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People who know me know that I have a seemingly unquenchable appetite for knowledge.  I've always enjoyed learning new things in a wide variety of subjects.  For some time, I tried to maintain my main website as a reflection of some of my favorite bits of knowledge.  Part of the problem with that was the relative difficulty in updating and adding new sections in an organized manner.

Recently, I've been spending A LOT of time on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia.  I enjoyed the uniform appearance of articles contained on the site and appreciated the wealth of easily-obtained knowledge there.  Occasionally, I'd find topics where I knew additional information that wasn't included.

Yesterday, I took the plunge and registered as a user/contributor and began expanding the page about Thai rock band Carabao (adding the infobox, some biographical details, etc.).  I also started a page to list the band's extensive discography as well as several individual album pages.

Once you get used to the formatting, it's very easy to add and edit pages.  If your knowledge is lacking somewhere, someone else will (usually) come along and add the missing information.  It's VERY addictive.

After working on a few articles, I decided to create my user information page when I realized my signature on the edits was linking to an empty page.  I wanted a photo information box like I'd seen on various biographical articles so I uploaded one of my "official" engagement photos we'd had taken in Lamphun last month.  In adding my current home, I found out that an article didn't exist about the actual tambon where I live so I created a page about Chalong.  I also discovered the cool userboxes that contributors use to inform others about their individual skills, interests, etc.  I think I went overboard (I'm a big fan of sidebar material as this blog reflects) but there are just so many to choose from!

In checking out some of the topics covered in the Thailand Portal, I found a list of films that use Thailand as a location.  This didn't include the film that had been shooting here on Phuket, so I added The Aftermath to the list and created a place-holder article (called a "stub" in Wikipedian).

My latest contribution was to begin working on improving the article about Kansas City band, The Rainmakers.  Previously, they had been included on what's called a "disambiguation" page which groups information on similarly-named topics for later expansion into separate articles.  My first task (very easy) was to move the existing information about this band to it's own article; it's already a very well-written introduction so I just "wikified" it with some formatting and links.  I plan to expand this with info boxes, photos, a discography (I already created a place-holder for this one), etc.  I have A LOT of material which I can expand this article with — unfortunately, much of it is in storage back in New Mexico but at least I did manage to include some in what I called "The Rainmakers Archives" (which, unfortunately, I haven't updated in over a year) on my main website.

There are so many other things I would like to contribute to Wikipedia.  For the time being, I plan to work on these above-mentioned projects to the point where I'm satisfied before I do anything else.  My userpage will always list what I'm working on; bookmark it and check back if you're interested.  At least the sidebar will be entertaining!

As you can see, I've kept myself extremely busy while Tim has been up in Bang Pa-In.



A bout of insomnia this morning and I'm plugging one-word searches into iTunes to generate playlists (first mentioned in this entry).


Love Song - 311
Sugar Coated Love - Lou Ann Barton
Good Lover - Lou Ann Barton
One I Love - Coldplay
To Bring You My Love - PJ Harvey
Send His Love To Me - PJ Harvey
Sucker For Love - John Mayall
All Your Love - John Mayall
Somebody To Love - Queen
I'm In Love With My Car - Queen
Crazy Little Thing Called Love - Queen
Let Me Love You Baby - Stevie Ray Vaughan
Don't Tread On Me - 311
Baby Please Don't Leave Me - Buddy Guy
Don't Panic - Coldplay
Things I Don't Understand - Coldplay
Don't Hurt Yourself [live in Philadelphia 8th Oct 2004] - Marillion
Marbles I/Don't Hurt Yourself [live in Washington DC 22nd June 2005] - Marillion
Don't Hurt Yourself [Into The Fire Mix] - Marillion
O Mary Don't You Weep - Bruce Springsteen
Aquarius/Let The Sun Shine In - The 5th Dimension
Sunya nah fhon - Carabao
Kularb park sun - Carabao
Sunshine - Keane
One Way Out - The Allman Brothers Band
Sexy Ways - Lou Ann Barton
Trans-Island Skyway - Donald Fagen
Show Me The Way [live] - Peter Frampton
The Way You Want It - Keane
Nothing In My Way - Keane
Way Over Yonder [live in Philadelphia 8th Oct 2004] - Marillion
Runaway [live in Washington DC 22nd June 2005] - Marillion
Enough, already — gotta get some sleep...


The following article is pretty sobering, particularly since you consider many accidents (such as mine last week) go unreported:

92 killed in road crashes in 5 months

PHUKET: In the first five months of this year there were 6,076 accidents on the roads in Phuket, with 92 deaths. The vast majority of accidents involved motorcycles.

Official figures from Vachira Phuket, Thalang and Patong government hospitals show that, from January to the end of May, there were 287 car accidents, 5,541 motorcycle accidents and 248 other incidents, including accidents involving bicycles and pedestrians.

Of the fatalities, 83 cases involved motorcycles, seven people were killed in car accidents and two people were killed in other incidents.

February was the worst month, with 1,369 accidents and 24 fatalities reported.

Brought to you by:
The Phuket Gazette
10:42 local time (GMT +7)

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A few days ago, I read an editorial in The Phuket Gazette attacking "The Aftermath" — the tsunami movie currently wrapping up it's filming on the island (and on which I was included as an extra for a couple of days).  I just received an e-mail news update from the Gazette which details some of the local feelings about this production.  I've reprinted it below; it's rather long but interesting...

Mixed emotions at tsunami mini-series

PHUKET CITY: Mixed reactions greeted the filming of scenes for the TV mini-series Aftermath at Bangkok Hospital Phuket this week .

While some people said they saw the movie as potentially good for promoting Phuket, others – particularly victims – felt disturbed.

Kudos, the company making the movie for the BBC and HBO, recently came under fire in the British media for insensitivity, causing the BBC to issue a defensive press release. Another critical story by the Associated Press was published widely in the US and elsewhere. Kudos itself has made no public comments

Some have also questioned the effect that the mini-series, due to be screened in the autumn, will have on tourism in Phuket and neighboring provinces.

But Panu Maswongsa, Vice-President of Marketing of the Phuket Tourism Association, told the Gazette that he did not believe the drama, which covers the d ay of the December 26, 2004, tsunami and the following few days, will damage Phuket tourism.

“I am sure that the authorities have been involved and read the script before allowing shooting to start. If they have approved it, there should be no negative effect. We should trust the [judgment of the] government officials.”

He noted that the movie Hurricane was made about a disaster in Hawaii, with no negative effect on tourism there

“Tourism is sensitive, but everyone knows that the tsunami is history. Also, everyone knows that we have a warning system on the beaches to protect lives,” he added.

The production came under particular scrutiny after the crew recreated scenes of devastation, complete with corpses, alongside the main road into Khao Lak, Phang Nga.

Buaphun Phumsanid, 54, a construction worker who was injured when the tsunami hit Baan Nam Khem and who lost her daughter, son-in-law and unborn child, was in two minds about the production.

She said that she had heard that many of the extras in the movie “were running and smiling at the same time,” because they had had no experience of the real thing. She added that people like her should have been hired as extras. “I want to show them how was it,” she said.

That said, she admitted that she found some TV footage disturbing. “I was on a bus coming to Phang Nga and there was a movie or documentary with scenes showing big waves. It make me feel bad.

“I told the bus driver to turn it off or change the movie because it took my mind right back to that day. I still feel bad. I miss my daughter every day.”

Another tsunami victim in Phuket, who asked not to be named, told the Gazette that she had come across some of the extras, still in bandages and fake blood, and that the sight had immediately taken her mind back to the day of the tsunami.

“It has taken me and my husband more than a year to stop having nightmares. We have been trying to forget it,” she said, adding that they both found even small things such as TV commercials with images of flooding – like a current ad for Ford pick-up trucks – disturbing.

“I still have terrible memories about the horrible waves that took away so many thousands of lives in moments. It was a real nightmare for me and I don’t want to be reminded of it again,” she added.

Piyanooch Ananpakdee, Senior Marketing Communications Manager of Bangkok Hospital Phuket, explained that the hospital felt obliged to cooperate with the makers of the mini-series because of a formal request from the Office of Tourism Development in Bangkok.

“We read the script. The plot is good, and emphasizes the kindness of Thai people after the tsunami. I think it will help to promote the country,” she said.

Asked about the effect on people who come across post-tsunam i scenes being re-enacted in the hospital, she said, “I don’t think that the filming will have a psychological effect except in the case of people who experienced the tsunami – they might start thinking about it again.

“But the number of tsunami victims coming into the hospital during the three days of filming is likely to be a very low.

“Yesterday some children came in with their parents and we explained to them that it not real. Even though the actors were covered with blood or something, they were always smiling and did nothing to scare anyone during breaks in shooting.”

She noted that shooting had also taken place in three other hospitals – Thalang Hospital and two hospitals in Phang Nga.

“We have allowed them to shoot scenes here on the strict condition that they do not interfere with patients. They are professionals, and gave us a schedule of when and where they would be shooting. We also have our staff keeping t hem apart from patients,” she added.

“We have a sign informing people about the production and we have been handing fliers to anyone coming to the hospital, apologizing for any inconvenience.”

Brought to you by:
The Phuket Gazette
17:17 local time (GMT +7)

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Tim should be arriving in Bangkok in another hour or so.  We put her on the S-VIP (24-seat) coach bus at the Phuket Bus Terminal at 6:30 last night; the price for the 13-hour trip was 970 baht (a one-way ticket on Bangkok Airways would have cost just 700 baht more).  When I called her a half-hour later (once I'd gotten back to the house), they were watching a Chinese movie.  The terminal itself is open-air with approx. 12 bays for the busses to park in surrounding a central (covered) island containing seats and food stands.

While we were waiting, right at six o'clock, the Thai national anthem was played (as it is throughout Thailand at eight in the morning and six in the evening) and everyone stood up at attention.  Where I was standing, I saw an American teenager (well, he could have been in his early twenties) try to purchase something at the newsstand and then become irate when the clerk continued standing at attention; he couldn't figure out what she was trying to indicate to him with her eyes and then turned and he saw that everyone else was also standing in respect.  I've gotten to the point where I can almost sing along to the anthem.

Most of yesterday was dreary and rainy.  After receiving the call that Miao's baby had been born, Tim decided to sleep for a few hours more.  I spent the working on the laptop and also called Dad & Lyn to inform them that we can now call them great-grandparents!  When Tim woke up a little after nine, we drove over to Big C in what began as a light drizzle but became a downpour by the time we reached the shopping center.  At least this time we were prepared, both of us wearing waterproof windbreakers covered with those plastic garbage bag-like rain covers.  It was almost an enjoyable ride — until a car sped by with it's left-side wheels in the little trench of water that runs down the middle of the road, succeeding in drenching us with a steady stream of water for some distance.  At the store, we bought some groceries so I'd have plenty to eat while Tim is in Bang Pa-In; I also bought a couple of the best-tasting cream cheese brownies that I can remember eating.  A last stop was at BUS Computer in the basement of the Big C building so I could get some blank CD-R's and jewel cases (I plan to spend much of this week burning various downloads and other music I have on the laptop).

Our original plan was to take Tim to the bus station by flagging down a tuk-tuk on the main road.  However, that went out the window when Lek and Jum showed up.  They decided that we would take two motorbikes, carrying Tim's large and heavy suitcase (she packs like she's going to be gone a month instead of a week) on one (Jum insisted on holding it) while we followed behind.  Then, Lek would drive me back home on one bike while Jum headed back to her new job in Patong.  Luckily, it wasn't raining when we set off.  But, just opposite from the Muay Thai boxing camp north of the TOT complex and Tsunami Victims Identification Center, the back tire went completely flat (this is the third or forth flat in the last couple of months — I think they just patch the innertube rather than replacing it).  We dismounted and Tim called Lek on her mobile (they had gotten quite a bit ahead of us); they returned and since there weren't any nearby tire shops Lek drove Tim's motorbike (slowly) back to our house while the three of us waited on the side of the road.  She returned on our Suzuki (her old one which she had given me as a gift which I'd been thinking about selling).  We continued on, stopping to add a bottle of gasoline to the Suzuki's tank.  It began raining when we arrived at the station and I gave Lek some money to go and purchase Tim's ticket (I dind't know she would buy the most expensive one but I felt better knowing she would be travelling in relative comfort).

UPDATE:  Just as I was writing this (6:50a.m.), Tim called me from Bangkok.  She sounded very happy and asked me two questions:  did I sleep okay last night (I didn't) and did I drink Ovaltine this morning (the first thing she does each morning is make coffee for herself and Ovaltine for me).  She's taking a taxi to Bang Pa-In for 400 baht which sounds like a pretty good deal (it would have cost me, the white Westerner farang, probably about the same amount to get from one bus terminal to the other within the city).  More good news:  Tim informed me that it wasn't raining there (I'd read online last night about a severe flood warning in Bangkok and the provinces).



We just (6:15am, Monday, June 26) got word that Tim's daughter — Miao — gave birth to a baby girl, weighing in at 2.4 kg (5.28 pounds).  Both are doing fine; no word yet on names (in the Buddhist-Thai culture, a nickname is usually assigned by a friend or neighbor at birth and if the baby survives the first thirty days a monk is asked to give a real/official name).

Tim and I were preparing for her to travel up to Bang Pa-In.  Around 10:00 last night, Ant (Miao's common-law husband) called to say Miao was in labor and they were going to the hospital.  Since I need to go on my visa run next Monday, Tim decided that it was best that she go up alone; it would also save money since she would pay the Thai travel rates (yes, two-tiered pricing does still exist in the provinces) and could just sleep at her daughter's home (unsuitable for me, she thinks).  I was planning to participate in another call for extras for the filming of "The Aftermath" (some beach scene reshoots) but decided I'd stay home to help Tim get ready for her trip.

She'll be taking one of the big coach busses which leave Phuket Town in the afternoon.  The trip to Bangkok takes 12-14 hours and costs between 480 and 900 baht depending on which bus you take (second class air-con, first class air-con, VIP with 32 seats, or Special VIP with 24 seats).  In Bangkok, Tim will have to transfer from the Southern Bus Terminal to either Hualamphong Station (for the train) or the Northern Bus Terminal (for another bus).  Both of these options take around an hour to 90 minutes and cost less than 50 baht; unfortunately, the various stations aren't linked with easy-to-use public transportation (it would have made too much sense to have either a SkyTrain or Metro — subway — station near the long-distance terminals) so Tim will have to take a taxi or risk getting lost on the confusing bus routes.  She's a smart lady and shouldn't have any problems but this is the only part of her solo trip that I am really worried about.  (Jum had offered to go with her, but now she has to work today; I wish I could go but making a visa run from the Ahutthaya area is much more difficult and expensive than from Phuket.)

We'll do some grocery shopping for me today so I have plenty of supplies for my week or so on my own.  I told Tim not to worry so much; if I get hungry, I can always walk down to 7-Eleven or flag down a motorbike taxi or tuk-tuk on the main road.  Lek will stop by to drive Tim to the bus station; we're not certain of the bus times but know they usually have the busses leaving for Bangkok in the morning and the afternoon or evening.

In a way, I'm kind of looking forward to several days of alone time.  I can get some reading and computer work done without interruptions.  I can eat what I want when I want.  I can listen to some music and watch some DVD's that I haven't gotten around to yet.  But, of course, I'll miss her greatly and will long for her to return home.

I think it's really funny to call Tim "grandma" and she retorts with calling me "grandpa".  I think I'll buy her a disposible camera today so she can take some photos of our new granddaughter.



I have several different blogs that I like to read from time to time.  One of these is Forty Two: Pat's Piffle, written by Pat Tomek who has been a drummer in the Kansas City area for many years (playing with many different groups including The 4-Sknns and The Rainmakers with Bob Walkenhorst).  Getting caught up on his posts of the past month this afternoon, I found an entry about one-word searches of his iTunes library and the results this produced.

For example, he entered the keyword "seven" and got back seven songs.  Evidently, he has a larger library than I do because when I tried entering many one-word searches, I got very few results.  Taking a cue from Pat's number theme, I did get an interesting playlist using the word "one":

One Way Out / The Allman Brothers Band
One I Love / Coldplay
Square One / Coldplay
When You're Gone / The Cranberries
My Loneliness / Los Lonely Boys
You're Gone / Marillion
One Vision / Queen
Stone Cold Crazy / Queen
Another One Bites The Dust / Queen
Money / Pink Floyd
Go ahead, give it a try...

I also recently found a site,, which acts as a community among music fans.  What I thought was cool was that you can download a bit of software that shows what you're currently listening to on your computer (in Winamp, iTunes, or Windows Media Player) or iPod.  This has several different uses such as communicating with others who have similar musical tastes, compiling playlists for personalized online radio stations, and receiving suggestions for other music that you might enjoy.  I just think it's a nice addition for my blog's sidebar (that space on the right side of this page which lists what I'm reading and the CD's and movies I've recently played).  Not Earth-shattering, I know, but finding things like this takes the boredom out of some of my Web-surfing...


A good day to try and write an update:  it's a lazy Saturday afternoon and Tim has gone to Kathu to pay a visit with Lek and Jum while I'm happily taking a break from various computer-related research projects.  My soundtrack at the moment is also one condusive to writing:  a recording of Roger Waters performing Dark Side Of The Moon in Berlin earlier this month.  Still, I'll try to keep it relatively brief.

We stayed at home on Tuesday as it poured rain throughout the day.  I was also tired from my long day of "acting" the day before.  I once again reported for work on the set of "The Aftermath" early Wednesday morning.  This was an even earlier casting call as Franz and I left for the Royal Merlin at 4:30 a.m. and the bus took us to the airport at 5:00.  Once there, we were assigned to group B and sent to the makeup tent where I they applied a nasty bruise over my left eye and a large, bloody wound on my left arm.  This was to be "day 6" after the tsunami and we were finally going to be flying out of Phuket.  After makeup, I settled down to what turned out to be a VERY long wait.  Group A — the ones who didn't need makeup but had to wear prop clothing (my shirt and shorts were suitable for my scene) — filmed their scene first (which was their arrival in Bangkok with the International Terminal of HKT (Phuket) standing in for the Domestic Terminal of BKK (Bangkok).

While waiting back at the trailers & tents, I met several other expats and fell into conversation with Mike from Carlsbad, California, and Derek from Ottawa, Ontario.  Both were very interesting; we talked about food and television shows we missed from home, shared interests in music and American football, and complaints about politics (Mike has similar views as I do, although I'm not very knowledgeable about politics).  They both live in Phuket Town — Derek owns a bar inside of a bowling alley (where he currently has a special on Heineken with two bottles at 100 baht) while Mike is thinking about going to Japan to teach in order to raise enough money to stay in Thailand longer.

Finally, around 2:00 in the afternoon, our group was mini-bussed over to the terminal (it had begun to rain) where we spent the next two hours enduring almost twenty takes of our scene.  It was yet another long-shot/travelling-camera (StediCam) scene; we were set up in front of the check-in counters once again, a press conference was taking place in the center with the camera traveling from one end of the counters to the other.  I was close to the far end and when the camera turned towards me I was to walk from the front of the line (ticket and passport in-hand with backpack upon my back) and the camera would track me and several other passengers as we joined the queue at the security checkpoint leading into the International Departures area.  I must have been walking pretty good because the AD's or director never gave me any further direction after the first run-through; I suppose there were other mishaps along the route of this very long shot as they shot take after take after take.

Shortly after four, all of the extras were dismissed (although a few were picked to be bussed to another location for yet another scene).  Several coach busses took us back to the tents at the edge of the parking lot where our makeup was removed and we were given the release forms to fill out.  Once again, the payment line was pure chaos (don't these people know how to organize a proper line?) and it was a little while before I was able to muscle my way up to the table to receive my 1,500 baht.  I was told to make sure I had my current address and phone number on the form as they wanted to use me for the next production as well — a Hollywood production is coming to Phuket in a few weeks to film a new one starring Steven Seagal.

I also found out a bit more about "The Aftermath."  It's a joint HBO/BBC production and will air on both of these networks as a two-part (90-minute each) television movie.  Sometime after that, it will be shown in theatres in Thailand and other SE Asian nations.  No word yet on a release date...

Our home felt like Grand Central Station on Friday with virtually all of Tim's local friends showing up at one time or another.  First, La came for a visit with two of her friends in tow.  They sat on the side patio while Tim and I tried to be gracious hosts (we'd wanted to spend the day together, alone with each other).  Shortly after La & company departed (a mere two-hour visit, imagine that!), Lek and Jum arrived.  We were both a little happier to see them (Jum's my favorite of all of Tim's friends); and, of course, Jum brought her laundry.  They weren't there for very long before Puk knocked on the door.  That caused some problems because everyone pretty much dislikes her although they won't say it to her face.  There was some tension (and Lek hid in the second bedroom); Puk got the hint and soon left.  Jum's laundry done, they too departed after three hours or so.  Tim and I was just getting ready to go and get something to eat when La returned with a bag of (very fresh) crabs and some Leo Beer.  We had dinner and then I retreated to the master bedroom while Tim and La had a long visit (she finially went home shortly after 10 p.m.).  Tim kept apologizing ("I'm sorry everyone love me too much") and I told her "no worry", that we'd spend the next day just the two of us.

We were lucky in that the rain held off on Friday as well (there had just been intermittent showers on Thursday).  We began planning our forthcoming trip up north so we can be there when Tim's daughter has her baby (I've been kidding Tim about becoming a grandmother and then she calls me "grandfather").  Since Bangpa-In is only 20km (12.5 miles) from Ahyutthaya, I've convinced Tim that we stay in the larger city and just rent a motorbike to travel back-and-forth on.  I found a couple of nice ones (the most expensive one is 600 baht per night) but we can't book in advance since we don't yet know when we'll be going up.  I want to time it so we don't get there before the baby is born and we don't miss the birth, either.  I can't get a straight answer out of Tim as to the due date but it appears that it could be next week or the week after (which might be a slight problem because I have to do my visa run next Sunday or Monday).  We're going up by air-conditioned bus which takes 12-14 hours so we can save some money (300-600 baht, depending on how many seats are on the bus).

Yesterday afternoon, we did some shopping at Tesco-Lotus.  In addition to a few shirts and the usual groceries, we bought a couple of Carabao concert VCD's.  This is Thailand's best rock group (they sort of remind me of Santana) and we'd been disappointed that we couldn't attend their concert in Phuket Town on Monday (I'd worked late on the movie, plus the heavy rainstorm forced the concert's cancellation).  We watched the first one last night and I enjoyed it very much (particularly a song called "Refugee" and the encore track which Tim couldn't translate for me).  After the Carabao VCD, we watched a DVD of "Around The World In 80 Days" (the remake starring Jackie Chan, part of which was filmed on Phuket I found out the other day).

We've been fairly lazy most of today.  It rained fairly stronly throughout the morning and I continued doing some things on the computer (I've been reading a number of Wikipedia entries on various aspects of Thai history, figuring out how to convert VCD's to DVD's, and trying to find free downloads of music by Coldplay and Keane — two other bands I've recently "discovered" and become a fan of).  After lunch (fried pork strips and rice), Tim and I watched disc one of the second Carabao VCD (this one seems to be a benefit show with that band's lead singer and many other Thailand musicians).  I began to fall asleep and told Tim that I was going to take a nap.  She wanted to pick up something from her old place in Kathu (she'd left a Buddha amulet there and La left yesterday to go to her family's home in Phang Nga Province) and I suggested she should go and visit Jum while over there.  Since I was going to take a nap and it wasn't raining, she decided this was a good time to go.  I slept for a half-hour or so and thought it was a good time to get caught up on this blog without any interruptions.

I'm not sure what we'll do tomorrow.  I'm hoping it's fairly sunny in the middle of the day so we can get out of the house, perhaps even go swimming at a nearby public pool Franz told me about.  If nothing Earth-shattering occurs, it may be a few days before I'll feel like writing again...



Well, stand-in extra...  I was invited by my neighbor (Khun Franz from Holland) yesterday to participate in the filming of a movie.  A production company from England (connected with the BBC) has been on Phuket for some time working on "The Aftermath", about the December 26, 2004, tsunami.  One of the stars is Tim Roth, who plays a reporter.  The company has been putting out casting calls for local extras, both expats/vacationers and Thai people.  Franz has been participating since day one and I was happy that he asked me along this time.

We left at 4:45 in the morning.  After a quick stop to pick up a couple of other friends of Franz's, we drove to the Royal Merlin Hotel in Phuket Town.  Many other people were milling about and we soon boarded a fleet of large coach busses which took us to the day's location:  Phuket International Airport.  We were unloaded at the far edge of the parking lot where a number of tents were set up for waiting.  There was a buffet breakfast and most of the extras began filling bowls of noodle soup and cups of coffee.  It rained off-and-on throughout the early morning hours causing the water accumulate in the tents (which were sited on low ground).  I spent probably the first three hours of the day wandering around in water that came above my feet.

Around 8:00, the crew began selecting people to go to and pick out clothing.  Mostly these were very ugly t-shirts, some with holes ripped in them.  These people also received painted-on scars and other injuries.  Franz and I weren't in this group and we continued waiting with the majority of the others on this casting call.  A little before 10:00, we were all walked across to the terminal and stopped in front of a large section of the main floor that had been blocked-off for filming.  One of the assistant directors explained the scene that was to be filmed:  The tsunami had hit approx. four hours before; we had made it to the airport and wanted to get off the island as quickly as we could but were frustrated that all flights were cancelled and so gathered in small groups around our luggage.  I was in a group directly in front of the flight listings monitor, along with Franz and a boy laying on the floor covered in a blue blanket.  The nurse came around and bandaged up my right arm in a cast and gave me a sling; I also had a small bandage on my left wrist and a large band-aid put on the right portion of my forehead.

Originally, they wanted me to kneel over the boy on the floor, consoling him.  But then the director decided he wanted me and Franz to have an animated conversation (mimed, of course, as we weren't allowed to make any sounds during filming), continuously pointing at the flights monitor.  They also wanted me slighly in line with the main camera track so that the hand-held camera (too many people to use a Stedicam) would bump into me as if it was a person bumping into me.  They must have done ten or more takes of this one scene with the hand-held camera weaving through the people on the terminal floor.  The camera would turn somewhere on my left and return, bumping into me a second time while a news photographer would lean in, focus his camera on me and then on the boy on the floor while the movie camera would pan down to follow the news photographer's actions.  In the middle of these takes, they decided we were getting too tired so they broke for lunch (back at the rain-soaked tents where were served some excellent spaghetti with meat sauce).

After lunch, they did several more takes with the hand-held camera.  Most of these retakes were necessitated by a group of Middle Eastern-looking men who were on the floor immediately to my left.  They were supposed to be camped out amidst their luggage (mostly Hefty bags), some sleeping, others sitting on the floor.  The problem was that they kept changing positions during the retakes or they would argue when the AD's would tell them to stash their food and drink out-of-sight.  Finally, they were given their release forms to sign so they could be paid and sent back to the tents to await the end of the day's shooting.  With that episode finished, they got some successful takes from the floor and then did several other takes with a camera on a track that ran back-and-forth lengthwise across the front of the terminal (which we were facing).  At the same time, they also filmed using a camera from the third floor balcony that overlooks the terminal floor.

They had the interior scene finished by 4:00 and then took several groups of people (mostly those who were "costumed") out front to film arrivals at the airport.  I think these scenes were hampered by continuing rain showers but it wasn't until 6:00 or so that they called it a wrap.  By this time, it had begun pouring rain and instead of having us walk across the parking lot to the tents they had minibusses pick us up under the terminal awning.  Back at the tents, they gave us all release forms (asking name, address, passport number, and telephone number) which we presented to the cashier who then paid each of us 1,500 baht (about USD $35) for the day's work.  We then climbed aboard the various coach busses to take us back to our particular staging areas; Franz, his friends, and I managed to get on the wrong bus and it was only by the slimmest of margins that I found out that one was going to Bangkok (a 12-hour trip) and we transferred to the proper bus.

In all, it was very interesting but very boring.  There was A LOT of waiting around and doing nothing.  I've been asked to return on Wednesday (we leave even earlier this time) and I'll be prepared with a book to read between shots.  I can't wait to see this movie and see if they cut me out or not...



After a couple of weeks of gentle "nagging", Tim relented this morning and took me for my first lesson in motorbike driving.  It proved to be a bit of a mistake...

Luckily, she chose a vacant lot that was muddied by the recent rains.  Also luckily, I wore blue jeans (which had received some giggles from Tim back at the house).  After some cursory instructions ("this make you go, this make you stop, you start in number one [gear]"), I gave the bike a bit of gas before I'd completely mastered the balancing act to keep it upright.  It leapt forward with my feet danging off the footpegs while I desparately tried to stop the thing (only succeeding in making it go faster).  Tim ran after me as I careened across the field, trying not to fall over.  There was a grassy ridge to my right that I seemed headed for.  Not knowing if there was a big drop-off on the other side, I quickly steered towards the left and rapidly closed the distance to the edge of the field (where there was a large drainage ditch).

After a few seconds (all told, the entire incident probably lasted around 10 or 20), I crashed into a muddy pool of water.  The bike dropped to the right with me more or less underneath.  I was more concerned with damaging the motorbike than myself and managed to break the glass out of the right rearview mirror.  My jeans and the right side of the bike were covered in mud and I had a bloody scrape on my right elbow along with a bit of skin scraped off of the top of my left foot (I wore sandals instead of "real" shoes).  It could have been a lot worse.

Tim came running up soon as I was extricating myself from under the bike and helped me get it back upright.  We examined the minimal damage and then she worked with me a bit more.  I did make some progress, walking the bike along with my feet on the ground while letting the engine (slowly) propel it forward.  But my heart really wasn't in it anymore as I was somewhat embarrassed and gunshy.  We'll give it a try another day.  At least we are both now laughing about my accident and are planning to go to the Honda dealership tomorrow for a replacement mirror.



While we were in Bangkok last month, Tim delighted in referring to the city by it's full ceremonial and official name:

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanu Kamprasit.

This translates as, "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn."

This is in the Guiness Book Of World Records as the world's longest placename.  Most Thai people never refer to the city as "Bangkok," which is a Westernized nickname much the same way that "Rama IX" is not known in Thai (the king being referred to most often by his short name Bhumiphol Adulyadej or simply "King Bhumiphol").  In normal conversation, they will call it "Krung Thep" ("City Of Angels").

According to the Wikipedia entry on Bangkok, "Local school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning because many of the words are archaic. Most Thais who do recall the full name do so as a result of its use in a popular song (กรุงเทพมหานคร/Krung Thep Mahanakhon by อัสนี-วสันต์ โชติกุล/Asanee-Wasan Chotikul 1989) and will often recount it by recalling the song at the same time, much in the same way that English speakers might sing the alphabet song while reciting the English alphabet."

I just found this trivia interesting.  Carry on...


Last night, I put our new barbecue grill to good use by grilling a nice steak.  I found a good-looking cut of Thai-French beef (a bottom round) at Tops Market in Central Festival, purchased some imported steak seasonings to make a rub (as well as a bottle of Heinz 57 steak sauce which wasn't needed in the end).  I was very pleased with the result — no need to pay upwards of 1,500 baht (USD $39.13) per kilo for American beef when I can purchase this Thai-French beef (probably water buffalo) for less than 100 baht/kg (USD $2.61).  Tim even thought the steak tasted very good, although medium-well proved a little too pink for her tastes and she concentrated on the brahtwurst I grilled as a backup.  I certainly liked this meal much better than the ubiquitous fried pork or chicken that has been so much a part of my diet here.



My appetite for local news is usually filled by reading the weekly Phuket Gazette and various e-mailed updates.  However, I often long for television news in English as many times I will see something on the Thai news that I would like more information on; Tim is usually unable to explain much of what I'd like to know.  It can be a bit frustrating at times like when we were watching coverage of a Nok Air jet at the Phuket Airport with an engine fire; when I asked Tim what happened, the reply I received was "Plane no work."

This morning, I finally found a couple of news programs in English, broadcast by Phuket's own Channel 11.  First, we caught the tag end of "Morning Edition" where they were interviewing a member of His Majesty The King's own band (he's quite the accomplished composer and musician — worthy of at least one future blog entry).  This was followed by "Andaman News", a half-hour broadcast of local news and weather (daily airings from 8:30 to 9:00).  They had coverage of last night's arrival on Phuket by the King and Queen of Sweden, who will be staying here until June 20th (and celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary while on the island) as well as information about this morning's tsunami preparedness drill in Phang Nga and sailing-instruction activities of the Phuket Yacht Club (which is based at nearby Chalong Bay).

Now, if only I could find some international news in English — I get some information every once-in-a-while by reading The Nation or Bangkok Post but as far as television is concerned, cable isn't available in our area and UBC (the only satellite provider) is prohibitively expensive...



Has it really been four days since I've written a blog entry?  Mai pen rai; I'll try to get caught up now...

Tim and I spent a lot of time between Friday and Monday watching the extensive television coverage of the events surrounding the 60th anniversary of the ascension to the throne by King Rama IX (Bhumiphol Adulyadej).  Many of the ceremonies were governed by ages-old Buddhist traditions and all the Thai television stations carried the exact same feed (no English commentary).  While it all looked grand, after a couple of hours of hearing the Dhamma chanted by 99 monks or watching members of the royal family pass along candles, taking turns waving and blowing on them, my eyes and mind seriously began to wander.  Not exactly riveting TV, but it's illegal in this country to say anything bad against the monarchy so you can't exactly make sarcastic remarks out loud.

Anyway, the best part of each days' celebrations were the huge fireworks displays in the evenings.  I'd been anxiously awaiting the Royal Barge Procession on Monday afternoon but, unfortunately, we missed all but the end of that due to returning home late.  I did see a bit of the highlights on the late evening news but they concentrated on the arrivals of the many foreign heads of government rather than showing the boats.

There are, of course, many souvenirs in the shops commemorating this Diamond Jubilee.  You see the Thai red, white & blue tricolor flag everywhere as well as the yellow flag honoring His Majesty.  There are also t-shirts and polos available in yellow with the special 60th anniversary royal cipher emblazoned on the left breast (Tim and I bought ours in Bangkok).  During the King's address to his people from Temple Hall the other day, the grand plaza was filled with a sea of these yellow shirts — some 450,000 of them if the media estimates are to be believed.  The book shops are filled with biographies of King Bhumiphol (mostly in Thai, but one from several years ago has just been reprinted in English).  And two sets of postage stamps honoring the King (including the largest stamp ever released in Thailand) have already been issued (a third will be released on his birthday in December).

My favorite commemorative, however, is the new 60 baht banknote.  The design is great but I don't yet have one.  They printed 9,999,999 of these and distributed them to banks nationwide in a special pamphlet for sale, one per person, at the price of 100 baht each (the surcharge going to various Royal relief projects).  These all sold out within hours of their release on Friday and we couldn't obtain one by the time Tim and I got to the bank (around three in the afternoon that day).  However, I read in the newspaper this morning that the central bank will be printing more to satisfy public demand, to be released by the end of June; they will only be available from the central bank and you have to apply there this week in order to have a chance.

We also did a fair amount of sightseeing (or, as Tim puts it, "looking around") over the past several days with motorcycle rides on Friday, Sunday, and Monday.  We spent a couple of hours Friday afternoon driving around the older sections of Phuket Town, specifically the historic Thalang Road.  This area features many hundred-year-old-plus examples of Sino-Portuguese architecture and was originally settled during Phuket's tin mining heyday.  Some of the best-preserved examples of the old shop-houses can be found on Soi Rommanae, leading off of Thalang.  Nearby, we also found the main post office and the neighboring Phuket Philatelic Museum in the old Post & Telegraph building.  I think Tim was impressed that I was able to direct her through the labyrinth of one-way streets that run through this area of town; she'd ask "left or right?" at various intersections and I (almost) invariably chose the correct route.

Sunday saw me directing her south of Phuket Town towards Ao Makham and Cape Panwa.  My main goal was to find MV Doulos, the world's oldest ocean liner having been constructed two years after the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage in 1912; I only knew that it was anchored somewhere in Phuket's Deep Water Port.  However, I kept Tim in the dark about this quest as I wasn't entirely certain whether or not I could find the ship.  Knowing my everlasting search for scenic views, she turned down a small road leading to the coastline; the tide was out and there were a number of beached fishing trawlers with a tropical backdrop.  Coming to the end of the road, I glanced south and saw the Doulos tied up at a quay about a mile or so further.  I pointed her out to Tim and explained that the ship was 92 years old and that we should try to get closer for some photos.  We drove back up to the main road (Highway 4023), soon turned down Highway 4129, and found the entrance to the Port of Phuket.  A bored-looking security guard waved us through, despite a sign in Thai and English saying that visitors needed to leave their identity cards at the gate.  We drove past a large warehouse, turned a corner, and there sat the large liner gleaming white under rather threatening clouds.

I shouldn't have been surprised but I was by the large collection of street vendor stalls (most on motorbikes) grouped alongside the ship.  I was also happy to see a pair of blue gangways allowing public access for a 10-baht admission fee.  After taking a few photos pierside, Tim and I purchased a pair of tickets and climbed up to the promenade deck.  We were amazed to see that much of the ship was a large bookshop with a large variety of books (in many different languages) for sale at reasonable prices.  I discovered later (through an article in the Phuket Gazette) that the ship has been sailing the world since 1978 in a role as a floating bookshop and Christian ministry.  In the last 18 years, the Doulos has sailed 315,000 nautical miles (583,000 kilometers, or about 14-and-a-half times around the world), made 515 port calls in over 100 countries, and has received more than 17.5 million visitors.  Although this was her first visit to Thailand (she arrived June 1 and will depart on the 26th), last year a hundred volunteers from her crew of 415 came here to build houses for people who had been homeless since the December 26, 2004, tsunami.

We spent some time browsing the books but the only things we purchased were some postcards, a coffee mug, and a keychain featuring images of the Doulos.  I took a number of photos on-deck and from the pier; for a ship of her age she certainly is very well-maintained.

By the time we departed, it was after 5:00 and I expected Tim to turn back north towards home.  So it surprised me when she turned left out of the port and we continued heading down to Laem Panwa.  This area is very scenic and there are a number of fancy resorts being constructed here.  I find this a shame because the virgin forests are being razed to make way for hotels and condos.  Eventually, we came across a large Royal Thai Navy base and then the Phuket Aquarium.  It was past closing time when we arrived here but now we know it's location we plan to return at some point (the building certainly is modern).  We stopped at the Phuket Marine Biological Center pier and walked towards the end (despite a large "No Trespassing/Government Installation" sign), watching the scientists collect specimens in the tidal basin.  I managed a few decent shots of a heron among the rocks and also of the sunset out towards Lone and Aew Islands.

On the drive home, I noticed a couple of billboards advertising an upcoming concert by Thailand's biggest rock band, Carabao.  I really enjoy their music (kind of a blend between America's Santana and souped-up traditional Thai rhythms) and recently ordered their 20th anniversary concert DVD and a greatest hits CD.  They will be performing on June 19 at Saphan Hin (near the Phuket Bus Terminal) and we'll definitely be attending (an added bonus is that the show is free).

Monday, we started out driving to Patong via Kata/Karon.  We had no real goal in mind and ended up eating lunch with La at a noodle stand on Nanai Road.  After walking along the northern stretches of Patong Beach (near an area which has recently been reconstructed and now features a nice causeway above the beach), we drove north towards Kamala.  I didn't want to stop here so we continued further up the coast to Surin Beach.  This is a fairly nice one, although there's quite a bit of trash around.  It was virtually deserted so we enjoyed walking in the sand without having to dodge soccer balls, etc.  We purchased some excellent homemade icecream from a stall and then continued on our drive, heading east through the predominantly-Muslim village of Bang-Tao and eventually connecting with the new Bypass Road at the Heroine's Monument in Thalang.  We stopped at Tesco-Lotus (I was in need of black ink for my printer) and I FINALLY found an electric barbecue grill (I had practically given up looking for such a grill and we were actually looking at gas burners when I came across this); we also bought some Italian sausage and chicken breasts to grill in the near future.

As we were cruising down Chaofa West Road, we were amazed to find Jum following us.  Tim and I had had a talk just a couple of days before about her friends just showing up at the house unannounced at any time of day and night (it's becoming a real problem again).  I wasn't too pleased but decided to just bear with this visit as Jum is the nicest of Tim's friends and I didn't want to appear "angry."  When we pulled up to the house, Lek was waiting outside.  I don't think Tim was very happy, either, especially since Lek was holding Jum's new puppy (the last time this dog visited, it had an "accident" on the living room floor and had been "banned" from the house.  We all hung out on the front porch for a while before Tim and Jum decided to walk to a nearby market to buy fresh crabs — Tim wanted to try out our new grill by barbecuing these but in the end we just steamed them in the pot.  Although we were reluctant at first to host such a get-together, we were both very gracious and were soon enjoying ourselves.  This was helped by Lek purchasing drinks (several bottles of Leo beer, some water, yoghurt drink for me, as well as a roast duck that wasn't really very appetizing in the end).  We spread a blanket on the side patio and enjoyed an evening picnic.  It was just the thing we needed to unwind after our long afternoon on the motorbike.  We had the television on and watched the last bit of the Royal Barge Procession in Bangkok and a ceremony with many foreign heads of state.  Later, when it began to rain, I even prepared myself for the likelihood that Jum and Lek would be trapped there overnight (luckily, the downpour didn't last very long).  After they left, Tim seemed very happy that I'd been such a good host.

This post is also a good time to mention that, although we are officially both on a diet, we are eating much better now.  Before, most of our meals consisted of Tim purchasing Thai food at an open-air market which often proved way too spicy for these tastebuds (and I haven't yet acclimitized to the ten chiles in a small dish style of hotness that Tim prefers).  Usually, Tim would buy me some stringy-looking fried or barbecued chicken or pork which would be consumed by tearing off small bits of meat and mashing it into a ball of sticky rice (occasionally accompanied by a dip in a sweet chili sauce).  Sometimes, I would have a bowl of rather bland noodle soup (sometimes with pork or fish balls).  But this would get old day after day and when we'd go to the market (or, increasingly, Tim alone because she gets better prices without the farang tagging along), I'd usually tell her that I wasn't hungry or I had "jep tong" (stomach ache) and would just skip the meal rather than endure another day of pork or chicken.

Our trips to a "real" grocery store would usually see us buying plenty of food for Tim but very little for me aside from a bag of Granny Smith apples or tins of lychee or longan.  I was trying too hard to maintain what I felt was an out-of-control food budget.  However, after two months of tracking food costs I found we really weren't spending as much as I thought we were.  Over the past week or so I've really felt like I could splurge a bit and buy a few things I really wanted.  Tim sometimes balks at the costs of certain items so I've taken to adding things to the cart when she's not looking.  Still, the cost of most food items is less or at least comparable to what I'd pay back in the States (except for cheese and good beef).

I'm also beginning to lose my "fear" of trying to cook in Tim's kitchen.  My first real breakthrough in this area was when I made a batch of salsa last week.  I'd purchased a small bag of salsa seasonings while in Kansas in early April but had thus far resisted making any.  For one thing, I hadn't been able to find cans of diced tomatoes in the shops.  I finally bought a can of whole tomatoes in juice and diced them myself, adding the Kansas seasonings and a dash of Tim's chile powder.  I only used half of the seasoning packet because I wasn't certain how it would taste and I wanted to reserve the rest for a future batch made with diced onions and green peppers (we didn't have any in the house at the time).  Also, genuine tortilla chips proved elusive but I finally found a bag amidst the numerous strange flavors of potato chips they sell here (for example, prawn- and green curry-flavored — yuck!).  The resulting batch of salsa was some of the best I've ever tasted (including some of the more expensive home-made jars I'd seek out while in Albuquerque).  I had a bit on the first day (Tim only tried a little) but it tasted even better the second day and Tim ate more than I did (we finished the batch in one sitting).

This weekend, I broke down and purchased some sandwich fixin's — a loaf of bread, some German pastrimi and salami.  We already had mustard.  I also bought a package of what was purported to be slices of cheddar cheese (searching long and hard for slices of any kind of cheese) but which turned out to be a moldy brick of some foul-tasting white cheese of an unknown variety; this only was used on one sandwich before being tossed in the bin.  The pastrami is especially good being so tender as to remind me of a juicy slice of premium roast beef (another item that so far has proved elusive to me in Thailand).

With the addition of my new barbecue grill, my time cooking will certainly increase.  I grilled some Italian sausage tonight (a BIG hit) and we have some chicken breasts for tomorrow.  As soon as I see a decent looking steak in a local supermarket (and I check Big C, Central, and Tesco-Lotus everytime we visit) at a decent price (Australian and American beef sell for more than $30/kg) I'll definitely buy it.  A1 steak sauce and other steak seasonings are widely available here.

Since I'm using this blog entry to catch up on all sorts of different topics, I'll end by mentioning that I think I'll be driving again very soon.  We now have a collection of three motorbikes.  Tim's original motorbike, the one that got stolen, has been recovered but is in very poor shape (it has a very rusty sidecar and the brake handle came off when I tested it out, not to mention the registration expired FIVE years ago).  Also, Lek has given me a year-old Suzuki (which is actually properly registered and now signed over in my name); this was a belated combination "thanks for being so great for Tim" and housewarming gift as well as an attempt on her part to reduce her "inventory" (she seems to collect motorbikes the way some people collect coins; always seeking out the perfect bike for her job as a taxi driver).  I've (almost) overcome my fear of the traffic patterns down here and have a very good sense of direction, especially compared to Tim.  I understand the concepts of motorbike operation, knowing which handle and lever does what, and I'm pretty sure I can keep the bike upright.  Tim plans to give me actual driving practice very soon; we think the best place to do this without me worrying about other vehicles would be a schoolyard on a Saturday or Sunday morning (when all you have to worry about is hitting stray dogs and wandering monks).  Eventually, I'd like to rent a car for some slightly longer trips but first I need to get (very) accustomed to driving the small bike in all sorts of traffic.

Whew, I made it to the end!  It's so hard to write long entries sometimes because of the numerous household duties and other interuptions that occur throughout the day; my usual preferred time to write these is early in the morning before Tim wakes up but I haven't felt much like doing that the past few days.  Anyway, the bulk of this entry was written in the evening while Tim watched a couple of movies.  We purchased VCD's of "Kill Bill, Volume 2" (which I have on DVD in storage back in New Mexico) and "Cellular" but they both ended up being dubbed in Thai WITHOUT English subtitles (yet another reason I prefer DVD over VCD, but they were only 45 baht — USD $1.17 — each so I can't really complain much).

Until next time...



After a month of build-up, today marks the 60th anniversary of the ascession of King Rama IX and the (possible) culmination of the nationwide celebrations.  We watched some of the ceremony last night with the monks at the Royal Grand Palace which I found oddly moving although I couldn't understand any of the chanting or speeches.  I know there is plenty going on today and we'll probably be glued to the television for much of it (I'm really looking forward to the dragon boat procession on Monday).

Leaders of many countries will be in Bangkok for much of the weekend (and several, including the King and Queen of Sweden and the Emir of Qatar, will be making royal visits to Phuket next week) although I'm sure President Bush of the U.S. won't be coming (haven't seen ANYTHING in the papers or on the news to indicate that my country is sending anyone at all).

For me, this also means no more chance of finding mail in our postbox until next Tuesday as the post office will be closed during this time (but all I get are the occasional bill so far — no mail from home has yet arrived and for a person who used to "live for the mail" this has been somewhat disappointing).  I also get to wear my fancy yellow shirt today (as EVERYONE else in the country will no doubt also be wearing).

I think it's all even grander than being in London during Queen Elizabeth's jubilee three years ago...


Tuesday, as we were returning from our motorbike ride to Kata and Promthep, I was really craving a good hamburger.  As we rode through Rawai, I kept my eyes open for a likely eatery where I could buy one but didn't see any.  Tim promised me that we'd go find a burger the next day.  While perusing a Phuket tourist magazine later that night, I saw an ad for Perfection Cafe in Chalong which stated they had "American-style hamburgers."  The map in the ad made it look like this restaurant was very close to our home (just across from Wine Connection on Chao Fa East Road) so we made plans to visit it the following day for lunch.

In reality, Perfection was further down the road than the map indicated — actually some ways past the turnoff for the Phuket Zoo across from a Home Mart — but it was definitely worth the trip.  The cafe sits in front of a spa and is completely enclosed (a rarity on Phuket) with decent air-conditioning.  A number of chairs/tables surround a central bar and there are more towards the rear of the building.  It's very clean and they have a decent menu of pastries and sandwiches with only five or so Thai items listed (and a fairly extensive list of mixed drinks and wine).  My goal was a hamburger, which I ordered with cheese and bacon (costing a total of 160 baht).  Out of the three burgers I've had since moving to Thailand two months ago this was definitely the best — the bun was nice and soft (the previous two featured rock-hard rolls) and the meat was thick and juicy without being overly greasy; it was probably a half-pound pattie.  They used mozerella cheese which didn't have quite the same affect as cheddar but it was nicely melted and the bacon was crispy without being burnt.  The fries were the crinkle-cut variety and tasty if a tad too salty.  All in all, an awesome meal although the ice coffee had an odd taste to it.

After lunch, Tim asked me if I wanted to "look around" by which she meant "do I want to drive someplace scenic with no real goal to take some photos?"  We were fairly near the deep water port at Ao Makham and I knew that the world's oldest ocean liner (the MV Doulos, built in 1914) was berthed there on a goodwill visit so I suggested going here.  However, Tim misunderstood and said, "yes, we go airport."  I'd been wanting to try and take some photos of planes landing over the beach there so I didn't try to correct her and we began our journey north.

Passing Central Festival on the new Bypass Road, I happily snapped pictures while Tim drove.  Before you reach the Heroines Monument in Thalang, there are several large mansions lining the road and then plenty of maritime-related business close to the turnoff for the Royal Phuket Marina.  There are also several mosques along the way (more Muslim areas the further north you go).  I particularly like driving past the extensive rubber tree forests/plantations between Thalang and the airport.  Tim turned down the "wrong" road to head west towards the airport but this proved to be a blessing; there was much less traffic and it was much more scenic.  Looking at the map this morning, I would say we were probably on Highway 4026 (I didn't see any signs along the way; I usually take photos of the street signs on our travels so I can determine our route later).

After sometime driving through forested valleys we arrived at Sirinath National Park and Nai Yarn Beach just south of the airport.  It was a very nice area — plenty of large trees providing shade, shelters along the beach front and various fishing boats between the trees and the shelters.  The beach was virtually deserted.  I looked north towards the airport and realized it would be a VERY long and hot walk to get to the end of the runway.  Perhaps another day...  We did drive past the "checkpoint" to loop back east on Highway 4031 along the southern edge of the runway.  Despite menacing-looking signs warning that photography was prohibited, we did see several minivans of camera-toting aircraft spotters along the way.  Unfortunately, there weren't any planes taking off or landing during our ride.  We now know some good spots to take photos, however, so I can check some airline schedules before our next visit.

At the interection with the main highway (402), Tim asked if I wanted her to turn left or right.  Since we were already in the northern part of the island I thought it might be nice to drive a bit farther to the bridge that connects Phuket with the mainland.  Along the way, we passed a turnoff for Yacht Haven Marina (we stopped here on the return) and also for the Tsunami Remembrance Wall (I'd been wondering where this was; we didn't stop this time).  Past the Thachatchai Checkpoint (again unmanned), the highway divides and the northern-bound section first leads you to the west coast where we began seeing plenty of remaining destruction from the December 26, 2004, tsunami.  We stopped at Khao Lak Beach (this area was one of the hardest hit) which was still littered with debris (we found a toilet bowl and several other "interesting" objects) and there were memorial posts marking the tsunami hazard zone.  All too soon, we crossed the Sarasin Bridge into Phang Nga Province.  We stopped at a roadside stall just passed the bridge to buy some fresh fish and pineapple before turning south (recrossing into Phuket on the Thep Kassato Bridge) and speeding towards home (it was then after 4:00).  After brief stops at Yacht Haven Marina (very nice if somewhat remote) and Tesco-Lotus to buy some groceries we arrived home a bit before 7:00.

It was a very enjoyable day out.  We are finding that we can ride the motorbike ever farther distances without getting to much of what Dad and I used to call "bees in the butt."  I can see us driving to Phang Nga village or even to Krabi at some point in the future...



Sometimes, you see some very unusual sights just taking casual drives in this area.  I try to take my camera everytime we venture out on the motorbike in the hopes of capturing a few of these.  Occasionally, I succeed but most times I do not.  Often I'll see an interesting sign or other object and try to file it's location in my grey matter in the hopes of returning at some point to take a photo.  Most times, I forget about these before we've gone too far down the road.  The majority of the photos I do take are made while we are speeding past; it's only when I look at the pics on the computer screen later that I see most of the shots are out-of-focus or -frame.

However, on very rare occasions I can get Tim to stop so I can take a stationary photo.  We managed to do this yesterday, returning to an interesting shopping street in Kata.  Amidst the usual selection of tailor shops, minimarts, and internet cafes we found several prehistoric/dinosaur-themed buildings.  There was the DinoPlaza, DinoBar, and DinoPark (complete with miniature golf).  It looks like a fun area to take my nephew when Marilyn, Keith, and Spencer come for a visit.  We also checked out the menu at the Buffalo Steak House across the street and it looks like a great place to get a good steak or burger (although the prices do seem rather steep for Thailand, they are pretty close to what you'd pay in a good Stateside steakhouse).  Nearby, we saw the Andaman Coffee Company who have perfectly ripped off the design of Starbuck's signs and logos for their own.

Also on this drive, we found a very nice selection of houses around a lagoon (Kata Lagoon) that I want to investigate further:  are they houses for sell or rent, or is it a resort/hotel/guesthouse?  Tim also showed me the small Kata Noi Beach in the area which is nice although most of it has been cordoned off by a beachside resort (I hate these big hotels that try to limit beach access to non-guests).  We then began driving south towards Laem Promthep, stopping at the Kata View Point along the way.  It seems like I'm forever snapping photos of coconut palms with the backdrop of mountains and seascape on these rides.  After a while, it does start to look much the same but I am constantly amazed at how much natural beauty there is just a short ride from our home.  A far cry from New Mexico indeed.

At one point during yesterday's drive, we were traveling on a remote section of road (going in to Promthep Cape the "back way") through a forest of (I believe) rubber trees.  We rounded a bend and all of a sudden there was a large elephant crossing the road (and just a few feet from an "Elephant Crossing" warning sign — how do they know where to cross?).  Luckily, I had my camera out and managed to power it up for a couple of quick (but a little blurry) photos.  It still impresses me everytime I see one of these magnificent creatures, particularly the ones that are running around loose rather than as part of a tourist safari.

Other sights I am constantly on the lookout for are unusual signs.  There are loads of them in Thailand and the funniest are the ones that butcher the English language either through grammar or spelling mistakes.  However, it seems like when I do discover one of these signs it's always when I don't have the camera ready or I can't get a decent shot.  And most times I'd be too embarrassed to have Tim stop (how to explain why I want to take a photo of something so "common"?) or to have local people see me taking the photo (same reason).  Hopefully, I'll soon overcome this shyness as there are some real "doozies" that could qualify for inclusion on "Late Night With Jay Leno" or in Lonely Planet's "Signposting" book/website.



Tim and I decided to go to a movie last night while shopping at Central Festival.  They have a six-theatre "First Class" complex on the fourth floor of the mall which is very nice.  When you tell the cashier which movie you want to see, a floor plan of the theatre comes up on the screen and you select your seats.  Tickets are 120 baht per person (approx. USD $3.15).  The theatre itself is similar to the nicer ones in America with plush reclining seats, fold-up armrest with drink holders, and wide aisles.  There are the usual previews before the movie and numerous advertisements but just prior to the start of the movie the National Anthem plays and images of the King fill the screen.  You are required to stand for this.

Tim chose to see "Noo-Hin: The Movie", a Thai production based on a long-running comic book detailing the misadventures of a pre-teen girl from Udon province in the big city of Bangkok.  It was actually very enjoyable — the excellent English subtitles certainly helped — and well-produced (I've seen a lot of really poorly-made Thai movies).  I had a good time and laughed almost as much as Tim did (knowing a bit about Thai culture and life certainly helped).

I look forward to going to the movies again very soon (it was Tim's first time at the theatre for more than 10 years and I usually average one or two trips per year).



I recently stumbled across a website detailing two women who are attempting to drive a tuk-tuk — the three-wheeled Bangkok variety — from Thailand's capital city to that of Brighton in England.  Their goal is to raise money for the mental health charity Mind.  Having perused the main webstie, I'm now getting caught up on their blog; they are now somewhere in Laos.  Check out Tuk To The Road for some very interesting reading...  (BTW, while in Bangkok last month, I had Tim ask a tuk-tuk driver how much one of these vehicles usually sold for.  I think he said a new one cost 20,000 baht which is just under USD $525.)



Out of all the areas I've been to on Phuket island, so far I like the area around Kata Beach the best.  The beach itself is fairly narrow and only a mile or so long; a raised area just beyond the sand is covered in grass and makes a pleasant spot to have a picnic.  The edge of the beach and this grassy park area is shaded by palm trees and subdued lighting is provided in the evening by lamp posts lining an adjacent road.  Club Med is nearby as are several other fancy resorts — definitely not your typical beachfront bungalows and guesthouses here.

The entire area is very clean and tidy, definitely not the norm in many of the areas on Phuket.

The nearby shops in Kata seem a bit nicer than in other beachfront communities such as Patong, Kamala, or even Karon with the standard minimarts, open-air bars, and massage parlors being the norm.  However, I've spotted a few unique-appearing shops as we've sped past on the motorbike.  Tonight, I saw what appeared to be a well-stocked bookshop (a rarity on Phuket) as well as a market area for arts and crafts (many of these on the island, but this one seemed to be missing the tackiness of most of the others I've seen).  We'll have to come back to Kata some day just to do some window-shopping.  Tonight, we were there to have a small picnic with La and Jum and to watch the sunset (which was sort of a dud).



My first trip to Patong Immigration Office couldn't have been easier and I successfully received a 30-day extension on the first entry of my tourist visa.

I went in prepared:  I had made the required copies of my passport pages (photo and visa pages, plus the page showing the most recent entry into the Kingdom) and we stopped at a Fuji photo shop on the way so I could get the 2-inch photos made.  I got 12 prints (180 baht) so I wouldn't have to have my picture taken again for a while.  We then drove over the mountain into Patong; the Immigration office is located on the beach road close to the intersection with Bangla Road (next to the Tourist Police station).

I entered the small office where a large desk wraps around the room and a sofa offers seating for those waiting.  When I arrived, there were two officers — one was handling the applications for two men whom I believe were from Turkey or Egypt and the other was sitting in the back with the approval rubber stamp.  One of the Turkish/Egyptian men was yelling at the application officer while the other official was sitting with an angry look on his face.  After a few moments, the two foreigners stormed out of the office with a "Refused" stamp.

I was then beckoned forward.  I put on my biggest smile, approached the desk, and greeted the officer with a wai and a "Sawasdee khap" while handing him my passport.  I was glad I'd dressed nicely in a blue dress shirt, white slacks, and "real" shoes (the previous applicants were in beachwear).  I then politely asked for a visa extension.  The officer apparently didn't speak any English but he understood the reason I was there and simply handed me an application which I filled out while he took my passport over to a nearby copy machine (so I didn't need to make my own copies afterall).

The application was very straightforward:  full name, date and place of birth, date and place of entry into Thailand, method of entry into Thailand (airplane), passport number along with issue and expiry dates and place of issue, type of visa, reason for requesting an extension, and — on the back — address in Thailand and two places to sign.  He returned to the desk just as I got to the "reason for extension" section and waved me away from filling this part; he turned the application over, showed me the place to fill in my Thai address and where to sign.  He then handed the stack of papers and my passport to the approval stamp guy who flipped through my passport and stamped in the date I need to leave Thailand plus signed it.

I then handed the first officer the processing fee (1,900 baht) and he returned my passport.  They were kind to me — since I came in a few days before the initial 60-day visa was due to expire they still gave me an expiration date of July 4 (normally, I would have lost three days of my full visa time).

I think I'll schedule my first "visa run" for Monday, July 3rd.  Tim and I will probably take the "executive big bus" to Ranong and cross into Myanmar for a couple of hours.  That trip costs 1,300 baht per person but includes lunch, snacks, all visa processing fees, the boat crossing from Thailand into Burma, and they show DVD movies during the trip.  You have to meet the bus around 6:30 in the morning and you return around 7:30 in the evening.



Ever since returning to Phuket last week, we've been fairly lucky with the rain; there had been storms virtually everyday while we were gone but the past few days have (mostly) been sunny and rain-free.  We were able to spend hours one day doing the laundry (an outdoor process for both washing and drying) and made a couple of business/shopping trips to Phuket Town without getting wet.

However, this luck ran out in a big way yesterday.  We desperately needed to pay the water bill after a few false starts (Jum had neglected this one while we were travelling, despite us leaving money to pay any bills that arrived — all she had to do was walk/drive across the main road to 7-Eleven.  We had tried to pay this bill several times before:  at 7-Eleven we were told that the bill was so far overdue that we had to pay it at the Ananda Village office; at this office, we were told it had to be paid at the waterworks office; Tim thought she knew where this was but that turned out to be the electric company; I then found a nearby location for the Provincial Waterworks Authority on my detailed computer map and Tim set out alone to pay this one but was told there that we'd have to pay it at the main headquarters in Kathu (about a 30-minute motorbike drive from home).  As we were preparing to leave, I took a look at the black clouds in the sky and went back inside to retrieve the Adidas jacket I'd had so much difficulty finding.  It was a good decision, but the jacket would prove to be fairly useless.

The first big drops of rain began falling just as we turned west at the intersection where Central Festival sits.  This quickly turned into a downpour and Tim sped into the parking lot of Makro (sort of a smaller version of Big C but patronized more by Thais than expats or tourists).  We took refuge under an awning in front of the store and browsed at the outdoor (covered) VCD & DVD stall.  This rain soon lessened to a sprinkle and we proceeded to the Phuket Waterworks office (situated in a lovely setting right between Bang Wad Dam and the Phuket Country Club golf courses).  We paid the bill (a quick process as there were only two other people waiting ahead of us) and departed.

Our next mission was to find a photo shop where I could get a couple of visa photos made (I apply for my first 30-day visa extension today) so we began heading west towards Patong.  However, the intensity of the rain soon increased and we quickly turned around figuring we'd stop at the big green Fuji building on the east side of Kathu.  This wasn't to be as the skies quickly opened with all their force and huge raindrops began pelting us as the wind tried to push us over.  We stopped at the side of the road and took refuge under the front overhang of an abandoned shop (directly across from the country club).  Those couple of minutes of driving through this monsoon managed to soak us both completely, despite the "waterproof" jackets we were wearing.  We removed the jackets and draped them over a short wall so they could drip while we stood there shivering watching the passing traffic.  We were soon joined by a couple of other rain refugees and we all waited for the rain to cease (or at least lessen enough to safely drive in it).

That wait proved to be almost an hour before the rain became a sprinkle.  As we journeyed further down the road, we encountered several areas where the water had flooded much of the surface.  I directed Tim towards the center lane which was raised slightly higher than the dedicated motorbike lane but crossing intersections was still a tricky business as these were all flooded.  We didn't get far before the rain became a downpour once again.  Tim stopped on the side of the road in a place where there wasn't any shelter and then tried to get the umbrella out of the seat storage; I explained to her that the umbrella wouldn't work very well while she was driving and that we should wait out the storm in the covered parking lot of Central Festival.  If there was any part remaining on either of us that wasn't already thoroughly soaked, they ceased to exist during these 30 seconds.  We made it to Central, parked in the garage, and I stood over a drain grate and rung out my clothes.  I couldn't have been wetter had I fallen into a river.  I was very glad I hadn't decided to bring my camera today as it would have been completely soaked as well (I'm going to put some plastic baggies in the seat compartment for future trips...just in case).

Our wait at Central proved to be fairly short (maybe 15 or 20 minutes) before the rain stopped and we turned south down Chaofa West Road towards home.  Although there was a stiff breeze (which felt very cold through our wet clothes), it soon became evident that it hadn't rained at all in the Chalong area.  Arriving home, we stripped off our clothes and set them along the back wall to dry.  For a change, it felt very good sitting in the non-air-con (and very warm) living room without turning on the fan.


It never ceases to amaze me just how much we can carry on the small 100cc motorbike that Tim drives.  If we venture to one of the "hypermarts" such as Big C, Central Festival, etc. we usually have a wide array of plastic bags containing our purchases.  This is compounded when we happen to buy a larger item (such as storage drawers or the speaker/subwoofer set we bought for the bedroom TV last month).  A couple of days ago, we purchased an all-in-one printer/copier at Tesco-Lotus as well as a new TV antenna (we'd been swapping one between the two TV's) and a few other medium-sized items in addition to a few food & pharmacy groceries.  Being too "frugal" to pack this stuff into a tuk-tuk for me to accompany home while Tim drives the motorbike, we spent several minutes tying and securing the baggies to various spots on the Honda.  The bungy cord I'd brought from America proved useful for the first time and I sat behind Tim holding onto the large box containing the printer.  This box was fairly wide so Tim couldn't squeeze between as many cars as she usually does at stops and I slid the box from side to side if I knew she needed to look in one or the other rear-view mirrors.  Piece of cake...

But our loads (including your's truly, who definitely IS NOT lightweight) do take their toll.  Once, we left a fold-up shoe rack in the Big C parking lot because we had too many other things and forgot we set it on the side while we were tying the baggies to the handlebars.  And we just replaced another rear innertube which I attribute more to the weight of the person riding back there (me) than to the state of Phuket's road surfaces (which are mostly pretty good, by the way).


Today, I make my first visit to the Patong branch of the Immigration Department.  The first entry of my double-entry tourist visa is set to expire on June 4th so I need to apply for a 30-day extension.  These are almost always granted (and the Patong branch approves them as a matter of routine, according to most websites I've seen) but I'm still a bit nervous.  I plan to dress nicely (picking out my nice blue dress shirt and white slacks) and make sure all of my documents are in order (they require one two-inch photo and photocopies of your passport showing the photo page, the visa page, and most recent entry stamp).  The fee is 1,900 baht.  I'm nervous the same way I'm nervous when I have to renew a driver's license in a strange city or any other thing that requires dealing with authority or bureaucracy that I haven't previously dealt with.  That's just me...  The second time, I'll know what to expect.

Most expats recommend applying for this extension one day before your visa is set to expire (some say the day of expiration).  But what happens if your application isn't approved?  You have to high-tail it to the nearest international border (in Phuket's case, this is Ranong across the border with Myanmar) so you can quickly cross over and return.  If you overstay your visa expiration date, there is a 500 baht per day fine but they are really starting to crack down on overstays now (a bus was recently stopped near the Ranong checkpoint and all overstays — including a few that were only a day past — were hauled off to jail, sent up to Bangkok, and deported).  I'm going a few days early because of my fear of the "just in case" factor; the office's website doesn't list what days/times they are open so I figure a Thursday is better than a Friday (and I doubt their open during the weekend).  If my application isn't approved, I still have time to join one of the arranged "visa runs" (more on these the first time I have to go on one).  I may lose three days off of my total time allowed in the Kingdom on this visa, but I'll gain in peace-of-mind.

If the extension is approved, I'll have another month before I have to make my first trip to an international border.  Then, I simply have to cross the border and return which gives me another 60 days (at the end of which I can apply for another 30-day extension).


Tim and I recently rearrange the furniture in the master bedroom so that I could make a little office in there.  Since the only phone jack in our house is on the far side of the living room, I had to run a (really long) chord along the walls and above the front doors to reach the desk (I've comandeered the "makeup desk") and plug into my laptop.  Previously, I'd work on the laptop on the coffee table but this was uncomfortable and hot (the master bedroom is the only air-conditioned room in our house).  With the addition of my new printer and some handy drawers for supplies, etc., I spend much more time "working" which gives Tim some much-appreciated "alone time" (for both of us).  I can get a lot done early in the mornings while she's still asleep and she enjoys being able to watch TV in the living room without having the laptop screen obstructing her view.

What "work" am I doing, you ask?  Lately, mostly research on things like visa runs and immigration laws.  I'm also beginning to download some music once again (finally) after a long hiatus.  It is slow-going since I'm on dialup but I've really been inspired by the latest Bruce Springsteen album and current tour.  He's gone in a folk/big band direction, giving his music a sense of fun and vibrancy that frankly has been lacking in the past several releases.  In short, I'm becoming a fan again after a long "ho-hum" period.  So far, I've downloaded an hour-long radio broadcast from a show in London and a compilation of European tour highlights.  I'm a bit disappointed that I won't be able to see him perform this music in person but it seems like there's an awful lot of material out available to listen to and watch (I doubt if I'll attempt to download any of the DVD's on the slow connection, however...).

Soon, I'll renew my uploading of the rapidly-increasing backlog of photos...

I've also been "working" on burning some CD's — clearing my hard drive of the many songs I ripped while preparing to move to Thailand — and compiling the short video clips filmed with my digital camera into a DVD.

Finally, I installed a Thai-language keyboard onto the laptop and have begun teaching Tim how to type.  She successfully sent her first e-mail a couple of days ago (with plenty of coaching from me).  Now that I have a printer, we can make Thai/English lists of words and print them out to help us in our language learning.  (I fear that as she tells her friends that I have a printer/copier they will be requesting to use it; I'm already planning to charge either 10 or 20 baht per page for this "service".)


Life at "Baan Ling Noi" is very good.  We've settled into somewhat of a daily routine but there's always something to write about (if not always a desire to write).  I hope that you enjoy reading these accounts of our life together and that they give you some sense of what I'm experiencing from day to day...