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.

Putting the Diet to Bed

Time to put the diet to bed. It is two months since we finished and my weight has settled around 75kg. I hope it stays there and I never have to diet again but I doubt it. Pon's weight is also steady but then she never actually lost anything. We are both still getting down the gym often which really does make a difference.

Anyway, I'm buggered if I can work out how to put the diet table into my blog so it lines up with the rest of the post so I will leave it way down below.

2nd Oct9th Oct16th Oct23rd Oct30th Oct12th Nov20th Nov

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Friendship Beach Resort

We spent a really enjoyable afternoon at Friendship Beach Resort today. It is a popular spot with long-term residents for a weekend meal and a dip in the pool. It is not actually busy but always a few families and groups there at the weekend.

It is right on Friendship Beach about 2 kilometers along from Chalong Circle. Friendship Beach isn't actually any good for swimming. It is more known for its views. However the resort has a nice saltwater swimming pool and also does a decent burger. We don't often go to these westernised venues aimed primarily at tourists but sometimes they make a nice change.

What really made today good was how much our two kids enjoyed playing in the swimming pool. Ben especially loved it and made a good breakthrough in his learning to swim process. He loves playing in water but cannot actually swim and won't put his head under water. Today he decided to put his armbands on. Normally he doesn't like them and he is scared of floating unassisted. Today he slowly broke that barrier down until he was eventually paddling around the pool on his own.

He was ecstatic, so pleased with himself. "I can swim,' he kept declaring, 'look at me, I can swim wherever I want.' Now paddling around with the aid of armbands is not the most impressive achievement for a 4-year old but to Ben it felt like he was breaking the sound-barrier. He even started doing cute little jumps into the pool where his head would briefly go under water. He called them his 'underwater jumps'.

Jenny also loves the water and has little fear. She happily throws herself into the pool confident that mama or papa will catch her.

For a dad, it is just such a pleasure to see your little-ones so happy and full of the joys of life.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Children's Day

In the west we have Mother's Day. Here in Thailand they also have Father's Day and Children's Day. Of the three, Children's day is the most important. The Thais give great importance to looking after, entertaining and teaching their kids, they are the future of the country.

Children's Day is the second Saturday in January. They make a great effort to give the kids a good time with special events all over the country. The schools normally do something on the Friday before. At Ben's school they kept it quite simple. The kids were allowed to bring in cake and they were given little presents. Just toy cars and dolls but it is amazing how much these little things make the kids happy. When I arrived to collect Ben the boys were in a state of delirium pushing and chasing their little cars around.

I continue to be impressed with Ben's school (Darasamut). They seem to get things about right. They even did a little school trip to the airport last week. Ben loved it - the best bit as far as he was concerned was going on a bus. He loved the bus.

Huwy sends his two stepkids to the local Thai school which is very cheap. However for Children's Day they arranged a school trip to the zoo and a party - cost per child for the parents, 1,300 baht. That is a quarter of the average Thai monthly wage just for a school trip. This seems way over the top even for Children's Day and I'm sure beyond a lot of the Thai parents.

I would have taken Ben and Jenny out to one of the events yesterday but we had a football match against the teachers at BIS. We only get this game about once every month or two and it is great to have a runout on a proper grass pitch. It is one of the few things I miss from home - running out on to a proper football pitch with the lads. Of course, I am a little too old to really get around the pitch anymore but I still love the feel of it.

It was an easy 5-1 win. We were never really pushed and it was a bit of a stroll around. I even did a 20 minute session in goal and never had to use my hands.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


We took the whole gang camping this weekend to Nai Yang Beach. Pon and me, Gil and Daeng, Huwy and Meeow, Chris and Nok, and of course the kids (Huyw took 3 and we took 2). We picked them up from school on Friday afternoon, fully loaded up two cars and off we went.

We rented tents from the park HQ, 3-man tents for 225 baht a night and 4-man tents for 300 baht a night. We would have liked to set them up by the beach but if you rent their tents they insist you use their campsite on the other side of the road. It is still only two-hundred yards from the beach. I am sure we will go again and maybe next time we will take our own tents so we can pitch them next to the beach.

Still the campsite is okay. They have toilets and showers, not exactly first-class but they do the job. We were the only people there so it was still nice and isolated. We set up one hell of an impressive bbq and got the beers on ice. Took the kids to the beach until sunset and then spent the night eating and boozing.

The kids had a fantastic time as ever. It is great to watch them play, so happy and full of energy and life. Ben is good friends with Fern - one of Huwy's step-kids and only a year older than Ben. They played all evening.

The next morning the kids were up early to play some more. We moved the BBQ to under the trees by the beach. Ben went into the sea in the morning and didn't stop again until we dragged him out late afternoon to go home. One of the great things about Nai Yang Beach is the shallow, gradual slope of the beach which is nice and safe for the kids. Not that you can actually take your eyes off them but we took turns watching.

It was a great night and day out. We all agreed the only thing we were really needed to make it better were some deckchairs. Must be a sign of age I guess but next time we will be loading up a few chairs so we can really sit back and relax.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year

We went to celebrate the new year in Patong. It was an entertaining night but I have to say the number of fights we saw and the general underlying feel of tension did not make for the most relaxing time. I have never seen the mood in Patong quite so ugly.

Pon and I started by going for a seafood meal with Gil and Daeng. Then we met Huwy, his wife, Chris and his girlfirend in Soi Eric. So far so good. Bangla Road was crammed and there were lots of people in all the sois. We had a couple of drinks in Soi Eric and it was all nice enough. Then we moved on to Soi Crocodile before midnight. This is where things started to get a bit tasty. I was still fairly sober but the state of some of the people wandering around the soi was hopeless.

One guy wandered down the Soi glowering at anyone he could try to goud into a fight. He decided to pick on a bunch of boozed up Aussies and after introducing himself, he chinned one of them. Somehow it didn't kick off so he wandered off looking for more trouble.

There was a guy in our bar so smashed he could barely stand but still generally looking troublesome. Then the action really heated up as one nutter took a hammer from the nail-banging game and tried to start on the barman. The bargirls did a fantatastic job of coming between them and cooling the situation but it couldn't last. Two or three more punch-ups, security got involved and then eventually a smashed bottle was held against someone's throat.

It was time to go so we tried Soi Easy. It all started fine but then a big punch-up kicked off in the bar next to us. One poor innocent bystander came staggering into our bar covered in blood looking for protection. His only apparent crime was that he must have talked to the wrong girl.

We moved on to Soi Gonzo. Outside there were people puking and unconscious in the street while the party revellers milled around them. I can't be bothered to go into all the general mayhem and unpleasantness that we saw through the night. Strangely, despite it all we actually did have quite a good night out. Just the same, next year I think we will be spending New Year's Eve somewhere else.

Patong really is not Thailand. It is a special creation to satisfy the needs of tourists and part them from their money. It says more about the tourists than it does about Thailand although it does of course also attract the worst of the Thais. Don't get me wrong - I actually like Patong for an occassional visit to see all the craziness and if I was coming to Phuket for a short holiday then it is where I would go. But once you live here it is somewhere you move away from and even visiting once a week would be too much for my liking.