Things we're proud of here in our retirement home of Thailand


All my life,everywhere I have lived, I have always looked for things to be proud of ,rather than looking for things to critize or complain about or find fault with,and here in my adopted home of Thailand I try to do the same. I am proud of the fact that here in Thailand we have to freedom to live and love and enjoy all that life has to offer , as long as we live by the rules.I am proud of the fact that most expat folks who make Thailand their home and realize their dreams come true ,are very decent people. I could go on and on about things that I am proud of here in the Land Of Smiles And Gentle People . I would like to say that the thing that I am most proud of is the little village that I call home ,Whang Pho. All of our local leaders do all they possibly can to make sure that all the people that call Sai Yok their home ,live in the cleanest , safest,and most enjoyable place they can make it . I have even notice that they pay close attention to even the smallest detail to make sure that it looks good and not a eye sore , and the thing that amazes me the most, is that they seen to understand the meaning of maintainence.

This coming year , my goal is to look for all I can be proud of and if at all possible to thank the person or persons responsible and give them a big pat on the back, and to remind myself that  This is Thailand. Lets all give it a try. Just one more reason why We're Retired in Thailand and Loving It.  Malcolm and Ciejay

Return to the Levittown OCB, Levittown, New York

A few weeks ago when the weather was still bad, we decided that we wanted to go to OCB and we did not want to take the drive out to the east to the other Long Island Old Country Buffet. After the last experience we were reluctant but with some improvements that we saw on that visit we decided to give it another try.

Things were better. For one thing, when we went in there were clean tables.

About the Phuket Blogger

It was pointed out to me recently by a very well respected blogger that I do not have an "about me" page. Apparently this is a normal thing to have on a "travel blog". And I just checked on that ... I looked at the top 10 travel blogs on this list .. and all of them had big obvious ABOUT or ABOUT ME links at the top of the page in the main menu. The mobile version of this blog does have a limited profile at the foot of the page which says ...

I have traveled many roads and in 1999 ended up in Thailand. After visiting some 50 countries from Zaire to Bolivia; from India to Malawi; from Denmark to Guatemala, Phuket was where I stopped moving. I am married, we have 2 kids, we live in Phuket.

Maybe that's all you need to know. Skip the rest. This mini-profile is also on my Blogger profile page, but until now I do not have any "about me" information on the main, big, desktop version of the blog. The last 11 words of that mini-profile are the important ones. I am married with kids and we live in Phuket. We're not on holiday here. It's a perfectly normal family life. Just that we happen to live in Phuket which is a popular destination for tourists. And I write a blog about Phuket, or several blogs actually. It's a hobby, not a job. Sometimes I write new blog pages regularly, sometimes I am too busy with normal life. I have a proper job, managing a dive center called Sunrise Divers. In high season that's a 6 day per week job. In low season, 5 days per week. So blogging time and exploring time is limited. More gets done in low season (May to October) when I can work less days and take some holidays.



(above) A little Q&A I did with the local Phuket News paper.

The lack (until now) of an "about Jamie" page is partly due to privacy, mixed with a very English modesty - who wants to read about me? I don't want to blab on about myself. The blog is quite personal anyway, featuring plenty of family photos, and many pages about things we do as a family, but I try to keep family details to a minimum. We live in the Kathu area of Phuket and I'm not getting any more specific. I hope I have never mentioned which school the kids attend and my wife makes sure family photos on the blog are not too personal. But, yes this is a BLOG, not a travel guide. Some pages are about what we do, some are more informational. Some events such as the Phuket Vegetarian Festival get blogged every year. I have blogged 4 times already about trips to Koh Yao Noi island and if we go again, it'll be another blog page. Some pages get updates with new photos, sometimes a repeat visit gets a new blog page. It's mean to be personal-but-not-too-personal!



(above) Me and da kidz at Koh Yao Noi island.

OK. So. About Me. Hello, I am Jamie and I live in Phuket. I am English or British depending on what sport is being played. I was born in the same year as the lunar landing - "a giant leap for mankind", I lived in England's green and pleasant land, went to school, got lots of exam passes. Not much traveling when I was young, but then again, a 100 mile drive seemed like a long trip when I was a kid. We had family holidays all over Britain and a few in Europe, camping in France, Germany, Belgium. And when I was 16, with a group of about 10 kids from my school, I went to India for 1 month. Quite a shock it was. We stayed in basic accommodation, visited farms, schools, factories, helped on a building project for an orphanage, and got a few easy days at the beach and sightseeing too! Was an emotional experience. I can't say it inspired me to travel more. I was young and happy to be back home again. Finished school, 4 years at University. I have a BSc in Chemistry and an MSc in Forensic Science. Thanks. And I wanted to be a forensic scientist.



(above) In Glasgow with fellow forensic scientist Nick - this was in 1991. Nick and I got lucky during the MSc course and flew to California for 3 months to do some work in a forensic lab. And we had time to explore too, visiting the Grand Canyon (see photo below), Yosemite, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and more. I think that's when the travel bug hit me.



Got a job with a big pharmaceutical company, but after about 18 months I felt the urge to travel some more. One big trip and then settle down for a normal life, that was the plan. I signed up for a trip through Africa with a company called Exodus Overland. About 15 people, big truck, camping, making our own food, from London to Jo'burg by truck. All overland. 6 months.



(above) Sahara Desert, 1993



(above) in Malawi, 1993

After Africa .. back to work for nearly 2 years, nearly getting sucked into an easy lifestyle, nearly being tempted to put a deposit on an apartment, get a new car .. but after a while I realised, with the money I had made, a really long trip would be possible! So at the end of April 1995 began a 20 month trip, starting in North America and ending in South America, everything from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. I wish there had been such things as travel blogs back then! But in 1995 I did not even have an email address or a digital camera. Less than 20 years but huge changes in the world. I loved the traveling life, and traveling solo meant I was free to explore in my own time. Met a lot of very nice people along the way, learned to speak Spanish, learned to scuba dive and when the money finally ran out there was no way I could consider going back to a "normal" life. Travel was normal. I went back to England just in time for Christmas 1996.



(above) on the Inca trail, 1996



(above) at Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, 1996

I took nearly 100 rolls of film on that trip. A shame that quality, affordable digital cameras were not around then! Well, after that trip, I went to work for about 9 months, did a little trip around Europe visiting friends and then headed back to Central America. Some of my favourite countries on the "big trip" had been Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. I had spent 2 months diving on the island of Utila in Honduras and got my divemaster certificate. So in 1998 I was back there for about 5 months, combined with some travels around Guatemala and southern Mexico. And I decided that the next step would be the PADI Instructor course. After a few months work in England, back to Honduras right after the Hurricane Mitch disaster. Got my instructor rating in December 1998 and stayed nearly a year in Utila as an instructor. I loved Utila, people there are great, but the travel bug was still biting. More to see, more to see ...



(above) Just chillin' at Water Caye, Utila

I'd not been anywhere in Southeast Asia before, although it was the number one region for backpackers thanks to Lonely Planet. Some other dive instructors I knew recommended Thailand. A little reading and it seemed that the Similan Islands was the best place to dive, and Phuket was home to most of the dive shops. So at the end of 1999 I arrived from Honduras in Phuket with a backpack, a bag of dive gear and not much money! Got some work easily enough, but it dried up after a couple of months and by January 2000, living in Patong, which I did not like even then, I was thinking of moving on. But, as it often does, something arrived. I got a fixed job on a liveaboard dive boat, and then at the end of high season I met a girl who worked in the office for the same dive company. We've been together ever since, and as you may know, now we have 2 kids and we live in Phuket!



(above) My wife and me on the Sarasin bridge that connects Phuket to the mainland

My name is Jamie. This is home, this is life. The Phuket Blog started in 2006. I think a lot of "travel blogs" started about the same time. I wanted to show that there is more to Phuket than the usual tourist attractions, more than just beaches, bars, girls and hotels. I read too many negative comments on travel websites, mostly it seemed from people who had not really seen much of Phuket. So the blog tends not to mention much about the main beaches, I try to write about places we visit and places we eat as a family. We have no plans to leave here! A lot more Phuket blogging to come!

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Online / In Print

Smile Magazine April 2015 (article about Phuket bloggers)
To Thailand With Love (2 stories)
France 24 - article about the Phuket vegetarian festival

Back to the Southern Smokehouse, Linden, New Jersey

We recently were back at the Southern Smokehouse in Linden, New Jersey and this was one of our best visits there yet. The Southern Smokehouse is a buffet that is a combination of Chinese buffet and Southern Barbecue. This is an odd combination but here it seems to work.

About a year ago Southern Smokehouse added a smoker and while they always served barbecue ribs, now those ribs are being made

Old Elephant Pictures

MORE ELEPHANTS

















 I hope you will enjoy this picture post as much as I have enjoyed looking at these old pictures . Ciejay and me were doing our wine business the other day and at one of the resorts I saw these old pictures and ask if I could photograph them , and did they have a story to go with the pictures . They said I could and the story was told them by the owner of the resort.Now the man that owns the resort ,which is managed by his daughters and their husbands, is the same man that owns the Sai Yok Elephant Park that I visit often and took the pictures of the previous post of the babies learning to swim.Fifty plus years ago there was a elephant fair , held in Surin, up north in Issan country where all the elephant owners and trainers would bring their animals to show them off and to have different contest and to see whose was the strongest and smartest and best looking ,and all the other elephant stuff. these pictures were taken by his father and have been enlarged and framed and are now proudly displayed in the resort lobby.I have never seen so many elephants in one place at one time in all my life. Have you ?

I have decided to dedicate a small(maybe not so small) area on one wall in our home and frame and display my many pictures of elephants that I personaly have taken and also some given to me by friends and ,I have been told that I could include these too. I hope you enjoy them. Malcolm

Why VF is neglecting this blog lately.


I have grown increasingly weary of discussing all things Thai, both here on the blog but also in my life.  Thailand is simply where I have lived most of my life and not some new exotic fascination, as it is for some.  Many of the people I have attracted with this blog are interesting and thoughtful individuals but far too many are extremely negative about Thailand or completely unable to navigate their way through the most mundane of tasks.  Having always found Thailand easy, I wonder at those who find it so unfathomable.  I would prefer to interact with people who possess a more positive outlook and have a bit more vitality, vision and self-reliance. 

I am trying to move away from the Thai and Expat part of my story by moving in the direction of broader, more universal themes, which might lead me to a new path and a different kind of story.  I am still happy living where I do, though it was a real shock to the system for both of us, as we stepped off the airplane into a smoke filled world devoid of the color and freshness we had just left in lush beautiful Hawaii.  Though this time of year is unpleasant, it doesn't last forever and I have no desire to move elsewhere.  I just move indoors until things clear up.  For example, my mountain bike is back in front of the television until the air is healthy to breath again.

After thirty years in Bangkok, the move to Chiang Rai helped to stir things up for a while but now that we have been here more than seven years, this once new life has become fairly routine.  The same thing has happened with the blog.  In the beginning it was all new to me and provided the stimulus one gets from discovering and exploring new things.  It is not that I am bored or lack things to do, it is more intangible and harder to pin down than that.  Perhaps it is just a lack of passion which I am experiencing at the moment.

I often meet people who latch onto one thing and that becomes who they are for perhaps their entire lives.  They are somehow able to maintain that singular focus on a very narrow topic over an extended period of time, something I have never been able to do.  My list has alway been long but as I get older the list of things which interest me and which are still doable becomes shorter.  Partially that is down to having done so much of what I have wanted to do in life.  Age and physical limitations also contribute to what remains on the list and what gets shunted aside.  Time and money shorten the list even more.


I guess my focus has shifted to wondering what comes after 60, as I try to evaluate and internalize the loss of a parent.  So my attention is no longer on life in Thailand but has shifted to a broader question of life in general and how to get the most out of the time I have left.  Anyway, I thought I owed you an explanation of sorts.  Personal opinions and insights are welcome.

The Passing Of My Father.

Regardless of what they did or did not do during our lives and even with understanding, acceptance and lack of regret, the passing of a father still leaves a gaping hole in the life of a son.  It leaves one remembering the past and contemplating the future from a whole new perspective.  I am still trying to make sense of it all.

The year 2014, was always going to be memorable, if for no other reason than I will turn 60 midyear.  The passing of my father, just a few months short of turning 91 and just days short of being married to the love of his life for 68 years, has served to elevate 2014 to one of those milestone years by which one measures the passage of time.  My tendency to subject my life to periodic review has been elevated to a new level with this confluence of age and death.

He has been cremated, eulogized and his ashes started on their path to their final resting place in the family plot.  My wife and I traveled from Thailand to Hawaii and back, to say goodbye and deal with the legal formalities of death, yet I still find myself reaching for the phone late morning when I traditionally called my father.  My mother still lingers in her bewildered world of dementia, so was spared the awareness and heartache of loosing her partner.  Fortunately her continued care has been well provided for and the staff where she lives are patient and caring.

It was interesting to hear what others had to say about my father.  Their memories were not mine but isn’t that to be expected.  I was never his student, nor did I ever sit on a board or committee which he chaired.  I knew him as a son knows a father and not in any professional sense, though I was aware of his résumé.  It is easy for children, I suppose, to blame their parents for their own shortcomings.  After all we don’t have much say in how we are raised, but as the years pass, we must take ownership of our lives and the choices we make, realizing that our parents did the best they could.

As a family, we are not particularly open or sharing of our feelings, so I really have no idea how others are dealing with the passing of my father.  A few years back I took to regarding each visit or phone conversation as potentially the last, so for me there is no list of things I wish I had said or done, and no regrets.  The hardest part of his passing has been the bureaucratic dance of death and dealing with the expectations of others who’s beliefs I find quite foreign.

I am not sure what comes next and though I ponder that question endlessly, I seem to be making little progress.  Somehow it doesn’t feel adequate to simply continue the patterns and habits of the past.  Yet I find myself staring at this next page in my life, finding it blank and without direction.  Perhaps I just need time to let things take root in my subconscious mind.  I always seem to find my path and I have no reason to think that is about to change.

Return to Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, NY

We decided to go back to Yummy China Buffet in East Meadow on Long Island in New York. We had just gotten a circular in the newspaper with their menu stating that their price was $15.99 with free soda - as it had been when we first went a month or so ago. This, that first time, was a sudden reduction in price from the usual $19.99 every day for dinner that this buffet opened for business with a

The OCB Remodel That Wasn't a Remodel

This past January I wrote an article that OCB announced by email to local customers that the Levittown, New York Old Country Buffet would be closed for remodeling. The email included a photo of what the new remodeled OCB's look like - separate food stations, each with an attendant and brightly decorated. I was looking forward to this. I was skeptical in the article that this particular OCB could

FRIENDS, FAMILY, and MANGOS


It really makes Ciejay happy to be able to share from her garden and fruit trees

It doesn't take long and you've got a box full ready to send off with friends


Here is our friend B-Bie , he wants some to take back to Bangkok for his friend's ,the ones on our trees are so sweet , maybe because I give them lots of water , and also they are organic , no spray, or bug killer or fertilizer at all.



By now I am a ole hand at picking the ripe one off the trees, a good eye, but if you get a green one you don't have to worry , they (the Thais ) love them too.


This little basket on the end of a long bamboo stick is great for picking fruit of the trees.

Mango season is a great time of the year, not only are they good to eat and make fruit roll-ups for the rest of the year, but it's also lots of fun sharing you harvest. And this year I am going to make mango jam , I made lots of different kinds in America, in fact, I won a blue ribbon one year at the county fair for my raspberry ,rubarb jam. And it is a good time for friends and family, to visit and spend a few days picking and eating fresh mangos( with sticky rice and sweet coconut milk) right off the trees, It don't get any better than that,and then sending home a box with them to share with their family and friends . One of the things that I love about the LOS is that when it comes to sharing and giving to friends and neighbors, it does'nt have to be something expensive and showy, it can just be a bowl of rice , a glass of cold ice water , coffee , or a small plastic bag of fresh mangos picked from your own backyard . Malcolm

If you want a jar of my famous (maybe) Mango Jam you'll just have to plan a trip to Whang Pho, just ask anyone you see where does the farang live and they will point you the way