Chiang Mai, again ...

As we turned into the lane, after the long drive back from Chiang Mai, our eyes searched yard and fields for signs of our greatly missed canine children. It seemed we had been gone for a week, when in fact we had left Tuesday, early, and returned late in the afternoon on Thursday. The non stop pace made the trip seem much longer than it was. I suppose they heard us before they saw us and all three appeared out of nowhere. Nice thing about dogs, the way they live in the moment, no pouting about us being gone, just so obviously elated to have us back. We had reports they moped around, while we were away, but things were soon back to normal, as if we had never left.

We stay at a friend’s house while in Chiang Mai and, in fact, only visit our Sister-City of the North, when she flies up from Bangkok. She helps us navigate our way to coffee shops, shopping, great food and puts us up in style and comfort in her beautiful home. With a body of the same general size, and taste similar to my wife’s, they have way too much fun shopping for clothes, furniture and household decorations. They tolerate my tagging along and accommodate my needs, occasionally, by finding someplace for me to get a massage while they talk and try on clothes.

Since both are quite pleasant to the eye, my ego gets stroked by the looks we get. Not being what they expect, in the form of Thai girls and a Farang, I enjoy being able to read the commentary on the faces of strangers, as we go about our business. Not often seeing foreigners where we live, Chiang Mai is a bit of a shock for us, too. Parts of the city feel very much like Bangkok and foreigners are everywhere. Somehow we can’t see Chiang Rai ever undergoing a similar transformation. Sure it would mean a greater selection of goods and services, but making things easier doesn’t always make them better.

The roads were worse than usual on this trip. There is a section in the mountains where the road construction seems stuck in a time warp, with no end in sight. There is a roadside factory, we have passed on several occasions, without the luxury of time to stop and check it out. On this day there was no rush so we pulled to the side of the road, as one does in these parts, and ventured in. The pottery on display out front would be enough of a draw, but my wife likes this stuff, so soon struck up a friendship with the owner. With his children, who normally do the sales, out for the day, he took us on a tour of the kilns, way in the back of the property.

With the feel of stepping back into antiquity we found ourselves surrounded by relics from a bygone era. He has kept old molds and samples from previous generations as reminders. Being a man of action and hard work, more than words, I’m sure he was a bit overwhelmed by my wife’s interest and endless questions. His smiles and openness revealed his pride in what he and previous generations of his family had built. He made a present of a small piece lifted from the floor near the kiln at the back. In good time we made some purchases at the front of the establishment as he called his children to make sure of the prices.  Though our encounter was brief, there was a feeling of leaving an old friend by the time we hit the road again. In my early years this kind of day was much more common. Seeing the world through my wife’s eyes and feeling her enthusiasm often brings back long forgotten memories of things that once felt so new and exotic. I would surely be a boring old fart, by now, without her to inspire me.

Buddha Mountain and Restaurant "Nakkerd Seaview"

Buddha mountain (aka Khao Nakkerd) where the 45m high Big Buddha is being built has been mentioned on this blog a number of times and will probably crop up again. The work on the biggest Buddha image in Thailand is slowly continuing. As it stands, the basic construction is complete, but the whole image needs to be covered in white marble. The face is just about done, which leaves the enormous body. Since we first went up this hill some years ago, word has been spreading about the Big Buddha and the views from the top, and it's becoming more popular now. By the time it's complete, I imagine a climb up Buddha mountain will be on the itinerary of most tours. Even covered in scaffolding, it's an impressive sight!

Buddha image built into the rear of the Big Buddha Buddhas hand

For 100 Baht you can write your name on a piece of marble that will be used to cover the Buddha image. We did the same with a brick a couple of years ago. It's for good luck.

The Monks will be part of the Big Buddha

Nakkerd Seaview Restaurant

Almost at the top of the mountain, with a fabulous seaview over Karon Beach, is a tiny restaurant with friendly owners who (for the moment) are selling cheap tasty Thai food to anyone who cares to stop. We must go back for sunset one day... Yesterday we only stopped for a coke. There was a lovely cooling breeze blowing as we sat looking over the ocean... not sure, but surely this is the "highest restaurant in Phuket" ...? Long may it remain "our kind of place" - that means inexpensive, friendly and selling cold drinks with simple tasty food.

Nakkerd Seaview next to the road up to the Big Buddha

Nakkerd Seaview restaurant

View of the Big Buddha from the restaurant

Read more about the Phuket Big Buddha:

The Big Buddha of Phuket (2013 blog post)
Hills and Viewpoints in Phuket

More quiet and friendly restaurants...

The Beach Bar
Bang Pae Seafood

"what makes the writer tick?"...

In response to Mr. Inquisitor:

Some image caught, some idea thought, something read, something said, something silly or absurd, something simply overheard, something imagined, something real, if it is only in my head, what’s the big deal? Who knows where it will lead? Will it grow and flourish or remain a seed? Will it remain a thought, or find its way to page, for all to read? Will it linger in the ether, never to be found, or immediately appear on your RSS feed? The difference between what comes to mind and what flows to page can be mysterious indeed.

Questions were posed as to this or that, one thing or the other, when in truth the answer could be a simple, yes, to all the above. I love the implication that, at least one of you, think I am a naturally gifted writer. I think it a safe bet, to assume that my personage is far less articulate than my online persona. My wife sometimes jokes in emails to friends, that she lives with Dr. Phil, and I have answers to all her questions. It is clear, however, that only rarely does she desire such pontification, and she would much prefer the CliffsNotes or Readers Digest version. (Short, quick and to the point.)

Whether in a short term or long term relationship it is often better, not to get overly philosophical, academic or theoretical. Got to keep it real, as it were, with the ones we love. So by spewing this stuff on to the page, those around me don’t have to listen to it. The villagers, friends and of course my wife are able to sigh in relief that a burden has been lifted from their ears. Don’t get me wrong. I really believe everything I write, but that doesn’t mean that you need to, or that what you read is what I meant. Such is the nature of the written or even the spoken word.

I’m not obsessed with my writing and only recently have begun to really enjoy it. Living comes first so ideas are allowed to stew for a period of time before the writing begins. I eventually settle into my comfy chair, in front of my massive display and open Pages. With the words spread across the screen I am able to lean back comfortably with mood music oozing forth. The proofreader function and I, have a love-hate relationship, developed over time. I couldn’t live without the spellchecker but I am constantly being told that I am too wordy, archaic or cliche. (Those little green underlines.) Besides trying to make me sound like a suit writing a business proposal it is not smart enough to understand what I meant to write as opposed to what was actually typed. That would be a truly valuable addition. So I am left with poring over things looking for left out words and typos that the machine doesn’t catch.

Having copious amounts of time, as suggested, ideas are refined, edited or deleted as the situation dictates. Occasionally one sitting is enough before a quick copy and paste sends my words to your computer. More often than not, life takes precedent and the page must be left in the dock until some later time. That can ring the death knell for many an idea. You have all been spared many a boring rant as something new has superseded an unfinished project. As usual I don’t know if this will satisfy your desire to know more or simply leave a bad taste or a hunger for more.

Life’s little Questions ...

A comment: “I suppose that a wiser man than I once wrote that if we achieve our goals in life too early then maybe we haven't set them high enough.”

That comment was probably a mistake as you have opened the door wide for another of my longwinded, questioning, introspections. So what is too high or too much and what is too low or not enough? Should goals be material or spiritual? Which is worse, the angst of not achieving ones goals in life or the empty feeling left by actually achieving them and not knowing where to go from there? Shouldn’t the goal be, to be free from the need for goals, and constant achievement? Is any one goal, action or achievement any more valuable than any other? Who decides? Who chooses? What is your frame of reference? Are we talking personal, family, village, national, cultural, historical, planetary, evolutionary? When we go the way of the dinosaur, will any of it have made any real difference?

For some the question is simple because their minds are simple. They “know” that there is only black or white, and they have been told which to choose. The blissful joy of the uncluttered mind. No questions, just certainty that one is “right.” Of course it helps if there is a document that one can quote or footnote, to “prove” that one is “right.” To believe all that we see and hear, and to see and hear only what we believe. The wonderful, merry-go-round-world, of circular thought and reasoning. “I believe it because it is the truth and it is the truth because I believe it.”

My scenario was always to ask the following. Assume you already have everything that you could possibly lust after in life. Fame, fortune, power, material possessions, you know, the usual stuff. If that were your base point what then would you want to do with your life? It is similar, I suppose, to the age old question of what would you do if you had six months to live, but without the time constraint.

It was questions like that which lead to my very hedonistic approach to life, without the self-destructive bit that people often throw in for good measure. Beauty, love, pleasure, comfort, sensation, experience, discovery, knowledge, understanding. These are the things that have meaning for me. I want to feel the moon and the stars in the night sky. Bask in the color and vistas at sunset. Feel the trail beneath my feet and later the aching muscles in my legs reminding me of every step I take in life. To wake in the morning and reach over to feel the warm naked source of my greatest pleasure. To love and care for someone else. To have someone to share in all things and care about my well being.

To marvel in the diversity and complexity that surrounds us. To be surrounded by natures bounty and feel no need to compete with it, to kill it, burn it, sell it, own it, or destroy it in any way. To enjoy life and love to the fullest and yet not to fear death. To be content with who I am and what I have, without continually seeking more and more. To allow others to live their own lives, with the freedom to fail or succeed. To rejoice in their triumphs and feel no guilt in their tragedies. To follow no man or teachings or dogma. To blame nothing or no one, and take full responsibility for my actions, both good and bad. I have not always been in this place and know not how long I will dwell here, but right here, right now, I live in a place called contentment.

On the Road Again ...

Water bottle secured in the small of my back. Sony H7 hanging from the belt. Hat in hand, I step out the door and as I reach for my hiking shoes the excitement grows. Nervous stretches and yawns. Waging tails and increasing vocalization in anticipation of yet another romp in the woods. I can hardly tie my laces with all the legs and tails and tongues impeding my progress. Sadly disappointment is soon to follow. For today I am topping up the air in my tires and oiling the chain in preparation for a long bike ride. Too much distance, too many roads, too many canine territories, too many cows, just too many variables to make it prudent for the pack to follow me. I can’t imagine their confusion as my wife and the maid hold them, not allowing them to follow.

Down our road, slipping by the temple and crossing the highway to the other side of the village. I navigate the maze of lanes until I am free of houses and launch onto a dirt road heading to the fields. Now, it had been a while since I passed this way but what lay before me was quite a surprise. The familiar landscape was no longer familiar. The fields were stripped bare and the hills completely denuded. In the middle of all this was a lone backhoe excavating endless trenches. The symmetry was most foreign to this area.

Moving quickly I was soon passed the scene and into the next village. Made a note to myself to return this was on the way home and ride up a central hill where I noticed some people and activity. Still considering what I had just seen, I popped out the other side of the village headed through the corn fields toward a bridge over the river. At the turn things started to make sense. A large field had been turned into a nursery. That black netting they use was suspended over what looked like millions of little rubber wood saplings. Curiosity got the best of me and I turned in to have a look. Being near the village where my mother in law comes from, it was not a complete surprise to find someone knew me by name. I noticed an uncle working and requests for pictures soon followed. They are well aware of my proclivity to take candid pictures of local activities.

Greetings exchange and pictures taken, the trail beckoned. Not far past the river there is a trail heading to the right, off into a water storage area and on into the rice fields. It is a long bumpy ride to the next road. Debating the merits of a left or right turn, I remembered seeing an interesting side road in a village to the left. The prospect of uncharted territory and new sites was too strong to resist. Left it was, and I soon found myself on unfamiliar turf. I inquired of some children near a temple, if there was anyway out if I continued in my present direction.

They assured me that there was not but I still wanted to see for myself. Sure enough I found my path blocked by the river. Though a mere shadow of its rainy season self, with sandbanks prevalent, it was still impassable to me and my bike. A few more pictures and a cold drink from my water bottle, the ice nearly melted by now, I was backtracking to where I saw the kids earlier. I hate backtracking and try my best to follow a circular route but farmer trails being what they are often dead-end in the middle of nowhere.

A forest crematorium and a village temple found their way into my camera before the phone rang. My wife worries about her crazy husband having an accident or getting lost so insists I take the cellphone along. Hearing I am OK and having fun, she urges me not to be too late getting home. Eventually I am passing the nursery again and soon find myself in my lowest gear peddling up that hill I saw earlier. I enjoyed the looks of confusion as the workers glanced around at each other, trying to figure out who I was, what I was doing and how they were going to communicate with me. They were certain that I must be lost.

When I choose to, I can be quite charming and disarming. The workers are soon put at ease and the conversation flows. I end up pairing with the man who was obviously in charge. His Thai betrayed that he was not from the village. He was a company man and our conversation was expansive. We talked farming, rubber wood plantations, local customs, lifestyles, weather and all sorts of topics until my wife called again. The time had passed quickly, with little notice of how long I had been gone. Amidst pleas that I come visit often, I was off down the hill and headed home. My wife was relieved to see me in one piece and though I was exhausted it had been a very good day!

Bang Rong Floating Restaurant

This page was first written February 2008. Updated July 2012.

The east coast of Phuket is very, very different to the west coast. All the main tourist areas and beaches are found on the west coast, while large parts of the east coast are almost untouched by tourism. Much of the coastline is mangrove forest, with large areas of rubber plantations in the hills, along with shrimp farms, small fishing villages, quiet bays and some great views if you drive round the hilly back roads. If we're lost for something to do, we often just "go for a drive" and see what we can find. And so one day, must have been in 2005 or 2006, we found Bang Rong. Check the photo below. Yes, this is Phuket.

Old boat man at Bang Rong, Phuket

Bang Rong is a small Muslim community on the North East coast close to Bang Pae Waterfall and the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project. From Bang Rong Pier you can take a ferry to Koh Yao Noi, which we have done a few times.

The road down to the pier is easy enough to find, turn right off the main road at the mosque, about 1km north of the entrance to Bang Pae waterfall. There's a map at the bottom of the page. There's an entrance gate to the pier. If you are parking long term, like getting a ferry to Koh Yao Noi, then you have to pay. If you are just coming to eat, you do not have to pay. You might see monkeys in the mangroves or on the road near the pier, or they might come out to say hello. They can be a bit cheeky.

Be careful a monkey, Phuket

Monkey eating car aerial

We've been here many times now, and we like the small family run floating restaurant (it's actually called Chum Chon restaurant, though we always just call it Bang Rong, after its location) reached by a wooden walkway through the mangroves.

Bang Rong - Walkway to the restaurant

I am happy to say that we'll be back here again to eat. It's remained a favourite spot for many years. It's quiet, it's relaxing and it's friendly. On our last visit in July 2012, we probably had not been for a year, but they remembered us. You can get seafood here, and I saw a huge plate of curried crab being carried to another table. We ordered simple fried rice with prawns, and fried chicken with garlic. They do the simple food very well. My wife says the fried rice is one of the best she's had. The chicken they did for the kids was great too. Tasted to good, I forgot to take a photo. Will have to go again soon and get some "food porn" photos!

Chumchon Floating Restaurant

Out back they keep the fish, either for sale in the restaurant or at market. The whole Bang Rong area is full of fishing folk who are only just starting to make any money from tourism. By the way, the owners are a Muslim family and they don't sell alcohol here, so don't come looking for a quiet place for a cold Singha!

Girl at Bang Rong, Phuket

I like to sit at our table and snap pictures of passing boats, heading up the mangrove channel. It's a different world here, a million miles from the tourist beaches and yet only about a 25 minute drive from our house.

Boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

Oar powered longtail boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

There are some kayaks for rent, which you can paddle up into the mangroves. They have a deal with a couple of tour companies to include a quick paddle in the tour itinerary. Or you can just rent one (with or without a paddler, who will be one of the family running the restaurant). We did this a few years ago and have meant to do it again - see Kayaking in the Mangroves. I think the rental price for a kayak is 150 Baht/hour. It's a nice way to spend an hour.

Kayaking in Phuket

Kayak at Bang Rong, Phuket

As we were leaving the restaurant, a longtail boat was coming in from Koh Yao Noi. Every boatman has his "boy" (often a son or relative) to help with the boat. I watched them approach and tie up the boat through my 300mm zoom!

Longtail boat approaching Bang Rong, Phuket

Longtail boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

Longtail boat man at Bang Rong, Phuket

Bang Rong is one of our favourite quiet places to sit and relax. It's very peaceful here, just the odd longtail engine to disturb the silence. Makes a good day out combined with the waterfall, the gibbons, a kayak trip in the mangroves, maybe a visit to the Thalang National Museum which is also not far away.

Bang Rong - Location Map

View Bang Rong, Phuket in a larger map

Edit and Delete ...

I made a conscious decision at the onset of this whole blogging thing, that it would not be about the nightlife or the seedier side of Thailand’s reputation, or mine. There were some very practical reasons in my mind at the time, even though it would have been quite easy to titillate my readers with stories of my twenty some years of lecherous, debauchery. Don’t get me wrong. I would not change any of it, for I would not be who I am today, if not for all that went before. It is one of those oddities of life that the darker the environs one inhabits, the more light it sheds on the human condition. There are few other places where I could have learned as much. I do find it unseemly for a man of my age to be recanting the sexploits of a long past era, however. I passed that baton to the next generation some ten years ago.

Yet, this blog entry started a few days ago, did digress. At some point I let my guard down and started talking about things I had said I wouldn’t. I did find the delete key, eventually, but it took awhile. I tried to blame it on a younger friend of mine, who has recently engaged me in some friendly email banter. Being recently set free from a multi year relationship, he is making up for lost time, one might say. He enjoys tormenting me by recanting, with vivid imagery, his conquests and is quick to use my infamous past against me when I plead for mercy. After all he exclaims, he is simple following in my footsteps and I should be proud to have such a devout and dedicated disciple. He is a good friend in every other way, even though no longer part of our favorite couple. We do remain close with both, as it should be. Things are definitely not the same, however, and it should be interesting to watch our relationships transform.

Upon restarting this entry I took a look at what I had written and tried to look at it through your eyes. Though I had been honest and somewhat discrete, I still came off as more of a pompous ass than normal and definitely a braggart. That is when the delete key started looming large in the upper right hand corner. I not only stopped living that life, I stopped visiting those places or reading anything regarding the subject a very long time ago. I actually seem to have developed an aversion to the whole scene, something like I imagine an ex-smoker or recovering alcoholic, might have for their past vices.

With so many eager writers out there discussing and reporting on what goes on, I don’t imagine one less contributor will be missed. Again, I am not telling anyone else what they should or should not be doing with their lives. Besides being a waist of time, I don’t often fall into the group that looks at others and says they could do so much better. I am more apt to believe that, what they are doing or who they are with, is in a very real sense “the best they can do.”

Theoretically we could all do better but in reality we have limitations, both personal and environmental, which are extremely difficult to overcome. That is assuming we are even aware of such things. If one is stuck on the bottom rung or two of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs then, rightly so, all this nonsense that I go on about must seem very tedious. When all those other needs are satisfied, however, one has to ask what is left to do? Greedily chase more of the same, or ponder some larger question of ...?

Something New (revisited) ...

For those born to the manor be, today’s story will be of interest, to none but me. Whatever the title one may use or choose, (retainer, domestic, cleaner, lackey, flunky, minion, maid, footman, page boy, valet, butler, manservant, housekeeper, steward, drudge, menial or slave), ones self respect you are apt to lose.

The whole idea of servants has always gone against the grain a bit with us. So what are we doing employing domestic help? Justification and rationalization is easy enough to articulate. We need the help. The house is too big. We are providing employment. I want more time with my wife. If, like us however, you are not accustom to “using” others it is not an easy adjustment.

We have no doubt added to the confusion by not knowing exactly what we want. I imagine we had some vague notion of a “Mommy” to take care of us. Of course the unfortunate village girl, had no more clue than us, what we wanted. After discussing the situation, and a good long look in the proverbial mirror, the wife and I came up with an action plan to help the girl to be successful. We recognized that it can be stressful to be put in a situation where you don’t know what is expected of you or don’t know how to do something. With some teaching, direction and a little more structure things are starting to run more smoothly.

Not sure how it will be taken but we try to treat her like family and include her in things. Sunday is kind of a default “family day” in Thailand. Even the most philandering male is likely to spend time with his “main” family on this day. With my wife’s brother leaving tomorrow, after visiting his son for a few days, and the niece being out of school for the day we decided to head off for the nearest waterfall. For us that would be Tat Khwan, around eighteen kilometers from home.

It took some doing but we talked the maid into joining us with her two children. With a mere eight and one half people in our party (the baby hardly rates as a full person) we were perhaps undersized and could have stuffed a few more bodies in the back of the truck. As many villagers focus on hard work and even harder drinking, I was easily persuaded to provide an alternative on the day. My wife is far more inclined to include children in our outings than I but the four we took (baby included) had the kind of fun reserved for the young of age or the young at heart. I played the part of chauffeur and photographer, keeping everyone safe and recording the event. Everyone else had a great time so I’m okay with that, though I would have far preferred being there alone with my wife and maybe a dog.

I doubt we could find anyone better suited to our needs in this village, so we are determined to make this work. As previously mentioned, the inquiries and speculation of the locals have blessed us with many a chuckle and reinforced the feeling in our maid that she has a pretty good deal. Do they make you do this or that, terrible thing? What do you do there? How do they treat you? Isn’t the farang difficult? How do you talk to him? Aren’t you afraid of their vicious dogs or perhaps ghosts. Why are you here at sports day, don’t they make you work everyday? Are you still working for them? Again, money is a difficult subject. Some ask why we pay her so much, while others say we are stingy. You just can’t win.

I find it strategically helpful to garner some clue as to how we are viewed by the villagers. Not that it is of great concern to us but by being informed we are able to moderate their concerns at times, discreetly. Of course some things they will just have to learn to deal with. Like no big house warming party. People around here don’t seem to mind hard work as long as you pay enough. They do seem to have a notion that being a maid is somehow demeaning, however. I wondered out load to my wife, how they feel when our maid is hiring them to do odd jobs and supervising their work? She assured me, they know where the orders and money come from, so they wouldn’t be inclined to give her any additional respect.

That thought might be extended to my own notion of working behind the scenes as a silent partner. I certainly hope not, as my wife deserves every bit of credit they might give her. The maid’s husband has helped with some yard-work. Her son needed some money so we allowed him to help his mother for a few days. Many village boys his age refuse to work so when grownups saw him, they were very generous with their praise. Hopefully, that will reinforce the development of a work ethic in her son and help keep him out of trouble.

My wife is quite nurturing by nature and among other things usually has lunch with the workers and sees that they are well taken care of. I keep my distance as that is who I am, and helps maintain my mystique. I also feel it works better if we speak with one voice. To date the maid is still adding to my wife’s burden but it is early days and we are beginning to reap the benefits. So we are still in the process of learning our job, much as our maid is learning hers.

More Q & A ...

Hope you don't mind the inclusion of an action shot from my active social life.

Well, where to begin, with so many topics to choose from?

First I refuse to be drawn into semantic word games. There is far too much of that in the forums and it is always a downhill path.

I loved that really polite, roundabout way of asking me “How Much”? As noted, figures run to the extremes. It is just such a personal and individualized subject, that in spite of its obvious importance to all of us, I refuse to comment on money and how much. I liken it to asking about the specifics of one’s private parts. There is simply no polite, discrete way to inquire about the size, shape, appearance, smell and pubic array of someone else’s partner, for example. Sorry, money is important, as is sex, but you will just have to figure out that one, all by yourself.

As for the question about why I “retired” at the tender young age of 53, perhaps I shouldn’t correct you by informing you that the actual age was more like 40. That is apt to raise even more questions than it answers. I am unable to make any grandiose claims of being a self-made man. I always hated work and everything about it, but that is a very long, drawn out philosophical debate, better suited for another time. I can say that I have always been very, very disciplined and in control of my finances. A fair amount of luck has lead me to where I am now, however.

DAGO, what can I say? From what I have seen, there isn’t anything you can learn from me. You are doing just fine. I feel a kinship and truly enjoy having you along for the ride. I hope you stick around.

Finally we arrive at the winning question of the day. “Who is this woman that has changed your life?” Thanks JK for giving me the opening to discuss one of my favorite subjects. Specifically my wife and more generally, women.

I read the question to my wife and asked her if perhaps I should say that I had made or created her. Her response was typical. “Tell them I couldn’t change you “at all” and you changed me “a lot” (note: long drawn out pronunciation).” Perhaps it is semantics but I wouldn’t say I really changed her. I simply used my advanced age and extensive experience to manipulate her into finding her own potential. Understand, I have friends that bristle at the notion of game playing or manipulation. I find their arguments more than a bit naive. Life is difficult enough without limiting ones arsenal of tools and techniques to achieve a successful conclusion. Why should I not take advantage of all I have learned over the years, from all the various women I have known?

Born the oldest of three siblings, in a then remote and very poor Northern Thai Village. Born to a singularly simple mother, both illiterate and unintelligent. Her father epitomized all that I find disdainful about my own sex. Had he been born in my country, to more money and had a different family name, he could have been elected President. As it was, his attempts to be elected village headman were to no avail. I doubt even his own family voted for him.

I would suspect that being the oldest child and having that responsibility laid upon her slender shoulders, molded her character to some extent. Uniquely, she is a self described chameleon, capable of adapting and blending in to almost any situation, social or cultural group.

I recognized elements of her life that had been lacking and went about creating a fertile environment that would nurture her neglected potential. It took some time and trial and error before she began to find out who she was. Reminiscent of the movie Runaway Bride where she had to compare egg recipes to determine what she “really” liked. She is still a work in progress and struggles with some control issues. But then again, I have enough control for both of us. That is part of the synergism of our relationship. We are better together than separate. We compliment rather than compete. I am the rock that brings stability and she is the water that comforts and envelops me, as well as the air I breath.

Experience had taught me to be guarded and elusive. She released a kinder gentler me, capable of feeling and more importantly, showing those feelings, at least to her. On a more practical level we both had a checklist of things that we knew from experience were deal-breakers in a relationship. I had tired of the following scenario.

Somtam, gossip, gambling, shopping, somtam, alcohol, superstition, no can’t do that, no don’t like that, somtam, Thai soap operas, one baht comic books, celebrity gossip, no interest in anything new, somtam, no hobbies, no interests other than food, shopping and money, untrusting and untrustworthy, petty, competitive, jealous, and even more somtam.

Sure she is Thai, so still likes some of that stuff (somtam) but she reads books in English (Da Vinci Code for example). She went skydiving and hiked with me in amazing places. She has foreign girlfriends not just Thai. She is trusting and never goes through my stuff. She eats and enjoys many different cuisines though sadly she is not a great cook. Not for want of trying, however. I eat and praise what she feeds me while she chides me for my dishonesty. We tease each other mercilessly at times. We, however, never loose sight of the big picture and as she says, “Even when I hate you, I still love you.”

I believe her list included things like no alcohol, smoking, gambling, wife beating, philandering, no all night soccer matches on TV, ample time for showering her with attention, a touch of arrogance, a strong physical attraction and basically not to be anything like her father. Fortunately we share the same flaw or age issues. Neither of us are attracted to members of the opposite sex who are in the same age group. That definitely works to our mutual advantage.

I admire the courage of those who trustingly dive headfirst into uncharted waters. That is far beyond my capacity. I revel in diversity and complexity and view the world from my own skewed perspective. Perhaps I have raised more questions for you than I have answered on this day but I strive more to stir the pot and improve the flavor of life than to put a period at the end of a sentence or a dollar sign to anything.

The Ninth Floor Restaurant (Patong)

The Ninth Floor is not the kind of restaurant we would normally visit, but last week we had a company meal and decided a fancy dinner was in order. We got a babysitter for the kids and were able to enjoy fine dining with views over the "lights of Patong"... Worth getting dressed up for! It's called the highest open air restaurant in Phuket, well kind of - there are huge ceiling high sliding windows that create an open air atmosphere.

Ninth Floor view over Patong

OK, so here's a reason to visit Patong. The Ninth Floor was quite a treat, and we might just go back sometime soon! This is a lovely little restaurant, with top service, an extensive menu, a huge wine list, oh... and (I only found out when I got there, as it was not on the menu) they sell HofBrau beer - 190 Baht per bottle and worth every satang. I had several... and one for luck.

The food was great. I had an Australian Tenderloin Au Poivre, and I have to say the next day my taste buds were craving more of the same. Going back to Phad Thai was hard work. Another of our party had a very tasty looking Lamb Shank in a red wine sauce, oh and the starters were mouth watering too - I had Eggplant gratin, filled with feta cheese, chick peas and tomato au gratin with parmesan cheese. My wife had the smoked salmon. As I say, not the kind of food we normally eat. It's not a cheap place, but if you are coming from Europe or North America on holiday, it would not be an extravagant meal... a treat maybe, but not outrageous - see the menu on the Ninth Floor website for prices.

Steak at The Ninth Floor

You can find The Ninth Floor on (yes, that's right) the 9th Floor of the Sky Inn Condotel in Patong, towards the North end of Ratuthid road (the main road through the center of Patong). Parking is a bit tight around the area. Reservations are recommended. Ask for a table by the window. Treat yourself.

The Ninth Floor website (opens in new window)
More Phuket Restaurant Tips
Patong Beach Hotels

Why Blog ... (again) ??? ...

Sorry to return to this theme of, why blog, so often but I am intrigued as to how it has insinuated its way into my life. One kind of expects that writing will glue your butt to a chair, staring at a monster screen, with chill-house mood music, oozing from iTunes. For me, the surprising thing about writing is that it primarily takes place on the trails with my dogs, feeding the fish in the pond, sipping my morning brew or talking things over with my wife. Something will pop into my mind and stick there like one of those advertising ditties. It nags at me and begs to be put on the page.

Then I get to see what you guys latch onto a choose to comment on. Everyone has their own special reading glasses and will tend to fixate on some innocuous side remark and make the whole thing about that. Once I put it out there it belongs to the reader, in a way. I write what I need to write and you read what you want to read. Guess I don’t see anything wrong with that. That is pretty much the way life works. You really have no control over the other guy.

I seem to have lost some readers along the way. Some I may have offended, while others perhaps found something better to do. Others may still be lingering in the shadows waiting for me write something of interest to them. I was surprised by my own reaction to a few people who said they sat down and read my blog from beginning to end. I was quite moved by that. So I guess I’m not as Teflon coated as I thought and I’m still working on whether I’m okay with that or not.

So now in a break with my past, similar to my move to the countryside, I find that writing has subtly and seductively wormed its way into my life. Perhaps unknowingly, more of me is slipping into the subtext and style of these pages than I originally intended. It feels good to write, and if anything I am a hedonist who craves sensation, beauty, comfort and pleasure. Anything that feels this good can’t be all bad and deserves to be explored and expanded if possible.

Your questions and comments, more often than not, provide only the merest hint of your interests and who you are, so I try not to make judgements or assumptions. With the vast majority of you having the same name (anonymous) it makes it harder still to be certain who is returning and how often. There seems to be plenty to write about but I have been toying recently with the idea of accommodating the interests of my readers and putting my ego on the back burner, if only briefly. Maybe it is time for a little more Q & A? I would like to hear from you and know what might be of interest to you. No guaranties of course, that I will be able to or interested in giving you what you want, but it would still be interesting to explore the possibilities.

So, what do you say?