Chain of Events ...

Today’s tale is an effort to quench, at least a small part, of one loyal reader’s curiosity.

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a young lad of five took his first step down the road to love and adventure. Little did he know, that shy kiss behind the big black car, from the prettiest girl in the kindergarten class, would be but a precursor of a life immersed in the beauty, complexity and wonder of the fairer sex. In the intervening years, before girls once again loomed large in the mind of the young teenager, the memory of that first kiss remained vivid and unfaded.

There was a blond bombshell from the wrong side of the tracks, who welcomed in the exploration of the mysteries of the female form. As fate would have it, the family moved before things went too far or far enough depending on your perspective. The real “first” was a mixed race beauty who became a fixture for about two years. Not long after her departure from the scene there was an even more beautiful mixed race beauty looming on the horizon.

Upon first laying eyes on her, he boldly proclaimed, with the audacity reserved for inexperienced youth, that mark his words she would one day be his. They thought they were the “real thing” and accompanied each other to their senior proms on consecutive years. They shared dreams and plans for the future. The only fear being that perhaps they had found their great love a bit too young.

But, as men are wont to do, the young man filled his time with too many other things. There was university during the day, play rehearsals at night, and part time work for an airline on the weekends. As, is often the case, he was the last one to know, that she had left him. At that age the pain and despair was palpable to the extreme.

Then one day, another momentous turning point in his life. Where to go on his first paid vacation? To the East or to the West? There was still the possibility of study in the West at some point. That led the still twenty year old, to choose Asia. Perks of the job allowed for free air travel through Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and the Philippines.

It wasn’t until half way through the trip, that the first in a very long pattern of chance encounters, occurred. Standing in line for the flight to Bangkok, conversation with a stranger led to an invitation to stay in a home instead of a hotel. Introductions to people and places instantly created a connection to this mysterious place.

Though that first contact, the “gatekeeper”, soon departed the scene, the pattern of auspicious encounters was often repeated over the years. Here also, was the perfect environment for this young Don Juan to fulfill his destiny, as he saw it. For he was not the rough hewn male, who’s first loyalty was to his mates, and to whom women were a mere outlet or object of conquest. Here was an aficionado in the making, who’s curiosity was only matched by his intuitive understanding of all things amorous, passionate, and tender.

It was not a path of constant joy and ecstasy, as some of the most valuable encounters left scars that were both deep and lasting. Along with love there was loss, intrigue and betrayal. Each new relationship shed light on some dark corner of the human condition, forever expanding the boundaries of both joy and sorrow. One is tempted to tell more of this story but there is too great a chance that things would take a turn toward the tawdry and tasteless. Affairs of the heart are best kept in the realm of wonder, beauty and marvel.

Pak Nam Seafood

I admit that life sometimes becomes a bit repetitive, mostly governed by work and school, and we tend to sink into regular patterns. We eat at home much of the time (see Home Cooking), and when we eat out we tend to head for regular hangouts, places we know, places that are safe for the kids, places where we know we can get good food. We do try to sample some new restaurants now and then, and one day in 2008 when I had a holiday and both kids were at school, we found a new restaurant which we liked and indeed went back a few days later with the kids (and have been many times since).

Pak Nam Seafood Sign

Pak Nam Seafood Entrance

Pak Nam Seafood is right on the northern edge of Phuket Town on Ratsadanuson Road which winds around the edge of "Monkey Hill" from the government offices in the extreme northeast of town to just north of the Mission hospital which is on the main road out of town to the airport. They said it only opened in 2007, but seemed to be popular right away, and I think the answer must be the food. Word of good food travels fast in the local community!

Pak Nam Seafood had been recommended to us by friends. You may have trouble finding it. Best way to get there - take main road out of Phuket Town and turn right at lights after the Mission hospital, then drive about 2km, and you'll see the restaurant on the left. Views to the sea, you can see Koh Maphrao and also Koh Yao Yai in the distance, also views of the edge of Phuket Town. The view below is also from the restaurant. Try to get a balcony table looking in this direction.

View from Pak Nam Seafood

Cold Beer on Ice

Cold beer ordered. Now for food. One of my favourite dishes in any restaurant, if it's available, is "Yam Gung Seab", a spicy yet sweet dried/smoked shrimp salad. Until now the best I have had was at Laem Hin Seafood, but I think this one at Pak Nam Seafood maybe wins.

Yam Gung Siap at Pak Nam Seafood

Yam Gung Seab

Even the fried rice was good. You know sometimes fried rice can be very bland. This had flavour and accompanied the salad well. No joke : I use the standard of a restaurant's fried rice as a marker of quality. The simple things are important!

Simple Fried Rice

The first time we ate there, we had the "mystery dish". We ordered a Gung Cream Salad. Sounded interesting. What would it look like? Was very tasty. Some big fried breaded prawns and a mountain of fresh salad covered in dressing....

Pak Nam Seafood Prawn Salad

We will be back again and again. And we do vow to try some more new restaurants in the near future. We look for places that suit "our style" - not too flash, good local food, maybe a nice view, and a quiet location. If you can find Pak Nam Seafood, give it a try!

More Favourite Phuket Restaurants

Pak Nam Seafood - Location Map

View Pak Nam Seafood Restaurant in a larger map

Answering, the best I can ...

1) Was living as a retiree in Thailand the best option or the best financial option?
2) Did you ever consider living outside of Thailand with your Thai wife?
3) Do you have a "Plan B" in case things go wrong here?
4) Do you have any travel plans? Does your wife agree with them, if so, or like mine, she says I travel I stay home.
(just incase all the other questions are easy ones. :-) ).

I love questions. They give me the opportunity to expand and clarify who I am, while shining a light on who my readers are and where they are in their life journeys.

The answer to the “or” in number 1 is probably “yes”, since finances are a major part of the “best option”. For several years we spent six months at a time in the US. It was a bit too stressful to spend six months in Hawaii so we would break it up with a month long drive around the western states. We ranged as far east as Denver and from Southern California and Arizona, up to the Canadian boarder, where we crossed over in both Montana and Washington.

While dropping in on friends and family, we racking up an impressive list of State and National Parks, and found a few states and cities that held promise as a place to settle. My wife would have found it difficult to live there without working, however, as she needs a more active social life than I. On the other hand, I did not relish the thought of sitting around while she was off at work.

Over time it became apparent that what we liked most, was being on holiday there. There were also family obligations and the time we needed to spend in Hawaii. Financially it became clear that startup costs, even to try living some place for a year and do the things we like doing, would be prohibitive.

Living in our present location is the best of both worlds, so to speak. I have the remoteness I seek, while she has an active social life surrounded by people she knows. Eventually with the reduced fixed overhead of living here, we will hopefully be able to do more traveling. At least that was the plan before the days of looming 200 dollar oil prices. Gee, it looks like I have included an answer to number 2 already.

As for number 3 and the escape plan, this is the first time in my life where I am completely committed and must answer “no”. It is hard to make things work when you have one foot out the door, expecting things to go wrong. I suppose there was a time when I considered getting one of those small camper vans, not a big RV, and roaming the back roads of my homeland, if things didn’t workout in Thailand. That would be a lot more costly these days and I am getting older and less physical, so at some point that option would fade to a memory.

It looks like I have already touched on question number 4, as well. We love traveling even though my wife has a mild fear of flying. Alaska, New Zealand, and parts of Europe are high on the list but most of our travel now, is taken up with mandatory trips to Hawaii. My wife has a friend in New Zealand, who plans to visit us soon, so that might be first on our list when we get things sorted out with the house.

The same person as above, made the following observation:

“VillageFarang doesn't really fall into the retired expat category.  In any Western country, after a residency of more than 30 years he'd be hardly noticeable amongst the locals.  Fluent in language, conversant in local custom, he still remains an outsider here.”

On the surface this would appear insightful and difficult to refute. Granted, I only fall into the “retired expat” category due to a few technicalities. I don’t work, I’m old enough, and I am a foreigner. The rest of it is not quite so clear cut.

In my 30+ years I have gone through pretty much every phase imaginable. Importantly I spent a number of years in the “total immersion” phase. There were years where I spoke nary a word of my native tongue. I treated Thai culture and society as a game of conquest. Upon mastering each new level of the game, I would look at things from my new vantage point, and set my sights on the next goal. I just wanted to see how far I could go. I came up just shy of the top, but I got quite close to Moms, na Ayuthayas, Khun Yings, generals, business tycoons, government ministers, celebrities, a Miss Thailand finalist, and even some of the nightlife’s dark influential characters.

Some commented that I was at least 80% Thai and only my appearance belied my origins. Sitting with Thai friends in a hotel lobby or restaurant, individuals in the crowd were targeted for gossip. Their family names were illuminated along with all the skeletons in their closet. I was privy to things that are normally hidden, from all but the inner circle of Thais with particular family names. I have kept the confidences but have wondered if some may have regretted telling me quite so much.

Eventually I felt constrained by the code of conduct that was paramount in these social circles. I started to rediscover my “farangness” one might say. No doubt age played a part, as well a boredom and familiarity with things that had, at one time, seemed foreign and unattainable. I began visiting home more often. Brief visits at first but after finding squash it became easier to plug in anywhere. That became my life for several years. I could be at home wherever there was a squash court. During that time I found my wife and found I preferred to live in a world of my own making, rather than in someone else's.

I could go on, but the point is that the line “he still remains an outsider here” is not entirely accurate. You see I actually was inside for a time. Admittedly, not at the same level as some of the, old Western or European family names, that have been here for generations, but inside non the less.

I really want to thank you for the question, however! Writing this has reminded me of things that I had almost forgotten. Between the few words that found their way to the page, were endless recollections and an emotional trip down memory lane. I hardly recognized myself. One of my best and worst traits has always been my ability to move on. I have been very bad about staying in touch or holding on to the past. My focus is always now or tomorrow. What’s gone, is gone. This has been both a blessing and a curse at different times in my life, though a significant factor in my ability to survive.

Wat Kosit Wiharn (Phuket Town)

It's temple time again! You'll find a lot of information about Phuket's Temples on the blog, and that's because I like temples! I have a vague plan to blog all the temples in Phuket including mosques and Chinese shrines too. Every temple has something special, but they all share a certain spiritual peace and are somewhat removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Wat Kosit Wiharn Entrance

Wat Kosit Wiharn

We happened to be passing Wat Kosit Wiharn (or Wihan, or indeed Viharn), which is a little north of Phuket City center on the road towards the airport (route 402). It's quite an important temple, mainly due to it's large Buddhist cemetery (which I might revisit soon). Near the main temple is a crematorium, and around the main temple you find small recesses in the wall containing ashes along with a photo of the deceased and money for the afterlife.

Wat Kosit Wihan Cemetery

Ashes at Wat Kosit Wiharn

Wat Kosit Wiharn Wat Kosit Wihan

Flowers from a recent funeral at Kosit Wiharn Temple

You have to climb a fair number of steps to reach the temple, which is built into the jungly hillside. You have views to the west across the north of Phuket town. Just another temple? Not for the people in that part of Phuket town, this is their local temple, part of daily life. Sure you can visit a more "touristy" temple such as Wat Chalong or Wat Phra Tong, but if you have a few spare minutes, a smaller temple is certainly worth a look.

Reflection of Mr Jamie Monk in the temple wall

An Answer to a Question ...

I am interested in what a 'normal' day in the north entails for you and how you manage to mix your own philosophies and beliefs with those of your wife to form a harmonious balance that does not leave either party feeling lesser, for want of a better word.

I notice how very few farangs, from all continents, can truly let go of their past lifestyles, and excesses, to live a more fulfilling, yet to some extent humble existence, with their Thai partners, yet you seem to have done so with what appears to be a great ease!

My wife, the little vixen, had a short answer for you. She said, just tell him you are lazy and I do everything for you, so you can live anywhere, with “great ease.”

Seriously, there is more than one question in there, so let me pull out some things and answer them separately. As for the philosophies and beliefs part, that is pretty simple for us. Though I can understand how that simplicity might not be “easy” for everyone. Neither of us is evangelical, about what we believe or don’t believe. That’s it. In other words we are not trying to convert or shove something down each other’s throats.

Our beliefs are not so fragile or insecure as to be threatened by others beliefs. We are able to joke about our differences and she understands that the only things that can raise my hackles are things that causes her too much grief or anxiety. That extends even to family. She is my first priority and for me a happy wife makes for a happy life. We also stress that we are a team and don’t fight each other. We take on the rest of the world, together.

As for the lifestyles question. It has been incremental. Remember, I wasn’t even 21 when I discovered Thailand. Back then I was only interested in one thing and all the comparisons were in Thailand’s favor. I hadn’t done anything yet, so there really wasn’t much for me to “let go of.” The same, probably can’t be said, for someone coming here in their 40s, 50s or 60s.

Now for the “normal” day thing. Keep in mind, there is no truly “normal” day for us, my age, location and the wife’s assessment that I am lazy. The day starts slowly, between five and six in the morning. One of us, and there is no rule about who, will get up and turn off the streetlights, go to the bathroom and take a look out the windows to see where the dogs are and check on the weather and any activity out in the fields. Then it is back to bed for a while. I said things start slowly.

I have been known to get up and take the dogs to the dam on a cold foggy winter morning but these days I am more apt to do it later in the day. More often than not my wife gets up first, if she has a project she wants to get started on or wants to go to the market for something. For now, she is still spending way too much time on the house and yard but there is hope that will change, when things get a little more settled.

My wife likes to shower first thing but I wait until after breakfast. I usually start off by opening all the window and blinds to let in the fresh morning air. I plug in the computer and let it warm up while I grind the beans for my morning brew. Breakfast is a quiet affair and we both make our own. We take in the view and talk about what is on the plate for the day. After eating I check out the internet, emails and watch the international new on TV. Then its time for a shower followed by the daily call to my parents.

If we are not heading into town (54 kilometers) for anything, them my wife is already working on lunch after having cleaned most of the house. Often we have people working on some project so she might eat with them or go over to eat with her mother. I don’t eat lunch, so don’t join in. What I do in the afternoon depends on the weather and what help my wife might request. Which could be almost anything. Sometimes I write. I have several photographic or video projects that I could work on if nothing else takes precedence. Those kinds of things are very time consuming and the day passes quickly.

If my wife gets tired and needs a midday nap, I join her for some quiet time. We take turns during the day, checking on the progress of the workers and playing with the dogs. Late afternoons are often taken up with, gardening and watering the plants. I enjoy watching the sunset as I sit by the pond feeding the fish.

You never really know who might stop by and there is always something going on in the village, like weddings, funerals, and a multitude of village calendar events. Our front canal is full of water these days so the neighbors are usually out there fishing. I’m sure they have scarfed up every last fish but they are still out there everyday enjoying the water, anyway.

Dinner comes early. My wife does the cooking and I eat whatever she feeds me. She is not a great cook by I always tell how good the food is, often before I have even tasted it. Just another of our playful exchanges. I help dry and put away the dishes but not much more. We might watch a TV show or a DVD while stretching and perhaps giving each other a massage, or take a shower or bath together.

There is no fixed routine with us but life revolves generally around our relationship, the house, the dogs and our families (hers’ here and mine on the phone or online) and a few friends. The sun and moon, the weather, the natural rhythms of sleep, grooming, exercise and sustenance, seem to dictate the pace of our lives. Not some artificial number on a digital clock. Not everyone can move at this pace but since my laziness has already been determined, you might say I find it both easy and natural.

We are really quite laid back and my cynical side is vented here in these pages. I exercise my demons here so that my wife only sees the angel in me (with horns on occasions).

Views from Rang Hill (Phuket Town)

Rang Hill (Khao Rang) is located on the north side of Phuket town and is a popular gathering place in the evenings and a fairly commonly visited viewpoint, on the itineraries of tours. There's a well known cafe (Tunk Ka Cafe) on the top, which does food and great iced coffee. There are views over parts of Phuket City and also across to Chalong Bay and Buddha Mountain. We go up there now and then for a little walk and a bit of fresh air. There are several access roads, one of which is just behind one of our favourite restaurants - Dairy Hut, on a side road next to the Phuket Bangkok Hospital.

NOTE - this is an older blog post - I have now written a couple of new updates about Rang Hill - see Rang Hill (Khao Rang) 2013 and New Viewpoint at Rang Hill (2014).

Romantic viewpoint, Khao Rang

View from Rang Hill

(above) Romance on Rang Hill. Couples sit and enjoy the views in the evening.

Statue of Ratsada Korsimbi Na Ranong on Rang Hill

The statue above shows Ratsada Korsimbi Na Ranong, who was governor of Phuket around the turn of the 20th century. He came from a political family (his dad was governor of Ranong), and did a lot to put Phuket on the map, especially modernising the tin mining industry, overseeing the building of Bang Yai canal through Phuket Town, and he is also credited with bringing the rubber industry into Phuket from Malaysia.

My family enjoying the view from Rang Hill

Rang Hill sunset view

More Hills and Viewpoints in Phuket

The Floor is Now Open ...

Don’t know what has come over me today, but am feeling a bit more expansive and forthcoming than usual. Perhaps this is an opportune time to open the floor to questions. No guarantee that I will be able to conjure the answer you desire, but hey, nothing ventured, nothing ventured (or however that saying goes). If nothing else it might give us all an idea what lurks in the minds of the readers. So open the looking glass, that we might better know each other.

I don’t want to unduly influence this, so what is it you want to know?

The New Norm or Our Tangled Webs ...

A hush has fallen over my immediate surroundings. Ah, the peaceful quiet serenity, or perhaps the lonely anguished recriminations. Same story, different perspectives. Our more industrious neighbors have gone off to Chiang Mai or elsewhere to supplement their farming income by selling dumplings or working construction jobs. My wife’s immediate family, all but her mother, have jumped ship as well. The sister took her ten year old to Bangkok in an attempt to show that she is capable of raising her own daughter, despite all evidence to the contrary. Also, in a spiteful tiff, the brother sent his wife to fetch the nine month old, a couple of days ago. It will be interesting to see how long this chapter drags on before the page is turned, on my wife’s family drama.

It seems, the more my wife does, in her efforts to “help” her family, the more resentful they become. It is not beneath them to receive handouts but heaven forbid the inclusion of any, preconditions or expectations. Of course the ultimate insult is to perhaps point out how much one has already done, in a vain effort to help siblings to have a better life. We are not fixated on this subject but the wife and I do have to revisit the topics of, wasted effort and lost causes, from time to time.

Perhaps unsympathetically, I point out that her family quite possibly doesn’t want what she wants for them. There is also a fair amount of guilt on her part, I believe, for having such a good life. It is hard for her to enjoy all her blessings when her family is struggling. Admirable as that might be, it is perhaps a bit naive to assume they aspire to the same things in life that she does. Intellectually, I believe she understands but her heart still feels what it feels.

Having grown up in university towns, and being the spawn of academic parents, I led a somewhat sheltered life early on. Life in Thailand has broadened the scope of my life experience and vision, while only occasionally ravaging my emotions. I have grown to accept the good and the bad that comes with life. Perhaps one day my wife will be more content with her lot in life and more accepting of the inequity she sees around her.

It became painfully clear to me, over time, that the vast majority of people in this world do little more than eat, sleep, reproduce and die. The only universal “truth” that has made itself apparent, is that all things come to an ignominious end. Be it plants, animals, people, planets or suns it all comes to the same inevitable denouement. We are an elite group, playing with our computers and making up things to worry about. Even my wife’s family is better off than most when viewed on a broader canvas. So I’m not too worried and know that this is not the final chapter in her family drama.

As is my style, there is no detail about who said what to whom. I find that kind of petty gossip rather demeaning for both the teller and the listener. Selfishly I’m glad that my wife will have more time for herself, and me of course. To start with she is on the floor, next to me, having a long overdue massage as I sit at the computer. With my massage complete, I think I shall linger here, basking in the pleasure of her presence, for just a bit longer. At the moment there truly is no place else I would rather be.

Thai Food - Good Ol' Home Cooking

I just cannot get bored with Thai food. The variety is endless, the tastes sometimes surprising, odd mixtures of sour, sweet and spicy, flavours to ensnare the senses. I have to say the food was one of the reasons I stayed in Thailand longer than originally intended. I don't like all Thai food - for example, I have never been a fan of Som Tam, and some of the curries are too spicy for me - though over the years I have gotten used to the spicy food. Not all Thai food is spicy of course. There are plenty of simple dishes like fried rice or mixed vegetables or egg dishes. And I don't exclusively eat Thai food, I don't pretend to be a local! I do like the occasional pizza or spaghetti or English breakfast or just a sandwich. Of course in Phuket you can get pretty much anything you fancy.

At home we eat mostly Thai food, mainly because my wife is Thai and when she's in the mood, she does like to cook. We go out to eat quite often because eating out here (if avoiding tourist restaurants) is cheap. Now, my wifes cooking is very good, though when we first met about 8 years ago, she barely knew how to cook apart from basic things like omelette and fried veg. That's because her mum is the ultimate mum, always looking after the kids, the house, the cooking etc... Her mum's Massaman curry is one of the best meals in Thailand!

Over the years, my wife has experimented with cooking and always seems to come up trumps. We are just chatting now and realise she's not done her "Indian Curry" for ages... We'll go and get the ingredients tomorrow!

The photos below show some of our favourite home cooked meals. I will add more as time goes by. Thai food rocks!

Green Curry - Best in Thailand

Green Curry (Gaeng Khiaw Wan)

Kai Yat Sai - basically just a stuffed omelette

Kai Yat Sai, omelette stuffed with minced pork and veg

Fried Mixed vegetables

Fried Mixed Vegetables (Phad Phak Ruam)

Spicy Beef Salad

Yam Neua - Spicy Beef Salad

Tom Yum Gung - the classic spicy Thai soup with prawns

Tom Yum - a classic dish, I love it.

Phad Pet Moo (very spicy fried pork)

Spicy Fried Pork - Phad Pet Moo

Tom Kha Gai, absolutely delicious!

Tom Kha Gai - Chicken/Coconut soup

Hope that makes you hungry! There are many reasons to visit Phuket, and the food is certainly one of those reasons. Yes, you can get foreign food too, anything from tacos to fish 'n' chips (and I like it!), but let me say again... Thai food rocks!

Ah, that Indian Curry... We had it a few days later.. Here's the curry cooking...

My wife was happy to see me drain the dish, tipping all the sauce over my rice.. a sure sign of delicious food! Aroy Mak!

Not in Phuket - Prachuap Khiri Khan

The province of Prachuap Khiri Khan is between Phuket and Bangkok, to the North of Chumphon province and south of Phetchaburi province. Officially, it's part of Central Thailand - Chumphon is the first of the southern provinces, and is called the Gateway to the South. My wife's family is from Chumphon, and she has some family in Prachuap Khiri Khan too. Her cousin who lives in Prachuap Khiri Khan town had just had a baby, so on our recent trip to Chumphon we decided to take a couple of days in the next province to explore and visit the family.

Yes, I know this is a Phuket blog, but I've been out of Phuket for the last week, and I think Prachuap Khiri Khan is worth a visit. It's around 570km from Phuket to the provincial capital. We will visit again as we liked the area, and the weather was not that great as we caught the edge of Cyclone Nargis, so we'd like another look sometime. I hope you enjoy reading about something out of Phuket!

Our first stop was Bang Saphan, to visit an auntie, a cousin, and more extended family. They live near the beach, live mostly on fishing, own about 30 rai of land (1 rai is 1600 square meters). The way of life is kind of simple to us, but I can assure you they have money in the bank! Bang Saphan is right in the south of Prachuap Khiri Khan province. From there it was not far to Ban Krut, which has hotels and a beach. We had thought to stay there, but after asking prices at a couple of resorts, we changed our mind. OK, the weather was not great, but bear in mind that we live in Phuket, so we are used to nice beaches and I have a fair amount of savvy when it comes to hotel standards and prices. Enough said. We did have a nice lunch by the beach at Ban Krut (aka Ban Krood).

Ban Krud Beach

Restaurant at Ban krud

However, maybe on a sunny day the beach would look nicer and if you want a place to get away from the crowds - this might be it! I can recommend a visit to Ban Krud for another reason. On a hill overlooking the beaches there is an incredible temple, called Wat Tang Sai (I have also seen it called Wat Thongchai). Even my wife's mum was impressed and I can assure you she's seen a few temples! This impressive structure was built in 1996 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the King's ascencion to the throne.

You can drive up the hill and park near a big Buddha image.

Big Buddha at Wat Tang Sai, Ban Krud

Prayers at the Big Buddha, Wat Tang Sai, Ban Krud

The views from the Buddha are impressive, but you have to climb higher to reach the temple. There's a short walk up the road before reaching the staircase to the temple, guarded by fierce Nagas (multi headed serpents who are said to have sheltered the Buddha from heavy rains as he meditated).

Stairway to Wat Tang Sai

Naga at Wat Tang Sai

Views are great, the temple is hugely impressive with multiple levels, murals, buddha images and even a golden urn containing bones from the cremated body of the lord Buddha.

View from Wat Tang Sai

Inside Wat Tang Sai

We continued North to Prachuap Khiri Khan town, where we visited my wife's cousin and checked on accommodation options. The quite nice beach at Ao Manao has accommodation - seaview rooms for about 900 Baht, but they were full - it's a popular spot for Thai tourists at the weekend. I reckon we only saw a few other foreign visitors. No worries, just a few doors from my cousin in law's house was a hotel (Prachuab Place Hotel) with decent enough rooms for 650 Baht, a few minutes walk to the seafront. The hotel had a small restaurant (where we got coffee and breakfast next morning) and did not allow Durian!

No Durian!

After saying "Aaah!" to the baby, we checked in and ate some dinner at a seafront restaurant called Pleun Samut. Like the hotel at Ao Manao, it was packed, so service was slow, which annoyed my dear wife. Food was tasty though. If we go back it will be in midweek! We then found a nice little hotel called Sun Beach Guesthouse with seaview rooms and a pool, price just 900 Baht. That's where we'll stay next time!

Prachuap Khiri Khan town is quite small, just a few streets really. It's right on the ocean and is a fishing town. It took me just a few minutes to decide to like the town. Small and friendly, and not much in the way of foreign tourism, though as I said, it is very popular with Thai tourists at the weekend. On Saturday morning I woke early, as did my little boy, so we both took a walk down to the ocean. Fishermen were bringing in the catch, nobody seemed to be in a hurry, half the town was still sleeping. We enjoyed a walk along the beach road.

Fishing boat at the beach, Prachuap Khiri Khan town

Fisherman, Prachuap Khiri Khan Fresh Fish, Prachuap Khiri Khan

Prachuap beachfront houses

Squid - lots of squid

Noodle Stall, Prachuap Khiri Khan

Well, we had to head back to Chumphon 180km south, but went back to Ao Manao, as the sun was shining that morning. The Bay is home to the Thai Airforce Wing 5.

Ao Manao, home to Wing 5

We had to cross the runway to reach the beach. Can't say we saw any new airforce planes, but quite a few old ones...

Old Thai airforce plane

At the far south end of the bay is a mountain called Kao Lom Muak. Here is a chance to see and feed Dusky Langurs, as there is a Dusky Langur conservation center. There's also a shrine here.

Shrine at Kao Lom Muak (Ao Manao)

Shrine at Kao Lom Muak (Ao Manao)

Dusky Langur

Me and the boy feeding a dusky langur

A quick word about history. Ao Manao was the site of fierce fighting between the Thai airforce and the invading Japanese on December 8th 1941. The Thai role in World War 2 is rather cloudy. Initially Thai forces resisted the invasion at multiple points along the east coast, but within a day an armistice had been signed. You can read more here: Battle of Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Ao Manao is popular with Thai visitors. The beach looked pretty nice, and there were a bunch of small restaurants to choose from. We had an early lunch here before heading home. It was a sunny morning, but clouds were building so we were keen to start back to Chumphon. Part of the bay has fishing boats and hat shaped rocks, the other end has the nicer beach and the tourists. We liked it. We'll be back!

Ao Manao fisherman Fisherman at Ao Mano

Ao Manao beach, 4th May 2008

Sleeping tuk tuk driver, Ao Manao

There was still time for a visit to the impressive aquarium at Waghor, about 10km south of Prachuap Khiri Khan town. Certainly a match for the Phuket Aquarium and only 20 Baht to get in! Prachuap Khiri Khan province has more too - there is the Khao Sam Roy Yod national park, and the beach resort town of Hua Hin. We will explore more! Meanwhile, we're back in Phuket, ready for work (me) and the start of the school year (for the kids). So no more holidays for a while. Hope you enjoyed the trip out of Phuket!

More places not quite in Phuket

Chumphon Town and Province
Exploring Phang Nga Province
Holiday in Khao Lak