“Slow down. Calm down. Don’t worry. Don’t hurry. Trust the process.”
~ Alexandra Stoddard
I’m starting to settle into life here in Thailand more each day. Hua Hin is busier than I expected; it maintains the chaotic driving of Bangkok streets, but also contains a laid-back beach-going vibe sustained by a significant tourist population. At times, it is authentically Thai, and at others, vastly more touristy than I had expected.
But I love Hua Hin at night-time. The city comes to life at night, with bustling markets, cafes and restaurants open sometimes into the early morning hours, chairs and tables strewn lazily along the sidewalk.
We do have some spectacular sunsets here in Hua Hin, and the golden pink and purple evenings melt into an easy-going night life. My new favourite past-time consists of the question: “Where shall we go to eat?” and usually ends in a new restaurant or a tried-and-true one, perhaps a quick side-step into the night market or a stop at a bakery just a few blocks down from where we live.
Life in Hua Hin is growing on me every day, and I know that I’ll come to miss these places that have slowly become a little familiar to me.
There, on that street corner, is the lady who always sells me papaya on my walks home from the night market. And that beautiful French café? A violinist from Bangkok comes there most Sundays to play popular tunes to accompany a gorgeous brunch buffet.
Just a few blocks down, on the main road, rests a rather hidden Japanese restaurant, where the waiter performs some incredible magic tricks after dinner is finished. And in the Market Village mall, I’ll go and visit my friend at the curry stall in the food court. She’s so kind and always gives me a little extra green curry for my 40 baht.
It all sounds very romantic, and maybe it is a little bit. There are some acutely darker aspects of Thai culture that I realize I am fairly sheltered from. I am enjoying the slight anonymity that I receive here as an Asian-American (until I start speaking, of course), and I’ve found that I sometimes feel safer here than in many other countries. Perhaps this is afforded to me by my identity, but I’ve also felt the opposite side of the blade.
Going out at night with friends, I’ll see so many older white men with young Thai girls (sometimes they look like they’re my age!). But it’s not even this that surprised me – it was the number of young, backpacker guys looking to find an “exotic” girl to sleep with. My ability to speak and understand English has become somewhat of a weapon for my safety; the fact that I can understand how these men are speaking about me (or Thai women in general) hypothetically allows me to remove myself from a certain situation (I say hypothetical because nothing extreme like this has occurred, thankfully).
But I have had old white men try to hit on me when I’m out with friends, and I’ve also had guys stop hitting on me when they realize I’m not a Thai woman (thankful for this too). It’s been interesting to experience, certainly, and I’ve been grateful for the chance I’ve had to try and better understand this aspect of Thai culture and tourism.
Nevertheless, there have more good experiences than bad so far, and I know that traveling does not guarantee that the scale will tip in favor of good or bad. It’s not about achieving balance, per se – it’s wonderful when it does, but it’s also unrealistic for long periods of time. We wouldn’t be happy or even understand happiness if the scale was always perpetually balanced.
It’s life, and we keep living: trying new things, living in a different culture, missing home, finding home, getting up the next morning, and striving again. Happy, lovely, lonely and new.