Phuket Airport Closed by Anti-Government Protesters

** If you somehow stumble on this page, it has updates from 2008 when some protesters shut down Phuket Airport for a while. I say again, 2008. It's an old story. Move on!

9th September 2008

I can't quite get my head around the idea that Samak has to quit because he hosted an early morning cooking show on TV... but that seems to be the story..

Bangkok Post News - Samak Must Resign

Now looks like new elections might happen sometime soon. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news for the PAD, but the same people are likely to win again unless the suave Democrats, led by the sauve Abhisit Vejjajiva who was born in England and went to Oxford University... and if I might suggest, is thus not quite trusted by the rural Thais, who like 'em home bred and not so white and clever.

Anyway, aside from the weather, not much happening in Phuket! Certainly no troubles or problems, so get here NOW and check out the deals on Agoda.com!


4th September 2008

Rumours spread yesterday that PM Samak would quit today. He did not of course. Not sure what can end the stalemate.

Anyway, Phuket is 100% normal. No problems. Everything well. Daily life continues as normal after the silly airport "siege" at the weekend. Don't think anyone round here will be dumb enough to try that again...

So, maybe I can get back to some normal blogging?? :)

PS - the weather is lovely - see the Phuket Weather Blog

Even in Bangkok, the tourists are saying "What Crisis?" - see article in the Sydney Morning Herald.


3rd September 2008

There was a march in Phuket town yesterday with an estimated 1000 people taking part. The airport is very very unlikely to close again, as the local PAD seem to have realised (belatedly) that such action is the same as shooting themselves in the foot. Yesterdays march and occupation of Phuket Provincial Hall was totally peaceful.

Phuket Wan reports:

According to The Nation online breaking news: "Supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy have seized the Phuket provincial hall, Sondhi Limthongkul, a PAD leader, told the protesters at Government House at 12:20 pm."

To Phuketwan on the spot, it looked more like a peaceful picnic in the park. And so it remained, until clouds burst over the crowd at 8.35pm, dampening the protest..


Protests in Phuket yesterday, photo from Phuket Gazette

Latest News from Phuket:

Phuket Wan
Phuket Gazette


State of Emergency Declared in Bangkok

2nd September 2008

Well, it all went off last night it seems with rival groups fighting in the streets. So the government finally had enough and declared martial law. Now people, back off and be sensible about this.

Phuket is Peaceful and Safe

Ok, listen, I live here with my family. I have 2 kids. In Phuket, daily life is unchanged except all the TV's are tuned to the news channels instead of the soaps. There's nothing to worry about here.

Anyways, if you worry about travel - get some travel insurance!... Click below:

Recommended Travel Insurance


The Phuket Wan website says today:

Top level talks took place today at Phuket Provincial Hall amid concerns that the protests at Phuket International Airport could be renewed.

The declaration of a state of emergency this morning in Bangkok and union action calling for the resignation of Prime Minster Samak Sunthoravaj took tension to a new level in Thailand.

But Phuket remained peaceful, and looked like staying that way.

Phuket Airport General Manager Wicha Nurnlop told Phuketwan that he had informed Governor Niran of the need to protect the airport.

Wing Commander Wicha said there was no immediate threat of a repetition of the weekend's three-day blockade.

Travellers were arriving and departing without problems. There was no protest outside the airport.

The Chief of Phuket Police, Major General Apirak Hongtong, said there were no immediate concerns on Phuket and all precautions were being taken.

Leaders of the main protest group, the People's Alliance for Democracy, have been told by the Phuket tourism and business community to keep their protests low-key and not damage the island's peaceful image.


Today is a normal day here. My kids are at school, I am at work, my wife has gone to pay our tax and social insurance. See you soon!


Phuket Airport is Open - See You soon!

Sunday 31st August 2008 4pm

Touchdown! First flight after the "siege" has landed. The first flight to arrive was Thai Airways TG213 from Bangkok, which touched down in Phuket not long after 3.30pm.

See Phuket Wan for more information.

If anything untoward happens, I'll post here, but lets hope all the silliness has ended now and everyone can get to Phuket and enjoy their holidays or get home!

Final comment from the Phuket Wan website which has been reporting this blow by blow... "Before Friday's action, the PAD had the support of the vast majority of people on Phuket. And now? Well, anyone who depends on the tourism industry for a living would have to wonder. Tourists don't play politics, so it's best not to play politics with tourists."

Enjoy Sunday, everyone.


Sunday 31st August 2008 1:20pm

Phuket Airport Reopens

All airlines contacted. First flight out will be 4:20pm.

Phuket Wan reports -

The blockade of Phuket International Airport is over, and now the cost is being counted.

Phuket's air siege lifted when leaders of the Peoples' Alliance for Democracy met Sunday morning and decided to stop the protest that brought a halt to all flights in and out of the island from Friday.

Soon after, airport General Manager Wing Commander Wicha Nurnlop called all 11 airlines and told them the airport was open, and that flights could resume as soon as possible.

The first outbound flight will be Thai Airways TG214, due to leave Phuket for Bangkok at 4.20pm.

Inbound, the first flight to arrive will be TG213, which leaves Bangkok at 2.10pm and arrives on Phuket at 3.30pm.

If you are a tourist travelling to Phuket or trying to leave the island, check with your airline direct for information about rescheduled flights.

The airport will have to cope with a backlog of travellers. Airport officials were meeting with the island's tourism industry leaders at the airport early this afternoon to plan a ''strategic airlift'' to relieve the backlog of stranded tourists.

As many as 20,000 people could have been delayed on the island unwillingly, but many have probably already made their escape by bus to Bangkok.


Well thank you. Finally.

And thank you to the Phuket Wan website for all the updates. Phuket Gazette - hang thy head!

The protests continue in Bangkok.

Right, now I can get back to blogging about all the nice things in Phuket!

________________

I would not normally post breaking news, but things are happening here in Phuket and in Bangkok that need to be mentioned. There will be no dicussion of who is right or wrong. It's not my place to comment. I heard shouts on the TV this evening of "Ock Bai" which basically means "Get Out". Similar shouts were heard nearly 2 years ago...

Update Sunday Morning 31st August 2008

Phuket Wan reports a late night meeting reached no conclusion. No flights today? These people are starting to hurt Phuket...

Samak still refuses to step down, but I just heard on the BBC news that the army chief has "suggested" that Samak should step down. Reports in the Thai papers say that a large pro-government group is gathering in Bangkok. One hopes the pro's and the anti's don't start any argy bargy.


Saturday evening 30th August 2008

Well, a lovely sunny day here. I have "caught the sun". Nice. But not nice if you are supposed to be flying in or out of Phuket today. This is going to make a few people rather annoyed. Krabi airport is also closed.

Latest on Phuket Wan, which seems to be covering this very well:

"NO NEW deadline for resumption of flights from Phuket International Airport has been set after officials cancelled advice that a return to the air might be possible from 6am Sunday.

The prospect of no timetable for a return home left some tourists low on cash at the airport, being fed bowls of rice by airport staff."


What the?

Why?

There's a long discussion on the Thai Visa forum (which is mostly moaning expats, but there is useful information there too!)

Phuket Gazette, shame on you. No news since yesterday. Come on, this is NEWS, or does nobody work at the weekend??

Meanwhile, protests continue in Bangkok. The BBC website reports that Samak met the King and refuses to resign. Actually he was elected, so he does have a point. As a farang I should not step into politics, but I just want to say... a group calling itself the People's Alliance for Democracy is trying to bring down an elected government by mob rule. Great.

Plenty of news updates on the Bangkok Post website. Also on The Nation.

Open the airport please.


earlier update Saturday Morning 30th August 2008

Bangkok is set for another day of protests. Phuket Airport will be open sometime later today. According the excellent coverage in Phuket Wan, one flight left last night carrying stranded tourists back to Bangkok, and the airport's general manager is quoted as saying there will be no flights until at least noon.

11:30pm and the speeches continue in Bangkok at the PAD rally. The army chief is reported to have refused to impose a state of emergency. No need for it really. The army certainly does not want a coup. The talking continues. Prime Minister is probably sleeping, I would if I was him. Deal with this in the morning. Good night!

10pm - photos of tonights / todays protests on the AP Website

8:47pm and now there are speeches again, with people coughing from the tear gas... no the speeches are outside Government house, while the teargas was fired outside the police HQ.

8:33pm I am watching channel ASTV 1 - it looks kinda scary to me. Lots of tear gas, lots of shouting

NOW! 8:23pm I am watching tear gas being fired RIGHT NOW on TV... A minute ago there was a concert, singing.. now things look a whole lot worse...



The Phuket Gazette is updating the news as it happens here in Phuket (more or less -not sure Phuket Gazette will work 24 hour shift!)

Phuket Gazette News

Phuket Wan also has updated information... but can they stay awake all night?

The "PAD" - People's Alliance for Democracy - has rallied in Phuket and closed the airport. Latest estimates say there are TEN THOUSAND protestors at the airport. And this is peanuts compared to Bangkok. Krabi and Hat Yai airports have also been closed. This is direct action in large numbers. Stay tuned.

So far no injuries here in Phuket, but I just saw on the news that police had fired tear gas at people in Bangkok about 1 hour ago.

You can find more news on the Bangkok Post website.

Bangkok Post Special feature with news updates...

The BBC News has the latest too. (Well of course they do!)

BBC also has analysis on WHY this is happening...

Latest situation, 1 hour ago:

PHUKET AIRPORT: Phuket Governor Niran Kalayanamit has called an emergency meeting of his top staff, including Vice-Governors Smith Palawatwichai, Worapoj Ratthasima and Tri Augkaradacha.

The meeting was called to discuss what action should be taken about today’s protest, which has stopped all flights in and out of the airport and crippled Phuket’s tourism industry.

The meeting, being held at Phuket International Airport, is closed to reporters.

________________

Earlier today

Phuket Airport overrun, runways blocked

PHUKET AIRPORT: At about 4:45 pm today, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters breached the main gate at Phuket International Airport, made their way into the main terminal and smashed the windows of the VIP lounge.

Several hundred protesters stormed the runways and airport officials have ordered a halt to all air traffic.

Police have been called in from around the island to supervise the anti-government rally, which had swelled to an estimated 10,000 protesters by 3:30 pm.

The THAI Airways Union has allowed their 15,000 staffers to stop work to show their support for the protest.

Earlier, at about 2:30 pm, the protesters used vehicles to block road access to the airport.

Tourists with outbound flights to catch have been forced to walk several kilometers with their luggage, then clamber over a two-meter spiked security fence.

The traffic tailback now stretches about five kilometers.

Some arriving passengers have been seen walking down Mai Khao Beach in a desperate bid to get out of the area without crossing the PAD protesters.

A growing number of passengers are now trapped inside the airport and the only movement seems to be though a back door at the airport’s staff housing complex.

Just before posting this news online, the Gazette received reports that about 1,000 protesters had marched to the PIA Director’s Office Building, just north of the main parking lot, and some 400 protesters breached the gate at the main entrance and were now heading to the airport, where the scene has been described as “chaos”.

I will keep an eye on the TV and internet and may add more later

Jamie

A Little Light Reading ...

A little light reading has been necessitated by recent events.  Something along the lines of mortality rates in, Alzheimer’s or dementia patients, who suffer a fall and hip fracture.  I know, not real cheery or uplifting stuff.  Part of my role, however, as the family “shock jock” and general bearer of bad tidings, is to give periodic reality checks and updates.  To do this requires some supplemental reading and awareness of, not simply present circumstances but possible consequences and outcomes.

No one enjoys seeing their parents suffer and the after effects of a fall are no exception.  There are often multiple perspectives on an event, however.  In an emotional cloud, it may be hard to see beyond the initial tragedy.  Another look will often reveal a silver lining of sorts.  Without a precipitating event, inertia prevails and necessary actions are merely contemplated but never initiated. 

The best efforts of the players, though noble and honorable, are not always in everyones best interest.  There are times when it becomes imperative that we let go of our own, self image and need to “be” or “maintain” a certain persona.  It can be difficult to admit, that others may do a better job, caring for someone we love.  Not all of us come equipped with the necessary temperament and skill set, to care for those who suffer from dementia.  Love and loyalty, simply aren’t enough.

Those who suffer memory impairment, or some form of dementia, are often lumped into the classification of Alzheimer’s patients.  In the movies and on TV, these individuals often show awareness of what is happening to them as they drift in and out of their altering realties.  This gives family members the time and opportunity to ask their questions and say their goodbyes.  Our situation might have been easier had there been even the slightest recognition of the changes taking place.  If only life had imitated art in this case.

Looking back, that fall at the symphony was probably the starting point.  (People always ask, “When did you first notice?”)  Tests were taken and nothing found, so behavioral anomalies were written off as temporary and due to the trauma of the, trip and fall.  It took time before the delusions and hallucinations, developed to a point that they could no longer be ignored or attributed to being under the weather.

Even then the grasping of straws continued, in search of a quick fix or cure.  If only this behavior could be stopped or suppressed, then things might get better.  Perhaps it is a tumor or there was a stroke and it can be fixed.  When the victim issues stubborn and vehement denial, that anything is wrong, action of any sort becomes difficult.  Those who can read the writing on the wall or issue warnings are often dismissed or scorned.

Loyalty to ones partner, years of memories and deeply engrained patterns of interaction often block the path to recognition and acceptance.  Without these, the most basic steps cannot be taken.  One is left playing catch-up, as you are always a few steps behind the curve.  Perhaps better late than never, recent events have led to flurry of action.

The main players have finally landed in their separate, yet appropriate accommodations, to be properly cared for.  Most family members are onboard and have a clearer view of the situation and what is necessary.  I sometimes wish I could be the optimist, reassuring everyone that everything will be okay.  Since optimism and denial are well represented, that leaves me holding the bag and sounding alarms. 

Oddly, being the furthest removed geographically, I find myself closest to the situation.  I am expected to be in charge, to the extent that I can be.  I dare say, that no one in our extended family would have a clue what is going on if not for my sometimes brash and forthright delivery of updates.  No two families are alike and it is futile to whine about why events or individuals are the way they are.  One merely prepares, to the best of ones abilities, hoping that they will be ready for what comes. 

Measured against optimism and denial, I cannot state emphatically, that my way is better.  Foolish or defiant, perhaps, but I want to see it coming.  I do not long for blissful ignorance.  I choose the painful truth.  To know both the ecstasy and the agony.   To know all that I am capable of knowing.  To feel each step in life’s relentless march toward death and miss nothing along the way.

Phuket Butterfly Garden

Update March 2015 - Sorry to say the the Phuket Butterfly Garden has now permanently closed.

We had been once before to the Phuket Butterfly Garden, years ago when our daughter was little and before our son was born. Somehow never made it back until a couple of weeks ago. Our daughter said she wanted to go again. She'd just been on a school "field trip" and they'd been studying the life cycle of the butterfly, so I think butterflies were one of her current favourite things.

The full name is Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World - yes, they have more than just butterflies! It's just north of Phuket town in the Sam Kong area not far from Tesco Lotus. It's reasonably well signposted, not too hard to find.. they also have a pick up service which can be quite a good deal (see the website link below). Entrance is 300 Baht for adults, 150 Baht for kids. Adult in this case means over 10 years old. Locals like us pay a bit less, but I think that's only fair for "regular" local visitors... twice already! And we'll go again soon, as after we'd left our daughter told us we'd not seen everything yet...

Before you get to the garden you have a rather good educational area and lots of displays with horrible scary things such as huge spiders, scorpions and the biggest damn millipede I have ever seen. Oh, and leaf insects, stick insects, all kind of things. There is also a lot of information about butterflies including a "multimedia presentation" (a video) about the amazing transformation from egg to caterpillar to butterfly.

Educational area at the butterfly garden

Video at the butterfly garden

(above) The Butterfly garden has a very good educational section

Out into the garden. I saw a brochure that says "imagine while you walk in a tropical garden.. with thousands of butterflies". I guess there are hundreds, but don't go imagining some fantasy scene with butterflies filling the air. My kids were more interested in feeding the fish... (They did walk around and look at butterflies too).

Kids feeding the fish at the butterfly garden

(above) Fish feeding at the butterfly garden

I wandered off in search of photos. It's not big, you can't lose the family here. All around you find butterflies and caterpillars too. There are signs describing the different species. It's all very well done and nicely looked after.



I was not alone in trying to get butterfly photos.. and this guy had a much nicer camera than me!

Photographer at Phuket Butterfly Garden

I did manage a couple of good photos with my little Canon Powershot. Actually pretty good camera for macro photos, but I want to upgrade soon! OK, there may not be thousands of butterflies, but there are a lot and the more you look, the more you see. There are said to be 40 different species here and they have a special breeding program on the premises - this being the area that we missed, so my daughter said. She's seen it on the school trip.

Phuket Butterfly Garden

Good for the kids, well worth a visit. They even provide umbrellas for rainy days. Along with the zoo and Phuket aquarium, we have a good selection of animal related things to do here in Phuket. I guess you could count elephant rides and snake shows too if you like. One day we'll take the kids for an elephant ride. I know it's super touristy, but the kids will love it (so will we!).

Phuket Butterfly Garden

Phuket Butterfly Garden is open every day 9am - 5pm, certainly worth a visit, especially if you have kids. Or like butterflies.

New Blog Post - Butterfly Garden 2010
Phuket Butterfly Garden Website

Slow Down ...

In the wise words of those timeless prophets and deep thinkers, Simon and Garfunkel ;)

    “Slow down, you move too fast
    You've got to make the morning last
    Just kickin' down the cobble stones
    Looking for fun and feelin' groovy!”


Apparently there is an entire movement out there, dedicated to slowing things down.  Complete with all kinds of new-age words and terminology, that thankfully I missed out on by living in Thailand.  One would think that slowing down, would not be a problem living in a rice field.  One first arrives, however, suffering the effects of over stimulation from life in the big city.  A place where any petty predilection, piffling penchant, piddling proclivity, and profligate perversion, is presented on the proverbial platter for a paltry pittance, any period, any purpose, any place.  No questions asked.

Once in the village, and in the goodness of time, the world begins to reveal itself, step by step, sensation by sensation.  It is the big things that get your attention at first.  Sunrises and sunsets.  Full moons and star filled, moonless skies.  Storms, with there sounds of thunder, raging winds, raindrops on the roof and water dripping from the eves.  Colors seem more vibrant and green presents with infinite variety, in the fields and forest.  Sky blue, takes on a whole new meaning and clouds appear lifelike.

Familiar sounds of the city are superseded by subtler sounds of dogs, chickens, cows and pigs, of birds, bugs, frogs and streams, of wind through the leaves, and footsteps in the forest.  The air is filled with sights and smells.  The industrious sparrow, the mischievous mynas, the swallows acrobatically skimming the surface of the pond and darting over the rice stalks.

Water birds, more heard than seen, occasionally exploding in frightened flight from their hiding place in the fields.  The elegant and majestic birds of prey, patrolling their domain.  Swarms of dragonflies, mesmerize with their chaotic dance and sheer numbers.  The flicker of the firefly at night, brings forth an inner glow from long forgotten childhood memories.

Walks through the fields and forest are permeated with the aromas of nature.  The smell of rice, flowering plants, trees and grasses.  The musky odor of rotting fruit and decaying vegetation on the forest floor and the pungent bouquet of animals and what they leave behind.  One hears the sounds from without and the sounds from within.  One hears and feels each footstep, each breath, each beat of the heart.  The sun on your back, the wind in your face, sweat dripping from your brow and saturating your clothes. 

Before long you are as one with all that is around you.  Forgotten is the world of schedules, deadlines, office politics, keeping up with the Joneses.  The rush of the city is replaced with the serenity of the natural world.  Yet, somehow the world does not seem slow or dull.  By filtering out the static of city living, life builds to a natural crescendo and somehow feels fuller and richer than what came before.  So by all means, slow down and watch the world around you grow and feel your life enriched.

New Lonely Planet Guide to Phuket

It was a few months ago that a guy called Adam visited our office and said he was doing some research for a new Lonely Planet guidebook all about Phuket. He explained this was a new kind of guide. Rather than try to pack the entire SE Asia region or the whole of Thailand into a guidebook that ends up weighing 2 kilos and is out of date by the time it's published, the new idea is to make small pocket sized guides to single destinations, ideal for holidaymakers. Sounded good - a small, detailed guidebook with way more information about Phuket than you can find squeezed into any Thailand guide.

"Looking for information about Phuket? You've come to the right place!", said the author of Jamie's Phuket! I and our office helper then supplied Adam with an information overload. She also helped him out with translations and interviews. I think Adam stayed about a month in Phuket travelling all over the island. Very nice guy - you can see his website here: Adam Skolnick

I'd forgotten about it actually, until a couple of days ago. I went for lunch at my favourite little Phad Thai shop and the owner proudly showed me a photo of her husband cooking Phad Thai in a book. "Is it a good book?", she asked. I checked the front cover - Phuket Pocket Guide... Lonely Planet. "Yes, it's a good book!". Then I remembered - must be that new guidebook. It looks like this:



Aside from the tasty Phad Thai, there are many places listed in the Phuket Encounter guide that also feature here on Jamie's Phuket, and I am glad to say (rather chuffed in fact) that this blog is listed in the guidebook as a recommended website. I'd certainly recommend this book for visitors to Phuket, and you can be sure it's up to date as Adam was only here a few months ago, though prices can change of course.

The Amazon website listed the Phuket Pocket Guide and said it's not yet released, but can be pre ordered. When I checked the Lonely Planet website, I could not find the book. It was that new! So how the heck did the owner of the back street Phad Thai shop get a copy??!!

Anyway, now it's available for sure ....

Phuket Pocket Guide - Order from Amazon.com

Life’s Little Lies ...

When we are little they tell us we are special.  It takes a while, but soon enough, we discover that we are not.  (Even if few acknowledge the fact.)  “You can be anything you want to be.”  Another lie.  “You deserve only the best life has to offer.”  Ah, but how are you going to pay for it?  “You are destined for great things and were put on this planet for a unique purpose.”  So there used to be 3 billion of these “destinies” when I arrived.  Now there are nearly 7 billion and counting?  Each one put on this Earth to fulfill some greater purpose?  It all starts to sound a bit like Santa, delivering presents to every little girl and boy, in one night.

Is it any wonder then, that we find people in the West, with such inflated expectations and sense of entitlement?  Everyone with so much and yet whining about not having enough.  I suppose it is human nature to want more.  That desire pushes us to move, ever forward.  Never to be content with what we have.  A consequence of not knowing when to stop, however, is the wanton destruction of our environment, our resources and sometimes our own lives.

Some believe that escaping into another culture will resolve all issues in their life.  Another one of those misnomers.  What one reads about a culture’s beliefs, values and structures are often on the theoretical side, bearing little resemblance to the drudgery of daily existence.

Transplanted into their new world, what was once shiny and new, becomes glaringly annoying.  The whiner resurfaces to point out all the garish discrepancies between their lofty expectations and what they see now as ludicrous or loathsome about their new home.  Therein are born a multitude of articles and websites and blogs about the oddities and quirks of Thais and Thailand.  Dire warnings ensue about the hazards that lurk below the surface and anecdotal evidence of the horrors that await the innocent.  If it happened to him, it will most likely happen to you, as well.

With a constant upwelling of newcomers discovering Thailand, there is an unlimited pool of innocent, naive and sometime desperate individuals who will believe almost anything they read.  Sure, the food and language are different.  One has to learn the rules of the game, as well.  I would suggest, however, finding your own path and relying less on the advice and warnings of others.  So you make some mistakes along the way.  Who doesn’t?  We learn more from our mistakes, so a life void of them, certainly falls short of its potential.  A little caution is a good thing but if you expect bad things to happen, then that is often what you will find.

Thailand has been good to me, as I’m sure it has been to others.  I would have missed so much had I not found myself in this amazing place.  You may not find that it makes you into a new person, but you may just find that it allows you to be yourself, for a change.

Kata Noi Beach

Kata Noi beach hardly seems to have changed in years. I took a ride over to Kata Noi recently to take some photos in the sunshine and have to say... Nice! Actually it has probably been a few years since I was last there. Kata Noi is not the kind of beach you pass through. The road is a dead end after crossing over from Kata beach (only takes a few minutes), so I suppose you really only go to Kata Noi if you stay there or out of curiosity.

Kata Noi Beach

The beach is clean and is framed by headlands at either end. I know that in the high season you can get some decent snorkeling off the beach. When I was there (a hot low season day) the sand was almost too hot to walk on. Small massage shacks were doing a good business and there were a fair number of people on the beach and a few surfers trying to catch a wave. I don't think Kata Noi ever gets crowded, though. The one road behind the beach is quiet, there are a few restaurants, a few small hotels such as Kata Noi Bay Inn and Kata Noi Club Bungalows.

Street in Kata Noi

The relative isolation is a good thing for the taxi drivers! You can't spend your whole vacation at Kata Noi Beach. Kata is just about walkable over the hill (I saw some people doing it), but the hot weather and general lazy I'm-on-holiday feeling is why taxi drivers do so well. I might walk to Kata, but then get a taxi back! It's a bit of a slog up the hill!

Kata Noi Taxi Drivers

The beach really is very nice. But I have not yet mentioned the major feature of Kata Noi. This is the Kata Thani Beach Resort which takes up a large proportion of the beachfront. Yes, I reckon it must be a fine place to stay. You have (more or less) a private beach. The hotel gets great reviews on TripAdvisor and I reckon (if I was a rich man, la la la la la), I might stay at KataThani... or their new wing called The Shore!

Kata Thani Resort - Booking at Agoda.com
The Shore at Kata Thani - Booking at Agoda.com

Kata Noi Beach

Not sure if they own the beach... don't think so, but they do seem to own all the land! I saw signs like the one below several times, and there were staff around who looked like security to keep out undesirables. I guess the other hotels have an agreement as you do really have to cross Kata Thani territory to reach the sand. In low season things were not so busy. I reckon there might be more beach chairs in high season...

Katathani Hotel Guests Only

Kata Noi Beach Chairs

Kata Thani might be the most obvious resort at Kata Noi, but there is a "fancier" place to stay. Mom Tri's Villa Royale is set on the cliffs overlooking the bay. If you are at the north end of the beach you'll find some steps and a path heading a hundred meters or so around the headland to the Villa Royale, which is one of the Top 10 Hotels in Phuket.

Villa Royale Booking at Agoda.com

There is one other decent place to stay at Kata Noi called Kata Noi Resort. Otherwise you can enjoy Kata Noi if you stay in Kata Beach and just walk, drive or taxi over to "little Kata". As I was leaving and riding up the hill towards Kata Beach I noticed the top of the steps which lead down to Kata Noi beach. Easily missed. A small sign and a narrow, steep stairway. The main entrance to Mom Tri's Villa Royale is a bit further on.

To Kata Noi

Compared to the "main beaches" Kata Noi still seems to me like a sleepy backwater, albeit with a couple of 5 star resorts. You can have some peace and quiet, a bit of luxury, feel like you're far from the masses, and yet you can drive over to Kata in less than 5 minutes where you find plenty of restaurants and bars for the evening. I like Kata Noi, but it might be a while before I go again unless someone wants to pay me a few nights at the KataThani!

Village Farang “talks” to the Faithful ...

Faithful readers, that is. You may have noticed some recent changes made to this space. As I learn and my knowledge of blogging grows, every effort will be made to incorporate that which will not excessively distract from my main focus. The written word, and the invitation to examine life’s path and meaning, from my perch here in the Village.

I finally figured out (I know, a little slow out the gate), how to imprison all those messy HTML scripts into one main box. Once again, modified what is written at the top of the page, to reflect where things stand presently. Updated the subscription link and added a Google news reader with a Thailand page.

At a readers chiding, I have incorporated some statistical software that maps out were people are coming from. I find it interesting to zoom in on the map and imagine someone on that street or in that building sitting at their computer, using that particular browser, OS, resolution and reading what, when, how long and how often. Sometimes I even venture a guess as to who you are. From ISP to IP the detail is amazing, at least to me.

The main deviation from the past is the inclusion of a Blog List. This is not a long list of links I have no interest in. These are fellow bloggers who have been regular reads and have taken the time to comment or correspond with Village Farang. For your loyalty, a little payback. It is left to the individual readers to explore these sites or not.

Of course all readers and comments are greatly appreciated, but other than responding to comments I am at a loss, as how to recognize the rest of you. For those who just can’t find the right words, there is now a “star ranking” at the end of each post. Maybe not a good idea, but thought it was worth a try.

I toyed with making the page more visually stimulating and attractive, but most of that doesn’t seem to work well in the flexible-width format that I prefer. Fixed-width pages end up straining my aging eyes as they fill but a portion of my 24 inch screen. I can understand people choosing fixed, and I do have webpages and photo galleries hosted on .mac, in a fixed-width format. It is not my format of choice, however.

I have considered including links to pictures of a more personal nature that encompass a canvas much larger than Thailand itself. As the “Village Farang” I wonder about the relevance and acceptance, of including disparate and unrelated images of my life. So the jury is still out on that one.

Thanks for letting me “talk” to you a little more directly today.

Relationships ...

Relationships are complicated and disparate, with the scope of dissimilarity assuring there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success or harmony. Cross cultural relationships add multiple layers of complexity. Whose cultural values and beliefs will dominate when choices are required? How much knowledge and experience do the parties possess about each other?

With limited understanding and invalid assumptions, the decision making process becomes flawed and perhaps, in some cases, doomed to failure. Unable to communicate properly, one is often left with guessing or what I fear happens most, projecting. One assumes the other is thinking or saying what you want them to. It is often felt, that not knowing is better and simplifies things. “Ignorance is bliss” is the correct reference, I believe.

One could argue that many a man, drawn to Thailand, is on the rebound from a breakup, going through that midlife thing, or lacks experience with the opposite sex. It makes sense to me that one exercise more caution under such circumstances. But then again, just because we have a brain, doesn’t mean we always use it. Testosterone drives men to compete for the female prize, and if he has it, shower gifts and money on anyone who may have influence over the outcome of the game.

Women are often driven to “test” a man and get what they can, before he looses interest or the game is over. If one looks at divorce statistics, it is clear many bad choices are being made. Thailand aficionados will have knowledge of the many horror stories which abound in the expat community. Some seem to deserve what they get, while others are perhaps, simply unlucky.

The time to get things right is in the beginning, however. If loneliness and desperation, lead one to leap into the abyss, then the choice has already been made and the consequence could be horrific. I sympathize with those who find themselves in difficult relationships. One must, however, take a fair share of the responsibility for being there to begin with.

Lets assume a modicum of mutual attraction and compatibility. Being able to speak each other’s language would be beneficial but is often not present. Some form of long term commitment (from both parties) would be nice, other than simply proclaiming everlasting love. Often it appears that the only thing people are clearly committed to is the eventual end of the relationship. The sad reality being that the majority of relationships, do indeed end.

I witness people espousing the virtues of time spent apart. Of open or long-distance relationships. Of blowing up and making up. Venting ones anger and storming off in an infantile rage. Counting on flowers, I’m sorry and make-up sex, to push the “reset” button. I am not, however, an advocate of “time outs” or “space” or fighting and making up.

Conflict and confrontation which leads to angry words or violence, is never productive in my opinion. It leaves scares on a relationship that may never completely heal. It is no excuse to say, “That’s just me” or “I can’t help it”. Our higher brain functions are there for a purpose, so why not use them. Choose your actions and words wisely. Nurture your partner, don’t put them down or demean them. This cannot be one-sided, either, at least not for any length of time. Inevitably, relationships are like Velcro, in that both sides are needed, in order for it to function properly.

I’m a firm believer that you treat your partner better than anyone else and expect the same in return. They are after all, or should be, the most important person in your life. If your partner is not your best friend and the person you go to for companionship or when life gets rough, then life is lacking much of the comfort, joy and pleasure it could have. I’m here as a witness, that it can indeed work, but there are many caveats.

Simply closing ones eyes does not mean problems disappear. On a daily basis, ones partner should be made to feel special, wanted, appreciated, understood, protected and sheltered. Never take for granted that they know how you feel or what you need. Don’t “test” or speak in code. Be clear about what you want to say and then say it with compassion and understanding. Saying nice things not only make others feel good but reinforces those feeling inside you, as well. Just as we are what we eat, we are also what we think. Thinking negatively about others does not make things better.

For those who have already begun the journey. Be it long-term relationship, marriage, or perhaps family, I wish you the best of luck. For those standing on the precipice, please take your time and think things through. Will “both” of your lives be enriched by moving forward? Are you focused on what you are leaving behind, or what you want in the future? What are you loosing or gaining? Is what you have, right here, right now, enough? Do you accept each other, for who you really are? Do you really know who you are as individuals? If not, how do you ever expect things to workout?

Exploring Phuket Town

I have always liked Phuket Town. Big enough to be interesting, small enough to be easily explored, busy but without crazy traffic (most of the traffic bypasses the town), lots of interesting areas, hills and views, parks, temples, local people who seem rather detached from the tourism that grips the main beaches. Phuket Town is where you can find local life a plenty, local festivals and a different nightlife scene to the tourist zones.

I realised today there is a lot of information relating to Phuket Town on this blog, so this post is a way to tie it all together. I still want to blog more about the town - the big fresh market for example and the Chinese shrines, and one day I must "blog" a ride on the local buses that run from town all over the island. There are also loads of little specialist shops that you just can't find anywhere else. As I say, I like Phuket Town, always something new to find.

Old Phuket Town Street Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town

A few square blocks in the center is where to find the best of the "Sino-Portugese" architecture, old buildings and quiet cafes. I love walking around this area, could do it every day looking at this quiet area with an old fashioned feeling. There's always something interesting to find and photograph.

Walking in Old Town (June 2011)
Phuket Heritage Trails tour in Phuket Town
Phuket Photo Walk 2010
Phuket Photo Walk 2009
A walk around Old Phuket Town
Phuket Thai Hua Museum
Old Phuket Street Festival
Mongkhon Nimit Temple

Hills and Views

On the north side of Phuket Town you find a couple of hills where you can find views, monkeys, a couple of restaurants, temples and local folk getting some fresh air. Rang Hill is more popular, featuring a fitness park and a well known restaurant (Tunk-Ka). Further east is "Monkey Hill" (actually called Khao To Sae), where there are lots of monkeys near the top, some views (but its quite jungly) and a little monkey temple.

Rang Hill
Monkey Hill

Markets

Yes I will blog the main central market one day! It just opened in 2010 after a major rebuild. There's also a "new" fresh food market just outside town on Chao Fa road and more a couple of blocks south of the main market. At the weekend there's the weekend market just outside town at Naka Temple, well worth a visit.

Weekend Market

Weekend Market Weekend Market

Festivals

Phuket Town is the center for several festivals such as Chinese New year, the Old Phuket Festival, the Phuket Food Festival and the one and only Phuket vegetarian Festival. If you are in Phuket when a festival is on, make an effort to see something! The vegetarian festival in particular is quite incredible, with daily processions through town.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Introduction
Phuket Vegetarian 2009 Photos
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2008 Photos
Jui Tui Shrine (near the market)
Phuket Food Festival
Phuket Street Show Festival 2010

Cooking at the Food Festival Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Around Phuket Town

Out of the center of town are various interesting areas as well as the large shopping centers like Central, Lotus and Big C. At Sapan Hin you find lots of open spaces for exercise, a sports center, a Chinese shrine, sea views and a mangrove walkway (being renovated last time I went there). On the edge of town is Suan Luang Park, a large green space very popular at weekends, and every morning and evening you find locals jogging, walking and doing tai chi. Just to the east of town, past the Rasada ferry terminal (for boats to Krabi and Phi Phi) is Sirey Island, still quiet and home to sea gypsies.

Sirey Island
Suan Luang Park
Sapan Hin
Phuket Butterfly Garden

Suan Luang Park

Eating out in Phuket Town

I am making an effort this year to try some Phuket Town restaurants. We've eaten recently at Natural restaurant, Rimtang and Uptown. Phuket Town is a good place to get "real" local food. Once I have a good long list of restaurants in town, there will be more information here. For now, check:

Phuket Restaurants

There's plenty more to blog yet! Phuket Town is worth a bit of your time if you want a day off the beach and want to see a bit of local life. The contrast between the town and the beaches is quite something. More to come soon! I want to blog markets, buses, more temples, more restaurants...

A Dog’s Life ...


There have been moments when we questioned the addition of Cookie to our pet menagerie. Our movements have been constrained and our once immaculately clean house, is a puppy playpen. She possesses the strength and energy of three dogs and is only eleven kilos to date. Her love of swimming and roughhousing with King and a neighbor dog leaves her in need of a good cleanup and blow-dry before reentering the house.

Our two older males will have nothing to do with her and dispatch her with a growl and show of teeth. Other adult neighbor dogs, who come to scavenge leftovers from our dog bowls, seem to respect that this is Cookie’s house and not theirs. Mainly they ignore her and she is learning to read their postures.

The professionals talk forcefully of confinement and “crating” and having one handler of a dog. The wife and I share our dogs equally, however, and are a little soft on the confinement thing. Trial and error over the first few sleepless nights, led to Cookie sleeping in a cage in our bedroom at night. At first there were protests but much less than putting her in another room. Again not being overly forceful, we started letting her settle down and go to sleep on the floor before placing her in her cage.

Perhaps it took longer but last night we had a breakthrough. We were not in bed yet, and the lights were not out but I thought to ask Cookie if she wanted to go to bed yet. Like a proud daddy, I beamed as she proceeded to enter her cage and go to bed, with no protest whatsoever. Ah, the joy of small victories. She is also getting very good at letting us know when she needs to go out. We are a little troubled by the fact that she is already aware of the use and purpose of door handles. For now she is unable to reach them and fortunately we have door knobs instead of levers.

As for the two older dogs, they had a bit of a shock yesterday. We had a local veterinarian out, for a bout of Nip & Tuck, for population control and personality modification, you understand. Mo-Mo and Soda had their family jewels removed along with those of the mother-in-law’s cat. The wife and I were a bit squeamish about the whole thing. Just the thought of the “unkindest cut” was enough, but we had to be assistants. It was a very hands-on event.

This action had long been contemplated but things came to a head recently. On one occasion Mo-Mo came home after nearly two weeks of girl chasing, and looked near death. It is that time again, around the village, and the “boys” are all fighting over a chance with the “girls”. Soda was mending a bad bite on his back leg while Mo-Mo’s face has looked better.

Living in a village, none of the “Western” rules apply. Dogs are expected to be loud, aggressive, territorial and protect the house and possessions. Dogs are not confined or leashed. They are however beaten on occasion and those who transgress, by biting people or killing livestock, are served up at a small ramshackle hut on the side of the road. Unlike Korea, it is not the national dish, but it does happen. It even finds its way into local humor as some have teased me about the price per kilo. Enough said on that subject.

King was neutered at a young age, and though he barks ferociously, is not the one to start fights, unlike the other two. Not sure if it will make a difference immediately, but over time, we hope to see improvements in behavior. The locals are skeptical of our relationship with our dogs and no doubt get a laugh out of some of our actions and concerns. Today, Mo-Mo and Soda were quite hungover, and stumbled around like drunken sailors.

Later in the day they were doing well enough, that we drove to the main market in our area for some fresh produce. On our return we were surprised to find our way home block by Mo-Mo, “locked” as it were, in the throws of amour. Presumably he was shooting blanks and it must have been quite painful. He has always been the type to get down to business and save the small talk for the clenches, afterwards. Apparently it will take him awhile to accept his new reality.

Living with animals fills ones life with humor and affection, in addition to all the irritation and destruction of puppyhood. Would we do it again, knowing what we now know? My wife’s answer was fifty, fifty. That is a pretty good assessment for now, but the numbers are moving daily in the direction of “YES” as Cookie incorporates herself into our daily lives.

Blogging Stuff ...

What happened to real people reading blogs, thinking, asking questions or making comments, giving their own views and getting on with their lives? Of late, I have been forced to reject more comments than I approve. I’m getting numerous invitations to this site or that, to increase my (or perhaps their) exposure on the internet.

Are links, hits and page views the only things that count? Gimmicks and tricks to fool the search engines into upping your ranking? Is that what it has come to? No thought, or real people carrying on a conversation, just a numbers game?

Somehow my blog was placed on this Thai Stars list of Thailand Blogs. I lingered happily near the bottom until one day I found my blog elevated to the top of the page. Ever since, the flow of garbage has increased to a flood and the interaction I relish has fallen off to a trickle. Am I naive in my desire to reach my core audience without all the wizardry, of smoke and mirrors?

I have dabbled a bit, signing up for various blog directories. Maybe I’m not sure about who my readers are and how we might be inclined to find each other? Sure my numbers are better than before, but I find myself longing for quality rather than quantity. Perhaps I need to ask a question, again. This time I would like to know “Why do you read this blog?” and “What can I do to make it better for you and reach regular readers, like yourself?”

VF and Jubby Hit the Trails ...

Still not sure what I think of someone spending two weeks, on and off, in my home and not telling me who they were. In the end it would have made little difference, due to the person they came with. I have to admit it was great to have another native speaker around to talk to and do things with. It filled a void and left me, lacking motivation to write. Not too long after our guests returned home, I hooked up with Jubby. One of my silent readers, who as it turns out, lives a mere 14 kilometers up the road from us.

With a mutual interest in mountain bikes we arranged to meet up at my place, for an epic ride. Our path and goal was not fixed, leaving several options to bail out if the weather turned bad or our fitness proved inadequate. In my mind the time had come to link two of my circle routes. I guesstimated the two routes at 21 and 25 kilometers but thought the combination would knockoff ten or so.

Courtesy of Jubby’s odometer we now know it was a 42 kilometer ride, mainly dirt, mud, water and rock except for the six small villages we traversed along the way. We lucked out with the weather, except that our assault of the steepest mountain came at the hottest time of our ride. A couple of well timed pit stops for some ice-cold Sponsor helped to sustain us in the heat.

Having separately traversed these two routes, several times in good weather, I felt prepared but was a little caught off guard, by some new obstacles. Recent rains had left more water and mud than usual and there were more bridges under construction. One proved more of a challenge as there was no obvious way across, at first glance. By standing a piece of wood on end and letting it fall across the rushing water, we improvised a bridge.

Balanced unevenly and ever so precariously, upon rocks on either side of the stream, the sight did not instill confidence in the outcome. I managed to carry the bikes down the rocks on one side and across the makeshift bridge. Jubby reached down from the muddy embankment, with just enough extension, to lift the bikes to safety on the other side. On my own, such a crossing would have proven iffy at best and could have ended badly. The picture that came to mind, of me or my bike laying crumpled on the rocks, was not a pretty one.

Teamwork won out and we continued on our merry way. With Jubby’s encouragement I overcame my reluctance to ride through water and mud. By the end of the ride it had become a nonissue and with a little cleanup, the bike and I, looked as good as new.

I’m looking forward to our next ride. With many trails to choose from, the only difficulty might be trying to avoid the main roads or backtracking. As much as I enjoy a circle route, I would probably choose backtracking the way we came, to spending too much time on the highways.

Independent though I am, it was very rewarding to spend time with a couple of great guys this last month. Perhaps with due diligence and a bit of luck, future friends and companions will be as affable and simpatico, and I will manage to avoid the dregs which inhabit the dark recesses of the Rai.