The Racha Hotel on Racha Yai Island

The Racha Resort is located on Racha Yai Island about 20 kilometers south of Phuket, so right away you have something different. Racha Yai is a small island with sandy beaches, shallow reefs, and is a place I have been countless times for diving - day trips come here every day from Phuket. If you stay here, you can't complain that it's too far from town, or too far from the nightlife - I guess you will stay here if you WANT to be away from the crowds and away from the bars. The resort has an environmental message (their website says "the resort strives to be recognised as a leader in responsible and environmentally sustainable tourism") which I think must be important when you are based on a small island - you have to take care of resources.

The Racha has 70 villas, some with private pools, all overlooking the ocean and it's a view without any concrete or other hotels, just ocean. I note that some reviews mention the beach in front of the resort - it's not a private beach, maybe some people are expecting it to be - but daytrippers also use the beach.. they can't use the huge infinity horizon pool though :) Of course for a hotel like The Racha you are not paying low rates, right now I see rates on Agoda from about 15,000 Baht per night (for April) or only about 6000 Baht in low season. The resort has several restaurants which will also be priced to match.. and on Racha Yai island don't expect to find many more dining options save for a couple of small beachside places. The Racha is a little hideaway, good for hiding from the world and being looked after.

Reviews on Agoda are very positive, and it probably should be on my Best Phuket Hotels list, except when I wrote the list it was not in the TripAdvisor Top 10 .. it is now, though that list changes daily.. always makes me laugh that in among all the reviews saying "paradise" you get one terrible review, it's the same for all hotels and you learn which ones to ignore!

The Racha Resort - Booking & Information Links

The Racha Resort - Rates and Reservations
The Racha Resort - Guest Reviews at

The Racha Resort - Photos

The Racha Suite The Racha Pool Villa

The Racha Pool The Racha Lobby

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

Jamie's Phuket Hotel Recommendations
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016
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Retirement and Relocation

LIFESTYLE HEALTH GUIDE FOR 55+ Guest post by Mary Albert

Traveling Versus Temporary or Permanent Relocation

When it comes to retirement, you've got a lot of options out there waiting for you. I love to travel the world, but I also love my home in California, so I always come back. However, I do hear about a lot of people who choose to relocate for their retirement. Some choose to move away permanently and live in paradise, whatever that may mean for them. Others choose to move for a year or two, or even five, to a destination where they've always wanted to stay.

Moving across the country or around the world can seem a bit intimidating, to say the least. I'm a fan of anyone who chooses to follow their heart in retirement and live somewhere new. However, you have to remember that these places can be visited just as easily. Some people might enjoy the newfound freedom and culture that comes from retirement relocation. Others might prefer a more temporary hiatus to an area rather than packing it all up and moving there.

If you're ready to hit the road, good for you. If you're still wondering or questioning whether you should move to the backcountry of Alaska, the beautiful beaches of the Caribbean, or anywhere else in the world, you have to think about a few things. Can you stand to leave your life behind? A lot of times, people have too much attachment to their current life, family, or circle of friends to move permanently. Remember, though, you can always visit whenever you'd like. This is a big decision and some people are better suited for it than others.

If you're dreaming of retirement a world away from it all, you literally have the whole world in your hands. Of course, it doesn't hurt to take a little holiday first and make sure that you'll really enjoy where you're going. I love my home, and I wish everyone else the same success in finding a home for their retirement, no matter where in the world that might be.
"senior lifestyle and senior health" to link to
"medical alert reviews" to link to

Contributed by Mary Albert, a blogger for a senior lifestyle and senior health web site that provides advice for the 55+ age group as well as medical alert reviews . You'll find the link to Mary's web site on my side bar (good stuff)

Words ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what is the word, one might ask?

Our Thai House In The Field ...

For those of you who are still interested in the house, here is an update from yesterday.  Our bougainvillea, planted as a boarder along the length of the front yard, are really in full bloom this time of year.  Along with the ones we planted on the back side of the house, there is an explosion of color in this otherwise dreary time of the year.

We have lived in the house for more than three years now and things are holding up well.  We did replace the wooden railings with steel and did a little touchup painting but apart from that, things are good.  I’m very happy living here and we have had no complaints from our guests.  The wife does complain that it is too much to keep clean but she still manages to keep it immaculate.

You may notice that facing north as we are, with a slight eastward orientation, the front of the house escapes the ravages of direct sunlight most of the year.
Front of the house, not visible from the road.
A different angle.

Bringing back a oldie---The Art of Hammocking

The Master at work

It don't get no better than this
" Come on down " have a spare hammock just waiting for you
Looks like Ciejay has mastered it too

Florance giving it a try
After six years of trail and error , I now consider myself and expert in the Art of Hammocking . You don't just jump in a hammock and lay down and think that you have mastered it , hammocking is like riding a bike , learning to canoe, or kayak you can't just jump in, you might just fall right out , it takes control , thinking, and planning and a little common sense. First you have to come to a understanding that a hammock is a piece of canvas, ropes platted or, bamboo strips interwoven to make a banana shaped container to hang between two, trees , poles or ,on a frame which ever one you have available( myself I like it somewhere with lots of shade, a tree if possible .This banana shaped basket is tied at either end with some kind of rope or chain, and will swing easily in the breeze, and being banana shaped and swinging in the breeze you don't just jump in , you have to walk up slowly and turn with your back to the hammock some where near the middle of the banana shaped swing (thats what a hammock really is ) and slowly lower yourself down in a sitting position as close to the middle as you can figure out , and then with one sweep swing a leg over the other side like you were riding a horse and then very slowly lay back and then bring your legs up onto the hammock , remember that the hammock is banana shaped and your head and legs are going to be higher that the rest of your body, (now you are in), this takes a little getting use to and some folks with back problems just can't get the hang of it . All the while you are laying there enjoying the rocking motion of you hammock , you have to be careful, not to make any sudden moves ,or over you head looking as you might just roll out of the banana shaped contrapition you are laying in .Many folks I know have fell out and brusied or some have even broke a wrist or fingers trying to catch themselves , some like me have landed on their elbow and brusied or cut it pretty bad and required a hospital visit. When I told the nurse how it had happened , she told the others and they had a big laugh , my friend said I should have told them some machoo story , like I fell off my motor bike trying to avoid an accident with a dog or something , anything BUTTTT I fell out of my hammock . ha ha ha .
If you have followed my advise and instructions very carefully , you too may someday become as good as I am at the art of napping in a hammock or just relaxing and watching the world go by in front of you , remember don't try to look to much to the sides and especially not behind, as you might just roll out. OH I almost forgot , if you like the rocking motion you have to learn how to hang one leg over the side from time to time to give yourself a push to get the rocking going , and then bringing it back up into the hammock , you can't leave it hanging over as the side of the hammock will cut of the circulation to your leg and it will go numb and when you get out of the hanmmock, very slowly just like you got in but in reverse, your leg will be asleep and you will fall on your face , I almost did that one to , BUTTT now I'm and expert and that comes with , time and experience and being Retired in Thailand and Loving It .
I am posting a few pictures of the Art of Hammocking for your viewing and hopefully enjoyment. Malcolm

Bike Ride and Potluck ...

There came a voice from on high.  It was heard to say, “Go ride young men, go ride.”  Sadly, there were no young men to heed the call, so the village elders of the Rai, did mount their many and varied beasts.  There were dirt-bikes, sport-bikes, and cruisers, from 150cc up to 1800cc.  A truly eclectic mix.  No mountain too high, no rut too deep, no trail too rough, no sand too loose, no pachyderm too large, no river too wide and no bridge too flimsy to stall the momentum of these intrepid adventurers.  Couples and singles, big bikes and small, all held their own on this lovely but hot adventure.  Oddly the day bore more resemblance to our Sunday Potluck than your typical biker’s melee, as we spent more time sitting around talking than actually riding.  In the end, however, we were lucky and no one came off or damaged their bikes.

Attending both events, the Potluck and Bike Ride, on consecutive days, I feel qualified to comment and eager to share pictures.  Being as spread out as we are here in the Rai, special effort must be summoned to gather the rank and file in one location.  A monthly Potluck picnic has been instigated for the more laid back and food motivated residents.  The reward being homemade dishes from various lands, often unattainable in our local restaurants or anywhere else for that matter.  It is a pleasant afternoon spent by a lake with a near equal share of Thais and Farangs. Primarily, Farang men and Thai wives but with the occasional Farang family or couple.  Seasonal residents and guests do make an appearance on occasion, as well.

The Chiang Rai Hash is another monthly venue aimed at the slightly more athletic, though in truth it is geared more to walking and talking, than it is to running.  Sorry no Hash pictures as we have not attended for quite some time.


Potluck Sala

Hot Springs.  First Stop on Bike Ride

Kok River at Hot Springs

Motorcycle Bridge

View from the Bridge

River view at our lunch break

My Dream Guest House for Lunch

Lunch Venue

Harley in the Forest 

Elephant Camp

Restaurant Tip: Moo Grob Khun Yai

Oh yes, time for another little local restaurant treat! Forget those fancy places, they're out of my budget! All the restaurant guides I read feature the same old places, all of which will cost an arm and a leg, though I am sure plenty of people love an expensive meal with sauce "drizzled" artistically across the plate... The restaurant section on this blog does not feature too many fancy restaurants. Partly because we are not rich and partly because we feel more comfortable in a more local setting without art deco meals. And .. if you want real local food, you find this in LOCAL restaurants where LOCAL people eat. Food is quite a personal issue, so if you disagree with me, no worries, go find your own favorite place!

Moo Grob (หมูกรอบ) is a bit of a special thing... it's crispy pork belly, and if it's done well, it's crispy, crunchy, crackly, yet retains some soft meat and a little fat, (oh, if you are vegetarian, this place is not for you!) - Moo Grob can be too soft sometimes, or too fatty or too meaty.. I mean, Moo Grob lovers will have their own style, but what I am saying is, Moo Grob is an art. And Tik, the owner of Moo Grob Khun Yai is the artist. The restaurant is on the road between Central Festival mall and Phuket Town, on the left side as you head into town. Looks like this:

Moo Grob Khun Yai, front view

We've known Tik for some years. Her son was in the same class as our daughter at school, but he moved to another school where Tik's husband is a teacher. We'd not been for ages, but met Tik and her son Kane a couple of weeks ago (in Pizza Company, yeh, I know, you own a restaurant and your kid wants to go eat pizza), so we went to eat at her place the next day. The restaurant was run by her mother before her - "Khun Yai" means Grandmother. This is Tik .... she's a happy smiley person :)

Tik is the owner

The menu in this restaurant is basically 4 different options. You have Khao Moo Grob (rice with crispy pork), Khao Moo Daeng (rice with red pork), Khao Man Gai (rice with chicken) and Khao Ka Moo (rice with a kind of stewed pork leg). Or you can mix up the meats. You can get the dishes as a small portion (which is called Tama Da) or large portion (for this you ask for Pee Set). Don't be asking for fried rice or anything else. These 4 dishes are among the most popular simple meals all over Thailand. If you can't guess, my favourite is Moo Grob :) Tik makes it herself from pieces of pork belly, carefully grilled. Looks like this, hanging up at the front of the restaurant:

Moo Grob

Then Tik slices off a section - note use of plastic gloves... my wife is quite picky with little local restaurants, they are not all this clean!

Cutting the Moo Grob

And the slice of pork is cut into smaller pieces, piled on some rice and that's it! On the table are some different sauces, a mix of sweet and spicy, which you can "drizzle" onto your pork. Big plate = 45 Baht, small plate = 35 Baht. The Moo Daeng is the same price. On this day I had one plate of each.

Khao Moo Grob

Khao Moo Daeng

I am hungry now just looking at the photos! It's not just meat, you do get a small plate of greens with the meal too and a little bowl of clear soup. And you can get an ice tea or ice coffee for 10-15 Baht, or just drink water (drinking water and ice is normally free with meals at this kind of restaurant).

Greens and Soup

Don't get me wrong, Phuket has got some very (very) nice restaurants, with 5 star food and wine lists to match. And there are websites which happily let these places advertise. On this blog, you see the places where I eat, or where my family eats. And if you want the "real" Phuket... this is it! Damn, I fancy a plate of Moo Grob now!

Some more Phuket restaurants to get good local food:

Laem Hin Seafood
Tunk Ka Cafe
Kopitiam in Phuket Town
Pak Nam Seafood

Moo Grob Khun Yai - Location Map

View Moo Grob Khun Yai Restaurant in a larger map

Living with the Tiger

Baan Gerda Orphans

Can you imagine the trauma a young child goes through seeing their father or mother slowly waste away and die of AIDS. Quite often a child loses both parents and has to be cared for by relatives, the mental trauma and pain they suffer is unimaginable to most of us.
Many of these children are born with HIV and when their own symptoms develop they are cast aside by their relatives and abandoned by their own communities. A traumatized child alone in the world. Maybe traumatized isn’t a big enough word. But this is happening all over the world today, tomorrow and thereafter. There is however a glint of hope for some.
A small rural village in Thailand and a full length feature film documentary are highlighting a simple fact about HIV and AIDS. Those infected with the disease can lead a good life and one which is fully integrated into society.

Baan Gerda is that village and Living with the Tiger the film which documents the renewed hope and optimism being given to HIV infected orphans at Baan Gerda.
The orphans live in Baan Gerda, a hospice in Lopburi Province originally set up to care for AIDS victims during their last days. Nowadays Baan Gerda is full of energetic kids who hop, skip and jump like any other children. Many of them arrived at the hospice having been abandoned by their extended families and in poor health.

The small village is home for around 80 children who are cared for by foster parents, but the ultimate aim at Baan Gerda is to re-integrate their children back into the communities which rejected them and re-unite them with their relatives once again.

Living with a Tiger is playing a big role in helping make that happen and also in educating people about the mental burden these orphans carry around with them. It also is hoping to once and for all bury the myths and stigma wrongfully attached to HIV and AIDS.

Bruce Gaston, Mike Thomas and around 80 kids with a zest for life have set about changing Thailand’s, and hopefully the world’s, misconceptions about these two diseases.

Bruce Gaston is a composer, performer and music teacher. He first started teaching music to the children of Baan Gerda in early 2007, and then began to develop an idea for the children to perform in an opera. It has been inspired by the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, LIFE OF PI.

Mike Thomas worked as a volunteer after an opportunistic visit to Baan Gerda in 2006. He began to film the music lessons that Gaston had started, long before the idea of an opera or a documentary film had been discussed. Despite no formal training or experience, he went on to record the unfolding events and capture the stories of the children over the next 3 years.

Living with the Tiger is a feature-length film viewed through the eyes of two boys, Oy and Bla who both lost their AIDS infected parents. Bruce Gaston starts giving the orphans at Baan Gerda music lessons and their enthusiasm and passion gives him the idea of writing an opera for the kids to perform.

As the opera progresses, kids from public Thai schools are invited to take part and the orphans re-integration back into local community life begins. The stigmas and myths start to get buried too. The opera and the orphans gel together so well it all eventually leads to a performance of their concert in Khon Kaen.

The film documents the highs and lows of Oy, Bla and their friends over a period of three years, and Living with the Tiger has a special free preview screening at Patravadi Theatre Bangkok on March 17th 2011. Click on the link for ticket details.

If you wish to visit Living with the Tiger’s website follow the link where you’ll find lots of background information about the film and the orphans of Baan Gerda. You can also buy a full length festival edition of the film via the website by making a donation of $28 (21 Euros / 500 Baht).

“Every dime helps make another million dollar smile at Baan Gerda.”
Talen, author of popular Thai blog Thailand Land of Smiles highlighted the story of Baan Gerda’s orphans and Living with the Tiger via his latest blog post. Talen is giving away three copies of the full length festival edition of the film and you can win one by visiting his site. He also challenged his fellow Thai bloggers to publicize and help to get the word out about Living with the Tiger and Baan Gerda.Retired in Thailand and Loving It is very happy to do just that.

These final paragraphs and thoughts from Martyn over at Beyond the Mango Juice Thanks Martyn

Finally I’d like to leave you with an extract from Living with the Tiger’s website which describes a bit about the film’s two main characters, Oy and Bla.

It was only after a year of filming that the idea of making a feature length documentarybegan to take shape. Although the crew had been capturing the developments in themusic lessons, it became clear that it was the lives of the children that was of mostinterest. The decision was made to focus on Bla and Oy as they had prominent roles inthe opera.

After details of Oy’s troubled past emerged, the team managed to secure an interview with the uncle and aunt that had abandoned him at an AIDS hospice. They also asked if Oy would like to make the journey back to visit his relatives. It was several years since he was last in his hometown and the emotional reunion prompted the uncle and aunt to ask Oy if he would come back to live with them again. It was a difficult decision for him to make after what had happened to him before.

Bla had much clearer memories of his experiences when he was living at home. He knew that he had been rejected by his family yet he had this growing desire to return home, even if it was just to bring about some kind of closure on this period of his life. When he mentioned that he wanted to take a trip back to see his land and visit his family he was happy for the film team to accompany him

Four Thai Girls and the Farang...

The girls are gone and my duties diligently discharged.  Day one, saw an early departure from home, arriving at the airport just in time to collect our three guests.  Off to Doi Chaang for coffee and breakfast before starting a day of sightseeing.  Black Village was first on our list before heading off to Doi Tung to visit the Garden and Royal Villa.  While I joined the girls on the stroll around Black Village, at Doi Tung my preference was to find a quiet seat with a view.  From there I could sip my Doi Tung coffee, enjoy the mountain setting and watch the parade of tourists, as I my wife and her friends shared some girl-time without me as a distraction.

After lunch we headed to the White Temple and then to the main market in town, to gather sustenance for the evening meal, back in the village.  We arrived home in time to settle in with a tour of the house and garden before preparing for dinner.  Our friend from Hawaii had stayed with us before but it was the first time for the other two.  The last time these four had gotten together was in Bangkok so it was nice that they went out of their way to fly up here to stay with us this time.

I feel it is important to find the right balance when we have visitors.  This was clearly a chance for the four girls to get together and my role was primarily that of facilitator.  My wife still feels uncomfortable driving alone, over distance or in stressful situations so it is understood that I will be the chauffeur for the duration of such visits, and fortunately I don’t mind, though I do find myself exhausted by the time they leave.  The animated conversation of four very talkative women can be a distraction while driving, however, and I did miss a turn or two along the way, unable to shutout what they were discussing.

Talk of the intimacies of relationships was restricted to when I was not present, I believe, but there was little else off limits when I was around.  Politics, Reds vs Yellows, Royals, family, friends, food, the past, the present and perceived differences between things here and in Isaan, where the three visitors were from, as well differences with the West.  I can no longer imagine what it would be like, surrounded for hours by an unfathomable noise, unable to participate in a meaningful way.

The most repeated observation about me, was how lucky my wife was (not sure if that was in reference to me or the house which they loved), and my inexplicable reserve and patience, in dealing with unexpected occurrences on our long drives and the sometimes long spells spent waiting for them in the truck.  You see I often remained in the vehicle to revel in the quiet and solitude of those moments, free of incessant conversation.  Not that I expressed such feelings to them, of course.

Exhausted from travel and sightseeing all had an early night and rose the next morning at a respectable hour.  We hung around the house until afternoon, before making a trip to the local marketplace followed by a very steep drive to the top of Doi Yao and down the other side, on a new yet even steeper and windier stretch of mountain road.  Sadly the haze has returned to the North and Phu Chi Fah in one direction and our village on the valley floor, in the other, were obscured from view.  Still it is a favorite little rest stop for us, amid a natural setting with a hill tribe village to drive through.

Later to bed and even later to rise the next day, we were off to a late start for a day that would have us dropping our guests off at the airport for their late night flight, before returning to a very quiet house and very lonely dog.  Trying to avoid some of the major road construction areas, we meandered through the back roads from Phaya Mengrai to Chiang Saen.  We came upon the river road very near Wat Phra That Pha Ngao so decided to take our guests up the hill to the chedi and the teak temple.  There is also an expansive view of the mighty Mekong River with Laos on the other side.

After and excellent riverside lunch, we proceeded to the Golden Triangle, where I once again stayed with the truck, while the girls did their thing.  Continuing along the river from there, we soon encountered some of the prolific roadwork in our region.  At first we engaged the four wheel drive and ventured on.  Before too long we were looking for alternatives that got us out of the dirt and back on to some windy backcountry roads.

Finally reaching the main highway between Chiang Rai and Mae Sai, the pace picked up, until we reached the turnoff for Tham Pum Tham Pla or Wat Tham Pla.  Here at the base of the mountains, there are monkeys roaming wild looking for handouts, fish to be fed in crystal clear ponds and caves to be explored.  At first we had the place to ourselves but soon a tour bus unloaded its hordes in our midst.  Even that could not distract from our sense of peace and tranquility in this unique location.

With time to kill before heading to the airport, we found ourselves back at Doi Chaang, this time for a bit of sweetness and delight, in the form of cheesecake and apple pie.  Even with an early drop-off we arrived at our very quiet house, well after dark.  Today has been one of cleanup for my wife, while I have been processing pictures and writing. 

I must be looking very old these days, as my wife even found time to give we my weekly facial, which she recently reincorporated into my personal hygiene regimen.  We used to do that kind of thing more often, living in the big city.  So, now you are up to date with the goings on of the VF household.  Until next time...

The Joy of Gardening in Thailand and growing flowers

I think I have always had a green thumb when it comes to plants and flowers and I always had a great garden when I lived in America and had a small plot to grow a garden of veggies .
One of the things that makes living here in Thailand such a great joy , is that you don't even have to have a green thumb to be a great gardener, they have a saying here in Thailand " put it in the ground and water it and IT WILL GROW ", and this I have found out is so true and with hardly no effort on my part.
Ciejay and me have a great herb garden and a few more plants for fresh veggies, and lots of fruit trees that provide us with more than enough fruit and herbs , and I have planted a few Tomato plants and now they all have small tomato all over them , and we planted a few eggplants and they are doing well , Veggies that like to spead out and take up a lot of ground space (something I can't spare ) we find it still cheaper and a lot less work just to buy them at the fresh food market Tuesdays and Thursdays. All in all gardening is a lot of fun and a small source of much needed exercise. (alto I have started walking a bit every morning with Ciejay and the dogs).We have a large variety of flowers and plants , that bring a never ending source of smells and and smiles.
One plant I had tried to grow while I was in America was orchids and no matter how green I painted my fingers I could never get them to bloom for me , while my Bro Jim had such great success in growing and having them bloom for him when he lived in Florida , but now that he has moved to Tenn. he can not get them to bloom , much to his disappointment, and now envy that I can grow a orchid and with only a little help from me get them them to bloom also , and to my surprise some will bloom several times a year.
Do you live in a climate where you can grow orchids and do you ?? If not I would encourage you to give it a try , most of the common one are not to expensive , while more exotic ones can cost big bucks. Growing a orchid and having it bloom is the "Gold Thumb"for a gardener. If you do grow them and want to brag a little you can always e-mail me a picture of yours I would love to see them. Take care and remember don't lick your fingers after playing around in the organic fertilizer. ha ha ha.
Again as I have said many times before and never tire of repeating myself , this is just one more of the reasons I am Retired in Thailand and Loving It.

Orchids (info from www. )
Orchids, one of the most fascinating, beautiful and peculiar variety among the flowering plants, have always been considered difficult to grow. But given the right climatic and cultural conditions, they can thrive anywhere and will flower regularly.
These plants belongs to the Orchidacae family, with all the difference in size, shape, colour, scent or lack of it. They are the most rapidly changing group of plants on earth with over 880 genera and 28,000 species.
Once the cultural needs of these fascinating plants are understood, growing orchids is relatively simple. It becomes a deeply satisfying and therapeutic activity. If given the right climatic and cultural conditions, they can thrive anywhere and will flower regularly. Some species of orchids may flower two or three times a year and some flower annually.

A walk up Monkey Hill

On late Sunday afternoon after a hot day, and a couple of hours working in the garden, I decided that my original plan to drive to Cape Phromthep and hike down the path to the very end of Phuket was not going to happen due to an onset of laziness. Still can't believe I have never done that after 11 years here! So we took a vague drive into Phuket Town with the idea of a little walk somewhere and maybe an early dinner at Dairy Hut (a restaurant near the Bangkok-Phuket International Hospital which normally has live music at the weekend).

We actually thought of heading for a drive around Sirey Island, but it was getting late, and Sirey is on the far east side of town... we instead headed to the north side of town and the hill which most people call Monkey Hill, although it's really called Khao To Sae. We'd not been here for a while.. could have been a couple of years actually. There is a narrow road right to the top where you find many TV aerials. The monkeys are also nearer the top, where we have been before - this photo taken in 2007:

Monkeys at Monkey Hill, Phuket

This time we drove as far as the shrine - a very interesting little place which I'd like to know more about. The shrine is called Chao Por To Sae.. I need to ask my wife to research a little with some Thai Google searches. The shrine features tigers and monkeys. It's built into the hillside surrounded by tropical foliage.

Shrine at Monkey Hill, Phuket

Tigers roam outside guarding the shrine. Inside at the very back of the wall are 3 figures which are called To Sae Kao, To Sae Daeng and To Sae Dam. (Kao = White; Daeng = Red; Dam = Black). Although it appears to be a Buddhist or Chinese shrine, the figures all have the Islamic crescent and star on the wall behind them. Interesting place. A girl came to say prayers while we were there.

Monkey Hill Shrine, Phuket

Meanwhile my son was more interested in posing with the many tiger images outside the shrine. The whole shrine is full of tigers, this one being the scariest:

Tiger at Monkey Hill shrine

We had no plan to walk to the very top of the hill, that would be foolhardy! We just walked up until we found a view. A little exercise before dinner. Many local people come here to walk, ride bikes or run. The road is quite steep, so even a gentle walk is enough to burn a few calories. These guys were being more energetic, and with all their huffing and puffing still managed a smile :)

Cycling up Monkey Hill

Some way below the "monkey line" we stopped where a gap in the trees allowed views to the east and south. A good place to stop and pose for photos. A number of other people had the same idea. One man was taking photos of his dog. One tree covered hillside looked almost autumnal...

Autumn foliage?

And the same photo with some messing around on Photoshop:

Autumn foliage? Part 2

Good for the kids to get some exercise too. Kids these days are easily distracted by their Nintendo games or watching movies or (God forbid!) reading books... we try to keep our kids active physically and mentally. Not too much.. keep it enjoyable. Now follows one of my favourite photos ever. Our kids. You want to know about my life in Phuket - this is it.

My life in Phuket

And another favourite. Earlier the same day, my daughter and I had been having a long discussion argument about the value of reading books. Not cartoon books, but real books with words. I think that this day was important in my daughter's life. In the last few days since this walk she has read Alice in Wonderland which starts rather wonderfully with Alice stating that she does not like books without pictures. I called my daughter "Alice" for a couple of days. Anyway, here she is with her mum, enjoying each others company, walking back down Monkey Hill.

Mother and daughter

I remember when we last came, a restaurant was being built just below the shrine, not so far up the hill but still quite a good viewpoint. The restaurant is now open, it's called "Green Forest" and we will go back sometime - just stopped for a drink this time. The menu was full of local food - a lot of salads and seafood. Looks good.

Green Forest Restaurant

Update 2012 - Green Forest Restaurant now blogged!

Phuket Town seen from Monkey Hill

The view above looking to the southeast across Phuket Town from the restaurant. You can see the Royal Phuket City Hotel and the Thavorn Grand Plaza Hotel and behind that is Khao Khad hill and view point. Although I live here, sometimes the time is limited for exploring (yeh, I have a job working 6 days a week). Nice to revisit a place and find that there might be a good meal waiting in the future! We do try to get out and explore on days off but some days we have work to do around the house, feel lazy and just head somewhere local. Phuket has enough little places of interest that we can keep going back and there's always something new to see.

Monkey Hill - Location Map

View Monkey Hill in Phuket Town in a larger map