A Visit to a coconut farm

My best friend B-Bie , manager of the Big Sheep Resort here in Wang Pho , was raised in Prachuap Khiri Khan, he still has a Mom and brother and lots of family that live there now . We were talking one day and he was telling me about growing up in Prachuap and that his family owned a coconut farm and that his childhood was spent on a coconut farm , well this was all very interesting to me as I had no idea about raising coconuts for commercial use.And all the many uses of the coconut and the tree and all the bi-products made from it. I guess I was asking to many questions , and B-Bie said ," next week we go to Prachuap and see my Mom and the coconut farm and my friend coconut factory and then you see for yourself and don't have to ask , and you can stay at my friends little resort on the beach and we will drive around the country and you can take lots of pictures."Well I could hardly wait till time to go , it is a seven hour drive from Wang Pho and a very beautiful drive to say the least . Was a easy drive, as far as directions go , from Wang Pho 321 to right before Bangkok turn right on Hwy. # 4 and away you go .We left home about six o'clock a.m.and,we got there just in time for lunch . We checked in at the resort and headed straight for a little beach side restaurant , that was one of B-Bie's favorite , and as it turned out will be #one on my list on our next visit also.From there we went to the country side for a beautiful drive and then , a long trip down a dirt road to the family coconut farm , you will not believe it, but it was harvest time on the farm and they were cutting the coconuts from the tall and I mean tall trees and bringing them to the house to be sorted and counted and ready for the factory truck to pick up the next day. I thought that you got coconuts once a year like any other crop , but nooooo they can harvest them every month , and lots of them too,as you will see in the pictures . After the harvest and show and tell and join in the work time ,it was time to eat and our little resort had a great cook ,and we ate our dinner right on the beach again. Now the great thing about this beach is there was noone else and no other resorts around for miles we, were just like on a Island all to our selves . What a great and relaxing evening we had . At night the squid boats were out in force, right in front of the resort a couple of hundred yards,. out , but we could see their lights and watch them pulling in their nets. it was breath taking to say the least , next morning breakfast at another restaurant right on the beach again with very few folks around, and a great view as you will see in the pictures. and then off to the coconut factory, but not before a great foot massage , to watch the process from start to finish .I could almost write a mini BOOK about the experience there , but will just show pictures and let you see it in action.I would like to say that it was a high light of times in my travels around Thailand.That afternoon ,after it cooled down we were off to a Thai Temple that was located way up on a mountain top , were you could really as they say "see for miles ". so much to tell , but again will let the pictures speak for themselves . Then before going back to the resort B-Bie suggested we go to his favorite spot , known by few , and have a cup of coffee before dinner .I tried to buy a small little house that was empty , just so I could live there part of the year and have it for friends, the rest of the time . But they have big plans for the area if the economy picks up again , and said no , I hope somehow it never happens for this beautiful place as it would be a shame to spoil it at all , even tho they have started a little already . Then off to the resort for dinner and , this evening a swim in the ocean for me and feet wet for Ciejay, a good nites sleep and then breakfast and a nice drive back home . Needless to say this place called Prachuap is a beautiful place to visit and on our list for a longer stay this summer . Thanks to my friend B-Bie for this wonder ful experience and for being a great tour guide. Malcolm

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 3

My favourite Phuket event finished on October 4th and there are already 2 blog posts online about the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival - see Part 1 and Part 2. I wanted to see lots of the festival this year and thus we need 3 blog posts :) Part 2 covered the big street processions in town for the Bang Neow and Jui Tui shrines. Those are the biggest of the morning processions, and really are quite a buzz for me, even after many years. It's not to everyone's taste, can cause some traffic issues and some people just don't get the point of all the face piercing. Well, it's not your culture. This festival dates back about 190 years, is certainly not a tourist event and if you stick around the main beach areas of Phuket, which most visitors do, you really won't notice anything. The big events happen at Chinese shrines around the island and the biggest street parades are in Phuket Town. It all started back in about 1825 when members of a visiting Chinese theater got sick when entertaining tin miners in the Kathu area of Phuket to the west of Phuket Town. Kathu is where this began, even before Phuket Town existed as a town. And Kathu Shrine had it's procession on October 1st. I tend to visit this shrine every year since it's very close to my house. Every year I try to get there really early, like 6 - 6:30am, and then realise that's not early enough. So, this year I was there at 5:30am. It was already crowded. The whole local community takes part as Kathu is very much a Chinese-Thai area and takes pride in being the origin of the festival.

Say a Little Prayer

(above) Saying prayers at Kathu shrine - this photo taken at 5:40am on 1st October.

I have taken plenty of the face piercing photos over the years and Kathu has plenty of that. This year I wanted to try and capture what was happening inside the shrine as the entranced Ma Song came to the shrine before heading outside to get pierced. Managed to find a photo vantage point next to the main "altar". I think video would be better, will try that next year. The Ma Song are sitting around the shrine and then suddenly, one by one or in small groups, they start to grunt and shake their heads and in some cases dance wildly, slam their hands down on the altar and are dressed in their ceremonial outfits by their helpers. Hard to get a photo in the dim light with the camera I was using (an old Panasonic G1). The experience was worth more than the photos.

2 Ma Song inside Kathu Shrine

Ma Song at the shrine getting prepared for piercing

(above) Ma Song at the altar inside Kathu shrine, about 6am on 1st October

Outside things get real busy after 6am. Ma Song are exiting the shrine every minute and finding a place to sit and get pierced. There are male and female Ma Song here at Kathu although most of the ladies are not pierced. It was not long before the procession started to form up and get ready for the walk to Phuket Town - it's something like 7km from Kathu, quite a walk on a hot day especially if you are carrying extra weight.

Face piercing at Kathu Shrine

(above) Face piercing at Kathu shrine, about 6:20am 1st October

Not long after the above photo was taken, the Ma Song start the walk to town. The procession seems a bit random, with people setting off when they are ready. I waited a while outside the shrine, as my favourite part of the procession is in the rear - groups of guys carrying statues of the gods, and local residents throw firecrakers or hang long strips of firecrackers on bamboo poles and dangle them overhead as the gods are carried past. If you get in the middle of this, it's best to wear ear plugs and a mask.

Gods coming through!

Firecrackers in Kathu village

(above) Carrying the gods through the firecracker storm in Kathu village. This is still before 7am. The streets get carpeted in red firecracker debris. I'd forgotten to get a mask and a couple of times had to beat a hasty retreat as the smoke was too much.

"Old" Ma Song near the rear of the procession

(above) The rear of the procession. This particular Ma Song, a young guy, seems to take on the form of a bent old man, walking with a stick. It is said that the Ma Song are possessed by spirits. I have no idea what is true, I have no reason to doubt what I see with my own eyes. If not true, there are some damn fine actors in Phuket!

On the last night of the festival there is a huge procession in Phuket Town with Ma Song (not pierced) and hundreds of god statues being carried through the streets. I had never been into town on the last night until this year. Earlier in the evening all the shrines have a ceremony called "Crossing the bridge for purification" - we'd been into Kathu for this a few years ago and it was a lovely evening (see here). The crazy last night procession always seemed a bit too crazy to me, but this year, properly equipped (long trousers, running shoes, long sleeved white shirt, facemask, cotton wool plugs for the ears) it was time to get a new experience. And it was worth the effort. I will certainly go again next year, armed with a better camera I hope and a better knowledge of where to get the best views. I went in with the family although my wife and kids soon retreated to a safe distance, and met Tim along Phuket Road near the large roadside shrine set up by the Phuket Town municipality. At one point with the smoke getting too much I retreated behind this shrine and found myself standing net to the Mayor of Phuket Town!

A few photos ... I tried to get close to the action!

Have some of that!

Running the Gauntlet

Not a job for the boys

Move Move Move

The procession goes on from about 9:30 / 10pm until midnight or later. As I was there with the family, I did not stay too late - the photos above were all taken around 10pm. It gets wilder later on. I think I better aim to be in town until after midnight next year. This was just a taster! While waiting on Phuket Road for more of the procession to pass I became aware through the constant din of firecrackers that the next street over (Montri Road) seemed noisier, so I found a shortcut and found myself in the middle of a firestorm! Along with the firecrackers, piles of paper were being burnt in the street as the gods were carried past. Chaos and one facemask was not enough! But as the madness eased for a second I got one of my favourite photos from this year's festival.

Prayers in Phuket

Finally a short video. I was using a very basic Lumix camera on this last night, but I think with a little preparation, like wrapping the camera up in cloth and plastic, a nice camera would probably survive! Anyway, the Lumix had a video setting, so here's a little burst of madness ...

And that just about does it for the 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival, except there is a second festival this year from 24th October until 2nd November, as there are 2 ninth lunar months. I have no details of what will happen during this second festival. I get the impression that the answer is "not much" except for maybe another 9 days of vegetarian food for the faithful? I'll post any info that arises on my Facebook Page or you can follow me on Twitter for Phuket news and more. See you in Phuket!

Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord, Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania

Less than a year ago we went back to Bird-In-Hand Family Restaurant and Smorgasbord in Bird-In-Hand, Lancaster County, PA. We went then on a Wednesday night and I was impressed with the featured food for that night being very well prepared Pennsylvania Dutch favorites. I was also impressed that the price for this meal was $15.99 which included the beverage.

Fast forward to this year and we

Mango, Good reasons for eating ---Love it

10 Unbelievable Reasons to Eat Mango
Ads by Plus-HD-V1.8c×Did you know that the tree Buddha meditated under was a mango tree? He reached enlightenment, and the fruits of the tree that provided his cool shade can almost send you to nirvana too. Not only is mango delicious and refreshingly-filling, it also carries a lot of goodness inside its flesh, and can take you on a path of health and wellness. It truly is food fit for the gods.
So, let’s take a look at why mangos are such a smart and healthy choice for your diet.

1. It Helps Fight Cancer

Many foods are believed to have anti-cancer properties, but rigorous research is needed to support these claims. Texas A&M AgriLife Research is a big research facility that studies the impact of food on health, looks at the biological underpinnings of cancer, and develops new cancer treatments. Mango was one of their recent researchprojects. Doctor Talcott, a nutrition scientist at AgriLife Research, led a study that showed that mango’s polyphenols (antioxidant-like plant chemicals) could have cancer-fighting properties.  Adding mango to your diet can be particularly beneficial for breast and colon cancerprevention and further studies are in progress.
Further reading: There are other foods that protect against cancer development and you can read about them in my post:Discover the Top 14 Foods That Protect Against Cancer Development.

2. It Preserves Sharp Vision

According to the Institute for Natural Healing, eating three servings of mango per day (1 serving = 1/2 – 3/4 cup) can reduce your chances of developing age-related MACULAR DEGENERATION by more than a half. Mangos contain a lot of vitamin A, which is very important for eye health, and they’re also rich in zeaxanthin and lutein – two potent antioxidants. They protect the eyes from high-energy light waves, such as some ultraviolet rays in sunlight, which can be harmful to the eyes.
Further reading: I’ve already shared with my readers my 9 secrets for preventing eyesight problems and improving your vision naturally.

3. It Supports Heart Health

Mango is high in antioxidants and fiber, which are both crucial for the protection of the heart muscle. A diet high in fiber can significantly reduce your chances of developing heart disease. A cup of sliced mango can contribute three grams to the daily recommended amount of fiber, which is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. According to research, for every 7 grams of fiber you eat, the risk of heart diseases goes down by 9 percent.
Further reading: Get more information on how to keep your heart in top working condition in my post: The Best Foods and Herbs for Healthy Heart, Including Heart Tonic Recipe.

4. It Keeps the Skin Young

Vitamin C in mango supports collagen production, which makes your skin tighter and firmer. Since mango’s zeaxanthin and lutein protect from the harmful effects of UV light, eating mangos can reduce skin damage from the sun. Mango can also unclog skin pores and is used as a face mask. Now I understand why that girl was wearing slices of mango on her face, I hear some of you exclaim.
Further reading: You can get more information on how to use essential oils for healthy skin in my e-book Magical Aromatherapy and also in this post. Also read my article about the top 8 vitamins and nutrients that are essential for healthy skin.

5. It Boosts Brainpower

Mango contains vitamin B6, which is the vitamin that stimulates the brain and preserves your cognitive function. Some studies have shown that lower levels of vitamin B6 are connected with decreased cognitive abilities in older people. Vitamin B6 has been praised as a dietary supplement for cognitive health. It can improve memory and concentration, and even ward off dementia. So instead of taking the substitute, why not going directly to the source and enjoying the tasty mango.
Further reading: Get more information on how to naturally improve your brain function and about foods to improve your memory.

6. It is a good source of Fiber

Eating a diet rich in fiber is important for many aspects of our health. You require fiber for healthy digestion, and when you’re bowels are happy, the quality of life always goes up. Fibers also help prevent heart disease and reduce the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and diverticular disease or diverticulitis, which affects the colon.
Further reading:  Ginger as well as some herbs are also very helpful in improving your digestion and you can get more information about this subject in my e-book The Herbal Remedies Guide as well as in this post.

7. It is High in Key Vitamins and Minerals

Mango contains a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals. When you eat this refreshing fruit, you’re treating your body to a dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K. The latter supports bone health. And then there is the conglomerate of B vitamins. B1, B2, B5, B6, niacin and folic acid can all be found in mango. Folic acid is particularly important for pregnant women, as it reduces the possibility of birth defects. One cup of fresh mango supplies 71 mcg of folic acids, and the daily intake should be around 400 mcg. But that’s not all. Mango is also a great source of minerals, including potassium, magnesium and calcium. This really is the king of fruits and such a great source of nutrients!

8. It Aids Your Digestive System

One thing that helps your digestive system is the abundance of fiber in mango. And the other thing is the presence of a digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins. The enzymes are present in ripe mangoes, so check the fruit for ripeness before you eat it. If you can get hold of mango flowers, they are also used to cure diarrhea, chronic dysentery and urinary tract infections.
Further reading: learn how to make a natural digestive enzyme detox smoothie.

9. It Boosts Your Immune System

By supporting the digestive system, mango is also good for your immunity. Not many people know that, but thegastrointestinal system is actually a part of the immune system and 80 percent of immune defense lies there. Your general health is intertwined with your gut health. Mango also contains a lot of vitamin C, which additionally boosts your immunity.

10. It Help With Your Dieting Efforts

Mango can be so deliciously sweet, yet is very low in calories. One cup of mango comes to only 100 calories. According to the University of Oklahoma, a diet which involves eating mangoes, regulates the appetite, and reduces the levels of glucose and cholesterol in the blood. Isn’t it great when dieting can be supported by tasty food?
Further reading: read about my 9 secrets of losing weight without diet and also about spices and herbs that will help you lose weight. You can also find more information about healthy eating and nutrition in my e-book Effortless Healthy Eating which is part of the Natural Health Revolution Program. This program will help you to achieve your health, nutrition and weight loss goals.
So start eating mango today! It can be enjoyed in many different ways – as a healthy snack, a part of a delicious smoothie, or mixed into salsas and chutneys. For extra kick, enjoy it with a little bit of chili powder or lime juice. Personally, I just like 

The Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 2

So, the vegetarian festival is over for another year. Or is it? Actually, 2014 sees a rare event since the 9th lunar month occurs twice and there will be a second vegetarian festival from about October 24th to November 1st. Apparently this only happens every hundred years or so, and it does seem that nobody is quite sure what to do second time around! I know that only some shrines will be participating and there won't be the massive street processions of the main festival which took place September 23rd - October 3rd. I'll have to wait and see what happens!

I already blogged Part 1 of the 2014 festival. This post covers all the events that I attended from September 27th until the end of the festival. I admit to getting a bit lazy over the weekend 27th - 28th September. Alarm set for 5am, with intentions to visit shrines, but both Saturday an Sunday mornings I turned off the alarm and enjoyed a rest. Fair enough, I do work all week after all! But when we hit Monday 29th, it was time for some action. I headed into town before 7am to watch some of the street procession from Bang Neow Shrine. This year I have tried to spotlight some of the more spiritual aspects of the vegetarian festival, not so much of the face piercing which tends to get most of the press.

A blessing on the street

(above) One of the Ma Song (entranced spirit mediums) blessing a man on the street

Ma Song blessing a household shrine

(above) Ma Song blessing a household shrine

Ma Song giving gift to a baby

(above) Ma Song giving a gift of fruit to a young child

Of course the face piercing cannot be ignored! By their pain is the bad luck of the community cast out!

Wide traffic coming through!


And at the rear of the procession come the gods carried by teams of young guys through a hail of firecrackers.


Only the brave

The very next day, September 30th, was the biggest of the street processions starting from Jui Tui shrine and winding around the old town, down to the sea at Sapan Hin and back to the shrine. It takes about an hour for the whole procession to pass, and you can then move location and see it all pass again :) Jui Tui features something that Bang Neow does not - female Ma Song, and not just a few. The morning started thundery and a little wet, but thankfully the rain stopped.

Ma Song Girls

Ma Song in the parade 30th September

Gift from a Ma Song

Ma Song Girl on Thalang Road

I stood on Thalang Road in the center of old town for this procession. Businesses along the street set up shrines outside their door.

Shrine set up outside a business on Thalang Road

The respect shown to the Ma Song by the local people is obvious. And I am glad to see the old traditions being passed down to the young kids.


Prayers, respect, wonder

Blessing in the street

As the biggest shrine, you might expect a few bizarre piercings to be found on this morning ...

We're impressed, now plug them in and turn them on!

Hot Day? Bring your own Shade!

Did I overdo the HDR?

At one point, I was standing in the street with my little Lumix G1 camera and the whole procession stopped and posed for me. I looked around expecting to see some pro photograher next to me, but no .. this group shot was just for Jamie's Phuket. Thanks everyone!

Happiness is a Vegetarian Festival Procession

And along came the gods. Every year I try to get a perfect photo of firecrackers exploding as these guys carry their chariots through the streets. Will try again next year, although there are always a few good photos if you press the shutter enough times!

Through the Fire

Carrying the Gods

Onward Onward

This procession really is a buzz for me. I'd happily have stayed another hour but of course I have to work. Lots more photos can be found on my Flickr account - see Phuket Vegetarian Festival Photos. I'm going to need a Part 3 on the blog to cover the last couple of days. I love this festival and although I can understand people who don't like it either due to it's bizarre rituals or just that the traffic gets held up around town every morning, I think it's brilliant. And some people may say it's getting more commercial. I don't see that. Maybe a few more young guys doing odd piercings so they can get on TV. And despite claims that the festival brings tourists, I don't see that either. Not too many tourists watching these events, mostly locals. Certainly more tourists than when I first looked in 2006, but still there is not way you can call it a tourist attraction / something for tourists .. This is a 180+ year old event and tourism has been big in Phuket for less than 30 years.

Part 3 coming soon featuring early morning at Kathu shrine and the final night procession in Phuket Town.

Eating Out --what a treat here in the Land of Smiles and Great Food

When we( Ciejay and Me) lived in America , believe it or not I use to hate to hear those words , "LETS GO OUT FOR DINNER TONITE "for different reasons than you might think , I'll list just a few of these reasons , you might be able to relate to a few of them.
1. Where to go ? everyone had their favorite place and it takes a lot of giving in to decide just where you want to go , and if the others don't really want to eat there too then, it's just food and not fun.
2. Fast food , need I say more ?
3. Worked hard all day and sick of people and then to drive all over town to get there just not fun. Would be happy with soup and sandwich especially if it was a SPAM sandwich and Campbells tomato soup.
4. Most places, other than fast food , would break the bank and cost a arm and a leg.

But, all that has changed since we've moved here to Thailand , I have never had a problem with eating out here in the LOS , as each time there are soooo many restaurants( one or two plastic tables and a few plastic blue or red chairs and whalla you've got a restaurant any where you want, on the side of the road , on a side walk in town or in your own front yard) and almost all are a food lovers delight with aroma's and spices and tastes like your taste buds have never experienced in your life,and there are soooo many of them that you never have to go far and you never have to eat at the same place twice unless you want to.
The reason behind this post , I have been waiting all rainy season for it to stop because my favorite place to eat on top of the Mt. road is such a place, a little roadside restaurant that can not stay open during the rainy season as the kitchen is outside and the roof is made of bamboo and tin sheets ,and sooo old that when it rains it pours in like a waterfall ha ha , when I heard it was open , Ciejay and Me could'nt wait for dinner we, went for lunch and when I pulled up on front I could see the big smile on her( the owners) face and a great big Sawa Dee Kae was waiting for us once inside , the cook , chef and bottle washer, all in one, came to take our order and I can truthfully say that I was not disappointed at all and it's a place I would go back to often and take guest and never worry if the meals going to be just right.

I love all the little places to eat out in our area and now you know another reason why ,I'm RETIRED IN THAILAND AND LOVING IT. If you're ever over our way we'll give one of our roadside , 5 stars a try and it'll be my treat. Malcolm