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.