Early Morning at Chalong Temple

Chalong temple is the largest temple in Phuket and I happen to pass by almost every morning (and evening) depending what route I take to work. The early morning light makes temples shine, and the early morning means no day visitors have arrived at the temple yet. For more about the temple with lots of photos (updated in 2012) - see here: Chalong Temple.

One morning last week I stopped on the way to work to enjoy the temple in the morning light. There were already a large group of Thai tourists there at 8am, but they were watching a dance routine that had been put on for them, so I got the temple grounds more or less to myself and enjoyed wandering around in the sunshine. Hope you enjoy the photos, and hope that if you visit Phuket that you remember to visit a temple - it's not just beaches, you know!

Temples in Phuket

Cat in the window at Chalong Temple Chalong Temple Cat

Chalong Temple Buddha image at Chalong Temple

Old dude at Wat Chalong

Reflection of Chalong Temple

Early morning at Chalong Temple

Phuket Big Buddha - Getting Bigger...

Note - this blog post was in 2007. There are some newer photos of the Big Buddha on the blog - see Big Buddha 2009 - Big Buddha 2010.

When the Big Buddha is finally finished, it is going to be magnificent. And I am pretty sure it will be on the tourist trail. When we first went up there a few years ago, the work was just starting and the road was hard work on our car. We've been up the mountain many times and I have blogged about it before (see Buddha Mountain 1 - Buddha Mountain 2). We realised that we'd not been up for about a year, and it's clear that the project has been making great strides in the last year. The Big Buddha is getting bigger. You can clearly see the shape of the Buddha now, despite it being covered in scaffolding. Looks like the major building work is almost done, and it's time to add the decorations.

Da Big Buddha Big Buddha - getting there slowly

You can write your name on bricks used in the construction

My son enjoys the view over the hills of Phuket

The road up the mountain is being improved too. A concrete road now exists for much of the climb, though there are still some stretches of dirt. But it's not damaging our car any more! Having a good road will be essential once the Big Buddha is complete to allow the tours to include it in their itineraries.

The road up still has some dirt...

Scary shrine Golden shrine

The weather last week was great - I still wouldn't trust the road in wet conditions. The views were great (as always). We go up there for the views and the fresh air. The Big Buddha itself is nothing to look at just yet - a pile of concrete in the approximate shape of the Buddha, covered from top to toe in scaffolding. We'll be sure to drive up again when the project is complete.

View from the top

You can even see Phromthep Cape in the distance

Flag and view of Koh Lon Shrine and view over Chalong Bay

An Update...Now and Then...

Much has been happening lately and the house site is a flurry of activity. Along with all the work, we have been making final selection on things like, bathroom and kitchen counter tops, floors, walls, sinks, tubs, toilets, faucets and shower heads. Even in a small town like Chiang Rai the choices are mind boggling and trying to sort out too many rooms at the same time can get quite confusing. Fortunately the wife and I make a good team and conflict is not a part of the decision making process.

Aside from the house activity we finally took delivery of our new Big Black Truck and had our puppy neutered, as if you needed to know that. I fully intended to delve further into my feelings on these events in todays posting but have recently found myself waxing nostalgic. Thinking back on where I have trod, what I have done and who I have known in my years in Thailand. I know I said I didn’t want to put pen to my previous incarnations but that was then and this is today. Who knows about tomorrow?

To begin with let me say that from the very first day in Thailand I was helped by others. Chance encounters with interesting people lead to open doors and opportunities than I would never have dreamed possible when I first set foot in this place I now call home, just days short of my 21st birthday. A full list would be too long and pretentious and name dropping is best avoided. I have know Moms and Khunyings, monks, military and police generals, politicians, business titans, celebrities, actors, models, Miss Thailands, godfathers, hit-men, gamblers, prostitutes, vendors and little street urchins. I even visited the jail once to see a young guy I had watch grow up on the streets. An unfortunate punch had led to a death and he was paying the price, as he didn’t have the money needed to make things go away.

Living here one not only meets Thais but people from all over the world. Working in a 5 star hotel and hanging out in hotel lobbies and health clubs I was privileged to meet many movers and shakers who I would have never had access to in my home country. World leaders and diplomats, usually only briefly, more time spent with their security entourage, arms dealers, major Fund administrators, Hollywood movie-stars, directors and producers, and sports celebrities.

I remember being very irritated with guy I was sharing the sauna with one quiet afternoon at my health club. In his vain attempt to make it hotter he kept turning the dials all the way to the right. That in essence turned things off as one dial was a delay timer. I was thinking what a twit this guy was and I was about to insult him with some wisecrack about his incompetence when he left for the Jacuzzi.

It was then that I realized that this relatively short, very muscular and completely naked guy was a famous Hollywood action star. (Jean-Claude Van Damme) I guess his short hair and the close proximity in the sauna, which does not lend to staring at another guy, let his true identity go unnoticed for a while.

Another time a film crew was making too much noise at the pool, winding down after a night shoot. I asked them to keep it down and the star went down on one knee and mockingly kissed my right hand, begging me not to take away their pool. (Try to picture Gregory Hines in a G-string for a moment.) After much laughter and more conversation he obviously got his wish. I did however remind him that there would be life after FOX at the hotel and I needed to consider our regular customers and their need for uninterrupted sleep.

A somewhat more humbling experience was when I went to visit a sexy young model I was sleeping with. My knock on the door was answered by a familiar face but not hers. It was a young man I had known since his days as a street urchin, sneaking around under tables in restaurants shining shoes for a few baht. His street-smarts, survival instinct and good looks had allowed him to grow and prosper. He had become a popular DJ in one of the night spots I frequented.

I could see the wave of emotions wash across his face as he opened the door to find me standing there. In his state of shock he still managed a polite wai and apology. Strangely, instead of anger or jealousy, I felt an oddly perverse sense of pride. I calmed his fears with assurances that we were OK as friends and asked him to wish the young lady a pleasant day as I turned and walked away.

My contacts and experiences were so vast and varied that I was accused on numerous occasions of being a spy or worse, usually by friends of friends. I laughed at their stupidity in thinking anyone with my lifestyle could get away with anything like that. I was hardly low-key, I had spent a fair amount of time on Thai TV, doing debate programs, game-shows, sitcoms and even a little modeling for print media.

With 30 years in Thailand this walk down memory lane could go on forever and end up boring you to death and pumping up my ego far too much, with memories of my misspent youth. Lets move on to a more timely and relevant question. Why is a guy like me building a house in a small Northern Thai Village? The answer is that, the guy like me now, is not like the guy like me then. It is almost like that guy was a completely different person even though I know I am who I am because of that guy.

I don’t know if it was age, phase of life, finding true love and companionship or a growing awareness of my own mortality but my goals and priorities have changed. City life no longer holds the same appeal. We do still have the condo in Bangkok but have less and less interest in spending time there. We find our country life much more active and fulfilling on a deep primal level.

I guess there is also a sense of giving back. After being afforded such a rich and varied life, I finally feel like giving back by living among those who are less advantaged. Hopefully by living together we will enrich each-others lives and be better people for it.

Mama Noi Restaurant at Karon Beach

I have probably eaten more at Mama Noi as much as any other restaurant in Phuket. Why? Well, it's just round the corner from where I work at Sunrise Divers in Karon Beach, about 1 minutes walk from door to door. Sure, there are a few other nearby options such as a (very) local roadside restaurant that does great Phad Thai for 40 Baht, a place called "3 Siblings" which is over the road from the 7-11 100m away which does simple cheap Thai food, and the very good Sala Bua which is part of the Karon Place Hotel and only open in high season, but Mama Noi keeps me coming back.

You'll find Mama Noi next to the Siam Commercial Bank, just off the back road (Patak Road). It's easy enough to find and always looks clean and welcoming, with green plants and many colourful orchids hanging outside. There's nothing really fancy here, but it has many regular customers (myself included) - foreign and Thai alike. A restaurant with regular local customers is always a good sign.

Inside you may notice signs saying "Self Service", and indeed this is half true. You will need to place your order at the counter, then take your own cutlery and glass of water to your table. Drinks are in a large glass front fridge - again, self service. BUT, not all drinks are in there. I almost always order a banana milkshake (Kluay Pan) - the best I have found anywhere and only 30 Baht!

Food - the name Mama Noi suggests Italian connections and the original owner (as far as I know) used to live in Italy. The western menu includes pasta, lasagne, salads, sandwiches, chicken and chips and more, while the Thai menu includes basically any Thai dish you can think of. My current favourites - Yellow Vegetable Curry (Gaeng Garee Pak), Fried Pork in special sauce (Moo Phad Mama Noi), Chicken Penang Curry (Penang Gai)... The minestrone soup is not bad either and the sandwiches are decent.. the Massaman curry is good too.. in fact I don't really recall a duff meal here though the fried rice tends to be rather bland.

It's a popular place, price is OK (not super local cheap, but not expensive) - for example, the curries will be around 80 Baht, fried rice 60 Baht, and did I mention the excellent 30 Baht milkshakes...? (Update 2013, prices have risen since this was written in 2007!)

More Karon Beach Information

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A Day In The Life...

We spent yesterday with our contractor and his wife. As is our custom on payment day, we make a day of it. We all went to the bank and then went to various suppliers looking for just the right materials for counter tops and bathrooms and the like. We contracted the whole job to them but everything is itemized so we can choose a slightly higher priced material and pay the difference.

We did a pretty good job of negotiating costs in advance so almost everything comes within our estimate. Some things we take notes on for future reference, while other items are ordered on the spot to be delivered when we need them. We also stopped by to see two of their other projects at different stages of completion.

The girls got hungry, as Thai women are wont to do every few hours. Normally you are given little notice and even less time to get something into their mouths, but on this occasion the offer of fresh shrimp from one of the fish-farm restaurants near Thung, was good enough for them to suppress their needs for a little longer than normal. Last time lunch was on them so this time it was our turn, as is the custom. We ended the day at the house site discussing the progress so far and what comes next.

Sometime in the middle of all this my wife got a call. It was the modern village grapevine at work. Cell phone to cell phone, trying to track down everyone to let them no of another death in the village. Her mother’s phone was off as she was knee deep in the neighboring fields trying to catch fish. Not sure if it was the basket or scoop or net or some other fishing technique. Anyway we called one of the bricklayers on site to see if she was in earshot or not.

After finding her we brought her up to speed and thus started the well rehearsed rituals of death in a Thai village. My wife has spent a fair amount of time over there, last night and today, but her mother is the real champ. She lives for these occasions and spends all day and sometimes late into the night doing all the things they do as a matter of course.  To be fair it is almost mandatory that one participate in all communal events in a village.

I took this occasion to try and sort out some of my wife’s extended family. This latest death turns out to be her grandmother’s niece who was around 69. With everyone having at least six or seven kids and all of them having six or seven kids, village families can get so large, that they can’t even keep them all straight. I have a hard enough time with the aunts and uncles.

Apparently my wife’s mother was one of seven kids and her deceased father was one of six. Of the thirteen I think there are ten left. As I mentioned in another posting all the grandparents departed in the last three years. Since I am roughly the same age as her parents that means I am also close in age to all her aunts and uncles. Fortunately most of them have a very hard time with Central Thai so we don’t have to deal with each-other very much. My wife also provides an effective buffer for me.

In the process of explaining who was who my wife got very descriptive of how poor people in the village were back when she was a kid. I had heard it before but I like the story of the one village TV, that was powered by a car battery, as there was no electricity. Twenty or thirty people, children and adults, would crowd into all the available space in a small wooden house leaving some to stand by the door or window to watch a tiny black and white TV. They had heard of color TV but had no concept of what it was, so tried to colorize their screen with see-through color strips. 

Apparently the house suffered greatly from all the stress and strain and needed to be repaired often. Sometimes people didn’t even have enough to eat and the only recourse was to go off into the jungle and find some jungle food or kill something. That lead to the occasional poaching of an animal that belonged to a neighbor who was better off.

My wife and I have previously discussed the particularly pragmatic, Thai view, of ethics and morals and have come to the following conclusion. Need, is usually seen to outweigh the concept of right and wrong. As example “I am not a liar, I only lie when I need to”. Often the Farang view of the world as (black or white, good or bad), is at odds with the Thai view, which to put it kindly, is much more flexible and creative.

That was yesterday, while today I spent exploring new trails on my bike and getting some much needed exercise. No two days are ever alike...


Ten years together and eight years married today. Who would have thought that possible, ten to twelve years ago? Certainly not anyone who knew me. A good friend just escaped being the target of this latest entry, being superseded by this auspicious day. So I am not using him and how he is dealing with a difficult adjustment back to a single life and all those things one does to cope.

To be fair finding or developing a good relationship is difficult no matter where you are. In Thailand it becomes a minefield of potential disasters. Given the right temperament cross cultural relationships can add multiple layers of enriching complexity and variety. Given the wrong temperament this can lead to endless confrontations and misunderstandings. Add to this mix, the fact that most Farang males speak little or no Thai and their partners are equally impaired linguistically. 

Often one or both are nursing wounds from a failed relationship and have illusions about the grass being greener on the other side. I’m sure there are those who would love to read some nice juicy stories of sex, lies, betrayal and deception. That, however, only feeds into the baser element of human nature, titillating our imagination. It reenforces those with a negative bias and is ignored by those who say it will never happen to me. Therefore, I would rather not get sidetracked by such lurid tales.

I can’t speak to the specifics of why other relationships succeed or fail. Sometimes the problem with relationships is too little knowledge or experience with the opposite sex, to be able to make an educated choice. Leaving everything to instinct, hormones and luck. With me, the opposite, was the more likely source of difficulty. I had lived here for 20 years, spoke the language and had excessive experience and knowledge. 

Single life had been good to me and my freedom and independence were highly valued. I had managed to cross Thai social class lines and got firsthand exposer to all levels of Thai society ranging from the social elite, some with royal linage and old established family names, celebrities, models, business and political leaders, and on the other extreme the lowest underbelly of Thai society. Some of them were gamblers, hit-men, drug dealers, godfathers, and of course the infamous prostitution and nightlife population. Too much knowledge can lead one to become cynical about the world but that can be good thing. With fewer illusions one is less likely to be victimized by others or fooled by our own delusions.

Fortunately beneath my outward persona there was still just a hint of the romantic that was looking for and ready for a special kind of companionship. I’m not at all sure that my wife was able to pick up on that or not. I would like to think she saw something beneath the surface that no one else could. Truth be told she was probably attracted to the “bad boy” thing and we both just got lucky.

I could give you details of how we make it work but those are the things that work for us, given what we individually bring to the table. The trick is not to copy what someone else has done but to trust our own inner voice and not settle for something that will not make us happy long term. A little introspection and a good long look in the mirror is of course the very least that one needs to do.

We are both more city than country people and did well living the city life and traveling. Traveling reminded us of how much we loved nature and started us looking for a more rural lifestyle. So here we are building our dream-house in a Northern Thai Village and our relationship continues to grow and flourish. It is not really a surprise to me. After the months we spent renting cars and driving the back roads to national parks and staying in hotels, while living out of a suitcase, showed me that we had a remarkable ability to help and support each-other without the conflict that one often hears of.

I think our age difference is a big plus in this case. Being younger and female the wife can fall victim to her hormones from time to time but has gotten much better at distinguishing where her moods or feelings might come from on a given day. I on the other hand, have a unique ability to look below the surface and not respond to what may manifest briefly when one is under stress. My calm, sure footed, nature can be irritating when looking for an emotional response but in the long term rubs off and leads to a much calmer and rational environment for decision making.

My wife would be the first to acknowledge my contribution to her growth and development. I, in turn, am surprised at how little I have had to do to create this environment and how her innate kindness and goodness has softened my harder edges. I am definitely happier, more fulfilled and content with my lot in life. If we were different people we might be competing or trying to establish dominance in our relationship. As it stands we have a synergistic relationship where we are better together than apart.

If I were to offer any relationship advice at all it would be to only enter into a relationship that makes your life better and makes you want to be a better person. If you have feelings about what you are giving up or sacrificing for the other person, instead of how much better they make your life then I would run for the nearest exit. In other words forget the resume and checklists of what you want in the ideal person. Look for someone who makes you a better person and someone that you bring out the best in. If you can find that then you will be able to sort out the details together.

Tri Trang Beach Resort Phuket

Do I hear cries of "where the heck is Tri Trang Beach"? Let me tell you about it. We just went that way a couple of weeks ago (see Tri Trang & Paradise Beach), and we have visited Tri Trang beach many times in the last 6 years. It's only a few kilometers from Patong, at the south end of Patong Bay, along the winding road past the Merlin Beach Resort, and yet somehow remains a hidden gem. There is one hotel on this beach - the Tri Trang Beach Resort. It looks good and I am assured that the rooms are big and the service is decent...but I have one word for you - location, location, location. This is pretty much a private beach given the lack of intrusion from other tourists, and yet you are just 10 minutes drive from the center of Patong for some crazee nightlife and all the food you can eat!

The room rates are not bad either, especially for low season - and this beach is more sheltered than many since it faces north, so big waves are not a problem. Tri Trang Beach is a place I can really recommend if you like a bit of seclusion but still close to the main tourist areas. But, shhh! Don't tell too many people about it! I think the reason that this beach stays quiet is that the access is via a small road that says "Tri Trang Beach Resort" so people assume it's private. In fact you can also just go there and use the beach and eat in the restaurant, but since people don't realise this, the beach near the hotel is all yours...

Tri Trang Beach Resort - Online Booking and Reviews

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Tri Trang Beach Resort Reviews at Agoda.com

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Tri Trang Beach Resort - view from restaurant Tri Trang Beach resort

Room at Tritrang beach resort TriTrang beach resort pool

Tri Trang Beach

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

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A "Green" Birthday...

For my birthday this year we planted 50 trees and a dozen or more flowering plants. The women did most of the work. That is, my wife and her mother and aunt. I did the heavy lifting, measuring and made sure everything ended up properly spaced, alined and aesthetically pleasing. The aunt dug most of the holes while my wife and her mother did the planting and fertilizing. We hire people for most jobs but sometimes you just want to get down and dirty.

It rained throughout the night so the ground was softer than normal and the sky was still overcast, at least for the morning hours. We were still in bed when a truck drove up with the delivery of 50 trees we had ordered but were not expecting on the day. We gave them directions to where to put the trees but of course they got it wrong and I had to haul them all over the site by hand.

We have been adding fruit trees a couple at a time and had grass planted on the slopes to stop the erosion. This was our first chance, however, to do a major planting along the sides of the property as some of the construction material has been cleared up recently.

Planting trees and growing things in general gives you a good feeling but aside from that there are many practical reasons. They look good, help demarcate the property line, provide some privacy, shade and windbreak and protect against erosion. Then there is the politically correct, global warming position, of planting trees as a counterbalance to our need to purchase a gas guzzling diesel pickup truck.

In our area the forest continues to be cut down and burned to grow other things that they think might make some money. It means they have to go much further to find their jungle food and things like bamboo and mushrooms. The wild animals that used to be in the area have long since disappeared or moved to safer environs.

The soil is also highly degraded from generations of monoculture rice farming. I don’t know that anything we do in the area will have a positive effect on the environment or on the lives of the local villagers but one can always hope and dream. In the very least we will try not to make things any worse than they already are.

Lest you get the wrong idea, I didn’t start out with the idea of planting trees to save the world or any thing so grand. It wasn’t a birthday gesture either. That is just the way it worked out and birthdays have never been much of a high point for me, anyway. Except for my wife writing me the most amazing birthday cards, that would make even the hardest guy melt, I could do without birthdays altogether.

The forties were great but the fifties have been hard work, as I become more aware of my limitations. I can’t say I like getting old or the effect it has on my body. My problems don’t come so much from sloth but from overdoing on the squash court. I took too much pride in playing more, longer and harder than the other guys who were usually much younger. Finally I went one injury too far.

That was when I turned 50 and it took a while to recover and find new exercise outlets. I don’t get the same physical rush from weight lifting, hiking, jogging or bike riding but I do get a real sense of inner peace and get to see some really pretty stuff. Much of what I still want to do and see in life requires that I stay fit enough to do it. 

Having a sport made exercise much easier for me. Now I am having those internal dialogs that I had heard about before. You know, all those excuses for why I can’t get it done today. Well I’m still a work in progress but like to think that I’m getting better and more consistent. I’m definitely still not where I want to be but I’ll get there, I hope.

Koh Sirey (Sirey Island)

Just to the east of Phuket Town, just a few kilometers from the center, past the fishing port and the Rassada pier (from where you catch the ferry to Phi Phi), you cross a short bridge to Koh Sirey (or Koh Siray if you prefer). Every now and then, we "take a drive" in this direction. We like to take drives and over the years have explored just about every road in Phuket! As you cross the bridge to Koh Siray you'll see fishing boats in the narrow channel between Phuket and Sirey island.

Siray Island, Fishing Port

Koh Siray Fishing Boats

The channel and the surrounding land are full of mangroves where you can spot monkeys most of the time. A "monkey seeing" viewpoint was set up a few years ago. It's a bit dirty and there are better places to see monkeys in Phuket like Monkey Hill or Bang Rong.

Monkey on Road!

Sirey Island is only about 20 square kilometers, and you can drive all around the island in half an hour. Much of the island is hilly and there are lots of rubber plantations. Around the coast there used to be small fishing villages, but development is catching up! There are a number of villas being built and some very big seaview houses around the shoreline. This has only recently been noticed as prime real estate. The Westin Siray Bay hotel opened a few years ago and is the only big hotel in the area. Some of the coastal views and quiet roads are fantastic.

Road on Sirey Island

View from Koh Sirey temple

Sea Gypsy Village

There are still sea gypsies (Chao Ley) on the island, and you can visit their village at Laem Tukkae (see photo above - view over the village as seen from Koh Sirey temple). The village suffered some damage in the 2004 tsunami and some new houses were built for them nearby, but as far as I can see the old village is now back to normal and the new houses that were built look terrible. There is a certain amount of old traditional sea gypsy life here. But do also expect to see 20 stalls selling shells. The few photos of the village on this page were taken back in 2004. One of these days I need to go take some new photos!

Making Fish Traps

Sea Gypsy Village, Phuket

We go for drives around Koh Sirey now and then. The views can be very nice and we really like the temple on the hill which features a big reclining Buddha statue (see more here : Koh Sirey Temple). The area is very quiet. There are a couple of local seafront restaurants that offer great views along with decent, inexpensive food. We went to "Haad Pleum Suk" a couple of times. The food is decent, the beach there is clean and with views to the east across the sea to Koh Yao Yai. If you're staying in Phuket Town, it's only 15 minutes to drive on a bike over to Koh Sirey and well worth the effort. I think another drive is due soon!

Beach at Koh Sirey Island near Phuket

Koh Siray (Koh Sirey) - Location Map

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Thai Driver’s License...

I got my Thai driver’s license today. It wasn’t the first time but was interesting nonetheless. You see the first time I got one was 25 years ago. In those days the process was not set up for Farangs so you found a guy in the parking lot who ran your paperwork for a fee and returned with the finished product after a bit of a wait. Then all you had to do was go back every year for a renewal. They moved office a couple of times over the years and in the end I was paying 105 baht for the renewal.

I let my license expire seven or eight years ago after I sold my last car. I had moved to a very central Bangkok location where things were so convenient that a car was more of a nuisance than convenience. Now it has become necessary to have private transportation again. Village life is remote enough without being at the mercy of others for transportation.

It took 3 trips to the local license office and a flight back to Bangkok to get my Hawaii driver’s license but I ended up with a 5 year Thai license for the cost of 550 baht. As usual different officials gave us different information on each visit. We did keep track of who said what so used that to our advantage in the end and did not have to take the written or driving test. They did test for color blindness, depth perception, reflexes and peripheral vision. After being told we would be there all day it only took about an hour or so. Now I will have the “pleasure” of trying to teach my wife to drive. Won’t that be fun!

The truck we ordered earlier got sold to someone else while I was trying to get my license. Now they say another should be sent up from Bangkok by the end of the month. So if lucky we should get it on my birthday or maybe our anniversary at the latest. Besides needing to shop around for things for the house, it would be nice to do some sightseeing and go visit friends in Chiang Mai.

Anyway, it is all part of our starting a new life up here in our Northern Thai Village. In my estimation moving or starting over in a new location is a great way to take stock of ones life. It is too easy to get set in our ways and become lazy, inflexible and intolerant. By starting from scratch in a new place the world becomes new again. We usually take our old problems with us but there is that off chance that we can reinvent ourselves.

Return flight to Chiang Rai..

Returning to Chiang Rai from Bangkok started out typically uneventful. Even had a normal delay of flight. Thought things were looking up when I found that I had an exit seat with business class leg room, right over the wing. When we finally got started I looked out the window and couldn’t take my eyes off the view for the rest of the flight.

In the outlaying areas of Bangkok the fields were reflecting the setting sun, like sheets of glass. Everything was perfectly rectangular and symmetrical. Heading North things soon got more jagged and uneven like pieces of broken mirror reflecting daggers of light back into my eyes. As we hit the forests things got very dark but everything was still sliced and bordered by ribbons on water large and small.

It wasn’t until we were on decent to Chiang Rai Airport that thing really got exciting. On final approach the rain started to gain force and the plane began pitching about like I had never experienced before. Suddenly something else I had never experienced. The pilot aborted the landing as the engines strained to get us back up to safer air.

The next forty minutes or so we spent on an amazing arial dance between the various thunderheads. Breaking through clouds to find still air and blue sky above, surrounded by billowing giants. The upper reaches looked soft and ethereal, belying the force that had kept us from landing. At times I could see all the way to our valley and see that it was still lit by the setting sun. The worst air was centered on the airport it seemed.

On one circle of the Chiang Rai area we flew so close to a mountain range that you could nearly make out the leaves on the trees. The flight was at the same time perhaps the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever experienced. As with all memories that are accompanied by strong emotion that flight will no doubt be seared into my brain much like skydiving with my wife in Hawaii.

Lucky for me my wife was waiting at the airport to pick me up. If she had been on that flight I doubt she would ever fly again. Needless to say we were very glad to see each-other. Believe me it had crossed my mind during that flight that it could be my last.

I’m not one to worry about things that I have absolutely no control over but for a moment I found myself taking stock of my life to date. Things return to normal ever so quickly but I find it inspirational to think back to the feelings I had on that flight to Chiang Rai.

Paradise Beach and Tri Trang Beach

Picture this...Patong Beach...crowds...tuk tuks...tailors...bars...McDonalds...jet skis...traffic... To put it mildly, not my favourite place in Phuket. And yet, just a few minutes away you can find a sort of paradise. Just head to the far south end of the beach, follow the road over the bridge and over the hill towards the Merlin Beach Resort, then go a bit further.

It looks like the road isn't really going anywhere, but keep the faith! On the right you will find the entrance to the Tri Trang Beach Resort, which may not sound all that interesting, but the beach is very nice, very uncrowded and yet within easy reach of a Big Mac and fries! The hotel looks decent - I think it would be a great place to stay (it's all about location) and there is the bizarrely named "Fine Thank" restaurant right by the beach.

View of Tri Trang beach from the road to Paradise Beach

Tri Trang Beach near the Tri Trang Beach resort

We didn't stop there for long on Saturday, just to take a couple of photos, though we have eaten in the restaurant before, and been to the beach many times in the past. A little further along the road is the other end of Tritrang beach, which also has a small restaurant, but it looks a bit worn and the beach not as nice. There has always been a steep dirt road that carries on over the hill. Finally this road has now been paved, and will lead you to "Paradise Beach". It's a narrow and twisty road. Sound your horn to warn any traffic that may be coming the other way and be aware that in places the road is just about wide enough for a car and nothing else.

I recall diving off Paradise beach several times a few years back. A "not bad" bit of reef considering the location. Plenty of fish, water not too murky. A line of buoys offshore marks the moorings. Longtails from Patong will bring people here for snorkeling. Being that this is the low season, Paradise beach was very quiet on Saturday. We sat and ate and drank and some people swam or snorkeled. No noise, a very peaceful place. I somehow forgot my snorkel gear, so I reckon we might go back next week!

Paradise Beach

It's not a big beach, but with blue waters, clean sand, nice boulders ("that's a nice boulder", said Donkey) and a view over the water. There's a small restaurant serving Thai or western food and not at rip off prices. They have snorkel gear and kayaks for rent. You can see part of Patong beach from there; well, more like Kalim really, but otherwise there is a remote feel to the beach and you can pretend that tourist central isn't just up the road. Yes, there are some beach chairs for rent at Paradise beach, but this is a lovely place to escape for a while.

Paradise Beach view

Kayak coming in to Paradise Beach

Note - this blog post was written back in 2007. Here's an updated post:

Paradise Beach near Patong
Suggested Hotels in the Patong Beach area