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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...