Coffee, Conversation, Questions ...

After a morning ride on the Ninja, I used to find my way to the Doi Chaang coffee shop more often than not, until Starbucks opened at the new mall last month.  With the late opening times of the mall, Starbucks is not suited to the early risers but I seldom get into town before ten or eleven in the morning anyway these days.  Doi Chaang in the early morning had a core group of local farangs who one could visit with, but it tended to always be the same folks.  Depending on your mood, or your likes and dislikes, that could be either a good thing or perhaps a little annoying at times.

I have been meeting a broader range of people at the mall, not better, just different.  There are those I have known for sometime and bump into at the mall, though not necessarily in a coffee shop.  There are of course the coffee drinkers, like me, and many of them have been new acquaintances, both tourists and new arrivals to the area.  Where I was usually the one to make first contact before, recently the tables have been turned, and I find myself on the receiving end of other’s advances.  I assure you I am not complaining here.

I recently stumbled into an empty Starbucks, nestled my helmet into the comfortable armchair next to me and draped my jacket over that, before slumping unceremoniously into a chair myself.  Out came the phone to make my daily call to my father in Hawaii.  After that, and while in the process of texting a friend, someone said something to me, which at this point I can no longer recall the details of.  Familiar with this kind of approach, I bade him join me in one of the vacant armchairs across from me.

The text complete, I indicated there was one more item on my agenda before I would be free.  After calling my wife to let her know where I was, as is my custom, it was time to start a conversation with this interesting interloper.  He was polite enough to apologize for imposing upon my space and hospitality.  I in turn, assured him that it was only fitting payback, that someone should do to me, what I had done to so many others.  That seemed to set the tone for a frank and lighthearted discourse which at times trended toward the deep and philosophical.

Early on I realized I had neglected to order, so imposed upon one of the staff to bring my regular drink, so as not to break the flow of conversation.  In Starbuck-speak, that would be a ‘for here, grande, extra hot, cappuccino’, served in one of their nice mugs, not a paper cup.   Generally Starbucks is a self-service establishment but Thai service staff can be quite accommodating.  While I am not inclined to reveal the details of what we discussed, let us just say I had a very enjoyable time, and the length of that time, passed almost unnoticed.

I have a bad habit of glancing about during conversation, which caused me to spot one of my wife’s more attractive friends here in the Rai.  She went out of her way to come in and say hello briefly, in that very friendly way Thais have.  Big smiles, abundant pleasantries, bracketed by a delicate ‘wai’, or Thai greeting, at the beginning and end.  That reminds me, I bumped into two other old-timers and one of their wives, on the way in from the car park.  I suppose I could have lingered there, instead of rushing off to have my coffee, but I have had that conversation recently and would have missed the chance meeting with someone new.

Some of you are perhaps wondering what was so special about this day or this mystery person, and why I chose to write about this encounter, instead of this morning’s visit by the village headman, discussing something about the local temple.  The point is, it was not that special.  It was not a special day or event.  I never got his name.  We will surely never cross paths again.  It was just one of life’s more pleasant interludes, spontaneous, unscripted, fleeting, and yet memorable.  It was just the crisscross, happenstance nature of people and lives crossing paths on a particular day.  Not unlike a sunset that you will never see again but was still worth seeing.

Often we get caught up in the illusory pursuit of productivity and a purposeful existence.  Fortunately I am at a place in my life where I can live freeform and unstructured, free to enjoy simple unexpected encounters.  Then if the mood strikes me I am free to write about said nonevents.  Though it is implied that you are also free to not read what I write, it is hoped that you will and that you will get something from it.

Near the end of our conversation my blog did come up and I was asked who reads me.  I had to think about that one for just a moment.  I have asked on numerous occasions, why people read my blog but I don’t believe I have ever asked specifically, who is reading.  I have always assumed it is not the tourist but someone who has a relationship with or a connection to Thailand and is perhaps living elsewhere, using me as their Thailand fix, as it were.  Over time I have noticed a very strong readership within Thailand itself which has me in a quandary.  One would think, people who live here would have their own views on Thailand and would have less need or interest in reading about others who live here.  Perhaps my own bias is creeping into that opinion but it would be interesting to know.

So what do you say?  Who reads me?  Do you live in Thailand?  Are you new to the game or have you lived here for some time?  Did you once live in Thailand but now live elsewhere?  Are you married or in a relationship with a Thai?  Are you considering a relationship with either a Thai person or Thailand itself but have yet to make the move?  Have you visited or are you planning to visit?  Enquiring minds want to know.

Koh Yao Noi by Moped

To the east and northeast of Phuket in Phang Nga Bay, in between Phuket and Krabi, you can find many islands. How I would love to have my own boat and cruise around exploring! The north of Phang Nga Bay is where you find well known places such as James Bond Island and Koh Panyee which we have visited several times (see Phang Nga Bay). To the south of these are 2 much larger islands. Koh Yao Yai is about 25km from north to south, while Koh Yao Noi is much smaller, about 10 x 5km. We first went to Koh Yao Noi about 5 years ago (see Day Trip to Koh Yao Noi). I did a cycling trip there last year and we've had an idea for some time to head over for a day and rent some mopeds - we noticed mopeds for rent at the jetty. Finally this week we did it!

Getting to Koh Yao Noi is easy enough, though it does help to have your own transport so you can drive to Bang Rong pier in the NE of Phuket. Bang Rong is quite a busy place with fishing boats and ferries heading to various islands. There is also a floating restaurant here that we have eaten at many times. If you don't have your own transport, you can either get a taxi here or you can get a local bus from Phuket Town (they depart from outside the market). Taxi from main beaches I guess will cost 600 - 800 Baht each way. May be cheaper going back as it would be a Bang Rong taxi rather than a beach taxi!

There are big longtail boats heading to Koh Yao Noi, or speedboats. We assumed the speedboat would be a lot more expensive, but no .. the longtail (which I have used before) is 100 Baht for adults, 50 for kids. The speedboat was 200 Baht for adults and free for kids! So we opted for the speedboat this time, due to depart 11am. There are boats heading over every 30 minutes or so. We waited at a little cafe/shack by the pier and had a drink as boats came and went.

Bang Rong Pier, Phuket


Boat at Bang Rong, Phuket

Speedboat option turned out to be a good idea. Fast, and not crowded. The weather was perfect with very calm seas so we zipped across to Manao Pier at Koh Yao Noi (stopping off at a pier at Koh Yao Yai first) in less than 30 minutes. The longtails take over an hour. Kids enjoyed the ride over, and my daughter quickly befriended a local girl from the island whose grandfather gave us a ride down the jetty when we arrived so we could look for mopeds. Our daughter seemed quite sad that she might never see this girl again! Here's the kids getting the wind in their hair on the speedboat:

On the speedboat to Koh Yao Noi

On the speedboat to Koh Yao Noi

You may guess from the photo above that Koh Yao Noi is a Muslim island. Bang Rong is also a Muslim community, in fact about 30% of Phuket is Muslim, and much of Phang Nga province is Muslim. For the visitor this means 2 things - you almost certainly can't find any pork to eat, and some restaurants may not have any alcohol. The floating restaurant at Bang Rong is one of those. I find the Muslim areas of Phuket to be very friendly and recall some years ago walking in Phuket Town. There is a street where you can find a Chinese shrine, a Mosque and a Catholic church, all on the same street. At the shrine, there were a bunch of old guys sitting and chatting, but they ignored me. The Catholic Church was all locked up. At the mosque I was welcomed in with smiles. Koh Yao Noi is a small island where everyone knows everyone. I can imagine it's the kind of place where there's no trouble and you can leave your door unlocked. Reminds me a bit of Utila, and island off the coast of Honduras where I used to live.

We found 2 mopeds to rent - normal rate around 200 - 250 Baht per day. The guy gave them to us for 150 Baht each, as it was already nearly midday. And as if to reaffirm my views that Koh Yao Noi is trouble-free, he said "when you're done, just leave the bikes at the jetty with the key in the ignition"! We did him a favour and filled up both bikes with gasoline at one of Koh Yao Noi's biggest gas stations ...

Getting gasoline at Koh Yao Noi

We had no real plan for the day. I kind of know the way around the island having cycled much of the way last year. There are only a few roads to choose from, and it's hard to get lost on a small island. I figured we'd get some lunch on the east coast where you find a beautiful view and there are a bunch of restaurants and small hotels. So far, Koh Yao Noi is pretty undeveloped. There are a couple of big resorts - (Koh Yao Paradise and the Six Senses Resort. But much of the island is very rural. There are lots of rice fields on the west side - the view below is behind the gas station ...

Koh Yao Noi Rice

And there are lots of rubber trees. Rubber is still an important industry here, and in Phuket too - a lot of Phuket is covered in rubber trees, though you may not see this near the beaches. We rode our mopeds along shaded roads through the rubber plantations. The roads here are very quiet. It's mostly mopeds, there are not many cars. It's very relaxed riding and the road surface is mostly pretty good.

Dad and Boy

Moped on Koh Yao Noi

There was some dirt road as we rode up a slight hill heading over to the east coast - I remembered this hill from the cycling trip - seemed a lot steeper on a bicycle! As the road drops to the east coast, you see views across a blue sea dotted with little islands and the mainland behind. It's pretty darn gorgeous! We rode down a small jetty as a longtail boat came in from a fishing trip.

Koh Yao Noi longtail boat

Along this stretch of road there are several small hotels / bungalows, but they are not built right on the beach - just over the road. It's just a narrow road and certainly not busy! View is great, sea was perfectly blue, sun shining, what a beautiful day :)

East coast of Koh Yao Noi

East coast road on Koh Yao Noi

It's only about 5km ride from the jetty to the south, and the road turns back west towards the main town. We stopped for lunch at Sabai Corner where I had also eaten on the cycling tour. Food was OK, views were great and we were happy to sit and relax for an hour. Kids took advantage of the hammocks on offer. And then we headed off to explore more of the island. We knew the speedboat was heading back to Phuket at 5pm so we had plenty of time. One sign said "Ao Mamuang", so we decided to follow this road. It was a dirt road, but pretty flat and in decent condition. I figured there must be something worth seeing if there was a road ... but the road started to get worse, and it got hilly too, with lots of up and down, which is tricky on a little moped when you're riding with a kid on the bike too. I wondered if we should turn back, but we figured "it can't be far" to wherever the road was heading... The dirt roads were quite a challenge actually and the kids were getting tired on this very hot afternoon, with no 7-11 in sight! One hill headed up and up, and my wife's moped seemed to lack power - poor daughter had to get off and walk some of the way. Great view at the top ...

Dirt road on Koh Yao Noi

This was an unexpected offroad adventure. At the top of this hill (I have checked on Google Earth and it looks like about 400 feet above sea level) I really hoped it would not be too much further to go, and hoped there would be some kind of town at the end and certainly a shop to buy a drink! The road dropped from here, climbed again, dropped again. I was feeling sorry for the kids - my son was getting very tired sitting with me on the bike. And then we hit a security barrier on this isolated dirt road. For one second I thought "oh **** we'll have to turn back". A security guard approached and I asked him "what is this place". Turned out to be the Paradise Koh Yao Resort. The guests don't come by moped - they come by boat. Can we come in??? Thankfully, he gave us Visitors badges, we parked our bikes and while the kids found a shady bench to lie down, my wife and I looked for the bar! Well, I have to say, if I was feeling rich, a few nights at the Paradise Koh Yao would be nice!

At Koh Yao Paradise

We found the bar and bought 2 cans of coke at 90 Baht each... no ice or glasses .. I bet the guests get those. The barman gave me a "what are you doing here" kind of look. I had to ask specially for straws. Would have gladly paid more than 90 Baht, we were pretty parched. A couple of guests swam in the perfectly calm water holding cocktails. I saw some others heading off on kayaks. Very beautiful location.

Koh Yao Paradise

Kids were revived by coke and a lie down in the shade. It was after 3pm, so we had to head back. I was not looking forward to the ride ... we asked the staff but they told us there was no other road out. So, we saddled up and headed off back towards the main town and pier, about 10km south. Actually the ride back was much easier, I think because we knew what to expect and knew where we were heading. And we were becoming off road moped experts by now :)

Dad and boy on bike

The boy

The boy can't wait to get a motorbike. He's 6 years old. Many Thai kids start riding mopeds very young. Maybe just around their street, but it's not long before they are whizzing around, normally 3 per bike, pulling wheelies, trying to impress the girls and of course not wearing helmets. Here on Koh Yao Noi we weren't offered helmets, and well, the roads are so quiet and of course we were driving very slowly. The hilly offroad sections were a bit of a worry but we went as slowly as we could.

Was a great day out for all of us. Something new for the kids to experience. We'll do this again sometime - there are some more roads on the west coast of Koh Yao Noi that we did not check out, but next time I am quite sure we'll skip the dirt road to the Paradise Resort! Back at the main town (about 2km from Manao pier) we dived into the 7-11 for cold drinks and aircon. We then left the 2 mopeds at the jetty, keys in the ignition as instructed :) The speedboat back was a little more crowded but again I was glad for the quick trip rather than the slow longtail. Also glad (again) to be living in Phuket with so much on our doorstep.

(update) We did a similar trip again in 2012 - see Koh Yao Noi Day Trip 2012 :)

A final photo. We found a sandy football pitch on the east coast. Got to be one of the best football views in the world! Gooooaallll!


Koh Yao Noi - Useful Links

Koh Yao Noi Hotels
The Paradise Koh Yao Resort - Info and Booking
Koh Yao Island Resort - Info and Booking
Six Senses Koh Yao Resort - Info and Booking

Map of the Koh Yao Noi Area

View Koh Yao Noi Island in a larger map

Songkran 2011 (Not in Phuket!)

Aside from being a massive waterfight, the Songkran holiday is also a traditional time of year with particular emphasis on paying respect to your elders, and many Thai people will travel for Songkran to visit family. This is a more important holiday than the "Western" New Year, although the calendar year does change on January 1st and of course it's another excuse for a party, but Songkran is something more local and is a major public holiday from 13th - 15th April - and this year, since the 13th was a Wednesday, that basically meant a 5 day holiday from Wednesday to Sunday. A good long break to travel and see family, and for the first time I managed a Songkran away from Phuket - normally I am working, since April is still kind of high season, but this year the boss kindly agreed that after work on the 12th I could head off - my wife and I drove the 400km from Phuket to Chumphon on the evening of the 12th, arriving a bit after midnight.

This was a very nice opportunity for me to be involved with the family rather than just drinking beer and throwing water in Phuket like I did last year! Now of course in Chumphon there is plenty of water throwing too, and we loaded up our pick up truck with a couple of barrels of water ready for a drive round town, but first, at home, we paid our respects to the elder members of the family, which means my wife's Mum and Dad - her grandparents all passed away more than 10 years ago. Mum and Dad are not that old actually, both under 60, but they are the "elders" :)

Songkran traditions

Above - this is the Rod Nam Dam Hua tradition, pouring water on the hands of your respected elders - that's me with Ma and Pa. And below my wife's sister doing the same while her other sister and my daughter look on. It was very special to be involved (after 10 years!) with the family.

Songkran - Family Tradition

We drove first to an aunts house on the edge of town not far from the railway station. Family and friends had set up a big hose pipe there, and a stall selling snacks and drinks. It was a very hot day, lots of liquid refreshment needed if (like me) you planned to drive around in the back of a pick up truck for several hours. The hose pipe at aunties house had 2 functions. It could be used to refill peoples barrels in their trucks (see below - sign says Water For Sale)...

Water for Sale

Or if you didn't want to buy any water, you could get a faceful for free anyway! Some people were happy to get soaked, some people for some reason like to ride around on a scooter and try to avoid getting wet - impossible and can be dangerous too, swerving on wet roads. Songkran always has accidents related to water, wet roads and (often) drunk people riding scooters.

Splash! (1)

Also at aunties house, a small shrine was set up with a Buddha statue. Here family members could pour water on the statue. My son always takes his Buddha related activity seriously. Well, his name is Monk after all!

Songkran Buddha

Before we headed off to drive around town, get soaked with ice water, get sunburned and covered in powder, I took a few photos of passing truck loads of party goers. Smiles all around. I know that the "Land of Smiles" was a tourism slogan, but Songkran is a good day for smiles.

Happy Songkran

Songkran Girl

And you've got to have your gun ready! In our pick up truck we had a couple of big water pistols as well as 2 big barrels of water and plastic bowls to scoop up the water and throw it. This guy is ready for action ...

I have you in my sights

Songkran is one of those days when you can't help but feel happy. Everyone is having fun. No glum faces on show, no worries, a day of total enjoyment doing something that you'd normally not be able to do... soak total strangers (well probably not all total strangers in a fairly small town like Chumphon). Adults and kids join together in acting like kids! Our kids started on each other .....

Wet Day

Take That Sister!

Well, one of these days, if I have some spare cash, I need to get a decent camera and underwater housing. In 2009 I tried using my Canon Powershot in a clear plastic bag - worked OK. This year I had a cheap underwater film camera (film? what's that?) in a plastic housing and tried getting some action photos from the back of our truck. It's hit and miss, I think with a digital, I could take 200 photos and get 20 good photos. This cheap film camera, well after some photoshopping a few photos looked OK and it was fun taking them... was also fun being almost the only foreigner on display.. I think I counted about 7 or 8 foreigners as we drove around - Chumphon is a nice enough little town, but does not have that much for tourists - I want to write more about my second home later. Mostly Chumphon is useful if you want to get a boat to Koh Tao. As one of the few foreigners I guess I was a rather obvious target. The 79th bucket of ice water was maybe one too many! This is me on the pick up truck with face smeared with powder...

Jamie Songkran

And a couple of the "best" shots taken from the truck...

In yer face for Songkran

Songkran Trucks

Songkran on the Streets

I sat in the back with a sister-in-law, a niece, my 2 kids and we cruised the streets. There's no point trying to avoid the water! Most of the time you don't see it coming... you may be "exchanging fire" with one truck and another passes by and offloads a bucket of cold water. Small water pistols are not powerful enough weaponry, it's better to have a small bucket to scoop water out of your barrel and deliver a bigger punch :) All in good spirits! You are not allowed to get angry if someone drenches you from behind with an icy shower, and if someone wants to smear you with powder, please remember this is a sign of respect. I seem to enjoy Songkran more each year. But I am very happy that in Phuket (and Chumphon town) it lasts just one day.

Songkran is the same date every year - April 13th is the big day. If you are in Phuket on April 13th next year, plan to get wet! Don't carry around valuables or electronic items that might be damaged by water - or at least carry things in a dry bag. Don't wear your very best clothes - it's not just water, but sometimes water with added dye, or powder. And make sure you are well armed. And take every ice cold shower with a smile. It's Songkran!

Boredom and Living in a Thai Village...

I’m always a little suspicious of statistics but generally one can say that Thailand’s population is still primarily rural with something like two-thirds being classified that way.  It was more like three-quarters when I first arrived, if I remember correctly.  Many rural people spend a fair amount of time living and working in Bangkok but with one interesting caveat.  Most live in slums near the factories where they work, with others from the same region of the country.  Essentially they never leave the village.  They take it with them.  That no doubt, goes some way to explaining why they never really develop any big city sophistication or broadened world perspective.

Given the percentages, it is no wonder that the majority of farangs end up with village girls, but that is not the topic today, nor are the economic and cultural aspects that factor into that equation.  The topic is the boredom experienced by many a foreign male, upon the obligatory visits to their girlfriend’s home village.  I dare say very few men venture off into the sticks on their own and are usually dragged there, out of obligation.  Even after marriage, this obligation continues and must be dealt with in one way or another.

I believe there is a big difference between visiting a village and living in one, but more about that later.  Even after living in Bangkok for more than twenty years, I was still quite bored when I started visiting my wife’s village for more than a couple of days at a time.  No friends, no squash, no TV, no newspaper, no telephone, no internet, no toys and nothing I could call my own.  Eventually I started taking a Playstation with me and got quite good with Grand Turisimo.  Even though I spoke good Thai, the villagers did not.  They spoke their own dialect and communication was, and still is, difficult.  My wife was great but she was spread pretty thin with all of her family obligations, so I had to fend for myself much of the time.

Boredom as we all know is just one item on that classic list of symptoms of culture shock.  You remember, anxiety, boredom, homesickness, fatigue, depression, illness, impatience, disgust, and excessive eating, drinking and sleeping.  On your first visit, or in very brief doses, these symptoms may not present but many will experience some or all of these, given time.

As an interesting aside, we were doing our Songkran rounds of village elders and relatives the other day, a process that is still ongoing, with our village headman having his party only today.  At one house we spotted a young farang guy, sitting on those steep wooden stairs one must traverse to reach the second floor of a Thai village house.  In my normal, direct fashion, and looking for material for this post, I asked if he was bored being in the village. 

No, he said, refusing to stick to the script, but he had only been there three days and would be leaving the next day for Bangkok where he makes his living as a combatant and proponent of Muay Thai, or Thai Boxing.  He was probably enjoying a much needed break from training and had accompanied a couple of local boys he works, trains and lives with, as well as the young pregnant farang wife of one of these Thai boxers.  With it being all new, and with the goings on of Songkran, they seemed to have had a good time and were anything but bored.  Not sure I would have gotten the same answer from the heavily pregnant wife but I didn’t have the opportunity to ask.

My wife had been baking bread that day and thought they might appreciate a taste of the familiar, being so far from what they know.  So we made an extra trip home to collect the bread and some condiments.  Returning, this time we met the pregnant wife, who expressed her disappointment at having missed us earlier.  Unfortunately we were short on time, as we were late getting to another house where my wife had plans for dinner with her extended family. 

Delving deeper into the lives of these young people, would have been my preference, but my duty and obligation lay elsewhere.  My appearance not withstanding, I was not a pugilist in my early years, but still I could identify with the adventure of being so young and living in Thailand.  Living, training and working out of a boxing school, stable, camp, or whatever the nomenclature might be, really deserved more time to discuss than we had.  Would have been nice to stay around and see if they liked the bread, too, but there wasn’t sufficient time.

Back on topic, given my admission of boredom, one might ask why I chose to move to the village.  There were many factors in our decision, including age, length of our relationship, shared travel experiences overseas, desire for a different lifestyle and a change from city life, my parents moving into a retirement home, and a feeling that I needed to establish a homestead of my own, after a life of living in apartments and condos.  Since we already lived in Thailand there was not the overwhelming financial imperative of retiring to a cheaper local, where a limited pension would stretch that much further.

While everyone’s needs are different, they must nonetheless be addressed before making a move such a we did.  To some extent you are guessing at what you will need, because over time those needs may change.  It is important to get the basics sorted and have a good solid foundation upon which to build this new life.  Surely some can get by with less but let me give you an idea of what I needed, to help fend off boredom.

To start with I already had a strong and well establish relationship, honed by years of living and traveling together.  We both spoke each other’s language and had many shared interests as well as independent interests.  Accommodation, transportation, and communication, for us meant a purpose designed house, phone line and internet, western television and movies, a truck, a mountain bike and a couple of motorcycles.

We both developed or continued hobbies.  In my case there were outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, my motor bike, photography, our dogs and this blog.  Even with help, my wife is kept quite busy with village responsibilities, the house, the garden, baking, and cooking for me, four dogs and a cat.  She still finds time for exercise, reading, and keeping up with her friends around the world, through email and Facebook.

Personally I do not like having a schedule.  I may have a vague idea what I might like to do tomorrow, but I much prefer to see how I feel when I get up, and see what the weather looks like.  Having fixed times and places where I must be, feels too much like work to me.  That is exactly the point for others I suppose, who feel lost without the regimented structure of the work place and the tight time constraints dictated by artificial deadlines.  I suspect life in the village is easier for me, with my temperament.  Those who try to replicate the frenetic pace of city life or a high pressure work environment would surely find boredom harder to avoid.

Life in a village for some, is a nightmare of boredom and isolation, while for others it is an idyllic fantasy.  The truth is no doubt to be found somewhere in the middle range of these two extremes.  My belief is that being bored has more to do with the individual than it does the village.  It is often easier to blame the things around us than it is to make the effort to adjust.  I suppose this has been a longwinded VF way of saying, if you are bored it is probably your own doing and you should stop blaming those around you.  Then again what do I know?

Of course if you are not bored, then congratulations are in order, I applaud your accomplishment, and wish you continued happiness in life.

Songkran 2011 on Moo1 and Wang Pho

It is with great pleasure that I announce that here in Wang Pho , and especially here on Moo 1 , that Songkran (Thai New Years) is over . I've lived on Moo1 for 7 (almost) years and I have to say that my neighbors, being ,Thai and Buddish did everything they could to make this a monumental Songkran.  They ate more food than was donated to the Tsunami and floods in Thailand and they danced and sang like they were trying to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records with non stop singing and dancing from the 12th till the evening of the 18th ," ohhh wait just a minute , there's are still a few die hards still singing karaoke. Did I mention that Ciejay and Me were there as always , when it came to the eating and singing  and oh yes I even danced a few , and If there's karaoke , you know I'm singing a few Elvis oldies ," Don't Be Cruel,"  "Love Me Tender",and my all time favorite  "Want You Wear My Ring Around Your Neck" and John Denver's  "Take Me Home Country Roads".
The real reason I'm glad it's over is not all the activities, But my body is soooo tired , it will take me a week to recuperate.
Not only was there a lot of action on Moo1 , but the village of Wang Pho had  their usual Songkran concert with music and singing and dancing  and food  and you know me  someone said "Food" and I'm there . Then just today to finish the week off with thanksgiving for the Buddish folks , they had a huge and I mean lots and lots of food with all the neighbors and friends and they even had the local  temple Monks come and chant and pray and Bless all the Buddish folks for the coming year , and as Thai custom goes we all had to wait till the monks were fed and then we could eat, and eat we did , at least I know one person that ate more than his share ( Me).
I have to be very honest and say  that even tho I got wet (oh yes I forgot) Songkran is a water festival too and that means that everywhere you go they are throwing water on you and your mode of transportation.  And I'm sure I gained 5 pounds over 5 days  and stretched my body to the limits, BUT!!!!!!!!   "I HAD FUN ". Elvis would have been be proud of me,( not to sure about Ciejay  ha ha ha ), and I made sure he was remembered at least for another year.

If you ever get over here to the Land Of Smiles , try and plan it for April  the weather is great ( hot) and you'll get a chance to join in to all the festivities and it will be and experience of a lifetime that you'll never forget.
Hope you enjoy the pictures  some are a little blurry , but was the best I could do .  Malcolm

Songkran Photos

The Songkran festival is one of those "love it or hate it" events. It can be viewed as fun, but some people like to complain about it getting a bit silly and losing its traditional roots. Songkran is the Thai New Year festival and is celebrated in Thailand and also in neighbouring Laos, some parts of China and Cambodia. The Thai New Year and Thai calendar was in use until 1888 in Thailand, but now January 1st is used as the official start of the new calendar year. The old Thai / Buddhist year is 543 years ahead of the standard calendar. The water throwing is the most obvious aspect of Songkran, but the older traditions are very much still alive. At homes and temples. Buddha images are washed with water containing flower petals, and at some temples, people carry dirt to the temple which is supposed to replace dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the year - I saw this at a temple this year, but did not stop for photos. In 2011 I was in Chumphon for Songkran, which is my wife's home town. Maybe the old way of life is a little more obvious here than in Phuket, or maybe I just got a more local feeling since I have been with the family. We had a ceremony at home pouring water on my wife's parents hands (this is called Rodnam Dam Hua). The water fights in Chumphon Town were just as big as Phuket - we drove around town in our pick up. I got singled out quite often - not many foreigners here! Bloody hot day resulting in a very wet and sunburned and ever so slightly drunk Jamie (that's me)!

Jamie Songkran

In previous years I have been in Phuket for Songkran. For a few years I tried to ignore this silly festival....then for a few years we tried to stay dry, but took drives around Phuket with me trying to take photos through the closed car window. In 2009 we did a drive round Patong in our pick up truck, with my wife and I taking turns to drive. Patong is certainly the main water fight, although if you head to Sapan Hin, in the south of Phuket Town, you get a good day too, with less tourists and more locals. In 2010 I did not try to take photos - just stood on the roadside outside a friends business, throwing water with one hand, bottle of beer in the other :)

Phuket Hotels - Phuket is a great place to be for Songkran!

So, for Songkran 2011 in Chumphon I took some photos with an old underwater film camera, needed some photoshopping to enhance the colour as the camera used 800 iso film, so most photos were a bit overexposed. Also got some photos on the street near the homes of various family members.

In yer face for Songkran

I have you in my sights

More photos : Songkran 2011 in Chumphon

And here's some more photos of Songkran in Phuket over the years ...

Street battle in Patong

(above) Songkran street battle in Patong! If you want to party on Songkran, Patong is the place to be. You WILL get very wet, but at least in Phuket the water throwing is limited to one day (13th April). We enjoyed the day we drove around on April 13th 2009, though the kids did start to get cold - people do tend to throw ice water, which is nice on a hot day...

Get that powder on your face!

(above) People like to use talcum powder mixed with water and will smear it on your face for good luck. Not everyone wants the powder, but you should accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. Hint: Don't wear your best clothes on Songkran!

Water pistol on a scooter

Songkran 2009 at Patong Beach

In town, people are scooting around on mopeds, in trucks, or some (like we used to) in cars with the windows up! It's a sad fact that there are a lot of accidents around Songkran mostly related to a combination of fast mopeds, alcohol, water and slippery roads. No fun to have a bucket of ice water in your face when you are riding a moped, but then again, if riding in town on Songkran day, you really should ride slowly and expect to get very very wet. The guy above with his colourful Songkran shirt is obviously enjoying the day! It was due to the number of accidents that the water throwing was limited to one day in Phuket a few years ago.

Songkran in Patong

Fun for all the family! If you are going to be in Phuket or anywhere in Thailand on Songkran, be ready, go out and have some watery fun! The photo above was taken outside the Jungceylon mall in Patong. I like the fact that the girl shooting her water pistol has no idea she's about to get a cup of ice water down her back :)

Songkran Kids

A day for the kids ... for one day every year, the kids can get away with pretty much anything! They can soak strangers, definitely soak their family, they can play with water all day and nobody can get mad at them. Our kids love it, I think all kids love Songkran!

Songkran Splash

And you're never quite sure where the next soaking is going to come from. This year riding around in the truck I got drenched at regular intervals, many times by unseen assailants. There's no point trying to stay dry! The guys on the scooter (above) just got owned! That photo was taken in Phuket Town on Phuket Road on the way south towards Sapan Hin.

Songkran 2008 in Phuket Town
Songkran 2007 Turtle release and Patong

Songkran is what it is - you can have fun or you can grouch. For one day, getting soaked is fun, especially as April 13th is normally going to be a very hot day, like it was this year. I am happy that it's only one day in Phuket - I know that in Chiang Mai it goes on for days, which could be a drag. In Chumphon, there was only water throwing in town for 1 day, but on the 14th people headed to the 2 main beaches near Chumphon (Sairee and Thung Wua Laen) to continue the party. I was very happy in 2011 to be more involved with the family. A good Songkran. Happy New Year!