Songkran Photos

The Songkran festival is one of those "love it or hate it" events. It can be viewed as fun, but some people like to complain about it getting a bit silly and losing its traditional roots. Songkran is the Thai New Year festival and is celebrated in Thailand and also in neighbouring Laos, some parts of China and Cambodia. The Thai New Year and Thai calendar was in use until 1888 in Thailand, but now January 1st is used as the official start of the new calendar year. The old Thai / Buddhist year is 543 years ahead of the standard calendar. The water throwing is the most obvious aspect of Songkran, but the older traditions are very much still alive. At homes and temples. Buddha images are washed with water containing flower petals, and at some temples, people carry dirt to the temple which is supposed to replace dirt that they have carried away on their feet during the year - I saw this at a temple this year, but did not stop for photos. In 2011 I was in Chumphon for Songkran, which is my wife's home town. Maybe the old way of life is a little more obvious here than in Phuket, or maybe I just got a more local feeling since I have been with the family. We had a ceremony at home pouring water on my wife's parents hands (this is called Rodnam Dam Hua). The water fights in Chumphon Town were just as big as Phuket - we drove around town in our pick up. I got singled out quite often - not many foreigners here! Bloody hot day resulting in a very wet and sunburned and ever so slightly drunk Jamie (that's me)!

Jamie Songkran

In previous years I have been in Phuket for Songkran. For a few years I tried to ignore this silly festival....then for a few years we tried to stay dry, but took drives around Phuket with me trying to take photos through the closed car window. In 2009 we did a drive round Patong in our pick up truck, with my wife and I taking turns to drive. Patong is certainly the main water fight, although if you head to Sapan Hin, in the south of Phuket Town, you get a good day too, with less tourists and more locals. In 2010 I did not try to take photos - just stood on the roadside outside a friends business, throwing water with one hand, bottle of beer in the other :)

Phuket Hotels - Phuket is a great place to be for Songkran!

So, for Songkran 2011 in Chumphon I took some photos with an old underwater film camera, needed some photoshopping to enhance the colour as the camera used 800 iso film, so most photos were a bit overexposed. Also got some photos on the street near the homes of various family members.

In yer face for Songkran

I have you in my sights

More photos : Songkran 2011 in Chumphon


And here's some more photos of Songkran in Phuket over the years ...

Street battle in Patong

(above) Songkran street battle in Patong! If you want to party on Songkran, Patong is the place to be. You WILL get very wet, but at least in Phuket the water throwing is limited to one day (13th April). We enjoyed the day we drove around on April 13th 2009, though the kids did start to get cold - people do tend to throw ice water, which is nice on a hot day...

Get that powder on your face!

(above) People like to use talcum powder mixed with water and will smear it on your face for good luck. Not everyone wants the powder, but you should accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. Hint: Don't wear your best clothes on Songkran!

Water pistol on a scooter

Songkran 2009 at Patong Beach

In town, people are scooting around on mopeds, in trucks, or some (like we used to) in cars with the windows up! It's a sad fact that there are a lot of accidents around Songkran mostly related to a combination of fast mopeds, alcohol, water and slippery roads. No fun to have a bucket of ice water in your face when you are riding a moped, but then again, if riding in town on Songkran day, you really should ride slowly and expect to get very very wet. The guy above with his colourful Songkran shirt is obviously enjoying the day! It was due to the number of accidents that the water throwing was limited to one day in Phuket a few years ago.

Songkran in Patong

Fun for all the family! If you are going to be in Phuket or anywhere in Thailand on Songkran, be ready, go out and have some watery fun! The photo above was taken outside the Jungceylon mall in Patong. I like the fact that the girl shooting her water pistol has no idea she's about to get a cup of ice water down her back :)

Songkran Kids

A day for the kids ... for one day every year, the kids can get away with pretty much anything! They can soak strangers, definitely soak their family, they can play with water all day and nobody can get mad at them. Our kids love it, I think all kids love Songkran!

Songkran Splash

And you're never quite sure where the next soaking is going to come from. This year riding around in the truck I got drenched at regular intervals, many times by unseen assailants. There's no point trying to stay dry! The guys on the scooter (above) just got owned! That photo was taken in Phuket Town on Phuket Road on the way south towards Sapan Hin.

Songkran 2008 in Phuket Town
Songkran 2007 Turtle release and Patong

Songkran is what it is - you can have fun or you can grouch. For one day, getting soaked is fun, especially as April 13th is normally going to be a very hot day, like it was this year. I am happy that it's only one day in Phuket - I know that in Chiang Mai it goes on for days, which could be a drag. In Chumphon, there was only water throwing in town for 1 day, but on the 14th people headed to the 2 main beaches near Chumphon (Sairee and Thung Wua Laen) to continue the party. I was very happy in 2011 to be more involved with the family. A good Songkran. Happy New Year!

Songkran, Thai New Year ...

The twelfth, was as hot and polluted as I have seen it for some time.  Yesterday was overcast with a light rain in town, though not a drop was to be had where we live.  This morning was cool as we awoke to one of those thick pea-soup fogs of winter, that leaves the grass and all exposed surfaces covered in dew.  What will tomorrow hold, one wonders?  So far this year has been one of interesting and sometimes unfathomable weather anomalies.

If one could remove the heat and pollution that often prevails this time of year, the carnage on the roads, the excessive drunkenness and ensuing fights, the bad karaoke, and the aggravated nature of the water wars, one would be left with what I like about Songkran.

This is after all, one of the few times when families come together, other than weddings and funerals.  The population of our village swells, as all those who live and work elsewhere, travel vast distances to return home.  I was touched yesterday when my wife was reunited with one of her favorite cousins, whom she had not seen for years.  Tomorrow is arguably the best day, where the villagers walk from house to house, paying respect to the village elders in a gentle and moving representation of Songkran.

Yesterday, for the first time since moving to the Rai, we drove to town during Songkran.  We drove more slowly than usual, as we were wary of the many children lining the roadside, waiting to ambush every passing vehicle.  In the excitement of the hunt for victims, they often step into the road while looking in the opposite direction.  My occasional taps of the horn, to warn them of our presence, were sometimes returned as glares and profanities by the drunken teenage rabble in their midst.

We had no plans to go to town but received a call to say that our replacement iPhone was ready to be picked up.  I recently purchased an iPhone for my wife, which turned out to be a lemon, sadly.  I am after all an Apple fan and stockholder.  They were very good about replacing it for us and I was eager to get out of the house, so we made the drive to town.  We took with us one of my wife’s more comely young cousins.  Nineteen and nearly as tall as I am, she had yet to see the new mall, since returning home.

We parked out front and made the walk up the stairs.  While covering the open space in front of the mall and before entering, we perchance spotted friends sitting behind the, floor to ceiling storefront windows, of Starbucks.  At another table there were other farangs I had more recently met.  After introductions and a little polite conversation we all went our separate ways.  We picked up our phone, tried out our third restaurant, did some shopping, bumped into other friends and generally had a very pleasant day.

The mall is turning out to be something of a town square as well as a shopping Mecca.  Truly a welcome addition to our little town.  You do hear some complaining that it is expensive, but what I think they really mean, is that they can’t afford some of what is on offer.  The prices really are any different from other comparable stores in places like Bangkok or Chiang Mai.  Only time will tell how successful the shops will be.

Wishing you all, a safe and Happy Thai New Year.

MUANG SING Historical Park

















Prasat Muang Sing Historical Park, Kanchanaburi

The ancient site is 43 kms out of Kanchanaburi on the bank of the Kwai Noi River on Highway 323. The principal structure, the Khmer Prasat Muang Sing (Tower of the City of Lions), is believed to have been the western most outpost of the Angkor-centere Khmer empire. A wide range of artifacts including temple carvings, religious statues, implements, and pottery shards indicate the once-thriving city must have been inhabited from approximately the 12th to14th centuries. The park is daily open for tourists from 09.00 a.m. to 04.30 p.m.

Today was a beautiful Thailand day and just right for a day trip with the sun shining as always , but a very nice cool breeze blowing up from the Famous River Kwai,and all around the valley we call Sai Yok. We had been to the Muang Sing Park  6 years ago , but we were traveling with other folks and  history was just not their thing  soooo we were rushed  to look and and hurry as they were hungry, and were more interested in where and when they were going to eat , than relaxing and walking around the beautiful Park  with all it's beautiful flowers and well kept walking paths and so many huge trees that provided the best canopy of shade that you could ask for .
Well we decided that we would go alone this time and spend as much time there as we wanted . I have to say from the start that , If you want to see old Thai history from the Khmer period , and art from that period as well , then this is a must see place .There are 4 Monuments as they call them , I call them Temples and Mini temples and as of this date only 2 have been really excavated and laterite  blocks stacked back up to show what it looked like 2,000 years ago, I am just amazed that this stuff (art and history)  made it this long with out being totally lost or destroyed. Lots of artifacts and treasure have been found and I'm sure there is more just buried beneath the paths and trails we were walking on. They have found many traces of habitation,such as iron tools,ornaments ,glazed ceramics Khmer ware, Chinese celadon of the Sung period (12th--13th century)  now that's old stuff.There were a lot of Stucco Decorations for the sanctuaries made from limestone and crushed shells mixed with glue from animal skins even juice from sugar cane was used to make the stucco dry slower so that they could shape it easier.They found several religious sculptures at each monument and lots of Images of Budda.

 In 1985  while digging around the wall( close to the river bank) to clean and restore it they uncovered what they now know to be  evidence of a prehistoric burial ground.They have excavated two skeletons and lots of grave goods such as whole pots beaded bracelet's ,and bronze artifacts. They have come to conclude that the whole area around the river bank is a burial ground  there fore all construction in that area has come to a halt  (good for them ).
 We really enjoyed our half day there and could have stayed longer , but like the friends of a few years ago my stomach was crying for food., We had already made plans to eat at a favorite little road side restaurant of mine , but if you don't have plans they have food and snacks and a few gifts for you to buy there too..
 They have several great picnic areas and the solitude of the Park is a great relaxer, in fact  one of the comments from Ciejay as we were walking around was that it was a "Sad" place and that if she believed in ghost this was a perfect place for them to live  .  I thought that was funny to hear her say that , and I was feeling it myself too.
  If you are ever In the Kanchanaburi area and have at least a half a day to spend  this place will not disappoint you .We enjoyed ourselves and we're sure you will too.
History, History, History ,  it don't get any better than this , and it's just another reason why we're Retired In Thailand and Loving It.

200 Posts ...

The other day found me busily penning a post, on a topic that came up while my wife and I were driving to town.  Something about why Thai women often wait until they have children and a few failed relationships under their belt, before being willing to consider a foreign partner, and an often heard excuse, at that point they have nothing else to lose.  Of course that is not a very flattering proposition to consider and I was having difficulty finding ways to sugar coat it, for readers who may have taken that route.

There I was, contemplating offending those guys who think all Thai women are gaga for western men, as well as those selfless and noble gentlemen who have taken on the burden of other men’s offspring, while never considering themselves the last port of refuge.  Perhaps the ideal of two people with options, actually choosing each other over others, because of some primal attraction, is something reserved for the young, or Hollywood scriptwriters.  Maybe partner selection becomes more pragmatic, later in life.

Anyway, my progress down that slippery slop was halted, thankfully, by a surge of activity on my blog.  I found myself dealing with comments and further tinkering with the appearance of my blog.  While on the dashboard page of Blogger, I happened to notice a post counter which read, 199 posts.  That meant this would be my 200th post.  True, some bloggers do that in less than one year, but for me it seemed a monumental accomplishment, even four years down the road.

Being predisposed to introspection, as I am, this otherwise insignificant number triggered a wave questions about the past, present and future of this blog.  Even though I am writing more than I did last year, there is a distinct lack of direction, even four months into the year.

My most popular post has been the one on my motorcycle birthday present, last June.  It would appear that the Ninja 650r attracts a lot of eyes, even if only to view the pictures.  Clearly I am not inclined to turn this into a biker’s blog, though I do enjoy riding.  Mountain biking and road trips seem to rate rather highly as do posts on social networking and blogging questions.  Chiang Rai specific posts, like the shopping mall and flower festival attract viewers but I’m not interested in developing this space into a social calendar.  That leaves my photos, my map and my sometimes questionable social commentary.

When I run out of something to say, I tinker with the aesthetics and functionality of the blog or try to make reading from the beginning, through to the end, a little easier or more tempting.  I don’t get a lot of comments but that is probably my own fault.  To maintain balance, what comments I do get are weighted much the way some Olympic events are judged, where the anomalies at either end of the scale are disregarded, when taking into account how others view me.

I thought there was a question in there, somewhere, but I seem to have misplaced it.  Maybe it is enough to say thank you to my readers for being here on this auspicious day, just as the Thai New Year festivities of Songkran, begin their pre-event escalation toward the official holiday.  Stay safe out there during this, the killing season on Thai roads, while otherwise enjoying the company of family and friends.

Underdog

Lindy Hop Winners, September 2000

"It is always the darkest before something breaks wide open." - Mary Jo Edwards

I have always loved the underdog: the person least likely to succeed, the one who has failed over and over and over again, and the one most people have given up on. The reason I love the underdog so much is that the underdog can thrill and inspire us once they’ve locked into their own sense of passion and personal gusto, to spring up from the dirt and the dust and demonstrate to everyone what is possible when you believe.

Some of my favorite movies are about the underdog: Seabiscuit, The Pursuit of Happyness and The Slumdog Millionaire. I love these stories because they illustrate that sometimes, the failures and disappointments are what catalyze an inner desire to create something different. In this way, set-backs are to be loved and cherished, because those are the moments when we are learning and evolving, and preparing to create something new. In fact, the more the dramatic the failure, the greater the opportunity to burst forward in a grand and exciting way.

In my own life, I have come to see that the worst times are, in their own quiet way, the best times. These are the times when I’m learning about what I need to change in myself, so that I can change the outward expression of my life. But, these times, never feel like the best moments, at the time that they are happening.

I love this picture of me with my former dance partner, Jim, because it reminds me that even when everything seems bleak, a breakthrough is nearby.

Jim and I met at a dance class. Jim was going through a very sad divorce and had moved from his nice comfortable home, to rent a bedroom in a house with three other men, who were also each going through a divorce. As for me, I had recently left a business I had co-founded, my family’s business had closed after years of failure and I had just been fired from a job that I taken a few months prior, out of desperation. But none of that hurt as much as the sad break-up I was going through at the time. Things seemed bleak for Jim, and for me.

I decided to take a dance class to lift my spirits and that was Jim’s motivation, too. A few weeks in to the class, the instructor announced that there would be a dance contest in three months, and even though we were all beginners, he encouraged us to enter the contest. Hearing about the contest felt so exciting and I knew it was something I had to do! But, where would I find a partner?... I didn’t think any of the men who were just learning to dance would have the interest or motivation.

But, after class, walking down the steps to go outside, Jim ran after me and said, “HEY! Do you want to enter the dance contest!?” He had barely finished his sentence before I shouted “YES!!!!” I still remember standing on those steps with Jim, talking about how we only wanted to enter if each other was committed to winning.

In spite of everything going on in my life at that time, those next few months were some of the happiest. Jim and I practiced nearly every day. We knew that most of the dancers in the contest would have years of experience--- we’d only have a few months. We practiced in Jim’s garage and when the summer heat got to be too much, we practiced in a racquet ball court at the Y. All the kids in the gym would come to watch us practice, which made it even more fun for us.

We knew we wanted to win, but instead of focusing on winning, we focused on having fun. If we had thought logically about our chance of winning, we never would have entered the contest. We took the leap: the odds for us losing were far greater, but, we didn’t think about that. We just thought about how much fun we were having preparing for the contest and how funny it was that we were even considering it. We didn’t think about what other people would think or how we might appear foolish and naïve, we just kept showing up for practice.

When the day of the dance contest arrived, I remember feeling so nervous. And, when we got to the contest, we saw people practicing and Jim and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. But, we warmed-up by practicing, and soon, the ease and fun that we had rehearsed every day for the last few months began to show through in our dancing.

Well, as the picture shows, we won the contest. And, while all of the experienced dancers were surprised that the two beginners, who never should have won, did in fact win-- for Jim and me, it was exactly what we had prepared for.

© 2011 Lisa Ann Edwards

Promthep Cape - The end of Phuket!

I guess it's the same wherever you live. There's always something new to explore close to home. Phuket is bigger than most people realise, the island covers over 500 square kilometers, plus it's only a short drive to reach places like Phang Nga, Khao Sok National Park, Krabi, or a 1 hour ferry over to Phi Phi. Doing this blog for the last 5 years has made me and the family get out and explore and really get to know our home. Hopefully it's clear from this blog that there is a lot more to Phuket than simply beaches, hotels and eating out.

Promthep Cape (or Laem Promthep) is the name of the rocky headland than juts out into the sea at the far south west of Phuket. It's Phuket most southerly and southwesterly point, and many tourists and locals come here for views and to enjoy the sunset. There's lots of parking and a big open space on top of the hill with a shrine and a lighthouse. We've been many times before, it's a good stop off if you are touring the south of Phuket - you can visit Rawai beach or Naiharn beach, maybe the 3 Beaches Viewpoint, and Cape Promthep, it's all pretty close together and it's a very scenic part of Phuket with (as yet) little major tourist development. This is the "classic" view of Promthep Cape:

Cape Phromthep

You can see that it's just bare rock lower down on the cape, this being due to the pounding that the most south westerly point of Phuket can get during the "Southwest Monsoon" season. Can be very rough around Promthep. You can also see from the photo above that people are walking downhill towards the end of the cape. There is a dirt path that leads from the road beneath the lighthouse. And amazingly, after more than 10 years in Phuket, I had never walked down that path, never seen Promthep Cape from below. We've been here many times of course, and my wife told me that she did walk down there a long time ago (before we met) and she thought it was a hard hike. So on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I decided now was the time to see something new. The path near the top is quite steep, rocky and slippery, since it's all loose dirt. The lighthouse is about 200 feet above sea level so that gives an idea of how far the path drops. I walked carefully down the steeper section. A fisherman carrying all his gear strode past...

Fisherman on the trail

It flattens out after a couple of hundred meters and there's plenty of great views in all directions. First of all, a view I'd not seen before, looking back up to the top of Cape Promthep. Quite a number of people were walking down, but most stay at the top. By the time I walked up again there were hundreds of people waiting for the sunset. Down below it was much quieter...

Phromthep Cape

A girl stood in just the right place to model unknowingly, gazing out to sea looking south towards Racha Yai and Racha Noi islands, with the island of Koh Kaew Yai closer to the cape on the right. We've been out to Koh Kaew Yai before, getting a longtail boat from Rawai Beach.

Phromthep View

I did not walk right down to the rocks at the end of the cape, the path kind of disappeared near the end and I did not fancy too much rock scrambling, though plenty of people were doing it. I just found a rock to sit on, enjoying the sun and the view. This is the "end of Phuket" ...

The End of Phuket

The walk back up was not too hard really. Other people were still heading down including a party of Muslim schoolgirls from Yala who wanted to take photos with the handsome very big foreign guy. Guess they don't see so many tourists down in Yala (one of the Thai provinces in the far south where trouble is never ending with Muslim separatists). Hope they enjoyed their holiday in Phuket!

View from Cape Phromthep

(above) View looking North while on the path down Cape Promthep - the island is called Koh Mun, it's just 200m away from the mainland, but as far as I know it's totally uninhabited. If you follow the coast north from Koh Mun you have Yanui beach and then Naiharn Beach.

There's a lot more to see in this part of Phuket which has not really been blogged yet. I have not been to Naiharn beach for ages and have always meant to visit Naiharn temple too. Nearby is little Yanui beach which I did blog back in 2006 but it needs revisiting. Rawai beach is good for a seafood lunch, and (unless it's low tide) you can get boats out to offshore islands. I do mean to get out to Koh Bon sometime soon, it's less than 2km from Rawai. Always more to explore. Always more to Phuket than meets the eye!

Google Map - Cape Phromthep Area


View Phromthep Cape, Phuket in a larger map

A Trip to the Animal Hospital and Where's Bok

 Bok with a bandage I put on  that lasted for 10 min.
 I'll take door number 2
 Waiting our turn  , This is a busy place , and yes  folks really do care about  their pets in Thailand
 Here's Bok  waiting his turn as cool as a cucumber
 That is until this old fellow walked by after his visit and Bok took one look and was ready to go home , sores or not   ha ha
A little pug first visit
Even a little Budda altar for the Animals
 getting fitted with Head Gear

 Here's Ciejay paying the Dr. bill
Front view of the Hospital 
Well I tried to Dr. our little dog Bok, for myself , BUTTTT   he just kept licking the medicine off and the sores would not heal , sooo it's off to the Vets , where they cleaned the sores very good , and they poked and prodded, and checked him out real good , Bok is all the while looking at me and giving me a look as to say "their killing me here." After it was all over and the "anti lick head gear "was put on , Ciejay and I agreed it would be better to leave him there for a few days sooo  they could change the bandages and clean the sores and apply more medicines.
I would like to say that every time I have had occasion to visit the Animal Hospital , that I have been impressed with how organised they are and also how polite they are and the compassion (genuine) that they show the little sick animals .  I have to add that this is a Hospital that also  treats large animals also and the day we were there they had elephants , horses , cows and a couple of goats too. 
I've posted a few pictures of the trip and will comment under each if needs be .Take care of you pets , to Ciejay and Me  they are just like our kids , Very protective of our home and they follow Ciejay everywhere she goes. 
And  Sabu has been looking everywhere and even sticks his head in the doorway  to see if Bok is inside the house  , they are really good buddies and Sabu has not eaten very good since Bok has been gone  and he looks at Ciejay every time she feeds him, and looks as to ask  "where's Bok ".
And on a side note---- the local Tesabon held  a free clinic for birth control and for rabies shots , sooo  off to the town square with Sabu for his shot , it has been an animal week, But you know  "they are well worth it ",for all the joy and companionship, they bring to our lives , and I read somewhere that folks that had pets  seem to have less stress in their lives and some have even gotten well, and  lived longer ,  Sounds a lot better than Prozac to me .

New Blog Stuff...

 In an effort to keep things interesting, Blogger has come up with some new beta views, which can be accessed by adding the word ‘view’ after the url of this or other blogs.  There are five new views available in a drop down menu.  Click this link to take a look.  I find the Mosaic view kind of interesting.  The views are not fully functional as yet, but might be worth a look.

I am still working on the eBook version but I do have a new PDF style book version of the blog that I have uploaded to iWork.com for those who would like to start at the beginning and read from there.  It is easy to jump to any page or chapter by just clicking on the link in the index.

By clicking the link in the left column, just under my profile you will be taken to this NEW work in progress.  Haven't finished proofreading but it is better that what I produced in my previous attempt.  If you have any problems or comments please let me know.

In addition I have updated my Profile Page and the About This Blog Page.

The "farang-local" Difference in Perspective ...

Yesterday I took a break from the computer and opted instead to get out and about in the real world.  Refreshed from my day out on the bike, I began penning this piece, per BP’s request.  Half way through, I received a comment from another reader, dBD, a new convert to this space.  Those of you who know me better, will know that I do not use names or post things of an unnecessarily personal nature.  Hopefully, dBD will not be offended that I withheld his very personal comment and plea for help, and will consider this post as a reply.

I try my best not to tinker with whatever shade of glasses one might be wearing at the moment, be they rose colored or otherwise.  Some phases of cultural adjustment are best lingered over and indulged in, just as others are best moved through more quickly.  So without addressing the specifics of anyones personal situations, I will attempt to give you the Village Farang take on this whole farang-local perspective thing.

While it is our humanity that unites us, it is often our culture that divides us.  Some cling more steadfastly than others, to what they have been told is self evident, and may respond indignantly when confronted by those who do not share their belief system.  Some are burdened with a life focused on the material and their attempt to keep their heads above water from day to day.  Some have moved higher up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and are focused on things as yet irrelevant to others.  Whether living in Thailand or just visiting, one is sure to encounter situations where you will be asking yourself, why they don’t get it.  Your interests and theirs may be miles apart no matter how hard you try to enlighten or impress upon them the superiority of your beliefs and intellect.  Be warned, this applies to both sides of the equation and they may be thinking the very same things about you.

Of course there are Thais who are well educated, well traveled, eat western food and are interested in many of the same things you are.  I dare say that the majority of farangs don’t run in these circles and find themselves mired in a different strata of Thai society.  As western as some Thais may appear, what lingers beneath the surface may not be what you expect.  With other Thais, the difference in perspective is more simply a difference in education, experience, money and a fear of venturing beyond ones station in life and the world in which one feels comfortable.

It is not that they have no interest in all things farang, rather they have no interest in anything, beyond their very small world and immediate needs.  For example our local villagers who have lived or worked in Bangkok or even overseas, typically have not ventured beyond their worker’s enclave and place of employment.  They feel uncomfortable with those who do not eat, speak and live the way they do, be they farangs or other Thais.  They do not strive to be more than they are, just to possess more than they do.  Does that really sound so unfamiliar?

Perhaps the question is not why they don’t get it or why their perceptions are so different but why one would expect or want things not to be so.  Is it perhaps that it makes us feel uncomfortable or question our own closely held beliefs?  The trick is to learn to live with the differences.  Allow others to be different without making judgement.  Allow them to live their own lives and make their own mistakes.  As you look around the world at the myriad of languages, cultures, beliefs, religions, values and interests, one flaw stands out as a part of our human nature.  In our steadfast belief that we are on the true path, we imply that all the other paths are lesser and somehow false or misguided.  Ask yourself how we can all be so right and so wrong all at the same time, at least in the eyes of others.

I understand there are those who feel it is their mission in life to take possession of and responsibility for the lives of others.  I suppose they serve a purpose but one suspects that they sometimes do more harm than good.  Sure if you feel compelled to intervene in the lives of others, do or say what you will, but understand you are doing it because of your own needs, not necessarily theirs.  No one likes to be told that their beliefs or values are wrong and that goes for countries as well as individuals.  Don’t be surprised if your well meaning gestures go unappreciated or are misunderstood.

As you can see, mine is a hands off approach.  At best I may stimulate some, to ask questions they might not otherwise have asked, or give them the courage to do something of their own choosing, which they were previously afraid to do.  Live life by example and don’t preach.  Help others to follow their own path, not yours.  Embrace difference and change even when it challenges what you have always believed to be self evident and true.  Find humor where you can, in the foibles of humanity.  Most importantly laugh at yourself from time to time, especially when you are taking yourself a bit too seriously.  Life is like the weather, not always sunny and clear, and those dark and rainy days, in the end, bring forth new growth.

Thus ends another of VF’s pontifications.

Kata Beach Hotels

Of the 3 "main" beaches in Phuket, Kata is thought to be the quietest, though I reckon Karon is just as quiet since everything is more spread out. Kata Beach, oddly enough is where (as far as I know) mass tourism started in Phuket, with the opening of the Club Med resort in 1985. Club Med is still there and takes up a large section of the land in front of the beach, though not actually on the beach - there is a small beach road between the resort and the sand. This road stays quiet, and another road behind Club Med takes any traffic heading from one end of Kata to the other. The main through road is even further from the beach - Patak Road is the "back" road behind Kata and Karon Beaches heading from Karon Circle up to the hill that leads over to Chalong Bay. Patak Road has some small hotels, and is where people actually live, with lots of small restaurants and businesses along the way.

Starting at the north end of Kata, you have an area just inland with a road leading down to the beach, this area is called Kata Center, lots of restaurants here and shops, opticians, some bars, a few dive shops and so on. Hotels in the area include the Marina Phuket resort, which actually faces onto Karon Beach, but you can walk to Kata beach in 5 minutes too, they are so close together. As the road splits just after Starbucks - you turn right to the beach just after the Peach Hill resort - a road heads up hill to the Avista Resort and the Aspasia Hotel. Meanwhile along the road behind Club Med are more bars, restaurants and a lot of hotels such as the Chanalai Resort, Sawasdee Village, Kata Palm, Metadee Resort, Centara Kata, Sugar Marina, Malissa Villa Suites and more!

• Check Agoda.com for a Full list of Kata Beach Hotels

The last resort along the beach road is the big Kata Beach Resort, which is right on the beach. One road then heads away from the beach towards Patak Road (there are some smaller guesthouses down this way) while of you turn right after the beach road you pass the back of Kata Beach Resort and get to The Boathouse which also sits on the beach and is one of Phuket's older hotels and has a very well respected restaurant too. Chanalai Garden Resort and Chanalai Flora Resort nearby too. The south end of Kata is a surf zone - there are regular surf contests here in the low season and you find the very popular Ska Bar right at the end of the beach. After The Boathouse head another 100m and the road carries on straight and over a hill to Kata Noi Beach, or you can turn sharp left up a steep hill heading towards the Viewpoint and then on to Naiharn Beach and Phromthep Cape. At the corner is the Orchidacea resort and the Andaman Cannacia which is a few minutes hike up that steep road.

Recommended Kata Beach Hotels

Sawasdee Village

Sawasdee Village

Sawasdee Village Resort and Spa (you gotta have the "and Spa" these days) has been in Phuket for a long time, opened in 1991 - a little oasis with gardens and water features, a very good spa (so I am told) and a definite olde Thai style feeling.

Sawasdee Village - Review on Jamie's Phuket
Sawasdee Village - Check Rates and Availability
Sawasdee Village - Reviews @ Agoda.com

Novotel Avista Resort

Avista Resort

Avista is quite new - opened end of 2009, on the hill overlooking the sea at the north end of Kata beach. A modern hotel with all the mod cons, and gets a lot of very good reviews. Close to the beach and and Kata Center. Taken over by Novotel in 2016.

Avista Resort - Review on Jamie's Phuket
Avista Resort - Check Rates and Availability
Avista Resort - Reviews @ Agoda.com

CC's Hideaway Hotel

CCs Hideaway Hotel

CC's Hideaway (previously CC Blooms) is a different kind of place to stay - up in the hills, great view but not at all by the beach, it used to be promoted as gay-friendly (something to do with Bette Midler) but I think the new owners have dropped that tag. I've been up several times to pick up diving customers, looks like a nice little hideaway to me!

CC's Hideaway - Review on Jamie's Phuket
CC's Hideaway - Check Rates and Availability
CC's Hideaway - Reviews @ Agoda.com

Mom Tri's Villa Royale

Mom Tris Villa Royale

Certainly one of the best hotels in Phuket, almost always gets rave reviews. Villa Royale actually overlooks Kata Noi beach and would be about a 15 minute walk to the busier area at the south end of Kata beach. It's built in old Thai style, individual villas on the hillside, and a top restaurant too.

Mom Tri's Villa Royale - Review on Jamie's Phuket
Mom Tri's Villa Royale - Check Rates and Availability
Mom Tri's Villa Royale - Reviews @ Agoda.com

Kata Palm Resort

Kata Palm Resort

Kata Palm resort I'd say is more of a family oriented hotel, big pool and kids pools, lots of rooms, a few minutes walk to the beach and close to lots of restaurants at the south end of Kata Beach.

Kata Palm Resort - Review on Jamie's Phuket
Kata Palm Resort - Check Rates and Availability
Kata Palm Resort - Reviews @ Agoda.com


More Kata Beach Hotel Suggestions

Ibis Kata Resort review on Jamie's Phuket
Katathani Resort review on Jamie's Phuket
Kata Beach Resort Info & Booking at Agoda.com
Aspasia Hotel Info & Booking at Agoda.com
Metadee Resort Info & Booking at Agoda.com
Book Kata Beach Hotels @ Agoda.com

Chiang Rai, Transformed ...

On March 30, 2011, Chiang Rai was transformed from a sleepy, rural, backwater, into a sleepy, rural, backwater, with a fancy new shopping mall.  Central Plaza offers new options for food, clothing, electronics and services while consolidating many of the preexisting merchants into one beautiful location.  Finally we have a department store, Starbucks, McDonald's and an expanded choice of restaurants.  I will be frequenting the various coffee shops and restaurants but probably not the hamburger joints.



Sure, there will be those who bemoan the arrival of such a place but it in no way detracts from what is already here.  It merely adds to it.  We skipped opening day, knowing it would be a traffic nightmare, opting instead to visit on the following day.  Bumped into many friends and saw many more unfamiliar farangs than usual.  Almost without exception, we all commented on how we felt transported to somewhere other than Chiang Rai.  It was a surreal feeling of stepping into a much more civilized place, in some faraway city.

The experience was entirely lost on the five family members we had in-tow on the day.  It is not a regular occurrence that you will find VF playing chauffeur to Mrs. Vf’s family but Songkran is approaching and the wife wanted to take them into town for some New Year shopping.  I dropped them off at their much preferred local markets, to do most of their shopping.  Free from having me as a distraction, they are reported to have had a great time.  Afterward they joined me at the new mall where I had been surveying what was on offer and visiting with friends.  Upon their arrival at the mall and during a quick tour, for the most part the family shuffled around feeling completely out of place.

Yesterday found me once again sitting in Starbuck’s, visiting with friends both old and new, after a ride into town on the Ninja.  Having lived in Bangkok for thirty years before moving to the Rai, I like these kinds of places, but never would have imagined that we would have such a beautiful location so soon.  So I still have my pastoral setting where I live, plus new comforts and conveniences less than an hour away.

While presently an inconvenience in some areas, roadwork is continuing at a frenetic pace in our region.  A new golf course is well on its way and buildings are coming up everywhere.  Hopefully, we have some time before we end up looking the way Chiang Mai does now.  Of course there will always be a comparative size difference, no matter how much Chiang Rai grows.  As Chiang Rai expands, I may end up looking quite clever, in my choice of location.  What appears to be distant and remote today, may one day be on the outer fringes of a growing city.

Not one to be nostalgic, I will make the best of whatever comes.  It is all about how you choose to look at things, and lamenting the passage of time is a futile waist of time.