It was really good to meet up with Iain in Bangkok for 3 days prior to moving down to Hua Hin for our first golf week. Newquay was always a decent meeting place, but exotic Bangkok will take some beating for an unofficial AGM! Personally, I’m a country boy, but you can’t help but be fascinated by life amongst 10 million people! Of course a city like Bangkok is such an intriguing mixture of old and new, opulence and poverty. A tour of the waterways where goods are shifted and traded almost unnoticed are a stark contrast to the vast, ultra modern shopping malls where you can literally buy anything from matchsticks to a Rolls Royce!
My second visit here and our accommodation at the Centara Hotel was delightful. Set in its own grounds leading down to a private beach and yet in the heart of the town, this Colonial style hotel has been lovingly refurbished and offers impeccable service, an excellent breakfast on the terrace overlooking immaculate gardens and probably the high light, an afternoon tea room serving exquisite selections of cakes, sandwiches and teas! Hua Hin attracts a mature clientele and while very “Thai” is far removed from certain more infamous resorts of the country. Thai restaurants and culture of course abound, but very good european restaurants set in narrow streets and surrounded by local bars and shops make Hua Hin and our hotel in particular, an ideal resort and base for some first class golf.
Four rounds of golf, three of which were played through the indigenous countryside, while Black Mountain epitomises the more modern championship design and build. A superb tournament course but personally I prefer the more natural layouts of Banyon, Springfield and Majestic Creek. Each one had its merits and as with every course we played throughout the tour, they range from very good to excellent! It does take a little time to get acclimatised, but the compulsory caddies do make life easier once you embrace this custom.
We moved north for our second golf week and the higher, northern provinces. While tourism is certainly an important part of this area, you feel more involved in the everyday culture of this area. A visit to the Golden Triangle where Laos, Myamar (Burma) and Thailand meet was the main theme of our tour day this week, along with five rounds of golf on four courses. At Hylands Golf Club, our two rounder, we encountered Asian golf at its most bizaar. A caddy and buggy per person and golf being played in 5 balls. Yes, 5 players, five caddies and 5 buggies made for a rather crowded scene! I am happy to report its not the norm and on our second visit normality returned! We played a series of four ball matches this week and Tony was in the winning pair every day!
I love this Island and our resort, Bajaya, where accommodation is set on stilts by the ocean or in lodges on the hillside within the rain forest. Monkeys chattering in the trees, (who pay the occasional visit to your veranda) and the splendid Hornbill birds flying in the trees above amazing flora and fauna, lovingly attended throughout the resort. Water activities are available from the private beach, or simply swim and laze on the beach or pool side sun beds. Various tours of the island which inevitably include boat trips in the mango rivers and to the various surrounding Islands are a wonderful way of seeing Langkawi.
We played four rounds of golf on two very contrasting courses. Gunung Raya set in undulating hills with far reaching views of the islands interior, while the new Els course winds its way through the indigenous forest and down to the sea during both nines. The natural elevation, and meandering streams have been sympathetically used to preserve the natural setting, so much so that there is, uniquely in modern golf, not one sand bunker on the course! Playing a round on each course in a 4 ball format over the first two days and guess who couldn’t stop winning? However, using these as practice rounds for a 36 hole individual over the final two rounds and Arnold and Patrick went head to head right down to the wire. Both scoring 29 points at Gunung Raya in the first round, Arnold winning on the last 6, and both scoring 30 at The Els Club where Arnold again prevailed on the last 9 to be our Asian Tour Champion.
Next Year, November takes us to the Golf and Tea Plantations of Sri Lanka, but a return to these shores where smiling faces, the friendliest of people, coupled with first rate golf and accommodation will not be far away.