Back to the Beginning...


At least one reader has found me remiss in my role as the promulgator of these pages. He feels that I have not been forthcoming about how one goes about building a house in the middle of a rice field. Now I thought I had covered that on April 2 with “Preparing for the worst.” I understand that from the readers viewpoint it is easier to ask me to repeat myself than to forage through my earlier entries. Maybe this time I can do a better job of summing up the Beginning.

First we spent a couple of years searching for a location that fit all social, visual, romantic, environmental and practical requirements. Those of course will vary greatly from individual to individual. Lets just say we weighed everything (and I mean everything) very carefully. That included views, sun direction, wind patterns and privacy among other things.

We ended up on the fringes of my wife’s home village were we bought 5 Rai of land in my wife’s name since, I can’t own land in Thailand. Made sure all requisite paperwork was in order before signing on the dotted line. Took some time to visualize, what would go where, before finding a guy with back-hoes and dump-trucks to dig a BIG hole.

We went for a 1 Rai pond at 5 meters deep. What came out of that hole was spread 2 meters high over 2 Rai of the property and a road connecting us to the soi. We left it for most of a year to see what havoc the rains would reap. The erosion was about what we expected and we determined the need for additional topsoil and a reinforcing barrier to keep the dirt in place.

While the land settled, we were in Hawaii for 6 months and my wife worked on the design of the floor plan. Later, on our return to Thailand, we found an architect to help us flesh out the rest of the design and determine the structural specifications for what we had conjured up. Finding the contractor was as difficult as finding the architect but we got lucky with both.

After making sure that we were well above the flood line, a total of 32 pilings of 8 meter lengths were put in place to support a massive foundation designed to elevate us an addition meter above the surface of our land. Since then the process has been pretty normal for work in Thailand.

Where locals always ask how much, the Farangs often ask about a completion date and I respond, “Whenever it is finished.” We would rather have it done well than forced into a tight timeframe. We are living within a 5 minute walk of the house while it is being built and we are on site everyday except for our recent trips to Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The last trip to Bangkok was too long, and mistakes were made while we were gone, but they have all been rectified to date.

We chose a location that made connecting to the water mains and the power grid relatively easy. Only needed to cover the length of our 80 meter road and the distance on either end to make a connection. We set a budget for the house but with the knowledge there would be significant overruns. The quoted price of the house is misleading as one needs to consider land purchase, development and landscaping, interior decoration and furnishings. I also budgeted in the cost of the truck as we would need transportation which had been unnecessary while living in Bangkok the last 8 years.

I’d say that sums things up except for the most important element. I would never have been able to pull this off without first being in a long-term relationship with a truly remarkable young woman that I admire and trust and an even longer relationship with Thailand. We have allowed no input from family members and have relied entirely on our own counsel and the advice of professionals.

I have used a great deal of my own local knowledge and self knowledge in this process. If things end up badly, I have no one but myself to blame. If things go well, I plan to give full credit to my wonderful and loving wife for all she has done to design and supervise this project.

Change is a good thing...

It wasn’t a hard rain but it persisted throughout the night and well into the morning. Our workers are transported in the back of a pickup truck from a neighboring village, so when it is raining they take the day off. That left only the live-in couple, patiently and methodically laying those large Granito tiles in the living room. I loaded up my new camping chair, my camera, water and my Nano and spent the day sitting in the living room enjoying the views and watching the artisans at work. As soothing melodies wafted over me through my earbuds, I found myself thinking back on how we had gotten to this stage in the process.

There have been many changes along the way. The first major change took place only after the prefab concrete slabs were laid on our massive foundation. It was our first chance to walk through the physical space of the house. It was immediately apparent, to both of us, that the combination of the kitchen and living room area made for a remarkable space. It didn’t take long to realize the planned wall between them had to go. We had been thinking security in the design phase and wanted to separate the kitchen, one bedroom and a bathroom from the rest of the house. The idea being that someone could stay in that end of the house when we were out of town. Easy choice, out with the wall.

Some modifications took more thought and planning. The roof span looked a little scary so we put in additional support and then realized the planned ceiling material was still way too heavy. I mean it was 3 times as heave as the standard ceiling material. A little back and forth between the architect and the contractor and us, led to a change in materials. That left us with a pile of wood panelling with no planned use. We arrived at the idea of using it to panel the upper reaches of the living room walls. 

With nearly seven meters of height to work with we were able to create an unexpected but wonderful effect in our main living space. I also came up with the idea of a lighting box that will run the entire length of the room and divide the upper and lower sections. The clear view windows at the top of the wall were changed to glass blocks. Being on the South side they still provide diffused light to the room while being stronger and better insulating. The views out the living room and bedroom windows are good enough that I doubt we would have been looking up at a skylight very much anyway.

Change is often affected by circumstances beyond our control or simple mistakes made in planning or execution. Do you give up, completely redo it or find a way to make what you have work? We have no hard and fast rules but always seem to know what to do when change presents itself. It is all very much like the art of living. You dream, you plan, you prepare, you act. Some things go well somethings don’t. Opportunities present themselves and we make choices. Some good, some bad.

Some people are whiners and others are blamers. Others live and learn, grow and prosper, making the best of their options in life. No, life isn’t fair. People are not afforded equal portions of looks, intelligence, potential, money or opportunity. A good long look in the mirror, might help to establish a base point from which to develop realistic expectations. From what I have seen that is just too  harsh and rational for most people to deal with. We prefer to think that we can be or do anything in life, when in truth, reality is far more limiting.

As for the house, there have been far too many changes to count. Sure I would like to take more credit for how things are turning out. The main credit due, however, is our ability to deal with change. Many of the best aspects of the house were not planned per say. We adapted to the materials available and the circumstances that presented. So from my perspective change in a good thing...



Karon Beach

The Phuket blog has tended to steer clear of the main beaches in favour of quieter places, but since I work at Karon beach, I can make an exception! The 3 most developed beaches in Phuket are Patong beach (super crowded, though does have a few nice bits nearby like Tri Trang and Paradise beach and has some good hotels of course), Kata beach (quite relaxed, but most of the beach road is taken up with Club Med), and Karon, which is between the two and not bad at all. Let's talk about Karon Beach...

Karon Beach, Phuket

(above) Karon Beach

Most websites will tell you the same thing - Karon beach is Phuket's "second most developed" beach, but is quite spread out with many resorts along the beach road, generally does not feel too crowded, it much cleaner and neater than Patong and the sand is squeaky - I read this and thought "yeh, right", but the dry sand does squeak, it's true! The beach is long and open (if you want a pretty curving bay, then try Kata or Naiharn). In some places there is shade, in other places the beach is hot - but of course you can find beach chairs with umbrellas everywhere in the high season. Karon Beach is more than 3km from end to end.

My Karon Beach Hotel Recommendations
Full List of Karon Beach Hotels (at agoda.com)

Parasailing at Sunset, Karon Beach, Phuket

(above) Sunset parasailing at Karon Beach

Unlike parts of Patong, there is virtually no development right on the beach. For much of the length of Karon beach, there is a road, a path for walking, some greenery and a canal in between the beach and the hotels. Only hotels right on the beach are the Beyond Resort, Marina Phuket and Ruam Thep Inn (south end) and an odd little place called "In On The Beach" at the north end. The beach is quite green, the sand is clean and fine and from most hotels you are no more than a few minutes from the water. Just note one thing please - in low season, the waves here can be quite big. Every year people drown off the beaches in Phuket, and Karon is the worst - if you see big waves and red flags, please use your hotel pool for swimming, thanks.

Karon Beach. Perfect Morning.

(above) Calm clear waters at Karon Beach in the high season (photo taken in March 2012)

Karon beach is about an hour from the airport, 15 minutes from Patong or 10 minutes from Chalong Jetty. If you like a quiet beach, but some nightlife, Karon is ideal - you can head into Patong in the night - Karon has a few bars, but nothing serious. It does tend to be more of a family beach, and the accommodation reflects this. Most of the beach road is taken up with resorts - some huge like the Hilton or Thavorn Beach resort, some a bit smaller like Karon Princess or Karonburi. Cross the road and you're at the beach! Off the beach road there is a profusion of small hotels and guesthouses like Karon Place, Bamboo House, Casa Brazil, Pineapple Guesthouse - many, many options and all just a few minutes from the beach. Just about any kind of room you want can be found around Karon - from 200 Baht dorm rooms to 5 star luxury. Some hotel links at the end of this page, or I suggest that you check Agoda.com for lots of hotel information and rates or look at my suggested Karon beach hotels.

This way to the beach (at Karon Beach, Phuket)

(above) The beach is easy to find :)

Similarly, there are plenty of eating options around Karon beach. The resorts have some nice restaurants, there are steakhouses like Buffalo Steakhouse or Angus O'Tools, there is seafood galore and also many small family restaurants for Thai food. If you want good, cheap local food get off the beach road and look along "Patak Road" (the back road), where you can find where the locals eat.. yes, there are locals here - fishing folk mostly, and you still see fishermen at the beach, or longtail boats going out fishing. These days, many of the local families now run guesthouses or restaurants rather than relying totally on fishing for a living.

Karon Circle at the north end of the beach road features a large statue depicting local people involved in the four main traditional industries of Phuket – farming, rubber, fishing and tin mining. Tin made Phuket rich (try to visit the Tin mining museum), fishing continues to be important (I suggest you check out the fishing port on the east side of Phuket town on the way to Koh Sirey) and many areas of Phuket are still covered with rubber plantations, including in the hills above Karon.

Statue at Karon Circle

(above) Statue on Karon circle

Monk at Karon Temple

(above) Monk at Karon Temple

Karon has no single "center" really. There is the area near the circle (north end of the beach) which is most developed and has several quieter side streets with lots of small hotels and restaurants, and there is the area around Karon Plaza near the Phuket Orchid resort (south end of the beach) which also has many guesthouses and places to eat and is only 10 minutes walk from Kata beach too. The Aroona Karon area about half way along the beach is nice and features the Old Phuket Hotel.

Karon Beach is a nice place to stay. Developed, yes, but it has been done quite neatly, certainly if compared to Patong. Accommodation for everyone from luxury seekers to backpackers, and a great base for exploring Phuket. Lots of cars and bikes for rent enabling you to go and check out other beaches nearby (Kata, Naiharn, Rawai) or places like Karon Viewpoint (from where you can see Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches - see below), Phromthep Cape, Chalong Temple and much more!

Sunset at Phuket Viewpoint

(above) Karon Viewpoint

More Karon Beach Information

Sunrise Divers - PADI Dive Center
Karon Temple
Karon Temple Market (Tuesday and Saturday)
Karon Beach Hotels

Some Recommended Accommodation @ Karon Beach

Centara Grand Beach Resort
Old Phuket Hotel
CC Hideaway Hotel
Pacific Club Resort
Marina Phuket Resort
Pineapple Guesthouse
Karon Princess
Phuket Island View

Return Trip ... Bangkok to Chiang Rai

Door to door, 814 kilometers in 10 hours. I knocked off one full hour on the return trip yesterday. Maybe I was just that much more anxious, to get home and out of the big city. I really enjoy the stretch through the forest on highway 103. Almost as much as I dislike those rough stretches on highway 11. It is a real show, however.

Drivers weaving left and right in a vain effort to avoid the punishing road conditions. Drivers in the opposing lane forced off the road to avoid head on collisions with those single minded drivers, determined to pass on blind curves or dodge potholes. One van was spending much time on the asphalt shoulder while a big bus was straddling the center line. So I had the pleasure of dealing with the gaping holes in the road as well as the slalom like maneuvers of the other drivers.

The truck was much heavier on the way back and it made the ride much smoother! That is probably common knowledge to most truck owners but was a new experience for me. We brought back many household items that might not survive a shipping company, more clothes and all the stuff we bought for the house. Bangkok Home Pro is nothing like Home Mart in Chiang Rai.

The original idea was to flip the back seat up and fill the cab from floor to ceiling with things that needed to stay dry. The rest would be relegated to the relatively short bed of our 4 door truck. Did you notice that I said, original idea? In typical Thai fashion, someone invited themselves to a free ride home. Since it was my wife’s sister, I knew better than to make too big a deal out of it. My wife doesn’t allow her family to impose on me much so I figure if she wants her sister to have a chance to ride in the new truck, then I can be man enough to go with the flow.

I don’t let things slide completely, however, so I pointed out how it was going to modify our packing and hauling plans considerably and add to my driving stress. We (my wife) adjusted by getting a new cover and some more plastic bags to assure that nothing in the back would be ruined by the rain. Wouldn’t you know it? It hardly even sprinkled and it made me look like a big wuss, a worrier and anti family. Being me, however, I would rather be over prepared than to be caught with my pants down, so to speak. Afterward I dutifully acknowledged that she had been right and I was just a big worry wort.

We arrived home around sunset and headed to the house site, first thing. True to form they had managed to screw things up while we were gone. My wife was very upset and had a fitful nights sleep. I figure these things happen and you simply sort them out. Does no good telling her that though. That doesn’t keep me from trying, however. In the end I simply try to comfort her and not add to her stress level. This morning she called the contractor and seems to be feeling better after expressing her disappointment. I assured her that everything will work out, just like with all the other little changes and modifications we have made.

She tries so hard to make everything perfect and puts way too much pressure on herself, sometimes. I never, give her a hard time, about anything and try to be supportive and understanding and reinforce her many gifts. Indirectly, however, I do add to her stress level by setting a rather high standard. She will struggle with something and only come to me when she figures it can’t be done. Then I usually sort it out with such ease that I’m sure it must be difficult for her on some level.

She proudly and affectionately, acknowledges her husbands “big brain” (as she calls it) and ability to understand and fix things. See thanks me for sharing and teaching her so much about life but that doesn’t stop her feeling irritated with me at the same time. I can understand her feelings well and honestly don’t know if I could handle “me” as well as she does.

Anyway it is good to be home and I am very sure the wife won’t be going anywhere else until all the work on the house is finished.

Below are a few Bangkok views I call looking for green in the city.









Road Trip...Chiang Rai to Bangkok

Door to door, 814 kilometers in 11 hours. I Googled the route to find a back way out of the village without having to go through town. According to my odometer, Google and I only had about a 10 kilometer and one hour difference of opinion. They said 825 @ 12 hours. The five car pileup on Rangsit did bring us to a stop for a while or our time would have been better. We had a few bad spells of rain where we couldn’t see anything and slowed to a crawl with headlights, fog-lights and warning lights on full, to be seen and not hit.

Most of the route was better than I remembered. Last time was maybe 8 years ago. Some stretches of Highway 11 were terrible, however. The concrete is all broken up and they have tried to put a little asphalt into the gaps. The two materials don’t work well together and it seems to make things worse. The big tires helped some on those sections but it was still very rough.

I refuse to drive in the city so the truck is parked until we pack things up to return to the village. It is good to see friends and shop and eat in restaurants and check on the condo. After facials, massage, sauna and jacuzzi at the health club, lots of shopping, a movie in those big recliner chairs at Paragon and visiting friends and family we are starting to tire of the city. The truth is we miss the countryside. We worry about the house and dogs so I’m sure we will be out of here, soon as we can.

We do have a few more things to get done but are making progress. In the midst of all this I have been revisiting “the struggle” and trying a different take on it. With regards to blogging I figure there are 4 basic types of people. Those who read and write blogs, those who read only, those who write only and those who have little or no interest at all in blogs. I fit neatly into the write only category. When people make comments, I will, out of respect and guilt go read their blogs or have a look at their websites.

The truth is I stopped reading anything having to do with Thailand many years ago. There just isn’t anything out there that doesn’t rehash what I already know or have experienced myself. I can’t generate much interest in reruns, so to speak. I guess there are people out there who are stuck in a rut and continue to read about the same thing their whole lives. Like the guy who is fixated on war or a nationalistic view of history and reads and rereads books and articles that support his views. Their are also people who are looking for someone to lead or guide them through life. They often fall victim to unscrupulous gurus and charlatans, who are more than willing to shepherd the sheep of the world.

The challenge for me is to find something of interest that is new to me. Even more difficult for me is to find people who I can respect or find interesting in some way. I don’t fit neatly into any standard group or category of people. As I have stated before, I have no need for or interest in religions, gods, magic or vices. My wife and I are not violent or aggressive, don’t smoke, drink, gamble, swear or compete with others. We are faithful to each other and don’t fight or have fits of anger.

Due to age and experience I do take the mentoring role in our relationship. She has a great deal of freedom and responsibility in our relationship, however, and I take great pride in her accomplishments. She is a great companion and there is still a good portion of lust after 10 years. In comparison most people we meet fall far short. As for lifestyle we probably have more in common with the more religious but find their dependence on their beliefs and evangelical nature a bit tedious.

So why would anyone read my blog? Who would be looking for it to begin with? The answer seems rather obvious when I look at the question, now. So what to do? I find writing this a good mental exercise while living in such a remote location. It is also quite therapeutic and cathartic to write things down and there is a belief that family and friends might have a look from time to time to see what is going on in our lives. There is also, I guess, the hope that one day a kindred spirit might happen upon my ramblings...

Buying a House in Phuket - Real Estate in Phuket

I have been living in Phuket since 1999, and after a couple of years renting several apartments and houses, then starting a family it was time to buy a house. We (my wife and I) already knew the areas we liked in Phuket and spent many days driving around looking at houses for sale and even went to a house auction for repossessed properties! Since we have a family, we had to compromise on location - a hillside villa is not idea when a toddler might decide to crawl off the balcony, and although we liked the Rawai / Naiharn area, we though it was just a little remote. We were already living in the Kathu area which is close to Phuket town, close to hospitals, close to shopping and markets, close to golf courses (if you like golf) etc.. so that was where we ended up buying our house.

Phuket is a great place to live. I don't write this blog for a living, I write it because I really like Phuket! We like living here and after many years in our own house we feel very comfortable. Phuket has a local life, great food, festivals and traditions, and also has the tourist scene. You can get just about anything you need here. You can live close to the "action" or you can live off the beaten track. Up to You - it's all out there waiting.

Siam Real Estate

Want to live in Phuket? Contact Siam Real Estate

I have met Richard, the owner of Siam Real Estate, a couple of times socially. Enough time to have a chat about land and houses and prices - he talks straight, doesn't try to bull**it anyone and has an experienced business brain. He has worked hard and Siam Real Estate is now one of the largest companies on the island. If you want advice about buying a house - I'd say that's the place to go.

Buying a House in Phuket - Useful Links

Siam Real Estate - Contact Information
Buying a Property - why choose Siam Real Estate? (apart from the fact that I recommend them!)
Siam Real Estate - Home Page

New Property
Luxury Property in Phuket
Condos and Apartments
Villas and Houses
Current Phuket Special Offers

Phuket Real Estate - Frequently Asked Questions
Legal Advice for Buyers

Villa and Condo Rentals (often a better deal than a hotel!)

Holiday Rentals in Phuket
Long Term Rentals in Phuket

If you have visited Phuket and are thinking of renting or buying a house here - either to retire, or just to use as a holiday home, there are so many options you may not know where to start. You are welcome to contact me - please leave a message on my Facebook Page - I'll answer your message or I can forward your email to Siam Real Estate so they can contact you (I mean, I know Phuket very well, but they know rather more than me about houses!). Check some of the links above to Siam Real Estate web site allowing you to explore different areas of Phuket and look for that ideal dream house!

Siam Real Estate have also introduced a couple of very nice offers to help you to buy in Thailand during these "uncertain economic times" - see the links below for details:

Airfare Refund Offer
Financing

Last word of advice - take your time looking at houses - Phuket is a big place and there are hundreds upon hundreds of houses for sale. The house you are looking for is probably here somewhere!

More Useful Info on Jamie's Phuket Blog

Jamie's Recommended Phuket Hotels
Phuket Beaches
Phuket Tours - Book with My Friends!

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?