A day late here, but Wednesday night an American friend, Walter, and I decided to go to Cha-am to check out the annual Seafood Festival (and migratory bird watching and squid catching festival). It was time for a break from the daily boredom and some local exploration. Cha-am is a smaller version of Hua Hin about 25 kilometers to the north.
The one main difference besides its much lower population is that the beach is not blocked by mega-resorts and hotels as in Hua Hin. The beach road has unobstructed beach on one side and businesses on the other. The other main difference from Hua Hin is that stuff is somewhat cheaper in Cha-am (e.g., a Thai massage runs 250-300 baht in Hua Hin and 200 baht in Cha-am. Rents also are lower.
Walter was able to borrow his Thai girlfriend’s car so he picked me up and we had a pleasant drive up the highway to the festival. Apparently, we were early, as there was little traffic and the crowd was light.
One of our main goals on the trip was to experience the squid catching out on one of the local fishing boats. So out first order of business was to find the boat launch, which we did after asking for directions.
There were three fishing boats anchored about 200 meters from shore, their green lights illuminating the sky once the sun went completely down. There was a three-quarters moon dipping in and out of the cloud cover. With very little wind and no surf, it was a beautiful night for the beach and for going out on a boat (Those who know me well know that this is an important consideration for me and my motion sickness problem.)
There were a couple of problems, however, that we discovered after sitting and watching the fishing operation in action. But it was still early, and not yet dark, so we decided to attack the food festival. There was a single performer singing and playing guitar on a huge stage overlooking the beach. Food stalls lined the perimeter of a huge dining area set up with metal chairs and tables; about half were already filled.
The smorgasbord of food was amazing. So many types of seafood and so many ways to prepare it. For the non-squeamish, there were fried grasshoppers and sauteed slugs, or horseshoe crab eggs, or any and all frog parts. Plenty of large prawns, mussels, shellfish, crabs and squid, too. And whole fish slowing cooking over coal fires. And weird-tasting, taffy-like candy. And grilled tubes of cane sugar. And pastries. And on and on.
I wanted to be adventuresome with the seafood but chickened out and bought some fried prawns (not good, cold, had been sitting, must remember to always ask for fresh cooked) and an egg, flour and bean sprout fried ‘thingy’ I’ve had several times before. Walter bailed on the seafood and settled for roast duck and fried rice, bought at two different stalls.
We added two beers bought at a 7-11 across the street, hiding them in our pockets because we didn’t see anyone else with beer and thought it might be inappropriate, if not banned. It was fine.
Dinner finished, we headed back to the boat launch for the squid adventure. But here’s where it gets interesting.
They were using jetskis to deliver people two-at-a-time to the fishing boats, so three to a ride including the driver. These vehicles were homemade from old plastic hulls, outboard motors and what looked like bicycle handlebars for steering.
My immediate concern was my camera, because there was no sense in going out for the obvious photo op if I couldn’t bring it, or if it became damaged by the sea. They had plastic bags for that. They also offered droplines for squid fishing for 100 baht, refundable, and the boat ride was another 100 baht. That’s just $3.
My second concern was my knee, and getting from a jetski to a bobbing fishing boat and then back onto the jetski. But that wasn’t why we finally decided to forego the fishing trip.
It was because after watching people come and go for half an hour, we realized no one was catching any squid. The squid run had not yet happened. They were jamming the fishing boats with people wrapped in life vests, which meant little room to maneuver on board. And with no squid, the photo ops were gone. We passed on the “adventure.”
It just started to look like a made-for-tourists “adventure.”
Before we left, Walter, who lived in Cha-am for a time, walked me through the town’s bar district, two 2-block facing streets a block from the beach. Business was slow and we were hailed at every bar entrance, but kept on moving.
I could live in Cha-am, except Walter was not sure there was even a fresh market there, much less an upscale grocery store. I’m good in Hua Hin until next June anyway, and at this point I don’t see a reason to move elsewhere in Thailand. When I move again it will probably be to another country.
Thanks for the ride, Walter!