Easter Smorgasbord at IKEA

We went to another of the seasonal one night only smorgasbord dinners
at the restaurants at the IKEA stores. We have been many times now
since first discovering these wonderful dinners a few years ago. These
are dinners for the seasons - one at Easter, one mid-summer, one that
features primarily crayfish in late summer and one at Christmas. This
past year they held one that was not announced

It Takes Money to Retire

Here are a few of my thoughts and suggestions about retirement , I wrote this a few years ago m but for new readers I think they'll find it a good read 

Money frees you from doing things you dislike. Since I dislike doing nearly everything, money is handy. -Groucho Marx
"Early to bed and early to rise -- till you get enough money to do otherwise.

One thing I learned about retirement very quickly was that you needed money and lots of it , and that there is no retirement fairy that comes along and zaps you on the head with her or his magic wan and says "now you are retired, do what you want when you want and where you want." Retirement as I have already said" takes money", and you have to plan to save it ,retire from a job that gives you a pension , win the lotto, sell a business, marry someone rich ( if single) inherit from rich relative , or as I did start drawing your SS check when you reach the ripe ole age of 62. And at 62 the check is not enough to live on and especially if you have a wife , which I had when I reached retirement age .I took a look around me and and at my SS check and I knew that with that amount of money coming in every month, that there was no way we could live in our present location . My brother lived in Tennessee and offered to let us build a small house or put a trailer, or manufactured home on a little piece of land on his property and we went there to check it out , I loved the idea of being close to my brother and living in the country, but Ciejay just did not like the area, and expressed that she did not think she would be happy ( and her happiness was very important to me ). I think we could have lived there on my SS check (bearly getting by), with the amount of MONEY we would have coming with each check . I could do like a lot of folks that say they are retired and work another full time job just at a different company or they get a part-time job and their wives get one too , Soooo they say they are retired , but in reality they are working just as much as before , just drawing their SS check, (selling the house that they bought for twice what it was worth (when the banks were loaning money to anyone that breathed and had any credit (good or bad) young or old )moving to a different location , most of the time only renting and to a warmer climate and calling themselves retired, with the MONEY they had saved (if any) and the MONEY gotten from the sell of all the things they had collected over the years , the yard and garage sells, and their SS checks . All of this adding up to the Money that it takes to retire. If you don't have the Money or a way to get it, then you really can't retire and will have to work till you drop dead , paying for that new car and big house that you bought and really didn't need in the first , but you have no choice because nobody will buy that used car , not even what you owe on it and the house that you bought for $250,000 dollars, now with the collapsed housing market is worth half what you paid for it , and no one wants to buy it because you owe more to the bank than it's worth , but you still have to make the payments because the banks want take it back , or file bankruptcy, Which means your. credit is ruined and you can never buy anything on credit again ( the thing got you into this mess in the first place ) which means you can't retire , Because to retire takes Money. 
I hope you have thought about these things way before it's time for you to retire and have started to save as much as you can every month and started living a little more frugal that you did before you started getting close to your golden years, and remember , when you retire you want need all those TOYS and THINGS you spent your hard earned Money for , Heck most of them you 'll be to old to play with anyway , get rid of them!!!!!!! Now!!!!!! while you still can .When you wait till retirement time , folks know it and will try to steal them from you , remember their not retiring you are and your down sizing is their Wind -Fall. It's all about Money yours and theirs.
When we (Ciejay and me ) retired we had not been married bur two years and I had never saved a penny in my life and had no thoughts of retiring at all , I planned on working till I dropped dead, but when I meet Ciejay all that changed and I wanted to spend all my golden years with her , laughing , loving and enjoying life and the blessings of the Lord to the fullest, and that did not include working every day from dawn till dark, 6 or 7 days a week and not even a part-time job, but how to do this was the problem , because as I stated in the first of this post it takes Money and that was something I didn't have much of , and very few toys to speak of .And as I said before there was just noway I could see us retiring on our small SS check .
I know that there are lots of folks in the same boat we were in and are wondering how they can retire and enjoy their golden years ,and not have to work themselves to death . I hope they have a plan and the MONEY to make it work, I didn't , BUT----- God did and in my next post I'll tell you all about it , this post is getting way to long and I don't want to loose any one along the way , stay tuned for the next post . Malcolm
I know some folks will not agree with the things I have said ,BUT some will relate and these are the folks I hope this post gives a little inspiration to

Wassa Homemade Bar

It's not often that I would blog a bar or restaurant after one visit, but sometimes I find a place really worthy of a mention. Something a bit different. My wife likes to say that in Phuket it's hard to find somewhere unique and arty, although in Phuket Town over the last 5 years there have been some good restaurants, bars and cafes opening with a vibe of their own. In the tourist areas however, everything tends to look the same. Restaurants that do Thai food, pizza, pasta, burgers, seafood .. well, it can't all be good, can it? And bars in the main tourist zones rarely interest me. Especially Patong, which is an area of Phuket that I can happily never visit - the biggest, most developed stretch of beach in Thailand? Well, maybe Pattaya also, and Hua Hin is pretty busy, but Patong is tourism central for Phuket. I do often drive to or from work via Patong, but I keep to the back roads. The road furthest from the beach, up on the hillside is called Hasip Pee Road, and I usually go this way through Patong to avoid all the traffic, up over the mountain! Parts of this road are about 180m above sea level and there are some views over the bay of Patong. There's a little side road off Hasip Pee Road leading up to the Wassa Homemade Bar, and I had driven past this about 100 times before deciding to stop a couple of days ago. It used to have a different name, something like Suatalay Hangout Bar and I really meant to check it out for a long time. Glad I finally did!

(above) All along Hasip Pee road there are signs to Wassa Homemade Bar

The bar is open every day from 2 - 8:30pm, although I got info in the bar saying it's open until 10pm on weekends. The turning off Hasip Pee road is up a narrow concreted road, and it's steep. I stopped a few days ago in the morning, parked at the bottom and walked up to the bar. Ouch! That is a steep road! A hard climb by foot, and I did wonder if my little Honda City would make it! Next day on the way home from working in Karon beach, I drove up to the bar a little after 6pm. Looked like a nice sunset was on the way. There's not much parking, only room for a few cars. Better to go up on a scooter. I liked the place as soon a I arrived ...

(above) View from the bar. You can sit at the bar or at various tables / bar stools around the area on several levels. I ordered a small Chang beer (90 Baht). There is food also, but I was just here for a quick beer (or 2) on the way home. Just a "see if I like it" visit - the answer is YES, I like it! I chatted briefly with the owner, a Phuket local called Pui. He was one of the partners in the Suatalay Hangout, but when the other partner left, he renamed the bar and is now building his house next door! Next to the bar, if you walk up a few steps is a platform with a few tables and chairs and yes, just about the best view of Patong. Looks so small and quiet from up here. I think the bar must be about 200m above the sea.

(above) So I walked up to the higher platform .... There are also seats in front of the main bar, a grandstand sunset view! If you stay in Patong and think that a trip to the famous After Beach Bar south of Kata beach is too far - here's the answer! After a long hot day in the dive shop I downed my Chang rather fast, so had to order one more while snapping photos of the sunset. More than 2 small bottles and driving down that steep hill might be scary! I am sure that if you do have too much, Pui can call you a taxi! For me this is an ideal sunset bar, a couple of beers, a great view, some quiet music playing in the background. There were only about a dozen people at the bar when I stopped. It does take some effort to get there!

(above) The sunset view from the balcony at Wassa Homemade Bar. I like sunsets, I like quiet, I like views and I like a cold beer. Win! You can see just about all of Patong from here, it's a 180 degree view. Phuket is all about hills, there are so many great views around the island. The name Phuket is derived from the Malay word "Bukit" which means ... HILL. I do urge you to get up some hills when visiting Phuket - more info on the blog here : Phuket Hills and Viewpoints.

(above) An attempt to capture a 180 degree panorama view with the iPhone from the Wassa Homemade Bar. Yeh, I am lacking a decent camera at the moment, so all photos on this page are iPhone photos. Not bad, though! I was very happy to stop here for a short / 2 beer visit. And since I pass this way most days .... it could be a regular off-gassing stop! You can find it on Facebook. Nice to find an original, interesting bar in Patong (well, not IN Patong, but above Patong) and the view is just about unbeatable.

Wassa Homemade Bar - Location Map

View Wassa Homemade Bar Patong in a larger map

Disappointing Dinner at Foxwoods Casino's Festival Buffet, CT

As I wrote a week ago, we delayed our day trip to Connecticutt a day because of the weather to go to dinner at the Festival Buffet at Foxwoods Casino. This has been one of my favorite buffets and it was given a Top Buffet award for 2012. I have always liked this buffet best on its extended menu night on Fridays and Saturdays and while the weeknight buffet has been good, it has always been better

LEMON GRASS and a few things to do with it

SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 2009







The other day I saw my neighbor,Ott going down the road with a load of grass in the side car of her scooter, and being one ,not to miss a good photo shot ,went to investigate the scene. It was grass, but a special kind of grass, called Lemon Grass. I thought to myself ,I'll share these pictures and do a little informative (not thesis) post about Lemon Grass and it's many uses around the world and here in Thailand SOOOOO here goes.
Lemon Grass is a native to India, It is used as a herb in Asian cooking,it has a citrus flavor,it can be dried or powered or used fresh in many Asian dishes . No tum Yum soup would be complete without a few chopped up pieces of lemon Grass put in the water along with many other kinds of veggies and meats and fishes,for that all important lemony taste (not to be eaten but to flavor only) that makes Tum Yum sooooo good .

Lemon Grass is also used as a pesticide, Ciejay always pulls off a leaf and crushes it in her hand and rubs it on her arms and legs ,when she goes out to work in the garden or to pull weeds around the flower beds , to protect her skin, and to keep the mosquitos from biting her while outside, when we eat outside in the gazebo some evenings, we burn candles that have been made with lemon grass oil to keep them away too, seems to work ok.
Something I didn't know is that Lemon Grass is used as a preservative to put on ancient manuscripts to keep them fluidity and to keep them from getting brittle it has a hydrophobic nature and keeps the manuscripts dry ,so that the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.

When we bought our home Thailand and I made a couple of the tables we use in our home from wood that we removed from the sides of the building, and replaced with concrete, I used lemon oil as a preservative to protect the wood againts termites, and also when rubbed in very good and polished after it drys , leaves a beautiful glossy finish.
Lemon grass also has a lot of medicinal properties and is used extensively in ancient Indian medicines,it is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion .Ciejay says that tea made with Lemon Grass is good for stomach problems too.Also she said you can shampoo your hair wit the oil ,to get rid of dandruff.

Most of the information and some of the pictures came from the Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Hope you enjoy.

It is easy to grow ,in fact we have several stands of it growing out our back door , we took the ends of the pplants we bought in the market for soup and put them in a cup of water till roots appeared and then I planted them in the yard and Kazam in a few months we had our own stand of lemon grass , it also grows well in a pot and makes a great house plant. Malcolm

Phuket : No Culture and No History? Really?

When I started the Phuket Blog in 2006, one of the main motivations was to show "The Real Phuket" - whatever that really means! Any visitor coming to Phuket island knows that we have beaches, hotels, nightlife, shopping, hot weather, lots of tasty food ... And there are plenty of tours you can book to beautiful places like Phang Nga Bay, Phi Phi, the Similan Islands and much more. But most visitors are unaware of Phuket's history and culture. Indeed one reason I started the blog was to counter comments that I seemed to read almost daily in travel forums saying "Phuket has no culture. If you want culture you have to go to North Thailand". Comments like "Phuket is just beaches and old men looking for young Thai girls" annoyed me. Fair enough, we have no hill tribes or amazing ruins of old civilisations and yes, Patong beach is all about tourism, but there is a local culture here and lots of history. I didn't realise how much until I started the blog and Phuket has only just started in the last 10 years to really promote it's cultural identity. There is a lot to discover here beyond the sunloungers, bars and shops. I know it's not for everyone. If you enjoy a week of sun, beaches, bars and nightlife that's great, and more than likely you are not reading this blog anyway :)

(above) Last year a book was released called A History of Phuket - great book! Great reading if you have an interest in Thai history. I have read it twice and will read again!

Phuket has a long history as a port and as a waypoint for traders going between Arabia and India to the west, and China to the east. Phuket was an important trading post before any Europeans arrived. The first Europeans only found this part of the world in the early 16th century. Phuket went through periods of Arab, Indian, Portuguese, French, Dutch and British influence. There was once a French governor of Phuket and there were Brits living here in the 18th century. Indeed the British were on the verge of taking Phuket in the early 19th century after conquering Burma, but in the end Britain took Penang instead as it was closer to the important straits of Malacca, leaving Phuket island (then called Thalang) as part of Siam. Oh yes, history is here! The mix of people passing through Phuket over the centuries does create a unique melting pot of cultures, peoples and religions. In Phuket Town you can find Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, a Mosque, a Catholic church, a Sikh Gurdwara, a Hindu shrine and probably more! It's a sign that Phuket has been on the map for a long time. Phuket was important a long, long time before any tourists came to enjoy the beaches. If anyone imagines that Phuket has no history or culture, think again!

Phuket Vegetarian Festival

It's had a lot of blog space over the years. I never attended any vegetarian festival events or street parades until 2006 when I started the blog and decided to find out more about this event. It's huge. A 10 day festival with crazy street processions featuring bizarre piercings, entranced spirit mediums, a lot of firecrackers and a lot of history. It's my favourite time of year in Phuket, and I'm not even a vegetarian! The festival has Chinese roots and began sometime just after 1825 when visiting Chinese got sick in Phuket and cured themselves with a cleansing diet. Well, that's what the story is. Later, people from Phuket sailed to China to discover more. Also called the "9 Emperor Gods" festival, it's quite wild, but if you stay by the beaches you really don't see much. It's centered in Phuket Town, with some Chinese shrines in other parts of the island also participating. A couple of photos and a few links below to help explain more. The festival is also found in other parts of south Thailand, but Phuket is where it started and if you really want to see more, it's not for the fainthearted!

(above) Vegetarian Festival Procession in Phuket Town

(above) Face Piercing at Sam Kong Shrine, Phuket Town

More Information:

Phuket Vegetarian Festival Introduction
2013 Vegetarian Festival Photos
Vegetarian Festival Food
Vegetarian Festival Schedule

The Heroines of Thalang

Phuket was previously known as Thalang, also Salang and Jungceylon. Phuket is a word derived from the Malay word "Bukit" meaning Hill, as Phuket does indeed have many hills. Well, back in the Thalang days, in 1785, Phuket and indeed Siam was under threat from the Burmese who headed down the west coast and threatened to take Thalang. The governor had recently died, and it was his wife and her sister who rallied the people of Phuket to fight off the invaders. The sisters were later honored by the king of Siam. If you have been to Phuket you have probably seen the statue in the middle of a roundabout on the main road between Phuket Town and the airport ...

(above) Statue of the Heroines of Thalang - there is also an annual festival to celebrate the victory over Burma in 1785. Thalang is now the name of the town in the middle of Phuket Island south of the airport. 200 years ago this was the main town on the island. Nobody seems to mention that the Burmese came back 20 years later and won a victory over the people of Thalang. The Burmese were finally chased from the area by the British in the 1820s.

The Por Tor Festival

I have enjoyed discovering more about Phuket culture and first investigated the Por Tor Festival in 2011. It's another festival based on Chinese beliefs although it seems very specific to the straits of Malacca. There is something similar in Singapore. A family member from a Chinese-Thai family in Bangkok who visited the festival with us last year did not know about it. In English they call it the "hungry ghost" festival and the belief is that in the 7th lunar month, the hungry ghosts of ancestors visit our world. So they need feeding!

(above) Making huge red turtle cakes which are used as offerings at the Por Tor shrine in Phuket Town

(above) Inside the Por Tor shrine during the Por Tor festival

More Information:

Por Tor Festival 2011
Por Tor Festival 2012

Old Phuket Town

Thalang was the main population area if you go back 200 years or more, but there's hardly a sign of any old buildings there as almost everything was was wooden, or destroyed by the Burmese in the early 19th century. Phuket Town became more important due to the tin mining boom which existed as far back as the 18th century, but became huge in the latter half of the 19th century. Many of the open pit tin mines were in the south of the island, and a port and town were built with a wide canal extending from the sea at Sapan Hin through the town and several kilometers further in the Kathu tin mining area. The "Bang Yai" canal still exists, but is only navigable for a short distance. Much of the "Old Town" was built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Rich mining families built mansions, there was a school teaching Chinese, a hospital was built and the first bank in Phuket was built in 1907 (the Standard Chartered Bank) with a police station opposite for security! The Old Town was looking rather shabby for many years - certainly when I got here in 1999, it was really quite crumbly. But over the last 10 years a lot of effort has gone into the Old Town, businesses have opened, plenty of paint has been used, there are regular festivals and a good number of cafes, bars and restaurants. It's my favourite part of Phuket!

(above) The old herb shop on Thalang Road in old Phuket Town

(above) Soi Romanee, a lovely little street in the old town

More About Phuket Town:

Thalang Road - Heart of the Old Town
A Walk in Old Phuket Town
The Old Phuket Town Festival

The Baba / Peranakan Culture

Again, something I knew nothing about until a few years ago. Phuket started promoting something called the "Baba Wedding", a little festival which was all about the Baba (local name) or Peranakan culture - people descended from Chinese and local Malay citizens. You can find the Peranakan culture in Singapore, Penang, through the straits of Malacca. Such people are also called "Straits Chinese". In the 19th century there was huge immigration from southern China to this area. New arrivals met locals and married. Their offspring were called baba (male) and Nyonya (female). Many of the big Phuket families and also big families in Penang and right up the west coast of Thailand are Babas. I went to the Baba Wedding event for the first time in 2010 and managed to get admission to the Hongyok House. The Hongyok family is one of the big Phuket families. Being in that house was quite a buzz. A lot of history there.

(above) Baba ladies at the Hongyok House in Phuket Town

Last year (2013) I was able to find time to attend the opening ceremony and street parade for the Baba Weddings in the old town (you might notice, a lot of this cultural stuff happens in town, not by the beach!). It's very interesting to have a unique culture right here in Phuket, and I am glad that the culture is now being better promoted.

(above) Young Baba (Nyonya) girls at the Baba Wedding Parade 2013

More Information:

Baba Weddings in Phuket 2010
Baba Wedding Parade 2013

Museums in Phuket

Did I mention that Phuket has a long and interesting history? Well, it happens that there are several museums in Phuket. The average beach tourist is unlikely to visit, but I hope a museum might be on the list for a Phuket Blog reader! Maybe not all, but pick one .. or two on a rainy day. They are all pretty good and don't have high entry fees.

(above) My Mum and Dad checking out some Phuket history at the Thai Hua museum in Phuket Town. It's built in an old Chinese school and really is worth a look, very well presented and a lot to learn!

(above) Not far from the Thai Hua museum is Chinpracha House, a mansion built for a rich Chinese family about 110 years ago at the height of the tin mining boom. The owner has opened the ground floor to visitors and it's a fascinating look into the life of the "upper class" in those times. A great way to explore the old town along with Thai Hua and Chinpracha is with Phuket Heritage Trails - ask for Chaya if you want to learn about Phuket's history!

More Museums in Phuket:

Phuket Tin Mining Museum
Thalang National Museum

There's more here that could be mentioned, I suppose that depends what counts as "culture". There are foods that are very local - a couple of restaurants where you can get good local food are Kopitiam on Thalang Road in the old town and Tunk Ka Cafe on top of Rang Hill, on the north side of town. Or try Laem Hin Seafood for local seafood dishes, especially local salads made with fish roe or dried shrimps.

There are local festivals worth visiting such as the Chalong Temple Fair which takes place around Chinese New Year or the Kathu village cultural fair - date varies, sometime in July or August. And of course Phuket takes part in all the big Thai festivals like Songkran (on April 13th) and Loy Krathong (which is sometime in November - date varies every year).

Phuket has no culture or history? Think again, but it has to be said, you're not going to find it on the beach! I do hope that this blog has encouraged people over the years to explore Phuket and the surrounding area. I have no problem if you are coming to Phuket for the beach, a cold beer and a good time, or to play golf or to scuba dive or just to relax at a 5 star resort. I'm just saying ... there is a lot more to Phuket than all of that. Tourism is just the latest episode in the history of Phuket. The mix of old and new, I love it. Phuket is my home and I hope to keep this Phuket Blog going for many more years, trying to show another side of the "Pearl of the Andaman". Enjoy the beaches, enjoy the food and the shopping, have a nice cold beer on a hot day in winter, and do try to find time to glimpse some of old Phuket. History and culture, it's right here. Cheers!

Good Taste Buffet, Commack, New York

It has been four years since I have written about the Good Taste Buffet, a Chinese buffet, in Commack, New York on Long Island. We have been back since but it seems that I have just not written about it. We no longer go there as often as we once had. For one reason, it is a distance - though not very far, and another reason is that there is a better priced Chinese buffet very close by.

On my

Lunch Time in Wang Pho

Right beside the Hot Dog man is his wifes noodle stand , and it doesn't get any better than this.
Hot coffee, Iced Coffee, a Smoothie fruit drink and ice cold or Pepsi or a Coke

This lady is here every day except thursday and she picks the corn fresh every day, Thais boil their corn till all the taste and sugar is gone , but she will boil mine for only eight minutes for me , just right .And the hot dogs are chicken.

This lady is a great cook and every evening she has a couple choices of Thai food for sale to take home and enjoy.

They line up every day for this fresh corn on the cob and believe it or not she will sell out every day , so you have to get there before to late or you will be out of luck.

This is the pork meat ball and beef Hot Dog man , he grills them to perfection and them dips them in to his special secret sauce and they are to kill for . Yummy.

Ciejay and me made a couple agreements before we got married , having been married before we both knew how much work goes in to making a happy home and each one doing his or her share of the work and chores, to make life and home a happy and enjoyable place to live and love. One of them was that she cooks four days a week and I cook three days , and we pretty much stick to that agreement even after  12 years of marriage. Now I just love when it comes my time here in Thailand and the LOS , I just jump on the old Honda wave and to the market square I go , there is always a lot of vendors selling some of the best food, cooked right there in front of you. Fresh hot off the grill ,or out of the pot. Ciejay never complains that I take the easy way out , since we have moved to Thailand , and the best part is ,I can buy lunch or dinner for the both of us for about 60 baht .Less than three dollars US. Such a deal. Ciejay is a great cook and it is always a treat to sit down to her table , she prepares everything she cooks with love and kindness and always sits a beautiful table , never just throws stuff together and never just throws it on the table . Everything is served most meals , in our collector set of coke cola dishes that our friends brought over when they came over for a visit , we had given them to these folks and they saved them , for four years to bring over to us because they knew we loved them .Bowls and Cups and little dishes for the sauces, all with the coke trade mark and always a napkin, for the fork and spoon A rare sight in most Thai homes, ( I always carry napkins in my back pocket when we go out to eat or to some Thai friends house as it seems like they never set the table with napkins, and most small village eating spots don't have napkins either, most just set a roll of toilet tissue on the table , doesn't clean your hand very well.)
If you ever come over to our house , we'll make sure it's Ciejay's day to cook.
That's just one more reason why we're Retired in Thailand and Loving It
Oh yes, and one of the other things we agreed on was I COOK YOU CLEAN. works out real well in the Burgess  house whole.  Thanks for the read  leave a comment if you enjoyed .

St.Patrick's Day at Old Country Buffet

There are a few foods that are my favorites. One of those is corned beef. I don't have it often and when St. Patrick Day comes each year, I know that Old Country Buffet will have all you care to eat corned beef on the buffet. It is one of the days that I look forward to going to Old Country Buffet and this year not only did OCB have corned beef, cabbage, and red potatoes on the buffet but they