Ten years together and eight years married today. Who would have thought that possible, ten to twelve years ago? Certainly not anyone who knew me. A good friend just escaped being the target of this latest entry, being superseded by this auspicious day. So I am not using him and how he is dealing with a difficult adjustment back to a single life and all those things one does to cope.

To be fair finding or developing a good relationship is difficult no matter where you are. In Thailand it becomes a minefield of potential disasters. Given the right temperament cross cultural relationships can add multiple layers of enriching complexity and variety. Given the wrong temperament this can lead to endless confrontations and misunderstandings. Add to this mix, the fact that most Farang males speak little or no Thai and their partners are equally impaired linguistically. 

Often one or both are nursing wounds from a failed relationship and have illusions about the grass being greener on the other side. I’m sure there are those who would love to read some nice juicy stories of sex, lies, betrayal and deception. That, however, only feeds into the baser element of human nature, titillating our imagination. It reenforces those with a negative bias and is ignored by those who say it will never happen to me. Therefore, I would rather not get sidetracked by such lurid tales.

I can’t speak to the specifics of why other relationships succeed or fail. Sometimes the problem with relationships is too little knowledge or experience with the opposite sex, to be able to make an educated choice. Leaving everything to instinct, hormones and luck. With me, the opposite, was the more likely source of difficulty. I had lived here for 20 years, spoke the language and had excessive experience and knowledge. 

Single life had been good to me and my freedom and independence were highly valued. I had managed to cross Thai social class lines and got firsthand exposer to all levels of Thai society ranging from the social elite, some with royal linage and old established family names, celebrities, models, business and political leaders, and on the other extreme the lowest underbelly of Thai society. Some of them were gamblers, hit-men, drug dealers, godfathers, and of course the infamous prostitution and nightlife population. Too much knowledge can lead one to become cynical about the world but that can be good thing. With fewer illusions one is less likely to be victimized by others or fooled by our own delusions.

Fortunately beneath my outward persona there was still just a hint of the romantic that was looking for and ready for a special kind of companionship. I’m not at all sure that my wife was able to pick up on that or not. I would like to think she saw something beneath the surface that no one else could. Truth be told she was probably attracted to the “bad boy” thing and we both just got lucky.

I could give you details of how we make it work but those are the things that work for us, given what we individually bring to the table. The trick is not to copy what someone else has done but to trust our own inner voice and not settle for something that will not make us happy long term. A little introspection and a good long look in the mirror is of course the very least that one needs to do.

We are both more city than country people and did well living the city life and traveling. Traveling reminded us of how much we loved nature and started us looking for a more rural lifestyle. So here we are building our dream-house in a Northern Thai Village and our relationship continues to grow and flourish. It is not really a surprise to me. After the months we spent renting cars and driving the back roads to national parks and staying in hotels, while living out of a suitcase, showed me that we had a remarkable ability to help and support each-other without the conflict that one often hears of.

I think our age difference is a big plus in this case. Being younger and female the wife can fall victim to her hormones from time to time but has gotten much better at distinguishing where her moods or feelings might come from on a given day. I on the other hand, have a unique ability to look below the surface and not respond to what may manifest briefly when one is under stress. My calm, sure footed, nature can be irritating when looking for an emotional response but in the long term rubs off and leads to a much calmer and rational environment for decision making.

My wife would be the first to acknowledge my contribution to her growth and development. I, in turn, am surprised at how little I have had to do to create this environment and how her innate kindness and goodness has softened my harder edges. I am definitely happier, more fulfilled and content with my lot in life. If we were different people we might be competing or trying to establish dominance in our relationship. As it stands we have a synergistic relationship where we are better together than apart.

If I were to offer any relationship advice at all it would be to only enter into a relationship that makes your life better and makes you want to be a better person. If you have feelings about what you are giving up or sacrificing for the other person, instead of how much better they make your life then I would run for the nearest exit. In other words forget the resume and checklists of what you want in the ideal person. Look for someone who makes you a better person and someone that you bring out the best in. If you can find that then you will be able to sort out the details together.

Tri Trang Beach Resort Phuket

Do I hear cries of "where the heck is Tri Trang Beach"? Let me tell you about it. We just went that way a couple of weeks ago (see Tri Trang & Paradise Beach), and we have visited Tri Trang beach many times in the last 6 years. It's only a few kilometers from Patong, at the south end of Patong Bay, along the winding road past the Merlin Beach Resort, and yet somehow remains a hidden gem. There is one hotel on this beach - the Tri Trang Beach Resort. It looks good and I am assured that the rooms are big and the service is decent...but I have one word for you - location, location, location. This is pretty much a private beach given the lack of intrusion from other tourists, and yet you are just 10 minutes drive from the center of Patong for some crazee nightlife and all the food you can eat!

The room rates are not bad either, especially for low season - and this beach is more sheltered than many since it faces north, so big waves are not a problem. Tri Trang Beach is a place I can really recommend if you like a bit of seclusion but still close to the main tourist areas. But, shhh! Don't tell too many people about it! I think the reason that this beach stays quiet is that the access is via a small road that says "Tri Trang Beach Resort" so people assume it's private. In fact you can also just go there and use the beach and eat in the restaurant, but since people don't realise this, the beach near the hotel is all yours...

Tri Trang Beach Resort - Online Booking and Reviews

Tri Trang Beach Resort Rates and Reservations by
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Tri Trang Beach Resort - Photos

Tri Trang Beach Resort - view from restaurant Tri Trang Beach resort

Room at Tritrang beach resort TriTrang beach resort pool

Tri Trang Beach

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A "Green" Birthday...

For my birthday this year we planted 50 trees and a dozen or more flowering plants. The women did most of the work. That is, my wife and her mother and aunt. I did the heavy lifting, measuring and made sure everything ended up properly spaced, alined and aesthetically pleasing. The aunt dug most of the holes while my wife and her mother did the planting and fertilizing. We hire people for most jobs but sometimes you just want to get down and dirty.

It rained throughout the night so the ground was softer than normal and the sky was still overcast, at least for the morning hours. We were still in bed when a truck drove up with the delivery of 50 trees we had ordered but were not expecting on the day. We gave them directions to where to put the trees but of course they got it wrong and I had to haul them all over the site by hand.

We have been adding fruit trees a couple at a time and had grass planted on the slopes to stop the erosion. This was our first chance, however, to do a major planting along the sides of the property as some of the construction material has been cleared up recently.

Planting trees and growing things in general gives you a good feeling but aside from that there are many practical reasons. They look good, help demarcate the property line, provide some privacy, shade and windbreak and protect against erosion. Then there is the politically correct, global warming position, of planting trees as a counterbalance to our need to purchase a gas guzzling diesel pickup truck.

In our area the forest continues to be cut down and burned to grow other things that they think might make some money. It means they have to go much further to find their jungle food and things like bamboo and mushrooms. The wild animals that used to be in the area have long since disappeared or moved to safer environs.

The soil is also highly degraded from generations of monoculture rice farming. I don’t know that anything we do in the area will have a positive effect on the environment or on the lives of the local villagers but one can always hope and dream. In the very least we will try not to make things any worse than they already are.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I didn’t start out with the idea of planting trees to save the world or any thing so grand. It wasn’t a birthday gesture either. That is just the way it worked out and birthdays have never been much of a high point for me, anyway. Except for my wife writing me the most amazing birthday cards, that would make even the hardest guy melt, I could do without birthdays altogether.

The forties were great but the fifties have been hard work, as I become more aware of my limitations. I can’t say I like getting old or the effect it has on my body. My problems don’t come so much from sloth but from overdoing on the squash court. I took too much pride in playing more, longer and harder than the other guys who were usually much younger. Finally I went one injury too far.

That was when I turned 50 and it took a while to recover and find new exercise outlets. I don’t get the same physical rush from weight lifting, hiking, jogging or bike riding but I do get a real sense of inner peace and get to see some really pretty stuff. Much of what I still want to do and see in life requires that I stay fit enough to do it. 

Having a sport made exercise much easier for me. Now I am having those internal dialogs that I had heard about before. You know, all those excuses for why I can’t get it done today. Well I’m still a work in progress but like to think that I’m getting better and more consistent. I’m definitely still not where I want to be but I’ll get there, I hope.

Koh Sirey (Sirey Island)

Just to the east of Phuket Town, just a few kilometers from the center, past the fishing port and the Rassada pier (from where you catch the ferry to Phi Phi), you cross a short bridge to Koh Sirey (or Koh Siray if you prefer). Every now and then, we "take a drive" in this direction. We like to take drives and over the years have explored just about every road in Phuket! As you cross the bridge to Koh Siray you'll see fishing boats in the narrow channel between Phuket and Sirey island.

Siray Island, Fishing Port

Koh Siray Fishing Boats

The channel and the surrounding land are full of mangroves where you can spot monkeys most of the time. A "monkey seeing" viewpoint was set up a few years ago. It's a bit dirty and there are better places to see monkeys in Phuket like Monkey Hill or Bang Rong.

Monkey on Road!

Sirey Island is only about 20 square kilometers, and you can drive all around the island in half an hour. Much of the island is hilly and there are lots of rubber plantations. Around the coast there used to be small fishing villages, but development is catching up! There are a number of villas being built and some very big seaview houses around the shoreline. This has only recently been noticed as prime real estate. The Westin Siray Bay hotel opened a few years ago and is the only big hotel in the area. Some of the coastal views and quiet roads are fantastic.

Road on Sirey Island

View from Koh Sirey temple

Sea Gypsy Village

There are still sea gypsies (Chao Ley) on the island, and you can visit their village at Laem Tukkae (see photo above - view over the village as seen from Koh Sirey temple). The village suffered some damage in the 2004 tsunami and some new houses were built for them nearby, but as far as I can see the old village is now back to normal and the new houses that were built look terrible. There is a certain amount of old traditional sea gypsy life here. But do also expect to see 20 stalls selling shells. The few photos of the village on this page were taken back in 2004. One of these days I need to go take some new photos!

Making Fish Traps

Sea Gypsy Village, Phuket

We go for drives around Koh Sirey now and then. The views can be very nice and we really like the temple on the hill which features a big reclining Buddha statue (see more here : Koh Sirey Temple). The area is very quiet. There are a couple of local seafront restaurants that offer great views along with decent, inexpensive food. We went to "Haad Pleum Suk" a couple of times. The food is decent, the beach there is clean and with views to the east across the sea to Koh Yao Yai. If you're staying in Phuket Town, it's only 15 minutes to drive on a bike over to Koh Sirey and well worth the effort. I think another drive is due soon!

Beach at Koh Sirey Island near Phuket

Koh Siray (Koh Sirey) - Location Map

View Koh Sirey Island, Phuket in a larger map

Thai Driver’s License...

I got my Thai driver’s license today. It wasn’t the first time but was interesting nonetheless. You see the first time I got one was 25 years ago. In those days the process was not set up for Farangs so you found a guy in the parking lot who ran your paperwork for a fee and returned with the finished product after a bit of a wait. Then all you had to do was go back every year for a renewal. They moved office a couple of times over the years and in the end I was paying 105 baht for the renewal.

I let my license expire seven or eight years ago after I sold my last car. I had moved to a very central Bangkok location where things were so convenient that a car was more of a nuisance than convenience. Now it has become necessary to have private transportation again. Village life is remote enough without being at the mercy of others for transportation.

It took 3 trips to the local license office and a flight back to Bangkok to get my Hawaii driver’s license but I ended up with a 5 year Thai license for the cost of 550 baht. As usual different officials gave us different information on each visit. We did keep track of who said what so used that to our advantage in the end and did not have to take the written or driving test. They did test for color blindness, depth perception, reflexes and peripheral vision. After being told we would be there all day it only took about an hour or so. Now I will have the “pleasure” of trying to teach my wife to drive. Won’t that be fun!

The truck we ordered earlier got sold to someone else while I was trying to get my license. Now they say another should be sent up from Bangkok by the end of the month. So if lucky we should get it on my birthday or maybe our anniversary at the latest. Besides needing to shop around for things for the house, it would be nice to do some sightseeing and go visit friends in Chiang Mai.

Anyway, it is all part of our starting a new life up here in our Northern Thai Village. In my estimation moving or starting over in a new location is a great way to take stock of ones life. It is too easy to get set in our ways and become lazy, inflexible and intolerant. By starting from scratch in a new place the world becomes new again. We usually take our old problems with us but there is that off chance that we can reinvent ourselves.

Return flight to Chiang Rai..

Returning to Chiang Rai from Bangkok started out typically uneventful. Even had a normal delay of flight. Thought things were looking up when I found that I had an exit seat with business class leg room, right over the wing. When we finally got started I looked out the window and couldn’t take my eyes off the view for the rest of the flight.

In the outlaying areas of Bangkok the fields were reflecting the setting sun, like sheets of glass. Everything was perfectly rectangular and symmetrical. Heading North things soon got more jagged and uneven like pieces of broken mirror reflecting daggers of light back into my eyes. As we hit the forests things got very dark but everything was still sliced and bordered by ribbons on water large and small.

It wasn’t until we were on decent to Chiang Rai Airport that thing really got exciting. On final approach the rain started to gain force and the plane began pitching about like I had never experienced before. Suddenly something else I had never experienced. The pilot aborted the landing as the engines strained to get us back up to safer air.

The next forty minutes or so we spent on an amazing arial dance between the various thunderheads. Breaking through clouds to find still air and blue sky above, surrounded by billowing giants. The upper reaches looked soft and ethereal, belying the force that had kept us from landing. At times I could see all the way to our valley and see that it was still lit by the setting sun. The worst air was centered on the airport it seemed.

On one circle of the Chiang Rai area we flew so close to a mountain range that you could nearly make out the leaves on the trees. The flight was at the same time perhaps the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever experienced. As with all memories that are accompanied by strong emotion that flight will no doubt be seared into my brain much like skydiving with my wife in Hawaii.

Lucky for me my wife was waiting at the airport to pick me up. If she had been on that flight I doubt she would ever fly again. Needless to say we were very glad to see each-other. Believe me it had crossed my mind during that flight that it could be my last.

I’m not one to worry about things that I have absolutely no control over but for a moment I found myself taking stock of my life to date. Things return to normal ever so quickly but I find it inspirational to think back to the feelings I had on that flight to Chiang Rai.

Paradise Beach and Tri Trang Beach

Picture this...Patong Beach...crowds...tuk tuks...tailors...bars...McDonalds...jet skis...traffic... To put it mildly, not my favourite place in Phuket. And yet, just a few minutes away you can find a sort of paradise. Just head to the far south end of the beach, follow the road over the bridge and over the hill towards the Merlin Beach Resort, then go a bit further.

It looks like the road isn't really going anywhere, but keep the faith! On the right you will find the entrance to the Tri Trang Beach Resort, which may not sound all that interesting, but the beach is very nice, very uncrowded and yet within easy reach of a Big Mac and fries! The hotel looks decent - I think it would be a great place to stay (it's all about location) and there is the bizarrely named "Fine Thank" restaurant right by the beach.

View of Tri Trang beach from the road to Paradise Beach

Tri Trang Beach near the Tri Trang Beach resort

We didn't stop there for long on Saturday, just to take a couple of photos, though we have eaten in the restaurant before, and been to the beach many times in the past. A little further along the road is the other end of Tritrang beach, which also has a small restaurant, but it looks a bit worn and the beach not as nice. There has always been a steep dirt road that carries on over the hill. Finally this road has now been paved, and will lead you to "Paradise Beach". It's a narrow and twisty road. Sound your horn to warn any traffic that may be coming the other way and be aware that in places the road is just about wide enough for a car and nothing else.

I recall diving off Paradise beach several times a few years back. A "not bad" bit of reef considering the location. Plenty of fish, water not too murky. A line of buoys offshore marks the moorings. Longtails from Patong will bring people here for snorkeling. Being that this is the low season, Paradise beach was very quiet on Saturday. We sat and ate and drank and some people swam or snorkeled. No noise, a very peaceful place. I somehow forgot my snorkel gear, so I reckon we might go back next week!

Paradise Beach

It's not a big beach, but with blue waters, clean sand, nice boulders ("that's a nice boulder", said Donkey) and a view over the water. There's a small restaurant serving Thai or western food and not at rip off prices. They have snorkel gear and kayaks for rent. You can see part of Patong beach from there; well, more like Kalim really, but otherwise there is a remote feel to the beach and you can pretend that tourist central isn't just up the road. Yes, there are some beach chairs for rent at Paradise beach, but this is a lovely place to escape for a while.

Paradise Beach view

Kayak coming in to Paradise Beach

Note - this blog post was written back in 2007. Here's an updated post:

Paradise Beach near Patong
Suggested Hotels in the Patong Beach area

Puppy Love...

Dogs in Thailand are not like dogs back home. I was reading another Farang’s story about his dog problems. Namely his neighbor’s dogs trying to eat his dog while on a leash. He was incensed at how irresponsible his neighbor was at letting his dogs out unsupervised to terrorize other animals. Remember, we are talking about Farangs living in Thailand. 

It reminded me of how very different the Thai Village situation is. Until recently, nobody in our village had ever seen a dog on a leash. I’m using a leash to try and train and safeguard our yellow lab puppy and the locals think I am very strange. Being in a distinct minority of one, I feel it is up to me to try and train my dog to deal with the locals.

The village dogs seem half wild and have divided up the sois like LA street gangs. If a dog acts too scared they torment it mercilessly. If he acts too bold they call his bluff and put him in his place. They often limp away wounded but usually have no permanent damage. They bark at everything that moves and strangely seem to be afraid of people. It is very difficult, and takes a long time, to get close to them and win their trust. With some you never do.

At the same time they are extremely loyal to their neglectful owners. Westerners would be appalled at the way village dogs are fed and treated. The thing I realized though is that people treat their dogs like “dogs” and the dogs in turn treat their owners like Alpha pack leaders. Often dogs don’t last long in this environment. Many are lost in road accidents while others are killed if they develop bad habits and the owners are unable or unwilling to pay for the animals they have injured or killed. While many dogs form alliances, others manage very well on their own. A lot seems to do with personality and body language.

Our puppy came into a ready made family of three other dogs. We have two Thai dogs that were given to us as puppies and raised Thai style as we were not around enough. One other Thai dog belongs to an aunt but has adopted us as his family. Although he is treated as the Omega, and chewed on from time to time if he forgets his place, he refuses to go home. He had the hardest time adjusting to the arrival of the new puppy.

I have noticed that the puppy is picking up some bad habits from the adults but there is always a balance of good and bad. Without the adults to help with socialization and act as playmates and chew-toys for the puppy, we would be completely worn out. At first it was quite scary to see the Alpha male on top of the puppy. Now we find it kind of cute. The male growls and snarls and the puppy wags his tail, grovels and inserts his head into the males mouth and licks his tonsils. In-spite of the squeals and shrieks the adults never actually hurt the puppy and are usually very patient with him.

Since he will end up much bigger than the adults we are trying to train him, with pretty good results so far. We also plan to have him neutered at 6 months to help control some of his urges and potential bad behavior. No one around here has done that before so don’t know how it will go down with them. If, however, things go as we hope, we may be setting a precedent that could help the dog population in the future. In the end though our little puppy will grow up and have to find a way to deal with the local dogs. There is only so much we can do to prepare him for that time. The rest is up to him. After-all he is a dog, not a little person, no matter how much we love him.

A quick Bangkok break...

Surprise, I’m in Bangkok for a few days. These days the journey is pretty easy and much cheaper than before, with the advent of low-cost air carriers. Until the house is finished we are still connected to Bangkok in many ways. Thus, here I am taking care of business all by my lonesome. It has become rather clear over the last few months that we are not just building a house in the North of Thailand we are actually living there, already.

With the roofers doing their thing and the electrician doing his thing and the walls and windows going in, my wife couldn’t get away. They have a million questions and even-though the blueprints are good you can’t help but come up with little modifications, here and there. It is one thing to see it on paper and something else to watch it unfold before your eyes. This is coming from a guy who never even thought of having a house, until a few years ago. But then again I never thought I would end up married either.

It’s funny how life happens. You think you have it all figured out and then it gets all turned around. That is when all the best stuff happens though. Being willing and able to embrace those scary opportunities that present themselves is the secret to a life that is rich, rewarding and out of the ordinary. Everybody dreams but how many of us dare to live our dreams. It is not safe and things can go horribly wrong, from time to time, but it does make for one hell of a ride.

It has been brought to my attention that some readers would like to see pictures of the house and perhaps have more of a DIY guide to building a house or life in Thailand. I understand where your coming from. However, there are forums (like at that deal with those kinds of questions better than I could. I am reluctant to insert myself into someone else's dreams of life in a foreign land. Each life is different, with different players, on a different stage, in a different time. It just isn’t possible to recreate a life that has evolved over a span of three decades. 

Everybody has their own unique experience in Thailand. Thailand is not for everyone but if it is for you then you will need to find your own way. It is much more rewarding that way and there is less chance of falling victim to Thais or Farangs that might not have your best interests at heart. Don’t rely too much on others. I like to think that it is the adventurers that end up living overseas but the truth is there are a lot of shady types that are running away from something too. I have met some of the best and worst people while living here, both local and foreign. Just use common sense.

Back with a whole new story about...

I have been away for a while if you haven’t noticed. Not really away, just trying something new. The house is moving along so there really isn’t much to report. Weather has caused a few delays (while making things cooler and eliminating the need to water the grass) but the roof is starting to take shape and people are beginning to see what it will look like.

Now the question is not “what will it look like?’ but “why does it look like that?”. I’m enjoying this way too much. People here are very simple, conservative, traditional and not prone to trying anything new. I know I should be more sympathetic but, well, it is just down right fun to watch all the angst over our little project. You never know how things will turn out when you start something like this but the wife and I are very happy with what is unfolding. All in all, the lack of drama makes for a boring story though.

Back to where I have been lately. I have posted this blog in a few different places to get a little more exposure and to see if I could elicit a few more comments. Sadly people don’t comment much on blogs, at least not mine, and without feedback one doesn’t know what is of interest and what is not. One of my posting sites has various forums so I decided to see what that was all about.

After creating an identity I threw out a few postings to see what would happen. I tried positive and not so positive threads and found, as expected, that you rack-up bigger numbers with the negative controversial stuff. It didn’t take long to see the appeal. It is almost like I imagine a chat-room to be, having never been to one. You throw out some bait and wait to see if anyone bites. Then you pump it a bit to keep it going. 

The feedback and gratification is much more instantaneous than a blog. It is also much more superficial and less personal. It was easy to bring out the worst in people but surprisingly there was a lot of good out there too. You just have to figure out how to get to it. There are also the people genuinely seeking information and help with a problem. You could say that I am an old dog that keeps trying to learn new tricks. 

Well, I went from a “newbie” to “member” to an “advanced member” in a little more than a week. Who knows maybe I will drop back in sometime when I get bored but for now I think I’ll go back to writing my blog. Maybe nobody will read it or comment but I think I get more out of writing it than I do playing in the forums.

The best part for me was getting people to open up and write something more personal than the typical wisecrack or one liner. Since the personal stories are of more interest to me I think I’ll try and lead by example and continue to share glimpses of my life in a journal form. A blog or journal also seems to better fit the laid back pace of life in a small Northern Thai Village.