Day Trip from Hua Hin #1 - East and North
Hua Hin is a great city, but staying more than a few days you may want to get out and about to explore the surrounding area. We chose to rent a car on a couple days during our month long stay. You can read about our car rental experience here. We took a couple of day trips. This post describes our journey east and north of the city. Our next post will describe our day trip south.
After picking up our car we decided to head north in the direction of Cha-Am. our first planned stop was at the Mrigadayavan Palace, the site of former King Rama VI summer residence. As I mentioned in our last post, Google Maps has proved a little unreliable for navigating and this stop was no exception. I found the palace on the map and navigated to it. First we were directed to a military complex. After pulling in, it was clear we weren't going to get past the gate. We instead chose to follow the alternative directions Google Maps ever so kindly offered. That led us through some residential areas and to a turn off that didn't exist. The road suggested showed no sign of ever existing, it was instead just a field blocked off by a brick wall. We got back on the main road and saw a sign to Maruekhathaiyawan Palace which, although beginning with M and also unpronounceable, didn't seem to match our destination. After trying a few more Google Map suggested routes without success we eventually gave up and decided to head into Cha-Am instead.
Cha-Am looked to us like a typical touristy town, lots of condo developments and a beach packed with sun loungers, cafes, and bars. Generally it had a more low-budget feel compared to the swanky Hua Hin. We decided to stop for a sandwich and I couldn't resist trying one last time to search on my phone for the palace that had eluded us earlier. That's when I found out that Mrigadayavan Palace could also be written as Maruekhathaiyawan Palace. Huh? OK, now knowing that the signpost we saw earlier was guiding us to the palace, we decided to try one more time on the way to our next destination.
Sure enough this time we found it! This have proved my rule in Thailand - trust road signs more than Google Maps. It was actually quite a pretty spot. A simple residence with a beautiful serene shoreline. It was home to King Rama VI until his death in 1925. The compound lay deserted and derelict for many years, until the current king ordered it to be renovated. We strolled around for 45 minutes and it was very lovely and serene, and some of the blossoms were stunning.
They are quite particular about modesty at the palace, even more so than many of the temples we visited. I knew we would have temples visits during our day so I already had a T-shirt and longer pants on. Iain was wearing shorts but the rule here was if you knees show, you have to cover up with a sarong/lyongi. Iain's shorts length were borderline so they asked him to tug them down a little to make sure his knees were covered. Iain obliged and they let us in, but he did whisper to me that he was now more worried he might be showing his ass-crack and surely that was even more indecent!
Back in the comfort of the air-conditioned car we decided that we didn't want to see any of the other attractions north of the city. So we headed east and inland to the Wat Huay Mongkol, a Buddhist temple most famous for its huge statue of the monk Luang Phor Thuat. Although it was busy at the temple the statue was stunning and well worth the stop.
From here we decided to go to a much less crowded attraction, the Lub Lae Cave. Google Maps proved very reliable in this case and led us on a dirt road through the pineapple fields to the small monastery where the cave is located. We were the only visitors there and a monk met us as we parked up and led us down into the cave with a couple of flashlights. How to describe the caves - well cavernous I guess. They were immense with incredible gravity-defying stalagmites and stalactites as well as huge squealing bat population. Another great stop on our tour, we left a donation with the monk and gratefully received some fresh cold water from them before heading off to our final destination on the tour.
Now you don't think of Thailand as a wine destination, but there are a few fledgling producers and one of them grows grapes and makes wines just a few miles outside of Hua Hin. Our final stop was at the Sala restaurant at Hua Hin Hills Vineyard. Google Maps couldn't find this location, but fortunately we already noticed signs on the way to the cave.
We were there quite early so managed to snag a wonderful table overlooking the vineyards. Iain was the designated driver so I benefited most from the visit. We shared a cheese and cold meat platter and I tried a flight of some of their most popular wines. I was pleasantly surprised how good they were. In particular we enjoyed the Shiraz and decided to take a bottle home so Iain could enjoy it once his driving duties were done. One thing about this vineyard that makes it quite different to the ones we visit back in the US. They use elephants to help tend the land, and as were leaving we saw two of them heading back after a days work in the fields. We're not in California any more!!