Floods in April !!! ...

Being unable to afford lakeside property, we just let the lake come to us. In the matter of a few hours the other morning, water completely surrounded the house except for the road. Last year in August they said it was the worst flood in 20+ years, but this time was even worse, and in April of all times. Nobody had every seen anything like this in April! Our new concrete road became a gathering and viewing site for the neighbors. A place to gawk and stare, and plan the best place to lay their nets. At least we are high and dry, for the most part. Snakes, lizards, mice, frogs, and millions of bugs and spiders, were all trying to escape the floods.

We had planned to put a wall around our pond next week to keep the fish in but it is too late for that this year. One day the fish were in our pond. The next day they were on someone else’s dinner plate. The pond was indiscernible from the water that engulfed the entire valley. And people think upcountry life is boring!

May be hard to visualize so I’m including a few pictures this time.

Street Food: Pa Tong Go

I guess that I buy what can be termed "street food" almost every day. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but there are stalls selling all kinds of food all over Phuket, indeed all over Thailand. On the street corner near my workplace in Karon Beach you can find (either fixed in place or on mobile stalls) somtam, fried chicken, fruits, corn, pancakes, cakes and deserts, ice cream, sticky rice and more. Some stalls are more or less permanent, some are fixed to motorbikes and make the rounds, some are pushed on carts, some carried on bicycles. Mostly the street stalls sell snacks rather than meals, though there are also mobile stalls selling kuay tiow (noodle soup) or phad thai.

Pa Tong Go (or Pa Thong Go, or Pa Tong Ko, transliteration is a bit tricky with Thai words!), are small fried pieces of dough, a bit like doughnuts in the shape of, well, in the shape of a chromosome (or an X). You get them crispy or soft, varying in size and exact shape, depends exactly what stall you choose. The food stalls below are near my house in Kathu village.

Street food in Kathu, Phuket

There's a Pa Tong Go stall, a fried chicken stall and a Salapao stall. They always seem to be quite busy! They're only open in the morning. Pa Tong Go is not strictly breakfast food, but many stalls are only open early morning. The ones I know tend to be all finished by 9am. The dough is ready prepared at home, then cut into pieces as needed and thrown into hot oil. Only takes a couple of minutes to cook.

Cooking Pa Tong Go Pa Tong Go Stall

The stall in Kathu makes on demand, does not tend to have a pile sitting around, which is good, as Pa Tong Go are much better when hot and fresh, Once they cool down and go a bit soggy, well, they're not as nice - that's my excuse for eating as many as possible as fast as possible! A 20 Baht bag is good enough for me, though they can addictive and sometimes 20 Baht leaves me wanting more!

Pa Tong Go, bagged and ready to eat

Another good spot is in Patong (note: in Thai, "Patong" and "Pa Tong" Go are not spelt the same) at the end of Soi Kebsup, not too far from the Holiday Inn on Rat U Thid road. When I was working in Patong in 2006 I used to get Pa Tong Go from this stall several times per week. It was a busier place than Kathu Village, always had a pile ready but they always cooked fresh ones for me :)

Pa Tong Go in Patong

Pa Tong Ko - Street snack

I just eat them plain, maybe dunked in my coffee, but you can see in the photo above bags of soy milk (white) and a sweet green cream flavoured with pandanus (or pandan) leaf, which some people buy to eat with their Pa Tong Go. Not sure about that myself. Pandan is an acquired taste, which I have not acquired! Thai sweet things do tend to be very sweet. Pa Tong Go I recommend eaten as they are, freshly cooked, with a nice cup of coffee. Enjoy!

Related blog posts

Fruit Stalls
Phuket Weekend Market
Restaurants that we like

More Phuket Bloggers

If you search hard enough around the internet or dig deeper into Google, you may find that Jamie's Phuket is not the only blog about Phuket or written by someone in Phuket. I keep an eye on some other people's blogs looking for different angles on Phuket, something I have not seen or thought of blogging about. Everyone has a different point of view, though I'd say all the blogs and bloggers listed below have one thing in common - all are Phuket lovers!

Although Jamie's Phuket (that's this blog) is my main blog, I keep several others which are updated with varying degrees of diligence. The Phuket Weather Blog is kept updated now and then, reporting on weather and local news, normally with photos that show the weather. There are lots webcams and lots of links to other useful weather sites too. It sometimes gets more visitors than Jamie's Phuket! A lot of people search for weather information and the Phuket weather blog always sits in the top 10 for a Google "Phuket Weather" search.

I have a couple of others - We Love Phuket has a fair amount of information on things like cheap places to stay in Phuket and how to get to Phuket, and some Phuket related videos. Another blog is Monk in Thailand, which mentions such diverse subjects as Thailand's Got Talent, Ladyboys or how to pronounce Phuket.

So, what about other people? These are some blogs I can recommend for Phuket information - and this is "blog" information rather than tour guide information (you know, always sunny, everyone smiles, Phuket is the pearl of Thailand yada yada). Blogs are becoming quite important to travel - you can get a locals point of view and check out other travelers reports too. Here are some recommended blogs. Some are updated more often than others.

Tim in Phuket - Tim is a hotel manager and (like me) enjoys the local side of Phuket life.
And Three To Go - Family living in Phuket for the last year or so.
Cathy and Gary - They don't live here, but often visit Phuket. Their site has loads and loads of information.
Dawn in Phuket - Dawn has lived here many years and also prefers the local side of life.
Pekka in Phuket - Great to have a new point of view and some nice photos too!
Phuketastic - German language blog by Sebastian
Paddling in Phuket - Oyvinds blog I just found recently, he kayaks around Phuket, mostly in less-explored areas. I like .. but not updated since 2012.
Alasdairs Blog - Al is an old Phuket hand, lots of stories to tell... but not updated much
Matt's Phuket - Not updated for over a year, but Matt likes to explore the back roads.
Jim in Phuket - Almost my mirror image - married, 2 kids, living in Phuket, guess we'll meet for a beer one day! (not updated since 2009)
Lana in Phuket - Lana is also married with 2 kids, like me ... but she's a mum.
Glenn in Phuket - Glenn hikes, plays guitar and sells thermal clothing online! I did a (hard) hike with him in 2009.

If you have a blog about Phuket or know a good one, please let me know!

The Visitors ...

Everyone was up early today. Bathing, packing, eating, getting organized and saying goodbyes. After stuffing all the bags and ten people into the van our guests were off, on a very, very long drive home. It had been an interesting couple of days and a successful test of how our house would handle a large group of visitors. We had expected them to stay longer and I believe they really wanted to, but plans have a way of changing, just like the weather.

The weather had been very hot leading up to their arrival but turned overcast and cooler for the duration of their stay. Wish I could say I had something to do with that, but alas, they no doubt brought the weather with them. We didn’t have nearly enough time to do justice to the sights of Chiang Rai but we did work in an early morning hike to the dam, a waterfall, some mountains and some time in the village. The high point was just being able to spend time eating and visiting with old friends and meeting their extended Isaan family. I won the bet, when our friend showed up with a van full of girls. His wife brought three sisters and five kids. They were remarkably well behaved considering the range in age and interests. I’m quite sure it would have been more difficult with little boys or men in the mix.

We put our friends up in western style, in the guest room by the pond, while the extended family made themselves at home in a big room off of the kitchen, where we normally play ping pong or my wife does yoga to a video. To accommodate feeding twelve people we moved the dinning table off to the side, where the two farang “kings” could sit on their thrones and dine in comfort. In the newly formed open space, mats were spread and food was arranged, so that everyone could reach their favorites. With five women to share the work load and five ravenous, but well mannered little girls, to liven things up, everyone had a good time and nobody had to work too hard.

Some might be disapproving of the guys not joining in the festivities on the floor. In our defense, however, my friend had been on the road for days. He did all the driving, navigating and organizing while having only his wife to speak English with. So a little farang food and conversation was not entirely out of line. In my book the guy has the patience of a saint. You would never catch me planning a trip like that. Though everything went well, selfishly, I would have preferred having our friends to ourselves for a week or two. Perhaps their next visit will consist of four grownups doing more grownup things.

The two of us are a study in the difference between an old timer like me, who has lived here forever, and a guy who doesn’t live here, but has a very long term relationship with Thailand through his wife and her extended family. He is never here for any length of time so moves at a pace which I am unable to maintain. Trying to include everyone, and do and see everything, in a very limited time window, is a major dividing line between resident and visitor. In the end we have more in common than not and are far removed from the elbow benders and barstool warmers that lust after everything that moves or breaths. Memories of that life are so faded as to be unrecognizable from our present vantage points. As word spreads, no doubt other friends will want to “see for themselves” and they will be a welcome change of pace in our otherwise remote and quiet existence.

New Poem ...

Another poem is probably not what you’re looking for.
And I know that I’ve written on this subject before.
But I seem to be in need of a little more therapy.
So please bear with me and accept my apology.
Should I write from the heart and say what I feel?
Should I measure my words for greater appeal?
Should we relate through poetry or prose?
Speak of happy things or share our woes?
Do we ever really listen to what others say?
Do we just speak louder to get our own way?
Is there a way to give answers without causing hurt?
Is there a way to avoid answering without being curt?
Some suggest that I should be a bit lighter.
But wouldn’t that make me, less of a writer?
I could fake it guess, making my words airy and light.
Somehow deep in my soul, it just wouldn’t feel right.
When I look at people I wish they thought so much more.
I am equally certain many find me a terrible bore.
Serious questions about life’s meaning and our role.
Never delve below the surface or plumb the soul?
Searching for meaning, answers or direction.
Which to choose, deep thought or bold action?
Being serious and thoughtful is not the present trend.
People aimlessly wandering from beginning to end.
No life goals of things to do along the way.
Just bills and possessions and how do I pay.
Do you head down life’s highway, full speed ahead?
Do you ride the brakes until the day you are dead?
Will a final accounting be filled with blessings or regrets?
Will you beg for more time, claiming “I’m not ready yet”?

A Working Lunch

One of the joys of living and working in Thailand is the abundance of street food and cheap local restaurants. Within a few minutes walk or bike ride of my office in Karon Beach, there's a huge selection of dining options from the well known Phad Thai shop to Noodle stalls, the local Som Tam lady, the slightly pricier Mama Noi (but Mama Noi's banana shakes at 30 Baht are a steal), and several small local restaurants that you probably wouldn't look twice at, BUT are the best place to get cheap local food.

Take away banana shake from Mama Noi, Karon

There are also places to get "Western" food - such as English breakfasts and my (occasional) favourite - egg, bacon, chips & beans at the Pineapple Guesthouse, and the Pineapple just opened a small cafe there too for cheap Thai food. There's even a pizza place round the corner, but somehow pizza is a bit too heavy for a quick lunch.

And everyone, it seems, eats out for lunch. The little local restaurants are busy. The Phad Thai place is always packed - and here's why... It's cheap, even on a lower local wage, a 30 Baht lunch is not going to kill you. Mind you, with prices of staple foods such as rice increasing dramatically worldwide recently, I was shocked to be charged 35 Baht this week for my Phad Thai! These places rely on high volume of local trade to make a profit, so prices are kept as low as possible - their costs are usually minimal - no rent, family run business (no staff costs), often outdoor or open air, so no lights, aircon or fans to run, and food is basic. Just what you need for a working lunch!

Take away Kana Moo Grop from local restaurant in Karon

Today I got a plate of fried Kana (aka Kale or Chinese Broccoli) with "Moo Grob" (crispy pork), with a fried egg on top (Kai Dao) - had a proper working lunch, got it to take away and eat in the office - see photo above. Often do this, as it means I can eat in the aircon :) The little restaurant where I bought it can be found just over the road from Mama Noi, opposite the Siam Commercial Bank on the back road of Karon Beach.

Happy eating!

Happy Thai New Year

Tis the Thai New Year with so much going on.
Everyone home for the holiday but soon to be gone.
They don’t live in the village they’ve moved to the city.
Not living near family and friends is really such a pity.
Before it seemed that village life was more than enough.
But now their kids seem to need so much more stuff.
They look so much happier when they are all home.
But for money and possessions they find they must roam.
As I play protector of my family, there is an image in my head.
But its not of fun and revelry, its of the growing number of dead.
I have no issue, with people wanting to have fun.
Just wish they could do it, without loosing anyone.
Soon they will leave, but no need for a long goodbye.
They will have to come back, for all those who will die.
Sure I wish things were different, but what can I do.
Except of course, to write it all down and share it with you.
So Happy New Year to all and to all my best wishes.
Here things are a mess, so I best help my wife dry the dishes.

Songkran Festival

Another year rolls in. Here in Thailand you have several New Year celebrations to choose from, or you can have all of them... Aside from 1st January, you also have the Chinese new Year and the traditional Thai new year, Songkran, which used to be the date for changing the year on the calendar. Thailand only adopted the Western New Year in 1940. Songkran is one of the biggest celebrations in Thailand, mixing tradition, family and of course plenty of Sanook (fun). The traditions still apply - New Year is a time for cleaning your home, and wishing elders good luck by sprinkling them gently with water. Buddha images are also cleansed. We started our Songkran this year with some tradition...

Prayers for Songkran Cleaning the King

And then took a drive around Phuket Town. Much of the town seemed very quiet, as the local police have been really trying to make things safer this year, with water throwing only supposed to be in designated areas to prevent accidents. We started to wonder where all the people had gone... maybe all gone to Patong as we had done last year? Finally as we headed down Phuket Road towards Sapan Hin, we found the center of local festivities. The road was lined with people throwing water and full of pick up trucks loaded with local folk and large barrels of water. Little chance of traffic accidents here as the traffic was moving so slowly, but that gave me the chance to snap some photos out of the window...

Songkran is great fun for kids Who shall we shoot next?

Can I please make your shirt wetter?

Good shot, sir!

Water thrower on pick up truck

Free for all pick up truck water fight

We decided against Patong Beach this year, though I would have liked to see some of the big bikes, as the Phuket Bike Week coincides with Songkran, but getting to Patong involves busy roads and too much traffic - it took an hour to drive there last year from home, a trip which normally takes 10 minutes. Instead we took a break and went for a quiet lunch by the beach, then headed home where the kids were given free reign to throw water at mum and dad.

Little boy gets his chance

Daddy gets a soaking

More Songkran 2008 Photos on the Songkran 2008 Blog

Wishing you all a Sawadee Pee Mai from Phuket. If anyone has some cool Songkran photos please leave a comment with a link to the photos!

Songkran is coming!

There's just a few more days until Songkran, one of Thailand's most famous festivals, also known as the water festival, or more specifically, the water fight festival. Not sure who to blame for this, as Songkran is actually the traditional Thai New Year (January 1st has only been the start of the year here since 1940). This always used to be (and indeed still is) the time for Thai people to pray to Buddha, clean their houses, and sprinkle water on their elders as a show of respect. The traditional aspect is still there, but as a tourist in the beach areas, what you will see is lots of water, lots of partying, lots of drinking and lots of fun! Just be prepared to get wet. Do not carry valuable electronic devices in the streets of Patong. Get a camera with a case like a snorkel camera if you want to take photos, or do what I did last year and stay in the car and take photos through the window!

Kids throwing water, Phuket, Songkran 2007

Last year we had a busy day visiting Mai Khao Beach for a local turtle release ceremony (turtles symbolise long life), then took a break before heading into Patong. I think this year we'll take it much easier, do the traditional cleaning, take the images from the Buddha Shelf and clean them outside, maybe visit a temple.. we just got a new car and I don't want to drive around and get it dirty :) We'll see - we might just decide to go and join some friends at Patong Beach, have some drinks and throw water around. See you there!

Songkran Photos 2007
Songkran Photos 2006

Jamie's Phuket Songkran 2007 in the Phuket Post

Get a copy of the Phuket Post newspaper! The editor contacted me last week to republish some of the Songkran 2007 blog entry in their paper (see photo). Wow - I was quite happy about that, nice to know someone likes this blog! There may be more of Jamie's Phuket in the Phuket Post in the future....

Jamie's Phuket Songkran 2007 in the Phuket Post

Home is where? ...

They say, home is where the heart is, but is anything ever that simple? I’m quite sure there is no single equation that covers all people through every stage of their lives. At different times we seek and need different things. There is, however, a standard warning from old Thailand dinosaurs like myself, that moving to Thailand will not fix your life for you. Whatever your problems, wherever you are, wherever you go, they will most likely accompany you on your journey. They are constant companions through life’s adventures. We are who we are, forever repeating the same mistakes, making the same choices and whining about why this always happens to me.

That said, “place or location” can have a major impact, on your ability to realize your potential for happiness in this life. No, I am not being contradictory or convoluted in my thought process here. Think of yourself as a business venture of some sort. If you’re a bad idea from the get go, then location won’t help much. If you’re a good idea in a bad location, again you have little hope of success. Now find just the right place, where people might be willing to buy, whatever it is you are selling, and magic can happen.

This is not, a one size fits all for all time, formula. One’s needs change over time. When I was young, freedom and adventure were utmost on my agenda. I had no interest in family or commitment or home. Go, see, do and jettison anything that slowed my travels or hindered my mobility. As I have gotten older, and my family has begun to fade, my needs have changed. Of course I am happiest in the presence of my loving wife but the “house” has created a relaxed environment in which to enjoy each others company. The “place” has made a difference.

My recent trip to Hawaii was anything but a return to my “home”, that it once was. If you have dreams of living to a venerable old age, try living in a retirement home for a week. It may change your mind. Being with my parents in that environment did not help to make it feel like “home.” The sights, sounds, smells and food could not be hidden by the otherwise beautiful surroundings. As a stomach flu spread, the dining room was closed and all public activities were cancelled for several days. This made an already depressing environment all the more morbid and confining. Even though my heart is with my aging parents, I was most certainly not at “home” with them, in their new accommodation.

So before, I guess, my parents and their home were my de-facto safe place, which gave me the freedom to roam unencumbered. But, my father’s increasing frailty and my mother not knowing who I am much of the time, does not make one feel all safe, warm and fuzzy. It feels like that sense of home has been ripped from me, forever. Now I am trying to build my own home, complete with land, house, wife and her family, in my adopted country. All in anticipation of that day, when there is no one above me on the family tree.

And yes, after thirty some years, I know that I made the right move by coming to Thailand. I was too young for it to have fixed anything in my life but it was a very good fit for me. It allowed me to become who I am today and live a life unimaginable if I had stayed in my country of birth. For some, Thailand will be the biggest mistake they ever make. Others, however, will feel a sense of release. There will be a freedom to grow into your own skin and realize potential. Don’t ask me, however, which one you will be. That is entirely up to you to discover, but wouldn’t you rather know, than spend your life wondering?

Sapan Hin (Phuket Town)

I do like to explore Phuket Town (now officially called Phuket City). It's a town full of interest, history and the best place for taking a peek at the "real" Phuket away from the tourist zones. There have been quite few blog posts about Old Phuket Town which is my favourite area of Phuket, and I'd like to blog some other parts of town too. One area that we often visit is Sapan Hin (also spelled Saphan Hin).

Sapan Hin is a large open area in the south of town - follow Phuket Road south from the center and keep going. You'll pass Bang Neow Chinese shrine on the way and the Phuket Immigration office. As you reach Sapan Hin, theres an odd shaped monument in the center of a traffic circle - it's apparently meant to represent a drill bit and is dedicated to the tin mining industry that made Phuket rich during the 19th and early 20th century.

Sapan Hin Mining Monument

As you continue, you pass sports facilities - there are several sports halls (we have been to watch my father in law play Takraw here) and a Muay Thai stadium (there are weekly fights every Friday), tennis courts, an ICT center plus a small stadium and open playing fields. The Sapan Hin area was built on reclaimed land, designed to provide space for public facilities and a recreation area near the town. Sapan Hin is right by the ocean which is slowly trying to reclaim the reclaimed land! Major work was undertaken a few years ago to fix the erosion and make a nice park with paths for walking, benches, grassy areas and rocks that make ideal seats.

Sapan Hin, Saturday evening

In the morning you'll find people out jogging or exercising or just sitting enjoying the fresh sea air. There is a mangrove walkway here too, and it looked like the old wooden walkway was being replaced when I was there last week. The shallow seas here, along with mangroves and mudflats make this a good place for birdspotting - have a look at Ike Suriwong's Phuket Birdwatching Blog for more information. The shallows are also used by people out hunting for shellfish at low tide ...

Looking for shellfish in the mud at Sapan Hin, Phuket

At the south end of Sapan Hin there's a Chinese shrine, one of many in Phuket Town, which has a large Thai-Chinese population. This shrine is called Kiew Tian Shrine, and plays a major part in the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival - all the street processions during the festival visit Sapan Hin.

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine Ceiling

Before saying any more, a word of warning. Sapan Hin is a nice area to walk around, and I would say is quite safe in the day time or early evening. At night (unless there's a fair going on) maybe a different story. I have quite a few times of gangs fighting here, drugged up kids, people fighting, drinking gangs gathering etc... Not a place to be wandering around late at night. Every town has such places!

Having said that, Saphan Hin's large open areas are used regularly for municipal fairs, festivals and concerts. We have been to Sapan Hin for such events as the Food Festival, the OTOP Fair, the Phuket Flower Fair.

Evening at Sapan Hin

(above) Evening view from Sapan Hin over the water to the east side of Phuket Town

On the west side of Sapan Hin, the Bang Yai canal flows into the sea. Years ago (when the canal was actually used for transporting goods) the canal was probably rather cleaner... Looks very green now and I am sorry to say there is a fair amount of garbage in the water. The canal flows right through Phuket Town (in town it's very small but used to be wide enough for cargo boats 100 years ago). At Sapan Hin, you can find many small fishing boats using the canal as their "port". The boats are mostly small longtail boats rather than larger fishing boats which are found at Rassada port on the east side of Phuket Town, about 4km from Sapan Hin. I like the "old world" feel of the boats along the canal.

Bang Yai Canal at Sapan Hin

Along the canal there is a nice pathway with recently planted trees. Saphan Hin was a bit dirty some years ago and in need of some work - now it's been done up! Good, as this area is for the people and needs to be looked after. There are paths all around the area, good for a walk, a jog, some fresh air and a good place for visitors to get some "local life"!

Sapan Hin Location Map

View Saphan Hin, Phuket in a larger map