Drinks Now Back to Being Included at Old Country Buffet

This article is timely and I am putting it in right now in the middle of the two week span of articles. We received an email yesterday that soft drinks were back to being included in the meal price at OCB. The claim is that We listened to you and you want this! in so many words. We went tonight to see if my suspicions were correct about this. We walked in and yes, there is a sign that drinks are

A MAN'S HOME IS HIS CASTLE

THIS IS OUR HOME AND MY CASTLE
THIS IS THE HOUSE WE BOUGHT

The first time we saw our house it was anything but a castle , in fact, it was in really bad run down ,forgotten shape,and it was the subject of bad Karma ,so to speak. The couple that had built it had split up ,even before they had finished the house and so as far as all the village and neighbors were concerned it would just sit there empty till it fell down.When we saw it for the first time it had sit empty for eight years and the bathroom roof ceiling and part of the unfinished kitchen roof and cieling, had already fallen in and it was in really bad shape .Ciejay and me had decided just a few days before that we wanted to retire in Thailand and we had been lots of places in Thailand while on our vacation , but we just did'nt feel right about any of them , well on our last day before going back to BKK for our flight back to America , we drove down the mountain into the valley to a little village called Whang Pho and our hearts said to each other "this is the place ." We didn't get off to ourselves and talk about it, we were with two other couples, we just knew this was it.It was already five o'clock in the evening and we looked at a piece of land a friend of Ciejay's brother had for sale , but it was to far out of town and no utilities run anywhere near it, so we said we would come back another year and look around, as it was getting dark and the others were in a hurry to get on the road , well out of the blue I ask Ciejay's brother if there was a piece of land in town with a house already on it for sale , I was thinking we could tear and old house down and build what we wanted , as long as it was close to town and had water and electricity available. To my surprise he pointed up the road, fifty yards away and said that old place there belongs to a friend in BKK he might want to sell this place, because he is married again and his new wife will have nothing to do with the house and noone in the village will buy it as it is full of bad spirits and bad Karma.( they all being Buddhist of course)being Christians that did'nt bother me at all.
It was dark , the doors were locked and all the windows had bars on them and were tinted and we could not see in at all , but my brother -in -law said it had three bedrooms and two baths and a room to be made into a kitchen and a huge living room the full length of the house with the bedrooms off to the side and he drew it with a stick on the ground , Me and Ciejay walked around it and said to each other it has strong foundation and walls and the major roof is in good shape , we can make it a home with a lot of hard work . We called the man while standing there, in the overgrown yard with the car lights shineing on the front ,with a gecko telling us this was his place now, and Ciejay and my brother- in -law talking with him and in about five minutes we bought ourselves a house in Thailand , I felt like the opening lines to the movie Out of Africa , when she said"I had a home in Africa."I can remember saying to my self "I have a home in Thailand." That was one of the most emotional moments in my whole live , except when each of my boys were born.
We took a couple of pictures , it was already dark ,to take back home to America.We showed them to our friends and family and they thought we had lost our minds , and if you had seen it before we remodeled it, you would have said the same thing.We had one more year to work before I could retire with a social security check coming in every month, I knew nothing about Thailand , except what I had seen as a tourist for three weeks , and nothing about visa requirements , I thought we would just pack everything up and move to Thailand , was I ever in for a big surprise, And as I read and ask questions I found out a lot and it scared me a little to be honest with you . So we planned and saved and set our sights and hearts toward Thailand , the almost forgotten house as far as Thai's and anyone else were concerned on the other side of the world thousands of miles away in a land that I had only visited for a short time , but we did not forget about our dream , for one day, and we talked about what we were going to do everynight after dinner and things were done for the day and readied for tommorow. I made a cardboard model of the house with a removable top so we could see what we were going to do , inside and out , we put a huge calendar on the wall and begain to mark the days off . That was the longest year of my life ,but it finally did come (a lot of stuff and preparation happened in that year, but thats another story) and on October the 6th 2004 we arrived in Whang Pho and got the keys and walked into the house for the first time ,at six o'clock in the morning on October the 7th,we were shocked to say the least ,it needed more work than we thought,but we had a dream and before the day was over we had a crew cleaning the property and cutting down trees and bushes, and we found a wonderful man named Piak, that said he would make our house a home , I knew not one word Thai and He knew not one word English , him and Ciejay talked and when me and him shook hands I knew I could trust him completely.What a wonderful person he turned out to be , he told me what we needed he would go buy or order and give Ciejay the receipt and she would give him the money , five years have almost gone buy and I have learned a little Thai and I have learned a lot about Thai folks and Thai workman and labors and I can say that Piak never took advantage of us for nothing , even his final bill for all the labor and labors was well under what I was prepared to pay, five years later (almost) and we have not had to redo are repair anything he and his crew did . And I want you to know that I have read and heard so horror stories from farangs that have built houses in Thailand, (most of the time unskilled relatives of their Thai wife or girlfriend) using Thai contractors . And of course we have done a lot of work ourselves , adding a patio and gazbo and carport and a deck all the way around the house, landscaped and planted lots of trees and plants and flowers and "oh ya " built a pond with a water fall out front and got us a dog. We have made the delapadated ,forgotten , cursed house into a HOME and also into my CASTLE.
And I can say for certain, that the thing that makes this King to have a home to call a Castle is the QUEEN that lives there with him. Malcolm


My Bucket List ---So far --Some things may change LOL


I know you've heard the ole saying "been there , done that ". well, I'm reminded of a song that a group of young men from Australia sang in a church service that I was in in Alaska in 1968, one of the lines was like this " I've been a lot of places and I've seen a lot of faces , but there's still a lot of things that I want to do ."They were know as the Gospel Firebrands .And I never forgot those words and I have tried to cram as much places and as many faces into this life of mine that I could . but at 72, I find that I have still come up short of all the things I want to see and do and some faces that I want to see before I leave this old world. I guess that was the idea behind the hit movie The Bucket List , staring Jack Nikelson and Morgan Freeman, two ole farts each dying of incurable diseases, and each regretting , that there were things that they always wanted to do, so they made up a list and set about doing and seeing all of them they could before the kicked ,THE BUCKET, so to speak.

"I've been there and done that", we hear people say that all the time ,and if they were really truthful about half of the time it's just wishful thinking and not reality. and the same goes for me . I think sometimes we all embellish the truth , when we are together with old and new friends and sometimes it gets into a Bigger , Better, Best contest and pretty soon a little exaggerating here and there, and down right tell of lies. Ever happen to any of you ?, be truthful now
I lived in Alaska for 25 years and there are two kinds of folks in Alaska , sourdoughs and cheechakos, the later being simply put , a newbie or a new comer to the last frontier , and life ain't easy being a tender foot in this great frontier land,and to be a full fledged sourdough you had to do three thing before you could claim this right of passage .Everyone after all those years of living there considered me a Sourdough ,and all thought for sure that I had done them all.

1.--kill a grizzly bear
2.-ride a caribou
3- take a pee in the Yukon River.

Well, before I die, I want to take a pee in the Yukon River , I want to walk , not just see , but walk on the Great China Wall, I want to go Camping in the Out Back of Australia, I want to float down the great Amazon River,I want to fly a ultra-lite airplane, I want to hang glide off a mountain top somewhere in Thailand or (anywhere). And last ,I want to get together with all my ,Sizzler, buddies face to face , and swap life's stories.

I'm not dying of any incurable disease that I know of, and I don't have one foot on my the grave and one foot on a banana peel as they say, and I'm not quite over the hill yet(getting close to be sure ),But from time to time I do find myself making a mental list of things I would like to do., call it a Bucket List , if you want to , I just hope I'm a long ways from kicking it yet.

But, if Ciejay has a say in any of this ,about as far as I will get will be out to the Hammock and with my mind and thoughts in the clouds over Wang Pho ville, and not in a ultra-light or a hang glider . So don't bother looking up.

Maybe , just maybe , I can skip down to the very bottom of my list and and get to see a Buddy or two, I hope so

Father's Day Brunch at IKEA

For several months we have been seeing signs for holiday brunches at Ikea's store restaurant. The first we saw - just a few days before its date - was not a brunch but a Valentine's Day dinner presented much as the brunches are described. Unfortunately, Valentine's Day was a large snow storm so any idea of attending - even if there were tickets available was snowed out. We then saw a sign for an

BAMBOO SHOOTS ---naw mai


I NEVER IN MY WILDEST DREAM EVER THOUGHT I WOULD GET TO PEEL FRESH BAMBOO SHOOTS IN THAILAND ---LIFE IS FULL OF SURPRISES

HERE ARE THE BAMBOO SHOOTS, BOILED AND READY TO PEEL


THIS IS THE BLACK HAIRY LEAVES THAT COVER THE FLESH OF THE YOUNG BAMBOO SHOOTS



THIS---- IS WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE AFTER THE LEAVES ARE REMOVED




A PICTURE OF THE LEAVES AND FRESH SHOOTS ALL PEELED AND READY TO SLICE ,






NOW ,THIS IS A LOT OF BAMBOO SHOOTS , WAITING FOR A GOOD COOK TO PREPARE A LOT OF WONDERFUL THAI DISHES.




HERES LUNCH, BAMBOO SHOOTS IN RED CURRY , PLA 2 FISH AND LAP MOO, AND FISH SAUCE. --------" YUM YUM "



Every season in Thailand ,brings with it a special fruit or vegetable that can be harvested during it's time, usually for a couple months.This time of the year is no exception (the rainy season) and with it comes two of my favorites.And additions, to use in cooking many Western and Thai dishes .Mushrooms and Bamboo Shoots are plentiful this time of the year , and can be found at every Tuesday and Thursday market here in our small village of Whang Pho , you can also find then for sell on roadside stands all along the highway between here and Kanchanaburi , with most of their customers coming from Bangkok, after a trip in the country ,to visit the many caves and waterfalls and the famous hot springs ,up the road from us .They love to stop on their way home and buy fresh veggies along the side of the road and from the country farmers , they just taste better than the supermarket veggies for some reason, maybe it's all in our minds.



 Ciejay and me grabbed a bucket and a long knife and headed up to the mountain just a few hundred yards, from our house. Ott, our neighbor always goes there every few days during the rainy season and ,always comes back with a rice bag full of bamboo shoots for the meals she cooks for her family , and she always shares fresh bamboo shoots with us . We wanted to give it a try for myself and also to be able to write home to my family back in the USA , that I had cut,boiled and peeled and cooked bamboo shoots fresh, right out of the jungle , what an adventure. And what a adventure it turned out to be , noone warned me about all the mosquitos, that we would encounter while cutting fresh bamboo shoots, I thought they were going to eat me alive, we got a bucket full and then got out of there . I did it one time and that's enough for me , now it's Market Day for my bamboo shoots from now on. We haven't given mushroom picking a try yet because, most of the places where they grow are closely guarded, and also a secret known only to the gathers, because mushrooms are a real money crop for lots of the Thai families in our area,lots of mushrooms grow around our mountains and jungles.



Today ,while we were visting a neighbors new home being built , the workers were taking their lunch break and they were eating fresh bamboo shoots , they invited me to share (and you know me when food is offered ) so I joined in and what a wonderful tasty dish they had prepared right there on the construction site , fresh bamboo shoots and scrambled eggs with thai chilies and onions, of course. WOW, was it ever good.. When we were leaving the boss came up to me and gave me a bag of fresh bamboo shoots to take home and cook and enjoy, which I did .



A bamboo shoot is the start of a young bamboo plant,if not harvested, it will grow into a tall bamboo plant.The leaves that cover the shoot are black and covered with tiny hairs. The black leaves are peeled off untill you can see the off-white meat inside.The white meat turns yellowish after it is cooked.When the shoot is cooked on the day that it is harvested it is very sweet.



There are many different types and sizes of bamboo shoots depending on the plant. Big ones are usually sliced and used as an ingredient in a main course dish.The little ones (half a inch in dismeter) are cut into finger size pieces and eaten as a vegetable with sauces like nam prig gapi.



In Thailand, bamboo shoots are available during the rainy season,May through October.Otherwise,they are available in cans and jars . In the US,bamboo shoots come in cans and glass jars, pickled or sour, non pickled.



When I lived in America ,I never saw fresh bamboo shoots for sell ever, but then again, I was not married to my sweet Thai wife ,except the last few years we lived there .And I had never visited an Asian Market until , I married Ciejay, and even then before ,moving to Thailand ,I was not use to the spicy and smelly (sometimes)Thai dishes, or their way of cooking things .Ciejay's sister would come for a visit and bring all kind of strange stuff with her and when they started to cook , most of the time ,I would leave the house until all the smells were gone ,and I would try and eat a little of what they had cook and act like I was enjoying it , some things I did , but some things I endured, for my sweet Ciejay's sake .



Now I am happy to report , that after 10  years here in the LOS , that, I not only love the Thai food (almost everything ) , but I also love all the strange and wonderful , spicy and pepper, smells that come out of the kitchen when Ciejay is cooking .



One of my favorite dishes of course ( the reason for this post ) is FRESH BAMBOO SHOOTS, added to many Thai dishes and also to eat as a fresh veggie dish with various sauces that Ciejay mixes up, I love them hot ,drizzled ,with fish sauce and served over a steaming hot cup of Jasmine rice . Wow I'm making myself hungry, glad dinner is almost ready , and of course there will be several dishes made with the fresh bamboo shoots from our friends, the builders. For those of you living here in Thailand, do you like fresh bamboo shoots? and do they grow in your area and do you or your Thai family or neighbors harvest them for cooking at home or as a money crop ?



Some of my info came from a site that has lots of recipes using fresh bamboo shoots , visit them sometimes if you have a chance or need a recipe for a Thai dish, you can find them at http://www.thaitable.com/ . Thanks for the read and hope you get your fill of fresh bamboo shoots before the rain stops . Malcolm

This Alternating Weeks Schedule

As you know if you have been reading along for the past several weeks, I am posting articles to this site on alternating weeks. Travel is difficult and there are few buffets locally other than Asian buffets. When I can travel, I do and look for new places or places that I have been to long past or places that I try to get to when I am in an area that are old favorites that can be updated since

Laem Sing Beach

Just a couple of weeks ago, we took an afternoon family drive up the west coast of Phuket. The idea was to stop at a few beaches that we'd not seen for years. Yes, I said years. Phuket is a big place, we do have a few favourite places by the beach, but generally we're not a beachy family. We drove through Kamala beach, and stopped at Surin beach. In between Kamala and Surin there is another, much smaller, beach called Laem Sing (or Laem Singh if you want to spell it like that). There's a viewpoint on the roadside where you get this amazing view of Laem Sing. The west coast of Phuket has a lot of beautiful views.



(above) Laem Sing beach seen from the viewpoint between Kamala and Surin beaches

Many years ago, back in the year 2000, my wife and I (before we were married) used to ride our scooter up and down the coast quite often. Back then we never visited Phuket Town, we took days off and headed south from our room in Patong to Kata or Rawai beaches, or north to Kamala and Laem Sing. 14 years ago, Laem Sing had zero development - no bars or restaurants, just a few beach chairs and maybe a couple of people with coolers of drinks for sale. OK, it was low season when we visited, but it seemed like we had the whole beach to ourselves. The photo below shows a much younger me on Laem Sing beach all those years ago.



As years rolled by I was aware of websites promoting Laem Sing as "the unspoiled beach". And so it became busier, and I knew that bars and restaurants were opening there. Thankfully there is no space for a hotel. And somehow, we never went again. Preferring to keep a memory of a beach in Phuket with nothing but sand, sea and surrounded by jungle. We realised that we'd not visited Laem Sing for 14 years! So, after stopping at Surin beach we parked in the small parking area above Laem Sing. The sign needs replacing ...



And then a walk down the steps to the beach. Not a long walk, but on the way back up you're going to be breathing hard!



So, right now Laem Sing beach is going through some changes along with all the beaches in Phuket. The rules are suddenly being enforced. Rule 1 : No building on the sand. The beach is public land, not private, not to be used for profit. And so all up the west coast the bars, restaurants, massage huts, beach chairs are being removed. The beaches are being made more natural again. I am sure this is temporary. Local people will make deals and yes, in a touristy place like Phuket you need some beach chairs and drinks for sale. When we got down to the beach we found (on that very day) the beach huts and bars being removed or burned. (This means I better go back in a few months for an update!)



But looking out to sea, pretty much the same as 14 years ago! I would hope that if we visit Laem Sing again later this year, we'll find maybe a few snack stalls and drink sellers, but no large restaurants. Or you can just stop at a minimart on the way, get a few drinks and some ice and enjoy the beach.



(above) Looking out to sea from Laem Singh beach (panorama)



(above) Laem Sing looking south (Kamala is just around the corner)

Hard to believe that I can live on a small island and not visit somewhere for 14 years, but .... Phuket is not so small and well, I am not on holiday here, mostly working 5 - 6 days per week. More time would be nice. Laem Sing (after the "clean up" is cleaned up) should look something like it did many years ago. Back to being a place to visit if you want the unspoiled beach. If you want busy, there's still Patong for you!

A visit to Surin Beach

It's an odd thing, but I am not really a beach person. My wife even less so. And yet we live in Phuket which is famous for it's beaches. We don't "go to the beach" very often. Our kids enjoy some beach time, but this is not something we do every weekend. There's a lot more to Phuket than beaches - and that was one of the reasons I started this blog! If we do "hit the beach" then it's likely to be a quiet one rather than one of the main west coast beaches in Phuket. Last weekend we took a little afternoon drive. We do that sometimes .. just "go for a drive" and see where the road takes us. My wife and I figured that the last time we'd been to Surin beach was in 2006. That sounds kind of crazy, but do remember, we are not on holiday here .. we have a normal life of work and school and bills to pay. At weekends we might go away, might take a trip somewhere, or more likely do the garden, kids go to music class, have an easy day at home after a week of work and school ... Last weekend I wanted to check out Surin beach because with the support of the current military leadership of the country, Phuket has developed some cojones and issues like taxi gangs and illegal building on the beaches are being tackled. I wanted to see Surin now that restaurants on the sand and "beach clubs" on the sand had been removed.



(above) The result ... no building on the beach. Only sand, palm trees and a few lucky low season visitors.

Surin beach is not very big, but it has a fairly big car park right behind the beach as well as a municipal football pitch. Space is limited which is why restaurants and bars started to build on the sand. And, in my opinion, a few bamboo bars on the beach is fine, but Surin was getting silly, and it had "approval" from local officials who were allowing the development (for a price). And now suddenly it's gone! We walked along the beach from the car park to the north end where some rocks stick up through the sand. Our kids had last played here 8 years ago ...



(above) On the rocks at the north end of Surin beach

Well, back in 2006 there was a small restaurant near the rocks. Now I saw only a beach club called Zazada .. and (I did not look) I guess the prices of drinks would be more than I want to pay. The structures on the sand had only been knocked down a week before so, in places, things looked a bit untidy. I'll go again in a couple of months and see if everything is tidy! The kids found a wooden swing hanging from a palm tree ...



Kids + beach + rope swing = who needs an iPad? Well, our kids have got used to our sudden urges to take a drive. They might complain, but then enjoy the chance to explore. While the boy jumped around on the rocks, the girl walked to the very end of the beach. Maybe someday she will take the road less traveled. Crowded beaches? Where?



(above) Exploring the ends of Surin beach

After a while we walked back south to the carpark. The lack of any buildings on the beach is very pleasant. The same is happening at other beaches. I'd suggest that people bring a picnic or stop at a 7-11 before arriving at a beach these days! At Surin, without the smaller beach restaurants, not so much choice for eating. I mean, the beachfront shacks were not so cheap anyway, but compared to the beach clubs (Zazada, Catch and Bimi) they were a deal! Surin is now a BYO beach! Only thing left standing on the sand is the lifeguard shack ...



I do like the idea of keeping the beaches natural, but people gotta eat and drink! I imagine that once the whole thing blows over you will see drinks vendors on the beach, then maybe some little mobile food stalls, and then a little bamboo restaurant and maybe the whole thing will start again! Surin is a nice area to stay, there are plenty of hotels including Ayara Hilltops, Twin Palms and Manathai Resort.

Full List of Surin Beach Hotels

If not staying at Surin, it's just a few minutes from Kamala beach or about 20 minutes from Patong beach. And to the north of Surin you find Bang Tao, Layan, Naithon, Nai Yang and Mai Khao beaches. I know ... Phuket has a lot of beaches. And if you are a beach person, it's worth exploring to find the right beach for you :)

We left Surin, heading back home via Kamala and Patong, but first ... in between Surin and Kamala beaches used to be a little gem called Laem Sing beach. Untouched. No construction. And I think my wife and I had not stopped there since about 2001! Back then, Laem Sing was a totally untouched paradise, but of course over the years a bar opened, and another and a restaurant and another one. Now, with help from the friendly Thai army, all that will be gone. Laem Sing will be the next blog post, as we stopped there on the same day. Just south of Surin is a viewpoint with a great view of Laem Sing beach. Wow.



(above) Laem Sing beach. We really should "take a drive" more often. I forget how beautiful the west coast of Phuket can be ...

IKEA Midsummer Smorgasbord

We attended another of Ikea's special one night only smorgasbord all you care to eat dinners. This one, the Midsummer Smorgasbord. Each of the special smorgasbord dinners that Ikea holds in their stores' restaurant is a celebration dinner much as would be served in Sweden for seasonal occasions and this one celebrates the summer solstice. These dinners are becoming more and more like parties with