Hua Hin Beach

Our current house sit in Hua Hin is a bit out of town. With no public transportation and limited taxi availability, we’ve been relying on our host’s motorbike to get us around. It’s given us a great opportunity to explore a bit, while still living in a quiet and secluded area. Plus, there is something so freeing about riding a motorbike through an unknown city. One of our first adventures on the bike was to the center of town to Hua Hin Beach.

Blue motor bike in front of a Thai market. "Exploring the Streets of Hua Hin"

Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin proper is only a 10 minute drive from our home. We were a bit nervous about driving on the main roads without our international license (shhh!), so we found a shady place to park just outside of downtown and walked in.

Hua Hin is a cute little town, jam-packed with boutique hotels, backpacker hostels, Western restaurants, 24 hour bars, and massage parlors… but in a non-trashy sort of way. It was obvious from our first look that Hua Hin is a tourist town. But it wasn’t cheesy and we felt safe and at ease. It looked fun and lively.

Main street of Hua Hin, Thailand. Narrow road with shops lining each side and flags running from rooftops.

There is so much to do in Hua Hin for both the budget travelers like us and the more extravagant Hua Hin honeymooners, of which there were a lot. We walked through the streets checking out the sights and sounds of the city for a bit until we found what we were looking for: an outdoor restaurant with our first view of the ocean.

Gulf of Thailand

We grabbed a table at the waterfront and bought a tall beer to share for 60 baht ($2). For an hour, we just sat there and admired the view. Josh and I are reading The Beach by Alex Garland, so we enjoyed a moment putting ourselves in the main character’s shoes. I wondered how many other people have taken the SE Asia backpacker’s route and what sort of adventures they had on the beaches of the Gulf of Thailand.

Read Josh’s Literary Tourism piece for The Beach at O:JAL

Jen from The Places We Live sits at a table along the shore of Hua Hin Thailand.

After our beer and some discussion about The Beach, we headed back to the road and toward the huge resort hotels a few blocks away. I didn’t have to look at the map to know that must be where the beach is.

Hua Hin Beach

Picking our way along through little side alleys, we made our way to the main beach. Hua Hin Beach is a stretch of fine white sand with the occasional outcropping of rocks, and is wedged between the Hilton Hua Hin Resort and the Centara Grand Beach Resort. There were food stands, cocktail waitresses, chair and umbrella rentals, horseback riding, and everything else one would expect on a busy beach.

Young boy rides a brown horse along the sands of Hua Hin Beach in Thailand

Beyond a red and white wall is a view of Hua Hin Beach and the neighboring piers

The majority of the beach-goers were Caucasian and looked to be of retirement age. There were a few that looked like they might live here or have a summer home, but most looked like they were on vacation.

We spent some time wandering up and down the sand, taking in the view of the ocean. I’ve often said that the ocean is where I belong, and days like this one really bring it home for me. I could spend all day just lying on the beach and listening to the waves. Josh, however, can not. We wandered up into a group of little roadside stands run by the locals and made our way back downtown.

The day grew warmer as we walked back to the bike and drove home. It was a wonderful little adventure for the day. Thailand has proven to be just as lovely as everyone describes it. I can’t wait to take our little bike out and see more!


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Songkran – Thai New Year in Hua Hin

We started our international journey with a flight out of Boise on New Year’s Eve. Since then, we have celebrated Chinese New Year in Chengdu, Persian New Year in Malaysia, and now Songkran, Thailand’s New Year, in Hua Hin. I hate to play favorites, but Songkran in Hua Hin has been the best by far!

Songkran was the official Thai New Year holiday until 1888. Now, New Year is celebrated on January 1st, but Songkran is still celebrated as a traditional holiday on the 13th of April each year. Like holidays all over the world, Songkran has varied traditions (my friend’s experience with Songkran in Chiang Mai was a tiny bit different). Some common themes, however, are visiting temples, giving offerings to the Buddhist monks, and using water to purify and wash away sins.

Finding a Hide-Away for Lunch

I was embarrassingly under-prepared for this holiday. We had a basic idea of what sort of things would be happening. Many of the stores were going to be closed, there would be drunk partiers in the street, and people were going to be throwing water from unknown sources at us. I read that at one of the biggest celebrations in Chiang Mai, the water that is being thrown is pulled directly from the canal. The water in our nearby canal is mostly garbage, so we were a bit nervous about participating in the festivities.

However, we definitely were going to participate in this holiday, but exactly how much was up in the air. We dressed in some quick-dry clothing, put on sunglasses to protect our eyes from the scorching sun and potentially polluted water, and drove into town to go to lunch. The plan was to find a place to eat, hide away inside, and watch everyone have their dangerous fun from a safe and dry distance. (Are we really getting that old and boring?!)

The moment we turned out of our gated community, we knew we weren’t going to avoid getting wet. Our little local side street in Hua Hin was spotted with parties and puddles, and lined up with friendly locals ready to blast anyone who happened to be passing by.

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And We’re In

The reason for soaking someone during Songkran is to bless and purify them. With that first splash of water, all of our worries and cares were washed away. The people of Hua Hin were having the time of the their lives. Town was filled with music, laughing, and dancing everywhere. There was no way we were going to sit this one out. We parked the motorbike and headed on foot to the nearest party.

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We ended up at Lazy Daze Bar. A couple of days earlier, we had eaten dinner here and noticed that they had a sign advertising free food for the holiday. It was on the main drag (such as it is), had good music… Who am I kidding? The free food is what brought us in. I like food! Sue me!

Songkran with our new friends

I was a little hesitant at first. It looked like everyone at the bar knew each other and we were about to crash a private party, but the moment we walked in, we felt like a member of the family. We were greeted and blessed by nearly everyone there. The people were all so kind and accommodating, it took us a while to figure out who was hosting the party and who was just being friendly. We were given chairs and guided to the food, while one of the locals introduced us to the regular crowd and explained the holiday customs. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but we eventually settled in and felt right at home.

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Also, let me just say that this wasn’t “free food” kind of free food. You know, the cheap, mass produced stuff that gets laid out because people feel obligated to bring something.  No, this was a delicious spread of home-cooked Thai curry, Japanese curry, American chili, and rices. It took everything in my power not to go back for thirds… alright so maybe I did, but I didn’t go back for fourths!

Joining in the Fun of Songkran in Hua Hin

We spent a lot of our time watching and learning before stepping out onto the street to participate. That isn’t to say we didn’t still get wet. Blessing people indoors is also a thing.

I eventually worked my way outside, was handed a bucket, and experimented first by splashing the kids. Anyone who has ever been in a water fight before knows that it only takes one little splash to start an all-out war. Within seconds we were all soaked, laughing, and ganging up on passers-by.

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Like most of the groups on the block, we collected water from large barrels that were set out near the street. The barrels were filled with hose water and often had large ice cubes inside to keep it cool. We used small buckets or squirt guns to collect our ammo out of the barrel.

The majority of the water fight was among ourselves, but we also soaked most of the people who passed by. Our favorite passers were the ones who drove by in trucks. It looked common for families to drive by in trucks filled with buckets of water.

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Josh and I were happy to see that anyone who drove by with their hand up, their phone visible, or bags of groceries were let go without getting splashed. Even better, many of the motorbikes were stopped before we splashed them. Someone would hold up their hand for the passer to stop. Once stopped, they would be wiped on each cheek with a white paste by a single person, then soaked by everyone else.

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Heading Home

We were still excited as we walked back to the motorbike to ride home. We didn’t want to leave, but we were getting tired and the dogs hadn’t been prepared to be alone much longer.

As we drove back through the street parties, our new friends recognized us and gave us a good soaking. The next group did the same, and the next. We drove home feeling wet, cool, and with a feeling of happiness. We smiled and laughed the whole drive home.

Best. Day. Ever!


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Hua Hin – The Places We Live

Our adventure in sharing the places we live continues with our new home in Hua Hin, Thailand. Hua Hin is a beach resort town three hours South of Bangkok along the Eastern coast. It is a popular tourist destination for Thais and foreigners alike. It is even said that the King of Thailand has begun living in his summer home in Hua Hin full-time.

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The Places We Live

We are currently house sitting in a lovely home in a suburb about five miles Northwest of Hua Hin city center. Our home is in a quiet, “gated” community a few blocks away from any major street. The word “gated” is in quotes because there is no actual gate, though there’s a place for one. Aside from one cafe a couple of blocks away, there are very few public locations that are at a walkable distance. Although, walking isn’t our preferred mode of transportation here anyway, as the area seems to be run by packs of wild dogs (who admittedly seem quite harmless, if not a little scary looking). However, these things all just add to the flavor of being in Thailand, and we are loving the location.

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Our house is on a corner lot with a large front terrace and small patio. It is a three bedroom, two bathroom, modern home. We have a large kitchen to cook in, dining room table to work at, and a TV in the living room with an HDMI port so we can watch Netflix. It has been very comfortable and we are enjoying the feeling of being “home”.

Our room is bright and full of windows. We have an ensuite bathroom with a shower and tub (still no curtain, though) and a wardrobe to store our clothes. The bed is comfortable and, with the light linens, we find that we rarely even need the AC at night.

The Family

Our host is a teacher at an international school here in Hua Hin. She has been traveling around Asia for the last 13 years and has been in Hua Hin for the last three of those. She is very excited to be moving to the Netherlands for her next job at the end of the school year. As with our other hosts, she was full of great conversation and showered us with kindness while she was here. Now, she is on holiday in Sydney, visiting some friends.



Bear is a four year old shitzu whom our host rescued off the streets of Bangkok. She is super loving and is definitely the one who runs the house. She is obsessed with playing fetch, but otherwise spends the rest of her day cuddling with us wherever we are.

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Coco is also a stray rescued after our host saw her get hit by a car in Chengdu, China. Coco still shows the scars of her previous life where she was very poorly treated. However, our host has done a wonderful job in making Coco feel loved. She is old and obviously still in some sort of pain, but she has a happy glow about her (sometimes) and she loves pets and attention as much as any dog.

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And then, there is Jack, who obviously considers himself the “man of the house”. Like Bear, he was a rescued stray from Bangkok, but despite his diagnosis of FIV, he seems to be very healthy and happy. He spends most of his day outside hunting whatever creatures dare to step foot on the property and the rest of his time snoozing at Josh’s feet.

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Pictured: not Josh’s feet.

Critters of Thailand Living

Life here in Hua Hin is quite nice. Aside for the usual love and attention, the pets don’t really need us that much. The home is comfortable and we are slowly getting used to the neighborhood and settling in to our new Thailand life.

The critters of Thailand have been a bit of an issue, however.

As we mentioned, there are packs of stray dogs roaming the streets. They look a bit scary when I walk up on them but they have, so far, not shown any signs of aggression. They just look scary, cause traffic jams, and make a lot of noise when they howl at night.

Beyond that, we have had at least one critter encounter per day. One day we shooed a cockroach out of the house that was about half the size of my palm. Another night we found the house surrounded by a loud and persistent belching sound. Turns out we’re here during frog mating season, and the males make these strange sounds to attract the females. Last night, we had a large dragonfly trapped in the house immediately following a close encounter with a very large and very fast spider crawling along the wall behind the TV.

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Also, this centipede. We kinda just let him do his own thing…

These critter encounters have been scary and unenjoyable but, surprisingly, had their moment of fun as well. Even the large spider was a rewarding kill for Josh and a brave moment of calmness from me. It is nice to feel like we are still growing, learning, and adapting to new ways of life… I just hope it doesn’t happen too often.



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Traveling from Penang to Hua Hin

Sometimes, the worst part about traveling is the actual traveling part. Sometimes it can be great, but most of the time it sucks. Our trip from Penang to Hua Hin was one of those trips. It was an adventure that was just laughably horrid.

Don’t make the same mistake we did. Instead, check out this ultimate guide with everything you need to know about backpacking in Thailand. For what NOT to do, keep reading…

Failed Plan A: Penang to Hua Hin by Train

After our mixed experiences in Penang, I was determined to make this travel day an enjoyable one. I booked train tickets from Penang to the Malaysian border, a quick two-hour jaunt, for 26 MYR ($6 USD) each. From there, we would walk across the border and hop on an overnight train to Hua Hin. Both trains looked very comfortable, our seats would have provided us with a lovely view of Southern Thailand, and sleeping on the train would have saved us money on accommodations for a night.

Unfortunately, everything I read online about traveling from Penang to Hua Hin said that I would only be able to book the Thai train tickets in person. Then, once I checked the availability of said tickets the day before, they were all sold out. This left us with the option of either heading to the border anyway and just hoping that we could find a seat within the next two days or eating the cost of the tickets and making new plans. We decided to just let the 150RM go and start Plan B.

Plan B: Penang to Hua Hin

Aside from the train in Plan A, there was no other “easy” way to get to Hua Hin. Plan B involved a lot of moving parts and a lot of different types of transport. We took trains, planes, automobiles, and everything in between.

Penang to Kuala Lumpur

From our hotel in Penang, we took an Uber to the jetty. At the jetty, we left Penang by way of a free ferry to Butterworth.

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From the Butterworth jetty, we took a shuttle to the bus station… where we watched the bus we had booked to take us to the KL airport leave without us. Fortunately, there was a very friendly attendant inside of the office to help us book a new bus. Unfortunately, the bus would only take us to the main bus station in KL and not the airport.

So, we hopped on the bus and hoped it would get us to the station on time for us to find a way to the airport. The five hour bus ride took us through some of the jungles of Malaysia, and we even picked up a hitch-hiker…

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Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok

Upon arrival at the KL bus station, we had about three hours until our flight, and a couple of options for getting to the airport. The cheapest option was the shuttle bus, but it would take two hours to cross the city. The next cheapest option was the train, which would take 1.5 hours. So, we took an Uber to the airport, which was the most expensive option and took almost as long.

Thankfully, everything went pretty smoothly at the airport and we were able to make it to our gate with just enough time for a snack and bathroom break. Next up, a three hour flight to Bangkok.

One Night in Bangkok

Our flight landed in Bangkok just a little after dark. We booked a hostel only a block away from the Don Mueang Airport and walked there. It was a questionable walk in the dark, past homes made of scrap wood and sheet metal, but we made it safely. 

Thankfully, the hostel was adorable!! It was brand new, well-designed, and super clean. The host offered us tons of free food and helped us put together our plan for the next day. After so much travel, we really needed the rest… and were happy we got it before the adventure continued the following day.

Bangkok to Hua Hin

Hua Hin is a popular tourist destination for both Thais and foreigners, so the trip isn’t usually very difficult from Bangkok. Suvarnabhumi is the main airport for the city, and there are convenient buses that leave from there to connect the two cities. Unfortunately, we didn’t fly in to the main airport. We flew in to the old airport at the North end of town, as far away from the convenience of Hua Hin transportation as possible.

We walked back to the airport and caught a city bus that drove an hour to the nearest metro stop. Then, we caught the purple line metro. After half an hour, we were dropped off at the train station, where we took the one hour long express train to the main airport.

Once at the airport, we were able to book a bus to Hua Hin. The first two buses were sold out, so we had to wait a couple of hours, but that gave us an opportunity to finally try some of the local Thai food… which was amazing.

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We were given stickers for the Hua Hin Express Bus. The bus was large, air conditioned, and very comfortable. The scenery was nice and we were able to finally make it to Hua Hin after only three more hours.

Arrival in Hua Hin

Our trip from Penang to Hua Hin seemed like it would never end, but we finally made it to our house sit. Our host picked us up at the bus station, gave us a tour of her lovely home, and then took us out for a much-needed meal. The difficulty of the last couple of days was almost immediately washed away after our first bite of the authentic Pad Thai and Coconut Curry. Our new bed is comfortable, our new pets are super sweet, and we are ready to explore our new home.


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Penang to Hua Hin