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This morning, at breakfast, Tim looked at me and said, "You get too small.  I like you pompuuyee" (Thai for "fat").  I guess this means that she's noticing that I'm losing some weight.  My diet has consisted mainly of watermelon, a vegetable salad every couple of days, and the occasional plate of sliced apples (only when I can find some imported from Washington as Japanese and Thai apples are somewhat different — not sweet and juicy — as I'm accustomed to), canteloupe, or pineapple.  I did fall "off the wagon" a bit yesterday, however, when I ordered a hamburger at a bar in Patong when we made a rare restaurant stop for lunch.  (The burger wasn't very good but the fries sure were!)

In getting caught up on news, I've bought a couple of issues of The Bangkok Post, The Nation, and The Phuket Gazette.  It's very interesting reading a Thai slant to world events rather than an American one.  Other than the endless coverage of this nation's current political turmoil (much of which I'm having difficulty in following), the major news here is that the oil crisis has reached Thailand and gas prices are beginning to surge upward; the problems in the Middle East hadn't affected the region up until now because of supplies coming in from Nigeria but now there's problems with that source as well.  I've also recently learned that Thailand is still the world's leading exporter of rice and that there are major war games in the Gulf of Thailand right now with the U.S. Navy and Royal Thai Navy (the USS Abraham Lincoln just became the largest warship ever to dock at Bangkok's port).  I was also extremely surprised to find a review of the new Bruce Springsteen CD, The Seeger Sessions released this past Tuesday, in The Bangkok Post (reminding me that I need to order a copy at some point).  However, the pieces in the papers that interest me the most are the local interest stories.  I'd like to summarize a few of these in a future blog entry if I find the time.

I've been meaning to mention the dates on my blog entries and archive listings:  the Thai calendar is 543 years ahead of the Western calendar, thus 2549 is the year 2006, 2548 is 2005, etc.  The format of the date entries is day of week, month, date, year.

You may have noticed that I've been uploading my photos to my Webshots account.  It's been pretty slow going on the dial-up Internet connection we have at home (which is usually 44.0 Kbps) but I'm getting it done.  I'm working at uploading the photos from April 13 — the day of Tim's birthday and the Thai New Year celebrations — right now.  When each album is completed, I move it to the top of the page so the most recent photos are always the first albums you can view on my homepage.  Large albums such as this April 13th one will be uploaded in pieces, with 12 or so photos sent to the server at a time over the course of two or three days.  I can't wait until I'm caught up with the backlog — I try to take at least one or two photos every day, but some days I take anywhere from 50 to 150 so it's going to take me a while to get them all onto Webshots; it will be a breeze when the backlog is finished because then I'll just try to upload every day or so and you can see photos very soon after I take them.

I had my first experience with a Thai bank yesterday (Friday).  Tim has an account at Siam Commercial Bank and we went to the Phuket Town main branch so she could deposit some money.  It was a madhouse — very crowded and there were probably 50-60 people ahead of us when we arrived.  However, they have a "take a number" system and plenty of seating in the lobby/waiting area.  It took about 30 minutes until our number was called so it was rather fast and efficient.  However, the numbers were called out in Thai so I couldn't possibly do any banking business on my own until I learn more Thai numbers (I'm still struggling with 1-10).  Perhaps I'll look for a nearby branch at which to open an account if I decide I want a local bank.

After leaving the bank, we drove over to Patong because I was craving a hamburger.  I'd had a really good one back in December at a small bar complex on the far southern end of the beach road and had pointed it out to Tim several days before as we passed by.  It was an expensive lunch for the two of us — 390 baht or just under USD $10 — but we enjoyed it, despite my burger being somewhat overdone and missing the cheese I'd ordered.  We then spent some time walking along the beach before running into one of Tim's street vendor friends.  We bought some canteloupe and coconut juice from her and she loaned us a blanket for our picnic.  We were soon joined by Lek and Jum (how do they always knw exactly where we are?) and it ended up being a long afternoon of eating and drinking (water & cola since alcohol sales were banned because of the planned elections which were cancelled at the last minute).  It was enjoyable, however, as there was a nice breeze.  I spent a lot of time watching the waves which were abnormally large (a number of Thais, we later learned, had gone up to the Tsunami shelters because they were afraid but most Westerners had fun trying to drive jet-skis through the increased surf).  Just before sunset, we drove over the mountain to Kathu in order to visit Tim's old roommate La and we ended by having another meal at Lek & Jum's shack.  That last visit was fun because Lek played some CD's by The Eagles and Queen which I could sing along to, impressing Tim with my knowledge of Western rock.

We slept in today, I spent some time on the computer, and then we drove over to Central Festival for some "fun" shopping.  I wanted to buy some blank CD-R's and also to check out the bookstores.  The huge B2S on the top floor reminds me of a Waldenbooks with a huge selection of books, magazines, CD's, and movies, as well as stationary items.  We bought some more karaoke VCD's for Tim (who never seems to tire of them) and well as a copy of The Chronicles Of Narnia DVD (with Thai- and English-language soundtracks) for me.  We also stopped at the much smaller The Books where I bought a couple of newspapers.  I wanted to treat Tim to some icecream at a shop near the movie theatres (I had my eye on a mango milkshake) but she wasn't hungry; maybe next time.  Our last stop was the large food market to buy a salad for me and some curry paste for Tim.  An afternoon of karaoke followed, a small dinner of salad and noodle soup was our only real meal of the day (I'm certain there will be a "snack" later on), and we're preparing to watch a movie as soon as my current batch of photos finishes uploading.

Tomorrow is Lek's birthday so I'm sure we're going over there for the party.  (I'm actually contemplating coming up for a reason not to go — let Tim go by herself — as, among other reasons such as the state of the place, I discovered last night that the toilet is one of the squat variety which I don't have any clue as to how to properly use; there's no flusher and somehow, if you can balance squatting on the food pads on either side of the bowl, you have a tube and water with which to clean out the basin.)



I've already spent too much time on the computer this morning getting caught up on e-mails, message boards, and some news so I will try to summarize yesterday in a few short paragraphs.

Our electricity failed again around 11:30 in the morning.  It turned out that this was part of a scheduled blackout (I had an e-mail announcing it when I checked my Inbox this morning) but I couldn't find an explanation.  But both sides of Chaofa West Road had this blackout during the hottest part of the day.  We opened the windows and read for a while until the power came back on.

With the power restored, I made another stab at designing a new business card with my Thai address and phone numbers.  I had made previous attempts through my favorite printer, Vista Print, but had inadvertently used the wrong phone number and I didn't want to send another box to my sister's house (they don't ship to Thailand).  I found a printer that does ship here and prepared to order 100 cards for USD $9.95.  However, when I was preparing to check-out I found that it would cost $72 to ship the box to me.  I think I'll try to find a local printer next week — perhaps I can even have it printed in Thai on the back of the cards.

While I was finishing this project, Tim's friend Puk arrived unannounced to take us on a "tour" of Phuket using her boss's car.  Tim has come to the conclusion that Puk likes me and wants to break us up.  I acted like I was too busy working and this woman left after a short while; Tim was happy as well.

Later in the afternoon, we set off with the vague idea to take scenic photos with no destination in mind.  Tim took me over the familiar route to Patong and I snapped several photos from the back of the motorbike; I'm trying to build a stockpile of "local color" photos to use for several planned projects.  We ended up driving along the spit of land that forms the southern part of Patong's bay and found a nice beach down the road from the Merlin Resort and at the entrance to the primitive road leading around to Paradise Beach (Tim was afraid to drive that road with me on the back).  We purchased some water and sat on the beach for a while; we took some photos and moved rocks to uncover small crabs and other funky critters.  On our way back, we stopped briefly at a view point where we had some fruit to eat.

We drove south from Patong and then spent some time taking photos of the sunset at the twin Kata and Karon beaches.  Tim had never stopped here before so it was a brand-new place for her as well.  It was very scenic and some VERY large waves were coming in; Tim thought it looked much like the tsunami waves she'd seen pictures of (she stayed at home the day of the actual tsunami) and was afraid to get too close to the water.  I waded into the surf and tried to inch Tim ever closer as well.  We did come away with my best surf-and-sunset photos yet.

Our final stop before going home was the open-air market east of Karon where we bought some excellent corn-on-the-cob and watermelon, eating a nice dinner when we got home.  I read for a couple of hours before falling asleep while Tim watched a really odd movie on television.

Today, we need to go to the bank so Tim can make a monthly payment.  While there, I might look into opening an account for myself.  Other than that, we have no real plans other than avoiding another visit by Puk.  We had thought about going "clubbing" in Patong tonight but the bars, etc. are closed because of another round of elections (Phuket failed to meet the minimum number of voters in the last election so they're trying again).



I woke up around 3:30 this morning feeling like I had been sleeping in a blast-furnace.  I noticed that the air-conditioner was off as I wandered to the bathroom; the light didn't work in their either.  At first I thought that a breaker had been tripped but when I went out to the back patio I found that the entire village was dark.  Hopefully, the power outage won't last long and it will be fixed before it gets much hotter inside.  I can already smell food going bad in the refrigerator (it's a bit after five a.m. now) and opening up the side glass doors hasn't generated any breeze yet.

At least I can connect to the Internet at home now.  Virtually every ISP available on Phuket offers dial-up only but I can get on a waiting list for ADSL at some point in the future.  Instead of subscribing to a monthly service, most of the ISP's sell cards with a set amount of time available on them.  Similar to the phone cards, these are sold at 7-Elevens and other outlets and come with a set of instructions (no CD-ROM with dialer software in most cases) along with a username and password.  I purchased a 25-hour card for 235 baht (approx. USD $6.23) on the True Network and it works fine; I average around 45 Kbps which is considered fast for Thai dial-up.  One of the few actual monthly provider services I found is offered by KSC Phuket; the best deal is a 100-hour plan at 599 baht (USD $15.88) but you need to send them copies of your passport and other documents before they will sign you up.  For now, I'll just use the cards.

Well, it's 5:25a.m. and the power just came back on.  I think I'll go back into the master bedroom and cool off with the A/C instead of sitting in the living room being eaten by mosquitoes...



It's sometimes difficult to get Tim out of the house in order to check out some part of Phuket that we haven't yet seen.  There remains an awful lot of unexplored territory out there but we are making a small bit of progress at filling in that map.  A good example was our visit to the Phuket Zoo last week in that Tim remained skeptical until we actually found it.  Yesterday, I found a spot on my ThinkNet Phuket 2006 map (the absolute best!) labelled "Kathu Waterfall" and convinced Tim that we should go and check it out.  This was located at the end of a very scenic road (on which we passed the entrance for the "Phuket Water Ski Cableway") very close to the center of the island.  The area around the trailhead reminded me of a classical Chinese garden with it's bridges, pools of water, and red-flowering trees.  The trail to the actual waterfall was a long series of stairs broken up by the occasional covered shelter that housed benches on which to rest.  One of these shelters contained a mail box in which to put postcards.  The top of the trail had several picnic shelters under large shade trees and several large basins which would be good for swimming if only they had more water in them.  The waterfall itself was only a small trickle of water tumbling down twenty or so feet of rocks — I'm sure it's quite a torrent during the rainy season, however.  All in all, it was a very worthwhile drive.

On our way back down to Chalong, Tim remembered that I wanted a second look at the computer speaker-and-subwoofer set I'd seen at Central Festival the previous day.  In the mall, our first stop was at the Watsons Pharmacy to purchase some ointment to treat a rash Tim has developed (an allergic reaction to eating some oysters a couple of days before).  Instead of checking the speakers in the audio/video store I'd visited earlier, I noticed a Sony store and dragged her in there where we discovered a better set to buy at a slightly lower price than the Creatives.  Before leaving Central Festival, I bought a couple of newspapers ("The Nation" and "Bangkok Post") in order to catch up on happenings in the outside world and we made a quick stop in the supermarket to restock coffee, sugar, and other "essentials".

Back home, we had a light lunch (fruit and salad) and Tim did a bit of laundry while I hooked up the new speakers to the TV/DVD player in the master bedroom.  The set included a secondary cable so I could hook up the laptop as well.  The system works so well that I'm considering buying a second one for the TV/DVD player in the living room (which we don't use very often because it's usually so hot out there, even with the fan going full blast).  It's perfectly loud enough for our purposes — the CD's and DVD's sound great now — and the entire system cost less than USD $90.  I'll probably buy the second set of speakers/subwoofer sometime next month along with a standalone DVD recorder if we don't have too many extra expenses.

Tim's friend Puk showed up in the early evening, having driven in a torrential downpour.  Of her inner circle of friends, Puk is Tim's least favorite because "she talk too much."  She had been working as a cook at Kamala Beer Garden but just began a new job driving a car.  She tried to talk her way into our planned May trip to Lamphun, driving us but I know neither of us could stand to be cooped up in a car with her for so long.  I explained that I planned to use that trip to take Tim on her first-ever airplane flight and that we would be spending a week in a Bangkok hotel while waiting for her passport.  I'm not sure if Puk got the hint as she began telling us inflated amounts of what it would cost us and then giving us a low-ball estimate of what she'd charge.  I do think it will be easy to convince Tim that she shouldn't tell Puk when we leave for the north.  At any rate, we played the good hosts last night and listened to Puk blabber on about nothing while we waited for the rain to stop.  At least she didn't eat much of our food (a bit of rice and half the can of Pringle's I'd found at the Central Festival grocery store).

After Puk left, we listened to some music (we found that my Western CD's sound much better on the new system than Thai music so I finally got to play a bit of what I wanted to hear — disc 2 of The Very Best Of Fleetwood Mac and the eponymous Sand Rubies album).  I fell asleep while Tim watched the James Bond 007 "Die Another Day" DVD (she really likes the action flicks).

Today, we are waiting for the phone company guys to come and hook up our home phone line.  They already delivered the phones (one is a very nice speakerphone/answering machine combo and they also gave us a free mobile phone which Tim loves because there's an FM radio on the phone!) and just need to hook us up and check to make sure everything works inside.

I'm not sure what we'll do later other than a brief visit to the Internet cafe (I'll need to sign up with a Thai ISP before dialing into the 'net at home).  Hopefully, I can talk Tim into another scenic drive using my Phuket map (it's published by ThinkNet and includes a CD-ROM — everything is in both Thai and English and all the gas stations, 7-Elevens, hotels, police stations, post offices, etc. are marked; it even includes our housing development, Ananda Garden Hills Village).



The past couple of days have been relatively quiet.  We did go view the sunset Sunday evening at Promthep Cape, the southern-most point of Phuket.  I had thought that Tim and I were going alone but just as we were leaving (the motorbike was started and I was locking the front door) Jum, Ja, and Lek showed up.  Tim turned off the motorbike and the four of them disappeared into the kitchen where her friends raided our refrigerator for things they wanted to take and eat.  We then proceeded to the viewpoint where we watched the people and scenery while having a picnic (I ate one of my Washington green apples while the four of them consumed the rest of the food).  The sunset was kind of a dud but I enjoyed looking at the ornate lighthouse, a large statue of the founder of the Royal Thai Navy, and the many monks and novices walking about.

Before returning home, I'd wanted to stop off at the Internet cafe to check e-mail and send a blog entry but Tim said her friends wanted to watch the video we filmed at the party the night before.  We arrived at the house and her friends watched me hook up the camcorder to the TV.  As soon as this was done and the video was playing, the four of them returned to the kitchen and began cooking another feast.  Once this was prepared, they retreated to the side patio where they settled down to eat the food and helped themselves to our stockpile of beverages.  At times like these, I feel like I'm buying groceries for five people rather than just the two of us.  If I point out that I purchased these items to last Tim and I for an entire week I get the "okay for Thailand" mumbo-jumbo.  Although some of her friends have — occasionally — purchased small amounts of food to cook at our house, it is the items we buy for ourselves that invariably disappear.

A case in point:  during our last visit to Big C I was very happy to find my favorite green apples available, imported from Washington (Thai apples just do not taste "right"), so I bought ten hoping to make them last for a couple of weeks.  I even bought some peanut butter so I could introduce Tim to peanut butter apples.  I only managed to eat one before the remainder disappeared into the stomachs of her friends.  At least they have yet to discover the ice cream!  I'm seriously thinking about buying a small refrigerator to put in the master bedroom in which to hide my special food purchases.

At least this has contributed to my rapidly increasing diet.  In fact, I haven't been eating much on any given day.  Tim cooks for herself rather than adjusting the spiciness level to my palate (despite her promises to do this) and the few times she has offered me something I've been reluctant to eat it having seen her cooking and cleaning methods (more on this a bit later).  I've become determined to lose weight (although Tim has said she doesn't want me to, that she likes me fat) and I've been subsisting mainly on fruits and salads.  I really like the pineapple and watermelon here, and now that I know that "good" apples can be found at certain places nearby I'll get more of those (and keep them under "lock-and-key").  Packaged salads are also easily found and I fell in love with a salad bar at Central Festival yesterday.  I estimate that I've lostt a little over five pounds in the two-and-a-half weeks since I returned to Thailand.  Tim, in contrast, probably gained a bit under ten pounds but now seems to be eating a bit less — the three or four meals a day are (mostly) down to two per day and it seems like she's making smaller portions.

My many years spent managing restaurants taught me a lot about safe food handling (in fact, my last position in the food industry — in 2001 — sent all management staff to take an intensive two-week course in food-borne illness on which I scored a 97% on the final exam).  Thus, I have genuinely cringed at some of Tim's food preparation techniques.  She seemed to think nothing about leaving such things as raw chicken and pork on the kitchen counter for lengthy periods of time (one night, I awoke to get a drink and found some chicken that she'd taken out after I'd put it in the refrigerator).  It's taken me a bit of time to explain to her about bacteria forming and the need to refrigerate such items — I think my analogy that sickness doesn't know what country it's in quieted her "okay for Thailand" song-and-dance.  I've also succeeded in getting her to put items in plastic containers (I bought a bunch last week) before putting them in the fridge rather than just setting them on the shelves by themselves; they don't always get in there with their lids but at least it's a start.  She's made quite a bit of progress in wiping down counters after spilling things — this was only after I'd follow her cooking by cleaning and she not wanting me to clean.  In fact, a lot of what she does in the cleaning department comes after I beat her to it; I'm more than happy to sweep, mop, wash dishes, etc. but she doesn't want me to do such things as she feels it's up to her to take care of me and the house.  The cooking methods still have a little ways to go (I don't think she'll ever stop pulverizing food on the floor with her mortar and pestle) but at least she's now aware of the importance of cleanliness and refrigeration when it comes to food.

Cleaning, as I mentioned, has also required a few changes on Tim's part and we still have some ways to go.  We are very good at keeping the house in tip-top shape with daily sweeping and mopping (the tile floors throughout our home tend to attract dust), Tim has learned all about the use of coasters on the glass-topped coffee table, and the laundry is getting done on a regular basis (I have a lot of fun setting up the washing machine — carrying it to the back porch, running the outlet hose into the water tank, etc.).  It's little things that still need work and sometimes Tim forgets from day-to-day.  For example, last night I found her outside washing dishes with the garden hose.  She was rinsing the soapy water into the landscaped rocks that constitutes a path around the exterior of the house.  I was more concerned about the soap and the food particles mixed in with the rocks than I was about cold water being used to wash with.  When I asked her why she wasn't using the sink in the kitchen to wash dishes, Tim said she liked to have them dried by the sun and that the sink wasn't big enough for her biggest pan.  I noticed this pan was next in line to be washed; it was filled with greasy oil.  Luckily, I managed to get Tim to understand it was not good to have this soap, food, and especially the grease just poured into our back yard area where they wouldn't drain away.

At times it does seem like an uphill battle to explain that we need to work hard to take care of our home because we are renting.  If we owned it, some of these little things wouldn't be as much of a problem.  I still like to live in a clean environment, however, and treat the things I own with pride.  Thus, I cringe when I see her friends using the ground as an ash tray (Tim and are are constantly providing empty Coke cans for them to flick their ashes into); I've repeatedly told them that there is to be no smoking inside the house (and I know Tim has stressed this as well) but everytime they leave I find some little pile of ashes somewhere inside.  After they left Sunday night, I actually found a black streak on one of the bedroom doors which some careless person had rubbed up against with a lit cigarette.  Although I have Tim on the right track of taking care that our house remains clean, her friends have a long way to go.  (Another example:  when they began cooking when we returned from the sunset the other night, Ja wandered into the living room with a spatula that was dripping grease.  When I pointed this out to her, she just said "okay for Thailand" and began fiddling with the remote control — my party video was playing on the TV at the time.  Tim said something to Ja, however, and she went back into the kitchen while I hurried to find the mop.)

Anyway, Sunday night after the sunset — armed with their newly-prepared feast — it appeared that Tim's friends were settling in for a lengthy visit.  They began opening the leftover beer from the previous night's party and I was tired of being a "gracious" host.  I asked Tim if how long she expected her friends to stay and she said she didn't know.  I couldn't very well ask them to leave because it would make Tim lose considerable face among them (keeping good face is probably the single most important aspect of Thai culture).  But I was no longer the laughing and smiling Mark that they were all used to.  I just sat at the table, inwardly wishing they would leave soon.  Jum asked if I was feeling alright and I said that I was "okay" but that it was my "religious day" and couldn't drink alcohol on Sundays.  Tim seemed to pick up on this and said something to her friends and they quickly gathered their things and left.  Later, she managed to explain to me that she'd told them it was against my religion to entertain guests on Sundays after 8:00 in the evening and I was worried about breaking a taboo.  This is the first time I've known Tim to tell a fib but it worked good because it did get rid of our unwanted guests without causing her to lose face.

Yesterday (Monday) was a fairly active day for the two of us.  We left the house very early for us (shortly after 9a.m.) and first spent an hour at the nearby Internet cafe where I managed to upload another day of photos to my Webshots albums.  We then went in search of the closest post office (which turned out to be at Rawai); Tim needed to send some money to her daughter to pay a police fine (she'd gotten into a fight during the New Year's celebrations and punched some other lady) and we also purchased some stamps and "Long Live The King" bracelets (it's the 60th anniversary of his rule on May 5th).

The bulk of the day was spent at Central Festival in Phuket Town.  This is quite possibly the nicest shopping mall I've been to (and Asia has some really spectacular ones).  There are five levels and most of the shops are geared towards Westerners.  The biggest surprises came in the form of the restaurants where I found a Swenson's Ice Cream Parlor, Auntie Annie's (pretzels), KFC, Pizza Hut, even a Sizzler!  Also of great interest to me was the largest Office Depot I've ever been in (although their computer supplies left a lot to be desired) and a huge electronics store in which I found a nice variety of standalone DVD recorders at good prices (I've been wanting to buy a new one as it will be easier to use a standalone to archive my filmed videos rather than setting up the laptop to do this).  I also found a nice set of Creative brand computer speakers with subwoofer that I intend to buy later this week.  We stopped in a music shop and purchased several karaoke VCD's for Tim and a DVD (a version of "Sahara" dubbed in Thai with English subtitles) for me.  I also saw several large bookstores but didn't go in (I told Tim that I would probably spend a couple of hours in each one so we'd have to wait until another day).

By this time, Tim was getting hungry so we decided to buy a few things for lunch at a very nice supermarket in the mall.  The prices seemed comparable to Big C (but not as low as the outdoor markets) but the selection was amazing.  I saw some choice-cut steaks as well as ground beef along with many familiar Western brand names of packaged food.  I thought I was going to pass out as we walked through the bakery as the smells of breads and pastries danced through my nostrils.  The salad bar was superb and I filled one container with a fruit salad comprised of just red and green apples and another container with regular green salad fixings.  The setup for buying weighted items was the same here as at Big C:  You fill a bag or container with items (i.e., the salad is sold by weight, as are vegetables and fruit) and take it to a weighing station where they weigh it, shrink-wrap the container, and affix a bar-coded price sticker.  You learn very quickly that you can't buy anything that doesn't have a price sticker as on previous visits to Big C we forgot to get certain things weighed and they just put them aside rather than calling for a helper to come and get a price for us.  I do like this set-up once you get used to it.

We took our purchases back home where we had a nice little lunch.  Tim ate rather lightly and I shared some of my salad with her.  The remainder of the afternoon consisted of us watching some of her music VCD's while she sang along to the karaoke.  In the late afternoon, we decided to get some barbecued chicken for dinner (I had some excellent barbecued chicken from a stand almost two weeks ago and we haven't found any since).  We set out in search of a local market but found out the two closest to our house are closed on Mondays.  Tim tried to take a shortcut which soon had us hopelessly lost in some remote soi's and moo's (a small soi), and we found a large wat (temple) that Tim hadn't known about before.  In all, we spent about an hour on the motorbike (I'd previously taught her Dad's phrase about "bees in the butt" which she said she had when we got back home) before giving up.  In the end, Tim ate the leftovers from her lunch and I cut up some Dutch cheese and slivers of sandwich ham which I covered with leftover salad dressing.  It was a tasty, if simple, dinner.

Last night, we watched the DVD of "Sahara" which I thought was better than what the various reviews of the movie would have had me believe.  I've been a fan of Clive Cussler's adventure novels for many years and thought I'd be disappointed in this particular adaptation.  While not always a believable story, it was well-done and enjoyable.  It certainly kept Tim entertained for a couple of hours.  I did find it amusing, however, watching Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, William H. Macy, and Steve Zahn dubbed into Thai when I know perfectly well what their real voices sound like.  This particular version of the DVD has two options:  Thai-dubbed with English subtitles or English with Thai subtitles.  I think I'll watch it again at some point with the English original soundtrack turned on.

We don't have any real plans for today.  Tim is doing some laundry while I write this blog entry.  We may go over to Central Festival later to buy those computer speakers (at 3000 baht, they're about $25 less than I could get them for in the U.S.) and I'll probably talk her into going to the Internet cafe.  It looks to be a very hot day so it might be nice just to stay inside and read, but I'd rather get out and see some places on Phuket I haven't yet seen.  And, if we're out driving around, we don't have to play host to Tim's friends...



We had the belated birthday party for Tim last night (Saturday, April 22).  It was a slightly-less-than-expected turnout with Puk making a short appearance at the beginning and Ja, Lek, and Jum making up the until-the-bitter-end partygoers.  Everybody brought food which, combined with what Tim (I) bought, overflowed our kitchen with smells and tastes.  Tim had planned to get some fried chicken for me but the closest cart vendor took the day off; I did pick at various Thai dishes (all extremely spicy) and tried to fill up on Granny Smith apples (which we found at Big C — imported from Washington).  Everyone drank whiskey except for me (I did try a bit and then switched to Coca Cola and later to Singha).  Tim received a couple of gifts (an odd-looking stuffed animal and a pink clock/music box which wouldn't look out of place in a Chinese whorehouse; of course, these have been proudly placed in our bedroom so I'll have to hide them when any of my friends or family members come to visit!).

Much of the party consisted of Tim singing karaoke while the rest of us watched.  Late in the evening, everyone began dancing to the Thai music VCD's and I gave an embarrassing demonstration of my singing and dancing "skills" (there's a song on one of Tim's VCD's that I've heard enough where I almost can sing along) — unfortunately, Jum videotaped this causing howls of laughter this morning when Tim and I watched it.  I still haven't decided if I'll include this when I compile my various clips into a DVD.

Today is very much a lazy stay-at-home day.  We did the lion's share of the cleaning after our guests left last night (probably around midnight) so we only had to wash dishes and do some sweeping and mopping today.  I put the photos I'd shot last night onto the laptop (I actually filled an entire memory stick — 309 photos, the most I've shot in a single day since arriving in Thailand), caught up on my financial records in Money 2006), and plugged the camcorder into the TV so we could view the video I'd shot in the past couple of weeks.

To bring things further up-to-date:  On Friday, Nit picked us up and we went to see Jum who had returned to Phuket the evening before.  She was very happy to see both of us.  When Lek got home, the five of us went to buy a patio table-and-chairs set (Tim and I decided on plastic because it would be easier to clean) and then did some grocery shopping at Makro (beer and other drinks for the party) and Big C (more food).  That evening, Tim and I watched my "King Kong" DVD — I thought she'd find it too long (which it is, but must seem even longer when you can't understand the language being spoken) but she seemed to enjoy all of it.  I found her tearing up at several different parts of the movie, although she kidded me about crying at the end when King Kong dies.  We stayed home all day Saturday, cleaning the house from top to bottom in preparation for the party.  I kind of like the stay-at-home days as during breaks in chores I can retreat to the master bedroom (which is nice and cool with the air-conditioning) and read a chapter or two in my book.

It's now late in the afternoon on Sunday.  We've finished our cleaning and I'm almost finished with my computer tasks.  This evening, we plan to watch the sunset from Promthep Cape (the southernmost point of Phuket) and we'll probably watch a movie back here later tonight.



Some days here in paradise are fairly routine, but all have moments of surprise.

The past couple of days haven't seen any major turns of event for us — we did some house-cleaning and laundry and I suffered from some nasty mosquito bites (my Bullfrog Mosquito Coast sunblock with mosquito repellant seems to attract them rather than repel them).

Wednesday afternoon, Tim wanted to take me to "Mama Moon" which turned out to be a small open-air restaurant (View Point) located high on Cape Sol — a mountainous piece of land jutting out into the Andaman Sea between Kamala and Patong.   It offered a great vantage point from which to look down at the bay which contains Kalim, Patong, Trai Trag, and Paradise Beaches.  On this particular day, there was a large cruise ship in the bay (I couldn't identify the line from the stack markings) and the sunset turned out to be a bit of a dud.  I could tell there was a large storm some miles out to sea towards India and I kiddingly told Tim that it would begin to rain on us right at 7:15.  (It actually did sprinkle a bit on us as we were driving home — when it began, I looked at my watch and it was exactly 7:15!).  On our way back to Chalong (a 45-minute drive, causing what Dad affectionately calls "bees in the butt"), we stopped off at the south Kamala open-air market and then drove along the coast turning inland at Karon.  I really do love the variety of scenery along these drives, even if some of them are in the dark.

Yesterday afternoon, after completing several loads of laundry, we went to Super Cheap for some "window shopping."  From the outside, this place looks like a collection of tumble-down tin shacks but it's really a huge covered market with a variety of products rivalling that of Big C.  It's not air-conditioned, however, so it's rather hot and smelly (and I wondered how things like the mayonnaisse and raw meats kept from spoiling in those conditions).  I'd been wanting to buy a helmet to wear on the motorbike and found a really good one for 599 baht (around USD $15); I bought Tim a new one as well.  We also found several nice table-and-chairs sets that would look good on our side patio and plan to return today with a truck.

Before going home, we visited Tim's friend Lek (the motorbike taxi driver) at her new rental in Kathu.  They were both pretty proud to tell me that this place was only 2000 baht (approx. USD $55) per month but I was appalled at what I considered were poverty-level conditions.  The house was a tiny tin-and-wood plank shack situated amidst piles of garbage and other falling down structures.  Inside was clean enough, I suppose, but living there would be akin to camping out in primitive conditions.  Not for me but if Lek is happy with it, more power to her.  Tim helped her decorate a bit because Jum was due to arrive later in the evening and is going to stay there as well (I'm not sure what she'll think of the place).

After dropping the helmets off at home, we drove to one of the markets nearby and purchased some items for dinner.  I bought some sausage that turned out to taste really bad, along with a breaded chicken filet which was pretty good.  Later in the evening, La stopped by for a visit and Tim and her enjoyed talking on the side patio while I read in the master bedroom.  After a while, Tim wanted me to show La the photos I'd taken since returning to Phuket so I took the laptop out to the patio and we watched a lengthy slideshow.  I like hanging out with La because she isn't the opinionated chatterbox as is Lek or Puk.  She is very soft-spoken and polite.

I can't believe today is Friday already — this week just zoomed by.  Today also marks the beginning of my third week in Thailand.  Very soon, we will have to begin planning our trip to Bangkok in order to get Tim's passport.  Our visit will be at least five days long (it takes that long to process the passport application) during which we'll make a day-trip to Ayutthaya in order to see Tim's daughter.  After obtaining the passport, we'll either come back to Phuket or go on to Chiang Mai for my first meeting with her parents.

Today, we are planning to buy the outdoor table and chairs; Nit is picking us up at 2:00 — it's raining right now (9:45 a.m.) so hopefully that will stop before we to that furniture shopping.  We're also going to buy some supplies for a party tomorrow.  Since Jum has returned, Tim wants to have a birthday party and it's also sort of our housewarming party.  However, contrary to what I've read about Thai traditions of the guests bringing food and gifts, it looks like I'll be footing the bill to stock this party.  I tried to convince Tim that we should just buy some beer (and whiskey — which she insists on) and perhaps a cake.  But she insists on cooking up a ton of food (that will either not get eaten or will create a mess in addition to smelling up the house).

My "suggestions" are usually met with "Thailand not same same farang" or some other similar saying indicating that my ideas are "wrong".  (A non-food-related example of this came last night when I suggested that she and La turn down the music and stop talking so loud around 10:00 so as not to disturb the neighbors.  She said, "Okay for Thailand," meaning that she felt it was perfectly fine with the neighbors that we be loud late at night.  I tried to explain that our neighbors were mostly Westerners who probably wanted to sleep.  This point was punctuated when our next-door neighbor slammed closed his own patio doors and that finally quieted Tim down.)  As time goes on, I think she'll understand the need to be courteous and respectful to those she lives around.  I think she's beginning to see that she'll have to compromise on certain things and I've been trying to stress that I've completely changed my life and virtually every thing I do is some level of sacrifice or compromise.  It's been difficult for her to understand that she'll need to give in a little bit from time-to-time as well but I do believe we are moving slowing in that direction.  Time will tell...



Yesterday, Tim and I discovered the Phuket Zoo a short distance from our home (actually, I found it on a map and directed her towards it; she remained sceptical that it even existed until we came across it).  The posted admission price was 500 baht per adult but Tim bought the tickets and got a significantly-reduced Thai price of 100 baht each.  It's a fairly large zoo but has definitely seen better days — it could be vastly improved with just a little bit of loving care to clear the cobwebs and trash out of the cages and to clean the murky water in the tanks.  Still, I was impressed with the variety of animals and we enjoyed watching several shows (the monkey show left a lot to be desired, the crocodile show was somewhat better, and the elephant show was better than the one I'd seen at the Rose Garden Resort back in January).  I did discover that Tim is somewhat afraid of elephants and wouldn't pose near one.  All in all, it was an afternoon well-spent.

Earlier in the day, I finally had some success in uploading the first of my photos to my Webshots pages.  An Internet cafe within walking distance of our house had the Webshots program already installed on their computer and it read that I had some folders of photos on my memory stick.  However, before I could upload any of these I had to download the latest update for the software.  I did this and installed it on the cafe's computer (I just have to make sure I get this computer the next time I visit) and uploaded the first day's photos (basically, just the airports I went through en route to Phuket with a couple of Tim at the end).  It's a slow process and my memory stick is fairly small so it will take me some time before I get all the pics up to the site.  Also, I don't like to keep Tim waiting on me for very long as I think she's bored just sitting there while I use the computer.  But since this particular cafe is so close, I could just walk over there and work while she's sleeping in the morning.

I also checked my e-mail yesterday; I don't get to do this everytime I reach an Internet cafe.  I received several notes of congratulations on our engagement which I read out loud to Tim.  I hope to be able to reply to these individual e-mails within the next several days.  The entire online process will be much easier once we get our home phone line.  I need to remember to Google some Thai ISP's today so I can sign up and be ready to connect when the phone line is put in; my old AT&T dialer won't work here.

Our day ended with a stop-off at a nearby open-air market where I made another try at buying a new pair of cargo shorts.  Since the two pairs of 36's I'd purchased last week were too small (one "36" actually was a perfect fit for Tim to wear), I decided to try a size 40.  It seemed to fit at the stall but when I got it home it was way too big.  But at least I can try to wear it with a belt to prevent it falling down around my ankles.  I think I'll buy any future pants at Big C or similar department store rather than on the street (although, I'm sure Big C can't come close to the 200-baht price of the markets).  Tim bought a case for the tiny amulet she carries for good luck and then we bought our dinner — several pieces of fried chicken and pineapple for me, multiple baggies of mystery food for Tim.  Eating at home, she divided her food purchases in half to save some for the next day (and eating less in the process — I think she's realizing that she's been eating too much).  Later in the evening, we walked over to 7-Elven to buy some drinks and ice cream (and a week-old Phuket Gazette for me to attempt to find out what's happening in "the world"; looks like I'll have to track down a copy of The Nation or The Bangkok Post if I want to read any "real" news).  After listening to an Eagles CD and Tim singing along to a Thai karaoke VCD, we watched the pilot episode of "Desperate Housewives" which Tim found very entertaining although she hadn't a clue about what was happening most of the time.  I think I'm going to be on a constant search to find Western movies with Thai subtitles so that Tim can enjoy them as much as I do (tonight, we did see pirated copies of some movies that aren't officially available on DVD in America yet...).

I hope that today I can talk Tim into driving me to some other parts of the island that we haven't been to yet.  I'm trying to prevent us from getting into a rut of going to the same old places (or staying at home) all the time.  There's so much of Phuket that Tim hasn't even seen yet (hence, the zoo expedition yesterday) and that I'd like to photograph.



One thing I have a concern about is the amount that Tim eats.  The day consists of snacks and meals throughout the waking hours.  A "light snack" consists of a minimum of six very full bowls of miscellaneous food.  When I bring up the amount of food, Tim just says "Food very cheap" and points to each bowl — "Five baht, ten baht, ten baht, food very cheap Thailand."  Yes, but six bowls of 5 or 10 baht food three to four times a day does tend to add up not only in the wallet but also in the belly.  I'm trying to get Tim to understand that perhaps cutting down on the amount of food is a good thing (she asks me, "Why you eat little and you big while I eat much and I small?" — she is getting a belly on her, though).  (She does try to get me to eat large amounts; for example, today she said she would make me a fried egg.  The result was a huge plate full of egg — she'd fried four eggs together to make one big one.  I explained that frying one egg for me was more than enough...)

However, I can deal with this if she would learn (and I'm trying to teach her) the importance of sanitary cooking; often, the back door is wide open while she cooks using several different pots and is using a mortar and pestal on the floor to pulverize certain types of foods.  I've been trying to teach her about wrapping in plastic the various ingrediants that she stores in the refrigerator and that we're inviting all sorts of bugs inside by not being careful.  Just a short while ago, I went into the kitchen to find a cat sitting on the counter licking from the rice steamer amid several buzzing flies and noseeums.  Add to the list a can of air freshener and another can of bug spray (I already went through a king-sized one this week).  Yet, if we keep the door closed while she cooks then the smell permeates everything (and most Thai cooking doesn't smell that pleasant).  Hopefully we'll soon reach some sort of compromise; for now, I just grin and bear it and gently try to explain that a Western style of sanitary concerns in the kitchen can be applied to Tim's style of Thai cooking and that we'll both be happier and healthier as a result.


Our luck with the rain finally ran out last night as Tim and I were caught in a downpour on her motorbike about a half-hour from home.  It wouldn't have been so bad if the huge raindrops didn't hurt so much when they pounded into us.  Tim was slightly more lucky than I since she was wearing a thin jacket; my cabana shirt, however, didn't offer much protection from the cold water.  I think I'll try to find a windbreaker at the earliest opportunity to store in her motorbike for future storms.

We had been returning from an evening in Patong and Kamala.  Most of our day had been spent at home cleaning and finishing the laundry from Sunday.  I also enjoyed some down-time to get caught up on my reading (I'm fully immersed in Nelson DeMille's Night Fall right now).  Once we got out-and-about, our primary concern was finding an Internet cafe from which I could upload my photos.  We found a couple of places that did have CD-ROM drives on the computers but they either didn't work or had some sort of restrictions to prevent customers inadvertantly adding viruses to their machines.  I think today I'll try using my memory stick to upload a couple of photo folders at a time; this method would take a long time but at least I'd make some progress.  Another option would be to try taking my laptop down to Starbucks in Patong where they have a free wireless connection but I really don't want to cart the computer all over the island in my backpack (not waterproof in case it rains).  Or, I could just wait for our phone line to be installed and use the home dial-up connection (our landlord told me he would arrange the installation later this week).

Failing at the Internet cafes, we found ourselves in Patong shortly before sunset so Tim purchased some food at a cart and we drove to a park on the high hill overlooking southern Patong Beach.  It was a very nice setting and I really enjoyed the barbecue chicken and rice we ate.  After dinner, we drove north to Kamala and visited Puk at the restaurant she works at.  We began the long drive home around 9:00, stopped at a garage to have the oil changed on the motorbike, and watched the massive lightning display in the sky above us as we roared over the mountain between Patong and Kathu.  I truly believed that the rain would hold off long enough for us to make it home but we felt the first large droplets on our heads just as we approached the outer reaches of Phuket Town.  The clouds really let loose a few minutes later and we pulled over to the side of the road and cowered under an awning directly opposite the large Makro Cash-And-Carry store.  After several minutes there, we decided to make a run for it since home was another 20 minutes away and the storm showed no signs of letting up.  I was very impressed with Tim's driving skills as I couldn't see a single thing in front of us and she didn't have a faceplate on her helmet.  I did notice that there were very few other motorbikes left on the roads as we roared down them.  We did make a quick stop at our local 7-Eleven where I waded inside (suffering the onslaught of the store's heavy-duty air-conditioning) to purchase a couple of bottles of Singha and a recharge card for my cell phone.  After hanging our thoroughly soaked clothes in our showers at home, we called it an early night.

I have no idea what our plans are for today.  I did have a thought of just taking a drive somewhere without any specific goal but I haven't yet run that by Tim.  And we have yet to visit the Zoo (very near our house) or other nearby attractions that I'm curious about...



I haven't really had a chance to update this blog for the past several days so I'll attempt to now.

Saturday morning, I had my first experience of giving alms at a Buddhist temple.  We drove the short distance to Wat Chalong armed with our "monk buckets" and purchased joss sticks, garlands of flowers, and candles at the entrance.  I just watched what Tim was doing; unfortunately, she couldn't explain the significance of anything because of the language barrier.  I'm not always certain if she realizes that I would like to know what we are doing and what certain things mean; even asking the Thai name for something gets more blank stares than clarification.  Anyway, we knelt before one alter, bowed and waied, lit the candles and joss sticks and put them into holders.  Then, we placed the flowers into bowls at the base of a large golden Buddha.  Next we went to raised platform which contained a number of gifts for the monks (buckets of food and supplies similar to the ones we brought along with wrapped Buddha statues).  A monk soon sat on the platform, we bowed to him while performing the wai (similar to raising your hands in a prayer gesture); he gestured for us to come closer and he began chanting while we bowed our heads and (I think) repeated what he was saying.  At one point, he doused us with water (which was freezing).  Finally, we were given a brass vessel of water which Tim took outside and sprinkled on a tree.  We gave him our buckets of stuff, waied again, and backed off of the mat on our knees.  After that, we walked to a different temple where we purchased some sort of flower, more candles and joss sticks — we lit these in a flaming trough outside another temple (mine flamed up into an inferno before I was able to put them out, causing some laughter among other worshipers).  We then went to an alter where we placed the still extremely hot sticks (during this process, I managed to burn my arm as one of the sticks came loose from the others).  We then went inside this temple and placed the flowers in a bowl of water and the candles into another container.  Someday, I hope to find out what all this meant....

After our temple experience, we stopped at a nearby Internet cafe where I'd planned to (finally) upload photos to my Webshots account.  However, this cafe did not have any CD-ROM drives installed on the computers so I couldn't follow through with that idea.

Later that afternoon, we returned to Big C and purchased a washing machine.  Our laundry had reached the point of critical mass and Tim was reluctant to use one of the many local laundry services (most of which hand wash just as she is used to).  As with everything else here, installation is pretty much do-it-yourself and I was left stymied by the instructions (no pictures, just lists in Thai which Tim couldn't help me with either).  It wasn't until Sunday afternoon (with help from Puk) that we got the machine to a point where we could use it.  It's kind of a jury-rig in that when we use it we'll put it on the back patio, run the electric chord through the kitchen window with the intake hose attached to a garden hose.  At this point, the out-take hose is too short and the runoff drains on the patio and into the rocks — I don't like this as I don't know what the accumulation of soap will do so I plan to try and find some more length of the right size of hose so we can eventually run this over the back wall into the alley.  Or, perhaps, draining it into the sewer tank might be an option...

Anyway, Saturday night Tim and I went into Patong for a bit of partying.  We hired Nit once again to drive us (he's almost become our personal chauffeur) since Tim planned to do a fair bit of drinking and neither of us wanted to be driving her motorbike back to Chalong at such a late hour.  We were dropped off at the eastern end of Bangla Road near the boxing stadium and walked the length of this main entertainment area and back up again.  It was still fairly early in the evening so it wasn't yet crowded.  There were more farangs than Thais; most of these were families taking photographs so I played "tourist" a bit myself.  We purchased a couple of beers and some watermelon in the Big 1 Market below Ocean Plaza — this is a market similar to a 7-Eleven where a number of people had been trapped and drowned during the tsunami in December 2004.  It was kind of spooky being down there but I didn't see the plaque that had been placed in remembrance of the victims.  We took our small picnic back up to street level and enjoyed watching people walk by.

A bit later, we took a motorbike taxi to a large plaza in the southern part of Patong.  It was the last day of the 2006 Biker Week and this area was filled with Harley Davidsons.  We spent some time looking at (and posing for photographs next to) the various choppers.  At the end of the plaza, a huge screen had been set up on which a soccer match was being broadcast live from London.  I think this will be one of the ground zeros when the World Cup soccer matches are held in Germany (soccer is very popular here due to the number of British Commonwealth and European expats).  We found one of Tim's friends manning a bar near the big screen and we settled down there to visit for a while; she had first introduced me to Deng the night before my last departure from Patong.  Not only did we each have a couple of bottles of Singha, but we had some excellent sliced mango (the best I've yet tasted — it was so good that we bought 10 mangos from Deng to take home with us).  Exiting this plaza (during which I purchased a Bike Week t-shirt for Dad), we ran into Tim's friend Lek (NOT Silvio's Lek) who works as a motorbike taxi driver.  She/he (another ladyboy and I'm never sure exactly what to call them) drove us to Rock City at the northern end of Patong for free.  Rock City is very similar to a Hard Rock Cafe with similarly high-priced food, drinks, and souvenirs.  A bottle of Singha costs 125 baht here compared to 30 baht for the same sized bottle at a 7-Eleven.

We took a table in the front row, center stage, and settled down to enjoy the music.  I really liked the giant reproduction of a shackled King Kong that towered over the stage serving as a cool backdrop.  The one band we saw here were excellent, playing a mix of Thai originals and Western covers.  My favorites were a spot-on version of "By The Way" by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and a hard-rock rendition of The Knack's "My Sharona" which featured a lenghty guitar solo in the middle break.  I never thought I'd live to see the day that any band could make me like this song!  We were waiting for Puk to join us after she got off work but around midnight Tim wanted to go to another club called Margarita.  We took a motorbike taxi which cost 100 baht; this was a distance we could have easily walked but I humored her.  We got a table in the corner of the club, overlooking the intersection of Bangla Road and Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road, giving a good vantage point from which to observe the late-night revelers and traffic.  I enjoyed watching the street more than the band inside the club (which played the lengthy "Stairway To Heaven" by Led Zeppelin twice during the hour or so we were there — I've never been a fan on this son which is one of the most oft-played songs on American commercial rock radio).  I had tired considerably by the time Puk showed up and was anxious to call it an evening.  Tim, however, had just gotten her second wind and was in a dancing mood.  She went up to the stage and danced during a couple of the songs played by the band (I remember one being AC/DC's "TNT" and can't remember if she was up there for Queen's "We Will Rock You"; by this time, I had a pounding migraine headache and each drum beat sounded like it was coming from within my skull).  I finally dragged her out of there around 2a.m. (which she wasn't really happy about) and we called Nit to pick us up.  It was a long drive back home but once there we had no problems falling asleep.

We slept in on Sunday.  Puk showed up unannounced around noontime but had brought food (rice and miscellaneous baggies of Thai food for Tim and a tiny 7-Eleven hamburger for me — not the best-tasting object but I really appreciated that she thought to buy it for me; Tim didn't like the taste of her food either but the leftovers later came in useful when taxi-driver Lek showed up as well).  After lunch, Puk helped me hook up the washing machine and then she taught Tim how to use it and also how to sort clothes into different color loads, etc.  I was surprised that Tim had never before used a washing machine after all the time she spent encouraging me to buy one (which, by the way, was fairly inexpensive at 3800 baht — less than a hundred dollars U.S.).  In this climate, you don't really need a dryer — just lay the wet clothes over the back wall and other object and they dry very quickly in the sun.  Later in the evening, Tim sat on the living room floor ironing everything (including socks and underwear, which I found very amusing).  While we were still doing the laundry in the afternoon, Lek stopped by and we fed her some lunch (the leftovers Tim couldn't force down herself).  After Puk left to go to work, the three of us went to a large open-air market in Phuket Town where we spent the early evening hours browsing the many stalls.  I bought two pairs of cargo shorts for myself (neither of which fit, despite the stall owners assuring us they were the correct size for me — one of these was actually a good fit for Tim which she found hilarious), as well as a number of small objects for Tim (including sunglasses, earphones for her cell phone, etc.).  And, of course, we bought some baggies of food for dinner at home.  I found some strips of fried and seasoned pork which were excellent (but they didn't top my favorite "discovery" — barbecued chicken found a few days before at another market).  I also quite enjoyed the strips of fish (Tim calls these fish "bahn" which I think she's saying fish "balls" but the jury is still out on that) that I dipped in some sort of tasty chile sauce.

Sunday was probably the most frustration-free day since we've moved into the house.  Every bit of it was enjoyable as I think I'm becoming more accustomed to "going with the flow" instead of sweating the small details.  There are still worries (such as how to get the phone line installed) but these are decreasing with time.  Last night ended with me making a call to Kansas to talk to my sister (for 30 minutes, which were clear-as-a-bell on the phone) and with us watching the first 45 minutes or so of "The Last Samurai" before we fell asleep.  I'm not sure what we're doing today other than seeking out an Internet cafe with CD-ROM drives installed on their computers.



Shortly after 6:00 last night — April 13, Tim's 36th birthday and Thai New Year (Songkran) — I asked her to marry me, reading from a script written in Thai (I hadn't had enough time to memorize it).  Tim's response was a big smile followed by a hug and kiss and a very enthusiastic "yes."  Although I'd planned to propose in a more romantic setting (sunset at Promthep Cape) rather than at the house, the important part was me asking the question and Tim accepting.  The mood was broken somewhat by the arrival of several of Tim's friends with little bags of Thai food less than 5 minutes after the proposal.  So much for just the two of us being alone to share in the moment and it was yet another frustration in an afternoon full of them.  Yet, today is another day and soon all we will remember about yesterday are the good things with the engagement being way at the top of the list.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote a blog entry; I probably won't record as many details as I'd like as it's already after 11:00 Friday morning and I'm sure both of us would like to get out-and-about.  On Wednesday, we made another trip to Big C for more shopping.  Once again, it was a bit frustrating as the shopping cart filled up long before we'd made it halfway through the list.  And despite Big C having virtually everything one needs, certain items are proving elusive.  For example, apparently Big C doesn't stock nails although they have a large selection of hammers.  I have been surprised as some of the Western brand names of groceries I've seen — Heinz ketchup, Campbell's Chunky soup, SPAM, A1 steak sauce, etc.  One of the most frustrating things about shopping here, however, is that the Thai people maneuver the aisles in much the same way as they drive, meaning there's no rhyme nor reason.  And at the checkout line on this visit, I was working hard at putting the items from the cart onto the conveyer belt when several customers behind me pushed around me and the cart to stick their one or two items into the cashier's face despite her already ringing up my items.  I'm not sure but I think I may have been charged for their purchases too.  I hastily called Tim back to the cart (she had gone to the other side of the cashier to help bag up the items) so she could guard against further encroachments on our check-out process.

Although I'd previously read about it (as well as seen some video footage), nothing truly prepared me for Thai New Year/Songkran Festival AKA "waterfight to end all waterfights".  We set out from home on Tim's motorbike and we were both soaked to the bone within a couple of minutes of getting on the road.  Groups of people — ranging in age from toddler to ancient — line the roads with huge barrels filled with water and armed with anything they can hurl this water with.  Many have the largest Super-Suker water guns I've ever seen, others have buckets or plastic water bottles.  Garden hoses are also used (and on Bangla Road in Patong the fire department was using their big water cannons which hurt more than anything else).  While most people are trying to soak everything in sight, others have some sort of white powder which they spread on the face of anyone who gets too close.  Often this powder becomes a paste as it comes into contact with all the water.  If a vehicle gets too close and doesn't roll down their windows to be dowsed with water, then the paste is smeared on the windows.  In addition to all of the people on foot along the roadways, the streets are filled with people on motorbikes, crammed into the beds of pickup trucks (which also have huge water barrels), in open-sided tuk-tuks and busses, etc.  Most of this people are also armed with water projectile units.  The traffic moved very slowly and it was difficult even for the motorbikes to weave through the larger vehicles.  Some of the water was very cold as ice was added to the buckets.  In the rare moments where you weren't being bombarded by water, you'd warm and dry up very quickly under the sun before once again being doused.

It took almost an hour to get to Patong (normally about a 30-minute drive) during which we were constantly under "attack".  Tim occasionally had difficulty driving as the water got in her eyes or she recoiled from the shock of an ice-cold deluge.  If the roads through the countryside and mountains was difficult to navigate, the scene in Patong itself was absolute mayhem.  It truly was like being in a war-zone — imagine downtown Baghdad but with water pistols rather than bullets.  We parked the motorbike near the beach and walked/swam down to Bangla Road.  This was ground zero as many groups of friends had formed themselves into troops invading and claiming territory.  Many had watertanks strapped to their backs to refill their SuperSoakers quickly.  The multi-story buildings had water-snipers perched on their balconies, aimed at unsuspecting targets below.  Thankfully, there aren't too many buildings along Bangla Road that have more than a ground floor.  The Westerners were particularly ruthless; I had my camera encased in a waterproof clear bag and when I stopped to take photos, the Thais would respect that and not shoot me but the Westerners never showed any such courtesy leading to some moments of frustration as many shots were ruined because of this.  Still, I was laughing and having fun throughout although I did give some of these farangs some really evil looks.

After walking the length of Bangla Road up and down once (with a pit stop for a couple of beers), Tim and I came across several of her friends manning a "fort" on the Beachfront road  We had a couple more beers (which means not only did we buy a bottle for each of us but also had to buy a bottle for each of her friends, this occurs all the time and I sometimes wish someone would buy a beer for me once in a while — at least the bottles are very cheap. about USD $1.25 for a large Singha).  Tim was provided a small water pistol and I was given a large water bottle to fill and refill to my heart's content.  Finally armed, we took up defensive positons to attack the passing pedestrians and vehicles.  We spent three or four hours doing battle and having a wonderful time.  I got increasingly brave with my camera, deciding I'd get better photos if I took it out of the protective plastic.  I would shoot photos with it raised high above my head and most of the time it didn't receive direct hits.  But just moments after Tim and I decided to begin heading back to her motorbike, I received a bucketfull of water poured over my head and the camera while I was putting it back into the plastic.  This deluge was a "gift" from a very large Westerner and a very wrong thing to do as the only thing taboo is to pour water on top of one's head (this is a part of Buddhist culture as the head is "sacred").  The camera's display faded to black and I couldn't get it to turn back on.  Tim and her friends noticed all this and I think they told off the farang in spades (lots of angry-sounding jabbering in Thai) but I just shrugged my shoulders and said, "Mei pen rai," earning me some points as time told me I was a very good man for not becoming angry (inwardly, I was seething however).

The trip back to Chalong took a very long time as well — maybe 45 minutes total as there were less people and traffic on the roads now (it was almost 5:00 in the afternoon).  We did, however, see many motorbike with pickup accidents along the route (Thai New Year sees many drunk driving accidents, very similar to holiday weekends in the States).  Within just a couple of kilometers from our home, we had our own minor accident as the read tire blew out on the motorbike.  Tim managed to keep it under control after the initial violent jerking.  We almost went over onto our side but Tim's excellent driving skills kept us upright in the end.  Luckily, this occurred just around the bend from a tire shop and they quickly replaced the innertube and tire for the astounding price of 30 baht (about USD $1.50).

I think Tim was more shaken up than I was and when we arrived home, her tears began flowing.  She thought I'd be angry over the accident and was worried I wouldn't love her anymore.  She also thought she'd spoiled my plan for the evening as I'd told her I wanted to go to Promthep Cape at sunset to give her her last birthday gift ("very special present", I'd been saying all week).  I tried to calm her down, wiping away her tears, and reassuring her that I loved her very much.  I then got my script out of my wallet — the ink had run somewhat despite the wallet having been in a plastic baggie most of the day.  We sat on the bed while I struggled to read the five or six sentences I'd chosen after searching through my three Thai/English phrase books.  It was quite a thrill watching Tim unwrap the bow on the jewelry bag and then the shiny silver and red wrapping on the box itself.  Her eyes became huge brown saucers as she found the ring inside.  The gold band caught the light brightly and the diamonds and opal sparkled profusely.  "I love you forever, darling," she kept saying over and over.

I would have liked to have been alone for the rest of the evening, perhaps having a bit of dinner and a bottle or two of Singha (I have yet to introduce Tim to wine), but the mood was broken by the sudden sound of motorbikes honking outside with several voices calling Tim's name.  Nit (the police officer who moonlights as a chauffeur — he'd been our driver when I arrived at the airport and when we'd moved), Lek (a ladyboy — NOT Silvio's Lek), and Mem had come to see our home and celebrate New Year.  I think Puk had told them where our house is because Tim was as surprised as I was.  But I couldn't just kick them out because Tim would have lost considerable face at my "rudeness."  So, while they trooped through the house — opening cabinets, peering into the wardrobe, checking out the contents of the refrigerator, etc. &8212; I ran around trying to rustle up things for them to sit on (we only have two chairs for the table in the dining room and I didn't want them sitting on the clean sofa and chairs in the living room since they were prepared to eat).  We ended up sitting on the ground on the side patio and they poured the baggies of Thai soup, noodles, rice, meat-like unidentified objects, etc. into our bowls and plates (which we luckily bought on Wednesday).  I'd already taught Tim that there was to be no smoking inside the house and she managed to confiscate Mem's lit cigarette everytime she started to wander back inside.  She wasn't so successful from preventing Mem flicking the ashes into the rocks just off the patio, however, but was quick to tell her not to throw the bones from the pieces of duck she was eating into the rocks.  I hurriedly handed her a bag to put her ashes and other trash in (many Thai people seem to think nothing about throwing garbage on the ground in other people's homes).  Tim has become as clean-conscious as I am and she fussed about spilled soup and dropped rice (as soon as her friends departed, we were both out on the patio armed with broom and mop to clean up).  They chattered along in rapid-fire Thai most of the time; occasionally, Tim would tell me something that had been said but most of the time I was in the dark.  I had expected some amazement or congratulations regarding our engagement but her friends didn't pay much, if any, attention to me at all.  I asked Tim if she had told them we were getting married and she assurred me she had.  Instead of them fawning over her ring, they just showed me theirs (Thai people really love to buy gold) and their only interest seemed to be in me telling them how much the ring cost — I didn't tell them as I don't consider it polite to tell the price of such personal things.  Tim's best friend Jum did call during the little get-together (she speaks English better than any of her friends that I've met so far) and she was very excited about the engagement news.  She returns in a few days and then we'll have a proper birthday party for Tim (which I'm now worried about as all of the groceries in our fridge disappeared last night — we'd stocked it full of milk, orange juice, beer, and fruit but Tim's friends seemed to feel no guilt at helping themselves; Tim told me "is Thai way" but I think she now understands that I don't like this).

Tim's friends left right at 9:00 so at least we were spared too long of a visit.  Hopefully, this sort of thing won't happen very often.  Perhaps I'll buy a small refrigerator to hide in the bedroom so I'm not constantly buying groceries that I can't eat...  I then called Dad to tell him that Tim had said "yes".  Tim spoke with him briefly — she was very proud to tell him, "Good evening.  How are you, papa?" (having practiced this for several minutes before I dialed the phone).  The call started to fade out after several minutes and I had a difficult time hearing so I cut it shorter than I would have liked.

This morning we had planned to make our donations at Wat Chalong (having overslept yesterday; we each bought a "monk bucket" at Big C which contains food staples, toothpaste, deoderant, etc.) but again slept late.  Tim's now watching "Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life" on our second TV in the master bedroom (I spent several hours yesterday morning putting together the TV stand which proved harder than I thought it would with the Thai instructions and trying to figure it out from the drawings along).  As soon as I finish writing this entry, I'll take a shower so we can be ready to go when the movie finishes.  I think we'll do some shopping and we'll go to Rock City in Patong tonight for a concert (a Metallica tribute band is playing — not my favorite kind of music but Tim is anxious to see some live music and she thinks it's funny that this place has a "King Kong Burger").  Oh, I'd also like to spend some time at an Internet cafe so I can begin uploading photos to Webshots (however, the ones I took yesterday are still locked inside my waterlogged and non-operational camera — hopefully, I'll be able to get those off of the memory stick when I buy a card reader for the laptop).



Yesterday was a very busy day as Tim and I signed the lease and moved into our new house.  We met Jon at the villa's office shortly before 11:00 and I read through the very common-sense one-page lease.  There was no law in Thailand before 1932 and when legal contracts were first set up, the Kingdom was assisted by England thus the lease reflects a British interpretation of Thai law.  It's very easy to understand and I think that American landlord/tenant contracts would benefit from the simplicity of the Brit/Thai system.  A photocopy was made of Tim's ID card and my passport and we had our keys within 10 minutes of arriving.  Jon told us he'd come by the house the next day to make sure everything was okay, to explain how we get the gas and water bottles (provided by the villa's council), and to answer any further questions we might have.

Tim's friend Puk showed up just a couple of minutes after we entered our new home, much to my chagrin.  I'd wanted to spend some time alone with Tim so we could photograph the various rooms (useful for when we eventually move out) and so we could make a list of supplies & furniture we needed to buy.  Puk came inside with several plastic baggies of Thai food (noodles, soup, etc.), plopped them down on the nice glass-topped coffee table and began opening them making a mess in the process.  I managed to show her and Tim the stain caused on the coffee table and moved the impromptu picnic to the side patio.  I think Tim got the hint about keeping our house clean and that I'd wanted our first meal inside to be a bit more special than what had occurred.  Tim was also a bit pissed at Puk for her sudden arrival and doesn't want our home filled with people just showing up unannounced.  She has indicated several times to me that she wants our house to be for us together without constantly having guests underfoot; I agree with this completely but it will remain to be seen if her friends understand once the others find out where we live.

After the unwanted lunch (during which I made my photos), Tim and I set out to her old apartment where a "minibus" had been arranged to meet us to move our things to the house.  It turned out that this was the same Toyota pickup truck that met me at the airport last Thursday.  This worried me a bit because of the ominous clouds overhead that I was certain would unleash a downpour at any minute.  Our luck, however, held and it didn't begin to rain until much later in the day after we'd safely finished our errands for the day.  Tim had told me that she just wanted to get her TV and DVD player along with a few clothes from her old apartment but it ended up being much more than that — some really ratty old tables and cooking implements, ancient stuffed animals, and a lot of really cruddy-looking old junk.  Hopefully, we'll jetison some of that stuff as we buy some new things.

After almost completely filling the bed of the pickup with this dirty crud (can you tell I was a bit frustrated by this point? — I did, however, keep a smile on my face and didn't reveal my feelings), we set off for the House Of Travellers to get my luggage and the rest of the things Tim had in our bungalow.  The rain clouds looked ever more dangerous all during this process but it was done quickly as the hotel's owner and his wife helped carry items from the room to the truck.  It also helped that I repacked and organized our piles early in the morning while Tim slept.  When we arrived at the house, we put everything in the back bedroom for us to deal with later.  Tim thought this was a very good idea as it saved considerable time and didn't unnecessarily clutter the entire house until we knew what we still needed to buy.

The plan at this point was for us to go shopping for supplies and groceries at Big C.  I'd wanted the pickup to drop us off and then we could hire a tuk-tuk to carry our purchases back to our home.  My main reasoning for this was the fear of it beginning to rain before we got the stuff into the house.  However, since it was Tim's friend I relented to him waiting for us while we did the shopping and him driving us back to Chalong.

The shopping process was also extremely "interesting" as Tim was like a kid in a candy store.  Imagine a 35-year-old girl who has spent her entire life purchasing items from street vendors and stalls in open-air markets suddenly being confronted by the variety offered in a king-sized version of a well-stocked Super Wal-Mart and you have some idea of the adventure I embarked upon.  Although I had made a fairly extensive list of items we needed, it was difficult to keep Tim focussed on the task at hand.  At times, it was fun to watch her as she discovered all the new things on the shelves but at other times it was a bit exasperating as she tried to fill the baskets (we ended up with two completely packed carts) with useless items and I tried to remove them just as quickly.  But I kept the smile on my face the entire time.  I did fear the worst as we (finally) entered the checkout line; usually when I go shopping, I keep a running total in my head so I know how much I'm spending before I have to pay.  It was just impossible to do this (and I would have also have had to try and calculate the exchange rate) but, once again, I was pleasantly surprised at the low costs here:  two shopping carts packed full of groceries and household supplies (including such things as a rice cooker, large-size electric fan, eating utensils, wall clocks, mop and bucket, household cleaners, etc., etc.) came to a little over 5,000 baht (approx. USD $140).

As we loaded the many plastic bags of purchases into the bed of the pickup truck, I was certain it would begin raining at any moment.  The air even smelt like it and had cooled considerably since we'd entered the confines of Big C.  But our luck continued to hold and we made it home safe and dry.  Tim and I spent the next couple of hours cleaning and organizing the home before venturing out for dinner.  She wanted to take me to the small community of Rawai, a sea gypsy village near the southern-most point of Phuket.  Along the way, we noticed an open-air market very close to our house as well as many other interesting restaurants and shops that I'd like to check out sometime.  The road through Rawai runs parallel to the beach there (more for fishing than for sunning or swimming) and there are tables under the trees between the road and the beach.  These tables sit probably six inches off of the ground on large blankets and you sit on small pads.  I ordered a grilled mackerel (which came as a whole fish that had just been grilled on a grate on the beach) as well as "apple salad" which was simply a plate of quartered and skinned apples.  Tim had her usual four or five little plates of Thai food which she would combine and layer into the plate of sticky rice.  It was a very nice (and romantic) setting as we watched the longtail fishing boats bobbing in the inlet.  I felt very good, as did Tim, as we talked about our day and apologized to each other for any perceived cultural differences.  Tim is very eager to learn how different America is from Thailand and I am anxious to learn all I can about how things operate in Thailand.  There will be the occasional rough spot like today in the beginning but we continue to learn new things each day about the other person.

After dinner, we drove back towards our home and made a quick stop at an Internet cafe so I could post a blog entry.  Since I had my mailing address, I also ordered some new contact cards but realized once I returned home that I put the wrong phone number on it.  Mei pen rai.

Returning home, we watched some Thai karaoke VCD's and watched a massive lightning storm through our front windows.  It rained through the night and today and dawned clear and sunny.  I think it's the first relatively cloudless day since my arrival in Thailand a week ago.  We're just going to take life easy today, maybe do some more cleaning around the house and perhaps some more shopping at Big C (items we didn't get yesterday and more items I've added to the list last night and this morning).  Tomorrow is Tim's birthday and should be a very special adventure.



Today, Tim and I will sign the lease for our new house.  We're both very excited.  It will be nice to finally unpack instead of searching through various pieces of luggage and bags to find what we want to use at any given time.  I will, however, miss the House Of Travellers very much.  I definitely will recommend this place to any family members who wish to visit here.

After spending some time doing computer work yesterday morning (preparing a blog entry, organizing photos from the digital camera, catching up on my financial accounts in Money 2006, etc.) while Tim slept, I called Jon at Ananda Garden Hill Village to let him know we'd decided to rent the 12,000-baht-per-month house and to arrange for a time to do the lease-signing.  He's a very nice man, an expat from Grenada.  He took my "details" over the phone which consisted simply of my name, location I'm currently staying at, and my mobile number.  He asked what method I would pay for the rent by (cash or check) and told me to bring my passport along with the security deposit/bond (three months rent) and first month's rent (a total of 48,000 baht).  We decided on a time of 11:00am (giving Tim and I time to wake up and get up-and-moving, a process that sometimes takes some time as we both like the air-conditioned comfort of the bungalow).

That important task finished, Tim and I had a picnic breakfast outside the room (we'd purchased a few items at 7-Eleven the night before after we'd shopped for dinner at the Kathu open-air market).  It then began to pour rain so we retreated inside to wait for it to stop (I don't like Tim to drive her motorbike in the downpours).  It was nice and cool when we set out a couple of hours later — our goal for the day was to window-shop and check prices on various household items at Big C.  That expedition was a grand success and once again I was astounded to discover how inexpensive many things are here in Thailand.  For example, we found dual washer-and-dryer units for between 4000- and 6000-baht ($100-$150 USD).  I was also pleased to see such things as JIF and Skippy peanut butter and Heinz ketchup in the grocery sections.  I'm going to have as much fun cooking for Tim as she will for me.

We had a nice lunch in the basement food court, eating at the Chinese stall just as we had almost exactly four months before.  This time, I knew to purchase the food tickets first and that the drink stalls only accepted cash (I purchased two "milkshakes with coffee" for us which turned out to be just ice coffee made with water not milk).  We also looked at mobile phone prices because Tim's old Nokia is falling apart and really just a piece of junk (she mainly wants one with a camera in the phone).  The prices of these were also fairly and they don't come with a cellular plan — you can purchase recharge cards almost anywhere including any 7-Eleven.

Our next stop was an Internet cafe so I could do a bit of online work.  The drive over was in a nice cooling rain shower (it had been pouring once again a short while before and we waited that storm out in the Big C parking garage).  We had gone to Internet cafes a couple of times before yesterday so I could post my blog entries but I hadn't been able to check e-mail on those previous visits.  This time, I waded through the messages in my AT&T and accounts (the former of which had mostly junk — I only opened eight e-mails out of over 370 in the inbox folder).  I also checked the online registers of my various bank accounts to make sure everything looked good and to see the exact exchange rate used for my various withdrawals from the Thai ATM's.  It was nice to catch up on this work finally; at a later date, I still need to upload photos to Webshots (they're piling up — I'll have to burn the lot to a CD-R before because I'll only have dial-up service at the house for a while until the DSL service is installed).

After spending the rest of the afternoon back at the bungalow, we set out to get some dinner for Tim.  I wasn't very hungry so she wanted to get a simple meal of noodle soup from a vendor she knew in Kathu.  The vendor wasn't there, however, so we drove to the market instead.  A row of fried chicken proved too tempting for me so I got something to eat afterall.  Once again, we made a picnic of it outside our bungalow.  We spent much of the evening watching television (including a very interesting program about volcanologists caught in an eruption in Columbia as well) and Tim showed me several photo albums of her's.  I also learned a bit more about her experiences on the day of the tsunami.  The things she saw in it's aftermath really have had a profound impact on her and she won't even look at photos or DVD's that show the destruction.  She only has one photo of that day — it's of her in the Patong room she had been staying in at the time (Tim had only arrived in Phuket a week before the tsunami), standing on towels placed on the floor in an attempt to mop up the water that had pooled inside.  I told her we should take a similar photo of her standing in our new house and then frame the two together to show how far she's come in less than a year-and-a-half.

As I write this, I can hear the rumble of thunder.  The daily rainstorms we've had are completely out of season — April is usually the hottest and driest month of the year here.  I've enjoyed them as I love hearing the sounds of a massive thunderstorm and the air has been nice and cool before and after the rains.  We have yet to be caught driving in a downpour, however.  I need to try and remember to buy a rain poncho in the next couple of days, just in case.  Hopefully, it won't rain on us when we try and move our stuff into our house (we plan to hire a minibus).  I don't want the tile floors to get all muddy before we have a chance to buy carpet mats for the entrances.

My next entry will be written in our new house.  I can't wait!



After a couple of false starts on the house-search project (mainly Tim feeling a bit ill one day and me feeling ill the next), we had a very successful day yesterday (Sunday).  In fact, after looking at just three houses we fell in love with a very nice one and plan to sign the rental agreement later today.

On Saturday, we were all ready to go looking for houses although we got started a bit late and began to leave the bungalow around two in the afternoon.  We sat outside briefly putting on our shoes and suddenly I felt the "call of nature" and had to spend some time in the room's lovely bathroom.  I did feel a bit better although I didn't feel well enough to endure riding on the back of a motorbike in the high heat and humidity.  Tim's good friend Puk showed up at the hotel a short while later and the three of us spent an hour or so looking at my photos on the laptop.  Puk then had to go to work at her job as a cook in Kamala and Tim and I just relaxed for a couple of hours while the air-conditioning worked it's magic at making me feel better.

We decided I was well enough for us to venture into Kamala to eat something in the early evening.  The drive over the mountain to the coast was very enjoyable as the temperature had cooled considerably with the threat of another thunderstorm.  We soon arrived at the restaurant where Puk works — Kamala Beer Garden, which is run by a man from Belgium.  I felt sorry for Puk because she works in the kitchen alone and it can be very bus.  On Saturday nights, this restaurant has an all-you-can-eat barbecue buffet for 170 baht (approx. USD $3.10).  I really wanted to have some of this food but my weak stomach couldn't handle more than half a plate of garlic cheese bread.  Tim thoroughly enjoyed her bowls of Thai food we'd previously bought at a street stall and had Puk heat up in the restaurant's kitchen.  The mosquitoes decided I tasted very good and I practically got eaten alive while we sat despite my spraying down my legs with repellent before leaving the bungalow.

During our drive back to the hotel (which, by the way, is called House Of Traveller and I highly recommend), the air felt full of cool moisture and we could see lightning in the distance but luckily it didn't pour rain on top of us.  We managed to fall asleep very early for a change and woke up bright and early on Sunday morning.  This gave us a nice start to the house-searching day.

We first drove into Patong to have a nice breakfast at Deng Restaurant on Rat-U-Thit 2000 Pee Road.  Tim had a chicken sandwich with coffee while I had the "American breakfast", consisting of two slices of toast along with a fried egg and very odd sausage.  The coffee tasted wonderful (and I'm finding that Tim is a true connoisseur of good coffee) and I also had a glass of very pulpy orange juice.  Puk soon met us and then the three of us set off for Chalong in the southern part of the island.  Puk led the way on her pink Suzuki while we followed behind on Tim's red Honda Wave; Tim drives very carefully and slowly and we tend to putt-putt up the steep hills almost at a stand-still so Puk had to pull over and wait for us constantly.  Once again, the weather was nice and cool and seemed like it wanted to rain at any moment.  The nice breeze as we moved along felt great and I enjoyed the scenery as the road hugged the coastline offering occasional nice views of the Andaman Sea between the palm trees and roadside businesses.

Our first stop was at a small village managed by a friend of Puk's and looked at a two-bedroom Thai-style house for rent.  It looked very nice but didn't have air-conditioning installed (this is a priority for us); the owner said she would install air-con for us and provide furniture for 10,000 baht per month (a good price for the size of house).  A major minus for me, however, was the location — this place was at the end of a very long gravel road in the middle of nowhere with several water buffalos grazing in the field opposite the front.  While sort of exotic at first glance, I know I'd soon tire of this.  Also, the surrounding vegetation was more weeds and brush grass than tropical plants with the closest trees some distance away.  We decided to pass on this place (and I somehow knew I wouldn't completely like the first place we saw anyway).  As we exited this remote village, it began to rain so we stopped at a seaside restaurant overlooking the Chalong Pier for lunch.

After eating (during which the light rain stopped), we found an Internet cafe so we check the Houses In Phuket website.  I'd found a very cute house on there last week for 10,000 baht per month (approx. $243) which Tim fell in love with when I'd emailed her the photos.  The house was still on the market and we called the agent.  Puk talked with her and got directions to the house which proved impossible to find (the agent never gave the name of the actual road the house was on).  While searching for this elusive property, we found a nice village with several houses for rent.  The house we were shown was a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, furnished bungalow with air-conditioning that was again very reasonable at 10,000 baht per month.  Tim and I both felt this was "the one" but still wanted to see the house I'd found online before making any decisions.  We called the agent once again for more directions and then spent more than an hour driving around in circles without ever finding it.

Giving up, we decided to start heading towards Phuket Town and thought we'd stop if we saw any promising housing developments along the way.  We pulled into one and asked a farang (a Thai term for any white foreigner) who was walking down the soi (small street) if he knew of any houses for rent.  It turned out that he was the rental manager for a new village across the main road and we followed him over to look at a couple of houses.  Very nice houses lined both sides of the soi with two-storey homes towards the end.  We looked at two — the first was a two-bedroom/two-bathroom unit with air-con for 12,000 baht and the second was basically the same but with an extremely large master bedroom but no air-con for 14,000 baht.  After looking at the larger place we went back to the first one for a second (and even more extensive look).  It's brand new (the painters actually finished painting the day before) and the furniture (a bed, makeup table and wardrobe in the master bedroom, sofa and two loveseats in the living room, and refrigerator) was still covered in plastic.  The master bathroom actually had a wall separating the shower from the toilet (a true rarity in Thailand) and the second bathroom had a door leading outside to the small backyard.  The kitchen is very large but is more of a Thai design which means you purchase propane tanks and hook up to your own burner to cook meals.  But Tim is familiar with this setup so she can teach me.  There's a nice patio on the side of the house with sliding glass door, another patio area in the back with a washing area (you could probably hook up a washer and dryer as well out there), and a large covered front porch/patio area.  Any of these would be great places to put a table with chairs for outdoor dining (and grilling burgers and steaks).  There's already phone service — all we'd need to do is call TAT to sign up), the electricity is grounded (another Thailand rarity), and ADSL service should be available within a couple of months.  Another plus is that this is secured postal delivery on the soi so I can receive (most) mail at home rather than getting a post office box (still, registered mail is recommended for anything from the States to actually make it all the way through).  Houses further up the soi are still under construction but when those are finished in a couple of months they will then make a small park for the residents.  At the entrance to the soi, two new buildings are under construction which will house a pharmacy and mini-mart.  A 7-Eleven is within walking distance up the busy main road and Wat Chalong (Tim's temple) is very close as well (perhaps just outside walking distance).

We both knew that this was our home as soon as we walked inside and the second look confirmed it.  However, we decided to talk about it at our hotel and to "sleep on it" before making any decision.  As I compose this entry early on Monday morning, it still feels "right" and I'll call the rental manager as soon as I finish writing.

Knowing that our house search was probably over, Tim and I then made a leisurely drive (Puk having left us to go to work) through the jungles of southern Phuket and did some motorbike exploration of the area surrounding Phuket Town and Kathu.  We eventually arrived at Kathu's thriving outdoor market where we bought a number of bags of all sorts of Thai food.  We even purchased a whole watermelon which the vendor cut up for us with surgical precision.  A quick stop at the ubiquitious Thai 7-Eleven to buy a huge bottle of Chang beer (very inexpensive) and some ice coffee for the morning and we made the quick drive to the bungalow where we had a picnic on the patio outside our room.  After dinner, we walked over to the swimming pool where we dipped our legs in the water while enjoying the twilight.  A truly wonderful ending to a perfect day.

Today should prove very active for us once again.  I'll call the rental manager and arrange for a meeting.  He told me yesterday that the process was very simple — they will write down my details, make a photocopy of my passport, and then we'll sign a one-page lease.  Move-in cost is three months rent which is bonded and then we pay each month.  Or, you can pay six months at a time without a bond or deposit.  Then, it will take them one day to remove the plastic from the furniture, sweep and mop the floors (which didn't look like they needed it at all when we looked yesterday), and do any other work that may be needed.  We should be able to move in on Wednesday and spend Tim's birthday that night in our new house!