Phuket Merlin Beach Resort

The Phuket Merlin Beach Resort is almost in Patong Beach, but not quite. The location is off a side road to the South end of Patong, past the Baan Yin Dee Boutique Resort and heading towards Paradise Beach. It's easy enough to find, but not too many people head this way. This is an area we like and I have already recommended the Tri Trang Beach Resort on this blog.

I just decided today to blog the Merlin Beach Resort, as a customer came in to book diving and was raving about the place. It IS a big resort, with more than 400 rooms and does get large travel agent bookings, yet due to it's secluded location does not feel like part of the main tourist scene. The resort has several restaurants, tennis courts, 3 pools, a spa, a gym, a beauty salon - all that you'd expect from a quality resort.

But the attraction for me (as usual) is the location - Merlin Beach Resort is on it's own beach - which they say is called Tri Trang Beach, although that is also the name of the beach where you find nearby Tri Trang beach resort. The Merlin Beach faces south, the Tri Trang Beach resort faces North. The 2 hotels are not on the same beach... But hey, it's a private beach, located near Patong (near enough to get there in 10 minutes, but far enough to be very quiet) - great location.

Phuket Merlin Beach Resort - Booking and Reviews

Merlin Beach Resort Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
Merlin Beach Resort Reviews

More Patong Beach Hotels

Merlin Beach Resort - Photos

 

 


Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

Jamie's Phuket Hotel Recommendations
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016
Book Phuket Hotels at Agoda.com

Driving In Thailand



Early on I used public transport of every kind. I was very young and it gave me a better view of how “city” Thais lived. They didn’t have motorcycle taxis back then, but you could still hang on the outside of a bus, if you were in need of an adrenaline rush. When the bus was full all you needed was enough space for a foot on the bottom step and a hand hold on the railing. At each stop you could put one foot on the ground but not two as that would put you in danger of losing your spot. Over the years several people got scraped off the sides of busses and the authorities decided it didn’t look good.

Eventually I got a car and mastered the Bangkok demolition derby. After years of driving I moved to a more central location so I could live without a car again. Living near the Skytrain made it easy to get around. I was quite happy living without a vehicle for the last several years but all that changed when we started our house project. In Bangkok it is actually easier without a car but up here it is very difficult to exist without transportation. Driving in Thailand is not for the faint of heart, no matter where you live. Driving upcountry is, however, much different from Bangkok.

The country roads are often in need of repair so you must watch out for potholes. You also share the road with motorcycles, bicycles, various farm equipment and animals, dogs, children and old people. People build right next to the road, so often use the road directly in front of their houses, as an extension of their living area. Village dogs will glare at you incredulously as you attempt to drive through their space and are slow to move out of the way.

Local drivers seem to have learned their driving skills by watching Hollywood chase scenes on TV. It is not uncommon to approach a corner to find the guy coming from the other direction has preempted your lane in his attempt to maintain a proper racing line through the apex of the turn. Passing, it appears, is best done on blind turns or hills with double yellow lines. The rule seems to be that the passer has the right of way and all others must pull off to the side of the road to let him continue in any lane he chooses.

Keeping all this in mind, we decided to take the new truck on a shopping trip to Chiang Mai. It took us a little more than three and a half hours and a great deal of agility to get there. We were looking for light fixtures for the house and by the time we were finished the back seat was full, from floor to ceiling, and the back of the truck was overflowing. I had never driven a full truck before and found it a little unnerving, not being able to see out the rearview mirror.

The heaviest item was the 55 meters of underground cable required for our 3 phase electrical system. The last item to be squeezed in was the TV that we received as a free bonus for spending so much money that day. One reason for the expense was that we ordered a couple of beds for future delivery. We have no place for them right now. They were the same kind we sleep on in Bangkok and were unavailable in Chiang Rai. My wife’s relatives seem to be able to sleep anywhere and under any conditions. The same can’t be said of us, however. Alas we are spoiled and need our comfort.

The plan had been to spend a couple of nights in Chiang Mai and enjoy each others company but by the middle of the second day there was no more space in the truck and we were afraid to park it anyplace overnight. We did manage to stop by and visit a friend for a couple of hours before driving home the second evening but ended up not doing any sightseeing or relaxing. Next time we will have to remember to do things differently.

We have tried to go on some sightseeing drives closer to home but have found that some of those great signs for waterfalls and cultural sights are nothing but a dead end. Things either didn’t workout or haven’t been completed yet. We did win on one drive, however. From our village one can see a road going almost straight up our nearby mountain range. My wife has looked at those mountains all her life and never been to the top before.

The road is extremely steep but as we reached the ridge line at the top, a mere 20 kilometers from home, it felt like entering another world. The views were spectacular in both directions, back down into our valley and across the next valley toward another mountain range famous as the home of Phu Chi Fa. The hill tribe village located at the top didn’t feel very Thai at all. My wife observed that it felt very much like some of our overseas travels, like a foreign country.

In-spite of everything I much prefer driving upcountry to driving in Bangkok. It takes 50 minutes or so to get to town up here but it can take you that long to travel a couple of blocks in Bangkok. There are trees, mountains and rivers everywhere and it is so green this time of year. The views are great and the pace of life is much more to my liking. In a few more months our living environment will improve too, as the house edges nearer to completion.




THANKS and Floods...



It was really nice to hear from some of you. So first of all I want to say THANKS. I seem to get a different level of response depending on where the blog is published and I find the whys for that interesting to contemplate.

Sometimes I think I should change the concept to “How it feels to build a house in a Northern Thai Village.” Most guys seem to be into numbers and specs. That is just how their minds work. They want to know how “big” your dump-truck is, how many cubic meters of this, how many square meters of that, the gauge of the window glass or re-bar, the cost specs, and where to buy what. Some of you have accepted that this is not an instruction manual that I am presenting here. It is more of a window into life in general, away from the bars and nightlife of Thailand, and specifically into my life which is unique in itself.

No two people will ever have the exact same life experience here in Thailand, though you can gain insights by looking at others lives. There are just too many variables at work to follow in somebody else's footsteps. For me an important factor was coming here at such a young age. The opportunities afforded to someone in their twenties are different from those available to someone who discovers Thailand in their fifties or sixties, for example. That is just common sense, but something people often overlook.

Who you are, as a person, will elicit very different responses from the local population as well as where you end up living. Regional differences can be great but even different areas of the same town or city can vary in their livability and the way you will be treated by those around you. Again this is all common sense stuff, that is sometimes overlooked, when in the blush of newness and infatuation, with a new place and culture.

I suppose I should say something about the house at this point. Night before last it started raining around 7 or 8 p.m.. No, that is too tame. The heavens opened in a torrential downpour to the accompaniment of a dramatic light-show. The din of thunder resonated along the mountain range for what seemed like minutes at a time. After the initial thunder storm there was a bit of calm before a more persistent rain settled in for an all night session. If you have ever spent a night in a village house you will understand why we got little sleep that night. You can hear every drop of rain on the roof. The sound is then amplified as the water cascades off the roof to the ground outside your window. This is in addition to the normal sounds of dogs, chickens, frogs and insects, some of which can be quite deafening. Of course we won’t have that problem with the new house but that is still a few months off.

In the morning the whole village awoke to an amazing sight. Where there had been lush green rice-fields there was now nothing but water. We seemed to be living in a lake. I got to try out my new knee-high rubber boots on the trek over to the house site. My wife’s boots were not as high as mine and filled with water on the way over. We visited with many neighbors standing out in the flooded sois of the village. In typical village form many of them were already out with their nets trying to catch fish. Sure they were worried about the survival of their rice crop, but no use passing up a good opportunity to go fishing in your own back yard.

The highway stayed above flood level and our little road and house are higher than the highway, so we were OK. Might want to add a little more height to our road and put a better surface on it at some later date. A truck delivering ceiling material had to drive around to one of the other sois to gain access to our road, but that worked just fine.

We checked on the tilers (husband and wife team) who are living in the house as they do their tile work. They had not gotten wet at all. They quite like living in our house. Especially during the full moon, when they say it is absolutely beautiful at night, surrounded by the fields and mountains in the distance. Noticed that our pond had become part of a much bigger lake and there was little sign of where the boarders might be. If we actually want to raise fish then we will have to do something more about defining the boundaries of the pond.

Afterwards we sloshed around the village visiting people who had it much worse than us. One family is visiting for a few weeks from Hong Kong and their house and their neighbor’s had about a foot or more of water inside their houses. As my wife sat with several other women, in plastic chairs on their flooded front stoop, I waded off to take pictures of what is usually a road. On this occasion one side had turned into a waterfall as the water rushed across the road and cascaded down the other side. I hope they didn’t take offense to my jesting about them living next to a waterfall and how lucky they were. People around here seem to handle this stuff pretty well, considering they don’t have a lot to begin with.

Today things are pretty much back to normal. A little cleaning up was necessary, but then again not too much time was spent on that, as you can expect of bumper crop of mushrooms, off in the jungle, after a good rain...

TripAdvisor Phuket

As an aside from my normal tales of "where we went last weekend" I just want to make a quick post to highlight a very useful website for planning a trip to Phuket - probably most people already know about TripAdvisor.com, but on this page you can find links to the most useful and relevant pages on the site relating to Phuket.

On TripAdvisor you can find hotel and holiday reviews by real travelers (well, there's plenty of talk about fake reviews too), not paid reviewers, so reviews are not always 100% positive! It does help to have a balanced view before making a booking. This web site is not a travel brochure where the sun always shines and every detail is perfect, though there is of course advertising on the site to keep it profitable. There is also a useful forum where you can ask questions (and give answers). You can find maps, vacation package deals and flight information too.

So, here are some links direct to the pages that relate to Phuket...

TripAdvisor.com Phuket

Phuket Overview
Phuket Forums (I'm on there sometimes!)
Flights to Phuket
Phuket Deals
Phuket Attractions
Phuket Discount Hotels

A trip to Phuket Zoo

Update - this blog post is from 2007. There's a new post about Phuket zoo here:

Phuket Zoo - Should You Visit? (2013)


We have of course been to the zoo before, and I have blogged it before, but when you have kids you need to think of something exciting to do! With previous weekends either raining or taken up with birthday parties, we promised the little 'uns that we'd go on Saturday (if it was sunny). The sun duly shone, and so we could go to see the tiger, the elephants, the crocodiles and many other great and wondrous beasts...

Twocan Toucan

Kids are friends, not food

Phuket Zoo is a great attraction for local residents since the entry fee for residents is only 80 Baht for adults and 50 Baht for kids. So we are happy to come again! Note that if you are a tourist the fees are considerably higher.

Phuket Zoo Map

Scary bird!

It was a hot day on Saturday, and the zoo always seems hot since it's full of trees and rather humid with little in the way of cooling breezes. Thus you are bound to part with a little more money to buy a drink or ice cream :)

Now, I am not a zoo fan in general. Some of the animals seem happy enough - the elephants look happy when playing basketball, the deer and birds look jolly, but some animals such as the leopard, which paces back and forth in a bare cage, I do feel sorry for.

Not a happy leopard at all

The kids of course are excited to see the animals. We made a bee line for the tiger, who was rather dopey. A tourist kid sat with the tiger while his dad took photos. The tiger keeper (a one armed man) poked the tiger with a stick, making him growl and bare his teeth. Would I let my kid sit next to a pissed off tiger? Er.. no.

Yawn..what do you want? Can I get chips with this?

The growling rather scared my 2 year old, so we went to find crocodiles instead (yeh, not at all scary). Then we stopped at the elephant show for a while. The viewing stand was packed full (and this is low season!), so we stood just outside for a while and watched elephant races and elephants standing on two legs and elephants playing basketball.

Elephant show at Phuket Zoo

Slam Dunk!

Huge crowds watch the elephant show

Painted by Eduard Monelephant

The zoo has lots of smaller animals too, such as monkeys, a huge variety of birds, snakes, a small but refreshingly cool airconditioned aquarium, plus deer, camels and (wow!) goats (which my kids enjoyed feeding with bananas). There is also a very nice orchid garden (I do like orchids).

Orchid

Orchid

Deer at Phuket Zoo

If you wanted to see all the shows at Phuket Zoo (elephant, monkey, crocodile) and all the animals you can easily spend a few hours there. We tend to dash around in an hour and head home. Since we are paying local rate we are not so worried about getting our money's worth.

Please can I get out?

Note (added 2012). This blog post was from 2007. I've not been to the zoo again for several years now, and unless it's had a big facelift and unless the animals are now much better looked after, can't really recommend it.

Phuket Zoo - Location Map


View Phuket Zoo in a larger map

The Struggle...

As of late I have been struggling with the whole idea of blogging. Not that there hasn’t been plenty to write about. My wife had her birthday, a couple of flood events, a friend visiting in Chiang Rai, some sightseeing, some great bike rides and resulting pictures, several rejections and changes in materials and colors, of deliveries for the house. Even got our license plates for the truck, which will mean a run on lottery tickets with all variations of the numbers there in.

Then what is my problem? So... if there is plenty to write about... maybe that is my problem. I guess I have been remembering the distain I once held for writing about life or reading about it instead of going out there and living life to the fullest. I’ve lost track of all the times people told me I should write a book about my experiences in Thailand. My reply was invariable that I was too busy living, moving forward, experiencing life, to look back at where I had been or what I had done. Selfishly I guess I felt it was my life and my experience, and I somehow owned it and didn’t want to share it with just anybody.

Now I find myself writing a blog and wondering why? I think we have established that I am not bored, with nothing else to do. I have wondered if it might be age related. Maybe I’m getting old and sensing that I am nearer the end of my life than the beginning. Could that lead me to want to remember and want to start recording things?

Perhaps I’m just trying out something new? Trying to keep up with the times and learn about this new blogging phenomenon. After all I have already learned how to use a computer, explored digital photography, created a website and now blogging seems to make sense, as the next thing to try.

Thought it might be, living off in the middle of nowhere, with no ex-pat companionship but that thought didn’t last long. Definitely not me!

Maybe I thought it would be a good way to share my life in a foreign land with my relatives and friends back home. But then again, would any of them be interested in reading it? If not them, then who? Would anybody want to read what I write? Anyone who had a life of their own should be out living it and not sitting around reading about mine.

Who does that leave? Maybe the dreamers who believe that one day they too will be living in a foreign land, speaking a foreign language and experiencing an exotic and romantic lifestyle. Most dreamers remain in the dream phase and only a few of them actually make it a reality. Don’t get me wrong, dreaming is not a bad thing. It can keep us going when things in the real world are not that great.

Maybe that leaves the new guy who just made the move and is wondering if he has made a mistake or not? Reality might not be living up to the dream expectations. Perhaps there is a fear that something was overlooked and that researching other’s experiences might give insight into what went wrong and how to get things back on track to fulfilling the dream.

In the end you watch the hit-counter role over and wonder if each number is a real person or just a search-engine crawling your site. Did the person actually read what you wrote or get bored and quickly click onto another page as people are wont to do on the internet? Why don’t they comment? Did they not like what you wrote? What was their response? What did they think or feel?

Then it struck me. Maybe the writing isn’t just, by me and about me, but also for me. Maybe like most things in life it is all about the process or the journey and not about the destination? Not about the final product and whether anyone reads it or not. But then why put it out there on the web in the first place?

Every possible answer begs another question. I seem to be full of questions today and short on answers. Who, what did they think, why? Maybe more importantly, who cares...does it even matter?

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

Suggested Hotels in Karon Beach
Karon Beach Guide

Mama Noi Location Map


View Mama Noi Restaurant, Karon Beach, Phuket in a larger map

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...

Anniversary...

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.