Happy New Year...

Happily I can say this has been a good year, filled with friends, adventure, travel, and toys.  Again I don’t much care for getting older, or the way I look in the family pictures, but as they say, “Think of the alternative.”

Thanksgiving and Christmas were more Farang affairs so the wife will be doing local tonight and putting on a spread to feed some of our neighbors.  I prefer to remain on the fringes of these events, with the excuse of taking care of the dogs.  Village dogs are quite put off by the explosive nature of the New Year festivities and will be cowering and looking for shelter wherever they can.  Not much I can do but offer moral support, but I like to show my concern.  Cookie may head for the closet or master bathroom in search of a little solitude.  Our outdoor dogs are harder pressed to find such a safe place to hold up.

As far as we are from the worst of it, there will still be a lot of noise out here in the field.  After an early meal I’m sure the majority of our guests will be off in search of something to wash down the meal and wash away all memory of the past year, if possible.  Sadly it will all return tomorrow, with the addition of a headache I fear.  Hopefully there will be no fights, injuries or deaths in the village tonight but I will be satisfied with no visits to the morgue.

By being more social and making the drive to town more often, the wife and I have both done very well in the search for friends in the Rai this year.  Usually it falls upon us to be the initiators and to do the followup, however.  A recent conversation with a good friend over coffee, touched on this perceived fact.  With as much delicacy and tact as he could muster, he tried to explain that our projected persona might not be the most inviting.

For those who perhaps struggle with life a bit more than we do, our contentment with our lot, may not be the most endearing of traits.  So according to him, my attempt at putting others at ease, by being overly relaxed and confident, may at times have the reverse effect.  Something to think about at least.  I’m not forgetting those of you, who in the past have also alluded to the possibility of my standards being a bit too elevated, for the comfort of many.  I do hear what you say, and keep it in the back on my mind.

In spite of all this, we have made many new friends this last year.  Living where we do simply means we need to put in a little more effort than some and I’m okay with that.  It does mean that I find myself spending less time with my virtual friends around the world on my blog.  I guess that is to be expected in the ever evolving path of ones existence, with payoffs and consequences at every turn.  Not sure what 2011 will hold for this space or for Village Farang.  I already have a Facebook page so no use going down that path here.  I’ve done the house, pontificated on my views, commented on things around me, shared pictures and maps.  Do I continue with more of the same or is there another path, yet unexplored?

As I ponder my future, may I wish you all the very best in the coming year.  In the very least, may you find contentment and joy with what you have and take the time to be thankful and appreciate the people in your lives.  Have a very Happy New Year.

Jamie's Phuket - Highlights 2010

Where to begin? Quick lowdown on Jamie's Phuket Blog... I started the blog in 2006 with the aim of showing what I might call the "real" Phuket. I have been here since 1999 and tend to keep away from the most touristy areas of Phuket, which is hard to do since I work at Karon Beach (manager for Sunrise Divers) 6 days a week... finding time to blog can be a struggle sometimes too. After over 4 years I keep finding new things to blog about - festivals, restaurants, places to visit. Some events like the vegetarian festival I blog every year, trying to get better photos than the previous year. I look at some of the old posts from 2006 - 2007 and probably should get some new pictures here and there since back then I had a cr*ppy little camera.. but until I win the lottery and can devote more time to blogging, this blog will normally get updated about once per week, hopefully with something new, hopefully something that will interest visitors.

So here are some of the highlights of the Phuket Blog in 2010 ...

In January, I took the kids to the Phuket Tin Mining Museum, which was not quite finished and indeed closed again later in the year.. not quite sure if its 100% open now. Anyway, we loved it. I enjoyed the fact that my kids enjoyed it, if you know what I mean. I will take a look at the museum again soon and see if it's fully operational yet. Also in January, my Mother finally sent me a very nice story which I had been asking for... she and my Dad did an elephant ride some years back and I wanted a first hand story about the experience - have a read: Elephant Ride in Phuket (by Jamie's Mum).

Elephant Ride in Phuket

February... The Big Buddha in Phuket is now a major attraction, and you can drive up to the top of the 400+m high hill... or you can hike up, which is what I did one morning : Hike to the Big Buddha. I was also happy to finally blog the Thai Italy restaurant in Patong which we have been to many times. Great Pizza.

Pizza at Thai-Italy in Patong

March - lots of good stuff. My wife and I enjoyed an evening at Glastnost Cafe in old Phuket Town, I had a birthday on the water chasing speedboats with a helicopter, and we discovered the Phuket Heroines Festival, something which is in the diary again for 2011.

Fireworks at the Phuket Heroines Festival

April - as if that hike in February had not been enough, I did a day trip cycling at Koh Yao Noi. Saddle sore and very enjoyable. Also blogged about a trip to James Bond Island and Ko Panyi.

Jamie on a bike at Koh Yao Noi

May - some holidays! We spent a night at the Cliff and River Jungle Resort near Khao Sok National Park. Beautiful.. we went again in September. I also re-blogged Laem Hin Seafood, which was the first restaurant on this blog and is still a favourite.

Bungalow

June & July ... into low season now, we drove up Radar Hill one misty morning - this is the highest road in Phuket, over 500m above sea level, with some great views.

View from Radar Hill to the Big Buddha

Kathu village where I live staged it's second cultural festival. In 2009 I was the only foreigner present for the main parade. In 2010, the promotion was a little better, I must have seen at least 4 other foreigners!

Chinese costume

And another very local event.. I checked out the Phuket Butterfly Release in July and there was still time for the second Phuket Photo Walk, part of the Worldwide Photo Walk.

The Printer

August - I finally went to see Phuket FC - I love football, and I am happy to say the Phuket FC have now been promoted to Thai Division 1. Well done, boys.

Phuket Score!

Also in August I felt quite out of place for a while attending an afternoon party at the Hongyok family house in Phuket Town celebrating the 2010 Baba Wedding ceremony. Like being immersed in history.

Baba ladies at the Hongyok house

September - my wife and I used to drink coffee at Tunk Ka Cafe about 10 years ago. One day after lunch in Phuket Town we realised that we'd not been there for a loooong time. Coffee still good, and we went back again later in the month with my family visiting from England. Dinner with a view.

Dinner at Tunk Ka Restaurant

October - I had found out about Phuket Heritage Trails via a friend on Facebook - Pu and Gan will give people a real Phuket cultural tour, as you'd expect from 2 Phuket natives. I went with Mum, Dad and an errant traveling cousin on a morning tour around old Phuket. Great.

Phuket Thai Hua Museum

And then .. the Vegetarian Festival, my favourite time of year. And not because of the food, although I do take the opportunity to eat a cleansing diet. No, I like the festival for this:

Vegetarian festival Phuket

I posted multiple entries about the festival : Part 1, Episode 2 and the much awaited Chapter 3. Plus there are lots of photos on Flickr: Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2010. I might change camera next year, but the old Canon EOS 20D was aided by the purchase of a 50mm f1.8 lens which was used for the photo above. Very good for sharp portraits.

I had some holiday end of September and early October when Mum and Dad visited, and we did plenty of exploring, much of which was blogged later in November and early December such as the Wat Tha Reua temple and the Phuket Butterfly Garden. On our return visit to Khao Sok we stopped to look around the old town of Sri Takua Pa, like a town that time forgot...

Brushes

December, nearly home. We had already done a trip in Phang Nga Bay this year, but I reckoned if we planned things right we could hit James Bond Island when all the tourists had gone home. It's taken a few trips to plan this. But now we've got it sorted - Phang Nga Bay - Doing it Our Way :) - and you can book a tour doing it Jamie-Style by contacting Easy Day Thailand, a tour company set up by some friends of mine this year.

James Bond Island is OURS!

Formula 1 Longtail at Koh Panyee

The Big Buddha has been blogged many times as the building continued for many years, and is still not complete. We were up there again in December to get the latest photos. I also blogged about local markets - want to see real local life? Markets are the place to be.

December was time for something new in Phuket. The first 'Phuket Street Show' festival. A couple of streets in old Phuket Town were closed off for several evenings and made into walking streets with stalls and stages set up with performers doing juggling, drumming, acrobatics, comedy and more. Great event, happy faces everywhere. In fact my favourite photo of the festival is a photo of the crowd. Everyone is smiling.

Smiles

Back to the vegetarian festival for a moment - my favourite thing... and I was very chuffed that some of my photos and writing was published on the France 24 News website - see Phuket's Bloody Vegetarian Festival, or in French here. And then later I did a webcam interview which appeared on TV and on the website here - certainly a highlight of 2010 for me :)

I have been in Phuket for 11 years now, still looking for new places, new food, new experiences. Maybe in 2011 I will finally try the bungy jump. We have been to Phuket Fantasea recently, not blogged yet. I want to take the family out on boat trips to the Similan Islands and Phi Phi sometime soon. And people have contacted asking for some more general information on the blog... Maybe. I want to keep this blog a bit more personal showing this places we go as a family. If anyone has any suggestions for what could be on the blog, do let me know. Oh, and please do Follow me on Twitter and join the Jamie's Phuket Facebook Page.

Happy New Year! Sawasdee Pee Mai!

Chiang Rai Flower Festival 2010…

With so much to choose from, I decided to focus on the perennial favorites, orchids and tulips.

Same location as last year, allowing them to expand further the already existing infrastructure.  In other words things are a little better sorted this year.  Well worth a visit.










Organic Yard

We don't live on a farm , but we have farm animals in the yard from time to time .
Just when I was saying to Ciejay
that I needed to go to the Farm Store to buy some fertilizer for the grass and plants , here comes the neighbor to the rescue and brings a couple of organic fertilizer producing walking machines to take care of the job for me and it's all for free, I just had to stand guard around my flowers , they like them as a appetizer, ha ha . You never know what you're going to find in your yard some days, that's what makes life here in the LOS interesting . Ever have cows grazing in your front yard??? well it's a first for us too, but it does have a side benefit, I'm just glad we have some sunshine to dry the cow dung quickly. Malcolm

Merry Christmas ...

What a beautiful Christmas Morning.  The temperature dropped again last night and this morning was crisp, clear and quite simply, beautiful.  Took the dogs for the usual stroll, enjoying the way they attack the fields and trail with such gusto.  Then I sat with cookie while she swam with her fish in the pond.  From the sala, my eyes drank in the grandeur of all that lay before me.  The water, mountains, fields and hypnotic synchrony of a flock of white birds against the brilliant blue sky.  Of course that was not the plan for this wondrous day.

Today was supposed to be a family outing with the highlight being a ride on an elephant, for those who had never found their way onto the back of the mighty pachyderm.  Superstition put an end to that plan, however.  Something went wrong with the morning rice preparation and someone else had a bad dream, so no way were they getting in a truck with us today.  Their loss, not mine.

Last night we had a lovely dinner with friends at Favola, in town, coming home a bit later than usual.  Just the day before my friend and I did another little run to Chiang Mai on our 650 Ninjas.  Heavy fog the day before and the day after, but on our run the weather was perfect for riding, almost cold in the morning and just a bit warm on the way home.  Perhaps I am getting used to the longer rides or have improved my riding technique.  The 500 kilometer roundtrip did not leave any residual numbness or aches as in the past.  Still, I am not what you would call a long distance rider.

We hosted a party at our home recently and attended one at a friend’s house.  Tomorrow our favorite houseguest is flying up from Bangkok for a few nights.  I love this time of year.  The kinder weather seems to be reflected in the behavior and hospitality of all who we encounter here in the Rai.  We have missed some events but there are more to come.  Perhaps we will make it to the Chiang Rai Flower Festival again this year.

As this year draws to a close, I see much to be grateful for.  On the top of my list, however, is my happy little family.
Family VF

Phuket Street Show Festival 2010

And now for something completely different... Phuket has all kinds of festivals during the year. Some are national (Songkran, Loy Krathong); some are related to Phuket's history (Vegetarian Festival, Heroines Festival); and some are very local festivals such as the Kathu Village Fair that I have attended the last 2 years (see links to information about all these festivals at the end of this page). Now something new! The Phuket Street Show, the first time there has been a festival like it, and based on the reaction, I'd say there's a good chance there will be another one next year. I saw the event mentioned in the local news websites and there was also a website (no longer exists), and the event was sponsored by the TAT, but was certainly not heavily promoted in the tourist areas, it was more of a local event. Nevertheless, I'd say all our friends knew about it and lots of them went. I managed to go on Saturday evening, but was working late other days - my wife took the kids on Friday and Sunday too!

The festival took place along Thalang Road, in old Phuket Town - below, a photo of Thalang Road taken on Saturday evening. Lots of people... there were about 6 different stages set up along the street stretching from the TAT office to the Thai Hua museum, about half a kilometer of entertainment!

Thalang Road Phuket

On Saturday, we arrived quite early - the shows started 5pm, and carried on until 11pm. Before 6pm the streets were not too busy, but after dark it got pretty crowded along Thalang Road. Between the stages lots of vendors were selling food such as mango and sticky rice, or little Thai style doughnuts (see pictures below). Our kids along with some of their friends, set up camp at "stage 3" and watched a man doing a balancing act, followed by a flea circus.

Street Show Performer

I wandered off to take photos. The street got pretty busy by the time darkness fell. Street vendors selling food and drinks were doing good business. After a couple of hours a very cold beer was welcome :)

Mango and Sticky Rice

Snacks for Sale

I never had a chance to see it all, I walked down to watch acts at other stages, but my eye was more drawn to the crowd than the show. The kind of comedy that appeals to Thai people is slapstick, silly faces, exaggerated postures, and a couple of the stages had acts just like this ... I love to see happy faces. This event made people happy. You could feel the happiness in the air. I love the photo below. Smiles.

Smiles

What were they watching? Clowns. Good old fashioned clowns. Thai style.

Watching the Clowns

Once our kids had finished at "Stage 3" we walked further up the road. Thankfully on this warm evening, I was able to find a cold beer. And my son was able to help one musician with his act. Drums. One of these days, my son is going to ask for drums for Christmas. Not this year. First we have to build the soundproofed room.

Little Drummer Boy

We headed to the stage outside the Thai Hua museum. A crowd of about 300 watched as a drumming troupe starting banging. Drums! Our son gradually worked his way forward until he was sitting near the front. These guys were good. A great show.

Phuket Street Show Drummers

A few more of the performers ... I did not get to see them all. Acrobats I did not see - blurry photo below taken by my daughter on her little pink Sony Cybershot. She also took a couple of wobbly videos which I might try to upload later.

Phuket Street Show - PasParTout

Acrobat

A light rain fell, just a few drops, not enough to stop the show. But it was getting late for the kids. This was a fun event. Hope it happens again. If you were here in Phuket and missed it, take note - Phuket Town is the place to be for local life, events, festivals. I didn't know about the street show myself until a couple of weeks before. It's worth keeping your eyes on local websites or follow me on Twitter!

More Festivals in Phuket ...

Vegetarian Festival
Heroines Festival
Songkran
Loy Krathong
Kathu Village Festival

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

A very Merry Christmas and a special thanks to all who have took the time out of their busy lives to stop by my blog and give a read and enjoy the pictures and little stories about Ciejay and My life here in Wang Pho
I'm excited about the new year ahead and hope for lots of adventures and stuff to share with you as we find the time and money to do a little traveling around Thailand to places we haven't seen yet , but are on our list of "to see places" . I hope we get to check a lot of them off. As I have said many times in the past we are still Retired in Thailand and Loving It

Greetings from our little village of Wang Pho for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous
New Year to you and yours ,in your City , Town , or Village or wherever you heart finds you, and also a
healthy and blessed 2015

Malcolm and Ciejay






Look Out !!!!!! Elephants on the road







One of the great things about taking a day trip in the LOS is that you never know what you're going to see just around the next curve or bend in the road . Such a day was yesterday , Ciejay and me were doing the wine business and decided to take the long way home it was such a pretty day , as we came around a curve there they were the (I think ) most beautiful and breath taking creatures in the whole world two elephants with their Manhots going to the river for a bath and swim and the men had a little sugar cane for a snack for the elephants after their bath , I get to see lots of elephants here in Thailand , BUT I always have to stop and take a good look and get a picture if possible . I am always amazed that something that big can be so gentle. I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I do . Where else could you have such a unexpected thrill as this but here in the LOS , I guess thats just another good reason we're Retired in Thailand and Loving It. Malcolm

Local Markets in Phuket - Local Life

When I was younger, I did a lot of traveling including 7 months in Africa, 6 months in South America and another half year in Central America and Mexico. The object of travel? To see and experience different cultures, different ways of life, to see amazing natural wonders, to discover, to learn, to try all possible local beers... I have always been drawn to markets. The local market is where you see real local life, see the people, smell the smells, find real local food. This can't be found by sitting by the pool at your hotel. You may not care, I know sometimes I also want a holiday when my plan is to do f**k all with nobody bothering me. And I am sure many people coming on holiday to Phuket have the same idea. Relax, do a couple of day trips, eat good food, get a massage, drink some beers. It's a HOLIDAY after all! This blog has ideas for things to do for everyone - I realise that not everyone is interested in temples or small islands with Buddha statues or weird festivals ... but this blog does aim to get off the beaten tourist trail much of the time and show the "real" Phuket. I know many people enjoy exploring and getting a taste of local life, and a local market is a good place to start.

I live in the Kathu area of Phuket which is between Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It's got a lot of history, and lots of people live in this area, both native Phuketians and many people who have moved here from other parts of Thailand, and foreigners too. The local market in Kathu is pretty big, one of the biggest markets on the island, and it's open every day. This is not a tourist market, there are no stalls selling souvenirs, this is a real local market selling food, clothes and much more. It's easy to find - just come from Patong over the hill and when you hit the traffic lights with the Caltex gas station on the right, there you turn left and you will see the market. It's always busy, especially late afternoon/evening, despite the fact that the Tesco Lotus store is just a few minutes drive away, and a Tesco mini store and Big C! The market is still the place to go for fresh produce. I took a walk around with my parents while they were visiting, stopping off first at Kathu Chinese Shrine:

Kathu Shrine

The shrine is in the old part of Kathu village a couple of km away from the market and the busy roads leading from town to Patong. Opposite the shrine, a little shop. The shop owner enjoying an evening beer...

Drinking Beer Chang with a Straw

We parked a couple of hundred meters from the market - parking a car nearby not easy, as I say it is a busy market. If you go on a moped, should be able to find a place to squeeze in. There are lots of foodstalls outside selling snacks, chicken etc... and Thai "ready meals" - precooked curries and so on, choose and take away in a bag:

Ready meals

Also saw a couple of "Roti" stalls - pancakes. The banana pancake is a well known snack, and it's not just a tourist thing. These pancake stalls are all over the place. A simple plain pancake can be livened up by adding banana or raisins or chocolate or sweetcorn. A very popular snack.

Roti (Pancake) stall

Inside the covered market you can find stalls selling fresh foods - meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, eggs, chili paste. It's a feast for the senses, all kind of sights and smells. The guy below is selling various chili pastes which are eaten as a kind of "dip" with the vegetables. Killer spicy.

Chili Paste

And here's the egg man and the fish man. There are lots of fish stalls, as you might expect, since Phuket is by the sea! Seafood is a large part of the diet for Phuket people, with fish, prawns and squid to be found at this market.

Egg Man

Fresh Fish

There are fresh food markets all over Phuket, the big one in Phuket Town, also you can find one in Patong (Banzaan), a temple market at Karon, one on the back road in Kata, and Rawai is a good place to go for fresh fish. Always worth a look at a local market, this is where you can really see normal local life, nothing to do with tourism, just real people living in the real Phuket.

Veg and Chilies