Fresh flowers on our Buddha Shelf

Just about every house in Thailand will have a "Buddha Shelf", a personal shrine where prayers can be said, a mini temple in your own front room. Everyone's shrine is different, featuring images that are important personally. Our Buddha shelf does not actually have a Buddha image on it - the central figure is a statue of King Rama V (King Chulalongkorn).

King Rama V image on our Buddha Shelf

December 5th was the 80th Birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, an ideal day to clean our Buddha shelf, change the flowers and say a prayer. Some people change the flowers weekly, we tend to be a little less diligent. The old flowers were not looking great this time ...

Old flowers More old flowers

King Rama V needs pink roses, which were his favourite flowers. You'll find flower shops all over Phuket, indeed all over Thailand... all selling flowers for Buddha..roses and garlands just for the thousands, maybe millions of Buddha shelves all over the country.

Pink roses More new flowers for our shrine

With the shelf clean, fresh flowers in place and a fresh glass of water, next step is to light the candles and incense and say a prayer.

Putting candles on the Buddha shelf A prayer

The Buddha shelf is an important part of the home. Some houses have a shelf collection and many different Buddha images or statues of Kings. We do try to look after ours and it always looks great with new flowers and after a spring clean. The room looks brighter and fresher...

Buddha shelf close up

Our Buddha shelf

Mediocrity Revisited ...

After my post on Mediocrity I received a long email from an old friend on mine, back home. My ramblings seemed to touch a cord with him, especially the line “Thinking about consequences and being responsible is far too tedious.” Most of what he wrote was far too personal to be shared in these pages. Some of it referenced things I had previously shared about my sibling relationship. To paraphrase, his main observation in the end was that, from a social science standpoint, he found it fascinating that the differences in human nature really are not all that great when contrasted with the Thai village and my wife’s brother and sister, and the so-called more advanced "industrialized" nation of America in the case of his sibling sitting in the suburbs of a US city. He felt it was helpful and reinforcing in the end to be able to compare his situation to mine.

Perhaps one reason we have remained friends despite distance and age, is our ability to share ideas, thoughts and feelings. I do not feel it is necessary to share the same beliefs, background or locale. Simply being able to open up to another human being and share in the give and take of ideas, whether or not we agree, seems like it should be a simple enough thing. All too often, however, people’s beliefs are so ridged and their egos so fragile that even the slightest variance from standard deviation, will be met with outrage, anger or even violence.

As for my friend’s observation that it is helpful to compare and contrast things, I find that especially true and unavoidable living in the village. When much of what you take for granted is disregarded or incomprehensible to those who live around you, it can be disconcerting. On the other hand, it can lead to greater insight, understanding and self awareness.

Families are never perfect and the relationships, therein, are seldom what we would wish them to be. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you live in a village or city. If your family is too close and controlling, and in your face about your every move, you may wish for more freedom and understanding. If on the other extreme, they are too distant and uncommunicative, you may long for a more close knit and caring family.

On the rare occasion when I have been approached by a young relative as to why our family is the way it is, my reply is usually the following. Nobody has perfect parents or families and more often than not we succeed in spite of them, not because of them. We are not responsible for choosing our families. That fate was forced upon us.

Who we choose to let into our inner circle throughout out lives is a completely different story. Choose wisely and life can be a wonderful blessing. Make poor choices and find yourself in a never ending quagmire of burden and suffering. It is best in my opinion to dwell less on where we come from and more on where we are going. If our families care to join us on our journeys and contribute constructively, that’s great. If they are negative, complaining and try to hold us back then they should be let off the bus.

For an update on the little boy in our care, he is doing well. His parents came to the village during the recent holiday for the King’s Birthday. I don’t usually get involved in family matters but this time my wife asked me to back her up and contribute in a discussion about the future with her brother and his wife. We sat on the sofa discussing responsibility, consequences, alternatives and ways of weighing the plusses and minuses of living in Bangkok or the village. There was no rush to conclusion. The tone was more, food for thought and planting seeds, that may or may not grow to fruition. Some people you can help, but it is yet to be seen if her brother is one of those. He seems too much like his father for my liking but perhaps...

The Beach Bar is Back!

December 2007 : We first found "The Beach Bar" about a year ago and it quickly became a favourite place to eat, drink and just... chill. Finding a place to truly "chill" in Phuket is a bit tricky, but you can do it! The Beach Bar is a little restaurant on the east side of Chalong Bay, down Cape Panwa way. Just follow the signs to the Panwa Beach Resort and you'll find it.

Beach is NOT crowded!

Panwa has long been a favourite area and last year I was very happy to find a place here right on the beach, with cheap tasty food, friendly people, great views, a safe beach for the kids to play... The Beach Bar. Sadly it was closed all low season and we wondered if it would open again, and then last week we took a drive to check. Hoorah!

The Beach Bar Sweeping the beach

Another little bar a few meters from The Beach Bar View from The Beach Bar

It has actually moved about 20m closer to the Novotel, leaving some half-knocked-down walls next door. Yeh, not 100% pure paradise, but we like it and this is my blog! The family who run the place are very friendly, the food is tasty, beer is cold and the view across Chalong Bay is great, especially for sunsets. The Beach Bar is very much "the other Phuket" away from the crowded beaches and jet skis and tailors. Don't be surprised to see us here next weekend too...

Update - here's a more up to date blog page about the Beach Bar :

The Beach Bar @ Cape Panwa

Sunset across Chalong Bay (near the Beach Bar) Sunset at The Beach Bar

More about the Cape Panwa area...

Phuket Aquarium
Panwa Beach Resort
Khao Kad Viewpoint

Dog, Fog, and House ...


Previously I wrote in, Puppy Love, about my hopes for the future of our yellow lab mix. He is now 9 months old and doing exceedingly well. We chose to move him to the new house in the late evening and fed him here with the other two dogs. For familiarity his cage and bed were brought along and placed in the living room but have since been moved into a spare room off the kitchen. The first night he didn’t mind being locked in his cage. It may have provided some security in a strange environment. The next night he got upset in the middle of the night, thus the move to another room where he could be allowed to move around and change positions without getting into trouble for sleeping on the furniture.

We braced ourselves for the possibility of altercations with neighboring dogs, but to our surprise and relief they have all gotten along quite well. We have gone from a secure walled-in yard to an open area surrounded by rice fields. If I didn’t know better I could imagine that being the resident pack of the biggest and most eccentric house in the area has afforded our dogs an elevated status among the local thugs and bullies.  All three of our male dogs are behaving differently these days and strutting their stuff with a relaxed air of self confidence.

With the success of the move I decided to try, leash free, hiking to the dam. The youngster isn’t as strong as his uncles but makes a valiant effort to keep up. The one dog is an elegant leaper with some very stylish moves. The puppy has tried on occasion to follow his lead up a steep hill or high ledge, to find himself falling in a heap at the base of the embankment. Embarrassing for sure but no damage done.

Without the hindrance of a leash we are all getting a much better workout on our frequent constitutionals. With the foggy, morning temperatures in the fifties these days, the nearly 5 mile round trip jaunt to the dam, is quite pleasant. The locals are no longer shocked when we pop out of the mist on their way to the fields and orchards. We are heading home from the dam, flush from our exertion and enjoyment. No telling how long this weather will last so I’m determined to get out every morning, if possible. After the stress and preoccupation of building the house this aging frame is in dire need of a regular exercise regimen.

As for the house, it has far exceeded what I allowed myself to hope for. After grinding coffee beans and steeping them in the French press, I sit at the table these mornings, savoring this addicting brew. I take in the views of the fields and mountains beyond and count myself among the fortunate few to be living a dream.

Loy Krathong 2007 in Phuket

After making our own krathong at home on Saturday (see Making a Krathong), there was plenty of time before the evening festivities got underway. We had not decided where to go and loy (float) our kratong... we normally head for the Bang Wad reservoir where hundreds, maybe thousands of people in the Kathu area go every year for Loy Kratong. The reservoir is the largest in Phuket with an 800m long dam and people gather there every evening for picnics by the water and jogging on the dam (see Bang Wad Reservoir). This year we thought about going somewhere different, like maybe Patong (thought again - sure to be a big party, but too crowded and parking a nightmare), or Karon (same as Patong and further from home too), or maybe Rawai beach (much quieter)...

While we chewed over the options for where to Loy our Krathong, we took a drive down to Cape Panwa to see if one of our favourite places had reopened.... YES! The Beach Bar, near the Panwa Beach Resort is open again. We love it. On the beach, not expensive, friendly owners, very relaxed, we have spent many afternoons here before. Read more here: The Beach Bar!

Sunset view from The Beach Bar, 24th November

We stayed until sunset and wished we had brought our kratong with us...

So after much indecision we went to Bang Wad Reservoir to float our kratong. It's a busy place on Loy Kratong night. If you want to see some real local colour, it's a good spot to be! We headed for the water and lit the candle and incense and let our kratong drift into the water.. a bit wonky, but afloat nonetheless...

Our kratong, ready to float

Our kratong on the water

Lots of kratongs were already floating and plenty more people were waiting to float theirs. Hope everyone gets good luck this year!

Loy Kratong at Bang Wad Reservoir

A couple putting their kratong in the water at Bang Wad Reservoir

At the reservoir there's quite a party going on - lots of food stalls and drink stalls and hey! Draft Chang Beer for 90 Baht a liter - can't say no to that! We found a few friends and sat down for a drink and a few snacks...

Draft Beer Chang at Bang Wad Reservoir, 24th November





(above) Food stalls at the reservoir, Loy Kratong night.

As well as floating kratongs, it's also common to float large paper lanterns into the night sky - this is far more common in Chiang Mai, but is spreading! At the dam you can buy a lantern for 100 Baht - its a big paper bag with a wire frame and a "solid fuel booster". We decided to buy one and launch it at home. More personal.

You have to hold the lantern until the fuel heats the air inside the lantern enough to lift it.. then let go and make a wish. We watched our lantern float high into the clear night sky. I told our kids it had gone to join the stars. We watched until the last flicker of light had gone.

 

Happy Loy Krathong - see you again in 2008!

Book hotels for Loy Krathong!

Loy Kratong - Making the Kratong

Loy Kratong is on a different day each year, falling on the Full Moon of the 12th lunar month, which is normally sometime in November. Last year was November 5th, this year (2007) November 24th. Loy Kratong is celebrated all over Thailand with particularly large ceremonies in Bangkok, Sukothai and Ayutthaya. Here in Phuket, festivities are quite extensive at the main beaches such as Patong and Karon, and anywhere else you find water - which is everywhere, being that Phuket is an island. We normally go and float our kratong at Bang Wad Reservoir, which is the largest reservoir in Phuket and is not far from our home in the Kathu area of Phuket. The word "Loy" means Float, and the Kratong is what you set afloat - read on...

Book hotels for Loy Krathong!

Making Our Kratong

Of course there are stalls all over the place on the day selling ready made kratongs, but we decided to DIY this year, ending up with a kratong that just about floated without tipping over! To make a kratong you will need - cut slices of banana stem to make the base, banana leaves to decorate, flowers, incense sticks, candles and pins to hold it all together! And voila - you have a kratong...

Banana

Banana Leaves

Flowers for our krathong

(above) What you need to make a krathong - banana stem, leaves and flowers

The banana leaves are cut and folded to shape and pinned to the base... My wife did all the hard work - she had never made one before - I mean, you can buy them everywhere very cheaply ... She made a special double decker kratong. I think it turned out beautifully!

Making the krathong

Making our krathong

(above) Making the krathong - folding and pinning leaves onto the banana stem

Making a krathong for Loy Krathong

(above) We made it a double decker krathong

Add some flowers, and it's ready... Our family kratong! Into the kratong we also add small cuttings of hair and nails from family members which will float out into the water with the kratong. Now we just need to float it!

Our krathong

(above) Finished krathong

Flowers on our krathong

(above) Flowers, incense and candles on the krathong

Well, did it float? Yes! See photos of Loy Krathong day :

Loy Krathong in Phuket 2007
Loy Krathong 2008
Loy Krathong 2015 will be on 25th November

Layan Beach

Layan Beach is not at all well known, so if you want to find one of the quietest and most beautiful beaches in Phuket, try to find Layan Beach. Hard enough to find it on a map! We first found Layan in January 2007 on a rather grey day while driving around the back roads in the North of Phuket. You have a choice of small roads to reach Layan Beach. Most photos on this page were taken November 2007. We drove through the Laguna Resort complex, the road turning from good, to bad, to "oh-my-god-i-wish-we-had-a-4wd". The last 100m took about 5 minutes. OK, that's the back route in, you can also go via Naithon, or via Thalang, following a long twisty road through the villages. OK, enough directions. Go find it! Or there's a map at the bottom of the page.

Seek and ye shall find paradise. Or at least a very peaceful, picture postcard beach. Layan Beach, just North of Bang Tao Beach, has two halves. The southern part (pretty much an extension northwards of Bang Tao Beach) is simply stunning if you like blue seas and white sand. The land is privately owned, well cared for and kept simple. We were there at the weekend for lunch in the high season and I counted about 12 other visitors and I reckon half of them were local residents. You'll find a small restaurant, a small collection of beach chairs, palm trees and the sound of waves gently lapping the shore. Too good to be true?

Layan Restaurant Entrance

Layan Beach (South)

Layan Beach Restaurant

The restaurant has basic Thai food, sea food.. not super cheap, but hey - look at the location. I guess we are used to local prices, so 80 Baht for fried rice seemed expensive! It was tasty food, though and if you are coming for a holiday, lunch for a few dollars is not going to break the bank! Next to the restaurant was a bar called "Beer Conner" :)

Layan Beach - Beer Conner

Just behind the beach, you have a mix of local life and modern development. This stretch of coast is being invaded by a large amount of villas, sea view apartments, hillside condos...and yet you also find scenes like this...

Waterway near Layan Beach

A little further North, Layan Beach is split by a small island (Koh Kala) and a sand bar, creating a semi enclosed lagoon and a natural paradise. A sign at the edge of the beach says this area is to be made a National Park.. although I read recently in the local news that a marina might be planned for this location. It's a beautiful spot. I'd like to walk out along the sand spit to the island, but not with the little kids - it's quite a hike on a hot day. We've been here for beach BBQ's a couple of times. Not a swimming beach, but of you walk 15 minutes south you get to the beach by the restaurant.

Layan Beach Panorama

(above) Panorama of the north end of Layan Beach - click to enlarge.

Layan Beach (North)

You'd hardly know it, but there are 2 small, quite exclusive, very nice looking resorts in this section of Layan Beach. They blend in with the scenery, offering beachside or hillside bungalows. If you like a bit of seclusion, the Anantara Resort or the amazing Trisara (on the headland just north of Layan) might be for you.

Anantara Layan Resort
Trisara Resort

Layan Beach is perfect for me and the family as a little getaway for a couple of hours - we like the small scale, the little restaurant, the fact that the beach is clean and hard to find. How we never found it until 2007 is beyond me.... Well, I guess we are not on holiday so can't be out exploring every day, but it's pleasing that after many years here Phuket still manages to surprise me.

Update August 2014 - Just went to Layan for the first time in years. A "beach club" called Nikkis has been built next to the little restaurant, looks ugly from the outside, fancy from the inside. And playing quite loud music. Beach looks great aside from the usual washed up flotsam which you get in low season. No further development around the lagoon area. Still very quiet.



(above) Layan beach August 16th 2014

New blog post : Layan Beach 2014 Update


Layan Beach - Location Map


View Layan Beach Phuket in a larger map

Writing at the House ...

We are presently blessed with power and some furniture, making it possible to write in relative comfort while also being able to oversee the finishing touches to the house. The kitchen counter top has been a major stumbling block as well as some of the bathroom and kitchen plumbing. I’m not an expert so usually rely on the word of the contractor or subcontractor about their ability to do something. Sometimes it becomes quite clear, after the fact, that they have done it wrong.

It is not all that difficult to look at something and see how it is supposed to work based on the design. The problem is, that it does appear to be difficult for the workers sometimes and by the time I catch it things have probably gone too far. Then the question is how significant is the mistake and what can be done about it, if anything. Sometimes you have to rip it out and do it again, as with the kitchen counter. That entails reordering materials and waiting for delivery while delaying all other work that depends on that being done first. Other things you just do the best you can and live with the results.

While everyone else is sitting around pointing fingers of blame or making excuses I trying desperately to get people thinking about what can be done and how to fix it. We all have our little pet peeves and the blame game is one of mine. People waist valuable time going into the minutia of who did what and who said what to whom and how nothing is their fault because someone else did this or that. Alternatively they simply tell you what can’t be done with no interest in exploring the alternatives. I just want them to shut up and deal with the here and now. After you have fixed the problem, you can take all the time you want figuring out what went wrong and how to avoid the same mistake in the future.

I’m beginning to compare the house to a beautiful woman, who may not possess a single remarkable or perfect feature, but while beholding the entirety of her being, you cannot help but be struck by her presence and beauty. My wife worries, this thing or that thing, isn’t quite perfect. I figure no amount of worry will change it and prefer to look at the bigger, overall picture. In the eye of this beholder, that picture is indeed worthy of a long lingering gaze.

We put on a small party for the workers in conjunction with the contractor and his wife. There were various outside contractors and workers on the job that day as well who were able to partake of the food and drink after they finished their respective tasks. The curtain lady brought her little boy, who attempted to walk or climb on everything in the house.

Watching him try his best to destroy all that lay before him, brought nightmares to mind of the traditional Thai housewarming party. If one little boy and twenty or thirty drunk workers could do this much damage, then what in the world would happen to our beautiful home with a few hundred drunk villagers and all their children and dogs? The thought of all the subsequent repairs that will be needed in the aftermath, as well as all the expense and preparation beforehand, makes me desperate to find a way out of this obligation to throw a party.

I have suggested that my wife could explain, that her husband’s custom is to wait three years before such celebrations. My tone was that of jest but in my heart I was deadly serious. Why would anyone, in their right mind, open up their immaculate home to the marauding hordes to trample and destroy? Anything clean or pretty seems to present an irresistible challenge to break or soil and make it look like something familiar.

Perhaps I could resort to the Thai technique of saying that the party will happen soon (a blatant lie) and then continue postponing it until people get bored and move on to something else. In the process, I would be avoiding any direct confrontation. If it works for them, maybe just maybe it could work for me too.

CC`s Hideaway Hotel

CC's Hideaway has been recommended to me several times by customers from our dive shop who give it rave reviews - friendly staff, attention to detail, beautiful decor and "that something extra" that makes CC's Hideaway (previously called CC Blooms) more than just another hotel. OK, it's not by the beach, but the location in the hills of Karon is just as nice. Plenty of fresh air, great sunsets, nice and quiet. There is a free shuttle access to Kata Noi, Kata and Karon beaches.

The original name of the hotel was CC Blooms, which came from the Bette Midler character in the movie "Beaches" (I must say I have never seen it, but might just try to find it at the local video shop now...). Beaches seems to be a very popular movie with gay people, and indeed CC Blooms was promoted as a gay, or "gay friendly" hotel. My customer said he had met the owner, a gay American man and maybe the "gayness" of the hotel gives it the unique style. Of course you don't have to be gay to stay here. Read the reviews on Agoda (see link below) - the hotel is rated very highly by just about everyone. The hotel still mentions being LGBTQ friendly, whatever that means anyway! I think you can take that to mean that everyone is welcome, as everyone should be everywhere. The name changed in 2012 to CC's Hideaway when the hotel was completed renovated and refurnished with hand crafted furniture and original artwork.

It's nice to hear of a different kind of place to stay in Phuket, just the kind of place that Jamie's Phuket is looking for, something off the beaten track, a hotel with a bit of character.

Most of the rooms do have a sea view, just the sea is not right out of the window. The hills above Karon are very scenic and very ... what's the word ... green ... jungly. There are double or twin rooms and all have satellite TV and high speed internet access.


CC's Hideaway Hotel - Booking and Reviews

CC's Hideaway Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
CC's Hideaway Reviews

CC's Hideaway - Photos








Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

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

Phuket Island View Hotel at Karon Beach

Karon Beach has many small scale resorts along the beachfront, along with a couple of big ones like the Hilton and the Thavorn Palm Beach Resort. For location, I can recommend them all! Just be aware, that apart from the Beyond Resort and the old Ruam Thep Inn, none of the resorts have direct beach access - you have to cross the road first.

The South end of the beach is a little quieter than the North end, and you are within about 10 minutes walk of Kata Beach too. There is decent snorkeling around the rocks and you can even do scuba diving off the beach there. You'll find several hotels near the Karon football stadium, and to me they are all "much of a muchness", except I got a recommendation from a customer this week who went to look for a hotel room on arrival and he stayed at the Phuket Island View. Main reason was the friendliness of the staff and the fact that they made him feel welcome and treated him as a valued guest rather than just a name in the register. Phuket Island View has quiet rooms, 2 pools (but you are just a couple of minutes walk from the beach anyway) - a good mid price hotel in a good location.

Phuket Island View Resort - Booking and Reviews

Phuket Island View Rates and Reservations at Agoda.com
Phuket Island View Hotel Reviews

Phuket Island View - Photos

Phuket Island View Hotel Phuket Island View Hotel

Phuket Island View Hotel Phuket Island View Hotel

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

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

Wat Ladthiwanaram

Wat Ladthiwanaram can be found along Chao Fa Road between Phuket Town and Chalong, a little after the turn off to Phuket Zoo and before Land and Houses Park. It's a rather unique temple, with a small lake between the temple grounds and the road.

Wat Ladthiwanaram as seen from the road

I must have passed this temple hundreds of times, not knowing what lies beyond the entrance... Phuket has so many small local temples, any one of which is worth stopping to visit if you happen to be passing by. Or if you are a temple lover you can carefully map out a drive around Phuket taking in as many temples as possible! The hell with beaches and bars, if you want to see the real Phuket, try temples, markets and quiet back roads.

Wat Ladthiwanaram is quite pretty. If you are anywhere in the area, stop for a look!

Wat Ladthiwanaram entrance

The Red Door Buddha Image at Wat Ladthiwanaram

Prayers at Wat Ladthiwanaram

Lots More Phuket Temples!