Walking down the streets of Hua Hin and our first impression was that it was a quiet, somewhat laid-back town.
After the roar of Bangkok, it felt good to escape a few hours down the coast to the sea-side town that boasts a night market and the home of the Royals’ summer palace.
What quickly became apparent was that something was really different down here about the clientele walking the streets. Large, handlebar mustache toting, beer gut slapping, sun burnt scalp showing, white men were walking the streets arm in arm with very young looking Thai women.
Strange, I thought, after the fifth couple. Seems like there is a trend here…
“Pibaaaah. Crazy man.” Chicken explained. She’d just gotten off of her cell phone with some boob in London. “That my boyfriend.”
I stared at her.
“And he lives in London?”
“Yes. Him come to Thailand 2 or 3 time a year.” She giggled.
“How long have you been dating him?” I asked, agog.
“2-3 years? Yes.”
Chicken had just finished giving me a foot massage and I was enjoying a cup of tea before heading back to my room around the corner.
“You first time in Hua Hin?” She asked.
“Yes. There are lots of old white men walking around, huh?”
“Yes. They come Hua Hin and have fun.” She giggled again.
Indeed, it seems the word is out for slovenly, lecherous-looking, bottom-of-the-barrel, 3-times-divorced Western men can come to this corner of Thailand and pick up a 21-year-old babe. What the fuck?
“Do you like him, Chicken?” I asked.
She rocked her hand in a so-so motion.
“Does he want to marry you?”
“Yes. But I don’t. He talk too much. Blah blah blah.” She put her hands over her ears in mock frustration and laughed again.
I thought back to the previous night when Jackson and I watched a Louis Theroux TV documentary on Thai brides. Filmed in 2000, Louis went to Bangkok and followed two older men around for a few days, documenting their relationships with young Thai girls. In the show, one of the owners of a Thai “mail-order-bride” service, explained that Thai women are looking for western men because the Thai men are so mean and terrible to them. They want the Western man because he is nice, rich, and will take care of them.
“Chicken, do you want to live in London?” I asked.
She shook her head. “No!”
“Does your boyfriend want to live here with you?”
“Does he want children with you?”
She considered for a moment. Then scrunched up her face. “I don’t want.” She said.
“Does he speak Thai?” I pressed.
“Little bit.” She explained. “Don’t want him to learn because I like talking about him in Thai!” She burst into gales of laughter, one of her other colleagues (who was also on the phone with what definitely sounded like a male voice and talking low in broken English) started laughing as well.
I was so confused. My New York City geared mind whirling with outrage. This isn’t my place. It’s not my decision, and it is none of my damn business. I thought, trying to understand what the hell these women got out of these relationships. Money? Prestige? Free dinners out and some new clothes? Could it be they were attracted to these crusty Western outcasts?
Walking back to my home stay, I noted the half-Aussie, half-Thai baby being bounced on the knee of what I think is the owner’s wife: a very young looking Thai lady who smiles every time I walk in. Bill, her husband, is a large, balding, red-faced Aussie who sits in the window and smokes. This particular afternoon, he was surrounded by other red-faced blimps, all smoking and drinking a cold beer, probably talking about their Thai wives and girlfriends.
What a place.
That being said, Hua Hin does have a beautiful beach: soft white sand, warm turquoise water, and in the evenings you can watch windsurfers zooming around the waves.
We enjoyed walking down from our home stay and basking in the sun until evening when we would put on our clothes and find something to eat at the Night Market.
On our last night, we stopped at a corner spot called Chek Pia that had a line waiting for seats. Intrigued, we decided to go there for dinner rather than forage in the Night Market again. Boy, were we glad we took the risk! This place was fantastic! A boiling clay hot-pot accompanied by pieces of pork marinating in raw egg were to be dipped into the hot water and nibbled. Soft-shelled crab rubbed in a savory pepper sauce burst with flavor in our mouths. Fresh seafood, coated in a light, salty sauce and served over rice was another delicious course to salivate over. Some of the best food in Thailand.
Would we recommend Hua Hin? Probably not. There are some local attractions you can cough up $60 USD to get to (we didn’t) and there is a thriving massage parlor scene: if what you’re into is a happy ending…. Ultimately, I’m glad we went but feel no need to return.