We actually had a legitimate reason for embarking on our Southeast Asia trip this January. We weren't taking time off work just for the sake of taking a vacation. Okay, fine. We took a massive detour by going to Indonesia, but the main excuse, er, reason behind our entire trip was CK's wedding in Thailand.
CK's wedding took place in Cha Am and not in Bangkok, where protests were going strong. We kept track of the protests the entire time we were in Indonesia, ready to change our plans at a moment's notice if it looked like flying into Thailand wouldn't be safe or even doable.
Fortunately, the protests didn't affect transportation in and out of Bangkok. We hopped into a cab for Cha Am immediately upon arriving at the airport. Two hours later, we checked into our hotel.
The first thing I did once we got into our hotel room was to call China Airlines to change my return flight to the States. My original flight home required me to go back to Bangkok from Hong Kong before flying to San Francisco. Given the unstable political situation in Thailand at the time, I wanted to eliminate the Bangkok leg of the trip and fly directly from Hong Kong instead.
Seems easy enough, right? Wrong. I jumped through so many hoops to get that damn flight changed that I was tempted to just say screw it, I'm never going home.
First, I was told that I couldn't pay for the flight change with my credit card, but needed to get to a Thai bank to transfer the money. Then I found out that the nearest banks were in Hua Hin, the next town over, and we had to call a cab instead of taking the hotel shuttle to make it in time before the banks closed. The first bank we stopped at was, in fact, closed, so our cab driver took us to Hua Hin Market Village, a giant shopping mall.
Inside, we found not just one, but five banks/money exchanges. I walked into all five of them. At the first and second bank, I was told that I needed a routing number. All I had was China Airlines' address and phone number. When I'd left the hotel, I hadn't received any email with a routing number.
Figuring that there might have been another email since I last checked, I went to the booth selling SIM cards right outside the banks. Trying to communicate with the SIM card company was a struggle in itself. When I finally got the card and accessed my email on CL's phone to get the routing number, I learned that I could actually only transfer the money from one specific bank. Luckily, that bank was one of the five in the mall.
Because we'd lost my sister's debit card in Indonesia, I had no access to the money I put into my sister's bank account for the trip. I had some American dollars on me, but not enough to cover the cost of the flight change. I borrowed some money from T to make up the difference. With my mix of dollars and baht in hand, I walked into the specified bank, only to be told that they couldn't take U.S. dollars and couldn't do the exchange there.
By then, I was more than a little annoyed. I went into the money exchange next door. The lady there told me that I should go downstairs to their exchange booth if I wanted to avoid filling out extensive paperwork. I told them I didn't mind doing some paperwork, but when they showed me the multiple pages I would need to do, I changed my mind. I went a couple doors down to the other money exchange, where I was finally able to get all my money converted to baht.
Then it was back to the specified bank again, where I was finally able to get the money transferred to China Airlines. There was a moment of panic when I realized I didn't have access to a scanner to send the receipt over to the airline, but CL calmly suggested that I could just take a picture with her phone. Brilliant.
After that ordeal, I definitely needed a pick-me-up, which for me, always comes in the form of food.
On our way to the Hua Hin night market, we passed by a school. In front of the school was a line of street food vendors:
Perfect. Exactly what I needed.
We proceeded to buy a little bit from just about every vendor.
There was this one with the meat pearl necklaces:
We also found these mysterious things on a skewer:
None of the vendors spoke English, so it took a lot of pointing and smiling to get what we wanted. We also had to order a lot of things without really knowing what they were.
There was no way of mistaking these, however:
Glorious, glorious fatty pork skewers:
A layer of meat followed by a layer of fat. One bite and all my previous troubles seemed no more than a distant dream. Like the pork fat on my tongue, all my stress and anger just melted away to bliss. My favorite thing in Hua Hin. Maybe in all of Thailand.
This lady had a lot to offer:
We controlled ourselves and ordered just a sausage and a fish cake:
We went a bit more crazy here:
Watching her grill the skewers made our mouths water:
We left with a handful of skewers:
There was pork, lamb, chicken gizzard, chicken hearts...yum.
This gentleman sold the cheapest Thai tea we could find in Hua Hin:
Thai tea tastes best in Thailand:
The food in front of the school was so good that we went back our last day in Thailand. We were originally planning on spending it in Bangkok, but decided against that because of the protests. Good thing we did, because we found different vendors on our second trip.
Like this guy with the chive goodies:
There was this denser chive cake:
And this soft, glutinous one:
I loved both. Have I mentioned how much I love chives?
This guy offered some pretty interesting mini crepes:
There where three different flavors, so we got some of each. There was the plain one with melted coconut marshmallow-like filling:
The one with coconut marshmallow and egg threads:
And the one with coconut:
All very, very sweet.
CL couldn't resist buying a cup of Mama noodles, even though we told her it would be cheaper to buy one from the convenience store:
She wasn't alone in wanting one. There was a long line of students all waiting for a cup.
Pretty genius way of making money. Buy cheap cup noodles in bulk, boil some water, sell them to kids, and justify the inflated price by throwing in a couple meat balls:
Mama noodles are a bit spicy for me. I ate some of the noodles, but stayed clear of the broth.
While Hua Hin and Cha Am aren't exactly the most exciting places to visit in Thailand, the street vendors are fantastic. A good lesson for all travelers: follow the students! Where they go, there be good food.