I am walking up Hua Hin beach from the beach-access near my villa; it looks maybe 2km to The Hilton, where the Jazz Fesitival will start later today, near the beer-bars and restaurants that are my actual goal. It is Saturday, about one. I am looking for lunch. Not so far behind me at the South end of the bay is a small promontory, a single hill capped with a small pagoda and several other buildings. In front of me stretches a wide expanse of flat beach exposed at a very low tide. There is a big storm out to sea, sheets of rain bridging the gap from sea to sky, with billowing dark clouds enhanced by my polarizing sunglasses into Cecil B DeMille cinematically biblical profundity. It is the time of the Western Monsoon so this storm must have already passed over, maybe to the north of here at Cha Am, the prevailing winds taking it out, out to the East.
I am wading through warm shallows, wet sand sucking on my flip-flops each step, in ox-bows or billabongs cut off by exposed sand from the low tide. As I move into the drier areas between the ox-bows, I sense movement on the sand. Ineluctable modality of the visible. Tiny sand-crabs, almost translucent scuttering creatures that are hard to see at first. They are scampering into their elaborately decorated holes as each of my footsteps sends an earthquake warning for several feet around. These holes are symmetrically festooned with mini-castles made of small balls of excavated sand and radiating crab-walk paths, a unique pattern of their genes' coded shellfishness. Unique, but quite common on this beach. There are thousands and thousands of such crab-castles across the littoral. No world-wide shortage of sand-crabs by anyone's estimation of their prevalence here. Closer to the water the tide's retreat has etched ripples of tiny dunes into the firmer sand. I wonder at the physics of this. The equally spaced ripples must have been attenuated at some harmonic frequency of the water's flow and the resulting turbulence, modulated by the consistency of the sand, built these repeated patterns.
Everything has a pattern, everything has a cause and everything can be explained.
Along the edge of the beach, builders have constructed high walls of stone to protect the hotels, condominiums and large private homes from the erosion of their assets by slow pulse of the inevitable full-moon-augmented neap tides and possibly from random tsunamis.
Thinking about these fantastic private homes right here on the beach; who owns them? How much must have they paid? Probably purchased and built back when Thailand was not so popular. It might have been possible to pick one up relatively cheap in the aftermath of the Baht's collapse in 1998. What a great place this would be to retire. Who owns them? It must be Police or Army Generals or other Captains of Industry here - which means drugs and prostitution of course. Yet (or because of this) Hua Hin is itself relatively clean, free of the vice one associates with Thai seaside resorts. No-one else could afford a place here these days - it has the Royal Seal of Approval as well as the King's holiday home is just up the road. [Later I look at a real-estate guide - houses in the hinterlands are going for $40-100kUSD, properties close to the beach start at ten times that.]
Thinking of Stephen Dedalus in Ulysses, crunching along on the shore at Howth, was it? No, Sandymount. The popularity of the literary stream of consciousness technique took its first steps by that snotgreen scrotumtightening sea, with sucking mud about its feet. In that chapter Stephen mulls over his guilt at the death of his mother, Catholic church rituals, his upcoming lecture on Hamlet. The narrative voice shifts back and forth from 3rd person to 1st person, verbs dissolve, the syntax breaks down into snippets of words and phrases running through Stephen's impossibly well-read mind. Pioneering. Much imitated, never excelled, hardly ever even approached. The style that is post-modernism. Poetic. Prophetic. People usually quote the Molly Bloom chapter at the end, but this is the first fully implemented example of Joyce’s technique.
I take off my shirt. Even though it is overcast, this is the tropics; I will suffer for this later. Ultraviolet.
I like this beach, vast and almost empty. It reminds me of the beaches in non-urban Australia. There are no touts, no crowds as you would expect in Pattaya or Phuket. A few guys - “Voluntary Police” it reads on their jackets - languidly sitting on stationary horses, smiles broad on their sun-bronzed faces, say hello. I give them my rendition of "Sawasdee krup". Later I see some of them offering rides to tourists’ kids for 20Bht. Quiet mares, tired geldings, placid stallions. This could be my preferred Thailand destination in the future. Solitude with company. Only my footprints and the horses' hoof-marks to disturb the sand crabs’ castles, the ripples in the sand. A few hotels have a collection of beach-chairs and umbrellas, but they are almost all empty. It is most conducive to silent contemplation. Life is full, rich. Do I need anybody else? Am I best as a beachcombing bachelor?
Looking out to sea, I note that the storm seems to be swinging around, coming back towards the shore. Some limestone hills near the township just north of here that were just earlier clear are now lost in the mist of falling rain. Mmm. A sense of urgency comes into this casual stroll. The storm is rolling backwards, anticlockwise. The wind I thought was pushing it further out is merely being sucked into it as it spins back towards town. I push on, ignoring the crunch of seashells and crab-holes patterns. The hotel I am aiming at is still so far away that I cannot read its large sign on the top floor. Ominously, the dark clouds gather just beyond my goal, silhouetting it. They are moving towards me as I move towards them. My head goes into Grade 4 arithmetic calculation of two trains moving towards a junction from so far away, each going at such and such a speed.
Will I get to the shelter of a bar or a restaurant before I get drenched?
Stretching out my pace, my toes ache from clutching the grip of my flip-flops against the suck of sand and water, my calves swell with compartment syndrome. The water in the ox-bows starts to change. It has green algae, some red streaks of who-knows-what. Pollution from the adjacent town leaching into the water table? The wind is picking up. I have no time for thoughts. My phone rings. Invited for lunch at the Ritz-Carlton on Sunday to celebrate a friend’s birthday. “Free”-flow Moet and wine. $S125. Call that free? Done, the diet shot again, but must rush…
More people. I am approaching the Hilton now, but it has taken longer than I anticipated. I look back from where I have come. A long way, more like three or four kilometers. I have been walking nearly an hour. 12-15 minutes per km is my typical walking pace in the gym. One hour used to take me the 4km length of Bowen Rd in Hong Kong. I know how fast I can walk. The storm hasn’t hit yet. Still it looms beyond the hotel.
Almost there, but a beach bar promises sanctuary and I accept. I sink into the plastic chair which flexes under my weight and sinks deeply into the soft squeaky sand under the awning. A Beer Chang. Chicken with noodles, krup. Dreadlocked musicians play easy-listening, even easier-playing music - "We come from de hotel Carifonya, such a lubbly prace". A soccer game is in progress on the flat sand, shirts-on v shirts-off. A puffing old fat guy easily passes past a scrawny blonde kid to a young Thai man who slams the ball out to the sea. Score. The thwack of wet vinyl against bare-skin makes me wince. Ouch. Exercise and pain, an unpleasant E@L-free combination. The storm is abating, lightening. The misty rain is back on the sea, but less dense. The clouds are less dramatic. It is almost sunny. I relax, rub my calves. The soccer game finishes and people resume their places on deckchairs, at the bar. Girls lying on towels and mats on their stomachs undo the back-straps of their bikini-tops. Chicken with rice arrives, mai pen rai. Another Beer Chang.
The storm gradually evaporates along with the cramp in my legs. My cares and thoughts turn to tonight. I have to catch up somehow with a friend from Australia who arrives this evening. He has no mobile phone. I don’t know which hotel he is staying at. It’ll fall into place somehow. It always does. Should I go check out the bars or sit and listen to the Jazz instead?
Beachcombing bachelor I.
OTHER MONKEYS SAID
Not sure my pithy note does justice to your post but was spot on...you had me googling "hua hin real estate" this morning...and youre right bit rich my blood too. cheers mackie....the succeeding vegemite post also resonates close to home!
Cheers, Mackie. Don't really know why I enjoyed it so much... It was just nice. Maybe without the world-class jazz-bands and milling beautiful people (to say nothing of the uber-gorgeous Heineken babes) it would not have been so impressive. Thinking of having the Asia Five-O birthday party there next year...
Would have checked out the golf course too had I met someone of your skills to challenge me!
i think there are 5 or 6 courses as well that up to our stringent standards...
mate, good location for such an auspicious occasion, though i am sure the "no mo" look you have adopted is masking the fact of an impending five-0
The meeitng with the Aussie mate didn't happen that night. Wrong bars were checked. Anyway the next day had all of the promised Thailand goodies including, beer, food, heat massages, more beers and.........????? not to forget intellectual conversation. Photo's will be delivered discreetly.
Discretion is the better part of something or other.
Was a great day!