Another Golden Corral

I am pushing this article ahead of some important other articles to follow the Golden Corral article which has been running here over the past two weeks. Since our visit to the Freehold, New Jersey Golden Corral we went to another Golden Corral - one that we have been to before. We took a day trip to Bethlehem, PA for the Christmas events that take place there in the weeks before Christmas and for dinner we decided to drive up to Whitehall, PA to the Golden Corral - one that I have written about here before. We went on a Saturday night two weekends before Christmas. This Golden Corral is in the back of a shopping center and the shopping center was very, very crowded. We arrived at the Golden Corral at about 6:30 pm.

Jamie's Phuket Review of 2014

The year is almost over. I've been in Phuket for over 15 years now and this blog is over 8 years old. 2014 has not gone totally to plan. It has been a funny old year. Every year I do a "best of" post showing what's been new on the blog. This has been 2014. Blogging has slowed down somewhat, especially later in the year. I spent 5 weeks in England. Mum was very ill. Cancer again. She'd beaten cancer 3 times before. I was hopeful. Dad has dementia which has developed very fast. I don't want to recount too many details here. Mum died at the end of August. They have both been to Phuket many times. I will start my 2014 review with a photo of them taken in 2013.



(above) in Memory of my Mum. This is Mum and Dad at Khao Lak in 2013.

2014 is ending with sad memories in another way. 10 years ago on December 26th "the tsunami" happened. Killed something like 250,000 people around the Indian Ocean. More than 5,000 killed in Thailand. We visited the tsunami memorials in Khao Lak with my parents in 2013. I wrote about my tsunami memories a few years ago. No plans to write more.

So let's begin with a little review of what's been new on the Phuket Blog this year.

January ... To the north of Phuket, over the bridge is Phang Nga Province which covers a huge area. We often drive this way and keep exploring and finding new places. First couple of blog posts of the year were about Phang Nga, first a viewpoint cafe and then I wrote a long post about Exploring Phang Nga Province.



(above) Phang Nga Viewpoint

Aside from time spent in England, a couple of other things have slowed down new blog posts in 2014. Aside from laziness. One thing is work. In high season I normally work 6 days per week at Sunrise Divers. A day off is a chance to get out and see new things, but also a chance to relax! Another reason - a lower than usual desire to take photos. I ended up selling my camera this year and mostly just use a phone, though I did pick up my Dad's old camera from England and used it later in the year at the vegetarian festival.

In February, I think the only new blog post was a Top 10 Phuket Hotels list. March - I wrote a page that every other blog and website has, and should have been on this blog before - an "About Jamie" page. That should explain a little about who writes this blog!

In April, a blog post that is more of an article. When I first came to Phuket I had no idea that the area had such a long and rich history. And I imagine many visitors also see very little beyond the beaches and tours. But Phuket has a lot of history and culture and over the years this blog has tried to show that. And also in April I found a new place to hang out - a bar on the hillside way above Patong Beach - Wassa Homemade Bar.



(above) Sunset above Patong at Wassa Homemade Bar

A nice little thing happened in May. There was something called a Worldwide Instameet. Users of Instagram around the world meeting up to take photos of their own place. We did one in Phuket, meeting up at the Chinpracha House mansion in old Phuket and after taking some photos using iPhones and other similar devices we headed to a cafe for a few drinks :) A very nice time - see : Phuket Instagram Meet Up.

After selling my proper camera I am using the iPhone for most photos though it does of course have limits and I think the new year of 2015 will see a new camera coming my way! In the meantime, please do follow me on Instagram, thanks!

The Phuket Blog Facebook Page is also very busy and sometimes I ask questions there to get some opinions. In May I asked people what they think about Taxis and Tuk Tuks in Phuket - lots of opinions voiced! A few days after writing this, there was a coup, we had curfews and martial law for a short time, though in Phuket it was quickly back to normal. Except the new military government have cracked down on so-called taxi mafia groups in Phuket and then later started a process of beach clearance, with structure not allowed on the sand, and beach chairs being removed. Controversial! Beaches look better, but it's nice to have some shade and some little restaurants by the beach!

In June I blogged the "new" Sunday walking street market that takes place every Sunday evening on Thalang Road in old Phuket Town. We go quite often for a walk, to buy some snacks, enjoy the old town - see Phuket Sunday Walking Street Market.



When the aforementioned beach clearances started I wanted to have a look, so took some drives to check out a few beaches. In July we visited Surin Beach and Laem Sing Beach. The clearance was still going on at Laem Sing. We first went there 15 years ago and it was very quiet. It then got touted as "the quiet beach" and thus became a busy beach with many small bars and restaurants. I think it looks better empty. There was still a man there with an ice box to sell me a beer :)



(above) View of Laem Sing Beach in July 2014



(above) Our kids enjoying Surin Beach

It was in July that I headed to England for a 3 week stay. There was another 2 weeks late August into September. Exploring time in Phuket was thus limited and, well, there was a lot on my mind. The blog is still just a hobby, so it got rather ignored sometimes this year.

We did find time for another beach recon session .. this time to Layan Beach which was (as it always did) looking very nice although the beach club there looks rather out of place.



(above) Layan Beach, August 2014

Well, after my second trip to England it was nearly time for my favourite time of year, although given my somewhat melancholy mood, I nearly gave it a miss. But, after not bothering too much about he start of the festival, I went to quite a few parades and for the first time went to the crazy last night in Phuket Town. The 2014 Phuket Vegetarian Festival (September 23rd - October 3rd) got blogged in 3 separate posts ::

Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 1
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 2
Phuket Vegetarian Festival 2014 - Part 3

And I did enjoy taking photos .... here's a few from the festival. I'll skip the gory ones. Check the 3 links above for much more.







After the festival we took a short family holiday north of Phuket to Chumphon, Hua Hin and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces. A very relaxing time, which I much needed and felt very lucky to be here in Thailand and have such a lovely family.

A new blog post in November revisited a place that I first blogged in 2006. Rang Hill in Phuket Town now has a fancy new viewpoint with even better views than before. I must get up there again at sunset one day! I also blogged in November about the Uber Taxi App, which has started in Phuket .. if it's allowed! Struggled to find time in the last month for blogging, although we've had some nice family days out. Last photo for this 2014 summary - see below. Me and the kids at Mai Khao Beach a few weeks ago. Happy New Year from Phuket!



(above) This is my Phuket!

New Golden Corral in Freehold, NJ

One of our readers who has let me know about a number of buffet restaurants in New Jersey over the years let me know this past year that a new Golden Corral was being built in Freehold, New Jersey. This may be the closest Golden Corral to where we are though it is still quite a distance and a great expense in tolls to get to. I heard from this good friend of this site when the restaurant opened and he gave me a mixed review - mostly mixed because of the crowds that were there during the opening week. I have been looking for an opportunity to go to New Jersey and try this new Golden Corral and recently that opportunity presented itself.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and , a special thanks to all who have took the time out of their busy lives to stop by my blog and give a read and enjoy the pictures and little stories about Ciejay and My life here in Wang Pho
I'm excited about the new year ahead and hope for lots of adventures and stuff to share with you as we find the time and money to do a little traveling around Thailand to places we haven't seen yet , but are on our list of "to see places" . I hope we get to check a lot of them off. As I have said many times in the past we are still Retired in Thailand and Loving It

God has been good to us this past year , He has kept us safe and ,has healed all our sickness , and there have been a few,But, Faith and the prayers of our friends and family, we've made it another year, and happy to report as we enter into  the  new year 2015 that we are in good health and enjoying all the Blessings of the Lord , and looking forward to a great year ahead.As I write my little blog post today I am reminded that the Word says in Ephesians 5:20 "giving thanks always for all things,



to God the Father and in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ"

Next year will be Our 11th year in Thailand and I'm happy to report that" We're still Loving It."

2014 - An Eventful Year!

There are events, milestones, sometimes years which mark a change in our journey through this life.  This year, 2014, has been one of those for me.  Lines have been drawn, delineating before and after, then and now.

I suppose they are just numbers but my wife also felt it was a big deal so commissioned a photographer to mark our new age categories and give us something to look back on in a few more years.  As a youth I had been conditioned to see a certain age as being old.  Having reached that age this year, I find I have mixed feelings about its significance.  For what it is worth, my wife is now forty and I am sixty.




I also lost both my parents this year.  My father pasted away in January and my mother followed him ten months later.  I have known this was coming but the finality of it does give one pause. One examines relationships and mortality from a whole new perspective.  I am a firm believer that we are no different from every other living entity on this planet, in that we have no purpose other than to live and then to die.  What we make of the time between those two events is entirely up to us, or I suppose you could leave it up to someone else to make those decisions for you.

My father’s line is drawing to a close.  I have chosen not to have children and my brother’s sons seem unlikely to produce offspring, so this particular genetic line will cease to exist in time.  With the world population having risen from three billion to seven billion in my lifetime, I don’t suspect our unwillingness to contribute to the species will have any longterm effect, though.

I continue to enjoy riding my mt. bike, taking two or three days off to recover between rides.  My latest ride was 65 km and my longest this year was 84 km.  As I travel greater distances and at a faster pace, the balance has shifted slightly toward fitness over leisure and photography, with the camera often being left at home.




During a break in my wife’s university studies we undertook some upgrades to the house.  We extended our open garage area, tripling the area under roof and protected from sun and rain.  We also enclosed an underutilized patio off the living room creating a lovely little addition to our living space.




We have had visitors and have driven some around northern Thailand.  We even spent three weeks in Hawaii.  My wife keeps up with friends in Hawaii on Facebook but after three years away it was great for her to see people face to face.  My focus was more on the bureaucracy and rituals of death but I enjoyed seeing my brother after many years.  In addition my wife and her friends brought more joy to my trip than I had expected.




I don’t have as much to say these days, having exhausted my muse over the years on this blog, but I continue to post pictures on Google+.  Most of my writing now is in response to emails instead of posting here.  I continue to be fascinated by what brings people to correspond with me and what odd circumstances can cause them to abandon our correspondence.

My life is blessed with good health, love, companionship, comfort and convenience.  I have a great wife, a lovely house, wonderful views, healthy hobbies, entertaining pets, a few toys and a continuing appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me.  My social life is the only area which suffers a bit from my physical isolation and spontaneity is a hard thing to come by when one lives far from others.  It does happen in the form of bumping into someone while in town or out on the mt. bike but the frequency is nothing like it was while living in Bangkok.

I do not share the common vices of our time and do not have horror stories to tell about living in Thailand and I speak the language.  That and having lived here all my adult life leaves me with little in common with the new bread of old retirees.  Being home in time to feed the dogs and enjoy a sunset walk is more important to me than hanging around with other expats after dark.  Evening is a time to chill out and watch movies or television and just hangout with my wife and pets.



During the day when I am out and about, I do get updates on my iPhone and sometimes comment on Facebook or use Line, but I still prefer to confine most of my online activity to one fixed location.  To that end I have finally updated my aging iMac 24 which I purchased soon after moving into the house in the field seven years ago.  I am presently writing on my new iMac (Retina 5k, 27-inch).  I do like pretty and everything on this screen looks beautiful.

Writing about being happy and content is not an easy thing to pull off.  Without peaks and valleys there isn’t enough contrast to make for an interesting story.  I hope people continue to rummage through some of my early posts but I still haven’t come up with a new direction to drive a continued wave of writing.  With my parents gone, Thailand is well and truly my home, and I have nothing tying me to anywhere else.  This is just to let you all know I am still doing well, here in this house in a field, in a valley with a view.

Journey loving connection behind 3D movies

Cinema Loves news.c10mt.com ) With the desire to bring a little joy to the poor children and children with difficulties, "Cinema of Love" was LG Electronics Vietnam Co. extensive organization and become an activity throughout the South North.

Journey loving connection behind 3D movies
Journey loving connection behind 3D movies


*** Related Article : Project Educine by Soul Garden Vietnam Community | Recording logs Soul Garden outpost in Ben Luc, Long An

Yummy China Buffet, East Meadow, New York

I have written about Yummy China buffet a couple of times in the past year. They have changed their price again - for the better. The dinner price is now $13.99. They started this restaurant a little over a year ago at $19.99, then went to $15.99 (including soda), and now it has dropped to $13.99 with unlimited soda additional.

Sunday Walking Street Market (Lard Yai) in Old Phuket Town

Sunday has always been a quiet day in old Phuket Town. Many businesses close on Sundays and the nightlife is much quieter than Friday or Saturday - the area has plenty of bars and pubs which are mainly frequented by locals rather than tourists. Sunday was always a good day to walk around old town and take photos, as there would be much less traffic than other days, but it did feel a bit too quiet sometimes with many shops and some restaurants closed. The old town has had a renaissance over the last 5 years with a lot of work being done to preserve old buildings and remove ugly overhead wires, museums have opened, and many small cafes too. I'm hoping the area can avoid becoming just cafes and souvenir shops, and so far that is the case. Thalang Road is the heart of the old town and still has many old businesses such as printers, hardware stores, Muslim fabric shops and places like Abdul's Roti shop and the old herb shop. Towards the end of 2013, the Phuket old town community launched the Sunday Walking Street market along Thalang Road. This had been planned for some months and does need support from local government and police, as traffic has to be diverted and all vehicles moved from Thalang Road before the market starts in the afternoon. It's been running for about 12 months now and is very popular!



(above) Walking Street along Thalang Road just before dark ... it starts late afternoon around 4pm and continues until about 10pm every Sunday. The ever popular Weekend Night Market is on Saturday and Sunday, and seems to be just as busy despite "competition" from this new market. I think people maybe visit both on a Sunday. The weekend market is much bigger, but the official name for this Sunday walking street is "Lard Yai" (หลาดใหญ่). Yai means big, and Lard is a shortened version of Thalad, meaning market, but in the southern Thai dialect, people just say "Lad" / "Lard" - hard to exactly transliterate, there is no hard R sound in the word. It's because back in the old days, Thalang Road was the main market street in town.



We go quite often and our Sunday dinner is snacks purchased along the street! It's pretty busy and with Thalang Road itself closed to traffic, and many people visiting the market, parking can be hard to find. We tend to park at Wat Mongkon Minit temple, which is on Dibuk Road just over the street from the north end of Soi Romanee, a narrow old street that leads down to Thalang Road. It's 20 Baht to park the car there. Soi Romanee has had plenty of renovation work in the last 5 years. There are still some old houses here, plus a few cafes and guesthouses. In the tin mining days 100 years ago, this street was apparently full of brothels!



(above) Soi Romanee, looking down towards Thalang Road

If you get there around 5pm, it's still pretty quiet, but it soon gets busier. All along Thalang Road between the junctions with Phuket Road and Yaowarat Road, about 400 meters of activity including lots of food, entertainers and stalls selling arts and crafts, clothes, bags, hats, plants, antiques and more. We don't really go for shopping, but I think visitors might find something worth buying. We're there more for food and snacks ...





Parked at the west end of the street we found the "Tuk Tuk Diner" which does burgers for 50 Baht as well as chili hot dogs and chili fries. I'd heard of this - the owner is a Thai-American called Tom and he was there eating his own goods, so the kids and I had a burger each :) I'll try to get a decent photo next time! And I'll go for a chili hot dog next time :)

There are always street entertainers, some are the same every week and some are strictly amateur or school dance acts. A few weeks ago there was a brass band playing!



(above) A clown on Thalang Road



(above) A little live music for the market shoppers

As day turns to night the street comes alive. It gets busier around 6:30pm normally (depends on the weather I guess) and the coloured lights are lit along Thalang Road. A nice place to visit on a Sunday evening, away from the tourist crowds, into the local crowds :)



(above) Sunday market on Thalang Road after dark



(above) Street dancer on Thalang Road. I see this guy at every street fair and he's very enthusiastic!

The Lard Yai has become very popular, a place to hang out on Sunday evening for locals, and a good way of showcasing the old town. Not many tourists though .. I know if you're staying on the west coast it's a bit of a drive to reach Phuket Town, but worthwhile! I'm going to keep saying it - there's a lot more to Phuket than beaches!

Related posts on the Phuket Blog :

More Phuket Markets
Thai Hua History Museum
Kopitiam Cafe on Thalang Road
Hotels in Phuket Town

General Pickett's Buffet, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

It has been six years since I have been to General Pickett's Buffet in Gettysburg, Pa. We do not get to Gettysburg very often anymore. We were there and there was no doubt where we would be dining. We went on a Wednesday night and while there was not a large crowd in the restaurant there were people coming in the whole time we were having dinner including close to closing time. This buffet closes

Interstellar sucks. Sure, but why?

The experience of watching a Nolan movie can be summarized by this picture below.



She is a beautiful young and fashionable girl, right?
Now slowly shift your gaze down to the black line in the neck.

Focus.
Are you watching closely?

Do you see now a different image now?
Aha!


That Aha! moment is the core of a Nolan movie. Everything in a Nolan's movie is directed towards amplifying that Aha! moment. He makes the Aha! moment significantly rewarding by following some great techniques.

1. Keeps the surface level idea (the young girl in the above image) simple for people to grasp.
2. keeps the underlying idea well hidden (but litters the movie with clues, minor Ahas! when we watch the movie again)
3. Reveals the underlying idea (old woman in the above image) in a sudden climax
4. Connects the two ideas in a profound philosophical manner
(Young girl and old woman in the same image above is a philosophical goldmine.)

In his movie Prestige, at surface level, two magicians try to outdo each other with disastrous results. In the climax, it is revealed that the greatest magic is ... the magician. A powerful Aha! moment, because the movie lingers as you think about the what artists pay for perfection, et al..

But what is the surface level idea in Interstellar? A father leaves behind his family in dying earth and goes to space to find alternatives. Okay, this is a trite idea. But we go because, it is Christopher Nolan movie! He is going to take surface level scientific ideas like slowing of time and gravity that doesn't allow even light to escape, turn them on their head and reveal something profound to us, right?

No! He is going to tell that love (and gravity) travels across dimension and time and a father will keep his promise to his daughter, even from beyond black hole. Pleeeeasse...

In Nolan movies, we have come to expect a reveal in the end. A reveal that is mind boggling. But in interstellar, there was no reveal in the end. There is just relief.
Plain relief.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING 2014

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Ciejay and Malcolm, wish all our friends and family a very , very ,Happy Thanksgiving Day ,  remember to save me a wish bone, and remember the Bible say's "Be Ye Thankful.                             2014




                    We love you all

Uber Taxi App Now Available in Thailand

I figure this is worth a mention, although from reading around the internet it seems that Uber and other app-based taxi services like GrabTaxi have their fans and haters too! These apps have been around a while - Uber started in the USA in 2011 and already started in Bangkok in 2014. I know that in Europe there have been protests from established taxi services who claim these apps to be illegal, I am not sure 100% how they work in different countries, but in Phuket which has had all kinds of taxi problems for years, I would say anything that adds a new option has to be good, even if the prices don't go down yet. Phuket taxi fares tend to be quite high, especially for shorter trips. Doesn't really look like Uber is cheaper, but it's the way it works that might be useful for some people especially if you have used it before in other places.

Taxi choices for most visitors to Phuket currently extend to tuk tuks and normal taxis. There has been plenty of work done in the last year to take illegal taxis off the streets (like a car parked outside your hotel with a cardboard "taxi" sign on the roof). There was a big drive to make sure all local taxi drivers are registered and insured and have the proper licence. Official taxis should also have the drivers name on the door. There are also some meter taxis, mostly doing airport runs, but very few around the beach areas where "taxi mafia" groups have long controlled certain areas. Again earlier this year using military authority there was a big crackdown on the taxi gangs with quite a few arrests being made. The arrival of something like Uber seems good to me.

Uber is an app you can download to your phone/iPad or PC, but it needs to be able to read your location, as the app connects you do the taxi, so the driver knows exactly where you are and you can see where the driver is, plus you can check your location as you are driving, very useful in a new place! You can sign up online here (the link is https://get.uber.com/invite/uberjamiesphuket), which includes a special promo code for a discount on your first ride. If you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. I have checked out the app, but have no particular need to use it here in Phuket since I live here and have my own transport. Need a holiday now to another location where Uber is online so I can try it!

Here's a screenshot from my phone (below), what you see when you are using Uber. You can choose a pickup location and see where Uber registered vehicles are located. I have selected a location on the beach road in Patong and can see 3 different cars available.



You then set the pick up location and tells you the estimated time for pick up and you can get a fare estimate for where you want to get to or enter a promo code. Then you hit the Request Uber button (See below).



Seems very simple. When you sign up for Uber you select a payment option - credit card or Paypal are options. I chose PayPal. No cash needed. Apparently cash is not an option. Some people like that, some people still like cash! No need to tip either, although I guess that depends on you. If you check the Uber Phuket page, it says (in the small print) "No need to tip". There's a flat rate 950 Baht to the airport from anywhere which is cheaper than local taxis charge in Karon or Kata, so a tip might be OK!

Oh, so how does it work? I wondered that too, so I met Warren, the Uber representative for Phuket and had lunch and a chat. So it's not just any old taxis or "some guy with a car". Uber does not employ drivers. It's local taxi drivers who sign up for the app themselves to be drivers. Not all are accepted. Uber wants nice, friendly, well dressed divers with nice cars like a Toyota Camry or Fortuna or Honda Civic. They started with a few limo drivers and it seems word of mouth helps spread the word among the drivers. So you can be sure all drivers are legal. Uber is not their job, just another way for them to get customers, not just hanging around on a street corner or outside a hotel shouting "taxi!" at anyone passing by. I'm not quite clear how Uber makes much money out of this arrangement though! Surely the lions share of the fare goes to the driver?

Anyway, I hope I have a chance to try Uber myself sometime. There is one other important point - after taking a ride with an Uber taxi you can leave feedback and a rating for the driver. Warren told me that if drivers get a few bad ratings, they get removed from the app. That should ensure that only the nice polite drivers are available on Uber. Of course many Phuket taxi drivers are very nice. We have a nice guy outside our dive shop most days called Mr Teep. But people's experiences with taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket are mixed - I wrote about this earlier this year - see Phuket Taxis and Tuk Tuks - Your Opinions. I reckon Uber might well be used here by people who already use it and maybe if you have not tried it, give it a go! Just to repeat - you can sign up online here or if you download the app, enter the promo code uberjamiesphuket. Either way gets a discount on the first ride. Good luck to Uber. Something new is needed in Phuket. Ideally I'd like to see more buses, especially I'd like to see bus services between the beaches (there are not any right now), but anything that challenges the status quo will do!

Update November 2015 - Looks like Uber is no longer operating in Phuket. They are still in Bangkok.