Buying Land ...

Through an email exchange I was asked about the purchase of our land and whether it was done in my wife’s name.  Subsequently, after starting to read this blog in its book form, the answer was found and I was asked to disregard the question.  Fortunately or unfortunately your choice, I had already penned the following and thought I would post it anyway.  Not everyone is so diligent about digging through the entirety of my work and an update on a topic from time to time is not unwarranted in my opinion.

My perfunctory answer to such questions of ownership is simply that my wife owns everything in Thailand.  It saves a lot of trouble if anything were to happen to me.  If I were a man of few words, that answer would no doubt suffice.  Since I have never been accused of being such a man, and since I have an opinion on such things, let me expand.

On a very general level, women’s rights and land ownership for Thai women married to foreigners has come a long way.  Not saying it is perfect but it has improved over the years.  For the specifics of Thai law I would suggest that Google is your friend.  In our case I simply had to accompany my wife to the land office and sign a form stating I had no claim to the land and we were good to go.  At a later date and at my wife’s urging, we went in to get a usufruct and have my name added to the Chanote or land title papers.  This was her idea to protect me from her family if anything were to happen to her.  Again looking up usufruct is probably more useful than my paraphrasing here.

I suppose these questions come up because we have all been exposed to the horror stories of the hapless farang male being liberated from his funds and then sent packing by an insatiable horde of in-laws.  I am in no way disputing the veracity of such stories.  I am simply suggesting there might be more to the story.

Some women succumb to social pressure and try to get as much as they can from their farang partner, to help combat the stigma of marrying outside of their own race.  Don’t forget that in a traditional rural environment, the gossip mill can be a powerful and destructive force.  If you marry a man who is no better off than some poor farmer from the village, then what is the point, in their view.  Foreigners are just too much trouble if there is no compensation for the sacrifice, such as substantial financial reward, real or wished for.  If you are already burdened by the stigma of failed relationships and perhaps fatherless children to raise, then it is not much of a leap to marry for money, the second or third time around.

There are indeed parents who will tell their daughters to get what they can from a man while the getting is good, and the man is still thinking with the wrong part of his anatomy.  Asking a man for land, a house or some other financial contribution could also be seen as a test of both his intentions and his solvency, even from a trustworthy partner who sees a man as something other than an ATM.  Unlike the West where divorce can be devastatingly expensive, in Asia the man can often simply walk away.  You can think of any contribution made to your partner as a no-fault or prepaid divorce where you know in advance exactly what your exposure is.

In the case of a land purchase there is often an undercurrent that a farang might not be aware of.  Most Thais where I live would almost immediately take the land title to the bank and use it as collateral for a loan.  That can make placing the land in the name of a family member problematic.  No telling how that money will be spent so in the end you might be asked to repurchase the same land from the bank or risk a complete write-off.  People have learned that getting oneself into debt, and then begging someone to save you, is much easier than asking for money outright and having to explain why you want it.

I love my wife and like other men of my ilk, would not like to think of her being left destitute upon my demise.  Some other men seem to have no greater ambition than to find the cheapest form of domestic care and carnal satisfaction they can.  Barefoot, wrapped in a sarong, pregnant and in the kitchen or garden, if you don’t mind.  Heaven forbid they wear any makeup or go to a beauty parlor.  They boast about how little money they spend on their wives or that they spend nothing at all and everything is in their name, not their wife’s name.  I find that sad.

My advice is always something along the lines of, if you don’t trust your partner and don’t feel they have your best interests at heart, then you are probably with the wrong person and should not throw good money after bad.  If a refusal or postponement of major cash contributions is considered grounds for ending a relationship then let it end and consider yourself lucky.  This is especially true if you are still in the first year of so of a relationship with someone you really don’t know that well.

Renting in Thailand is often a more rational and affordable route to take.  Unfortunately in the eyes of the locals it provides no future security.  Purchasing land as an investment sounds nice but often doesn’t work out.  I have friends who have done well with condos in big cities or large land tracts in rural or boarder areas but you need to know what you are doing and have some luck.  Remember you are up against speculators from all over Asia as well as Thais.  Some ten thousand rai of land on the East side of our village was swallowed up by a major beer company as an example.  How are you going to compete with that?

In summary, if you want to buy land, do your research and do it locally as the application of laws can vary by region.  Go to the land department and check with the banks to see what they have for sale and perhaps consult a good lawyer if you can find one and are the litigious sort.  Word of mouth and family connections are great but have to be viewed with a health dose of skepticism.

Next question please.

MahaBharat : Foreword

To all those doubters who might wonder "what does the author know about MahaBharat?", I (from now on referred as 'we') would like to reply, "we know even less about other things". To be honest, we know a bit about Ramayana as well. But we don't like Sita's husband, Arun Govil all that much. He has that plastic smile all the time which doesn't go well down with us.

To all those Hindu religious fanatics who might question "Will he make fun of Bible and Quran like this?", our answer is "First of all, it is not 'Will he make fun'. It is, 'Will they make fun?'. Second of all, Absolutely! Please provide us a PDF of those books." We did try to contact King James and Gideon who are in the habit of forgetting their copy of Bible in the top shelf of every dresser table in every hotel. But the efforts proved futile. We did see the hoardings about "free Quran" and contacted them. They offered us to courier a copy of hard leather bound Quran. We replied, "Get real! Send us a pdf so that it will be easy for us to copy paste and make fun of." They started abusing us in Urdu which we didn't understand much.

That left us with the only choice of writing about MahaBharath.

At this point, it would be apt to thank the bit torrent people who did provide us with a digitized version of MahaBharath. It helped us a lot in fact checking like getting the correct name of Bheem. It is, as we suspected, “Ghadhadhaari Bheem.”

Coming to this book itself we do not claim this to be an accurate version of Ved Vyas's Mahabharath. We have left the parts that really bored us like mentioning all the names of kauravas. Despite those omissions, we understand that writing Mahabharatha is a long and arduous journey. But the love and loyalty of our readers has motivated us to embark on this long journey. “By GOD, we will keep posting till they leave a comment or click on the like button” is our motto.

Finally, as every long journey must be taken one toilet break at a time, we will embark on this one post at a time.

See you tomorrow.
BTW,if you like to receive our posts by email, please do subscribe by email. You will also get a free copy of my comedy play 22,going on 33 when you subscribe.

From Mahabharat

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine

Many times when I take a day off work we just have a very relaxing family day, we don't feel like taking a long drive or a "big day out". We might stay home, just go out for lunch... sometimes I have to remind myself that I'm not a tourist - it's quite normal to chill out at home doing the garden and let the kids play games. Sure sometimes they are very happy to go out, like the trip we took to Splash Jungle recently, or the "adventure" day on mopeds at Koh Yao Noi island. Other days I try to combine relaxation with a chance to take some photos - the Phuket blog needs feeding! So a couple of weeks ago was a "home" day, but in the afternoon, we headed out for some fresh air and a walk. Destination: Sapan Hin, which is a large recreational area, largely built on reclaimed land in the south of Phuket Town, right by the sea. There are often festivals and fairs held here, and its always popular with locals to take a walk, go jogging, sit by the sea.

At Sapan Hin there is a Chinese Shrine facing the sea. The shrine plays an important role in the Phuket Vegetarian Festival - all the street processions during this amazing festival will visit this shrine and there is a huge celebration at Sapan Hin on the last night of the festival. The shrine doesn't look like much from the outside:

Sapan Hin Shrine from the road

Just over the road is the sea. It was low tide when we visited and quite a few people were out digging for shellfish. I hear that Sapan Hin is also a good place for birdspotting, especially good for waders and birds that eat shellfish.

Looking for shellfish in the mud at Sapan Hin, Phuket

There's some work being done at the shrine now, which I imagine will be ready for the start of the festival (26th September). Somehow, despite being a big fan of the vegetarian festival and a big fan of Chinese shrines, I had never been inside the shrine here at Sapan Hin. So, with the family in tow, we all went to have a look. The caretaker was sitting outside and we found that we knew her - she used to be the school nurse at our kids school! It was clear that this shrine is very well looked after - everything was spotless. The family said some prayers:

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine

The shrine has an outer area covered by a roof where incense can be lit. The ceiling was pretty spectacular, looks like it's been painted recently.

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine Ceiling

This fella guards the entrance to the shrine. Someone tell me his name please!

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine

Inside, like other shrines, there are several altars, and all are covered with statues of gods of all kinds. A quite amazing selection of faces. I urge people to visit at least one shrine like this when visiting Phuket. You know you're not in Kansas any more when you look at these statues.

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine Monkey Face

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine - god with 16 arms

And then there's this guy (below) - his name is Ji Gong, a legendary Chinese monk who lived about 800 years ago and helped the poor with his "magic fan". He was also called the "Crazy Monk" Looks a bit mad to be sure!

Sapan Hin Chinese Shrine

Sapan Hin shrine will be a lot busier during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival in October (see schedule). The main street processions are every morning starting about 7am during the festival. And the final night sees a massive night time procession in town and down to Sapan Hin. Always something interesting to see in Phuket Town!

Phuket Chinese Shrines Map

View Phuket Chinese Shrines in a larger map

No Children Please, Pets Welcome ...

Driving to town on a dark rainy day with misty clouds clinging to even the lowest hills, it was enough just to enjoy the company of my wife, who was driving for the first time in the rain, the lovely passing landscape and the relaxing ambience that seemed to envelop the world around us.  Someone had proposed a question just before leaving the house, through the comment page, so instead of enjoying the quiet I thought I would run the query by my wife to get her most recent take on the subject.

Our dialogue on having children has changed over the last fourteen years as one might expect.  After listening, she paused ever so briefly and then began a thoughtful discussion with the acknowledgement that when we first met, if she had met a man who wanted children, she probably would not have even thought about it.  After all that is what couples do, right?  Now at thirty-seven years old, and years of living with me, she has a clearer understanding of the question and her feelings on the subject.  Then again how clear can something be that is mired in biological imperatives, tradition and cultural beliefs?

Over the years she has been witness to the births of many of her friend’s children and continues to follow their progress.  They have pretty much covered the spectrum from easy to difficult and given her a good idea of the sacrifices involved in being a responsible parent, as apposed to just giving birth and passing it on to someone else to take care of.  She seems to like infants in small doses these days and understands that given the choice she would prefer not to surrender her own existence to the sole task of taking care of someone who is totally dependent upon her.  Besides, between Cookie and me, isn’t she already doing that?  Reading this part aloud to her as she worked around us, she moaned audibly, venting that she indeed had enough children to take care of already.

Clearly we have evolved strong biological and hormonal urges, that have served us perhaps too well, in our rush to dominate and over populate this world.  To counteract our more primitive urges, evolution gave us the prefrontal cortex with its executive functions capable of overriding some of our more destructive tendencies.  A quick look around and one would be excused for thinking that most people have never opened that box or read the instructions contained there in.

It took a while but I think my wife now understands, that yes she gets a warm fuzzy feeling around infants, not unlike what she feels when she sees a golden retriever puppy and holds it in her arms.  One can choose, however, to enjoy and embrace that feeling for a moment or two with other people’s children, without surrendering ones entire life to it.  To this end I am more than happy to let her get a regular dose of nurturing by visiting friends with babies.

Culturally things can be made more difficult by the pressure put upon us by friends and relatives to produce cute little clones of ourselves.  I tend to view the sometimes incessant prodding as no more mindful than remarks about the weather or your health, a simple reflex with little or no thought behind the words.  Some people give in way too easily to their urges and the prodding of others, in my opinion.  Just because someone can give birth doesn’t mean they should do so, or that they would be competent parents.

With many foreign men finding Thailand late in life and choosing much younger wives, simply because they can, there is a disproportionate number of very old fathers with very young children, at least in rural areas such as mine.  Spending ones twilight years changing diapers and playing reruns of a life you have already lived is beyond my comprehension.  Playing grandparent from time to time seems more suited to old age.  I do my best to keep those thoughts to myself around others but I’m sure they must sense my misgivings about such things.

In Thailand one hears repeatedly the question, “Who is going to take care of you when you are old?”  Even worse I used to hear, “You need to have children in time to use them.”  As I have gotten older, thankfully I don’t have to listen to that one anymore.  Those questions and comments will in time be relegated to the past where they belong but for now many still cling to them.  Taken to the extreme some seem to ignore the present and the lovely memories they could be creating together, regardless of age, and greedily prepare for their future by producing offspring and milking the ATM.

In contrast to the belief that children will care for you in your old age, these days one sees more and more old people in villages with no one to care for them.  Their children are off working in the cities trying desperately to sink no further into debt and often failing.  There are those who champion the idea of families taking care of aging parents but I have witnessed on too many occasions, families who are simply not equipped to provide the care their aging parents need.  Sometimes we do more harm than good by giving in to emotional and cultural pressure, instead of acting on a clear and rational plan.  Old age and dying are never easy subject to discuss, however.

My wife and some of her single friends half seriously joke about building houses next to each other when they get older.  Who knows, that may turn out to be doable with so many single female friends and with people staying active much later in life.  Alternatively by the time I am gone my wife’s niece and nephew will be parents a few times over and may need help raising their kids.  As the world and our circumstances in it change, we may need to evolve new models of how to deal with those changes.  We desperately seek certainty in an uncertain world but in the end the most we can hope for is that we will have acquired the needed experience and resilience to deal with whatever comes up.

At this point I probably have more confidence in my wife than she has in herself.  She has been taught to worry about things she has no control over but I do what I can to help her, if not embrace change and uncertainty, to at least not fear it quite so much.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring and one day I will not be here to love, protect and care for my wife.  All we can do realistically is make the most of the time we have together and hopefully that will provide a strong foundation upon which to continue her life after I am gone.

No doubt I have readers who would have preferred something more authoritative or instructional on this topic but those who know me better will have expected this style of rambling dissertation.  It is to be hoped, this will lend itself to stimulating ones own thought process on a subject many of us have to deal with.

Happy Independence Day

Flag hoisting and Sweet distribution.

Have you ever noticed this? They do not hoist flag and distribute sweets.
They always do flag hoisting and sweet distribution.
Now our secretary, royal pain in the ass Mr. Arumugam will do flag hoisting and sweet distribution.

Flag hoisting and sweet distribution! I think sweet distribution is the bait with which they attract you for flag hoisting. It worked like till you were in fifth standard. After that they switched tactics.

Flag hoisting and sweet distribution. Attendance compulsory.

They had you at their mercy till the school final year by that one line. You have to be present for flag hoisting whether it rains or shines, whether you like it or not. Compulsory attendance on Independence day. Why am I the only one to see the irony here?

Of course, I do not have problem with flag hoisting or sweet distribution. It is what happens in between the two that troubles me. Mr. Arumugam, who nobody cared to listen till the previous day, will talk till cows become ham burgers about the struggle for Indian Independence like he witnessed it personally. His source of information is the same as everyone else's - high school history book.

Flag hoisting has always troubled me. You see, the flag is already hoisted. All Mr. Arumugam does is unfurling the flag. So they should call it flag unfurling, right? Besides, who hoisted the flag? The ambulance that I saw speeding with siren on ten minutes earlier - what's up with that? The guy who hoisted the flag - is he safe?

The other thing that troubles me to no end is - Independence day parade. The one you see on T.V where school kids will be dancing haphazardly near army tanks. What are we telling the world? That we are a mighty power with all these huge tanks or a stupid nation which we let kids play near loaded guns.

Then comes the PM's speech. I don't know why the papers quote it on the next day. Didn't they see the huge TRP drop the previous day once the PM got up to speak? The only time I was stirred by a PM's speech was when Vajpayee told to Pakistan something like 'blah blah blah - with you, without you or in spite of you.' That phrase! It really caught my fancy. I used that phrase at every possible occasion for next one year. Once even in my bedroom!

My favorite part of Independence day is the movie they telecast on T.V - Gandhi. Personally, it is the only biopic worth watching. Too bad, that it lost the best biopic award of the century to Jack - the stripper. I think the jury was made up of just homosexual men.

But the ads that come during the movie really irritates me. 'Independence means everybody having their own thermometer. Buy yours now. Independence day sale. 20% off!' Why don't they just come right out and say, 'Independence means we having tons of money. That's why we jack up the price of things that no one would buy by 200% and give a discount of 20% so that everybody will buy. That way we will be independent of - YOU.' But then that would be Truth day. Not Independence day.

My advance wishes. Happy Independence day.

Why I Married a Thai Village Girl ...

To begin with, I am sure there are those who would dispute my wife being a “village girl” and they would not be wrong on many levels.  She speaks and writes English well, has a modern sense of fashion and design, with a fondness for western food.  Into fitness, self-improvement, travel, hiking in places as diverse as Mt. Rainer, Arches and the Grand Canyon, and even tried skydiving in Hawaii.  The truth is, however, she was born in the village we presently live in making her at least technically a village girl.

She was never a farmer like her parents and was primarily responsible for taking care of her younger brother and sister.  To this day she speaks fondly of other children, now grown, who were under her care at some time in their infancy.  Having that kind of responsibility at such a young age may go some way to explaining how I was not pressed or badgered on the issue of having offspring, something I have never been in favor of.  Though I did change my mind about getting married, I have never wavered on the issue of children and was clear from the beginning.

I can’t see that she learned much from her family with their lives being as different as night and day.  That said perhaps she did learn what she did not want.  Her goal had always been to escape the village, yet here we are, after both of us having lived most of our lives in Bangkok.  I may come back to this later but I have yet to touch on the topic of why I married my wife instead of someone else and should perhaps move in that direction.

With my years in Thailand and experience across social lines, one might ask why I did not marry into an upper crust Chinese-Thai family or one of the old Thai family names.  It is not like I didn’t know people like that or spend time in their homes when I was in my twenties.  I suppose it might have been possible when I was young and full of potential.  Though I did meet a couple of girls who were heartbroken and their dreams shattered by their unrelenting parents who threatened to disown them if they did not break off relations with their farang boyfriends from university in Europe.  Such a threat from powerful and socially influential parents was too much for them to resist.  I doubt I would have faired much better.

There were a few other stumbling blocks that were quite obvious to me, from the very beginning.  First, being from an academic family, I presented well but really had no money and little prospect of making any in Thailand.  That is of course unless I was willing to work for someone’s daddy.  I have known a few guys who integrated fairly well into that kind of situation but it was definitely not an option for me.  Being under the thumb of some Thai man who controlled both my income and my wife was unthinkable.

Secondly I was not really attracted to the girls I met in those families and getting them away from parental supervision to spend time with them was all but impossible, especially in the evenings or on weekends.  Most importantly I was having too much fun as a single guy and had no intention of ever getting married or having children.  With no interest in ruining mine or anyone else's life, it seemed more prudent to play elsewhere, with other less demanding females and those less fraught with the danger of altering my lifestyle.

Among those who knew me well, I was voted most likely to remain a lifelong bachelor.  We all know how that played out.  My youthful appearance played a major part in the early years but that was later supplemented by various jobs and time spent on Thai TV programs.  As I moved into my forties, with my taste in women not having change much in the last twenty years, it became clear that at some point I would become that desperate dirty old man who surrenders his dignity in pursuit of young Thai girls.  Though on some level I may have resigned myself to that inevitability, it was not something I was looking forward to.

This is roughly where my wife entered the picture.  I was forty-three and she was twenty-three.  A bit older than I was accustomed to but within my age tolerance.  Nothing should have ever come of our meeting because we lived in the same apartment complex and that was high on my list of survival rules, or what I sometimes called my rules of engagement, as something one never does.  I had to make a rather quick and life changing decision as to whether I should pursue a relationship with her or not.

I found her interest in me, despite having been witness to my comings and goings over the previous year, to be quite intriguing.  Not like she was stalking me, but she noticed when I was out of the country and wondered where I went.  She claims that if she had known I spoke Thai she may have summoned the courage to introduce herself instead of leaving that up to fate, which took more than a year.  Where most girls would have been turned off by what they saw during that time she spent watching me, she seemed attracted by my bad-boy persona, the parade of women and maybe even welcomed the challenge.  So from the very beginning I was accepted for who I was.

The proximity provided by our living in the same building paired with her family being far away, ended up playing a big part in our relationship progressing soothly and effortlessly from one stage to the next.  So my rule about not getting involved with someone where I lived was broken and I started down the path of breaking many more of my bachelor rules.  I considered for a moment listing some of those rules but thought better of it.  I don’t want to be responsible for tempting anyone down that potentially hazardous moral path.

Others looked at us and saw little potential for a lasting relationship and we were not disinclined to agree with them in the beginning.  Over time we discovered that from past relationships, we both had developed a list of deal breakers in members of the opposite sex.  Our lists were long and it took some time for us to discover how well we fit each other's lists.  With others that list had always been an easy way to avoid commitment with no one ever coming even close to passing the test.  It didn’t quite turnout that way with her.

Whether a list is scribbled on a piece of paper or indelibly etched into your soul from a lifetime of experience, it should be your list and not someone else’s.  You need to know what you can tolerate and what you can’t.  Obviously that can only come from experience and self-knowledge, something sorely lacking in many individuals I fear.  A list won’t necessarily change who you are attracted to but it should have some bearing on who you choose as a lifelong mate.  Love or lust will not overcome all things.

Smoking, drinking, gambling, verbal or physical abuse, dishonesty, disloyalty, lack of compatibility in areas of finance, fitness and entertainment, lack of free time to spend together and putting others before your partner were examples of things neither one of us were willing to deal with.  Since I spoke Thai, English was not high on the list for me but it was great that she had the interest and potential to sail through all fifteen books at AUA and later go on to take their intensive class, just as a refresher course.

We don’t agree on all things family, social, philosophical or religious but it never becomes an issue.  I very much enjoy and benefit from our differences as much as our similarities.  We are both granted a broad freedom of action and we are only constrained by our mutual respect and desire to please and not disappoint each other.

As much as we love our home and our life here in the village, I sometimes think we have been too successful at filling our time.  After fourteen years together she is still my best friend and confidante.  If anything, I wish we had more free time to spend together with no outside distractions.  Our house is perhaps a bit too big and our pet menagerie far too spoiled but both are problems of our own making.  Our communication is good and our love continues undiminished by the years, so we deal with whatever comes along, as a united team.

I’m not sure I have answered the original question as to why I married a village girl.  I’m not sure that term had or has much meaning for me, though I acknowledge it may be more descriptive and important to others.  Even the term married may mean something different to others than it has meant to us.  Was it luck?  Was it fate?  Was it planned?  I like to think we are committed, communicate well, and perhaps my age and experience have helped to smooth over the rough spots.  Thankfully my wife found me, chose me, forgave me and continues to put up with me after all these years.

The contours of economy

The good thing about economy is that if you are the kind of person who goes from the main page to sports page to the supplementary page then you will not be affected by economy at all. Till the time you can buy the paper, that is.

But economy is crumbling right now. And I again think it is a good thing that they have the economy page in the middle of news paper. We don't want the crumbs to fall off the paper. We need the complete paper, with all the crumbs.

 I get my economy tips from my investment analyst friend who has eyes for figures,graphs and curves. In seventh standard, when our teacher drew some parabolic elliptical hyperbola to explain conics, he pulled me and whispered in my ears, "Doesn't that look like a naked chic watering plants?" I went,'That is a parabolic elliptical hyperbola. Why would you say.." and he went,"Because those two are BEEP and those are BEEP..." and I went,"Okay! But where is the water and plant?"

You see some people have eyes for figures,graphs and curves and some don't.

So I met him for breakfast one morning to ask him what should I do in this economy. He started out with "Our GDP will do Okay. But USA may not." I wrote in my napkin that I should invest in 'our GDP' not in USA.

"What about Gold?", I asked.
"Two things can happen. It can go up. Or it can go down."
"Is there a third thing?"
"It can stay where it is."
"Does that ever happen?"
"So then why are you telling me that it can go up or down. Anybody can say that."
"So? Sue me."

I asked what was bothering him and he pointed at the waiter.
"Look at him. The economy is in shambles and he is not a bit worried." He said.
"Maybe he doesn't know that the economy is in shambles."
"Are you kidding me? He knows obviously enough not to worry about the recession."
"Will the recession not affect him?"
"Of course not. The housing loan will become dearer. Does it look like that he has a house?"
"The food prices might go up."
"He gets his free food in the hotel daily."
"What about petrol?"
"Since when do you drink petrol to walk?"
"He might loose his job."
"Not really. Do you think people will stop coming to restaurants? Somebody needs to wait on them."
"So,the recession will not affect him at all?"
"Very unlikely, unless air. water becomes dearer."
"But what if it really gets worse like in Greece?"
"Yeah, then he might loose his job. But then the situation would be so bad that people will not be eating out anymore! Can you imagine that?"
"You seem to be envious of him."
"Wait till the economy turns around. Then I will come and laugh at his face."

I didn't get many ideas from him that day. And I am still worried about economy. But it is Okay I think. All things considered, it is better to be in a state where you can afford to worry about economy than worry about life.

Of men, women and sandwiches

Heard the news that another celebrity couple is splitting. Marriage as an institution is failing. Call me old fashioned, but I have always felt that men and women need each other.

Men need women.Without women, men need to enter the kitchen themselves. And kitchen is a strange place. Not at all suitable for men. The last man to go where no man has ever been - the kitchen, is still missing. The legend is that the sink swallowed him. Of course, some men might say, 'What the hell! We will buy some ready to eat stuff and survive. We don't need women.' The thing with ready to eat stuff is you are ready to eat it, but it is not ready to be eaten - yet. You need to unwrap it without squissssshing it, keep it at proper orientation in the microwave, heat it to proper temperature, take it out without scalding your hands. So you can see that there are lot of steps between being ready and eating it.

You don't believe me? Take the case of bread. You might think eating bread is a walk in the park - take two slices, apply jam, eat it. It is. Except that the walk winds through seedy neighborhoods. The shape of a bread slice is, what scientists call, asymmetrical. Asymmetry is a complex concept. Asymmetry means not symmetrical. If you draw a line through the center of an asymmetrical thing, the left side will not match the right side.

What that means is, when you apply jam on the bread slice, it has to be applied on the non matching sides. If you don't, then when you keep the slices against each other, they won't fit perfectly. You will have portions of the side with jam exposed and you will end up smearing jam in your hand or shirt or shoes. Men don't have it in them to find the matching sides.

The greatest scientist Edison ,a bachelor, went to collect his Nobel prize in red pants - to match his jam stains on white shirt.

Women need men just as men need women. Women need men to call plumbers, carpenters, electricians and talk to them and get the job done without getting fooled by them. They need men to take a firm stand and tell the electrician, 'See! This switch faces me. It goes in the opposite wall. We need a different switch for the wall behind me. Get the one for the back wall, even if it is twice as costly.'

Women also need men to whisper sweet little nothings in their ear like, 'Honey, you need to press the brake, not the accelerator and you better do it NOWWWWWW.' or 'Darling! Press the clutch, put the gear on first and slowly accelerate. But do it fast before the guy with the crowbar reaches my window.'

In summary, women need men as much as men need women. Now if we can find some oil rig men to drill that into the heads of warring couples then the lawyers will not be needed.

From Funny Side Of Life

Headache... at a theater near you

Friday night, in a moment of weekness I did a pretty stupid thing. Men are like that, especially in nights. I switched on the T.V. I wanted to catch up on the latest developments. Instead, Raavan caught up with me. I have been escaping from Abhishek Bachchan for more than a year now. But he caught me in a big way yesterday. Six feet of muscles that refuse to act on a thirty two inch screen is a nightmare.

I have a simple theory for success. It states that that you don't need to be talented, hard working or good looking to be a success. You just need a better father. Abhishek bachchan is the proof on which the theory is built. I mean, he can't deliver even a single line! You would have thought that, 'Wow! I am going to be a father. I am so happy right now!' to be the easiest line to deliver. In India, that line gets delivered every two seconds. And most of the time the fathers perform reasonably well. Of course, their performance will not get an oscar but you can see that the fathers are trying to smile and look happy. So you can kinda guess how they are feeling - shit scared. But Abhishek couldn't deliver even that line. He copped out and asked his father to tweet to the world about the arrival of grandchild.

A friend of mine is a big fan of Abhishek. He likes all the movies of abhishek. That's the beauty of abhishek. If you like his acting in one movie then you will like him in all his movies. He repeats the same bad acting again and again.

Then on saturday we went to the final installment of Hairy Farter series. The great thing the movie has going for itself is that it is a popular movie. Plus the fact that it operates on two layers which when combined using a special glass gives a 3D feel. Do you know that they have something called jumbo cola? The best part of the movie! Skip the movie, stick with the book would be my advise.

On sunday, it was back to the theater and jumbo cola again. This time to watch ZNMD. ZNMD is a road trip movie. The kind of movie where three guys go on a road trip and two hours later audience come out tired. After watching the movie, I felt that Zindagi na milegi dobara should not have been the title but the statutory warning of the movie. As the credits rolled, I said, "I am feeling sick."

Next day the doctor said, "It's viral fever. Maybe it is the colas you drank." The doc is right. Bollywood cannot compete with the colas when it comes to dishing out stuff that makes you sick.

From Funny Side Of Life

Naiharn / Yanui Viewpoint

Not quite sure if this viewpoint has an official name, but it's easy enough to find. Look for the big white wind turbine on the hill by the sea just south of Naiharn Beach. For sure I have been up here quite a few times before, but last week I realised that I had not been for a drive around the Naiharn area for ages. With the sun setting at around 6:45pm in August I decided to head down that way from my work at Karon Beach. Not a long drive, past Kata Beach and then on the coast road passing the After Beach Bar and the well known Karon Viewpoint after which the road drops inland heading towards Naiharn Beach. The roads here are small and there are lots of shortcuts that I don't know. It's easy to drive round in circles, though there are a few street signs. The area inland from Naiharn has become much more developed in the last 6 years. I mean, it's still quiet but there are a lot of new houses, bars, restaurants etc... When you get to Naiharn lagoon, you need to be on ths south side of the lagoon, then 2 minutes up the hill to the wind turbine. Parking is easy on a scooter, less so in a car, not much space up there.

The big wind turbine near Naiharn Beach

(above) Look for the big wind turbine on the hill near Nai Harn Beach

When I got up there I was very pleased to find someone paragliding. This spot is often used by paragliders and there have been a couple of competitions. More information at So my camera was quickly in action! There were quite a few people up there watching or just enjoying the views, mostly local people. This viewpoint is not promoted as much as Phromthep Cape or the previously mentioned Karon Viewpoint. The guy who was paragliding took off from the hillside that falls steeply down to the waves about 40 meters below. The wind has to be just right, and on this beautiful low season day with a light wind blowing from the west this guy was able to fly.

Paragliding in Phuket

Paragliding in Phuket

I don't know how often there are people paragliding. About 15 minutes after I arrived, this guy was packing up so I was lucky to see it. Then I could concentrate on the views! The coastline of Phuket has some great views, all around the island. To the south of this viewpoint you can see Yanui beach, a very small quiet beach which has a few bungalow operations. South of Yanui is Phromthep Cape. you can't quite see the tip of the cape from this viewpoint. You can also see a small uninhabited island called Koh Mun just off the coast.

Ya Nui Beach Viewpoint

And a close up view of Yanui beach. We've not been to Yanui for years. I recall going when our daughter was small and enjoying a drink at a cafe with my parents. We climbed on the rocks and looked for marine life in the rock pools. Yanui beach was battered by the tsunami on December 26th 2004. I know everything is all rebuilt, but if memory serves, we've not stopped there in all that time.

Ya Nui Beach

With the paraglider out of the way, a local man was preparing his remote controlled plane for take off as the sun sank towards the sea. And all this time another guy had been quietly playing guitar.

Remote control airplane in Phuket

Guitarist at Phuket Viewpoint

And here's the guy with his remote control. The little yellow plane is out there somewhere. I tried to take a photo with the plane in frame but it zipped past too quickly. You can just about see Naiharn beach in the background behind the guy.

Remote control plane in Phuket

Well, it was a very nice evening. Low season is like this sometimes, you can have days that are as good as any high season day, mixed in with some less-good days! Below - the view looking west from the "wind turbine viewpoint" or whatever it's name is - blue ocean, blue skies. Everyone says "go see the sunset at Cape Phromthep" - yeh, you and 1000 others! Phromthep is very nice, but just about anywhere on the west coast is good for a sunset.

View from viewpoint near Naiharn beach looking west

Hills and Views in Phuket - Google Maps

View Phuket Hills and Viewpoints in a larger map

Mushrooms,picking ,cooking ,eating ,enjoying

   This is mushroom season here in Thailand and Kanchanaburi is famous for all kinds of mushrooms that grow in the forest and especially  the foothills of the small mountain range  in the Sai Yok area, there are mushrooms a plenty, one of the favorite and most sought after, and a great income for the families that live here is the termite mushroom or (hed khone ), also they are a favorite in Tum Yum soup of all kinds , my favorite is hed khone mushrooms and chicken  soup with coconut milk, "yum yum".

    One of the most famous and expensive mushrooms found around here are called the hed khone , and folks come from all over the country to buy them at the roadside stands along the highway between Sai Yok and Kanchanaburi,  and there are whole sellers that come from Bangkok to bargain with the roadside stands in order to take them back and sell to the high  priced restaurants, a meal that includes hed khone mushrooms (fresh) can cost as much as 350  baht or more . . They can cost upwards to 400 baht per kilo at the roadside stands. The season for them is Sept. till Jan. and families that sell them every year, will stay in the woods for days, guarding their secret places, they seem to grow in the same places at the same times every year.
    At the foot of the mountain behind our house and in the forest leading up to it ,there lots of hed khone mushrooms grow and people from our village will come every morning at 5 or 6 am and start looking for them especially after a good rain and a sunny day. It's first come first served at our Mt. and the early bird gets the worm (mushrooms).
Today was a lucky day for us , we had a man come and cut our grass for us today and  I was out back looking, to see if he had done a good job when , I happened to look over about 50 ft. from our back deck and saw what I thought was mushrooms ,I called Ciejay to come look , and sure enough they were hed Khone mushrooms. we were able to pick about 2 kilo. What a great fine and in our own backyard , It don't get any better than that.
   Ciejay just finished cleaning them and tonight we are going to saute them with onions and garlic and  serve them with grilled, pork tenderloin and jasmine rice. and we will still have enough left to make a great  mushroom and chicken with coconut milk for a great Tum Yum soup.
    This is just another example of the wonderful variety of food that is available here in the LOS , that is there just for the small effort of getting out and looking . Do you like fresh mushrooms?, and do you ever go to look for them in the forest near your home?Ciejay and me we love mushrooms any time we can get them , most of the time we , like most people have to buy from the roadside stands and every once in a while , if a neighbor finds more than they can use  they will share them with their neighbors, and we're very happy when this includes us . Just another reason why we're "Retired in Thailand and Loving It".

Unsolicited Advice, Classic VF ...

Lets face it, if your company or religion didn’t send you here or it wasn’t part of a much longer trip of self-discovery, you probably came here for the girls.  Okay, maybe you were dragged here reluctantly by a friend who was tired of you being lonely and crying in your beer.  Face it, the girls were the hook that landed you.

The thing that always gets me though, is how many nesters there are, ready to make the same mistakes and fall back into the same hole they escaped from.  While disparaging the divorcées and blue-hairs back home, they continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel here in Thailand, looking for love in all the wrong places.  Don’t know if it is low testosterone or elevated estrogen levels due to the chemicals we use to raise our food.  Perhaps the guys were more severely emasculated by their previous encounters than they want to admit.  Whatever it is, guys who should know better, jump back on the marriage merry-go-round with the first Thai girl who tells him he is a “handsome man” and lifts her skirt.

If you are getting married for sex, then don’t.  I assure you that per-unit cost, it is much cheaper to rent and the variety will keep your interest up, so to speak.  The whole idea that you need a big house, a truck and a baby before anything else, is a crock.  Do you really want to spend the rest of you days prefacing the introduction of your wife or girlfriend by including some variation of the phrase, “and she was not a hooker.”  A waisted effort by the way, as foreigners will assume you are lying and Thais will know before she opens her mouth.

Do you really want to spend your retirement nest-egg on the establishment of a freedom-sucking, financial sinkhole?  Move around, explore the country, learn the language and learn to read and understand the women and customs.  I assure you there are options to the over-the-hill, tattooed girl, with a couple of kids from deepest darkest Isaan.

As with anything, learn the ropes before taking the plunge.  Stay single and create your own life here in Thailand.  If you are successful, then and only then, invite someone to share your life with you.  Don’t let someone you are unable to communicate with, dictate the path of your life.  Talk about the blind leading the blind.

So you are not ready for retirement and still need to work.  Chances are you won’t be able to find work in Thailand if you aren’t already employed there.  That means moving her to your country and all the hurdles that implies or starting up a long-distance relationship.  The odds of a long-distance relationship working are well documented.

Oddly enough in Thailand, that kind of relationship can be beneficial to both parties over the short term.  The Thai woman is able to remain with family and friends in a familiar environment with financial security and no expectation of catering to the inexplicable demands of the foreigner.  Of course they do end up spending some time together when he is on leave, but for a short time one can put up with almost anything.

The man on the other hand, has someone to write to and dream about while he is stuck making money in some godforsaken hole in Africa, the Middle East or perhaps even back home in is own country of birth.  Often it is that fantasy which allows the man to bear the isolation of his work environment and forgo immediate gratification for some imagined light at the end of the tunnel.  What happens when he retires and goes to live with this woman he has spent so little time with over the years and the children who don’t really know him or listen to him, is anyone’s guess.

Strange rantings coming from someone like me who is so obviously domesticated, you think?  Not really, I assure you.  After all I spent twenty plus years as a single guy in Thailand before settling down in my mid-forties and know of what I speak.  I knew my wife for two years before we got married.  I do mean knew her, as we lived together that whole time with hardly a day apart.  The first eight years of marriage we spent living in a small condo and traveling half the year.  Only after ten years together did we start contemplating our move up here to the Rai.

Though my experience is from a distant era, things between men and women really haven’t changed all that much.  As far back as thirty years ago this game of cat and mouse existed between Thai women and farang men.  I was known to write a letter or two (no email back then) for women who sounded so loving on the page, yet would make a sailor blush with their off color remarks and references to their loved ones.  I often wondered what their men would do if they could eavesdrop on their partner’s conversations and understand how truly crude and calculating they were, under their sweet and ever so thin veneer.  It is that very inability to communicate that lends to the objectification of the other sex, I feel.  If all you know about someone is what you can see or feel in the bedroom, then they are no more than a sexual object.  If a man cannot make himself understood, then can a woman be faulted for seeing him primarily as the preverbal ATM?

Remember what people back home think and say about the foreigners who move there and never learn the language or assimilate.  Then ask yourself if you are any better.  There is a certain kind of expat who complains of the treatment he receives from Thais, when it is merely human nature to objectify and dehumanize those we do not understand.  If you move to Thailand, does the burden not fall upon you to do the adjusting and not the other way around?

I suppose if you really want to make things difficult you could fall for a stateless or illegal alien from the mountains of a neighboring country.  That has always made even less sense to me than a woman with kids who as a last resort decides she has no more shame and is ready to start looking for a farang.  Of course there are plenty of guys out there ready to be a savior of the needy, as long as they find them attractive enough.  It satisfies their needs on multiple levels, I suppose.

So how was that for a taste of classic VF?  Is there anyone I have neglected or failed to include in my little rant?  Don’t you sometimes want to ask, “What in the world were you thinking?” even though you know it will make no difference?  Well I do, so here I have unburdened myself of that need fully aware that no one who needs to listen, will.  Perhaps my next post will return to the lush mountains and valleys of the Rai.