A trip to ‘beat the Hua Hin trip’ is here

Hey guys;

Yep, this is indeed a reality. The residential trip to ‘beat the Hua Hin trip’ is finally here. I’ve been waiting for this one for pretty much ever since the last Hua Hin trip in October last year.

Unlike the last trip where it was literally born out of a dinner meal, it was hard to pinpoint exactly how this trip was born. Perhaps out of a dinner meal once again, I can’t really pinpoint exactly. Unlike last time, for this trip it did take longer from the idea proposal to buying the train tickets as quite a sizable amount of time was spent trying to get people to join. Initially there was going to be more than five, but eventually only five people ended up coming along.

Even the days leading up to this trip was great. There were two events, namely the food fair and the dark room activity. Let’s talk about those ones first, before diving into my trip experience…

The dark room activity was organized by the photo club. It was pretty much the same as last semester, nothing new, really. Although the organizers did use a classroom in the old MUIC building this time.

The food fair was…just like the past food fairs, but this time, it is actually being held at the new MUIC building. There were lots of food stalls and a few drink stalls as usual. There were also live performances from a few clubs. Since this could be my last food fair at MUIC, I decided to pretty much take full advantage of what is available, including the photo booth. I was originally going to get one of my friends to take a photo with me as well, but she was not really available on both the 5th and the 6th of February, the two days of which this food fair is being held. I ate a lot, like…a lot during these two days. This also amounts to a lot of money being spent, as most of the available items were in the upper double-digit to lower triple-digit price range.

With the two events out of the way, let’s now get to the big one…

Since the morning of Friday the 7th of February, which is the first day of the Hua Hin trip is still just like any other Fridays (I still got my business plan class), I’m going to skip straight to the trip. However, this time I decided to do things a bit differently. I’ve decided to write up a full trip diary in Microsoft Word first, and…the following is going to be my pretty detailed trip experience. So…here we go!

7 February 2020

All aboard rapid train 171! It’s finally here, the second residential trip with exchange students! For this trip, me and four British girls (yes, this trip was a female-dominated trip, unlike with the last residential trip with the American exchange students in October last year) went to Hua Hin, which was where me, one American girl and two American boys went to in October last year. That is already from one extreme to the other, isn’t it? From a male-dominated trip to a female-dominated trip…

I met up with the other trip participants at around 1:15PM. We then took a taxi to a market right next to Salaya train station since some of us wanted to grab something to eat. I also bought a bottle of cold water at the market. After that we all went to the train station to catch the train. Me and one of the British girls on this trip actually went to the station to bought the train tickets roughly two weeks earlier. We bought third class non-air-conditioned tickets (I know it’s not so desirable, but these exchange students really want to implement cost-saving measures), for both the southbound and northbound journeys (we decided to go for the tourist excursion train 911/912 for the northbound journey back on 9 February). The southbound journey was on rapid train 171, which actually runs from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong station all the way down to Sungai Kolok, which borders Malaysia.

We waited for a good amount of time before the train actually pulled into the station. On the ticket it says that this train departs from Salaya at 2:09PM, but I think it actually pulled in like closer to 2:30PM or something. Just before the train pulled in though, we were told by the announcement at the station to go wait on platform 2, which, from my past experiences, seems to be the platform in which all southbound trains would arrive on.

This rapid train 171 is a locomotive-hauled train, and it is a very, very long train. Though we were assigned specific seats, we ended up sitting pretty much where ever we want, for most of the journey. The train conductor doesn’t seem to mind though, when he came down to check our tickets. I guess train conductors are not so strict about seating on third class carriages (especially for daily trains like this one) as opposed to second or first class on daily trains and all classes on tourist excursion trains. Even though me and one of the British girls sat next to a toilet, that one didn’t work, as well as the other one down at the end of the carriage, so we ended up walking to a different carriage. The toilet in that other carriage worked, but the sink doesn’t, so we have to walk back to our carriage and we finally found a working sink.

Shortly after we all boarded the train and settled into our seats, the train pulled out of Salaya station. Even though these third class carriages are non-air-conditioned, there is some cool wind blowing through the windows while the train is moving. Also, we did this trip in early February, where summer has yet to arrive and so the weather wasn’t very hot yet. Oh boy, had we decided to do this trip two months from now (E.G after the final exams in April), I’d press extremely hard for a second class air-conditioned carriage, even going as far as offering to pay for everyone else’s tickets, despite the fact that the total price would run into four-digit figures. Simply put it, by then summer would be in full swing and the extremely hot weather, possibly in the mid to upper 30s⁰C, would make any non-air-conditioned carriages unbearable.

From Salaya, there were four actual station stops before reaching Hua Hin (Nakhon Pathom, Ban Pong, Ratchaburi and Phetchaburi). Though the number of stations that this particular train stops at between Salaya and Hua Hin weren’t many, these stations were quite far apart from each other. For example Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, Ban Pong and Ratchaburi stations weren’t very far apart from each other, but it seems that Phetchaburi station was very, very far apart from Ratchaburi station. During our journey, venders travel up and down the train, selling food and drink, and also cigarettes. There were sticky rice with chicken and also sticky rice with fried pork, and also some desserts, but I didn’t really buy any of them until Ratchaburi station, of which the venders selling the famous Ratchaburi noodles came on board.

Unlike the tourist excursion train between Bangkok and Suan Soan Pradipat that I traveled with in the past where Ratchaburi noodles was sold in a medium-sized plastic container for 30 Thai baht, the Ratchaburi noodles on this rapid train 171 was sold in a small foam container for 10 Thai baht each. I decided to buy it with the intension of having it as a small, light meal. I also bought a second bottle of water, because I knew that these noodles were very spicy and would require me to drink a lot of water.

Once the train reached Phetchaburi station, venders selling the famed Phetchaburi desserts came on board. I didn’t buy any of them though, but the British girl next to me did bought some palm cake, which turned out to be that yellow, soft, spungy thing that I had in the past. I knew what it is called in Thai, but I never really discover that it is really called in English.

The rest of the train journey was not really eventful. I either took photos and videos, or listen to music. I did have a chance to chat with a passenger sitting in front of me though. He is traveling south to Hat Yai (imagine having to sit up all night in a third class, non-air-conditioned carriage, with no flat bed to ly down on). I did asked him why he didn’t buy the sleepers, and he said that he didn’t have enough money for a sleeper carriage. Before the train heads into Phetchaburi station, I finally get to sit with all the other participants of this trip, when the British girl whom I was sitting next to informed me that someone in our group managed to find a group of four empty seats.

Due to the delays, we didn’t arrive at Hua Hin until like 6PM or 6:30PM. After getting off the train, I decided to watch and film the train as it departs. We then went outside and call Grab up to take us to our accommodation. Since we were not so sure where the accommodation really is, we decided to have the Grab driver drop us off in front of Thailand Resort, which is the place me and the American exchange students stayed during the Hua Hin trip last October. Since all the British girls’ phones can’t really make a phone call, we ended up using my phone to call the host of the accommodation to pick us up and drove us to the accommodation.

The accommodation was a townhouse, with two bedrooms. Originally one of the British girls booked a townhouse with something like ten bedrooms, but due to some pretty long story of complications we ended up in a smaller one with two bedrooms. I got my own room, while the remaining participants share two double beds in an adjacent bedroom. Both bedrooms are air-conditioned, while the living room/kitchen combo is not. Though there was free wi-fi, we actually didn’t discover this until the next day. Since my body literally smelled metallic from the train journey, I decided to go for a full bath.

After we all settled and showered, we headed out to the Cicada Market, which is a night market not far from our accommodation. Since our accommodation was in like a village, we have to walk out to the main road to catch a taxi, which was in a form of a small minibus, called ‘songthaew’. Right away, I noticed that the lights on the minibus were really nice; I think this is the first time I ever saw roof lights on a songthaew to be this pretty.

The ride to the market didn’t take long. The total fare was 150 Thai baht, and we each paid 30 Thai baht. This is pretty much the same Cicada Market that I went to during the global leadership development trip in July 2018, and probably a number of times before. There were live performances (both music and theatrical), and…of course, food. There were loads of food options, in fact I was somewhat overwhelmed by the various options. All of them looked really good. But to buy food and drink here, we all have to exchange our cash for coupons, which is essentially a form of money only used by food and drink stalls. I decided to go for a 500 Thai baht coupon. I know it is a lot, but I’d like to have a bit of extra money, just in case.

After a bit of walking around and looking at various options, I decided to go for some chicken nuggets, some French fries and some northeastern Thai sausages. I also asked one of the exchange students to buy me a mixed fruit juice. The food tasted really good, and I think the total bill for my dinner came down to anywhere between 200 and 300 Thai baht. After we all had our meals, we decided to head back to the cash exchanger to get our cash back before heading out to catch a taxi back to our accommodation. That pretty much wraps up the first day…

Overall, the first day of this trip was great. The train ride was alright, and the accommodation was quite good. The food at the Cicada Market was really good, I must say. The weather on the first day was not too hot either.

8 February 2020

Alright, here comes the day that I would say is probably the most fun but yet still relaxing, and…probably the day where I also spent the most money on food as well, because…the food that I ate throughout the second day did really cost a lot.

I woke up just before 6:40AM. Having learned the lesson from the last Hua Hin trip that if I do not want to starve, I have to get my own breakfast, I decided to buy some oreos and milk at a 7-11 right before heading back to the accommodation the night earlier. And…I was glad that I took that decision, as…turns out, we all ate breakfast inside our accommodation.

Our original plan for the day was to go to a waterpark, but after finding out that it would cost us 1,200 Thai baht per person, we decided to pretty much abandon the idea in favor of swimming at a beach not far from our accommodation. When I mean not far, I mean…the beach is still within walking distance from our accommodation. I took one of the inflatable rings I brought with me (by the way, I brought quite a number of inflatable toys with me, but only inflated three of them – one of the rings, the whale and the pillow). The ring that I inflated and subsequently took with me was the one I bought from Lazada back in November last year, which was also my very first inflatable toy from Lazada. Since I can’t be bothered deflating the ring, I decided to carry it to the beach without deflating.

The beach I was talking earlier was actually more like a private beach. There weren’t any stalls, restaurants or any public facilities around, and…finding a toilet was like a mission in itself (though me and one of the girls did eventually found one, but only after walking further down the beach). When we got to the beach it was like 10AM or so and so the tide was very high, like…very high. The edge of the water was like right at the top of the beach. After I got myself changed into my swimming suit, me and everyone else headed out into the water.

We spent quite a good amount of time swimming. For safety reasons and for the purpose of being able to keep an eye on our belongings, we decided to swim close to the shoreline. One of the girls brought her inflatable globe as well, though in my opinion this was not the greatest idea as inflatable toys like a globe, a pillow, a beach ball or an animal can easily float away as opposed to a ring, which can’t float away unless if you did not put it on. But at least we were pretty careful with it…

After a while, one or two of the girls decided to head back to the shore to sunbathe. Me and the rest of the group remained in the water for a good amount of time. At close to noon, we all decided to head back to shore and get ready for lunch. By then, the tide has receded, and we did have to walk through a bit of sand to get back to our belongings.

For lunch, we ate at a place I think was called ‘Veggy Vedge’ which, I thought would only do vegetarian/vegan food, but they also do seafoods. This was to be the most expensive meal I have yet on this trip. I ordered fish and chips (250 Thai baht) and shrimp tempura (150 Thai baht), and two cans of coke (can’t remember how much for each can). I think the total bill came down like close to 500 Thai baht. But the food was good though, especially the fish and the shrimp tempura. I however didn’t managed to finish the French fries…

After lunch, we decided to head back to our accommodation. But rather than walking, we decided to get a songthaew taxi back. It’s not an overly long ride though. Once we got back, we all showered and then it was time to pretty much relax. I decided to get my phone charged up because I was told that we would be going out to another night market in the evening. I spent that time taking a bit of photos and videos, and sitting around since there was nothing to do while everyone else were either taking a nap or were doing their own things. I did, however, managed to get one of the girls to take a photo of me, which became my new blog icon and my new profile photo for Facebook, Line, Wechat, Whatsapp and Skype. I also took a photo of the pool, which became my new Facebook cover photo. Overall the afternoon was pretty uneventful…

Once evening came around, it was time to head out again. At roughly 6PM we all prepared ourselves and I think before 7PM we headed out to a night market that was right next to the Cicada Market. Once again, we took a songthaew taxi and, as I would find out later, one of the girls did managed to get the driver’s number (I will explain soon why this number would come in handy). We did have to walk through the outer bits of the Cicada Market to get to this other market though.

Just like Cicada Market, this night market is full of food, like…many, many food options, but they seemed to be cheaper as opposed to the Cicada Market. I decided to go for some shrimp (100 Thai baht) and some clams (also 100 Thai baht). I did asked one of the girls to get me a mixed fruit juice, once again. Both the shrimp and the clams tasted really, really good and I would like to give a huge, huge thanks to the girls who helped took off the shrimp heads as well as the clam meet out of its shells for me, that was very, very helpful. At first I thought that the shrimp and the clams would be enough, but eventually they don’t, so I bought some sticky rice with grilled pork neck. Oh and by the way, unlike the Cicada Market, this night market accepts cash, so no need to exchange our cash for any kind of coupons.

After we had our dinner, we walked around the market for a bit. As this was a female-dominated trip, there was a lot of shopping for clothes and whatnot. After all of that, we finally went outside to catch a songthaew taxi back to our accommodation, or so we hoped.

For some reason, there were no songthaews around at all, and that is when the number that one of the girls got from the songthaew taxi driver who dropped us off earlier came in handy. Once again my phone was used to call the driver, since everyone else’s phones can’t make phone calls. I would eventually found out later that one of the girls have managed to arrange the driver to pick us up the following day. Oh and I forgot, it was by this time that we found out about the free wi-fi on our accommodation. That pretty much wraps up the second day of this trip…

Overall, the second day of the trip was great, just like the first day. Swimming in the ocean was definitely really fun, something that I think I have not done for a very long time. Relaxing in the afternoon was very welcomed, and I got a chance to charge up my phone. The night market was good, the shrimp and the clams tasted really, really good. Thank you so much once again to the ones who took off the shrimp heads and the clam shells for me…

9 February 2020

The final day of the Hua Hin trip was here. Yesterday, I woke up at around 6:45AM or 6:46AM. Having started packing up my stuff the night earlier, I didn’t really have much left to pack. Breakfast was once again some oreos, but this time I chose to drink Milo milk instead.

After breakfast, I decided to go for a swim in the pool just outside the building. I had one of the girls took photos and videos of me in the pool. I think I spent around 40 to 50 minutes in the pool. I used the same inflatable ring as when I went swimming in the ocean the day earlier, but since I’m swimming in a pool this time, I decided to take my whale as well. The pool itself was not very big, and also not very deep. I noticed a yellow raft on one side of the pool, but I’m not sure who it belonged to…

After swimming, I went back to take a bath and then finished packing my stuff. Since there was a lot of time I decided to deflate all of the inflatable toys (the only one that I did not inflate throughout this trip was the Elsa one). My phone’s charger was the last item to be packed as I want my phone to be as fully charged as possible before leaving.

We all checked out at like close to noon. At this point, we were down to four people, as one of the girls did left earlier as she had an appointment that somehow could not be changed. Since she was gone by the time we all checked out, I’d imagine she took one of the morning trains, either ordinary train 252, special express train 38 plus 46, or special express train 32. The same songthaew taxi that we took the day earlier was already waiting when we handed back the key.

We went straight to the Hua Hin train station. Since our train won’t leave until like 3:30PM, we decided to go for a bit of exploring within the station’s vicinity. For lunch, I had my meal at a small made-to-order place where I ordered rice with omelets and fried chicken. After I had my meal, we all went to a vegan café where everyone else had their lunches. I decided to order a chocolate cake. Even though it is a vegan chocolate cake, it still tasted like any other chocolate cake. I also ordered a mixed fruit and vegetable juice. The total bill for lunch (including the chocolate cake and juice) probably came down to around 100 to 250 Thai baht.

After we all had our meals, we walked to the Hua Hin beach. Of course, as this is a beach trip, I have to get some new inflatable toys. For me, no beach trip is complete without getting new inflatable toys. I ended up buying three new inflatable toys – a ring, a fish (which was kind of big) and a beach ball that has like a bell inside, which I had been wanting for the longest time ever. I decided to buy two of those beach balls. After I’m done shopping, we all headed down to the beach where I took some photos and videos of the beach, before heading back to the train station for the train ride back to Salaya.

It was like close to 3PM when we got back to the station. There was a train on the far end of the platform just standing, though I’m not sure if it’s our train, but most likely. Given that this tourist excursion train’s final stop is Suan Soan Pradipat and that this stop only has one track, the train can’t just stand there, so it has to find a real station to stop, and…since Suan Soan Pradipat is so close to Hua Hin station, it thus makes sense for the train to head back and stop at Hua Hin station.

A few minutes after 3PM, the train that had been standing at the far end of the platform finally departed. In my mind, I was quite certain that this is our train because at this time of the day, and especially on a weekend like this, there could only be one train leaving Hua Hin station. After that train departed, it was another twenty minutes or so before that train returned to pick us up.

For the return journey, we once again sat in third class non-air-conditioned carriage (cost-saving measures, once again). But at least it was pretty windy. In fact, it was too windy and we have to partially close our window. Since it is a diesel multiple unit train as opposed to a locomotive-hauled train, it was very noisy.

The number of stops between Hua Hin and Salaya actually turned out to be the same as our southbound journey on the 7th of February, just that this train stops at Cha-am station instead of Ban Pong station. Unlike the rapid train we took two days earlier, there weren’t any other foreign tourists, as far as we can see (the rapid train had a few foreign tourists). I think that is because not many foreign tourists know about this tourist train service, which is kind of disappointing actually. I just wish that this tourist train service is used by more foreign tourists, as this train service can make a pretty good and relaxing day trip.

Once we pulled into Phetchaburi station, venders selling the province’s famous desserts started showing up, though the train conductor also handed out desserts to those who have pre-ordered them in the morning. Once again one of the girls in our group bought some palm cake. I also bought a small plate of dessert and a bottle of water. Once we rolled into Ratchaburi, the famed Ratchaburi noodles started to be served, first to those who have ordered them, before being available for sale. I decided to buy it for dinner.

The rest of the train journey back to Salaya was pretty uneventful. Once again I either took photos and videos or listened to music. Unlike the southbound journey two days earlier though, this time we stopped quite a lot just to let the southbound trains pass. At one point I did saw rapid train 171, which is the train we took two days earlier. I did also get to see the new Chinese-built sleepers which were assigned to special express train 31 between Bangkok and Hat Yai, though the train was passing through on the other side of our train, so I didn’t get to see the Chinese-built sleepers up close. We arrived at Salaya just before 7PM, and after watching the train leave, I called my dad to pick me and the exchange students up. I told him to drop them off at Bundit, so to save on the taxi fares. That pretty much marks the end of this wonderful Hua Hin trip…

Overall, this trip was simply amazing, in pretty much every way. Even for a three-day trip like this, we managed to do quite a bit actually. Also, pretty much everything went according to plans, at least if you didn’t include the rather complicated situation with the accommodation at first. But still, we got the whole house with two bedrooms that is enough for five people, and everyone gets to sleep in an air-conditioned room.

In terms of rating, I think I can definitely give this trip a 10/10 rating. Well actually, I think this trip deserves way more than a 10/10 rating since it is so good in every way. Yes the train journey was not so comfortable, but the fact that there were cool breeze blowing in more or less offsets the lack of air-conditioning. In fact the return journey was too windy, as I mentioned already. I think this trip is truly the trip to ‘beat the Hua Hin trip’. I would definitely rank this residential trip as the best event of 2020.

Lastly, I would like to say a huge, huge thank you to all the exchange students who have made this trip possible and have made this trip a truly enjoyable experience. This trip wouldn’t be possible without the help of all of you, so…thank you very, very much for making this trip possible. And…of course, I have to give a special thanks to the ones who helped me with the shrimp and the clams at the night market on the second day. Your help is highly, highly appreciated. Thank you very, very much for helping me out that night.

Whew, that was very, very long. This post is probably going to be the longest post I ever written.

So…what’s up next? Well, there could still be another residential trip, but where exactly this will be has yet to be determined.

So…yeah, I guess that’s it for now…

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