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“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
- Albert Einstein

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about the new decade and what I’d like to change. I’m not starting with a list of goals. In fact, I’m not even starting with a single goal.

Instead, I’m starting with a scent.

I used to start the new year with a goal or a single goal and forever failed to realize the change I was looking for. My goals were always dry. Boring. Predictable. Tired. They lacked vision and meaning and emotion and possibility—the very qualities I need to feel sparked and alive.

Having the SMART goal concept cemented into my brain by every success-guru, I’d make my list:
1. Lose 10 pounds by July 15.
2. Make $5,000 more by Nov 15.
3. Buy new living room furniture with my new money by Dec 31.
4. And so on….

Year-after-year, I’d raise my champagne glass to ring in the new year and the fact that I was no closer to my goals. What I had begun to overlook was the fact that in spite of all of the goal-setting, I had become even less clear about what I really, I mean like truly-willing-to-die-for, wanted.

Thanks to a string of failures several years ago, I finally stumbled upon a different approach.

I'd had four miserable jobs in a row and I decided it was time for a career change. Normally, I would have added: #42: Get new career, in The Annual Re-Typing of the List of Goals. But, as I wasn’t entirely clear about what I wanted to do, I struggled to turn it into a perfect SMART goal. So, instead, I closed my eyes and in an effort to summon the specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-oriented goal to my brain, I was unable to con cen trate. My mind wandered, avoiding the stale task at hand and all I could think about was what my new career might smell like.
And what it would sound like.
And what it would taste like.
And what it would feel like to touch it.
And what it would look like.

It wasn’t a smart goal, but it was something.

My new career would smell like escargot and taste like cherry popsicle. It would sound like bees and feel like holding someone’s hand. It would look like a swift moving river.

It felt silly, crazy and impractical, but it was a start.

And, by experimenting, investigating and checking things out during my new career search, I noticed what felt like cherry popsicle and bees, and what didn’t. Everything cherry popsicle stayed in; everything not-cherry-popsicle got deleted. I got more clear about a dream. I could fill in the spaces, adding texture and meaning around the sensations of my dream. It seemed to take forever, but within a year, I landed in a completely new career, new job, new home and in a new city.

Today, and for the first time in my life, everything meshes. I have a rich, fun career in a company where I busily work with caring people. There are ups and downs and it’s exciting and sometimes calm, but always moving forward. My silly, crazy, impractical approach was better than any goal I had.

So, tonight as I think about the new decade and what’s next for me, I’ll shut my eyes tight and follow my nose.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards

Village Farang’s Google Map ...

Felt like doing something different this year.  At the top of the page you will find a link to My Google Map.  Village Farang’s Chiang Rai, is my personal map of Chiang Rai.  Not meant to be all inclusive but rather a glimpse into places we frequent.  Putting too many bike or motorcycle routes gets messy so have removed most.

This is a work in progress so would appreciate feedback, especially on usability.  I have found that with some browsers it may be necessary to reload the page to get things working properly.  Please click away on the list and zoom in on things of interest and let me know if it works.

Elephant Ride in Phuket - Elephant Trekking

I've never actually done an elephant ride. It's never been a thing I really fancied doing though I am sure it would be a fun thing to do and a lot of visitors to Thailand want to do it. There are elephant trekking places all over Phuket. Some are close to the main beaches, others get a bit more off the beaten track (better in my opinion, I don't want to be trekking with a view of Patong or within earshot of a busy road!). And it's good business for sure, riding an elephant is on many tourists "must do" list. My parents have been over here visiting a number of times, and it was on their 2nd visit in 2004 that they went off for an elephant ride. I asked mum to write about the experience.. although it was over 5 years before this post written in 2010 and she forgot a couple of things - can't remember exactly where the place was, but it was between Kata and Naiharn... and she's not sure of the price they paid, but said she did bargain a bit and the price seemed quite reasonable for a new and unique experience.

Some people are against using elephants in this way and say the animals are not treated well. My parents experience was only positive, but just last week there was an incident in Phuket where an elephant went wild, a couple of tourists were injured and the elephant threw a car down a hill. That is of course a very rare occurrence - I've never heard of such a problem before in Phuket, but remember that elephants are wild animals no matter how many years they have been working with people.

If you want to book an elephant ride or any other Phuket tour, contact my friends at Easy Day Thailand.

Update - I asked about elephant rides on my Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page and got plenty of answers from tourists and animal lovers alike - see Have you done an elephant ride in Phuket?

Update 2016 - The Phuket Elephant Sanctuary will be opening soon!

OK, here's my Mum's words ... Our Elephant Experience in Phuket by Paula Monk.

When I was a child I would look through my books and see pictures of far away, wonderful lands. I was fascinated, but in the 1950s, growing up in post war Britain, it didn't seem possible that I would ever see any of those places for myself. I was filled with wonder at the sights of children riding on elephants and imagined how it would feel. That little dream lay dormant for almost a lifetime. The world has moved on during that life time and people travel far and wide – ordinary people like me.

Now we have family in Thailand (it was called Siam in my childhood) and on one of our visits I was determined to fulfil my childhood dream. I can't now tell you the name of the place where we went for our elephant ride. It was in the rural south of the island, in hilly terrain. I feel there couldn't have been a better place – the elephants were well looked after and so were we – my husband and I. The jungle was thick and lush and the views from the hill tops were superb.

We climbed up onto a platform of wood and bamboo to wait for our elephant and the young man who would guide us through our adventure. The back of the elephant was level with the platform and we climbed onto her back – I wish I could remember her name – and tried to get comfortable in the hard metal howdah. Even before we started to move we felt rather insecure, perched up there. It is high up and the seat is not strapped too tightly to the elephant.

My parents on the elephant ride in Phuket

Slowly we moved off. I was all grins and happiness! At first the ride seemed fairly smooth, but soon we were traversing the slopes of the jungle through narrow pathways. It was like a fair ground ride – I was thrilled and exited and scared stiff at the same time! Going down hill it almost felt like we would be lurched forward and roll over the beautiful elephants head! We hung on tight and enjoyed the thrill. Mostly our elephant strolled slowly along the familiar paths – sometimes she broke into almost a trot, accompanied by gasps and squeals from us.

The mahout

Elephant trekking in Phuket

Our elephant man started the ride sitting on the elephants head, between his ears.
Often we would stop completely when the elephant felt like a nibble at the trees – her trunk swinging to reach the tastiest bits. After a while our elephant man slipped down from the elephant and walked ahead. Oh my! Here we were, my beloved and I riding alone on an elephant though the jungle! Did I ever dream that I would be doing this? Soon our young guide came back and asked for my camera – a moderately simple digital camera. I wondered if he would know how to use it. But he was a superb photographer and we have a collection of fantastic photos of the pair of us on our elephant. The pictures definitely capture the excitement we were experiencing, far more than the fear.

View from the top!

Don't fall off! Hold on tight!

Our ride lasted for a long time – about an hour we recall. As we realised we were coming to the end of the ride we became aware that we felt physically tired. It is hard work to keep the body stiff and alert and to be holding on tight. But above all, we felt exhilaration that in our 60s we had taken the chance to fulfil a dream.

We climbed from the back of our beautiful elephant onto the platform. The world seemed so still and at peace. We climbed down and gave her some bananas. Wow, she looked so big from ground level! Then she was led away for a rest and to wait for the next people to delight in the experience. We fed young elephants before we left and stroked their heads. It was a lovely place to be and has provided us with a treasured memory.

Related Blog Posts

More Things to Do in Phuket
Phang Nga Bay Tour
Phuket Gibbon Rehab Center
Phuket Tours with Easy Day Thailand
Phuket Botanic Garden
30/1/10 - Sat outside a coffee shop near the Christchurch Art Gallery

I'll start with the walk back from Sumner, I cunningly turned the walk into a circular route by coming back on the other side of the road. This was mainly because I thought I was being funny and was amusing myself but it ended up being a great decision because I noticed so much more looking at the villages I was passing instead of out to the estuary and the sea.

I discovered that many of the houses in the hills had no road access and some of them even had their own monorails. I loved these houses and dreamt of owning one but when I considered the practicalities it wasn't as idyllic as it seemed. What if you twist an ankle? You become housebound or stuck out of your house, I still admired the people who lived in the houses and the builders who must have had a tough task building them.

The highlight of the walk was when I spotted a path with a sign saying Mulgan's Track, something that I had missed on the way to Sumner. It was a path up through the near near vertical hill side that served as the only access to 7 or 8 beautiful hillside houses. The view from the top was awesome and I had a little moment with myself before setting off back down the hill.

The whole walk to Sumner and back began at 11 and finished at 6 so by my calculations that's about 20 miles. I was exhausted when I returned to the hostel so I tried to get an hours sleep, not helped by interruptions from my 2 new room-mates (both nobs), one English, one German who looked at me like I'd crawled through sewage when I told them about my walk.

I got up and had a pint in a shit sports bar then watched Jackass in the hostel lounge before going to bed at 11 for a much needed proper night of sleep.

Today I was up at 7 and raring to go, I took a trip to the supermarket to buy some cereal for breakfast and bread for lunch. I met a friendly Canadian who was drinking someone else's wine, we chatted away as I ate my Sugar puffs (I thought I was buying Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes but I like both anyway) (Why did I write that, that's not interesting, sorry) (the apology has made things worse, I should have left it or deleted all this drivel, oh well). We both agreed that a girl who came in to the kitchen stressed was a moron because there should be no reason for stress when you're travelling in New Zealand.

The Canadian finished off the bottle of wine and when his friend came in I learned that he was working today and would be driving there. Later, whilst shaving I learned that he also has no licence in any country but I liked him so I'll allow it.

On the dangerous driver's recommendation, and also because I had planned to go there anyway, I headed for the botanic gardens and Hagley park where I got lost (bliss) watched some cricket and read some signs about trees that were so uninteresting I should have removed them and replaced them with new ones like 'This one gets pretty big' or 'Probably one of these in lord of the rings'.

From the park once I had found my bearings again I went to the Christchurch Art Gallery - Number 6 in 30 things not to miss in New Zealand according to my Rough Guide. The building was impressive and inside was similar to many other art galleries I've visited: the pictures were either boring or I didn't understand them. It was crap but I felt a bit more cultured.

I like travelling.

Christchurch Exploration

29/1/10 - Sat outside a bar in Sumner with a pint of Tui, not quite a lager but tasty nonetheless.

I'm in love, partly with the French girl I met last night but mostly with New Zealand and travelling in general.

Last night was a great night, the only thing missing was some dancing like a mentaler. I was first invited out by two German guys who were staying in the same room as me - Mike and Chris were their names and the first thing they did was to say they were going out later and did I want to join them which straight off makes them pretty good blokes in my book. I was feeling quite nackered after the flight so I said I'd see how I feel later.

After popping to the shop I made myself some pasta and got chatting to a lovely French girl called Astrid and we ended up going out for the evening together. Our first stop was a park to watch some of the World Buskers Festival which, by jolly coincidence is taking place in Christchurch this week. The act was a sort of trapeze, circus, acrobatics number which was nothing spectacular but watching it for free on a summer night with a beautiful stranger can't be bad. Once the swinging, twirling and jumping had finished we avoided donating any money and found a bar where we happily chatted the evening away before heading back to the hostel around 11 to say our goodbyes and exchange names for facebook, then off to bed for some much needed sleep.

Or at least that was the plan until Chris came in to the room and said they were just heading out and again asked if I wanted to join them. I'm not great at saying no to a night out and so I did join them and made lots of one night friendships with: An 18 year old German girl who had been living in a car whilst travelling; a brummy called Dave who was dangerously horny and two English girls who were staying in the same room as me and the Germans who were a bit annoying.

Today I have walked 3 and a half hours, partly in the wrong direction, from Christchurch to Sumner, a small seaside town with a beach and some picturesque rocks with caves in right on the waterfront. The walk was cracking, or at least the second half was, following the river estuary out to the sea past cliffs and caves and some pretty houses. I like travelling.

The Journey

Thursday 28/1/10 - On the plane from Sydney to Christchurch.

So far everything has gone very smoothly, touch wood. It's a long way to New Zealand but the in flight entertainment was excellent, I watched a couple of sit-coms, a bit of Michael McIntyre before he started to irritate me and 4 and a half films (Funny People **, District 9 ****, Julie & Julia ***, Up *** and most of Public Enemies before falling asleep).

On the Singapore to Sydney leg I overheard the woman sat next to me saying she lived near Auckland and I confess that my first thought was that I should befriend her on the off chance that she might offer me a place to stay for a night. I played it cool for the first 5 hours of flight because she had her headphones on and with only a couple of hours to go I started to worry that I might not get my opportunity to persuade this woman that she should start a B&B for me, but then a stroke of luck - she began vomiting with alarming frequency. Fantastic, I had my 'in' because I had to let her out every time she went to dispose of her sick bag and my 'it's no fuss, throw up as many times as you like' face is second to none.

When she turned a healthier shade of green, we got chatting and she was lovely. Her, her husband and several children (I think she mentioned at least 4) had moved to New Zealand from Kent. She had just spent a month with her sister becauase her neice was in Great Ormond Street with a brain... thing, can't remember what it was called but it was the size of a tennis ball and bad for you, if the girl had been older than 3 months then she's be dead but little ones have flexible skulls so hopefully she will recover fully.

Once we had landed Kathy (the friendly green woman) said I was welcome to stay with her family if I wanted (about bloody time) on their dairy farm 2 hours from Auckland and I may well take her up on her offer. I think I quite like travelling.

Memorable blushing moment 1: Looking for an up escalator or stairs back up to the toilets from the departure lounge at Sydney airport, failing to find one and generally walking forwards and backwards in an awkward drunken looking manner watched by a judgemental woman before conceding defeat and getting my phone out to avoid eye contact with judgemental woman.
Memorable blushing moment 2: About 2 minutes after blushing moment 1 I remembered I'd walked past a lift and lifts go up. Now I have a purpose judgemental woman. I strode in to the lift and the doors closed behind me, 'Floor B please' I thought as I pressed button B... nothing happened, I pressed it again and still nothing. Let's try C then... nothing. B & C together... nothing. Bugger. I resigned myself to holding my wee in and pressed A, the doors opened to reveal me to the judgemental lady who stared at me like one might stare at an individual who should not be allowed on a plane without being accompanied by their mental health practitioner. I got my phone out and walked past her with my head down.

Christchurch

I'm here, I made it. Someone let my Mum know!

Mom Tri's Oasis Restaurant (Kata Beach)

Update 2013 - This restaurant no longer exists :)

My normal restaurant choice for lunch is something cheap and simple... there are several choices close to where I work in Karon Beach such as Mama Noi, or a great Phad Thai shop, or several small local places. But a couple of weeks ago I was invited for a business lunch at Mom Tri's Oasis at Kata Beach. I have eaten before at Mom Tri's Kitchen which is overlooking Kata Noi Beach, so hoped for similarly delicious food.

Mom Tri's Oasis Entrance

The Oasis restaurant really is right on Kata Beach. There were sunloungers just a couple of meters away.... felt a bit odd... I was told that the restaurant is much nicer in the evening when the beach is empty.. there were not many diners on the day I was there.. guess we'll have to go back in the evening one day when I am feeling rich. Yeh, it's not really expensive - I am sure plenty of people would say that the prices are very reasonable considering the quality, the location, the service..

The location is actually very very nice...

View - Kata Beach from Mom Tri's Oasis

Sometimes I feel a bit out of place in fancier restaurants with huge wine lists (and Oasis has a huge wine list just like it's neighbour, the Boathouse). So I had some wine and ordered a salmon salad which was extremely tasty - you can taste the difference sometimes with the quality of ingredients - even a simple piece of lettuce is not to be taken lightly - and the lettuce in my salad was good lettuce! And I always appreciate a few sun dried tomatoes :)

You can see the full menu on the Mom Tri's website - I think the website shows the dinner menu, which is more extensive.. I was there for lunch and there were fewer choices, mostly what they call "Thai Tapas". What struck me the most was the way time flew sitting there in comfort, sipping wine, gazing over the beach... after 2 hours I reckoned I had better get back to the office, thinking "I could get used to this". Next day was back on the 50 Baht Phad Thai :)

Mom Tri's Oasis Restaurant

Related links...

Mom Tri's Villa Royale Hotel
Mom Tri's Kitchen
The Boathouse Hotel
More Phuket Restaurants

Mission

“I'm starting with the man in the mirror; I'm asking him to change his ways.”
– Michael Jackson



2009 will be a year I remember for a long time. The year began with a dear friend of mine’s father passing away-- unexpectedly. He was in his late 50’s. Two months later, my mentor of twenty years passed away-- unexpectedly. He was sixty. And, in June, Michael Jackson passed away-- unexpectedly. He was fifty.

I almost feel silly to say this aloud, but it was Michael Jackson’s death that finally woke me up. He was only four years older than me and I remember watching him grow up on TV while I was growing up in Iowa. I love to dance and Michael Jackson’s music and dance style were an inspiring influence to me throughout my youth and early thirties. But, like many people, I had lost track of Michael Jackson in his later years.

The news of Michael Jackson’s death made me curious about what had become of him during the last decade. To learn more, I watched countless videos and interviews of him on the internet and started to piece together the story of his life. For years, I had assumed that he was a great entertainer who had fallen into the typical traps of fame and materialism.

I was wrong.

Sure, he was an entertainer and yes, he had his eccentricities, but more than anything, Michael Jackson was a humanitarian with a mission to make the world a better place. Entertaining people through song and dance had simply become the vehicle that served his mission.

Michael Jackson was ahead of his time. He wrote and sang songs about our planet and loving others long before it was fashionable. Off the stage, he was generous with his time and money. No one knows exactly how much money Michael Jackson has donated to charitable causes over the years, but one thing is certain: most everyone agrees he’s done more than his fair share. Michael Jackson has touched the lives of millions, perhaps even billions, of people through his words and actions; he accomplished his mission.

As I have examined my own mission during the summer of 2009, one thing has become clear to me: It is just not enough to be a good person walking around on the planet. I can do more. I can be more. And, my job where I work each day can become the vehicle for living out a bigger, more meaningful mission.

This past year has been a turning point for me. I like this picture of Michael Jackson because it was before Man in the Mirror and, possibly even before he realized his own mission. This picture reflects a time when he was still just doing his job as an entertainer and perhaps on the verge of his own turning point to a grander mission.

We can each decide to be on the verge of a turning point to a grander mission, too. I know that many people are challenged by the difficulties we’ve been through in the past year. Many people have experienced hardships and continue to face uncertainty. Our planet and the world economy continue to experience uncertainty and disruptive change. While it’s cliché, it’s true: Change is hard. But, if we are collectively focused on a singular mission, the work we do in our jobs day-to-day can become the vehicle by which we each contribute to making our world a better place.

© 2010 Lisa Ann Edwards

Missed Pictures from The Other Day ...

Retracing our path, but this time on the Phantom.  Stopped to take some pictures I missed on that day.

Kathu Tin Mining Museum

The Phuket Tin Mining Museum in Kathu district is now open (more or less). There is still work continuing, it's not 100% open, maybe by the end of 2010, but anyway, I decided to go check it out with my kids on Saturday. It's not the easiest place to find unless you know the back roads. Coming from Kathu you have to take the back road around behind Loch Palm Golf Club that heads through the hills to the British International School. It's often used by taxis and minibuses as a shortcut between Patong and the airport. I guess the museum was built here because they needed lots of land, so had to find a place where land was not too expensive.

• Update - I blogged the Phuket Mining Museum again in January 2011

Kathu Tin Mining Museum Entrance

It's been years in the making. We first went to have a look more than 2 years ago - you can see a photo here on my weather blog. That was October 2007, the main building was ready and it looked like the museum might open in 2008. Since then we have looked in several times to see if anything was happening - we use the road as a handy shortcut from Kathu towards the north of Phuket.

So now it's January 2010 and I am happy to say you can now visit the museum, and happy to say that I think they have done a very good job - we'll be back for sure later in the year. There were not really any staff around when we went. A guy gave me a ticket with a 200 Baht price and charged me 100 Baht, free for the kids. Another older guy wandered around and showed us a few things and opened up a door to a display that seemed shut and shouted at someone to turn the lights on! There were actually a few other visitors, but given that the museum has cost 50 million Baht to build, it's going to need more than a few tourists to pay that back!

I am also happy to say my kids enjoyed the museum - I was worried they might find it boring, but actually there is a lot to see here. We started just inside the entrance with some rooms full of antiques and photos. The museum building has been built in the old "Sino Portuguese" style that is common in the older areas of Phuket Town.

Inside the mining museum

Display of antiques at the mining museum

Old photos at the mining museum

Then we entered the geology section... maybe my daughter will be a geologist... although I did get calls of "Boooring!" when I started to explain about Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary rocks :) This section of the museum is educational with displays about rocks and evolution and such.

Kathu Tin Mining Museum

My kids, bored with the difference between intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks, walked off ahead, only to come back screaming with fear and hiding behind my back.. I wondered if there was a snake or something around the corner, but no...

Scary caveman

It was a scary caveman :) Around the next corner we started with dioramas showing early mining techniques progressing to more modern tin mining methods used in Phuket. It was tin mining that made Phuket a rich area, as well as rubber plantations, fishing and the fact that Phuket was an important trading post. Tourism is bringing new wealth, but Phuket has a lot of "old money". Tin mining was an important industry in Phuket since the 18th century. The last mine closed in 1992.

Early mining diorama

Early tin mining techniques

The miniature diorama below shows an open cast mine, Many of the mines in Phuket were like this - you cannot see any now, or can you? In the Kathu area there are many lakes and ponds - all were former tin mines. My kids liked this display - just like the mini people in the movie "Night at the Museum" :)

Mining diorama at the Kathu Tin Mining Museum

Tin dredging technique

(above) My son looks at a display about tin dredging - bucket dredgers started operation in 1909 and operated for over 80 years. We then move on to a (not quite complete) display about tin processing where my daughter enjoyed looking at rocks under a microscope and my son enjoyed banging rocks with a hammer :)

Checking rocks with a microscope

The museum building is done in that old style with a huge courtyard and rooms all around. Many of the rooms are as yet undeveloped, and we thought we were all done until the man appeared and the lights came on and we entered a new section built like old Phuket streets with shops and houses, a shadow puppet theater, a Chinese shrine... cool!

Shrine at the mining museum

I think only because we were almost the only visitors were my kids allowed to play with the shadow puppets.. not sure they'd want each and every kid to mess about, but my 2 enjoyed it :)

The kids playing with shadow puppets

Shadow puppet display at the mining museum

My daughter also enjoyed pretending to make clothes in an old Chinese house..

My daughter at the old sewing machine

Again, once the museum is 100% open I don't think they'll want people touching everything, but exceptions were made here.. the old dude seemed to be the museum curator and he said it was fine for the kids to explore. I am happy they enjoyed the experience and they already want to go back. Good, I'll make nerds out of them yet. A bit of history, a bit of geology, a bit of engineering. A lot to see and learn at the Kathu Tin Mining Museum and looks like there will be plenty more once everything is finished. Still more to play with outside - an old Chinese style rickshaw. OK kids, I'll give you 20 Baht to pull me home....

Milk

I bought 2 pints of milk this morning and the milk lasts longer than my stay in England. Yay, it's so close I can almost smell the traveller's B.O. under my arm pits.

I'm enjoying how everyone at work says they're really pleased for me that I'm going then smiles through gritted teeth. I know that no-one wants to hear too much about any great experiences I have because you're not sharing them so I'll try to keep most of my posts about the morons and eccentric mentalers I'll inevitibly meet as well as any scary and crazy situations I get myself into.

Visited my Grandma last week and she said that if I was writing about my travels I should stick to facts about where I am and what I'm doing and not write about my thoughts about them because no-one will care what I think! Thanks Grandma.

Yearly Visa Renewal in Mae Sai ...

We don’t often have the occasion to drive the 111 km to Mae Sai on the Burmese boarder, but at this time of year, it is a necessity. The yearly visa renewal thing, you know. Well, an extension of stay based on being married to a Thai, would be more correct. Events normally proceed quite smoothly with a little patience and a smile. With very few people there on the day, no waiting in line this time.

Chiang Rai being the small yet spread out place that it is, we were not overly surprised to bump into a couple we know. Being able to visit a bit while the wheels of bureaucracy turned heavily but surely, made things that much more pleasant.

Finished before noon, we headed back to Chiang Rai, with an eye out for someplace to eat. Have to keep the wife well fed or she gets moody. Some things change little on the drive. The mountains, sometimes more visible than others. The tobacco growing in the fields beside the road. Vendors selling strawberries, pineapple and other fruit from their roadside stalls. A price check, confirming that the prices are better at Makro and the roadside scales are a little light.

The proliferation of new trendy coffee shops along the way is apparent after not having passed this way for a while. Some are modern, of glass and steel, while others are more arty and boutique like. We stopped at a place we like more for the decor than anything else in particular. Across the highway we noticed a shop and decided to visit there after lunch and coffee.

As fate would have it, there was a sign of interest to us, between the u-turn and the shop. It said Golden Retrievers, so we turned up the soi and found some of the most adorable GRs we have seen. It was all we could do, to leave there without adding to our collection of dogs and a cat. The two puppies were so cute at two months old. The owners were quite interesting too and we had a lively and entertaining visit, before escaping the tug on our heartstrings.

With a little time to kill, we decided to take a new way home. It ended up being more of an adventure than a viable shortcut. Much of the way was very narrow and required pulling over, to pass an oncoming vehicle. At one point we came upon a bridge so narrow that one could not possible open the doors and get out while crossing. We nearly turned back at that point but a farmer assured us we were on the right track, so we continued. Afterwards we very much regretted not having the forethought to document our crossing of that bridge with a photo.

Home at last, we will have to make the trip again in twenty-nine days, to pickup the completed visa extension. We are already considering which side roads we might explore at that time.

Jamie's Phuket 2009 Best Bits - Part 2

Seems there was a lot said in 2009, so this blog summary for the last year has been split into 2 halves. This is Part 2, following on nicely from Part 1. The second half of any year begins with July. Here in Phuket, July is pretty quiet - we are in the "low season" although weather is often pretty nice actually. For more on the weather, please do look at and bookmark the Phuket Weather Blog. Thank you.

July - We started with a little restaurant that we often drive past but rarely stop at - if it has a name, I don't know.. something like "Good Food, Nice View" - great view actually from Cape Panwa across Chalong Bay.

Paradise Beach, Phuket Good Food, Nice View

Then one of our favourite low season haunts - Paradise Beach, a small stretch of sand just outside Patong. Too busy for me in high season, but nice in July. A little restaurant, safe beach for the kids and cold beers for the dads!

On July 18th I took part in the Phuket Photo Walk, part of a worldwide photo event for people to take photos of their home town. About 40 people showed up for the walk around Phuket Town.

Old Phuket Town

In Phuket Town - this photo was reprinted in the local Phuket Gazette

August - I wrote about another local event - the Phuket Flower Fair. A huge variety of plants and flowers for sale, and prizes for the best orchids.

Orchid at the Phuket Flower Fair

In the north of Phuket there is a Muslim community called Bang Rong - there is a small restaurant there floating in the mangroves. We have been many times and noticed they rent kayaks to explore the mangroves.. so we went kayaking :)

Kayaking in the mangroves in Phuket

Later in the month I saw signs around our area of Phuket promoting a local festival. There seemed to be no promotion elsewhere and when I turned up for the opening evening I was the only foreigner present! A great little street procession with painted faces, I was very glad to have made the effort to go along...

Street festival in Kathu village, Phuket

In September, having been in contact with a mountain-walking, marathon-running American guy who lives in Phuket, I went along with him one morning with the aim of hiking up the highest hill in Phuket, well over 500m above sea level. A very hard hike, reaching the top at 542m with views over the ocean and across Phuket's hilly centre. I do intend to do some more hiking soon, starting with a trek up to the Big Buddha sometime in the coming weeks.

Hiking to the roof of Phuket

Now, I tend to concentrate on this blog on things to do, places to see, hotels, eating out.. it's not really a news blog, but sometimes I like to report on local stories. In September, Jet Skis were in the news for all the wrong reasons (they like to rip off tourists) and thanks to pressure by various people, newspapers, embassies and tourists, some agreements were finally reached on insuring jet skis. Will this end the problem? (big shrug)

Phuket has a real mix of culture. In September I blogged about the highly rated Mom Tri's Villa Royale hotel and it's restaurant Mom Tri's Kitchen.... in between, a visit to Luang Pu Supha temple, home to (yet to be ratified) the oldest man in the world, the Monk of the same name. I reckon he has lived all his years without stuffing his face full of profiteroles, and is highly respected for his continuous work for charity. Sometimes you have to take a step back and think about life from another angle.

Talking of stuffing my face...

Breakfast at The Coffee Pot, Kata, Phuket

I ate several times at The Coffee Pot on the back road in Kata, Phuket. Big breakfasts, good coffee, like it.

But for me, October is all about the Phuket vegetarian festival. My absolute favourite thing in Phuket. The festival lasts for 10 days. I stuck to the diet this year and even managed to drink no beers. Paid several visits to shrines in and around Phuket Town such as Kathu Shrine and had 2 fantastic mornings at Kathu Shrine and Jui Tui shrine watching the processions, pierced faces, entranced minds, I really recommend you see this!

Candles at Kathu Shrine in Phuket

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

Lots of Photos here: Phuket Vegetarian festival photos 2009

And then suddenly it's high season! Less time to blog, no holidays, less chance to get out and do things. If we've not been out doing things like we do in low season, I add more general information on the blog such as the Best places to book Phuket Hotels online. Did hotel review in November for the La Flora Resort in Patong Beach which opened in 2008. A bit of an oasis in the middle of the madness! Also visited Mai Khao Beach, right in the north of Phuket where you find the Seaside Cottages - cheap huts right by the beach, an extreme rarity in Phuket!

Room at the Avista Resort

Huts at the Seaside Cottages, Mai Khao Beach

(above) contrasting accommodation - Avista resort and the Seaside Cottages

December already! I blogged the Phuket Post Office Museum, one of many small museums in Phuket. It's in the old town - an area full of history. The next blog posts were reviews of brand new hotels - the Avista Resort and the Ibis Resort both at Kata beach.

And then another great little street festival to round off the year - work has been going on in old Phuket for 6 months to rid Thalang Road of all overhead wires. This local life festival was partly to celebrate the completion of this work and to promote old Phuket town as a place to go for an evening - there are lots of small bars and cafes, a refreshing change from the main tourist beaches.

Street festival in old Phuket

Old Phuket Town street festival

So... 2010 is here. I have many ideas for blog posts, and just need to find time! Won't be this weekend for sure... a friend's birthday party tonight and then tomorrow a little party at the beach for our son, 5 years old. 5 years gone so fast. And 10 years I have been here in Phuket. Here's to the next 10. Happy New Year.