Showing posts with label Blogging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogging. Show all posts

Your Favorite Posts ...


I am asking for your help here.  There is a popular posts gadget on the blog but it rates things primarily by page views, considering little else.  My number one post got that way, I fear, through Google Image searches for the Ninja 650.  I would like to think that some people actually read the post but lets face it, many viewers probably went no further than the pictures since that is what they were searching for.

With 220 posts spread over the last four years and with relatively few individuals having read all of them, I know it is a lot to ask but thought I would ask anyway.  Were you drawn here by a particular post?  Do you have a favorite post or genre of post?  I would appreciate any input but a top two or three would really be great.  Even one would be helpful if you could add why you liked it.

Sorry to turn things around on you but this is something I simply can’t do by myself.  As a blogger I am in constant angst about what I am doing and why, as well as who you are and why you are here.  I have asked for your input in the past but this is a little more targeted and less vague so hopefully easier to deal with.  Thanks in advance for your help.

Thailand, Forever New ...

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not speaking for myself but for the multitudes who “discover” Thailand each year.  The evangelical converts who wax lyrical about all things Thai, be they cultural, culinary, carnal, curious, creepy, climatic, or conversational as in learning to speak Thai, which I highly recommend.

Some of these new explorers, upon discovering the wonders of Thailand, are eager to convert or instruct others on the ins and outs of every imaginable aspect of all things Thai.  Blogs are one way of getting the message out.  There are some 250 Thai related blogs to be found on but one list, inaccurately named Top 100 Thailand Blogs.

Here you will discover a wide variety of styles and subject matter.  I fall into the category of narcissistic personal bloggers who write only of their own experiences and stick to original material and opinion.  Some focus on politics, travel, food, religion or nightlife.  Others repackage the news they scavenge from more legitimate news sources while adding their own editorial twist.  Some of my favorites are the professed puritans who write pages of prose boasting of their lack of interest in all things carnal while using every imaginable and lurid keyword, catch phrase and search word in their somewhat hollow denial.  Whether this duplicitous approach is intentional to attract page views or simply a sign of naiveté and inexperience is anyones guess.

For those in need of guidance, there are guide books telling you where to go, when to go, how to go and even why and how much.  There are instruction manuals on how to do almost anything from finding food, accommodation, transportation and companionship to things like driver’s licenses, visas, marriage and anything else you can think of.  Everyone seems to think they have something new or better to offer from the hoards of others doing the same thing.

Whether in their twenties or seventies it is fun to watch the new arrivals reinventing the wheel and announcing their new discoveries.  Even with all the new sources of information that were not available back when I first reached these shores, people continue to make many of the same mistakes and if anything seem to be even more naive than the intrepid unprepared explorers of the past.  Sadly those who need advice the most are often the least likely to take it I have found.

Clearly there are those who are suited to life as an expat or involvement in a cross-cultural relationship but it is equally apparent many are not adapted to such a life.  If you are a screwup at home, chances are you will be an even bigger one over here.  If you don’t know much about Thailand and can’t speak the language then it is all down to luck of the draw in your search for a partner.  A quick look around will confirm the world is not full of lucky people.  Luck would seem to be the exception, not the norm.

For those of you who have only recently discovered Thailand may I wish you good luck and enjoy the ride.  My only word of advice would be to learn the language if you plan to do more than holiday here from time to time.

Continued ...

Six weeks into my new running routine and it is anything but routine.  I’m all over the place with good days and bad.  Two days on and one day off, two days and two days, one day and one day, even tried three days on but it did more harm than good.  Moved up from three kilometers to five in the first four weeks but for now seem stuck at five kilometers and still have to walk up the steep hill about half way out.

When I run varies with the cloud cover and the setting of the sun.  The temperature has been inconsistent at best.  Some days are incredibly hot and still, while sometimes there is a refreshing breeze.  I have even run in the rain a few times.  You would expect to be stronger after a day off but some of my ugliest and most painful runs were after a rest day.

Of course there are other things going on like visitors from Hawaii, my birthday, our anniversary, parties, shopping, driving here and there, vehicle registrations, 90 day notification of residence, and more visitors coming next month from Bangkok.

The other day as we were heading out in a light rain to visit some friends, I noticed our neighbors field being planted.  Cool and overcast it was a perfect day for working in the fields and everyone was starting to break for lunch.  As I snapped pictures they asked if we had any spare papaya.  “Sure, and help yourself to some chillies while you are at it” was my reply.   By the time we returned they had finished for the day.  That wonderful planting day was followed by two days of rain which submerged the rice plants, however.  Fortunately today the water has gone down enough that the rice should survive.

Also noticed that with this post #28, I have matched what I did for the whole of last year.  That is not my reason for not posting recently, though.  I have written several pages of late, which I have not posted for various reasons.  As one might expect, inspiration often comes from local sources.  I try to keep things hypothetical but I have found that some individuals are a bit sensitive and read in more than is intended, so I find myself censoring my work before it gets to you.

No doubt my need to write will soon supersede my specious attempts to be nice and I will be back to my old tricks regardless of what others may read into my words.  With little to say today, I thought I might add a few pictures.  Another of my novel ideas ;-)
Mae Suai Dam

Mae Suai Reservoir

Mae Suai from the dam
Planting Rice

Lunch Time

Planting Rice in our Front Yard
Birthday Brunch at Favola

Meridien Pool and Grounds

Visitors from Hawaii
Running past the fields

Running Home

Running Pond Side and into the Sunset

A Look Inside...

I believe Hobby has called it my ‘coming out’, but I prefer to see it as the personalization of my blog.  Since some of you have expressed interest in us as individuals as well as the overall content of the blog, I have started inserting us into the content from time to time as you may have noticed.

Following in that trend and realizing that I have yet to let you inside our home, I have selected a few shots from a party we had last year.  An empty house shot comes off as clinical and lacks the warmth of a home.  So here are a couple of indoor shots, before and during the festivities.  The outdoor shot is on the veranda off the main living area.

Nothing fancy or pretentious, just a relaxed open space in which to live and enjoy our views.


Coffee, Conversation, Questions ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

200 Posts ...

The other day found me busily penning a post, on a topic that came up while my wife and I were driving to town.  Something about why Thai women often wait until they have children and a few failed relationships under their belt, before being willing to consider a foreign partner, and an often heard excuse, at that point they have nothing else to lose.  Of course that is not a very flattering proposition to consider and I was having difficulty finding ways to sugar coat it, for readers who may have taken that route.

There I was, contemplating offending those guys who think all Thai women are gaga for western men, as well as those selfless and noble gentlemen who have taken on the burden of other men’s offspring, while never considering themselves the last port of refuge.  Perhaps the ideal of two people with options, actually choosing each other over others, because of some primal attraction, is something reserved for the young, or Hollywood scriptwriters.  Maybe partner selection becomes more pragmatic, later in life.

Anyway, my progress down that slippery slop was halted, thankfully, by a surge of activity on my blog.  I found myself dealing with comments and further tinkering with the appearance of my blog.  While on the dashboard page of Blogger, I happened to notice a post counter which read, 199 posts.  That meant this would be my 200th post.  True, some bloggers do that in less than one year, but for me it seemed a monumental accomplishment, even four years down the road.

Being predisposed to introspection, as I am, this otherwise insignificant number triggered a wave questions about the past, present and future of this blog.  Even though I am writing more than I did last year, there is a distinct lack of direction, even four months into the year.

My most popular post has been the one on my motorcycle birthday present, last June.  It would appear that the Ninja 650r attracts a lot of eyes, even if only to view the pictures.  Clearly I am not inclined to turn this into a biker’s blog, though I do enjoy riding.  Mountain biking and road trips seem to rate rather highly as do posts on social networking and blogging questions.  Chiang Rai specific posts, like the shopping mall and flower festival attract viewers but I’m not interested in developing this space into a social calendar.  That leaves my photos, my map and my sometimes questionable social commentary.

When I run out of something to say, I tinker with the aesthetics and functionality of the blog or try to make reading from the beginning, through to the end, a little easier or more tempting.  I don’t get a lot of comments but that is probably my own fault.  To maintain balance, what comments I do get are weighted much the way some Olympic events are judged, where the anomalies at either end of the scale are disregarded, when taking into account how others view me.

I thought there was a question in there, somewhere, but I seem to have misplaced it.  Maybe it is enough to say thank you to my readers for being here on this auspicious day, just as the Thai New Year festivities of Songkran, begin their pre-event escalation toward the official holiday.  Stay safe out there during this, the killing season on Thai roads, while otherwise enjoying the company of family and friends.

New Blog Stuff...

 In an effort to keep things interesting, Blogger has come up with some new beta views, which can be accessed by adding the word ‘view’ after the url of this or other blogs.  There are five new views available in a drop down menu.  Click this link to take a look.  I find the Mosaic view kind of interesting.  The views are not fully functional as yet, but might be worth a look.

I am still working on the eBook version but I do have a new PDF style book version of the blog that I have uploaded to iWork.com for those who would like to start at the beginning and read from there.  It is easy to jump to any page or chapter by just clicking on the link in the index.

By clicking the link in the left column, just under my profile you will be taken to this NEW work in progress.  Haven't finished proofreading but it is better that what I produced in my previous attempt.  If you have any problems or comments please let me know.

In addition I have updated my Profile Page and the About This Blog Page.

Words ...

On several occasions recently, I have been reminded of the complexity of language, both spoken and written.  Without any of the nonverbal accompaniments and emotive elements of the spoken word, the written word is even more difficult to fathom at times.  Sure there are dictionary definitions and a thesaurus full of similar words but many words have more than one meaning even there, let alone in the minds of readers.  So even when words are carefully crafted there is no certainty as to how they will be received.

A specific word may have associations for a reader that we are unaware of.  Less common and complicated words, even when more accurate, can be off putting for some.  They are sometimes not understood, considered haughty or condescending and color the meaning of what is written.  Complex and interesting sentence structures, meant to add color and imagery, sometimes create a very different image than the one intended.

Though I may sometimes overpower with my sense of conviction or style of writing, not unlike in conversation where I have a tendency to dominate, there is nothing I admire more than someone who is able to hold there own through wit, thought and reason.  No temperamental outbursts or petulant silences.  No self-aggrandizement or incessant namedropping.  A pace and energy that doesn’t put one to sleep mid-story.  These are things I long for.  Let me lead and I will bore myself, not just you.

To that end I was intrigued during the exchange of emails with some readers recently.  One reader who stumbled upon my blog, observed that I seemed to be “more of an observer than someone who wants to be observed” and appeared to question the veracity of my request for feedback.  More accurately he said he was surprised.  I might add that I was surprised by his surprise.  Fortunately he was not shy about providing interesting and insightful comments, as well as some personal background which would not be appropriate to include here without permission.  I hope he won’t mind email quotes being anonymously reproduced in this space, however.

One exchange in particular caught my attention.  “There's a certain, clearly communicated perspective of a thoughtful and self-satisfied person who's comfortable with their past choices and future direction. Although the writing is refined and even polished, the thoughts within are at times starkly honest and blunt.”   I must admit to bristling slightly at the term ‘self-satisfied’ as the connotation is hardly flattering.  At second glance, I was actually quite pleased and impressed.  Here was a reader reflecting back to me in a “starkly honest and blunt” manner, with a clear touch of refinement and polish.  Though I might have preferred another word, self-satisfied might well be the more accurate choice.

“I hope you keep the blog up. It seems like you may be getting as much out of this as your readers. It appears that it's an important and personally rewarding part of your life - maybe even an occupation at times - sharing your personal view from the valley with others, trying to discern what effect it's having in other faraway places. I suspect it has caused more than a few middle-aged farangs to question their lives and relationships and long for a small house and new mate in Isaan or Pattaya. There are others though who will enjoy it in a positive way, maybe learn from it or let it be a jumpstart towards an adventure, whether they make it to a beautiful house in Southeast Asia or not.”

The preceding quote comes as close as any I have received in attempting to encapsulate the purpose and intent of this blog.  The only caveat might be a reminder that VF and I are not identical clones.  It should be understood that as VF, I put a particular spin on events and take some literary license in how I relate what I observe.  I am not a reporter or historian.  I do not seek to speak in the staccato monotone of statistics with no room for interpretation.  VF speaks in the lilting legato of life, sometimes pretty and sometime ugly but always from his own perspective.

So yes, I am an observer of life and often a critical one at that.  My most critical observations I can assure you, are directed inward as I would not want to inflict that kind of scrutiny on others. Understand that I do indeed appreciate feedback, especially insightful and interesting stuff, though a pat on the back is not to be dismissed as insignificant.  Thanks again to those who write in and a special thanks to the kind reader I quoted and to others who helped to play my muse today.

So what is the word, one might ask?

A Blog Facelift ...

Let’s face it, I have no doubt spent more time looking at this page over the last four years than any of you, so I needed a change.  Yes, it is all about the content, or the written word, but I would rather listen to a pretty singer with a nice voice, than an ugly one.  Yes, shallow but true.

Newcomers to this space will have been spared the nearly four years of darkness that came before.  The background was black, which I still prefer for viewing pictures, but they have always said that white lettering on a black background is harder on the eyes.  Bloggers new design facilities made the facelift relatively painless, with the hardest part being, the selection and sizing of a picture from my collection, to personalize things a bit.

By way of explanation, the photo is from an area we pass, when venturing into the city of Chiang Rai.  These rock outcroppings are quite lovely to look at, as they jut out of the rice paddies that surround them, but they are also prized as a source of gravel for the construction industry.  In an effort to delay their wholesale destruction, some of them have been turned into religious sites and in some cases, temples built on or near them.  I believe there is a small stupa now, at the base of this mound but at the time of this picture they had only draped holy cloth over parts of it.  That explains the reddish-orange splashes of color that you see, depending on the size of your screen.  I removed or muted the other colors from the photo, so as to blend in with the present theme.

Now for the really hard part, deciding what to do with this space and Mr. VF, himself.  The New Year always gets me thinking about these sorts of things but now there is the added realization that we are approaching a four year anniversary.  This journey began in March of 2007.

Looking back at what I have written in the past, I sometimes wonder what ever possessed me to write those particular words.  Not that I care to take them back, rather I question my own ability to come up with anything as good or better.  As I have mellowed, so the voice of my muse has become muffled and distant.  I strain in a vain effort to listen, and then find myself distracted by other, more worldly things.  I seem more inclined to bask in the decadent, self-indulgence of our simple life, than to write about it.

It is much easier to write when one is angry, lonely, confused or questioning.  Fill your existence with too much comfort, contentment and joy, and the pot goes off the boil.  Just as the love of a good woman tamed the beast within, now the good life has continued the process of making me all soft and mushy.  I see less of a hard edge and wonder who that person in the mirror really is.  Older, rounder, less driven and laid back to the point of being almost horizontal at times.

Oh well time to go off and watch the sunset with the dogs.  I’m watching it inch its ways across the horizon on its northward trek toward summer.  Much the way the ancients did I suppose, marking the furthest reaches of its 50 degree march through the latitudes.

Social Networking ...

I have mixed feelings about social networking, but in general, find it to be an interesting addition to normal human interaction.  I’m too wordy for Twitter, I find, but some use it almost like an RSS feed to be notified when I post something new to the blog.  Chat really isn’t my thing, either.

Facebook tends to cannibalize my comments a bit, with readers posting on either Facebook or my blog, but not both.  For those who have tried to “friend” me on Facebook, very few have made it through.  If I can find out something about a reader of my blog I might say, ‘Okay’ but it all depends.  I try to keep my “friends” to people I actually know, like friends and family.

Granted, many members of my extended family I have never met and I have lost contact with many friends from the past.  My own fault, I must admit.  Most of my cousins I have not seen for close to forty years.  Often it is their kids that are more active online, including my brother’s sons.  My mother’s side of the family is less digitally challenged than my father’s side.  For those I have made contact with, even though they do not communicate directly, it is nice to see pictures and read what they write to each other.

My wife has her own Facebook identity now and they seem to enjoy sharing pictures of themselves and where they go, commenting on how they look in their pictures seems to be a must.  Through her postings, my own pictures are much more widespread.  We do put all settings for Facebook to ‘Friends Only’ for obvious and oft-discussed reasons.  For more important things we both email or call on Skype.  Better yet we try to get together as often as we can.

Despite the negative image of the Thai Visa Forum, the Chiang Rai sub-forum, has morphed into a social networking hub for many of the residents of the Rai.  It has facilitated many of us meeting and subsequently getting together on a regular basis through social events scheduled in our area.

For me there is clearly no substitute for a face to face meeting.  Whether that be over coffee, a meal, a private party, exercise, or an impromptu encounter at a social event, or while shopping, it is always good to see a friendly face and catch up a bit.  Perhaps this only pertains to people like us who live far away from others or are retired and don’t go to work everyday.  In the Rai we are spread out over a wide area, however, and it takes a little more effort to get together regularly.  Social networking is no substitute for the real thing but it often facilitates it.  At least that is my take on it.

By the way, a little feedback on the new color scheme would be appreciated.  After a few years of black, I thought a change might be nice for 2011.  So what do you think of the blogs new clothes?

How I See My Role ...

It seems that a fair number of my readers are at, or are rapidly approaching, retirement age.  As I often paint a pastoral and somewhat idyllic picture of my life here in the Rai, on occasion I am asked for advice on how to make the move to Thailand.  Questions vary from quite general in nature to sometimes piercingly personal.  Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy correspondence related to my blog.  My quandary arises from the notion that I would be the person to ask about such things.

My words are expressly designed to be vague, with regard to detail.  I strive to paint a picture with words or encourage others to be courageous and forge ahead down an unknown path, toward an unknown end.  Self-belief, a spirit of adventure and the desire to engage in a life of self-discovery are what I would wish for others.  I am not a fan of self-help books or guides.  Forge your own path, I say.

By relating my own story, I am in no way attempting a ‘how to’ account but rather a ‘can do’ motivation to counter all the naysayers who say it can’t be done.  I would not be so bold, however, as to tell you how to do it.  Besides, my time of transition to a life in Thailand is buried so far in my past, my recollections are no longer clear and my personal experiences are no longer relevant or current.

No doubt you have noticed, a majority of Thailand Bloggers are relative newcomers, still deeply emersed in the transitional phase of adjusting to a new and different culture.  For them everything is strange, exotic and different from what they encountered previously.  Village Farang is someone you are more apt to meet with at the far end of that long tunnel.  Emerging into the light at the other end, there is no longer a clearly delineated line between past and present, no point of origin to be recalled.

All my revelations are backwards.  Life here is my norm and things seem odd or different when we visit my country of origin.  Even my transition from living in Bangkok for thirty years to living in Chiang Rai for the last three, is a Thailand to Thailand, urban to rural transition, quite different from moving to a foreign country.

So, as much as I might like to easy your burden and smooth your transition, I clearly don’t feel qualified to be that kind of mentor.  My message is merely that things will most likely workout for the best.  You will enjoy the good stuff and learn from the bad.  The challenges will make you stronger and reveal the stuff of which you are made.  Don’t over think things in an effort to make no mistakes.  Mistakes are how we learn.

Finding the Real Thailand ...

You will often hear foreigners discussing the ‘Real Thailand’ and how they have somehow discovered something that other foreigners are not privy to.  Kind of a one-upmanship between two or more relative newcomers, usually.  Of course the whole notion of a real Thailand, as opposed to an unreal one, is really quite silly.  The only context in which I would consider the discussion of reality, would be in reference to our funny online names (like Village Farang) and our virtual lives and identities.  Life itself on the other hand, whether good or bad, is very real.

So what is VF on about now, you ask?  As usual, a simple enough question led me to imagine where that question was coming from, in terms of experience and understanding.  One thing led to another, and it got me thinking how foreigners live and interact with Thais and Thailand and where some of the frustrations and more critical judgements might come from.

Please excuse my generalizing, but I can’t fairly list and include every subgroup of foreigner in the space allowed.  So generally, lets say most foreigners begin their Thai experience, dealing with a very small segment of Thai society.  You know, the Thais who make their living by feeding, housing, transporting, entertaining and catering to the various quirks and idiosyncratic needs of visitors to this fair land.  As a side-note, I might mention that despite what some of us might think, we are not the be-all and end-all of the Thai economy.  The vast majority of Thais do business with other Thais and have relatively little interest in our strange goings-on.

So for example, lets say you meet a girl in a bar and go to her village with the idea of meeting ‘real’ Thais.  You are still dealing with people who’s primary interest in foreigners is financial, whether you stay in the family home or a guesthouse.  That is because social mobility is extremely difficult in Thai society and if one is from a particular region, with a particular skin tone and facial structure, and speaks a particular dialect, then there is little chance of marrying into a more affluent Thai family in Bangkok, for example.  A foreigner can, however, provide a shortcut to obtaining the better things in life, for those who Thailand itself would deny.

Not speaking Thai is also an extreme handicap as you are limited in your dealings, to those we have already mentioned, who’s livelihood is derived from us.  Even if you get married your source of knowledge, experience and information is being filtered before you receive it, if you can’t speak Thai.  That often leaves you living and seeking entertainment and services, from those very same entry level Thais.

If working, regardless of your position, you will be surrounded by those who treat you accordingly.  All interactions will be bracketed by your position, relative to others.  If retired, perhaps teaching can start exposure to a different element of Thai society.  Still those who study English, lets say, are usually motivated by a desire to get a higher paying job.  Getting language ‘credentials’ is often the goal, not really learning the language. 

Getting to know Thai teachers, might start you on a path of knowing people with similar interests, as you are both teachers.  Therein lies the key, I think.  If you can join a Thai group, club or organization of people with similar interests, like photography, motorbikes, sports, etc., then you will have stepped away from those who are only being nice to you because it is their job to or in their best interest financially.

Not that one segment of Thai society is anymore real than any other, but getting stuck in that entry level environment has its drawbacks.  I liken it to entering the foyer of a nice house and remaining there indefinitely.  As nice as that room might be, you are missing out on what the rest of the house may have to offer.  Even longtime visitors who have been here many times, or are even married to a Thai but living overseas, are often not as well prepared for their life in Thailand as they may think they are.

I know people who tell me that they are quite happy not speaking Thai and living in touristy areas.  Perhaps it frees them from self analysis and any need to adapt or change.  It does beg the question of how long one can live in an environment that evolved around the needs of short term visitors, however.  When the novelty wears off, where does that leave you?  I don’t know of course and would suspect it varies greatly from individual to individual.  It is a question, which I wonder how many people ask themselves.

On a completely different subject, I was motivated by several individuals who recently went through my entire archives.  Not having done so myself for quite sometime, I started rereading my early work.  Starting with the book form, I have made it through the first 8 or 9 chapters.  I found myself reeling from the vast number of mistakes I uncovered.  I have corrected what I found so far but have yet to move on to the actual blog format where I will have to make the same corrections and no doubt many more.

Other than mistakes, I felt that much of what I had intended to impart to my readers had not made it to the page.  The cerebral nature of writing leaves much of what you intend to say, floating in some lost space between thought and deed.  While I endeavor to do better, I’m sure my shortcomings will continue to surface and I appreciate the fact that so many of you continue to return and so graciously overlook my often clumsy attempts to express what dwells in the deep dark reaches of my mind.

Village Farang’s Google Map ...

Felt like doing something different this year.  At the top of the page you will find a link to My Google Map.  Village Farang’s Chiang Rai, is my personal map of Chiang Rai.  Not meant to be all inclusive but rather a glimpse into places we frequent.  Putting too many bike or motorcycle routes gets messy so have removed most.

This is a work in progress so would appreciate feedback, especially on usability.  I have found that with some browsers it may be necessary to reload the page to get things working properly.  Please click away on the list and zoom in on things of interest and let me know if it works.

Season's Greetings...

Perhaps it is the time of year, but I have been thinking about all of you lately.  You have me at a distinct disadvantage, being able to drop by any time to see what I am up to.  In the spirit of the holidays, why not drop me an email or a comment and give me an update.  Let me know what you are up to this time of year. 

If you have never written, take this opportunity to say hello for the first time.

Sell-by Date ...

In a recent email exchange with one of my readers, it was indirectly implied that perhaps my blog had reached its sell-by date.  Possibly a quote would be helpful here.

 “I think the problem with blogging is that the source of interesting factual material cannot keep coming at the same pace all the time. I notice that most blogs have a readable life-span of maybe a year or so after which they fade away, (some become so banal, trite and trivial they should be put down).” 

This could explain the prolonged drought that I am presently experiencing with regard to my blog.  I have secretly begun to question if I am arrogant enough to presume that my ramblings can continue on indefinitely or if there is some finite lifespan to what I am doing here.  I steadfastly refuse to become a recycler of other’s news or offerings.  I’m not in the repackaging and rebranding business.  I would rather go to the source and form my own opinions and suggest others do the same.

In truth there has been no shortage of material lately but it has all been far too personal a private to be dragged upon this page.  Revealing myself is one thing, but I do draw the line at being gossipy and overly revealing of others and their life foibles or misfortunes.  So there has been an abundance of dancing neurons in the gray matter but my fingers have been on holiday, as I question the necessity or merit of writing any of this down for the titillation of others.

As for today’s title, it is a favorite of mine and I use it frequently in relation to those who discover Thailand later in life.  Without youth, looks, charm or potential, and as late entries to the game, they are often required to come up with a buy-in fee to step upon the playing field.  Even then most are relegated to playing in the minor leagues and never no the joy of playing in the Big Leagues (The Show) of the majors.  I believe it is this phenomenon, of having passed ones sell-by date, that leads to many a farang’s notion that we are seen only as an ATM for Thai women.  Realistically what else do men in the winter or autumn of their lives have to offer, to those they pursue?  But...that is a discussion for another day.

Today’s question is how much longer can I keep this up and is there any merit in doing so?  I’m afraid I have no answer.

Nothing ...

The well has run dry.  The words no longer flow.  The parchment is pristine with not an ink stain to be seen.  No penchant for words.  No pent up passion.  No predilection for pretentious prose. 

Minutes flow into hours, hours form a day, gathered into weeks, with no real delineation to be made.  A seamless tapestry, of dissimilar events.  Indelibly etched upon my soul yet inexplicable and invisible upon the page.

Sunrises and sunsets.  Tropical downpours and bright sunny days.  Old friends gone silent in a fit of pique.  New friends and old stories retold.  Lost memories reemerge as light shifts from one scene to the next.  A vague feeling that something else has been misplaced or set adrift in the vastness of time.

With plodding and relentless determination, time marches on.  With or without our appreciation or approval.  I seem to remember the soft yet persistent whispers of a muse.  Perhaps I am mistaken or confused.  Sitting here as I am, gazing out the window.  My eyes are lifted skyward.  My heart sores at the same moment my mind voids.  Leaving me contemplating, nothingness or perhaps nothing at all.

Birthdays ...

It is rapidly approaching that time of year when I must once again acknowledge the advance of time.  Not that I had intended being here talking with you today.  My wants were fixed upon the horizon and yet another adventure on my bike.  As I readied myself, the western sky darkened ominously and I was forced to rethink my plans.  So here I am at the keyboard, safe and dry as mother nature unleashes her fury outside my window.

Following a not too unusual chain of events it is now a day later.  Yesterday my wife offered a foot massage, which I could hardly refuse.  Followed by several games of Ping-Pong and a little “afternoon delight”, while the maid was outside doing who knows what, perhaps visiting with the gardener.  Later my wife suggested tootling around the village on her scooter and we made numerous stops along the way.  Dropping my wife off at her mother’s I continued home to be followed almost immediately by a repairman coming to replace a couple of screens he had installed last year and had been slightly damaged through heavy use.  My wife returned home at my beckoning to deal with the screen repair while I took care of Cookie, fed the fish and enjoyed the sunset.  With me trying to eat less these days, I remained home to look after things, while my wife once again returned to her mother’s to enjoy a large village style meal shared with family and friends.

As the ritual of my late morning Skype call to my father approaches, I once again find myself gathering my thoughts and trying to regain the place where I left off yesterday.  Though I never publish online the exact date of my birth, this is the month of both my birth and our anniversary.  The close proximity of both was no accident, as I attempted to make recalling the date of our anniversary all but foolproof.  Ten years of marriage and twelve years together and things continue down a blissful path.  Approaching fifty-five years of age seems to be more about decline than advance, in my mind. 

As one ages, thoughts sometimes drift toward things that could have been but never were.  Dreams of youth supplanted by the harsh realities of life and the consequences of choices made.  Personally I find myself dealing, not with regret, but with the consequence of perhaps too much fulfillment and contentment in my life.  I truly want for nothing these days except perhaps the vigor of my youth.  To lust for more than I already poses would be greedy and gratuitous to the extreme.

Even as I strive to polish the perception of my bountiful gifts and avoid the malaise of complacency, I am painfully aware that I have passed the mountain peak and find myself descending into the valley from whence I came.  One can debate the necessity or merits of facing ones own mortality, over denial or avoidance.  Some might say I peaked too early or set my sights too low.  Hindsight and what ifs are not familiar companions as I prefer to appreciate the moment and gently guide the direction of my future.  It is to that end that birthdays find me taking stock and wondering what else remains to be done.  Of course there are no hard and fast answers.  Just a series of questions and observations and the occasional course correction to accommodate the changing terrain and circumstances.

Leaving Questions Unanswered...

Seeing that the resent surge in hits from Thailand ISPs has subsided, perhaps it is safe to once again come out to play.  Tempests in teacups, disgruntled detractors, all hopefully faded to nothing more than an unpleasant memory.  I am sometimes drawn to see what lies beyond my field of view.  To venture on foot or by vehicle, even metaphorically, to explore what lies around the bend.  Often one has a very good idea ahead of time, what is there, but to see it first hand does lend a measure of authenticity and veracity. 

With 30 plus years in Bangkok, one might safely assume that I have had a smattering of experience with expat circles.  I thought it perhaps presumptuous on my part to assume, however, that my observations were universal.  I therefore set out to see if expat fauna of the Rai differed from that of the Big Mango.  Not unexpectedly, I found evidence of the usual suspects.  Ranging from the dregs to the do-gooders, they were not hard to spot, even with the variance in dress code afforded to this less than urban environment.

As the pot was stirring recently, over I know not what, emails were exchanged that I naively thought were addressed to one individual.  I opted not to use the bully pulpit of my blog and instead resorted to emails that were promptly forwarded to a half dozen other individuals.  A more sophisticated approach would have been for others to use the bcc: function in the letterhead of the email.  That way, I would have been none the wiser.  Subsequently they had me at a disadvantage, knowing what I was saying while I knew nothing of what they were discussing amongst themselves.  It all leaves me wondering what could possibly be in it for me, to revisit a repeat engagement. 

In a round about way this got me reexamining my readership and from whence it comes.  The majority are from English speaking countries, and many but not all, have some sort of Thailand connection.  The total number of countries represented is impressive and some seem to use translations.  I often wonder how well my words cross from one language to another.  I am clearly not someone who picks his topics from news services or other bloggers and therefore I post at irregular intervals.  That leaves me wondering why there are so many of you who click so regularly on my page.  An RSS feed, set up in one of the many Readers out there, would surely be more functional and alert you to any new postings.  Some seem preoccupied with downloading every picture I post, to which I do not object.  But then again, one does wonder what is being done with them. 

The software which is supposed to tell me who you are and where you are from, leaves me with many more questions than answers.  While many of you have been in contact there is an equal number who still lurk in the shadows and keep me guessing.  Perhaps that is as it should be.  The urge to answer all questions and remove all mystery could lead one down the path to a dreary, less colorful tapestry of life.  So part of me wants to know, while another part of me does not.  If recent events are anything to go by, perhaps it is best to leave some things to the realm of imagination.

An Invitation to Read from Village Farang ...

Latecomers to a blog can find it hard work, wading through the months and years of posts in reverse order.  Much of my work includes pictures and comments and makes more sense with them, but I thought it might be interesting to reproduce only the words, in chronological order.  A book or journal of sorts, to be read from being to end, as it were.  Without my pictures and the comments of others, one can indulge ones own imagination, free from distraction.  Uncertain of demand, I nonetheless would like to offer the option of reading in the original timeline.  The following links with take you to my words.  The same words as here just a different view.

An Interesting Conversation ...

Not everyone reads comments and this one far surpasses the norm, to become more of a conversation.  Hope you don’t mind me reproducing it in the form of a post, but I would hate for anyone to miss it.  It is an excellent example of the conversation of life, filled with observations and questions and a soul searching introspection.

Reader:
So, for introductions, I've just read through your posts from start to finish over the last two days. Something about you, your style of writing, your life lived, caught my eye I guess. So I started at the end, and jumped back to the beginning, then worked by way back to here.

You have an enviable life. And from what I've read, you deserve it. You are a very interesting person. A rare soul. Could be said. I'm still trying to figure you out a bit. You write like who I want to be. Yet you come from where I am. I'm still trying to piece the two together. But still finding it more than difficult to reconcile the two, and to find my way to where you are, from where I am.

You have the dream, with the eloquence to match. Yet it's hard to find out how to make it to where you are, your piece of happiness and contentment, from this reality of messy life. I have the feeling that you were once where I am now, that you dove right in, and past blogs gives me the hint you were.

Life has a funny way about it. You can see where you want to be. Then go the opposite direction. Then find others who found the right path, and give you a bit of a nudge in the right way to go. Your steadfastness is astounding. But inspirational. I do have my doubts you were always this way. But the fact that I do kinda think you were once a little "weak" like the rest of us, but have found a solid base inside to make your life how you imagined, to be inspirational. Yeah. ok, that's a big word. But we're all just scouring the net looking for a little inspiration. Just how it is.

I don't usually have much to say, since blogging and chatting is usually a lot of talking for the sake of nothing. But I read your 1.5 years or so posts in 1.5 days. Funny how your years worth of work can be digested in such a short amount of time. But still, it's worth it, it's out there and it gave me a great deal of enjoyment and inspiration. Most of us are needing some inspiration nowadays, and it's not often we find it so clearly laid out as here.

Village Farang:

Surely there can be no greater reward for a writer, than to have his words read and appreciated. To have someone give up their valuable time to read your work, in its entirety, is an amazing gift. For that gift, I humbly thank you.

It is a safe bet, to assume that I have not always been this person. The strongest steel must truly be forged from fire. My journey is not yet finished I might add and one hopes for the wisdom and understanding to continue moving forward, to becoming a better person.

There can be no static state of being until we cease to be, so there will always be moments of weakness and doubt. I possess no special powers and have surely made my share of mistakes. By not reaching for certainty or conformity, I may have left the door ajar for this life to come and find me, however.

The only inspirational words I can find at the moment are that, as little power as we have over what happens around us or to us, we do possess the ultimate power of how we choose to respond.

Reader:
I don't, by any means, mean to hold you up to a measuring post and say that you have arrived, and have nowhere more to go. I realize you are just at a moment in your life, and still have a lot of learning and growing yet to do. However, from my perspective, I see where you are, and am judging myself against your progress. What would life be if we strived to arrive at a certain point, and lived "happily ever after". Obviously, we never arrive, we just are, and continue to struggle.

My only observation is that you tend to struggle a little less than the rest of us. A little less than myself, at least. You know nothing of me, and yet I know so much of you. Or at least what you put down on these pages, and what you have chosen to reveal.

I once, and still do, dream of the quiet simple life that you left the door open for and find yourself living now. And yet being the perpetual dreamer I found my little foray into thailand life somewhat destructive, both on my personal beliefs and my finances. An all to common theme, of that I am more than well aware.

I am striving for the peace of mind that will allow me to extract what is good and what I find I need from that place, but also the strength of character to forego what is not, and ultimately destructive of everything I seek to attain. I've always prided myself of having the clarity to see what I want, and the moral certainty to go after it and make it so. Recently I've found out I'm mortal, and too easily at home in the sewers so to speak. Turns out it's a little harder to clean yourself off after rolling around in the mud, than I once imagined.

I think what struck me about your writing, is that you don't come across as preaching. But rather, talking from someplace where you are quite familiar, and yet have risen above. I think it's much easier to look at the wind blowing across a rice field in the evening sun and find contentment, when you know there is nothing better, or higher, or more satisfying out there. Just over the horizon. Most people always are thinking, what if? What more? What am I missing? You have contentment which is above what most people seem to have. I can only guess, but I would say that it is because you have seen the other side of the coin, and now know the true meaning of happiness. A house. In a field. In a valley. With your trappings of happiness.

I know no one can ever truly be happy. And there is always the what ifs? I more than anyone know about freedom. I've lived out of my suitcase for the past seven years, lived in hotel rooms in 34 countries in seven years at last count, value my freedom above all else. But yet found myself one days craving a base. Somewhere to come back to every now and then. Which ultimately led to a rather unadvised condo purchase down south from you. Needless to say my attempts at putting down roots haven't gone according to plan, and hence my retreat back to the road to replenish the coffers and reprioritize the future plans.

"The only inspirational words I can find at the moment are that, as little power as we have over what happens around us or to us, we do possess the ultimate power of how we choose to respond."

Funny how you quote the only thing which really makes any difference or sense in life. Your future is what you make of it. Period. Plain and simple. That's it. You are the sum of your actions.

I have always strived to bring my actions in line with my true intentions. But I think I have always hidden behind the one truth that everything I do, everything I've done, has never been done in ill will to anyone. If anyone, only to myself. I've always treated everyone around me as I would want to be treated, despite repeatedly finding that I rarely ever get the same in return.

From what I read from your posts, you say that you always were rather guarded to those around you, that you always kept a safe distance and complete control, and only started to open up with your wife. To soften so to speak. Myself, I've always been a bit of a softie, but only for the girls. and that has gotten me into more trouble than I care to speak about here in a public forum. Not as in a thailand newbie sense, as I've been here long enough to speak the language reasonably well and know the score. But more in general to all girls, thai or not. My dad was a softie, hence so am i. I've always said I shouldn't change, and yet now I find myself debating that.

Anyways, the point is that you seem to have validated for me, intentionally or not, that you can still be a caring human being with respect for your partner and people in general, with an open and introspective mind. And yet still have the iron mask on that allows you to survive in a tough world full of guys that try to drag you down to their level. If you could last most of your adult life in Bangkok and yet still emerge a caring and sensitive soul that you seem to be, then there is hope for the rest of us. Or at least for me.

Village Farang:
Reading your comment, I feel as if I might be glimpsing a previous version of me in the mirror.  Certainly doors once opened can never be fully closed.  Life leaves its mark (or mud) whether we know it or not, as you have found.  I assure you my control and apparent suit of armor were donned only after surviving my share of pain, as self protection to guard what semblance of humanity, that remained untainted.  For some, the pursuit of women, is born of contempt and conquest and primordial urges.  For me it was a romantic and idealized pursuit of perfection.  It took me longer to work through that than most, and arrive where I am today.  Somewhere along the way I came to the realization that happiness cannot be acquired or bought but must be found within.  If you cannot find happiness with what you have, you will never find it with what you acquire, purchase or pursue.  I don’t necessarily agree that there is nothing better out there.  I have not found perfection but I have perhaps perfected my view of what I have.

While it is true that Bangkok has brought many a man to his knees with its well documented temptations, there is no better place to explore the often dark and unseen corners of our being.  Hidden amongst the dangers is the potential for great discovery and self knowledge.  Somehow I do not find myself overly concerned about your path.  Your intellect, instinct and introspection will surely guide you to where you need to be.