected and it was well past midnight when we pulled up on the coast and set about finding a hostel. After a short while we stumbled onto the Sea Breeze; a line of cabin rooms out across a pier. It was basic to the extent that the water from the sink and shower simply ran away through a hole in the floor onto the beach below but it was cool on the water and I love the sound of the waves. We headed out to find a bar and discovered that Hua Hin is in many ways a mini Pattaya; in that every bar seemed to have 20 Thai prostitutes/lady-boys in it and 1 or 2 fat middle-aged British men. Wandering down the street trying to find somewhere less sleazy we had women hanging out of entrances calling ‘men welcome, men welcome,’ it was the first time I’ve had a guy ask to walk with me so that he felt safer! The ladies here are known for unsolicited groping in order to entice potential punters.
Eventually we found a bar with what appeared to be a number of male and female falang in it which is usually a good sign that it’s not a brothel. We played pool with some 13 year old hustlers by the name of Top (in the green) and Day. Top was selling flowers and I told him that if he could beat my friend I’d buy them from him. He was very good but he still lost so I gave him 20 Baht anyway just for being entertaining (and for being a 13 year old selling flowers in a dive bar at 3am).
On Saturday morning we got up at a fairly reasonable hour and since most of the group wanted to find a better hostel (one with plumbing preferably) we checked out, found some shamelessly western breakfast (we’re on holiday; its allowed), and checked into the Victor Guesthouse which was great. It was actually cheaper than the cabins but much better appointed and we all had balconies in a row that we could sit and drink Sangsom on come evening time. The group spent the rest of the day lounging on the beach whereas I decided to tick off another continent and find a horse to go galloping down the beach on. That turned out to be quite an experience. There were a number of very lovely-looking, healthy, obviously cared-for horses available for beach rides but bizarrely they were all stallions; not one mare or gelding amongst them. These horses must all have been imported as there weren’t any of the hardy native Thai ponies to be seen and there was an interesting selection of breeds available; a number of Arabs, some that looked very Welsh and even a Fjord pony complete with hogged mane. I presume that since it must be expensive to import falang-size horses they keep them intact so that they can breed with them instead of flying more over.
I was given a beautiful liver chestnut stallion and told to make my way to a rocky hill about a mile down the beach and then head back again as long as I took no longer than 30 minutes. Seemed simple enough. Except that, once mounted, this stallion was not leaving his herd. It took 10 of my 30 minutes to coax him 100 yards down the beach and every time another horse came within two metres of him he span his quarters round and kicked out viciously and with such speed that I nearly bit the dust on several occasions. One of the Thai guides infuriatingly kept trying to ineffectually assist me in getting the chestnut moving by charging up, flicking his rump with a crop and then swiftly getting out of the way whilst mine bucked furiously and maintained his refusal to move forward. He kept trying to teach me how to ride in his style which seemed to be something along the lines of keeping your reins extremely tight and short and holding them half way up your horse’s neck. When you want to go faster you jiggle them in a way which must be exceptionally uncomfortable for the animal, shout ‘hah!’ and dig your ankles in all at the same time. Not my bag at all and he got quite impatient with me when I wouldn’t give this a go. Needless to say after 10 minutes of having gotten hardly anywhere trying to coax a pissed-off stallion up the beach I was feeling pretty stressed and my arms were aching from trying to keep grumpy on track. I stopped and told the guide I was going back, there was no pleasure in this for me or the horse and that’s not how I like to ride. The second I even shifted in the saddle to turn back the stallion put his head down and shot forwards like a bullet from a gun which half pulled the reins out of my hands; it was all I could do to grab them back up and yank him out of the path of the sun-bathers he was thundering towards like some sort of apocalyptic equine demon. He skidded back to his group and came to an abrupt halt on tip-toe; immediately going back into friendly restful mode once reunited.
The stable manager came over with a look of confusion when he saw me dismounting, I have about a dozen words of Thai and his English wasn’t much better so I couldn’t articulate exactly what my problem was but I did a bit of charades and he was furious with the guide. It turned out I should have had the guide’s calmer pale dun stallion and the guide should have been riding my beautiful alpha-grump. The manager apologised and gave me a leg-up onto the dun and I set off at a leisurely walk through the surf which was infinitely nicer and actually relaxed enough to allow me to mutter encouragingly to my new steed and pat his neck as he picked his way through the waves. Again Thai people kept insisting I go faster and trying to slap my horse’s rump saying that I would never make it to the hill and back at that pace. Eventually I lost my temper a little bit “walk is fine, calm, mai pen lai (no worries): RELAX!” I made it about half a mile up the beach, well away from the crowds of annoying people, before turning round. The dun whickered softly and tugged at the reins so I gave him his head and cantered back along the sand, splashing through pools and enjoying the breeze on my face and the view through my horse’s pricked ears. It’s my intention to spend a few weeks horse-trekking around the northern jungles when I’m done with my teaching placement, but this experience has definitely reinforced the need to do a lot of research beforehand and find a place recommended by experienced western riders.
That night we found an Indian restaurant by the name of Maharajahs which was absolutely fantastic and we all gorged ourselves into curry-induced food comas and waddled back to our balcony and Sangsom before heading out on the tiles for dancing and cocktails with glow-stick stirrers. If anything particularly special can be said for Hua Hin, other than that it’s the easiest bit of beach to get to from Bangkok, it’s that the food was consistently amazing. We all spent a good chunk of the weekend lolling around rubbing our stomachs and groaning.
I actually managed to get my stomach rubbed for me which was a novel experience. On Sunday the girls decided to get a massage and since I’ve already had a couple of Thai massages I figured I’d go for something different and got an oil massage which was more or less the same but sweeter smelling. Also, where the girls were given cotton Thai pyjamas to wear during their massage I was ordered to strip in front of all my companions and the other masseuses so that I could be sufficiently basted. Thankfully people clamped their eyes shut and my masseuse took to covering the more intimate bits with towels most of the time. She was quite tickled by my 52 mosquito (yaow) bites which are dotted about in clusters. In contrast to the normal Thai massage she did roll me over and give my bloated stomach a good knead too which was definitely different; especially when she started digging her fingers into all my squishy pressure points. If you’ve never had a Thai massage then I strongly recommend it, who knew inflexible old me could get the soles of my feet on the back of my head? They crack every joint and knead every muscle until you feel like your body is made of stringy bubble gum and you’re as relaxed as a puddle of milk.
All in all it was a great weekend and, whilst Hua Hin is a fairly unremarkable and occasionally seedy seaside town, it was made fantastic by all the wonderful food and even better company.