Thursday, 11 December 2008

Phuket Brewery

Phuket has a new entertainment venue. I’m sure most locals have noticed the arrival of Phuket Brewery. It is located directly opposite Tesco Lotus and it is well worth taking a closer look. Inside is an impressive hall with a big stage. There is tabled seating, apparently for up to 1,800 people.

They have bookings for a few star acts over the next couple of months and you have to buy tickets to see these shows. When there is no star act, they have a nightly show and entrance to these is free. So this week we went to see the show.

I believe the show starts quite early, about 7pm and carries on to about 1am. We arrived about 9pm. It is kind of a variety show. We were treated to a magic show, juggling, acrobatics, singers, a balancing act, dancing girls and a band. It is an impressive range of acts to squeeze into an evening’s entertainment.

It is called Phuket Brewery because they brew their own beer in their micro-brewery. At first glance the food and drink prices seem a bit steep. It is 250 baht for a 1-litre jug of beer. That is well above the normal local price but when you think about it, it is about the same as drinking 3 bottles of beer in Patong at 80 baht a go. And you are getting a good free show.

More to the point, this beer is very different to the normal rubbish that is available in Thailand. They have three beers:
  1. The first is like a pilsner style lager.
  2. The second is a dark beer. This is my favourite as it is a little similar to British style bitter.
  3. The third is a wheat beer.

They all have their own character and they taste like they are much less chemical than all the bottled Thai beers. Certainly I went through a lot of the stuff and I still woke up with a very minor hangover.

We were so impressed with the place that we decided to buy tickets for one of the star act shows. So last night we went to see INCA. They were very good and all top notch musicians. It is a shame that they succumbed to that strange tendency of Thai bands to play lots of Eagles covers, and yes of course they did Hotel California. They did play the covers much better than your average Thai bar band but they were still much better when they played their own stuff.

So all-in-all, we are impressed with Phuket Brewery. The show is definitely worth a look. Check their website - Phuket Brewery.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Camping at Sawasdee Lagoon

Here is a suggestion for anyone who enjoys camping and getting away from it all - Sawasdee Lagoon.

Nick spotted signs for this place and suggested we give it a go. I am all for trying new places so we packed our bags for a night’s stay, pushed our families into the cars and off we went. It is on the Phang Nga mainland close to Thai Mueang, check out their website for the little map. It is only 10-15 minutes drive from Sarasin Bridge.

It is definitely worth giving them a phone before you go. The woman owner speaks good English and is very helpful. The night before we arrived, they had a group of 70 people who bought their own karaoke gear and were up singing until the early hours. The night we were there, we were the only people by the lake. So it is worth checking if they have any big parties coming.

We found the campsite off the main highway, about 4km down a narrow country road. It is by a lake and nestled amongst rubber plantations and jungle.

They have a line of tents by the lake. They are big tents that could sleep 4 adults. Each tent is under a shelter to provide extra protection from the elements. They have electricity, lights, fans, deckchairs and tables. Behind the tents is a block with clean toilets and showers. No hot water here but they do have very nice hot showers nearby, next to the restaurant. So you get the idea -- we can call it camping but we were not exactly roughing it.

They have a little restaurant with outdoor seating under a sala. There is a lovely little manicured garden with miniature waterfalls and fish in the ponds. They have a few kayaks so you can take a paddle around the lake. They have bikes so you can take a ride around the rubber plantations and they even have a good size football pitch so you can have a kick around.

Nick is a fishing enthusiast so he was keen to try his luck and see if he could catch anything from the lake (he didn’t actually catch anything but he assures me that is only because he set his bait for big fish). Our kids had a fine time running around and generally causing chaos. Benny wasn’t in top form as he had a little fever but that wasn’t going to stop him having a paddle on the lake.

The cost was 1000-baht a tent, which includes an evening meal and breakfast for everyone. The food was excellent, including a whopping fried fish. You can just pay for the tent and sort out your own food – I think that is about 350-baht a night. Come nightfall, the kids finally fell asleep in their tents. Nick and I drank beer by the lake until the icebox was empty.

All-in-all, it is a very nice set up. It is a different option to get away from the crowds – well as long as you are not there on a karaoke night.

If you wanted to explore the surrounding area, there are a few attractions nearby. There is Thai Meuang Beach and Golf Course. There are hot springs not far from Khok Kloy. On the other side of Thai Meuang is Lampi Waterfall.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Loy Kratong - A Washout

Yesterday was Loy Kratong - the annual Thai festival where you float your bad luck away by pushing a kratong out to water. A kratong is a little float made from banana leaves, flowers and such, with a candle on top. It is a charming little festival. Thais gather after dark at rivers, lakes or the sea to join in. We usually make the effort to join in somewhere. Previously we have gone to restaurants by lakes, the lake in the park in Phuket Town or Saphan Hin.

This year, we decided to give it a go at the reservoir at Bang Wad Dam in Kathu. When we got there, I was surprised by how many people were there - it is the biggest Loy Kratong gathering I have seen in Phuket. Literally thousands of people must have come and gone during the evening. They had a little stage show, food stalls, beer tents and of course lots of stalls selling kratongs.

We did our little kratong thing, lighting the candles and pushing them out on to the reservoir. We did it just in time as 5 minutes later the heavens opened and it poured down. We took cover in a small beer tent. It was standing room only as everyone crammed in but the mood was good and everyone was laughing. We had a beer while we waited for the rain to pass. It carried on raining so we had another and another.

Ben is good at finding new friends. He quickly found a girl about the same age as him and they happily played in the rain all evening, soaked to the skin and loving it. Jenny fell asleep.

3 hours later and I was fairly hammered. The rain finally relented but Nick had arrived so it seemed only decent to stay for a few more beers before staggering home. I made the effort to wake up at 3am to watch Spurs play Liverpool. It was a real struggle but worth the effort as we continued our remarkable revival with a 4-2 win.

I failed to get the kids into school this morning. Good to know I have my priorities right. I can manage 3am in the morning to watch Spurs but 8am for school is beyond me.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Life is Good

The good weather seems to have arrived bang on schedule at the start of November. I expect we still have a bit of rain to come but it has been beautiful for the last few days. As I was playing on the beach yesterday with my kids, I couldn’t help but think about how absurdly good a life I have here. My life mostly involves doing things I like.

I have to do a bit of work on the computer but it is not exactly taking up all my time. I get to spend a lot of time playing with my kids. It can actually be quite exhausting but I still love playing with them. I play football once or twice a week and usually go to the beach afterwards. I go to the gym 3-4 times a week. I used to play a little bit of golf in England but for the 7-years I have been in Thailand, I had not played a game. Recently, I started golf again. Nick is a member at Phuket Country Club and was kind enough to give me an old set of clubs so I can get back into the swing of the game. I always enjoyed my odd game of golf in England but playing in Phuket is a far better experience.

There are lots of good things around Phuket to do with the family. On Sunday we went to the zoo. The day before, we went to the beach. Over the next 6-months of the dry-season, we will do trips to many of the beaches and islands around Phuket. There are so many beautiful spots and many great restaurants.

Marco and the gang from Manchester have been in Phuket for the last two weeks.. That meant a few nights out in Patong. I am no longer the biggest fan of Patong but it is still good fun for the odd night out. Marco is one of those guys who feels his spiritual home is Thailand. He lived here for a couple of years but had to return home for health reasons. He is now working feverishly in Manchester to get enough money together to set up a new life in Phuket. Watching Marco work so hard to get back out here reminds me how lucky I am to be here all the time.

Marco and the gang returned home a couple of days ago but as one set of drinking buddies leave, others return. Gil and Nick are both due to return from working offshore in the next week or two.

Life is pretty good. It makes me worry that something must go wrong. The one big cloud I see on the horizon is the world economic crisis. If it hits as hard as it might, then those of us in Thailand will certainly not be sheltered. Already, the British pound has taken a battering. That makes for a painful hit on my spending power and the same for many other Brits in Thailand. Still, we cannot predict the future so there is no point worrying about it too much. There is a lot to be said for the Thai attitude of living for today. We can try to prepare for the future but we shouldn’t forget to enjoy today.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Another Visa Run

I have just finished another 3-monthly visa run. It is a strange requirement that even when you are married to a Thai and have Thai children, you still have to jump through a few hoops to maintain your legal visa status here. I often think about applying for the 1-year visa extension and putting an end to this visa run necessity. However, when I look at the amount of paperwork I have to get together for this application, I just can’t quite be bothered to do it. Besides that, I actually quite enjoy having to do a trip every 3-months.

I have mentioned many times before, I like to take the family along and turn this chore into a trip. This time, I decided to go the Hat Yai direction and jump over the Malaysian border at Dannok. The last time we went this way we stayed over two nights and it all seemed a little too rushed. There was too much time driving and not enough time looking around. This time we took four nights.

Our first stopover was Krabi Fishing Park. I was looking for an alternative to staying at a beach and a friend suggested this place. You would never find it if you didn’t know where it was. It is a small lake in a scenic location just a few kilometers before you reach Krabi. There are a few shelters around the lake and there is a small restaurant. You just settle down in one of the shelters and drop your line in the water. Ben and Jenny did all the fishing. They never had a chance to catch anything as they splashed their rods in and out of the water but they thoroughly enjoyed trying. Pon and I sat in the shelter and took full advantage of all the restaurant had to offer.

The park has a few bungalows. They are basic affairs but ideal for the get-away-from-it-all feel of the place. We spent the evening sipping beers on the balcony while enjoying the solitude. It was good start to the trip.

The next day we went to Hat Yai. We would stay two nights. I enjoy basic accommodation when we are out in the country but when I am in a big town like Hat Yai, I want a decent hotel. Places like Hat Yai are just too much hustle and too tiring to have to come back to a grotty hotel. We settled in at the Asian Hotel – fantastic value at 880 baht a night. It is not exactly 5-star but the rooms are comfortable, it has cable TV, hot water and a bath. You can easily find a hotel for 500-baht but it is just not worth the saving.

The next day I did the 1-hour drive to Dannok and the visa-hop routine. We did some shopping around Hat Yai and checked out a few of the local bars and restaurants. All good. I like Hat Yai. There is nothing very exciting there but there is a lively feel to the place.

We spent our final night on the way home at Thale Noi, near Phattalung. It is a large lake that is a bird sanctuary. The main thing to do there is take a boat across the lake and enjoy the scenery and birds. The north half of the lake is quite shallow so it is like a field of lotus leaves and other foliage. There are lots of herons, cormorants, kites and all kinds of other birds that I couldn’t name. It is all very picturesque. It is just a shame they cannot find a quieter mode of transport to enjoy this tranquility than the chuggering longtail boats. It would be a stunning trip if they could replace that ear-bursting noise with a nice gentle hum.

My wife Pon has an uncanny talent for making friends with the locals. She seems to attract them without even trying. Almost anywhere we go, we will end up having a few drinks and a friendly chat with some local characters. In Hat Yai, we had a fantastic seafood meal for half price after the restaurant owner decided she wanted to spend the evening chatting with us. In Thale Noi, we could hardly get the guesthouse owners to accept our money for the beer.

All in all, a very good trip. Doing it in 4-days is definitely a much more civilised pace than 2 days.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Vegetarian Festival

It is that time of year again in Phuket when everything gets a bit weird and mystical -- especially around the Phuket Town area. It is the Phuket Vegetarian Festival. It is a truly extraordinary festival and it is right up there with the strangest sights to be seen anywhere in the world. There is a lot of information on the net about the festival. The official website is here. There is so much going on that you could easily spend the full 10 days exploring and enjoying the events. Indeed, many people from all over the world come and do just that.

There are 9 temples spread around Phuket Town and the surrounding area where the activities are centered. There are lots of food stalls around all of them serving a wide range of very good vegetarian food. In the evenings there are displays around the temples such as walking across hot coals or climbing blade ladders. The main focal points of the festival are the processions. Each morning, a procession sets off from one of the 9 temples and marches around Phuket Town and back again. This is where you can see the famous body piercings. There are ‘mediums’ or ‘shaman’ who pierce their cheeks and other places with a bizarre assortment of objects ranging from skewers and swords to spears and bikes.

Every year, we make an effort to see at least one of the processions. We also go to a few of the temples, eat some vegetarian food and do a little ‘wai pra’ at the temple.

However, my absolute top recommendation for the festival is the final night, which this year is tomorrow – 7th October 2008. If you are only going to make one visit to the festival then this is the time to go. This is the night when they call the gods to ascend back to the heavens. The crowds start to gather around the route in Phuket Town from the early evening. They start lighting fireworks and firecrackers all around town and they keep it up all evening until it slowly builds up to an incredible crescendo. On this night, the procession comes through town at a charge. As they come through, the crowd bombard them with firecrackers. The air is full of smoke and flashing lights. It is a truly spectacular sight.

We always go to the area around the clock circle in front of the Metropole Hotel. The final procession comes charging through around 11pm until midnight. Then everybody heads to Saphan Hin for a mass celebration.

If you are free and you haven’t seen it before, you shouldn’t miss it. Ear plugs are a good idea.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Rain On

The rain continues to come down. I was going to play football today. The regular ex-pat game is going again in Patong after the latest tournament finished. My usual injury problems are currently clear. Unfortunately, it has poured down all day so I gave it a miss. The school holidays have started now so at least it is easy for me to get to the weekday games. My legs only really hold up to one or two games a week so I will wait until Tuesday.

There is no sign of the rat. I think it must have slipped out somehow. Pon thinks it might have died inside the cooker but I think we would be able to smell it by now. I still feel like replacing the cooker - it is very old and two of the hobs don't work anyway.

Ben has been suffering with a runny nose for two or three months. We have taken him to Phuket International Hospital a few times to check it out. At first, they thought it was sinusitus and gave him antibiotics. After that didn't work, they sent him to the ear, nose and throat doctor. He reckons Ben has developed some sort of allergy. The only way to be sure is to give him allergy tests which apparently are quite painful. For the moment he is on a nasal spray to quieten it down. I wonder if he might be allergic to the rat -- I blame everything on the rat.

We had a great meal at a new restaurant yesterday. There is a guy called Jamie Monk who runs a good blog about all things Phuket, outside of the main tourist places. He covers a lot of the sort of places I like, so I sometimes find myself following his recommendations. So we headed to the Pak Naam Seafood restaurant, just north of Phuket Town. It was a fabulous meal of really good Thai food, friendly service and nice setting. I wish more tourists could see these sort of places as they are so much better than the restaurants they will experience in the tourist resorts.

We had a great meal for four (plus two kids), we were all stuffed and the bill came in at 1,000 baht. To get to the restaurant, drive north out of Phuket Town on Thepkrasattri Road and turn right at the traffic lights just after Mission Hospital. The restaurant is about 3km up this road on the left hand side.

The football season is now in full flow and Spurs continue to prop up the league. At least Hull made my weekend by beating Arsenal. It is a bit sad when your main source of sporting satisfaction is seeing your rivals lose but that is what I am reduced to. It is a bit like being Scottish. Anyway, time to settle down and watch Spurs struggle at Portsmouth.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

A Rat in the Kitchen

It has been a quiet couple of weeks. It is the height of the rainy season and it is difficult to get out and do anything. The rain has been coming down pretty hard and regular. September and October are the two months of the year where you know it is going to be a bit miserable and you just have to get through them with plenty of indoor activities. I take the kids to the play areas in Big C or Tesco or we go and see a movie. It is a bit limiting but it is only a couple of months.

Ben made a big breakthrough on his bike yesterday. We took his stabilisers off. It took a few minutes with me running along beside him as he wobbled along but he soon got the hang of it. He is delighted with himself and wants to do more this evening.

Gil has been back in Phuket so we have had a few drinking sessions and a night in Patong. It was the first time I have been in Patong for quite a while. There are actually a McDonalds and Starbucks in Bangla Road now, which weren’t there last time I went.

In the meantime, I think we have a rat in the house. I have seen a couple outside and around the house next door which is only semi-occupied. There had been a few indications that something was inside. A corner of our sofa was gnawed, a bin bag shredded and the rice bucket opened.

Then there was scrabbling in our roof. Every morning we were woken by scrabbling across the ceiling above our heads. I hate rats so I couldn’t have them running around above my head. I bought some of those glue rat-traps. I was going to put them above the ceiling. I stuck my head up through the little trap door into our roof and I could hear scrabbling all around me. I hated it. I was about to lay the traps when I saw the culprits. It wasn’t rats at all. We had a mother cat and her family of kittens in the roof. I was so pleased it wasn’t rats that I was happy to leave them there.

Then Pon saw a rat in the kitchen. It darted into the back of our cooker. No matter how much we shook the cooker, it refused to come out. We have circled the cooker with glue traps for the last week but we still haven’t caught anything. Pon swears she still hears noises in the cooker sometimes so it is still inside. Can rats actually stay inside that long? I don’ know. I think I might just buy a new cooker and throw the old one away.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Ben and Jenny

One of the things I'm often conscious of about having two kids is trying to make sure the younger one gets the same attention and opportunities as the elder did at the same age. Ben is a bubbly personality and very demanding. Jenny is a quieter character and is often happy to play second fiddle to Ben. If Ben had his way he would happily push Jenny aside and do everything himself.

Research shows that the eldest child in the family usually has the highest IQ. This is generally put down to the eldest child having the undivided attention of the parents in his early years while the younger siblings have to share the attention.

So I often find myself trying to remember what Ben was doing at Jenny's age. When he was three he was already good on the computer. He could use the mouse and find his way around internet sites to play little games. These days, they still like to play on the computer but of course Ben does it all and Jenny watches so she is really getting nothing out of it. This week I forced Ben out of the seat and let Jenny have a go. In just a few minutes she picked it up and was happily clicking away with the mouse. I guess all that time watching Ben wasn't a total waste.

It is interesting to watch the way they develop. In one way Jenny has a disadvantage with Ben in that Ben had my undivided attention when he was a toddler and I just cannot give Jenny the same amount of time. On the other hand, Ben is actually a benefit to Jenny because she does learn from him. He is a little chatterbox so she is always picking up language from him. He also likes to lead her on little games. Ben says Jenny is rubbish at everything except playing - he says she is very good at playing.

In the meantime, the English football season has started. What a disaster! Spurs have lost their first two games and with away to Chelsea coming next week we are at the foot of the table. It is early days and plenty of time to turn it around but I think the notion we might be able to break into the top 4 has already been exploded as nonsense.

I have never really been down on football before. I have always thought football was the best game in the world and never really had any negative thoughts about it. However, I have to admit the way the game has developed over the last few seasons leaves me feeling cold. It is actually the sport's success that is working against it. The sport is now so popular and creating so much money that the game has become secondary. The big money men have come in and their only motivation is profit. The richest clubs have set up the game so that no one else even has a hope of competing with them and most of the players seem to have lost any sense of loyalty to anything except money.

Still I have to say the sport itself is miles better than any other sport in the world so I will still be watching next week.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park

The kids had a great birthday. They had friends round and plenty of presents. They have destroyed most of the presents already. It took Ben one minute to break his new remote control car. I’m convinced his future is in demolition. We had a good collection of the local characters round for the BBQ and plenty of beer was drunk. It was an entertaining evening.

The next day I only had a minor hangover so we gave the kids a couple of days off school and went to Ratchaprapha Dam at Khao Sok National Park. A few of our Thai neighbours organized the trip. I have known most of them for a few years and they are all a good bunch so I was happy to join them. I have wanted to visit Khao Sok for some time anyway.

I didn’t know exactly what to expect but it turned out to be a great trip. Our group of 12 drove up in 3 cars. It is about 2 and a half hours drive from Phuket.

At the dam we hired a boat to take us across the huge lake to our accommodation. Our Thai friends arranged everything. While they did that, I chatted to a German couple at the pier. They were very unhappy. They had been quoted 5000 baht for the boat trip and two nights stay – twice what they had paid the previous year. They were refusing to go and the guy was sure the park had been taken over by the mafia. I really doubt that but there is no doubt prices have increased sharply in Thailand and that tourists are charged more than Thais.

We of course, were going to get the Thai price. We also had the benefit of savings of scale because we had a bigger group. It was 2,200 baht for the return boat trip (200 baht each) and 600 baht per person, per night for the accommodation.

The lake really is big. It took us an hour to make our way around the spectacular limestone karst scenery to the drop off point. From there we had a tricky half hour trek over a hill to a lake on the other side and then a short raft trip to our accommodation – a group of floating huts on the lake. I actually thought 600 baht per person was expensive for the basic accommodation until I found out that the price included three slap-up meals and use of the resort’s kayaks.

We had a day of swimming in the lake and paddling around in kayaks. The scenery is fantastic. In the evening the resort prepared us a fantastic meal and the food kept coming until we were all stuffed. After that, it was beers by the lake. The next day, breakfast, swimming, kayaking, lunch, swimming, kayaking, going home. It was all good fun.

The thing that amazes me is the way our two little kids get stuck into these trips. You might think that a lake in the middle of the jungle would be a bit scary for a 5 year old and a 3 year old – not a bit of it. The pair of them could not wait to get their lifejackets on and dive into the water. They were soon swimming around in the middle of the lake. Then they jumped into the kayaks and Ben was happily paddling across the lake. Even the trek over the slippy hill didn’t bother them. They both walked right across.

A group of huts floating on a lake is not ideal accommodation for two small kids. You do have to keep an eye on them all the time. The pair of them were just not phased and never slipped. I guess I was the heaviest person in the group as my foot went through the bamboo flooring a couple of times – I’m really not that heavy.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Kids' Birthday

Well the Dengue is all clear and we are all well again. It took a good week or two after the symptoms had cleared before I really felt back to normal. It seems like there is a lot of Dengue around at the moment.

Today it’s the kids' birthday. Both of them. Ben is 5 and Jenny is 3. It is not a total coincidence that they were born on the same day two years apart. They were both born by caesarian so we had a little bit of choice about what day Jenny came out. Since she was going to be born within a few days of Ben’s birthday, it seemed to make sense to get her out on the same day. That way we only need one birthday party a year, no jealousy, no wishing it was their turn.

The kids are at school now. When they come back we will have a little party. A BBQ and a few beers. Shortly, I will go out and buy their presents. I think a new bike for Jenny and a train set for Ben. Maybe a few other bits and pieces.

Tomorrow we are planning on going to Khao Sok National Park for a couple of days. I think it depends on quite how bad our hangovers are but Pon is confident we are going. We have a few friends going and they have delayed the trip until after our kids birthday just so we can join them. I have fancied going to Khao Sok for quite a while so it should be a good trip (as long as the hangover is not too bad). We will have to give the kids a couple of days off school but that doesn’t matter at their age. In fact, I think I would have struggled to get them into school tomorrow anyway after the party tonight.

In the meantime, work have found another project to involve me with so it looks like they will need me for at least another couple of months which is good news. If only my internet connection wasn't so frustratingly unreliable at the moment. I use TOT's Silvercyber package. It is okay when it is running - nowhere near as fast as it shoud be but okay. The problem is it just freezes up so often. TT&T have just come into our estate and offered their own package - Maxnet. From what people are saying it is faster and more reliable so I think it is time to change.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Dengue ?

The fevers are beginning to clear. Jenny seem pretty much better. Ben and I are still in a bit of a daze but the real suffering has ended.

I am convinced it was Dengue Fever. We haven't actually gone to the doctor to do the blood tests and confirm it. However, I had Dengue last year and this was exactly the same. One of the problems with Dengue is there are four strains and even when you have had one it does not give you immunity from the other strains. It is therefore possible to have Dengue four times - I'm halfway.

The main symptoms are the high fever which comes and goes. A vicious headache which is what really knocks you off your feet. Then there are the acheing bones. You also completely lose your appetite - I have been trying to force myself to eat but its not easy. You also get a red face and red flushes on your arms and legs. The three of us have been through all the classic symptoms of Dengue.

There is no treatment apart from to ease the symptoms with paracetemol and drink plenty of electrolyte rehydrating fluid.

So I did my visa run on Thursday. 12 hours on a minibus and boat was absolutely the last thing I needed. The guys I usually use weren't going last Thursday so I had to try a new company. Eve have two minibuses. They run one to The Andaman Club which I think is a nice bus - unfortunately it was full. I had to do their standard Ranong run on a cramped 15 seater minibus. Strangely, all the other passengers were Filipino. Apart from the minibus being cramped, there wasn't anything wrong with the run. It was just my physical condition that made it so crap. I had cold chills and was acheing all over by the end of the trip.

I am so looking forward to fully shaking off this thing.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Fevers All Round

Ben, Jenny and myself all have a very nasty fever. Jenny came down first. It hit her really hard. She was burning up and shaking. We took her to the hospital on the second day. I was a little worried it might be Dengue Fever. I had Dengue last year and it really is nasty, you would not want to see your 2-year old go through that. The doctor felt it was a virus and gave us medicine to ease pain and fever.

The next day Ben and I came down with it. Now I know what Jenny has been going through. This horrible fever comes with a vicious headache and an aching back. For two days I could hardly move. The three of us have been spread across the sofa while Pon tends to us. Not that you actually want that much attention. When you feel that miserable you just want to bury your head in the pillow and wait for it to go away.

Jenny has had the fever for a week now and looks like she is starting to shake it off. Ben and I feel a little better but I guess we have another couple of days to suffer.

It feels like we have lost a whole week. What is more frustrating is I have to do my visa run tomorrow. Normally you know I like to make a trip out of this chore. Take the family along and spend a couple of days somewhere nice along the way. This time I had it in mind to try a couple of days at Khao Sok National Park. Of course that isn't going to happen now. Instead I am forced to book myself onto one of the many minibus visa run trips. I hate this trip at the best of times but tomorrow I am going to have to do it while still suffering a fever.

Still I think it gives me an excuse to take the family for a treat somewhere special once we are all better. I was looking at Phuket Hotels for Children. It is the low season and rates are good at the moment so we might give one of them a go.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Phuket Stunt Show

There is a new show on the island. The Phuket Stunt Show has just opened in Chalong so I took the wife and kids and along we went to take a look.

The show starts at 7:30pm. It is 1,200 baht but they have discount for residents and Thais so I only had to pay 600 baht each for Pon and myself and the kids were free. That makes it quite a bargain for the quality of the show. We arrived early so we had time for burgers (100 baht but good), beer (90 baht and okay) and popcorn.

It is an impressive set up. A big stage area and water pool for the stunts and plenty of seating. As the name suggests, it is a show with lots of stunts. They do a lot of diving including a scary looking 27-meter high dive. It made me feel quite giddy just watching it. They mix all this up with some jetskis and boats buzzing around the water and in the second session they do treasue hunters and pirates fighting.

Ben absoultely loved the show. He couldn't stop laughing and kept saying 'that's a funny one'. Jenny was a little unnerved to begin with but she eventually got the idea that it was just play acting and started to enjoy it.

I think they could be on to a good thing with this show. It is not often that there is a genuinely good addition to Phuket's tourist attractions but this is one. It is a good idea and now they have it set up, their running costs can not be that high. The place was less than half full when we went but once high season arrives and they start filling the place, it has the potential to fairly rake the money in. Best of luck to them.

Their website does need quite a bit of work - Phuket Stunt Show

Thursday, 26 June 2008

More about work

What a shame, it looks like Huwy's DJ career has come to a rapid end. I think the radio station management recognised that they really couldn't afford to pay that much for a show that only covered 2 hours airspace. As much as it was a decent show, it just does not make financial sense to pay a full time wage for a 2 hour show. They tried to work out ways to get more from Huwy's talents but nothing else really fit. They were willing to pay a nominal fee for the show but Huwy was putting a lot of hours into it and was not willing to work on the cheap. So at the moment it looks like they will be going their seperate ways.

In the meantime I have been considering my work position. I have come to the conclusion that I will wait and see. If an opportunity comes along then I will take it but for the moment I am not going to chase anything. I have enough income to live comfortably enough so I will sit back and see how it develops. There may yet be a little bit of work from England. I also feel that if in a few years time my financial position is struggling then I always have the last resort of returning to England to do some work. That would be a much easier option once the kids are bigger.

I can't play football at the moment. I had been playing quite regularly but my old achilles injury flared up again. I at least had the sense to stop immediately so i think few weeks rest should put it right. Well as right as it ever will be.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

To Work or Not To Work ?

Well Huwy's show finally went out last week. It is a good rock show. Huwy's taste in rock music is very much on the heavy hardcore side and that comes through in his show but he also plays some more commercial and classic stuff. It should now be a regular show on Wednesday evening from 7pm to 9pm on 91.5FM.

Gil's break from work has been a short one. He is going back to the North Sea today. We have done a few little drinking sessions but nothing too heavy. This week has also been go-live for my work project in England. It all seems to have gone well and they are going to start using the system today. There will be a few more pieces of work for me to do to finish the project off but I think this is basically the end of the work from England.

All this work talk brings me to a quandary that has been at the back of my mind for a while. Do I want or need to find new work? I saw a couple of job advertisements

The work from England has been fantastic for me. It is part time, working from home and mostly at times that suit me. It was always my plan that once it was finished I would just live off the money I get from renting out my flat in London. However, it has to be said that the cost of living in Thailand has gone up considerably and looks like it will keep on going up. What previously looked like a comfortable financial situation is now much tighter. In addition, we now have the extra cost of educating the kids and I have to think that if they are to go to university then I will need to find this money for the next 20 years.

I can still live in Thailand well enough but I don't have the spare money to do a lot of the extra things I would like to do. You also have to consider the unexpected such as health problems or other unpleasant surprises. I have always paid our hospital bills as we go and they have never been a problem. Still I do feel a little exposed without some proper health insurance and I would like to have the family covered.

So there is my quandary. It is a quandary many other ex-pats in Thailand also face. How do you balance your quality of life with your money needs and long-term financial plans. I love not working. I have such a great lifestyle in Thailand. I love the time with my kids, going out and enjoying all that Phuket has to offer.

On the other hand, you have to be realistic. I have the time to enjoy Phuket but not always the money to do everything I want. I am still at the age when I should be trying to make money. It is no use waiting until I am in my fifties and then suddenly realizing I don’t have enough money to educate my kids.

Then again, if I do go to work, I have the money but I don’t have the spare time to enjoy it and I don’t have the same time or energy to spend with my kids.

It is a tough one to call. I need to spend a bit of time doing my sums and decide just how badly I need to work.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Show No Show

Well after all the build up, Huwy's show didn't go out. A storm took down the radio station's antenna so there was only dead air. Oh well, all you excited listeners will just have to wait another week for his debut.

Huwy's birthday booze up did go ahead and it didn't stop until 6am. That made yesterday a bit of a write off for me - I was in a half daze all day. A good 12 hour sleep has sorted me out so I am back to life, and just in time. Gil has arrived back early so my hope that I could cut down on the drinking sessions is looking a bit forlorn.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Huwy Goes Live

It is an exciting day for Huwy. His first rock show goes out live tonight - well it is not actually live. They recorded his first show but they did it as if it was live. They will let him go live when he is up to speed. I have heard a preview of the show and I have to say it is very good for a first effort. The rock schow suits Huwy's personailty much better than the little teaboy bit he has been doing and he comes across much more comfortable in the role. Huwy is a big rock fan and used to be a drummer in a band so he knows his heavy rock.

If you like rock you can catch his show from 7pm to 9pm, Wednesdays on 91.5 Phuket Island Radio.

It is also Huwy's birthday so a few drinks could be on the cards this evening.

In the meantime my life is in the usual routine. There seems to be quite a lot of drinking at the moment. I'm not knocking it but it does leave me feeling a bit rundown. Still Nick has gone back to work and Gil will be away for another couple of weeks so maybe things will slowdown a bit. On the other hand it is Huwy's birthday and Pon's birthday later this month.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Phuket Island Radio

Huwy has started his new job as a radio presenter. It is a great result for him and I do hope it works out. Phuket is a great place to live if you have the money to enjoy it but it is not an easy place to make money. Huwy has tried running bars and working offshore but it just hasn't worked out for him. He doesn't really have many job skills so it was difficult to see how he was going to make a living here. Then out of the blue, on a night boozing in Patong he gets the offer to present a radio show. Huwy has no experience of radio presenting but the owner is confident he can pick it up in no time.

The owner actually has no experience of running a radio station but got drawn into it after he helped some Thais set up their station, only for them to drop out. Since then he has got serious about it and is making a serious investment in setting it up properly. Apparently the rules have recently been relaxed on foreigners running radio stations in Thailand so he is now free to do it. It is Phuket FM on 91.5.

There have been a few attempts at English language radio in Phuket but they have been pretty poor efforts and did not last long. I have always thought there was a market for a good English language radio station on the island so hopefully this guy can make it work.

Huwy has been learning the ropes as 'teaboy' on a couple of the afternoon shows. Basically the DJ calls on the teaboy (Huwy) for his opinions on whatever subject. Their afternoon DJ is an experienced radio presenter and you can tell he has that happy DJ voice. In comparison, Huwy still sounds a little wooden but as he gets confident he should improve. Huwy is a big rock fan so he has been given a rock show and a sports show. Today he records his first rock show. Once he gets confident they will start letting him play live.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my birthday. We had a little party. It was bad timing in a way because today is Ben and Jenny's first day back at school. I promised myself I wouldn't get too drunk and I would get to bed early. I was kidding myself. Time does funny things when you are drinking. Last night it magically became 5am and I have no idea how it happened. This morning I pushed the kids into school at 10:30am and was quite proud of myself for only being two and a half hours late.

In a way, it was also bad timing for Gil and Huwy because they are both starting new jobs today. Still they are good jobs for both of them so they were in good moods. Gil has got his first offshore job in the north sea which is something he has been hoping to get for a while. And Huwy has a job with a radio station. For Huwy to find a job that actually suits him is quite a result. He doesn't really have many job skills and he doesn't like working for people (who does?). I really wondered if he would ever find work but we were out in Patong last week and a guy offered him a job as a radio presenter. It could be ideal for him. He has got a sports show and a rock show. Today he is doing 'tea boy' while he learns the ropes.

In the meantime, I have had quite a bit of work coming in from England. The project I have been working on is going live this month. I'm not sure what is going to happen after that but I suspect that is pretty much the end of the work they have for me. It has been a great deal while it lasted. It is five years now that I have had part time work from them that I can do remotely from Thailand. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. My finanaces are okay but I would really like to get an extra income stream going to keep my books balanced.

After our recent visit to Nakhon Nayok, I decided to knock up a little website about the area so I have been doing that in my spare time over the last few weeks. This is it - Nakhon Nayok. The area is massively popular with Thai tourists but almost unknown to westerners so I figure it deserves a bit of promotion.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Rain is Back

Marco has gone home and Gil is away for a week in Singapore. Good, I need a break from all these boozing sessions. I just don't recover the way I used to. We did a final session in Patong on Thursday night to see Marco off. He loves every minute while he is here and takes full advantage of everything Patong has to offer. He is that sort of character, but also it is the difference between being on holiday or living here. He so quickly catches up with so many of the characters and stories that make Patong such a colourful place. It reminds me that the place can still be fun, even though I am a little bored of it.

In the meantime another friend is back in town. Nick is another guy who works offshore for a month and comes back for a month. I seem to have quite a few friends who come and go. Nick lives on the same estate as me, enjoys his sport, likes a few beers. We naturally have quite a bit in common so we go out for a few beers now and then. Last night we went for a few in Phuket Town, only to find that everywhere was closed for an election - damned democracy. So it was back to Nick's house for a couple of beers.

And in the meantime, the rains have well and truly arrived. Burma has been absolutely battered by a cyclone with tens of thousands dead. Thailand never seems to be hit by storms to that extent but the long periods of rain can be a bit demoralising. I enjoy a really good thunderstorm. They are so moody and spectacular to watch and they usually pass in an hour or two. It is the times when the rain settles in for days on end that drag you down a bit. We have 6 months of rain to look forward to but fortunately there are usually plenty of bright spells between when you can get out and about.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Marco Back

So with old friends Marco and Gil both back in town, we all went out for a big night out in Patong on Tuesday night. It is good to see Marco back. He lived here for a couple of years until he had to go home for health reasons. He's an entertaining guy and was in good form. He loves it in Thailand and is keen to move back so he is working on putting away enough money to set himself up out here again.

It was Champions League night, Man U v Barcelona, and they are all Man U fans, including Huwy. How cliche is that. They are all good guys but I can't help feeling some disdain for Man U supporters. In all fairness, Marco is actually from Manchester. Gil and Huwy, the same as 99% of Man U fans, have never been to Old Trafford but still claim to be the most passionate fans in the world.

Man U won 1-0 so they were all very happy. Not surprisingly, they were not put off by my disdain for the Champions League and opinion that it was actually a boring game. Unless Spurs ever qualify for the CL, I will continue to look down on the competition as just the money making machine for the top 4 clubs that makes it impossible for anyone else to break their monopoly on the league. That is what the CL was designed for and it has turned the English Premier League into a predictable closed shop. Of course, if Spurs ever qualify I will be really happy we are getting a slice of the money.

We tuk-tuk'd home about 4am absolutely hammered. I felt crap the next day but wouldn't you know it, I had a load of work to do so I had to grind through it despite my a massive hangover. I'm just about recovered now.

Turns out I won the gym challenge. However, I can't really claim it was any great achievement as only 3 people entered. Strangely, they are not rushing to give me my prize shirt.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Back Home

After a couple of weeks away, we are settling back into the usual routine at home. Jenny has gone back to nursery summer school. She was fine with it for the first couple of days but this morning she kicked off a right little tantrum and declared she did not want to go to school so I had to drag her there. I hope it is a one off and not a sign of things to come. It is only another week anyway and then they get three weeks off before the proper term starts. It will be good to get Ben and Jenny both out of the house. As much as I love them, I am looking forward to daytimes without being hassled for attention.

We have renewed our membership at the gym so I have been for the last few days. they have a little gym challenge going on at the moment. It is 20 minutes runnng, 20 minutes stepping and 5 minutes push ups. You total up the calories and push ups and the top three in the gym get a t-shirt and gym voucher. I do like a challenge so I had a go even though I haven't exercised for a month. I had to plod along on the running machine because I know if I push it, I will tear my feeble achilles tendons. I banged out a very respectable 460 calories on the stepper and struggled to 135 on the push ups. I am optimistic that one of those t-shirts is mine.

Gil is back in Phuket. We saw him and Daeng earlier in the week for a quick meal. We will go around their house tomorrow for a little bbq and to watch the football. Marco arrives back in Phuket next week so I expect there will be a few serious boozing sessions coming up.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Hot Springs, Ranong

So we're back home. After our nice stopover at Ao Manao, I needed to go through Ranong and do the tedious border hop thing to get another three month stamp in my passport. I dropped off the family at the hot springs in Ranong. It would be a nice place for them to while away an hour or two while I sorted out the passport.

It turns out the immigration office in Ranong has just moved - it is now 1km further along the road at the longtail boat pier. So after a slight delay finding that, I did the usual routine. Stamped out of Thailand, got a longtail and crisp 10 dollar bill for the usual rip off 800 baht, went across to Burma, stamped in and out and then back to Thailand to stamp back in.

As I headed back to the hot springs, the heavens opened and the rain came down in a big way. Luckily, I had already moved all the bags inside the car so they would be safe while I did the visa trip. I found the family hiding under a sala. There was no way we were making the 4-hour drive back to Phuket in this rain. We had a full load so the bags and a couple of people were in the back of the pick up. The rain wasn't going to stop any time soon so we booked into a resort for the night. We then spent a bit of time relaxing in the hot springs. The water is so hot that you can barely dip into it, but once you get in and adjust to the temperature it is very soothing.

The next day we finished the drive to Phuket. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed it but it is also good to be home.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Ao Manao, Prachuap Khiri Khan

I have done the drive from Phuket to Nakon Nayok and back again many times now. I have done it in a day but it is a bit crappy driving the car for 12 hours solid so we now always do stopovers. I have visited most of the obvious stopover points on the route but this time on the way back we tried a new place - Ao Manao. What a lovely little gem of a place it turned out to be - I can't believe we have not visited before.

Ao Manao (Lemon Bay) is just south of Prachuap Khiri Khan. We have stayed in Prachuap several times and I have always thought it was a nice little town. It is by the sea but the beach is not particularly good. There are some nice little eating spots along the seafront. There is a big temple overlooking the town from the top of a hill. Around the bottom of the hill are lots of playful monkeys that you can safely feed without getting bit.

At the south end of the beach is a small airforce base and if you drive through it you come to Ao Manao. I was expecting a small bay with maybe a few bungalows around. It is actually a long sweeping beach enclosed by two spectacular headlands with an island out smack in the middle of the sea. It is a beautiful little beach. The sand slopes into the sea very gently and the water was absolutely placid making it perfect for the kids to play.

There is plenty of accommodation and although it is pretty basic, it was ideal for our group which was now up to 8 people as we were carrying two of Pon's friends with us back to Phuket. We got an 8 bed apartment (2 floors, 3 rooms) for 800 baht. There are plenty of eating and drinking places along the beach and the food is good and very reasonably priced.

The whole area is maintained by the Airforce and apparently they occassionally close it the public for airforce functions. However, generally it is open and they are very welcoming. I found the whole area very charming and we will definitely make this place a more regular stopover on our drives to Nakon Nayok.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Leaving Nakon Nayok

Today is our last day in Nakon Nayok. Tomorrow we start back for Phuket. We will take a couple of days driving. I need to stop at Ranong on the way to do another visa hop over the border to Burma and back for another 90 day stamp.

I do like Nakon Nayok and every time we visit I ask myself the same question, could I actually live here? I'm sure Pon would be happy to move back close to her family. You could set up a very comfortable life here. If we sold our house in Phuket we could build a bigger house here. Set it up just the way we want it. We would get UBC (satelite TV) so I would have my football and western TV.

The cost of living here is so cheap that it would make our finances much better. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is great and the scenery fantastic. There is a bit of nightlife, lots of restaurants and often stuff going on. You could even set up a small business here much more competitively than in Phuket. Nakon Nayok is only an hour from Bangkok and two hours from Pattaya so there are easy options for a bit of life.

The area generally has a lot going for it but still I have to say I always come to the conclusion that I don't want to live here. I think Phuket still offers me a much better lifestytle. Playing in the rivers and waterfalls of Nakon Nayok is fun for a while but it would wear thin after a couple of weeks. In comparison, Phuket offers so much more. The beaches and the islands are so much more varied. Phuket even has waterfalls although they are not that great.

Phuket also has much better facilities. I think about all the things I use there. The shops, the cinema, the gym, the internet, and so much more that I use all the time in Phuket and which is just not catered for in the same way in Nakon Nayok. Phuket has much more nightlife, more restauarnts, western food outlets, all the amenities you could want. It just has more of almost everything than nakon Nayok. Yes it is more expensive but then you are paying for the luxury of living on a tropical island with all the amenities that you need.

Then there is schooling. Visiting Nakon Nayok is really great for Ben and Jenny. They get so much attention and the people set such a good example for children that you know they would grow up to be good people. But I really doubt if I could find a decent bi-lingual school here and the education on offer here would just limit them for the rest of their lives.

The final clincher for me is that I would just feel a bit isolated here. I enjoy spending time with Thai people. They are so hospitable and there are always lots of people around. However, I still want western friends as well. I want to talk to people with a similar background and mindset as myself as well as Thais. As much as the Thais are great company, there is just a limit to how much depth of conversatin you can have when you are trying to use a second language and speaking with people from a very different background.

So Phuket still gets my vote for home. Maybe Nakon Nayok is something I would consider when I am old and ready to hang up my boots but for the moment I still want the life of Phuket.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Pon's Family

The thing that always amazes me about Pon's family is they are so happy. Pon is generally happy and good fun and it seems to be a trait that runs in the family. She still has her mum ('khun yai') but her dad died a long time ago. She used to have two brothers and three sisters. The eldest brother and sister have both also died. That leaves her with two elder sisters and one younger brother. You will rarely see them without big smiles on their faces.

The elder sister is Daeng. She has three children, two girls and a boy. The eldest girl has just finished university, the younger is still at university while the boy is 13. All three of them smile a lot. Their dad died quite a few years ago - death somehow seems to be more common in Thailand although statistics say their life expectancy is almost the same as in the west.

Daeng is very funny. She beavers away working at her restaurant all day but always with a smile on her face. In the evening, the Thai whisky often comes out and she gets wobbly drunk. For some reason, she does not understand a word I say. I know my Thai is far from perfect but most Thais seem to be able to understand it. Daeng always looks to Pon for an explanation of what I have said. Apparently, in her younger days she was very pretty but hard work, bearing three children and drinking whisky does take its toll.

The younger brother is Gah. He is very funny with an infectious laugh. He is a motorbike mechanic. This week he entered a motorbike race. I took the rest of the family and we followed him. We drove for an hour to find the dirt race track. It really was in the middle of nowhere along potted roads and dirt tracks. He got lost several times and arrived late. When we arrived there was a comical race to get him to the starting line on time. The race started and Gah was at the back of the pack for two laps. Then his gears failed and he was out of the race. Gah came back to us laughing and the whole family was in hysterics. We all pottered off back home.

Gah has a wife, a young boy and two step children from his wife's first marriage (her previous husband died).

The eldest sister is Dan. She lives in Trat. Two years ago we were in Nakon Nayok waiting for three weeks for the British Embassy to process a birth certicate application for Ben. I didn't want to stay in Nakon Nayok for three weeks so I said we should go somewhere. Pon said they had a sister in Trat and I fancied visiting Koh Chang so off we went.

As we drove I asked when they had last seen this sister. I was surprised to hear it had been 12 years. I asked when they last spoke to her on the phone - they did not have her phone number because 12 years ago nobody had phones. So they had not had any contact for 12 years. How the hell are we going to find her, I asked. She had a stall at the market, they said, we will go there. I figured we had no chance of finding her but we went to Trat market and amazingly, there she was.

It was a lovely seen - a bit like those heart-tugging TV reunion shows. Her face dropped as she saw first Pon and then her brother. She could barely talk as she struggled to hold in the tears as Daeng and Khun Yai arrived. The family she had not seen for 12 years and probably did not expect to see again. Now they are all in contact again and call each other often.

Finally there is Khun Yai (Thai for Granma). They are not sure exactly how old she is but it is 70+. To be honest she looks much older. I wouldn't say a bad thing about her to the family because they adore her and she is a lovely old lady. However, she is hideous to look at. She still has the old Asian habit of chewing betel nuts with tobacco. It turns their teeth black. Add to that a generally hard life and what you have is a wizened old lady with a handful of pure black teeth and a mouthful of tobacco and betel. It is not something to look at while you are eating your food.

Still she has obviously done a great job of raising her children who are all so happy and well-balanced.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Nightlife in Nakon Nayok

Nakon Nayok is a fairly typical provincial Thai town. Pleasant and charming enough but without any real points of interest. It is not the biggest town and is pretty quiet but there are a few nightlife options. I do like to watch my English football and there is nowhere out in the sticks where we are that has it. It is a 15-minute drive from the countryside where we are staying into Nakon Nayok town.

We have found a couple of live music bars that also have the football on a big screen. This is ideal for us as I don't care about the commentary and Pon loves her 'Peua Cheewit' Thai music bands. 'Peua Cheewit' roughly translates as 'for life' so I guess we would categorise this music as folk or country. These music bars can be found everywhere in Thailand. They are usually rustic style buildings with solid wood furnishings and a relaxed atmosphere. If the band is good then they are popular and the bands usually are good. Thais love their music and seem to have plenty of playing ability. I remember once going to a party where someone pulled out a guitar and started playing a few songs. She was good but then she passed the guitar to another friend and he was also good. In the end, as they passed the guitar around, it seemed like half the Thais there could strum out a decent song.

After satisfying my demand to see the football, we decided to finish the night by checking out the local nightclub. There is only one nightclub in Nakon Nayok and it was busy. As usual, they had a live band. this time it was the typical Thai club band doing a selection of covers of Thai and western classics. These bands tend to be very simlar across the country, they are very energetic, usually switch singers regularly and inevitably do 'Hotel California' and 'Zombie'. Still they are usually technically good and this band was no exception.

The club itself was also a typical Thai style nightclub. No dance floor, they just dance around their tables and in the aisles. Everyone was very friendly and of course lots of them wanted to say hello to the only farang guy in the club. One thing I just cannot help commenting on - just how many stunningly beautiful Thai women are there in this country? Wherever you go out in Thailand, there will be beautiful young women. They like to dress up glamorous for a night out and yet they still know how to look stylish and classy. Some of these young women make a few of today's hollywood actresses look plain. There are beautiful women everywhere in the world but there cannot be many countries where such a high percentage of the women are so stunning. Anyway, I'm married with kids so I shouldn't be dwelling on such things.

Interesting to note that out here in the sticks, the local cops are still very strict on opening hours. At 01:15, just fiftenn minutes beyond the allotted closing time, they raided the club and ushered everybody out for after hours drinking. No big deal, they just made is plain it was time to go home.

Songkran in Nakon Nayok

Songkran (Thai New Year) is just about over. It is celebrated across Thailand with what must be the biggest water fight in the world. It is great fun and makes perfect sense since this is the hottest time of year but the rainy season is only a few weeks away.

It is however also a remarkably dangerous celebration. Several hundred people die every year in related road accidents. It is not surprising when you see what is going on. People line the roads throwing water at passing cars and motorcycles. Other people load up the back of their picks ups with bins of water and drive around throwing it at any person or vehicle that comes in range. And of course there is plenty of drinking involved. It is all done in good spirits and is a fantastic celebration but it is not surprising a lot of people have accidents.

Can you imagine what would happen in the west if we had an annual celebration that caused such carnage. In the UK, we have bonfire night and every year a few people get burn injuries or occassionally even blinded. It always causes a bit of controversy. Imagine what would happen if 400 people died - the celebration would just be cancelled. In Thailand, they are not going to stop a good party just because a few hundred people die.

This is my first Songran in Nakon Nayok. Not surprisingly, considering playing in water is actually what they do here all the time, it is an ideal place for Songkran. My wife's family live in the area near the dam and Nang Rong waterfalls. Over the last few days the whole area has been heaving with visitors from Bangkok taking their holiday here to play in the water. The river is a heaving mass of revellers floating down on truck inner-tubes, kayaks and assorted floating devices. The side of the river is lined with salas where the families picnic all day on the incredible assortment of local food that is available.

On the surrounding roads the water fights are in full swing. Pick ups slowly cruise around while the occupants in the back throw and soak up as much water as possible. Everyone is laughing and dancing and it is just one huge party.

Ben, Jenny and myself do stick out a bit as we are the only westerners I have seen in all the time I have been here. We therefore get lots of attention. If we take an innertube for a float down the river then for sure everyone we pass will wave and splash water. Ben and Jenny revel in it.

Pon's family have a small restaurant by the river. They have been very busy for the last few days trying to meet the demand but it is a good money earner for them. It is good for me as well because I get all the food and drink I want prepared how and when I want. And since all the locals know us, we don't need to pay for anything. We get free lifejackets for the kids, free floats, free boat rides, free mangos, it is just an endless stream of hospitality.

Ben has started going down to the river by the restaturant on his own for the last couple of days. He is such an outgoing character that within minutes he will start making acquantances with the people there. It is funny how quickly everyone gets to know him. I will go down to see him and wherever we go, people I have never seen are calling 'hello Benjamin' like he is an old friend.

Well the crowds are drifting away today and the area will be back to normal sedantary life style. The normal influx of visitors will happen again next weekend but I expect we will have left by then.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Nakon Nayok

So we are in Nakon Nayok. The visit to the wife's family home is a ritual many expats in Thailand will recognise. While most of us tend to live in the well developed resort areas such as Phuket, our wives' families often live in more remote country areas. Family ties are important in Thailand so the wives want to visit and usually like it if hubby comes along to.

Don't get me wrong, I don't need to be dragged along. I love travelling around Thailand. There is so much to see and the hospitality really is genuine. However, once you have been to the same village a couple of times you have seen it and there isn't really anything new to do. So I limit my visit to Nakon Nayok to once a year. We will be here for five or six days. I find that is about the right amount of time for me to really chill out before I start getting tetchy and bored.

I guess I am quite lucky in that my wife's family home in Nakon Nayok is a beautiful little area. It is only 100km east of Bangkok in the foothills of Khao Yai National Park. There are rivers and waterfalls. There is a huge 3km-long new dam with a great lake behind it. This means that they can release a steady supply of water into the main river so that they have water all year round.

The area is a popular holiday retreat for the wealthier Thais in Bangkok. They come to play in the water, kayak down the rivers, etc. There are many local bungalow resorts and the land prices here have really rocketed since the dam was completed. The area seems to be very much off the western tourist trail - it doesn't even get a mention in Lonely Planet.

This visit is absolutely great for our kids. They have the time of their lives playing in the water and with the local kids. My wife of course is delighted to see her family and they will just picnic and natter all day. I get the VIP guest of honour treatment and I am introduced to an endless stream of local characters who embarrassingly all remember my name when I have no chance of remembering theirs. Drinks are constantly thrust into my hand and it is impossible to not eat. The only possible complaint about the hospitality is that at times it can be a bit overwhelming. It is difficult to find a quiet hour to yourself to just sit and read a book.

Thanks to the booming land prices here, my wife's family have a nice new home. When I first visited I was taken aback by the shack they lived in. It was a ramshackle old concrete pillar building with wooden boards and corrugated iron roofing that made one hell of a din in the rain. It was basic living and a real eye-opener to how Thai country folk live - and yet are so happy.

Fortunately, about 20 years ago they bought a 1 rai plot of land for 7,000 baht. Two years ago, they sold that plot of land for 1.4 million baht - how is that for inflation! Enough to pay off the family debt and build a nice little house. It is still cold showers with water pumped from a well but it is a far more comfortable stay than it used to be.

Anyway, tomorrow is Songkran so it will be water fight day.

Friday, 11 April 2008


After our stops at Thung Wua Laen and Cha Am Beaches, we headed for Kanchanaburi. It is not actually on the way but it is a small detour. It is less than three hours drive from Cha Am and I have always wanted to see it.

This was our first ever visit to Kanchanaburi so we decided to stay two nights. That is nowhere near enough to fully explore the area but it is a chance to look a round.

If you don't know the area, this is the place where the Bridge on the River Kwai was built. It is not actually called the River Kwai - that was a creation of the movie - but the basis of the story is true. This is the area of the death railway where in WWII, thousands of allied pows and locals were forced by the Japanese army to work under intolerable conditions building them a railway. 100,000 pows and locals died and the few survivors suffered incredible hardship. This horrible part of history is a sombering backdrop for what is actually a beautiful location.

We made our way to the river to look for accomodation and were soon given an interesting option. You can rent big rafts for a trip down the river and an overnight sleep on the river. These are big solid wooden affairs that can easily accommodate 20 people or more. You have a choice of basic rafts or a party option with karaoke or a disco. Since there were only six of us we went for the basic option - 2000 baht for the trip. The Karaoke rafts have their own generator and DJ provided and cost 3,500 baht.

They are towed by small motor boats down the river and you make a few stops along the way. We saw one of the war cemetaries, a well known local temple where one of the nuns meditates by floating in water (mae chee loy nam). There is also a fairly standard monkey show. In the evening you are moored up at the side of the river. You are sort of in the jungle but not actually very far from civilisation. There is a little shop and showers on the bank.

The only problem is all the other rafts are also moored here and the disco rafts make one hell of a racket. Still they all finish by midnight. You sleep out in the open air so a good supply of insect repellant is essential. I only slept for three or four hours but that was okay. At 3am I couldn't sleep so I sat at the back of the raft sipping a beer and watching the sky. It is amazing how many more stars you can see when you are away from all the lights of civilisation. It was actually very beautiful and relaxing.

The next day we found a nice bungalow resort in town by the river (1400 baht for two good air-con bungalows). We checked out the famous bridge and the nearby war museum. We did a little fun train trip across the bridge and back for 20 baht each. There are lots of great restaurants along the river so we had a good eat up in the evening.

There is still much to see in Kanchanaburi so we will have to come again. I want to see Erawan National Park and the waterfalls (although this is not the best time of year) and also the big dam and lake. Still we had to go because we wanted to reach Nakon Nayok before Songkran so they will have to wait for another time.

Cha Am

The followimg day we drove north to cha Am. It is only another three or four hours drive from Thung Wua Laen Beach.

I have been to Cha Am a few times and the place is slowly growing on me. You get plenty of western tourists here but still the majority of visitors are Thai, mostly coming down from Bangkok.

This visit is the first time I have seen Cha Am really busy. Rooms are normally easy to find and pretty cheap but we had to look around for a while before we found a big bungalow a little overpriced at 1700 baht. Still it was by the beach and big enough for us all to sleep.

The beach at Cha Am is quite a thin strip of sand and is set up with rows of deckchairs and tables so you can eat and drink on the beach. The waves were a little too big to let our little-uns play on their own so we had to keep them nearby on the beach. The problem is they have ponies riding up and down the beach which is a little worrying when your kids are running around. Jenny had a couple of close shaves.

They have jet-skis and banana boats and all kinds of goods being hawked up and down the beach so in that way it is a little like Patong. The good thing is the prices are much more competitive here (again they are aiming more at the Thai market). Ben and Jenny were very entertained with two polysterene airplane kites that kept them happy for an hour or two at 50 baht each.

The water is distinctly dirty and digging in the beach to build a sand castle pulled up all sorts of rubbish like polysterene and plastic cups. I guess it is difficult to avoid spoiling the environment a little when you get so many visitors.

There are lots of food and drinking options in the evenings. All in all, Cha Am is a decent option for a day out.

Thung Wua Laen Beach

We are now safely in Nakon Nayok. We took five days driving up here making stop offs on the way to make the trip as leisurely as possible. The first stop was Thung Wua Laen Beach in Chumpon. That was about five hours drive from Phuket.

It is a nice enough beach. The good thing is there are a lot of little bungalow operations there so you can find a decent bungalow for well under 1000 baht a night. Our whole family of six is travelling so we need two bungalows a night and we found a decent deal for 1400 baht.

The beach is long and straight and slopes gentle into the sea. When the tide is out it leaves a few pools that are good for the little-uns to play. There are plenty of restaurants along the beach and a few bars.

You get a lot of Thai visitors here which I always think is a good thing because they set everything up so much more competitively than when they are aiming at the foreign tourist market. There's one big resort at the north end of the beach called the Cabana. There is meant to be good diving here so you get a fair few divers and dive instructors around.

I thought I would be able to find a bar with live football but at night the place is incredibly quiet with just a few bars and none of them have the full UBC package. I went out with Pon and after we had given up on finding the football we settled on a bar with a live blues band. It is amazing how good some of these little bands are in Thailand. They were playing in the open air in front of a handful of guests for 1000 baht a night between them. Yet still they knocked out three hours of good entertainment.

The bar was run by a young British guy and his wife (he was slaughtered but happy). They had a handful of expat locals and just a few tourists guests. Still it was a cool night out. And the beer was 45 baht a bottle - that is what I mean when I say these resorts are so much more competitive.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Jenny Starts Nursery

We go away on Sunday but since we had to pay the summer school fee for Jenny and since summer school started on the 1st, we decided we might as well send her there for a few days. To my amazement, she is totally unphased by the whole experience. We dropped her off for the first day and there were a few tears when we left her. However, when we picked her up she was happily playing and the teacher says she had no problems.

For the next three days we dropped her off at school and she happily waved bye-bye without any fuss at all. She does not seem to think it is a big deal at all. I really thought she would not like it and it would be a big drama every day. It just goes to show you can never be sure how kids will react to something new.

Ben continues to impress with his remorseless drive to push everything to the next level. If there is something he wants to do then he is never satisfied and always wants to take the next step. It is good to see but hard work to keep up. Swimming is his current project. Last week he really impressed me by learning to snorkel. This week he took his arm bands off and he can actually swim!

He is not quite there yet. He can only swim while he is wearing the snorkel but it is good to see him getting his head down and frantically paddling across the pool. He is so pleased with himself for every advance he makes that I worry he is going to run out of normal thrills and end up being some kind of extreme sports freak. Anyway, I guess the next step will be to get him some swimming goggles and see how he does swimming with them. That is probably a few months away yet but you never know with the speed at which he is improving.

So on Sunday we set off for Nakon Nayok. It is a long drive and I really can't be bothered with doing a 12-hour stretch in one go so we will take at least two nights stop on the way. That way it becomes a much more leisurely and enjoyable trip.

The aim is to reach Nakon Nayok before Songkran (Thai New Year - 13th April) and to leave a few days after so that we avoid the main traffic mayhem that comes at this time of year.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Jenny to Start Nursery

The school holidays are flying by and already it is time to think about next year. Ben is already registered to go to Darasamut School again next year but we also wanted to get Jenny into nursery.

They have a nursery for kids from 2 1/2 years old at Darasamut so yesterday we enrolled Jenny. It costs 11,200 baht for the term. For some reason that I don't fully grasp, they insisted that we must also enrol her for summer school even though we don't want her to go and are away anyway. That was another 2,000 baht. They have been doing quite a bit of building work at the school and I think they are trying to recoup some of the costs.

Anyway I am happy enough with the school and it will be great for Jenny to spend more time with other kids. I am not sure she will like it. Ben was always a very sociable little boy and really wanted to go to school. Jenny seems a little more reticent to play with other kids.

Ben is making great strides in the swimming pool. I promised to buy him a snorkel if he would stick his head under water. To my surprsie he immediately did it so I had to buy him the snorkel. He now happily snorkels around the swimming pool and insists he wants to go snorkeling in the sea - he's only four.

We will be going for our annual holiday to Pon's home next week. It will be a couple of weeks driving around Thailand and maybe a week in Nakon Nayok. I am not sure it is going to be good timing for work, they are trying to go live on the project I am working on but they have budget problems so it is not clear what the requirements will be. Anyway, they have not paid any of my invoices for four months so I am not really feeling like delaying the holiday when I am not getting paid.

In the meantime, I have also been doing a bit of internet stuff. I am quite into my health and fitness so I have been involved in writing this - Health and Weight . It has been quite good fun working out the javascript calculations for ideal weight and metabolic rate. Keeps me entertained.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Pon's Friends

Pon has had friends visiting this week. She used to live in Betong near the Malaysian border. There are a lot of troubles down there these days so we have not been for a long time. This week two car loads of her old friends came to Phuket to visit. When Thais travel it is often in large groups with the whole familiy and assorted friends.

They spent the first night drinking whisky Thai style (with ice, coke and soda) and catching up with all their gossip. The next day we took them around a few of the regular tourist spots in Phuket. We went to Wat Chalong, Laem Promthep, Nai Harn Beach, Kata Viewpoint and Patong Beach.

They were really keen to see Patong Beach. Personally, I wouldn't put it on the list of must see places but for the Thais, the same as other tourists, it is the place everybody has heard of and they want to see it. They set up in Loma Park by the beach. This is the area most popular with Thai visitors. They got a couple of big floor mats and started making their way through all the food options from the local vendors. this is what Thais do above all else when they travel, they eat. They want to eat just about everything they see and they never seem to stop. You would think they would be fat but somehow it seems to work for them.

Today is Fern's birthday (Huwy's youngest stepkid). She is 6 so he is having a little birthday bbq round his house. I expect we will get slaughtered together while the kids cause chaos.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

School's Out

Ben has finished his first year at school. Friday was his last day and
now he has a long holiday. Amazingly, even at 4 years old in Thailand
the kids have to pass end of year test to move on to the next year. In all
fairness, I don't think the kids can actually fail but it does seem a bit

I am really pleased with Ben's first year at school. He has made so many
steps forward. His Thai language has come on leaps and bounds, his
colouring and drawing are so much better, he knows his ABC and also a
good chunk of the Thai alphabet. I did spend quite a bit of time with
him on his ABCs but I am still impressed with the school.

Now I want to find something for jenny for next school year. That would
actually mean she is starting a year earlier than Ben. I don't want a
full-on school but I do worry that she spends most mornings watching
cartoons. I am busy working, Pon is doing her household chores and Ben
is at school which means the TV becomes Jenny's babysitter.

This is the main Thai school holiday and lasts about two months. We will
probably go on our usual annual holiday to visit Pon's family. That will
be towards the end of this month. At the moment I have quite a bit of
work coming in so I need to wait for a quiet period on that. I expect
it will be very quiet soon as I don't think it is far from finished.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Koh Rang Yai

I do enjoy exploring Phuket and the surrounding area. Still after all these years in Phuket there is plenty I have yet to see. I think I have seen most of Phuket itself but there are still many islands around Phuket I have yet to visit. So on Saturday we looked to tick one more island off the list and went to Koh Rang Yai off the east coast.

We went to Laem Hin pier and rented a longtail for the return trip. It cost 1000 baht - that is about normal although I am sure we could have negotiated a slightly better price if we could have been bothered. The boat trip to Koh Rang Yai is only 20 minutes and skirts around another island, Koh Maprao (coconut island). The sea here is usually very placid and today was no different, it was a beautiful day.

You are never quite sure what to expect when you do these trips to new places. I had read that Koh Rang Yai is a bit of an activity centre so I thought it might be heaving with energetic bikers, kayakers, climbers, etc.

When we got there I was instantly impressed. There were a few people around but it was basically very tranquil and what a beautiful beach. Most of the beaches I have seen on the eastern side of Phuket are either stony, muddy or shallow so I did not expect much here. I was in for a pleasant surprise. It is a lovely sandy beach with beautiful clear inviting water. Ben and Jenny took one look and charged in.

There are a few deckchairs on the beach and a handful of eating places. As we strolled along the beach absolutely nobody tried to hawk their service, what a pleasant change to the full on tourist beaches.

I had read there is no accommodation here but that is not the case. There are a few bungalows behind the beach and some basic huts right at the end.

There are meant to be some nice little hiking trails through the interior and you can rent bikes. There are also kayaks for a paddle around the sea. You can also play beach volleyball and there is a badly kept little pitch and put golf course. I wouldn't exactly call it an activity centre but there is enough to keep most people entertained for a day.

There is also a pearl shop. There is meant to be a pearl farm but it was closed and doesn't look like it has been open for some time. I am guessing the pearl prices are not exactly cheap and are aimed at the tourist market.

We had a good swim and then ate at one of the restaurants. The food was okay but a little expensive. Understandable when they have a captive market and most of the ingredients will need to be shipped across from Phuket.

I had read that there is some decent sorkeling offshore but I couldn't find it. All the seabed I saw was sandy. I was surprised by the strength of the current's drift. I snorkelled for a minute, looked up and I had drifted 50 yards along the coast from where I entered. I wouldn't say the current was actually dangerous, it flows parallel to the beach rather than out and you can swim against it if you need to. Apparently the drift is caused by all the water that enters Phang Nga Bay from the many tributaries there. The water just keeps flowing southwards from Phang Nga Bay passed Phuket.

All in all, we were impressed by Koh Rang Yai and we will go back. Next time we might look to take a few friends and stay overnight.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Valentines Day

I took Pon out for valentines night. It turned out to be a fun night out. We started with a visit to Fantasia in Phuket Town. It is a big place and has been there for three years but we have never got round to visiting. We new it was some kind of girly bar but didn't really know what to expect. It might not sound like an obvious choice for valentines but these places can be fun. It turned out to be a very well done out venue with a big stage and a nice little song and dance show.

It is an impressive place with lots of staff. There are also lots of girls. Lots & lots of girls and I have to admit (although of course on valentines night out with Pon I am not thinking about such things) the girls are all quite stunning. This is a high end Asian girly bar and I have no idea how much the girls charge but I guess they are not cheap. The place was entertaining for an hour but the beer prices were too high to think about staying for a long session so we moved on.

We tried Timber Hut but the place was so packed that we couldn't even find a parking place on the street. We ended up at a live music venue not far from home. It was also busy but we met some friends and took seats at their table. It turned out it was extra busy not only because of valentines but they also had a well known Thai singer doing a show.

It turned into a really good night. The back up acts were all good and lots of fun. The atmosphere in the bar was good and everyone was having a great time. When the main act came on I did recognise her although I didn't know her name. She did a good show and was actually far more beautiful in real life than when I have seen her on TV.

It is hard to imagine a major star back in the UK doing a show in some small provincial bar. It was a good night out.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Wat Chalong Fair

It is Chinese New Year. Among the many events that take place around Phuket is Wat Chalong Fair. Wat Chalong is the biggest and most important temple on the island. It is a big event with market stalls selling all kinds of stuff, games, rides, food and shows. in fact, it is so popular that if you are not going to the fair, the area is worth avoiding because the traffic can be a bit of a nightmare.

We went late afternoon to beat the main crowds. We wandered around the stalls with Ben and Jenny insisting on stopping at every toy stall, and there were lots of toy stalls. 'We'll buy something later, we'll buy something later,' all the way round.

We found our way through to the fair rides area. They are basic rides, roundabouts, trains, big wheels and bouncy castles. Nothing special but is is amazing how much pleasure Ben and Jenny can take out of circling around a train track.

There was one ride that was a bit more impressive - a little rollercoaster. It wasn't big but it crawled up to maybe 5 meters high and then did a fast circling drop. I thought it would be a bit too much for Ben and Jenny but as soon as Ben saw it he wanted a go. I thought he was over-reaching himself but we gave it a chance. I was sat in a car with Jenny while Ben sat in a different car with a young girl. I thought he would be scared when the ride started but I should have known better. He and Jenny both loved it and they just wanted to go again.

We wandered around the rest of the fair, played a few games, ate some food, bought a bit of stuff. It is a nice event and you could stay there all evening. They have a few bars with live music later and some nice little shows. However with the two kids it gets quite exhausting after a while so we headed home tired but happy.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Another Night in Patong

Gil is back in Phuket after a trip to Israel. Sadly, his wife has lost the baby she was carrying. She was close to 5 months pregnant but it was always going to be a difficult pregnancy after her previous health problems. They had problems and the littl one was just too young to save. Fortunately Daeng is fine.

Friday night was Meeow's birthday (Huwy's wife) so we all went out for a night in Patong. I seem to go there less and less these days. The last time I went was New Years Eve and I still didn't feel in any great rush to get back there. But a birthday is a birthday so we did the usual routine. A taxi in, round the usual set of bars where we know the owners, we even did a quick visit to a go-go for a bit of a change.

It was all nice enough but strangely, Patong just doesn't excite me anymore. Some people never get tired of all the lights, crowds, noise, colour and of course, flesh. I'm not sure what it says about me that I actually start to find it a little boring. Maybe, just that I am getting a little old. I was actually asleep by the time we were ready to go home.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Another Visa Run - Pak Meng Beach

Ben and Jenny are not impressed by Trang's muddy beaches
I have just completed another visa run. It is a tedious chore that many ex-pats around the world need to perform. In Thailand, it depends what type of visa you have. I have a 1-year multiple-entry visa based om marriage to a Thai. This visa requires I leave the country every 90 days and then re-enter. It is a simple matter of going to a nearby border, crossing to the other country and then turn around and come straight back in to Thailand. Silly but that is the rule.

As I say, it can be a tedious chore so I usually try to make a trip out of it by taking the family along for a couple of days and visiting somewhere interesting along the way.

I usually really enjoy these trips. Thailand is a great country for travelling around. There are so many beautiful little spots to find and the people are always so hospitable.

This time I decided to go to Trang. It is meant to have some good beaches and islands. We drove to Pak Meng Beach which is about 3 and a half hours from Phuket. I have to say I was disappointed. The beach does not even remotely compare to the beaches in Phuket. The sand is course and muddy. Even Ben and Jenny who normally love any beach were not very impressed. The scenery is quite nice but not as good as Krabi.

And the little resort town there was really disappointing. The area is popular with Thai visitors so I was expecting some nice Thai style resorts. What they actually have is a strip of quite charmless restaurants and bars and behind are some very charmless looking huts and bungalows. Just breeze block affairs without an ounce of character or style. We drove up and down the strip a couple of times and finally settled on a bungalow set back from the road and just on the edge of town. It semed like the best of a bad bunch - 600 baht a night. If only we had kept going a little further we would have come to the Pak Meng Resort which looks like the one place of accommodation on the beach that had some charm. Maybe if we had found that place in time I would have a different view of Pak Meng.

We had a meal at one of the beach restaurants and it was poor and overpriced. We took a drive along the coast. It is nice and quiet and there are some national park areas around. However they don't really seem to have anything special to offer. The beaches are just not good when you are used to Phuket.

I would have liked to take a boat around some of the islands which are meant to be nice but we didn't really have time for that. The one highlight of the stay was waking up at 3am to watch Spurs thrash Arsenal 5-1 in the semi-final of the Carling Cup, oh what joy!

It is not often that places in Thailand really disappoint me but Pak Meng Beach just left me feeling flat. We set off the next day to the Malaysian border to do my passport stamp. I did the border hop at the very quiet border crossing at Wang Kelian in Satun - it only took 10 minutes including a shop at duty free for a couple of bottles of wine.

There didn't seem to be any point in spending another night in Trang so we decided to go to Hat Yai. We don't often head for big towns but it proved a good choice. We headed to downtown Hat Yai and found a fantastic hotel for the price - The Asian Hotel. It was 880 baht a night and worth every baht. A nice comfortable king size bed, big bath, view of the city and friendly staff. It was just what I needed after all that driving and a crap night in Trang.

Hat Yai itself always quite impresses me. There is lots of good shopping with bargains to be had on stuff imported from Malaysia. There are plenty of restaurants and bars and the place generally has quite a lively feel. It would have been nice to have a proper night out there with Pon but of course we had to take care of Ben and Jenny and the bed was just too comfortable.

We did some more shopping the next morning and then the 6-hour drive back to Phuket. It was an okay trip but I felt like it was all a bit rushed. There was too much time driving and not enough time to look around. If we come this way again, and I am sure we will, then I will give it 3 or 4 nights. Maybe Trang will impress me better if we get out to the islands and give it a proper chance.