Hua Hin is a beach town on the Gulf of Thailand.
Its proximity to the sprawling, crowded, inland metropolis of Bangkok makes it a nice little weekend trip for city-Thais and farang alike. My disappointment in the place, though, was palpable after an initial visit unforgivably dashed certain expectations my Lonely Planet guidebook and other unidentifiable forces had imprinted within me: I expected Hua Hin to be somewhat of a hidden-gem getaway equipped with the Thai culture so indubitably lacking in other beachy towns of Thailand’s long coastline. And also a place in which I could go out at night and have a drink amongst like-minded travelers/teachers/expats/whatevers.
The beach itself was sweet if not strange, what with the inexplicable prevalence of rentable horses galloping through the sand, staring out at us from the sides of their heads…We were able to walk to a stretch of sand free of boulders and relatively free of horses, but saggy, white farang dudes were, in fact, inescapable. The daytime illuminated only a small fraction of this notoriously distinctive Thailand social phenomenon, which became abundantly and unfortunately more apparent as nighttime descended on Hua Hin.
We went to the night market for dinner and found that we were the only patrons under the age of 40. Hua Hin was literally overrun by older farang couples and families, Thai families, and, most abundantly, the aforementioned weird slice of society constituted by old farang men and their young, beautiful Thai wives.
I was disgusted – I am continually disgusted! – by the popularity and social acceptance of these relationships based not in love, but in selfish desire: that of the Thai women for money and stability and that of the white men for beautiful, submissive trophy wives. These desires, as one might expect, manifest not just in monogamous relationships, but in the success of the dark world of Thai prostitution as well.
Perhaps I’m simplifying the whole thing a little too much; perhaps there are couples of this nature who aren’t totally using each other for personal gain. Actually, I bet the ones that didn’t love each other at first learned to do so as time and proximity and similarity bred comfort. But to deny that the majority of romantic/sexual/social interactions between young Thai women and old farang guys is motivated by the desire for personal gain would be, at best, ignorant.
Admittedly, the biggest mistake we had made was expecting that the nightlife of Hua Hin would be any different than it actually was.
Still unconvinced by the homogeneity of the crowd both on the beach and at the night market, we set out looking for some sort of nighttime social scene that would fit our generation. We stomped around, turning corners to see bars overflowing with people onto the streets. We were excited but repeated strolls through the madness brought only disappointment as we realized this scene really, truly, wasn’t for us at all.
Old farang men, Thai prostitutes in 5-inch heels and sparkly tops, lady boys, tall Scandinavian families even! – the whole thing was so overwhelmingly, horrifically strange that we ended up retreating to our hostel as the once-sweet taste of winecoolers drunk in anticipation of a night out turned sour in our mouths. We left Hua Hin the next day and I swore I wouldn’t go back.
Until I did go back, this past weekend.
I went back with reformed expectations that I would not go out at night.
I spent my time with my friends, suntanned on the beach during the day, ate curry for dinner at night, watched the sunset on the roof of our hostel, and otherwise relaxed in our room watching movies. Of course the whole weird social scene was still there, but as long as I didn’t expect to find something different, I was able to enjoy my time in Hua Hin in whole new way.
It’s a challenge to combat our natural tendency to expect experiences, places, or friendships to be a certain way before they “happen,” but when we do suppress this instinct, we are able to appreciate these parts of our lives more fully. It’s an old lesson – a classic story of expectations and disappointments.
“Don’t expect anyone to give more than they are willing to give. You can either accept what they offer and give back what you are willing to offer, or not be friends with them. But to expect them to be anything that isn’t what they are willing to be, will only lead to disappointment.”
Well, the same goes for Hua Hin. She is what she is, and now that I’ve learned how to enjoy what she is willing to offer, I am, once again, an interested visitor.