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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!