Turkey – Kalkan and the Bodrum Peninsula 2016

Kalkan Harbour 12th April 2016
Kalkan Harbour 12th April 2016

We flew from Bangkok to Dalaman via Istanbul on 25th February. Our Asian travels were done , at least for the time being. It’s 13 months since we left Istanbul in January 2015 and we have had an amazing time but it was good to be back home. The  weather is perfect, sunny with temperatures low to mid 20s centigrade and the town, for me, is at its best, very very quiet with very few tourists about. We will be here until mid May when we move north to Bodrum for a few days before leaving Turkey for Croatia and Montenegro.

This would be the first time we would stay in our apartment for more than a couple of weeks and we were looking forward to it. We did intend to use some of the time to travel but we enjoyed our time in Kalkan so much that we couldn’t be bothered going anywhere other than Bodrum except for a few shopping trips to nearby Kas and one overnight trip to Fethiye which is about an hour away.

We had some major home improvements done at the apartment over winter 2014 and this was our first time back since then. This was the first time we had seen the finished article  and we were generally delighted with the work done – it was like a new apartment – but inevitably there was a snag list to be drawn up and tackled.Also inevitably Mrs E  found other improvements to be done and purchases to be made to improve the look of the place and add to the creature comforts. Unfortunately none of this was in the budget but hey ho……

Needless to say a few jobs  remained outstanding even when we left Kalkan on 18th May but this is Turkey after all and the jobs will be done sometime – possibly, hopefully.maybe before we return in September.

 

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We enjoyed this first long stay in Kalkan very much. If it were not for the Turkey visa rules which currently allow a maximum stay of only 90 days, we would happily stay longer.     Although we did get a few stormy days here and there we found the end of February onwards to be an excellent time for walking with everywhere quiet and green and with lots of spring flowers to be seen.

For anyone interested, there is superb way-marked walk, the Lycian Way, which stretches around 540 km from near Fethiye to Antalya passing through Kalkan on its way. There is some fabulous walking to be done from Kalkan and there are one or two walking groups in the town run by ex-pats who welcome visitors.Unfortunately Ann’s knee was taking its time to recover following a nasty fall the night before we left Bangkok and so serious walking was out of the question for us on this trip.

This is 3rd April. Kalkan still very quiet but restaurants and shops getting ready for the season.
This is 3rd April. Kalkan still very quiet but restaurants and shops are now getting ready for the season. The Guy in the middle of the street is whitewashing the walls of his restaurant for the new season. If the street looks a little Greece – like, then it is. Kalkan  was originally a village settled by both Greeks and Turks and was once known by its Greek name Kalamaki. Kalkan retains its historic charm with lots of  old buildings and plenty of  Greek/Turkish Ottoman architecture in the tiny streets throughout the village. There’s more info on our apartment website for anyone interested in the history of this part of the Lycian Coast.

 

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Very few restaurants open but happily Salonika , one of our favourites , was up and running.Perfect place for lunch sat in the winter sun.
Very few restaurants are actually open yet but happily Salonika, one of our favourites , was up and running. Perfect place for a long Sunday lunch sat in the winter sun.

The apartment is in a quiet residential  district of Kalkan and although there is a shop and a couple of restaurants and hotels, all were closed for the winter. No worries, although serious walking was out of the question, an almost daily leisurely stroll into town  for mooching  shopping and the occasional lunch was a very agreeable way to spend our days.

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This is a great time to visit. Kalkan town itself is very very quiet indeed with most shops other than supermarkets and builders merchants closed – the latter because November to May is the only time when construction work is allowed in Kalkan so this is the busiest trading period for the building supplies shops. The same goes for restaurants with only a handful of “proper” restaurants open (Salonica, Aubergine and DoyDoy from memory) although almost all the locantas, eateries selling “local” food, remain open for the locals. This suits us fine. We didn’t expect to eat out a great deal and even when we did it would usually be in places where the locals eat – one of the pleasures of Turkey, especially out of season when the restaurant owners have time to natter.

So the period February to May 2016 in Kalkan was spent doing nothing much at all other than a little bit of walking most days and some work on the garden which needed clearing out and re-planting in places. We also spent a lot of time with Tamer, our Property Manager, getting  various works done in time for our first letting Guests of the season in mid May – forgive the plug but the place will still be available for letting in the future – see www.kalkanseaview.com if interested.

Here are a few photos of this visit to Turkey:

Kalkan

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This is 17th May .A beautiful day in Kisla.
Our apartment in Kisla. Picture taken 17th May. The top of Kalkan village can just be seen on the left in the distance.

 

A beautiful valley only a short walk from the apartment.The apartment is along the track and just over the brow of the first hill.
A lovely quiet valley nearby makes for a nice walk. The apartment is along the track and just over the brow of the first hill with Kalkan Bay beyond it but out of sight.

 

Rutting season for tortoises in Kalkan.This was taken 30th March in the local
Rutting season for tortoises in Kalkan. This was taken 30th March in the local “garden centre”

 

We found this little one on the road outside the apartment on 20th March
We found this little one on the road outside the apartment on 20th March

 

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DoyDoy , one of our favourite restaurants ,was open throughout the winter
DoyDoy , one of our favourite restaurants was open throughout the winter

 

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KAS

Kas  is a small town along the coast around 26 kilometres from Kalkan. The drive takes around 20 minutes but we invariably take a dolmus (local bus) which enables us both to enjoy the stunning views which many say are reminiscent of Italy. The bus ride costs less than £2 per person each way.

Kas, like Kalkan, is a fishing, sailing, diving and tourist resort and like most other places in the region there are lots of Roman remains to be seen in the town and the area. We find it a great place to find stuff for the apartment if we don’t want to travel further afield to the bigger Fethiye and usually we aim to get there in the morning, spend a few hours shopping and mooching and then enjoy a nice long lunch with a bottle of wine before returning home. Its a pretty, unspoilt town and  there are interesting boat trips to be had along the coast from here, including the Greek island of Meis, which usually start with a coach ride from Kalkan.

A couple of restaurants open on the main square in Kas
A couple of restaurants open on the main square in Kas

 

But most remained closed.
But most remained closed.

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Fethiye

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Fethiye is a port city around an hour or so from Kalkan. Its the biggest town in the region with a population over 140,000 and is a proper working town that is therefore “open” all year around which means that it is generally busy whatever time of year you visit. The harbour area and a shopping area next to it is particularly attractive with lots of restaurants and shops and boat trips to be had to and around outlying islands. Again  like many of the towns in this region , there are plenty of Roman and Greek remains to be seen.

 

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One of Fethiye's main covered shopping streets in the jewellery quarter - we have never seen it so quiet.
One of Fethiye’s main covered shopping streets in the jewellery quarter – we have never seen it so quiet though it is still early in the season for tourists.

 

Bodrum and the Bodrum Peninsula

We spent our last few days in Turkey at Gumusluk on the Bodrum Peninsula, not an area we have visited before.

Bodrum

Bodrum itself is quite a big town with a nice old castle and lots of history. It comprises a big marina lined with shops, restaurants and cafes and a market area. It’s a pretty town and we had great weather to see it at its best. There was a public holiday on the day we visited with events, markets and exhibitions (vintage VWs was one) taking place and a big stage being set up for music that evening. Vendors selling flags (the Turks are fiercely proud and love their flag which is seen everywhere) and other stuff  were doing a good trade. The town was busy with tourists and locals alike even though later, outside of Bodrum itself, the resorts were quiet like Kalkan.

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Gumusluk

 

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Gumusluk is a small fishing village on the Bodrum Peninsula  standing on the site of the ancient Greek city of Myndos and still referred to as Myndos on some street signs. There is a lot of evidence of the ancient city around the place and remains of paved areas and buildings can be seen in places in shallow water areas near the seashore and particularly in a shallow stretch of water which separates the town from a small island, Rabbit Island, just off shore. You can actually walk out to the island from the town along a submerged ancient street/footpath.

Downtown Gumusluk. This dirt street runs the length of the seafront .
Downtown Gumusluk. This dirt street runs the length of the seafront

 

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An every day sight in Gumusluk. Rabbit Island can be seen in the background.
An every day sight in Gumusluk. Rabbit Island can be seen in the backgroun

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The town itself is very small with a population of only a few thousand and is spread over a largish area. The touristic area is, of course, at the seaside end of town with the harbour overlooked by Rabbit Island. The seafront part of town stretches less than a kilometre with a dirt street running either side out from the central harbour area. The street is lined for the most part with fish restaurants and cafes but with very few shops other than a couple of  small supermarkets and a few shops selling pottery, jewellery, textiles, beach goods and the like.

 

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Although the town is undeveloped and actually quite scruffy in places with a very ordinary short and narrow dark sand beach, it does feel rather upmarket and the fish restaurants here are eye wateringly expensive although thankfully we did find an affordable one just away from the seafront. Balic Pirsime Evi is actually run by the owner of the town’s fish market. It’s very popular and does excellent fish and seafood (pick your own to be weighed) and super  mezze dishes  including many we have never seen before .We would return to Gumusluk just to eat here -we ate here three times in five nights !

There are many expensive seafood restaurants along the waterfront
There are many expensive seafood restaurants along the waterfront

 

This cafe , still on the waterfront , is run by the Belideye ( Town Council) and provides affordable drinks and snacks at street cafe prices - we tried it one evening for the sake of a taste of something different - very good too.
This cafe, still on the waterfront, is run by the Belideye (Town Council) and provides affordable drinks and snacks at street cafe prices – we tried it one evening for the sake of a taste of something different – very good too.

 

 

 

 

A pre-luncheon bira in the Belediye Cafe
A pre-luncheon bira in the Belediye Cafe

 

A night off fish tonight. Excellent meatball sandwiches , chips and a few beers....
Enough of that healthy stuff . A night off fish tonight.Instead an excellent meatball sandwich, chips and a few beers….

 

We stayed 5 nights at the Gumusluk Otel which describes itself as a boutique hotel and is only a very short walk, less than 50 metres from the sea. The accommodation was good and the hotel has nice gardens with a  pool and  restaurant that serves an excellent Turkish breakfast. The Clientele were virtually all Turkish people when we visited and in fact we got the impression this was largely a resort for fairly well to do Turks.

 

Gumusluk Hotel , our digs for three nights . Good facilities and a very nice traditional Turkish breakfast
Gumusluk Hotel, our digs for three nights. Good facilities and a very nice traditional Turkish breakfast

 

There’s really little to do in this small village other than walk, swim, hang around on the not so brill beach and generally chill out. However, even without a car its really easy to get around the peninsula using the excellent and cheap local buses .

We visited most of the other resorts on the peninsula, albeit briefly, during the course of our short stay and really enjoyed our visit to the area. The peninsula has some stunning scenery and the bus is a good way to see it – some of the  roads up and down hills are hairy to say the least.

We liked some resorts more than others but most were far too built up for our liking with resort beaches lined with huge numbers of sunbeds reminiscent of the Italian Riviera and with jazzy bars and restaurants often aimed at  an altogether younger party crowd. However, without exception, they were all very quiet at the time of our visit; the tourist season was definitely starting later this year!

Here, in no order, are some photos of our travels around the peninsula visiting Gumbet, Bitez, Tutgutreis, Yalikavak, Torba and Turkbuku.

 

Gumbet

 

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Hundreds of empty sunbeds at Gumbet
Some of the swathes of empty sunbeds at Gumbet

 

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Bitez

 

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Turgutreis

One of the biggest towns on the Bodrum Peninsula

 

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Typical beach restaurants
Typical beach restaurants

 

Less typical , Turgutreis Marina has a modern shopping with upmarket shops and a very pleasant entertainment area with some nice bars and restaurants.
Less typical, Turgutreis Marina has a modern marina with upmarket shops and a very pleasant entertainment area with some nice bars and restaurants.

 

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One of several interesting creations found in a small park area near the marina
One of several interesting creations found in a small park area near the marina

 

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Yalikavak

The most upmarket town on the peninsula with plenty of expensive restaurants.

 

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On 23rd May we flew from Bodrum via Istanbul  to Zagreb, the capital of Croatia .We will be returning to Turkey in September.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand – Hua Hin

 

Hua Hin is a large seaside town pretty much devoid of attractions and not on the usual tourist trail but very popular with Thai Tourists and with ex-pats – British, American, Australian and others and because of the large ex-pat community we thought it worth a visit to see if it was a place where we might like to stay for extended periods.

Hua Hin is about 200km south of Bangkok, a three hour train ride or a bus ride a tad longer. We took the train and really enjoyed the experience.

We actually liked Hua Hin  a lot and it’s one of several places that we would be happy to “over-winter”. The people are very friendly, it’s a cheap place to stay with cheap transport (tuk tuk  rides at 20 baht), lots of nice apartments available on a monthly rental basis and as elsewhere  there are some very good  supermarkets well geared up for Western tastes. There’s a big night market, nightly and lots of street food available plus lots of inexpensive seafood restaurants. There are the usual red light areas but they are limited to specific neighbourhoods/streets and so its not “in your face” unless you want it to be! Here’s a few pictures from the trip

 

Hualamphong Station , Bangkok
Hualamphong Station, Bangkok

Hualamphong Station Bangkok

 

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Free haircuts for the poor at Hualamphong Station .I mustn't have been looking my best as I was offered a haircut myself!
Free haircuts for the poor at Hualamphong Station. I mustn’t have been looking my best as I was offered a haircut myself!

 

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We're off !
We’re off !

 

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Arriving at Hua Hin
Arriving at Hua Hin

 

 

 

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One of many inexpensive seafood restaurants
One of many inexpensive seafood restaurants

 

Red light district by day - a young girl prays to a small shrine in front of a dodgy bar on a street full of dodgy bars
Red light district by day – a young girl prays to a small shrine in front of a dodgy bar on a street full of dodgy bars

 

This was the nicest stretch of beach we saw - a 5 minute tuk tuk ride away from the town centre
This was the nicest stretch of beach we saw – a 5 minute tuk tuk ride away from the town centre – there are plenty of modern high rise condos lining the coast road out of Hua Hin

 

We spent five nights in Hua Hin and would gladly have stayed longer but decided to return to Bangkok for our  final few days for some retail therapy before we left for Turkey. We spent five nights at the trendy THA City Loft Hotel in the trendy Ekkamai area of Sukhumvit and really did very little in Bangkok other than eat and drink and shop.

After almost 3 months in Thailand we finally left Bangkok on an early morning flight to Istanbul on 25th February, thirteen months after we had left Istanbul for Christchurch, New Zealand. Doesn’t time fly.

We landed at Bangkok early afternoon but had to wait a couple of hours until our onward flight to Dalaman. Thankfully flights were on time and we were picked up by our transfer service at Dalaman arriving at our apartment in Kalkan, well and truly knackered in the early evening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thailand – Bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway

 

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Kanchanaburi was on our original travel itinerary for Thailand when we had planned to travel the length of  Central and North Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train, stopping at various places including Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Lampang and others. We ditched our original itinerary but were pleased to get to see Kanchanaburi after all.

On the morning of 9th February, we took a taxi from the Red Planet Hotel Bangkok to Thonburi Railway Station in the northern suburbs of Bangkok on the East side of the river. It took us quite a time  to get there in heavy traffic but despite the taxi dropping us at the Skyrail Station instead of the railway station necessitating a second taxi, we managed to get there in good time for our train north to Kanchanaburi.

Hualamphong Station Bangkok en route to Kanchanaburi

 

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Or there is a very handy market by the station
A very handy market by the station to buy last minutes refreshments for the journey

 

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We have seen a lot of newly wed Thais couples by now - the brides are invariably beautiful and the grooms look like school boys ...
We have seen a lot of newly wed Thais couples by now – the brides are invariably beautiful and the grooms look like school boys …

 

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On the train at last
On the train at last
Checked the facilities out - just in case - better than expected!
Checked the facilities out – just in case – better than expected but even so fingers crossed the need will not arise !

 

Last minute opportunity to buy nibbles for the journey.....
Last minute opportunity to buy nibbles for the journey…..

 

The two hours or so journey from BKK to Kanchanaburi isn't particularly scenic
The two hours or so journey from BKK to Kanchanaburi isn’t particularly scenic

 

But there are nice bits
But there are nice bits
and of course you get to see many temples on the way
and of course you get to see many temples on the way

 

and even a surprise church
and even a surprise church
The train passes through many small stations on its way to Kanchanaburi
The train passes through many small stations on its way to Kanchanaburi

 

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Arriving at Kanchanaburi
Arriving at Kanchanaburi

 

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Very quiet streets once we left the vicinity of the station
Very quiet streets once we left the vicinity of the station

 

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Finally we saw the sign for the Bridge...
Finally we saw the sign for the Bridge…

 

Which turned out to be a very nice modern hotel
Which turned out to be a very nice modern hotel

 

At Kanchanaburi we  stayed at the almost new Bridge Residence on Mae Nam Kwai Rd and during our stay visited the famous Bridge over the River Kwai built by the Japanese using Prisoners of War and conscripted labour from Indonesia and other places in WWII. We  also visited the mass graves of some of the POWs who died in the construction of the railway, museums commemorating the events of the time and stretches of the Death Railway where the total loss of life in horrendous conditions is estimated to be at over 100,000.

We had a very agreeable time at Kanchanaburi. The Mae Nam Kwai Rd area where most of the hotels restaurants etc are located is quite handy for the railway station but quite a distance from the town itself. The area has lots of ex-pats and  is lively at night and probably a tad Wild West-ish at times. There are plenty of places to eat and drink, both local and western and plenty of massage places – we thought the town had a great vibe and not at all what we were expecting.

Typical scene on Road.
Typical scene on Mae Nam Kwai Road. This is quite a long way from the  city centre (which we didn’t get to see) but is the main area for tourists quite close to the Bridge on the River Kwai. The street is lined with bars, restaurants, 7/11 Stores and massage places. The town has a great buzz to it and we enjoyed this trip  very much – definitely one of the highlights of our time in Thailand

 

There are lots of western style eateries serving pizza and burgers to expats and tourists but this was one of the better local eateries. Very popular with locals and tourists as the food is good though you might not think so from this photo.....
There are lots of western style eateries serving steaks, pizza and burgers to expats and tourists but this was one of the best local eateries. Very popular with locals and tourists as the food is very good indeed though you might not think so from this photo…..

 

Death Railway Museum and War Museum Kanchanaburi

Most people, especially those of a certain age, will have seen the film and will know the story of the building of the Bridge on the River Kwai although the film makers used a lot of artistic licence in its making.

 

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We are not big on museums generally but we couldn’t imagine visiting the area and not this museum and we thought it excellent with lots of  exhibits both interesting and tragic – a very moving experience but a must visit. Going to this museum when first arriving is good prep for a visit to the Bridge and to Hellfire Pass.

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The Cemetery is beautifully manicured
The Cemetery is beautifully manicured

 

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The cemetery is the main Prisoner of War Cemetery for some of the Commonwealth and Dutch POWs who died and were buried along the railway. The American fallen were repatriated to the USA but almost 7000 casualties are commemorated here and others lie in 3 cemeteries elsewhere in Thailand and one in Myanmar – the railway was built by two labour forces working from either end of the railway line in Siam ( Thailand) and Burma (Myanmar).

The cemetery is maintained in immaculate condition  – to say the least. The graves, lawns, flowers and bushes are literally manicured!

The Bridge over the River Kwai

The Bridge was made famous by the film but its worth reading the true story – a brief summary is here

https://blog.findmypast.com/constructing-the-death-railway-the-real-story-behind-the-bridge-over-t-1406164155.html

This is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist attractions and as always there is a small army of people based near the bridge providing opportunities to buy refreshments and  souvenirs of all kinds, though mostly tacky. There’s a walkway across the bridge even though the bridge is still used to convey a tourist railway.

 

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A Day Trip on the Death Railway and Hell Fire Pass

Hell Fire Pass was the name given to one particular stretch of the railway that was especially  difficult to build requiring a deep cutting through solid rock in a remote area.

The pass is noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. Hell Fire Pass is so called because the sight of emaciated prisoners labouring at night by torchlight was said to resemble a scene from hell.

Despite the huge loss of life suffered in its construction, the Thai-Burma railway was demolished after WWII although part of it on the Thai side was later reinstated as far as Nam Tok. Hell Fire Pass is beyond Nam Tok and so it’s necessary to get a train to Nam Tok and then a bus or taxi for the final stretch to HFP. In the event, the train we planned to catch from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok was cancelled on the day we made the trip and so we hired a car and driver to take us. He drove us to HFP and waited whilst we went around the excellent museum and walked along the track. He then dropped us off at Nam Tok Station so that we could get a train back to Kanchanaburi. It all worked out pretty well; it was a long day but very very interesting and once again a very moving tour – there wasn’t a dry eye around the place.

 

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The train journey from Nam Tok back to Kanchanaburi is a scenic one following the river for some distance and of course takes the route worked by the POWs back in World War II clinging  to the hillsides in places.

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On 12th February we caught a lunch time train back to Bangkok for another night at the Red Planet Hotel before we left on our next trip the next day to Hua Hin.