Wat Kathu Temple

Kathu is "my" area of Phuket. We live in this area, which is between Patong and Phuket Town. Actually Patong is officially included in Kathu district, but .. Patong is a whole other world. Our Kathu is the more local area which you reach by heading over the hill from Patong towards Phuket Town. Some parts of Kathu are busy, some are quiet and large parts are residential. It's an interesting area to drive around on a scooter and see some actual local life not far from the main tourist beach. We visited Kathu temple (Wat Kathu) last week on a hot sunny day for our daughters birthday, to say a prayer.

Wat Kathu Temple

Not the first time she's been here. The photo below was taken in 2007...

Prayers at Kathu Phuket Temple

It's a quiet local temple, although it seems some tour minibuses pass this way, one arrived just as we were leaving and maybe there are one too many donation boxes! But the temple is very well looked after, the Monks here obviously take pride in their temple. The smaller local temples are often worth a visit.

Kathu Temple Phuket

Kathu Temple

I should point out - I'm not a Buddhist. The fact that my surname is "Monk" is a happy coincidence! We do visit temples for prayers now and then, I have no idea what exactly to do, other than follow by example, usually light some incense and put a flower somewhere and think happy thoughts related to health and happiness.

Kathu temple has quite a menagerie around the grounds. Must have been about 20 dogs, at least that number of cats, and plenty of chickens too. A foreign man was there feeding the dogs who obviously knew him and crowded around him. Cats are too cool to crowd around anyone, especially on a hot day ...

Cat at Kathu Temple

Kathu Temple Wildlife

Monk at Kathu Temple

A very peaceful place. And just 10-15 minutes drive from the busiest place in Phuket - Patong! This visit was for a happy occasion. The last time I stopped at Kathu temple was for a funeral, RIP Ruedi.

Holy Tree at Kathu Temple

Not too far from Kathu temple is Ket Ho temple, a bit closer to Phuket Town. There is also a Chinese shrine in Kathu village, only about 500m from the Buddhist temple. Kathu village shrine is one of the focal points of the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival.

Aside from the temples in Kathu, there is a large daily market in Kathu, just near the "Caltex" junction. You can also visit Kathu Waterfall or try the nearby Bungy Jump or Wake Park. Oh and the Phuket Tin Mining Museum is only a couple of km away from the temple too.

There is a big festival in Kathu every year - a cultural street show which takes place some time in July or August. It's been running since 2009 - see a blog post about the 2011 event - Kathu Phuket Culture Festival. I keep telling people - Kathu is the heart of Phuket!

America!!!!!! "here we come"

We have been planning this trip for 6 months and now we are down to the wire, we leave on the 31st of July and will be gone till Oct. 15  . I will try to post some pictures of our adventures while we are there , if not and get to busy will post a lot when we get back . Here is a list of the states we will be visiting with about a week or so in each , visiting friends and family , and of course having a vacation  time too.
    Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Callifornia, Texas , Tennessee, North Carolina , South Carolina.
 Maybe some will know about our trip already and the places we will be , if possible would love to see everyone we can , .While in South Carolina we will have a mini Family and Friend reunion in Merrietta, South Carolina , at Benny Moore's homestead.  the get -together will be the first week-in in Oct.we would love to see all who can come , some we haven't seen for a long time ,will be as great time.Pray for us to have a good time and all our flight connections to go smoothly .  Malcolm and Ciejay

A New Rule...

There has not been a new rule of the buffet in some time. Not that there have not been really outlandish things observed. More and more I have been seeing something happen at various buffets that needs to be noted and a new rule made. The new rule is -If you take a plate, bowl, cup, or piece of silverware and you decide you don't want it, do not put it back on the stack of clean dishes or back

Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project

Up in the Northeast of Phuket in a heavily forested area is the Khao Phra Thaeo National Park and the Bang Pae waterfall. To get there, you head North on the airport road from Phuket Town and turn right at the Heroine's Monument, then drive around 10km - the entrance on the left side is easy to find... there's a map at the bottom of the page. We have been up this way many times, not just for the Gibbon Project and Bang Pae Waterfall which is found just past the Gibbon Project, but nearby is Bang Pae Seafood and also Bang Rong, where you find a floating restaurant and you can get a ferry to the island of Koh Yao Noi. There's a restaurant called Peang Prai just at the entrance gate to the waterfall.

As you drive up to the park entrance the roadside is lined with rubber trees as is much of this Northern area of Phuket. Rubber was once very important to the economy of Phuket and indeed it continues to be important. There are also fields of pineapples nearby, but once you hit the park entrance you are in the jungle, baby! At the entrance gate there is (normally) an entry fee to pay. Last time we visited there was nobody collecting entrance fees. It was mid afternoon, about 3:30pm. I have heard that after 4pm entry is always free, but can't 100% confirm this!

Gibbon Rehabilitation Center

The Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (GRP) is based here - this organisation aims to protect gibbons and their habitat through rehabilitation and education. It's a sad fact that gibbons are caught and kept as pets in Thailand and even hawked round the streets in Phuket to have photos taken with tourists. This is illegal. The project takes in gibbons who have been rescued, taken away from their "owners" by the police or that have been handed in by owners who no longer wish to look after them. They then go through a long rehabilitation before often being released back into the forests. Not all can be released. Below is a video (from July 2012) of a gibbon called Tam who has one hand and one foot missing due to mistreatment by his "owner". He can't be released.

The Gibbons that are being kept here can be seen in large cages like the one above. Some are close together so the gibbons can be social, some gibbons are paired together. There are information boards with lots of details about the gibbons and the work of the GRP.

Gibbon Rehabilitation Center

Gibbons swing around and sing their distinctive song. Some sit quietly. They all have names and have quite different personalities. The information boards tell you more about the individuals. It's not a place you can spend hours, unless you are a particular gibbon fan I guess .. but the volunteers there are always happy to talk and answer questions.

Phuket Gibbon Rehabilitation Center

Gibbon Rehabilitation Center in Phuket

If you are in Phuket (the worst place is Bangla Road in Patong) or anywhere else in Thailand and see a gibbon being taken round the streets for tourists to take photos, please take a photo and email it to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project - grp@gibbonproject.org - tell them where and when the photo was taken. You can also email the Natural Resources and Environment Crime Division at forest@royalthaipolice.go.th. Please note that the project gets none of the National Park entry fee (200 Baht for foreigners), so any donation you can make is appreciated. They have a small shop (photo above) selling gibbon related souvenirs. For more about the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project see the web site www.gibbonproject.org.

Gibbon Rehabilitation Project (and Bang Pae Waterfall) - Location Map

View Bang Pae Waterfall and Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in a larger map

Lone Wolf ...

I find myself in unfamiliar surroundings this morning, sitting at the back of my wife’s English class, trying as best I can to ignore what is going on around me and gather my thoughts.  We have an early lunch scheduled with friends and I find myself without enough time to go elsewhere.  Besides, this is my first opportunity to tryout my wife’s new MacBook Air and write somewhere other than in my familiar lair.  I can’t help wondering how this will workout.

I received an email yesterday of a complimentary nature, which of course is always encouraging to a writer.  More importantly he expressed an affinity with what he called my lone wolf mentality.  That gave me an idea of how to handle some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head for a while.  Sometimes one writes and then searches for a title to fit what has been written.  Then there are days like today, where one if gifted with a title that sets you on the path to a new blog post.

Though I consider myself a lone wolf of sorts I’m not sure anyone really starts out that way.  My early years were nothing unusual.  I lived in a quiet residential suburb, of a university town, with neighbors of a similar age to play with.  I walked or rode my bike to school, throughout both elementary school and junior high, which were conveniently located next to each other.  During that time a few friends moved away but there was a strong core of friends that spanned those years with shared interests, primarily sports.  Life was active and carefree with little need for thought or introspection.  Looking back it was a good solid childhood, though perhaps lacking in ethnic diversity.

That all changed when we moved to Hawaii.  Removed from my homogenized and familiar environment, I found myself a minority and alone, not surrounded by my friends, for the first time.  I began to question who I was and my relationship with others.  It was not long, however, before I had a girlfriend and a newly discovered interest in surfing and the ocean.  The group sports of my youth were replaced with the more solitary activities of surfing the shore break near home, sailing a small catamaran left parked on the beach, running on the sandy beach and hiking in the ridges and lush mountains of Hawaii.  Groups were never again to play a part in my life as girlfriends took center stage.

I never experienced living near my relatives but, until I was ten, we did visit both sets of grandparents each summer and that provided an opportunity to see and play with my cousins if only briefly and occasionally.  I suppose it should not feel strange now, having never lived near each other and not having seen each other for the better part of forty years, that the majority of my cousins have little or no interest in knowing who I have become.  Fortunately there are a few notable exceptions on my mother’s side.  Sure we might find that we have nothing in common but still I would find it interesting to see them again if only once.

I seem to remember little of my cousins but I can vividly recall the sites, sounds, smells and animals of my grandfather’s dairy farm.  Fishing in a small pond, riding horses of which there were two, mingling with a couple hundred cows as they were milked twice a day, building secret hideaways amidst the hay bails stacked in the barn and even images of the local dogs all seem fixed and unfaded in my mind’s eye.  The farm was a vast and amazing world in my youth but when revisited that one time after growing up, it seemed to have diminished considerably in both size and mystery.  These days I can go to Google Earth to checkout all the development in the area.  Things sure have changed.

Sadly my grandfather died when I was ten and my grandmother move to the city.  The farm held nothing for her with husband gone and four boys scattered from coast to coast.  It was only a few brief years later that we moved to Hawaii, further removing me from my idyllic childhood and what was once a possible life path.

Moving to Thailand further consolidated my path toward lone wolf status, as friends came and went with some regularity being posted elsewhere, while I remained in Bangkok to find new friends.  I have often wondered what it must be like to have close relations with both family and friends throughout ones life.  It is quite simply beyond my comprehension at this point.  Transient and impermanent relationships are all I have known.

One must remember there was no internet or Facebook back then and without proximity it was difficult, at least for me, to maintain relationships.  In time my self-reliance grew as did my feeling that needing people was a weakness.  As much as I might revel in a long animated discussion and enjoy the people I might be with, dependence on them has been something I have tended to avoided.

At this point I feel like I became a full fledged lone wolf.  I have met those who assume lone wolves to be socially inept, awkward and antisocial.  Many of us are actually quite gregarious and affable at times.  Not confined by the expectations of membership in any particular group, we are free to range widely and can be more open to strangers and new encounters than those with a fixed group of friends.  Our interests can be varied but seldom does any one topic hold our attention for any great length of time.

Though my wife has tamed the wolf in me and tempered my sometimes rough edges, I still cling to no one but her.  Friends come and go, some are missed and some are not.  For me a friend is someone who brings a smile to your face and makes the world feel a bit brighter and someone you look forward to seeing.  It seems to me, some people expect less of their friends than they do of others.  They overlook their shortcoming and forgive a multitude of sins, all in the name of friendship.  I feel that friendship carries the burden of not becoming a burden to others, though I understand that not to be a common position.

I want to make it clear that I am not touting my way of life as something to be emulated.  I’m just saying, being a lone wolf worked for me in Thailand, while it left me feeling a bit lonely and detached when in my own country.  From talking with others I have gotten the impression I am not alone in feeling more connected and less lonely in Thailand.  We are perhaps not as vocal as those who complain so loudly about all that is wrong with Thailand.  Maybe our expectations are different, making it easier to fit in here, while making it harder sometimes to fit in with the complainers or those who cling too tightly to the life they left behind, intent on replicating it here. 

I’m a lone wolf, not a recluse.  I often prefer to act alone but not to live a solitary life.  I am not a misanthrope, just independent self-reliant and a little picky about who I choose to share my time with.  In short I am a lone wolf and proud of it.

Tuesday Night at Dutch-Way Family Restaurant, Gap, PA

It was just a few weeks ago that I wrote about my second trip to Dutch-Way Family Restaurant in Gap, Pennsylvania. I had an opportunity to return to Dutch Way Restaurant just a month after my recent visit that appeared here in June. This time I went on a Tuesday night and the special theme feature on Tuesday nights is Build Your Own Burger and Wings.The night we went was the night before the

Khao Sok National Park : Fun and Relaxation

If you live in a city and have a stressful job, it's nice to have a "getaway", a favourite place to relax and recharge your batteries for a couple of days, somewhere quiet and beautiful, not far from home but seemingly in another world. It may seem odd, but even living in Phuket it's nice to have a place nearby that suits us as a getaway. Sure, Phuket is beautiful anyway, but we're very lucky to have Khao Sok National Park on our doorstep. Over the years, we have enjoyed a number of short trips to Khao Sok, not for the hiking, kayaking, rafting and other adventure activities that are offered by tour companies, but just to relax. We have stayed at the same resort - Cliff and River Jungle Resort - many times and until our last trip, we ignored all tours and just relaxed by the amazing pool with the cliff towering overhead, enjoyed the good food in the restaurant and enjoyed listening to nature. Even enjoyed heavy afternoon rain showers!

This latest trip was different. We had planned to stop in Khao Sok on the way back to Phuket from Chumphon, but the weather was wet and windy, so we headed straight home. No point checking in with the rain hammering down. From the Cliff and River it's about a 3 hour drive to our house. Just 2 days later the weather cleared up, and it just so happened that some friends were heading to Khao Sok on the same day. We had plans for relaxation, but also wanted to stay a night at some floating bungalows on the Chiew Lan reservoir, and our friends wanted to try some river-based activities. We were going to be kind of guinea pigs for some new Khao Sok tours which are now being offered by my friends at Easy Day Thailand.

We started at the reservoir. Chiew Lan is a huge man-made lake created by the building of the Rajaprapha Dam, which was completed in 1982. Probably looked a mess when it was being built. Looks beautiful now. The boat dock where you can hire boats and pay your national park fees is a busy place. No real need to book in advance if you have your own transport. You can just turn up and get a boat out onto the lake.

Longtail boats at Khao Sok

The plan was to cruise the lake for an hour or so, check out some of the floating bungalows and splash about in the water. The scenery in the lake is quite similar to Phang Nga Bay, only here you have fresh water. It's nice to have your "own boat" rather than be on a big group tour which dashes around on it's own schedule. We had no fixed schedule, I don't like to rush. The day was hot and sunny, and Khao Sok was looking great...

On the lake at Khao Sok

Scenery on the Chiew Lan lake

We stopped at some of the floating bungalows where a late breakfast was being prepared for our group (eggs and toast). We weren't planning to stay that night, but this quick stop gave us a chance to check out the accommodation. It's basic - bare rooms with a mattress on the floor and a cold shower. It was late morning and sunny, and the rooms were already hot inside. I wondered how they'd be for sleeping. But - ignoring the basic nature of the rooms .. here's the view:

Lunch stop at Khao Sok

And after a bite to eat, the kids were soon having fun in the water. Once you jump in, you can see the attraction of these bungalows. They had some kayaks too. As it turned out, we never did stay at the floating bungalows as the weather only stayed good for 2 days, so that means .. we'll be back! Boat rides and bungalows can be booked through Easy Day Thailand.

Jumping into the lake at Khao Sok

Kids kayaking

Oh, and the kids weren't the only ones jumping in the water. It was a hot day, so I jumped in too. Lovely. We splashed about in the sun with these great views long enough that the bungalow staff suggested we had lunch there too! They cooked up curry and fried fish and rice, and a couple of beers magically appeared :)

The boat took us back to the jetty, it was about a 30 minute ride back and then about a 45 minute drive from the reservoir to reach the Cliff and River resort to the west. The weather stayed great so we could have a splash about in the pool, a couple of beers and dinner in the restaurant. If you stay at the Cliff and River, and want to "eat out" the nearest alternative would be about 10km away to the west at the main national park entrance where there are many small bungalows and small restaurants. But we happen to like the restaurant at Cliff and River! We'd all had an early start at 6am, driving up from Phuket, plenty of sun, and an early night after a couple more beers was very welcome!

I like to wake up early in Khao Sok. Why? Here's why ...

The air is fresh and cool, the mist hangs over the hills, the insects chirp, the birds are not angry and the gibbons call through the jungle. This is our getaway! The mists slowly clear revealing the 1000 foot cliff that towers over the resort. We filled up on breakfast, the usual "Thai-American" breakfast with coffee, toast, eggs, ham .. or you can ask for Khao Tom (rice soup). The day ahead was to be a day of fun on the river. We drove out mid morning to the west (up river) - the Khao Sok river starts in the hills and winds it's way east joining up with a river that exits from the lake/reservoir and finally hits the ocean at Surat Thani. The section of river that runs near the Cliff and River resort is mostly tranquil with a few very small rapids. We had met our guide Tee the night before. He works for Easy Day Thailand, and lives just a few km from the resort - a real local! We'd been to his house for a few drinks, a BBQ and karaoke. A very nice guy, speaks excellent English, and his daughter and mine became instant friends!

We started with a little downhill walk to the river and climbed aboard our canoes. A box of beer was brought along for the ride. After an hour or so, my wife and I had the hang of canoeing and had stopped blaming each other for heading in the wrong direction or drifting sideways into overhanging trees. Fun for all the family, and our group had lots of kids in it, some as young as a year old.

Fun Canoes on the river at Khao Sok

The river was mostly very tranquil, with just a few very very small "rapids". There are places in Phang Nga with some more serious water, but this is suitable for everyone.

Canoes on the "rapids" at Khao Sok

We stopped a few times on the river to jump in and swim in the cool water, and there was one spot with a rope swing too which many people enjoyed trying, and a few even managed not to look like a donkey :)

Rope swing over the river at Khao Sok

Tee's friends had prepared a "jungle lunch" at a secret riverside location (he knows every inch of this area). Just our group by the river with a little BBQ. And from there it was tubing downstream all the way to the Cliff and River. Tubing is fun, relaxing (except when you drift into overhanging branches) - next time I think I need a dry bag and a waterproof camera, and maybe a couple of cold beers :) I'm a pretty large person, so my tube seemed to be slower than some other people as most of it was under water! But there was no rush, no rush at all.

Tubing on the river at Khao Sok

(above) Tubing in Khao Sok - that's me and my wife right in the background. Our kids loved it, a great family day and finishing the tubing right back at the resort was ideal, just a quick walk up to our room! Wanna do this again! Our friends left back to Phuket that afternoon, but we stayed another night at the Cliff and River. The weather had been so great for 2 days. Lots of red sunny faces in the family! We thought about heading back to the lake next day for an overnight stay, but the next morning was a little wet ....

Boo! Raining again! Well, it is rainforest. This area on average gets 40 - 50% more rain than Phuket. I like rain in the jungle, but it would not have been such a nice boat ride. So we headed back home instead. This trip was in early May 2012, and Easy Day Thailand now have regular Khao Sok tours including the resort, lake trip, river activities and/or staying on the lake - ask them! I'm often reminded how lucky we are to live in Phuket. Having Khao Sok on our doorstep is one of the many reasons we are happy to call Phuket home!

• You can contact Easy Day Thailand for Khao Sok Tours
Cliff and River Resort - Online Booking
More Hotels in the Khao Sok Area

Khao Sok National Park Map

View Khao Sok National Park in a larger map

Make like a banana.

Friday 26th August.
Our first port of call in Croatia was Zadar. We arrived at 3am and I walked while John hobbled along on his crutches out through an industrial estate to the peninsula of the old town where young people were still partying and swimming. Grabbing some sleep next to the world's only sea organ made sleeping outside much more pleasant.

We positioned ourselves facing west and awaited the sunrise. The sun does not rise in the west. We missed the sunrise. Zadar is an excellent small city, rich in culture but we were too tired to fully appreciate it so we made our way sweatily to the youth hostel and had a relaxed evening watching an awesome sunset (in the west).

Saturday 27th August.
We made like a banana on our day trip to Split. On the bus there we passed a full on forest fire with fire planes and helicopters dropping water over it. It was quite exciting to watch which I'm not sure is the correct emotion when witnessing a natural disaster but it really was cool.

Split is most agreeable, we spent a happy afternoon and evening wondering the narrow streets of the historic walled city before stocking up on beer and playing cards for the 10pm bus ride back to Zadar. After a couple of games of shithead and a couple of beers our bladders became too full and we had to annoy the other passengers by getting the bus driver to pull over so we could wee in a bush. He spoke no English so this was communicated through the cross legged I need to wee mime. After this we became sleepy and stretched across the back seats for a nap. I was woken by John and I told him to leave me alone.
'Glyn isn't it three hours from Split to Zadar?'
'Yes. Go to sleep'
'Didn't we leave at ten?'
'Yes, they know where we're going, they'll tell us when we're there'
'But it's 2am. We've been on here four hours now'
'Oh. I see. I'll go check'
We had missed our stop and the next stop was Rijeka at 5:30. Our conclusion was that getting off was pointless as we were in the middle of nowhere with no idea when the next bus back to Zadar might come. Might as well get some sleep then.

Sunday 28th August
By the time we got back to our hostel too much of the day had gone to go out to the national park we had wanted to see but determined not to waste John's last whole day we got on a ferry out to an island. It was a great day. We explored, swam in the sea, watched Liverpool stuff Bolton 4-1 and Man U smash Arsenal 11-6 or something like that, there were a lot of goals. We were also able to play our new favourite sport of electronic darts cricket and finish off the night sharing a bottle of booze on the beach with some Germans and Belgians from the hostel.

John had been an excellent travel companion and I look forward to our next adventure in South America in November. Love you little brother.

Out on the Mt Bike...

Too lazy to write so thought I would share some photos from recent Mt. Bike adventures.  Been getting wet on occasion but the riding has been great.

Midsummer Swedish Smorgasbord at IKEA

We have just returned from the Midsummer Swedish Smorgasbord served for one night in June each year at the store restaurant at IKEA. IKEA has five one night special all you care to eat meals at their store restaurants during the year. This one is held in June each year.We had been to the Easter Smorgasbord at IKEA this past April and enjoyed it very much. When we learned that there would be

Wat Bang Riang

It may be clear from the blog that I like temples. Thankfully my wife does too, and the kids don't mind a bit of exploration and a temple now and then .. so long as it's an interesting temple with something different about it. I had seen photos online of Wat Bang Riang in Phang Nga province, and it certainly looked interesting. We'd meant to visit for ages, but ran out of time on our last trip exploring Phang Nga which is the province of Thailand just north of Phuket. Simply cross over the Sarasin Bridge and you're in Phang Nga which has a lot of beautiful places easily within reach of a day trip from Phuket.

Wat Bang Riang turned out to be further than I thought. I did not check a map before leaving home and had the idea that it was to be found in the hills just North of Phang Nga town. I remembered seeing a sign pointing to Wat Bang Riang before when we visited Sanang Manora Forest Park which is just a few km from the town. So, surely the temple would be close. We'd never taken this road before. North of Phang Nga town there are big hills, and the road wound up and up. No sign of the temple. The road was narrow and very quiet and I had neglected to fill up with gasoline. Where's the damn temple? After about 30km we saw signs to Thap Put, a small town at a road junction. You can reach Thap Put by another road from Phang Nga, a busier road. We figured maybe we'd missed Wat Bang Riang somehow. Filled up with gas at Thap Put and asked for directions. Wat Bang Riang is another 10km further on from Thap Put, so over 40km from Phang Nga! There's a map at the bottom of this page.

Found it eventually, after 10km on a small country road from Thap Put, and correctly assumed that even on a weekend it would not be very busy since it's miles from anywhere and hard to find! And very worthwhile visiting! We parked at the bottom of a slight hill leading up to the main temple building. Monks were busy cleaning.

Monk cleaning temple roof at Wat Bang Riang

Wat Bang Riang Temple

Next to the temple is a wide open area from where you have views over the rest of the temple grounds, across some hills to a couple of impressive statues. The standing lady below is Guan Yin, who is the goddess of compassion (in Thai they call her Kuan Im).

Guan Yin at Wat Bang Riang

And a little further away, a large golden seated Buddha statue looking over the hills. A wonderful sight. Phang Nga is very rural, there are no big towns, but lots of green hills. Phuket has plenty of greenery too, but driving into Phang Nga does take you to a much quieter place.

Big Buddha at Wat Bang Riang

Big Buddha at Wat Bang Riang

These views alone make the trip worth the effort. I was busy taking pictures as the rest of the family headed down a steep staircase down to the Kuan Im statue. Another Monk was on cleaning duty at the foot of the steps and my wife was saying her prayers to the goddess.

Monk on cleaning duty

Kuan Im at Wat Bang Riang

There's quite a lot of walking here! And plenty of stairs. Although we noticed that you can drive around from where we parked on a small road to reach Guan Yin / Kuan Im. I had a happy moment here when our daughter (hard to impress nearly-teen) let out a "Wow". Impressed by the statue and the sweeping views.

View from Wat Bang Riang

From the big Guan Yin statue, there was another few hundred meters to walk, mostly uphill, to reach the Big Buddha statue.

Big Buddha at Wat Bang Riang

Big Buddha at Wat Bang Riang

Despite being a Saturday afternoon, we saw only a few other visitors, small family groups mostly. Now we know exactly where to go, I think we'll visit again. We normally drive to Chumphon (my wife's home town) via Phang Nga and Thap Put, so Wat Bang Riang is almost on the route. From Phuket, depending where you start in Phuket, it's about a 2 hour drive.

A couple of details of the Big Buddha ...

Buddhas fingers

Buddha eye at Wat Bang Riang

We'd started the day quite late, thinking Wat Bang Riang to be closer! I had wanted to also stop at a couple of other places in Phang Nga, but this will have to wait for our next day out "over the bridge". Exploring Phuket does not need to be limited to the island, there's a lot to see in neighboring provinces and we've been doing Phang Nga trips quite a lot recently. Always more to find!

Wat Bang Riang - Location Map

View Wat Bang Riang in a larger map

Building a House, Building a Life ...

While considering what to write about today, it occurred to me that it might be time to revisit the house and how I came to be where I am.  Though not a new topic, it is something I have not spoken to for sometime and could perhaps benefit from a rewrite of sorts, based on where I am today but with some historical perspective thrown in.

My parents grew up in rural areas, pretty much in the center of the country, in an area called the Midwest.  Large two story homes with attics and basements were the norm back then.  Though I visited my grandparents in those lovely homes in my youth, I was raised in single story dwellings located in the idyllic suburbs of university towns.  My parents did not take up condo living until after I moved to Thailand and even then moved into a place large enough to maintain separate rooms for their two sons in case they ever needed to return home.  Thinking back, that room with my stuff in it did a lot in the way of freeing me to explore the world unencumbered.

Bangkok was my first experience with a big city, though back then there were only three buildings that could be remotely considered high-rise.  I experimented with living in various types of dwellings during my years in Bangkok but the vast majority of time was spent in studio apartments and eventually in my own condo unit for the final ten years.  Young and enamored with Thailand, eager to experience as much as I could, I spent very little time at home and basically used my apartment as a bedroom and changing area while spending most of my time exploring, often staying out all night.

In later years the central location of our condo meant my young wife and I could walk or take the Skytrain most places we cared to go.  It left us free to travel, often turning the key and going away for six months at a time.  That travel phase lasted for roughly eight years.  Over time the combination of travel and condo living began to take its toll, I guess.  We began looking for alternatives in both my home country and here in Thailand.  All with an eye to living a more settled life surrounded by things we loved.

Though we had early on discarded any notion of living in her home village, over time it started to look more promising and eventually got a vote of approval from both of us.  Having lived so many years in Bangkok, I dreamed of something as far from city living as I could find, while still providing necessary creature comforts.  Over the eight years or so that we had been visiting the village, I had time to explore as much of the surrounding area as one could on foot.  That helped in our search for the right piece of land to build on.

The external look of our house could be considered happenstance as all attention was on floor plan, orientation and views.  As for outward appearance I guess one important desire was for the back of the house, facing the road and traffic, to be as inconspicuous as possible.  With a five rai plot of land to work with, space was not an issue and we were free to spread out as much as we liked and have continued to add other structures over the years. 

Somehow a single story building with a high ceiling seems more spacious to me.  Though I sometimes find two story homes quite attractive, I couldn’t see myself living in one.  With an open floor plan one can both see and feel the space around you because everything is on that one level.  Add big picture windows and sliding doors to draw your eye to the fields and mountains that surround the house and the result, at least in my case, fills me with a calm serenity that keeps me balanced.  Indoors or out I gaze upon the same ever changing view throughout the year.

It should be reiterated that until I was in my fifties I had never considered this kind of life in this kind of location.  I sometimes feel the young, or at least young at heart, come to Thailand in search of adventure and new experiences just to burden themselves with the same encumbrances which drove them to despair back home.  For others it could be the loneliness of old age trumps all other emotions, leading us down familiar paths rather than exploring completely new ones.  In a foreign country maybe it is just easier to latch onto a woman to be your guide, translator and companion while also relieving you of your burden of loneliness. 

When I encounter people especially those younger than myself, who lust for the life I live, my first bit of advice is to slow down and take some time before taking actions that may be difficult to recover from.  Make sure you are really ready.  I wasn’t ready for marriage until I was forty five and was in my early fifties before I moved to Chiang Rai to build this house.  I can’t imagine I could have been happy here during my thirties or forties.  Even with all the years of living in Thailand, planning and forethought that went into this choice, there was no certainty as to how things would turnout.  Even now the story continues to unfold and though it still feels like the right choice at the moment, there is no way of knowing what lies ahead.

I knew I was putting limits on my freedom when we moved to this life in the village but I was perhaps unprepared for how restrictive pets and possessions could be.  I was primarily focused on acquiring the things I had lived without for so many years in Bangkok, things from my long lost childhood.  What was that line...something about being careful what you wish for?  Though we both love the comfort and beauty of our surroundings there are times when we wax lyrical about bygone days when we could just turn the key and travel for as long as we wished or enjoy luxurious health clubs and fine dining in the big city.

While there is still a small voice telling me I should be traveling more or attacking that bucket list with more gusto, there is a bigger part of me that finds the expense, discomfort and inconvenience of travel these days a real turnoff.  I am so comfortable where I am, it would seem my focus in life has shifted dramatically without my really noticing.  I was never very domestic before and viewed life as a pursuit of adventure and experience limited only by what I could afford.

I sometimes wonder if my wife, house, dogs and possessions have altered me somehow at the core or if perhaps they have just released something that was dwelling deep inside all along but was held at bay by past circumstances.  Maybe I am just getting old and this is the normal way of things.  Having followed a path far different from my peers, I’m not at all sure I know what normal is or whether that might be where I am heading.  For now I ponder these questions and others from the comfort of my house in the field, built at a time in my life when it felt right.

Maintenance in action

I have said a few times before on my blog how important  maintenance is , especially here in Thailand where we have lots of rain and then hot and humid, it takes it toll on things , and a/c units are no exceptions and  need a lot of attention, if you want to have clean fresh , cool air when you need it , nothing worse than to turn on a/c and smell a musty odour coming out of the air vent , because of dust and mildew  and who knows what. We have our A/C unit cleaned and checked twice a year.I have stayed in a few motel and hotels in Thailand and elsewhere , when the smell was worse than the heat lol. We try to put a maintenance schedule on everything and Ciejay checks it once a month to see what we need to have fixed or maintained during the month. Sorry to say that most folks here in Thailand forget that stuff needs checked for cleaning , oiling , or general maintenance  and you can see lots of things broke and laying  around the side or back of the house that would have lasted for years if only a little TLC had be included in the owning of it . We have lived in our home with all of our stuff we bought 9 years ago and have only had to replace a few light fixtures that were in the house when we bought it.The stuff we bought new , takes a licking and keeps on ticking , with a little attention and maintenance. I hope you are like us and value the stuff you have spent your hard earned cash on and have learned that you can enjoy it for a long time with a little care , and you know what ?? it's never to late to start.