Hua Hin to Bangkok

Up at 4:30am to catch the train. Biked through the quiet city and arrived early at the pretty train station. We got cargo tickets situated and sat to wait for train. They said the train was late and likely our bikes wouldn’t fit—but then it was right on time and the bikes went on. Fair enough. Had breakfast in our nice seats (congee!) and settled in for the short trip to the city.

Arrived in Bangkok around midday to the crazy huge train station. Had a little snack (fish balls on a stick!) and headed out into the chaos. WOW. Biking through Bangkok. So scary and exciting and awful and cool. Incredibly hot, and just chock-a-everloving-block with cars and scooters and people and little food carts and giant buses. We had about a five mile ride to our hotel—couldn’t believe we made it in one piece. Wanted to cry for about half of it but I made it, and I felt glad about being brave lil’ biker girl. Stuart sort of took a new tactic of just smiling at me and giving me thumbs up, rather than stopping and checking in, which was actually better. If he didn’t give me a chance to say “HATE THIS” and crumble than I just couldn’t. Have to get where you’re going, and there’s really no other way to do it than to just ride the dumb bike.

Made it to our hotel, the Cabochon Residence, which is super nice. Kind of decrepit at the edges, but sweet staff and a nice, comfortable level of fanciness. Room wasn’t ready yet, so we set out to find some bike boxes. First we went to Sora, a little shop I’d emailed with. Trendy and sweet, but the boxes were a little small, so we tried another bike shop, which turned out to be this huge weird Cannondale shop. Staffed by one Thai lady with perfectly British-accented English. She said we could some get the boxes in an hour, so we went to a nearby mall and had lunch at a wacky Japanese place, then went back to the shop, where we got the boxes and a bunch of packing supplies. They must get bike tourers fairly often, they were totally set up for it with rolls of tape and foam. Walked back to the hotel with the big boxes, and Stuart got to work packing up. I went up to the rooftop pool and read and swam. Lucky me!

After a rest, we headed to WTF, the great little bar I’d been to with my parents when we were here last year. Still great, but a kind of icky Scottish bartender who was deeply braggy (he is from the MOST beautiful village in the UK AND he’s super good at muay Thai…) and that kind of killed it. Then we walked to Soi 38, the amazing street food alley we’d loved last time—so sad to find it basically shuttered. Apparently the main building that let vendors set up in front was sold to get torn down and become condos. Bummer. Last time it was such a vibrant, exhilarating scene. But we still had some great pork and greens over rice and some larb and papaya salad, plus a beer. Got a mango & sticky rice to go and headed home.

Woke up and had breakfast at the hotel—amazing breakfast. Fried fish and rice and broth (I love the bowl of broth thing with some of the meals we’ve had) plus a buffet of great bread and yogurt and fruit. Headed to the big Chatuchak Weekend Market on the skytrain. What a scene—so many people and so much stuff for sale. Walked around for a couple hours, sweating like crazy. Bought more packing stuff, some bags (those big plaid bags you see people lugging around in Asia—I’ve always wanted one) and some plastic wrap. Had a great lunch: I had pork soup and Stuart had fried rice with squid. Got back on the skytrain and went to the Siam Paragon, a giant, crazy high-end mall to see a movie. Wandered around semi-lost in the futuristic mall, then finally found the movie theater. Super fancy, multiple lounges to wait in and plush chairs and enormously high ceilings. Got some Pellegrinos and a bucket of popcorn and saw Hail, Caesar! which was funny.

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Wandered around afterward looking at shops (and Maseratis) then had some coffees in a little restaurant set up in the middle of a big mezzanine. Fancy and odd. Had an interesting and semi-confusing-to-me talk about our place in the world and privilege and money. I am so tired, it’s hard for me to keep up. Feels like all of the tiredness from all the biking and heat and feeling ill has piled up and I’m just beyond tuckered. My brain feels a little toasted. Went back to the hotel and napped and then asked one of the nice reception dude for a restaurant recommendation. Walked toward the two he mentioned and went to the first one—it smelled so weird and awful we got up and left, which we felt a little bad about. Then we went to the second place. In between, I managed to have a total meltdown. I tried to explain, but it’s not a rational feeling—I said I wanted our last night, last meal on the trip to be great, but really, I was just exhausted and all out off good body chemicals to help myself manage my feelings. Running on empty. But Stuart sweetly shepherded me into the restaurant and we sat down and got some drinks, and he ordered dinner. Had amazing red curry with huge chunks of crab, wing bean salad with prawns, and this weirdly incredible braised cabbage with fish sauce. My favorite dish. It was so good, so simple and salty and killer. I never would have ordered it, but I’m so glad Stuart did. More mango and sticky rice for dessert—best thing in the world.

Walked back to the hotel and watched TV, had a beer we’d grabbed at a 711. Watched a great home renovation show, “Dream House.” An architect remodeled a Chinese family’s 300 sq foot, century+ old house—made it into EIGHT little stories with hidden bathrooms and little tucked away spaces. Pretty incredible.

Slept well and woke up rested. Another killer breakfast and then we went to the Jim Thompson house. Neat place—American guy fell in love with Thailand after WWII and moved here, wound up becoming a silk exporter and kind of reviving the silk industry. Loved Thai architecture, so he bought a bunch of old wooden houses and stuck them together. Neat tour of the space and all the antiques. I’d been with my parents, and mentioned it to Stuarts relatives who lived in SE Asia in the 50s & 60s—turns out they were friends with him, and had been to the house in Malaysia that he disappeared from! (Thompson disappeared without a trace in 1967 while visiting the Cameron Highland in Malaysia.)

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Back to the hotel to pack up, feeling sad to leave. Had lunch at the hotel: grilled chicken and pork collar and sticky rice, then got in our giant van cab and headed off. Saw multiple Rolls Royces in traffic, so weird. Accidentally paid the driver twice (had paid at the hotel, and not noticed)—oh well. Checked the bikes without much trouble and went through security. Wandered around the airport with lots of time to kill, had some beers and snacks and waited for the flight.

I felt much better after a good sleep, though I feel really awful about being a baby a lot on the trip. I think I got into a bit of a downward spiral—feeling tired and mopey, then feeling bad about feeling tired, then feeling bad about being/feeling bad, onward and downward. I felt like I was not graceful at many moments when I would have liked to be graceful. It was just hard. Hot and tiring. I’m not super good at riding a bike and I got scared sometimes in traffic or on sandy roads. Felt like my brain was a little melted after a couple weeks, just kind of zapped by many piled on hours of tiredness and frustration and sweatiness. We should have taken more rest days, but it felt a little rushed, and we both didn’t want to miss out on anything up ahead.

I do get why Stuart loves touring though. By the end, thinking about a normal trip seemed so strange—what would you do all day? It’s really neat to have a thing to do, and that you get to see new stuff every minute. It’s definitely a game of riding the highs and lows—you never get quite as low as I did on this trip on a regular vacation, but a shower and a snack never feel quite as magical either. I’m looking forward to going on another one, and I think I’ll be so much more well prepared—I’ll know what to expect and how to handle it, and I think I’ll know my limits better too. There were lots of times I wished I’d bucked up, for sure, but also a fair amount of times I wish I’d spoken up and said I needed to rest or even just stop for the day. In all, fun trip, and great being with Stuart. He’s a good one. He was incredibly patient and took good care of me the whole time. I think we learned a lot about each other, and how to manage ourselves and our relationship under trying circumstances. Now on to planning the next adventure!

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