My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.



No, I'm not talking about the Marillion song but the fact that I will be away from the computer for the next several days, until Saturday to be exact.

Tim and I are leaving for the north tomorrow evening.  We're taking one of the "VIP" coach busses to Bangkok — a 12-hour journey — where we will obtain the Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry at the U.S. Embassy.  We then need to get that form translated into Thai before travelling to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for "legalization" (which officially takes three days).  Instead of staying in Bangkok, we will spend two nights in Ayutthaya.  I figured this would be our last chance to travel in this area for quite some time so I suggested we could spend some time with Miaow (Tim's daughter) and Noo-Dang (granddaughter).  We've booked two rooms (for the astounding price of 350 baht/USD $9.24 per night) in a guesthouse close to the two main temples.  Tim and Miaow can spend some quality time together and I can walk around looking at some of the nearby historical sites.  We will return to Bangkok on Friday, (hopefully) pick up our legalized marriage forms, and catch the overnight bus back to Bangkok.

With the proper documents in-hand, we can go to the local Amphur office (Phuket Town, in our case) to officially register our marriage.  Although there is no ceremony involved, we plan to have Lek and Jum accompany us (perhaps we'll ask Franz and Pen, as well), and have some photographs taken.  We may do this as early as next Monday (August 7) in advance of the Queen's birthday when all government offices will once again take an extended holiday.



Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of the BitTorrent method of sharing music and video.  As such, I enjoy reading interesting articles and blog entries about it.  A fellow collector at my favorite BT site, dimeadozen, directed me to an entry at Eric's Music Ramblings And Indie Musings:

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Rise of BitTorrent and Decline of Trading

I am a junkie. Like any junkie with a conscience and an awareness of his declining sense of self-respect, my addiction at various times causes personal shame and guilt, usually followed by the resolution that I will end the addiction. Beat this thing for good. Cut it off at the toke point. Or at least reduce it to a controllable level.

My addiction is live music. And is my drug. Like any narcotic, it has its benefits and horrible, horrible drawbacks. And despite what medical experts will tell you, it is every bit as addictive as any chemical drug.

In recent years, sites like dimeadozen and the standard protocol to support it, called “BitTorrent,” have grown in popularity among sick musos like myself. If it has not yet officially replaced trading as the primary means of live music dissemination, it very soon will. There are far too many advantages to this mode for it not to continue to increase in popularity. It will inevitably make trading a footnote in music collecting history (speaking of which, isn’t about time for an update to Clinton Heylin’s excellent Bootleg?) CD trading will eventually become a piece of nostalgia, much like vinyl records and mix tapes.

At its best, BitTorrent offers several advantages that classic trading cannot challenge. BitTorrent is far faster than trading; instead of having to find someone willing to trade, retrieving the necessary CDs from whatever maximum-security vault the collector has designed, burning the CDs, packaging the CDs, and mailing the CDs, all BitTorrent takes is some free software and a PC with burning capabilities, and a user is free to download shows until he falls asleep or his spouse leaves him.

BitTorrent has also substantially increased the amount of live music in circulation. The effort of having to search individual trade lists to find a specific show is now practically non-existent. A simple post to a torrent message board will usually yield a generous collector willing to seed the show, regardless of how rare or hard to find a specific show might be. In this way, BitTorrent has made it remarkably easy to efficiently acquire new live music.

Deadbeat traders are also a non-factor with BitTorrent, and though they have been replaced by their evil twins in the form of deadbeat downloaders, dimeadozen enforces a minimum share ratio to combat this problem. Bad traders are the scourge of the trading community, and my guess is that their food supply is quickly drying up as BitTorrent’s popularity increases. And to the trader from the Bonin Islands who burned me for six CDs, I’m still waiting.

Perhaps best of all, BitTorrent has eliminated the need to travel to the post office to feed the addiction. No longer do sick music junkies need to stand in line with dozens of bubble-padded envelopes, slither up to the clerk’s window, and feel the disapproving glances from other customers as the clerk processes dozens of mysterious packages destined for places like Burma, Papua New Guinea, and Bhutan.

But I’m still not convinced the rise of BitTorrent is an entirely good thing. Despite the advantages described above, some of the “charm” of old-fashioned trading through the mail is being lost as BitTorrent becomes the standard method of sharing live recordings. There was also something exciting about getting a package with new music via the mail. And besides, since 90% of the mail is usually either bills, junk, or offers to subscribe to a men’s magazine, a delivery of new music was always a welcome fix.

The biggest drawback to BitTorrent, however, is that it has unintentionally contributed to a serious decline in interaction and discussion among live music fans, via the usual fan sites and message boards. Granted, many of the postings at such places could range anywhere from the brilliant and lucid to the obsessive, deranged, and psychotic; the point was that the music was being discussed by people who appreciated and enjoyed the music (perhaps too much). And I also suspect that such forms of communication were the extent of social interaction that some of the more “dedicated” traders experienced on a daily basis.

Even the most enthusiastic traders I have traded with for years have moved on to dimeadozen or other live music sites. And I can’t blame them. Like most other honest traders, their intentions are good and their only aim is to find music to enjoy, in the most convenient way possible. Perhaps the sense of community and generosity and lively musical discussion and appreciation will become part of these sites; perhaps they already have and I’m not noticing. But for those traders who enjoyed the online friendship and camaraderie with like-minded musos that traditional trading created, the rising popularity of BitTorrent has depersonalized the trading community.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check the mail. I’m sure there are bills to pay and subscription offers to men’s magazines to ignore.

posted by Eric at 6:03 AM 3 comments



Power has been restored once again and I'm enjoying the light given off by the laptop screen while Tim sleeps...  I had awoken a little over an hour ago and wandered out to the kitchen to get a drink of water.  I decided to take some trash out to the cans at the end of our soi and when I was walking back I watched as the electricity just seemed to drain away from the spot I was standing down to the far end of the road.  The first thing I did after getting back to the house was to shut off the laptop.  Since it was pitch black inside and I couldn't fall back asleep, I made a couple of phone calls.

My first call was to my sister but she wasn't home so next up was Dad.  As always, it was a joy talking to him and he's always excited to hear about my day-to-day adventures.  He had some exciting news of his own as he's just bought a new Porsche Boxster.  He also put in request for a full-length photo of Tim in her bathing suit; I'll try to get one taken today.  My next call was to my friend Bryan but he was still at work so we only talked briefly; while I was talking to him, the lights came back on so I was happy (it was getting kind of warm...).  As I write this, it's begun to rain again.

The past several days have seen us hanging out with our next door neighbors, Franz and Pen, quite a lot.  Franz is from The Netherlands and Pen comes from Hat Yai, in far southern Thailand near the border with Malaysia.  We often swap movies to watch and I've found out Franz has an extensive collection of CD's that should help to satisfy my appetite for Western music.  On Wednesday, the four of us took a ride over to Saphan Hin (south of Phuket Town) to attend the last day of the Phuket International Flower Show.  There were many plant bargains to be had so we made some purchases and returned later with Franz's SUV.  Tim made a funny comment without realizing it in telling me which plants I needed to put in the soil and which ones thrived on oxygen alone:  she said, "This flower eat land, this flower eat air."  We also found an excellent Thai-produced white wine (Khombang, from KB Mountain Winery) made from mangosteen.  Tim and I purchased a case of 20 330ml bottles for 600 baht (USD $15.86).

Yesterday, we all went swimming at a large pool east of the Phuket Zoo.  This was an Olympic-sized pool and Tim was used to swimming in hotel pools that were relatively shallow throughout.  She was fearful of the deep end at the beginning and I had her hold onto me while I swam from one side to the other.  I got her an innertube for her to use and towards the end of our four hours swimming, she was confident enough not to use it any more.  Tim had brought a waterproof soccer ball (we'd recently bought at Big C) and the four of us had a lot of fun throwing it around.  After we'd been there for 90 minutes or so, a great number of children from a local school arrived; they appeared to be between the ages of 5 and 7 enjoyed frolicking in the kiddie pool to the south of the big pool.  An hour later, they were dressing back into their school uniforms to return to class.  The large pool was also being used by a local diving school to instruct a few students; they were swimming laps and testing regulators when we left.  We're planning to go back again this morning (if the rain stops).

The only other news is that Tim and I will probably go to Bangkok next week so we can visit the U.S. Embassy and Thai Consular Affairs Department for our marriage affidavit and other forms.  I think we'll stay only a couple of days in the capital and then spend two or three days in Ayutthaya.  My plan is to find an inexpensive guesthouse there and then have Tim's daughter and granddaughter stay there with us.  That way, I can do some sightseeing (there's A LOT to see in that former Thai capitol) while they spend quality time together.  Upon returning to Phuket, we'll go to the Amphoe office in Phuket Town (now officially called Phuket City but I can't get myself to refer to it that way yet) so that we can have our legal marriage.  During our latest talks about our formal wedding ceremony, Tim said she thought we should have it here in Phuket rather than up north in Lamphun.  It would then make it easier for her friends to attend and her family could come down in a minibus (they would probably all end up staying with us!).  Her parents (and I think most of her siblings) have never seen the ocean so they would have a great time.  This would also make it easier on any friends or relatives of mine who might attend from overseas.

I've been very lax in uploading photos to my Webshots albums recently.  Most of my limited bandwidth has been consumed by downloading music over the past month or so.  This past week, I did manage to upload the photos I took the day I met Tim's daughter in Bang-Pa In back in mid-May.  And, now I'm working on the day we toured a few temples in Bangkok and took the water taxi down the Chao Phraya River.  Have patience...more photos are on the way!  (I also plan to try to put more photos here on the blog as well, perhaps one per entry but we'll see...)



I just found a Google Earth aerial view of the Chalong Bay area on another blog.  (I can't currently get Google Earth to work properly on my computer because of the slow dial-up connection.)  Since I've been promising on occasion to provide some maps here, I decided to identify a few locations so I can show some of the places close to where we live.  Our village (moo 10) is just to the north of the image, but it does show how close we are to the Chalong Circle (a five-pronged intersection), the long tourist pier, police station, post office,etc.

Here's another map I made sometime ago so I'd have something to show tuk-tuk drivers if I never needed one to take me back home (it's in Thai; I thought that I'd need something to show in case I went shopping without Tim and couldn't quite explain how to get here — saying "two 7-Elevens past Wat Chalong" would have gotten the job done but, in the end, Tim and I are always together so I have no need for the map).


In a previous post, I talked about how Tim and I rode up to visit the wat on the mountain behind our house on the Buddhist holiday of Wan Kao Pansa.  Reading Jamie's Phuket blog today, I found out that the name of the peak is Khao Nakkerd (also known as "Buddha Mountain") and following a link there led me to even more information about the giant Buddha being constructed up there.

The name of the Buddha is Mingmongkol and it will be 45 meters tall when completed.  The large golden statue we observed on our visit is merely a 12-meter replica of the actual image that will eventually placed atop the massive concrete base.  The wat's name is Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri.  The foundation stone was laid in May 2002 in a special ceremony.  In addition to being a park area for Buddhist worship and meditation, the Buddha is made to honor His Majesty King Bhumiphol Adulyadej.  Apparently, there were some delays in construction due to money issues and building rites but work seems to be proceeding now at a rapid pace.  The views from the top of the mountain truly are spectacular.



Tim is a big fan of Oishi brand green teas; I personally love the lemon-flavored tea and have tried several of their fruit juices (marketed under the Amino brand name).  The company began selling the bottled drinks just six years ago after customers of the popular restaurants requested take-home versions of the tea (originally, they were sold in plain plastic bags).  Despite the Japanese name and specialization in green tea, Oishi is 100% a Thai company.  The main factory in Rathaburi fills 200,000 bottles every day.

So, it is with some interest that I watched an interview with this company's CFO this morning on the Andaman News (part of an hour every day of English-language television on channel 11) announcing that Oishi had just won FDA approval and will begin exporting it's drink line to America in the near future.  The launch will occur sometime next month in a place soon to be announced.  I highly recommend my American friends and family should try to seek out these products; you won't be disappointed.

(BTW, other products that are common in America that many there don't know are Thai in origin include the Red Bull and Von Dutch energy drinks; Red Bull was developed as something to keep the long-distance bus- and truck-drivers awake in the middle of the night and I can vouch that the Thai version is very strong while the American version doesn't have near the kick!)


Today, Tim and I checked out two places on Phuket that I'd been wanting to visit.

First we journeyed north to Thalang National Museum (east of the Heroines Monument on Pa Klok Road).  This nice museum was established about 17 years ago and has displays telling about the archaeological, historical, and cultural heritage of Phuket and the Andaman Sea region.  There is a large main hall which connects to several exhibition halls and an auditorium by covered walkways.  The story begins with a brief history of Thailand and examines some of the connections with Cambodia, India, and China.  The surrounding halls then cover Phuket and neighboring provinces in great detail.  All of the placards are in both Thai and English; there's a very nice variety of artifacts and dioramas.  Outside, there's even a reproduction of a sea gypsy village.  Admission is a very reasonable 30 baht (10 baht for Thai people).  If I was to have any complaint, it would be that the small gift shop didn't have an English-language book detailing the history of Phuket (I'd love to have a print version as there are many aspects of this island's past that fascinate me; perhaps the library can help me with that...).

We then drove west from Thalang across the center of the island, turning southwest through the predominately Muslim villages of Chengthalay and Bang Tao, past Surin and Kamala, and down into Patong.  We made a couple of quick stops at the beach and the bar where Jum has recently begun working (after a LONG holiday) and then decided to check out BBQ Hut.

I'd read on several Phuket-themed message boards that this was the best place on Phuket for Mexican food and that they had excellent barbeque and burgers as well.  We weren't disappointed in the least.  It being a bit past one o'clock in the afternoon, Tim and I were the only customers; she ordered the Tom Yum Goong and after quite some deliberation, I "settled" on the BBQ combo platter which came with a large slab of spare ribs, a thigh/wing chicken, smoked beef, a huge sausage link, two slices of garlic bread, and a choice of two side dishes (I chose the potato salad and cole slaw which were both excellent).  It was a lot of food (and well worth the 330 baht — USD $8.68); I finished everything on my plate except for a bit of the sausage but, unfortunately I didn't have any room for dessert.  I'll have to return sometime just to try the fried ice cream; this is something I used to enjoy on family outings to a Mexican restaurant when we lived in Nashville, Tennessee, but which I haven't had in probably 30 years!  The restaurant features the only barbeque pit on Phuket and all the meats are slow-cooked all day long.  It's located near the north end of Rat-U-Thit 200 Pee Road very close to my TEFL school (so I'll have ample opportunities to eat here after I begin my course at the end of August...



In Thailand, there are two forms of marriage; most people will go through both.  "Marriage before Buddha" is usually performed at the bride's home village and combines a religious ceremony and a traditional party.  This ceremony has NO LEGAL standing in Thailand or anywhere else in the world.  I'll add a description of the traditional ceremony in a moment.

The legal marriage consists of both parties registering their marriage in person with the local Thai Amphoe (similar to a civil registry office ).  The USA does recognize the validity of such a marriage.  There are also benefits relating to immigration, insurance, and taxes.  The steps required for an American citizen follow:

To marry a Thai citizen or a foreigner, you must:

1.  Complete an
Affidavit of Eligibility to Marry at the American Embassy in Bangkok or Consulate in Chiang Mai.  Forms are available on request & also the Thai equivalent.  The form must be completed & notorized (USD $55 or baht equivalent) at the Embassy or consulate.

2.  Have the completed affidavit translated into Thai.

3.  Take the affidavit and translation to the Information Department, Legalization Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 123 Changwattana Road, Thungsonghong, Laksi, Bangkok 10210, Tel: (00-66) 02 575-1057-8 for certification.  Legalization takes 3 working days.

4.  Take the affidavit & supporting documents to a local Amphoe and register yourself as married.  The Amphoe will also require the following:

  • (a)  Your valid American Passport.

  • (b)  Certified copy of termination of your previous marriages, if any (divorce decree or death certificate) with Thai translation.

  • (c)  If either party is under 20 years old, parents' presence or written permission ( with Thai translation if necessary) is required.

I've found a few other helpful tips on various forums and websites, namely:
"...make a Thai copy and then to Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have it registered as an international legal document.  After you receive the stamped copy you are free to register your marriage at any district office.  If you do not speak Thai you should have someone with you that does (other than the wife) as they need you to understand what you sign.  Two witnesses are also required but they can often be found among the office staff and a small lunch payment might be in order.  There is no direct charge."

"Remember to take 1 translator / witness with you to the Amphur's office.  I didn't do this and had to come back another day.  Also everything has to be translated.  If you are divorced you have to fill out other papers. takes about 2-3 days total including embassy visit.  There are people that can do it all for you but it isn't worth the money as long as you have the time."

Required Documents

  • Identification Cards of both parties.

  • The House Registration Certificates of both parties.

If an alien is registering to be married to a Thai citizen or another alien, he or she is required to submit following documents.

  • A copy of their passport.

  • A Letter of Certification, issued by an Embassy or Consulate or a Government Organization from their country, regarding the marital status of the person.  The Letter must be translated, then certified by the relevant Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


  • Marriage registration can be filed at any District Office or Minor District Office nationwide regardless of the birthplace of the couple.

  • Once the marriage registration is completed, each party will be given a copy of the Marriage Registration Certificate as evidence.

  • If the marriage registration is filed at the District Office located in female's birthplace (where the name is registered on the House Registration Certificate), the title used with the forename and the last name of the female will be changed by the District Officer.  The female is required to file for a new Identification Card within 60 days.  A service fee of 10 baht is required.  If the marriage is registered elsewhere, the female is required to contact the local District Office to change her name and last name, as well as filing for a new Identification Card.  If both parties are unable to file for marriage at any District Office of Minor District Office, the couple can submit a request to the Registrar to register their marriage at any location under the supervision of that District Office.  The parties filing for marriage are required to provide transportation for the Registrar.  A service fee of 200 baht is required.

(The last requirement about having to change the ID card is interesting; they don't change the surname but just adjust the Thai equivalent of "Miss" to "Mrs."  If I read the legalese correctly, we will need to have the card changed in Tim's home district of Lamphun rather than in Phuket where we will probably have the marriage registered.)

For many reasons, Tim and I have decided that we will travel to Bangkok within the next month to obtain the documents required to register our marriage.  I doubt if we will wait very long after that to actually go to the Amphoe (also Romanized as Amphur) here in Phuket to get the marriage certificates.

But it won't be for at least another year until we have the traditional ceremony.  This is because I would like a few members of my family to attend.  Because of health reasons, my stepmother may not be able to travel such a long distance so her and Dad may not be able to attend at all; Tim and I know that we have their complete support and love and they will be here in spirit if not in body.  My sister's family only have a limited amount of vacation time each year and, of course, I wouldn't want my nephew to miss any school.  Because of this, we've decided to place the choosing of suitable dates with Marilyn and her family.  If it means we won't have the ceremony until 2007 or 2008, then that's fine with us.  It will give us more time to establish our home.  Once they choose a time period that's "right" for them, we can then check with the monks for an auspicious day for the actual ceremony within that chosen period.

The traditional ceremony does differ a bit from province to province (we'll be having ours in Lamphun Province, near Chaing Mai, as this is where Tim comes from and her family remains).  I found the following description on the Pattaya Pages:
The Traditional Ceremony
What's going to happen on the big day?  The traditional ceremony differs from province to province and contains a number of different elements.  Depending on the area you are in and the amount you have spent all or some of what follows may be included.  Some richer Thais are also having traditional Western white weddings as well.  However, in most cases you will have the traditional Thai wedding as described below.

Things should be getting underway by 6am so get a good nights sleep before.  Like in the West, it's considered bad luck to sleep at the bride's house on the night before the wedding.  If you do, you will have to sneak away early for the first part of the ceremony.

The first thing you have to do is come to the bride's house.  You should have a pre-arranged meeting point a few hundred meters from her house where members of her family and invited guests will be waiting to accompany you.  A procession, perhaps with musical accompaniment will then proceed to the house.  As you get closer, local villagers and family members will try to block your way.  This is the money door and you must pay some money or give gifts to get through (remember to take a pocketfull of 100-baht notes).  Once you have passed this obstacle you arrive at the bride's house where a special seating platform has been set up.

Sitting alone on the platform the bride's family will approach you for the dowry.  You must hand this over and a special committee will carefully count the money and announce to the brides family how much it is.  They will (hopefully) say it is sufficient and the bride can now come out from hiding and take her place on the platform.  The groom now proceeds to the bride's bedroom, with his male friends to have a mini party in her room.  She stays outside and will be presented with some gifts and have string wrapped around her wrist for good luck.  Eventually the groom comes out of the bedroom to sit with his new wife.

A special head piece will be attached to bride and groom connecting them together.  The marriage celebrant, usually a local headman, will now chant some sanskrit verses for good luck.  This can go on for a long time.

Following this the bride and groom proceed back to the bride's bedroom where they get into bed together.  Family and friends will visit and leave small gifts and money on the bed.  Photos of a kiss or two can also be arranged.  Once every one has visited the bedroom the bride and groom gather up all the money.  Some say whoever gathers the most will be the boss in the new relationship.

At last it's time to eat and drink.  Although still relatively early in the morning, the beer will flow and everyone will eat their fill.

Later in the day, or sometimes, incorporated into the main ceremony, nine monks will hold a prayer meeting with lots of chanting.  This brings good vibes for the newlyweds and often incorporates some prayers for deceased relatives or friends.

Throughout the day, food will be served and drinks drunk.  People will come and go.  It's a good idea to catch some rest in the afternoon to fortify yourself for the serious eating and partying that will begin again in the early evening.  Often a Thai band will be hired, complete with dancing girls for the nighttime festivities and certainly a lot of alcohol will be drunk.  This is also a time for official speech making.  Expect to get dragged up on stage and have various family members and local dignitaries make long speeches.  It would be nice if you could learn a short reply in Thai to thank everyone for coming.  Expect the party to go on all night.

Remember that the above description is of one wedding.  The timing, order and nature of the various events can change and in the case of a farang being the groom often are.  It's quite OK to discuss the various bits and pieces beforehand and to work out your own ceremony based on what you are comfortable with and what you can afford.
I seem to remember reading an even better description of the variety of ceremonies in one of my Thai culture books recently.  If I can find it again, I'll transcribe it and post in the blog.

The ceremony sounds like a lot of fun and I look forward to experiencing it along with any family and friends from America who can attend.  I'm sure that Tim's friends will also caravan up North when we do have the traditional wedding.  For now, I'm looking forward to getting the legal part done before I begin school at the end of August.


While checking out several lists of Thailand-based blogs this morning, I stumbled across Don Gilliland's Bangkok Dazed.  Don owns the popular Dasa Book Cafe, the capital's "funkiest used bookshop."  Perusing the entries this afternoon, it seems that he has similar interests to mine in music and authors, as well as offering many interesting observations about life in Bangkok.  (And, possibly even more important, I discovered that my favorite mystery writer, Lawrence Block, has a new novel out this month that I'll just have to order now...)

I'm also somewhat inspired now to add a new section to my blog's sidebar area listing some of my other favorites (a "blogroll", I believe it's called in blogger parlance).  We'll see if I can actually get that done since today is shaping up to be a beautiful Sunday morning with no sign of a raincloud in the sky (yet)...


Ever since I'd taught Tim how to swim in Bangkok two months again, she's occasionally wanted to go swimming again.  She's still afraid of swimming in the ocean (she saw a lot after the tsunami; plus, the surf is too violent during this year's monsoon for even me to want to risk venturing into it).  Her friend, Puk, works at a resort in Kathu and had been pestering us about coming to use the swimming pool for quite some time.  We finally got over there one afternoon this past week and had a ball.

Yesterday, I thought it would be nice to make an entire day out at this particular swimming pool.  I even suggested that Tim call Lek and Jum and ask if they could join us (I usually prefer for Tim and I to be alone rather than having the entire "gang" along).  We set out for Kathu around 10:30 in the morning.  The sky, as usual, was overcast with dark clouds but there were some breaks with visible blue as we got closer to Kathu.  Upon our arrival, we had the pool to ourselves and had a lot of fun splashing around and racing from one end to the other.  Tim does great at the breast-stroke and also swimming underwater (she does hold her nose, as do I); I'm much better at swimming on my back.  Despite it still being fairly cloudy, I was careful to put some SPF 40 cream on my shoulders, forehead, and nose as these still do burn despite my having become almost the same shade of brown as Tim (at least on the bits not covered by shorts and shirts).

Jum arrived about an hour after we did and we ordered a nice lunch (spicy prawn salad, some squid, a BLT sandwhich, and french fries with water and ice coffee to drink).  Jum didn't bring a bathing suit and sat under the big umbrella while Tim and I frolicked in the water. Later, I found out that she doesn't know how to swim (she says she's scared of the water).  But watching the fun that Tim was having in the pool caused her to ask if I'd teach her to swim next time.  Lek finally arrived and immediately jumped in the pool fully clothed!

Although the clouds remained dark and ominous over the mountains and back towards Chalong, the sun poked out enough directly over the pool to keep the water nice and warm.  There was a very nice breeze during most of the afternoon that made the air temperature pleasant (it had been EXTREMELY hot the past couple of days).  In the end, it never rained at all.

When Tim and I departed around 5:00, we decided to take a very long route home — over and down the mountain into Patong, across the moutainous coastal road over to Karon and Kata, and finally over the moutain heading inland towards Kathu.  We made a brief stopoff in Patong where I snapped some photos of the beach because the surf was especially rough and high (from the road, we couldn't even see the sand!).  We also made a stop at a temple market between Kata and Karon to buy some veggies (most of which still look like weeds to me but they are nice supplements to rice and fish).

All in all, it was a very pleasant day and I'm looking forward to another day of swimming.  Tim loves the water and I've swum more in the past week than the entire 12 years I lived in New Mexico!!



Whenever we travel from our home in Chalong to Patong, we currently have two choices:

1) a long drive up Chaofa West Road (currently experiencing a year-long road-widening project which is no fun riding through on a motorbike) to Central and then west through Kathu and over a mountainous switchback road (competing with half-asleep coach bus drivers and crazed tuk-tuk drivers) up-and-over into Patong; or

2) a long drive west over two mountains (which are lower than the one west of Kathu) into the Kata/Karon area and then north up the coast (another mountain road but hugging the slope rather than switchbacking up it) into Patong (this is the more scenic and enjoyable of the two routes).

Luckily, we don't often have a desire to go into Patong.  This is partly because of the travel difficulties (made even more fun by the constant threat of tropical downpours during the May thru October monsoon season) but also because Patong is the most touristy part of the island — much higher prices than everywhere else, more people (particularly farangs), the worse traffic in Thailand outside of Bangkok, and many other negatives).  About the only good reason we have for going there is to see one or another of Tim's friends who can't get out to Chalong.  Sometimes, we're in the mood to partake of the nightlife there or visit a favorite restaurant but that's becoming more and more rare as we discover interesting places closer to home.

However, we'll be having to make the trip very often when I begin my TEFL course at the end of next month — twice a day, four days a week.

So it's with some interest that I read the following article detailing plans for a more direct Chalong-Patong route.  At first thought, I recognized how convenient it would make travel across the island.  However, the more I think about it the more I don't like the plan.  I doubt that it will ease the congestion within Patong itself or along the Chaofa West Road.  The construction project and access will destroy a lot of pristine forest and pastureland.  Soon after completion, the road will be lined with the numerous noodle stands, motorbike repair shops, secondhand furniture stores, etc. that dominate every other main road on Phuket.  It will open up the interior of the island to even more construction of multi-million-baht homes, condos, and resorts continuing (what I consider to be) the out-of-control building boom that currently exists here.

I think I'd rather have the "inconvenience" of a circuitous route than risk destroying a healthy chunk of nature.  Progress is not necessarily a good thing and if planners don't take into consideration some of the consequences then the "tropical idyll" that makes the island so attractive to tourists and expats (without whom the economy would have to rely on the diminishing rubber industry) wil disappear under concrete.

Anyway, enough of my commentary.  Here's the article announcing the road project plans, courtesy of Phuket Gazette (July 19, 2006):

Gov backs Chalong-Patong highway

PHUKET CITY: Governor Udomsak Uswarangkura has thrown his weight behind a proposal to build a 206-million-baht six-lane highway linking Patong with Chalong.

At a meeting held today at the Royal Phuket City Hotel, Governor Udomsak explained that the highway would be 4.5 kilometers long and would follow the route of the current two-lane road leading to Wat Luang Phu Supha in Chalong, extending on from there to meet 50 Pi Rd in Patong.

That road is due to be extended anyway, in order to reach the site of the planned Klong Kata reservoir.

The Governor said that he had already approved spending by the Department of Rural Roads (DRR) to extend the road to the Klong Kata site, but that he would like to see the road pushed all the way through to Patong.

“We could start building the road next year and it could be ready for use in 2008.  It would bring economic benefits to Phuket,” Gov Udomsa k said.

However, he added, if the road is to be built, Tambon Chalong and Patong Municipality would also need to contribute large amounts of money.  This is by no means guaranteed.

Patong Municipality was no represented at the meeting, but Jaroen Thewabutr, village chief of Moo 6, Chalong, said that villagers did not agree with the route recommended by the DRR.

Three routes have been proposed, with the DRR favoring Route 3, the northernmost.

K. Jaroen said villagers favor the more southerly Route 2 because it will take noisy traffic away from Wat Luang Phu Supa; because the road will not be so steep; because it will be less likely to damage the Klong Kata dam; and because it will not require 23 local people to give up farmland, which would be the case with Route 3.

The Governor said that he would call another meeting of all parties concerned to see if agreement could be reached.

Brought to you by:
The Phuket Gazette
16:57 local time (GMT +7)

To unsubscribe to this service, please log in and visit
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for this project to actually happen.  Once the governor throws his support behind something, work usually begins very quickly despite any "reasonable" objections (witness the recent Bypass Road project).  Stay tuned...



One of the first things a visitor to Thailand learns is the remarkable amount of love and admiration the Thai people (and many expats) hold for HRH King Bhumibol Adulyadej (known in the West as Rama IX).  It is also highly illegal in this country to say anything bad against the monarchy under the lèse majesté laws.  (I recently read a very good account about these laws as they apply to Thailand but can't seem to find it now...)

Until recently, there's been only one widely-available English-language biography about the present king (In His Majesty's Footsteps:  A Personal Memoir by Vasit Dejkunjorn).  However, Yale University Press this month published a second, The King Never Smiles: A Biography Of Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej by Paul M. Handley.  Supposedly, the book casts portions of the monarchy in a negative light and has been banned in this country.  Just trying to access Yale's information page on the book from a Thai ISP brings up this page:

This translates as

"Sorry, the web site you are accessing has been closed by Royal Thai Police due to inappropriateness such as pornography, gambling or contain [sic.] any information which is deemed to violate national security".
I pre-ordered the book a couple of months ago from long before I knew anything about the ban; my desire was simply to know more about what I consider a very interesting subject (my respect for the king and the rest of the royal family is very close or equal to that of Tim and her friends).  I had doubts that the book would actually arrive in Phuket but arrive it did yesterday.

The first few paragraphs of the preface show that the author was aware of the risks going in:
A journalist or academic who takes an interest in Thailand soon learns that one topic is off-limits:  the modern monarchy.  One is told variably that there is nothing more to say than the official palace accounts; that such matters are internal; that the subject is too sensitive and complex for palace outsiders to handle; or simply that it is too dangerous, and one risks expulsion or jail for lèse majesté.

Most people give in to these explanations with little argument.  It is easy to do; nearly every Thai one meets expresses unquestioning praise for the king, or at least equivocates to the point of suggesting that there is really not much to be said:  the history that is in the open is the whole of it....
This is a book that I'm looking forward to delving into, despite reading several reviews stating that certain allegations aren't supported by facts.  I doubt that any criticisms of the monarchy contained within will diminish my respect of the king one bit, having previously lived in a nation where many openly and aggressively pursue negativity against the country's leader.

It's so refreshing to reside in a place where all of the people overwhelmingly adore the king and his family; it's definitely one of the things I find most attractive about the Thai people and emphasizes their attitude/philosophy of sanuk (basically, "having fun" in whatever you do).  We non-Thai people can certainly learn a lot from this...


While I'm really not in the mood to write a lot today, I really want to sketch out some of what we've done over the past 10 days or so before something else replaces this stuff in my memory (it's not what it used to be!).

Back on July 10th, it was the Buddhist holiday of Asanha Puja (see my entry, "Yet Another Buddhist Holiday") and Tim wanted to take me to a temple.  However, as things often do, these plans changed due due to her reliance on certain friends and we ended up taking a VERY LONG motorbike ride (convoy style with Lek and Jum) to Bang Pae Waterfall way up in Tambon Pa Khlok (far northeast part of Phuket).  Luckily, although the sky was very overcast we managed to avoid the rain all afternoon (it really let loose after we returned home).  This particular waterfall is tucked into some of the last remaining sections of rain forest left on Phuket (much of it was transplanted with rubber trees some years ago, replacing tin mining as the principal non-tourism industry).  The best parts of the river and waterfall are quite a hike up the mountain from the road but are well worth it.  Because of the especially heavy monsoon this season, the water was running high and fast and the temperatures under the forest canopy were nice and cool.  The four of us spent several hours swimming near the base of the falls (well, I spent most of the time wading around looking for photo opportunities).

The entrance to Bang Pae (which is a National Park, although we didn't pay a fee — all National Parks recently raised their entrance fees for foreigners from 20 baht to 200 baht which has sparked A LOT of controversy here) abuts the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center.  Unfortunately, this was closed by the time we finished swimming.  Tim and I plan to return another day...

We did drive further down the road, took a turn (directed by me after seeing a sign), and soon ended up at Bangrong Pier.  It's so remote that I suspect many tourists don't get up this way which is a shame as it's in a beautiful setting amidst mountains lining a channel heading out to sea (well, Por Bay).  An added bonus are the numerous monkeys and gibbons patrolling the parking lots, sitting on motorbikes, and digging for crabs in the sand below the pier.  I tried taking a number of photos but my camera refused to focus properly despite me trying many different settings.  I think the humidity in the rain forest affected it somewhat.  I did learn that gibbons don't like it too much if you set off a flash in their face (does anybody?) and the one I made this mistake with hissed at me violently.  Won't do that again!

Finally, we stopped for dinner at a large Thai restaurant near the Super Cheap shopping market.  Each table had a large gas cooker in the center and you filled your plate with raw food to cook.  I impressed Tim by getting some som tam (spicy papaya salad) and enjoyed some fried pork and other morsels as well (I'm slowly trying more and more Thai food and don't always get the opportunity as she and her friends invariably bring me fried chicken at home).

Tuesday was another Buddhist holiday (Wan Kao Pansa) and Tim left early to go to temple.  Soon after she left, it began pouring rain and it was several hours before she could return.  When she did, Lek and Jum were along as well and they wanted to take me to another temple — the one atop the mountain right behind our home in Chalong (I still haven't found out it's name as it's too new to be on any of the maps).  The road twists and turns through the forest on the way to the summit and soon becomes a dirt (mud) track with numerous breaks.  His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen had been up this road a few months ago to dedicate the wat and I wondered how the royal motorcade fared (we had some difficulty on the motorbikes).  Although it was overcast, the views down to Chalong Bay were spectacular.  The chedi is still under construction and the golden Buddha which will eventually be placed atop it was sitting off to the side.

Tim, Jum, and Lek lit their joss sticks and made their offerings to the monks while I sat nearby and watched (I pulled a muscle when I knealt at the altar so I made a hasty retreat).  When the senior monk was blessing the dozen or so people there, a funny moment occurred when Tim's cellular phone began ringing.  Her current ringtone is a recording of her granddaughter crying so the monk began looking around for the baby.  Tim was involved in the blessing so couldn't go over to turn off her phone (and her friends don't quit trying until she answers the phone so it just kept crying and crying until she was finally able to get to it).  Her offering to the monks was several flourescent tube lights which seemed a more useful gift than the usual prepared buckets of soap, crackers, etc.

After the blessing, we were trapped inside the temple by yet another heavy downpour.  This one lasted for almost an hour during which we looked at photos of the royal visit and of the temple's construction process.  After the rain stopped, we climbed a flight of stairs to the mountain's summit where the Buddha and it's under-construction base are located along with several smaller shrines.  The clouds managed to lift long enough for me to take several photos — the views were absolutely spectacular yet I couldn't find our house (hidden behind part of the mountain I suspect).

[Well, I've written A LOT more than I planned already and now I'm having trouble remembering what else we did past those first two days.  I'll continue with Sunday...]

Sunday afternoon, Tim and I attended a casting call with our neighbors, Franz and Pen.  An American company is making a series of five 90-minute horror movies for cable television called "Man Easters."  Principal filming will be on Krabi but they are casting for parts and extras on Phuket; we'll probably be bussed over to Krabi each day (a five-hour trip in good conditions) because the production company seems too cheap to pay for hotel rooms (the one filming "The Aftermath", about the tsunami, did just this when they filmed up at Khao Lak).  After standing in line for an eternity (it seemed that all of the expats and much of the Thai population of Phuket had turned out), we were ushered into a room where we filled out contact sheets (in English, so I had to help Tim with hers) and then into another room where were had our pictures taken and gave the director a brief on-camera interview.  I was told I'd make a good zombie!

I've been reading a lot recently; I've almost finished a 600-page Michael Crichton novel and have also been plowing through a book on travel photography and a copy of Treasure Island that I found at the Southern Thailand Book Fair last week.  Ironically, a book I'd ordered months ago from — a new biography of King Bhumiphol Adulyadej — arrived yesterday now that I probably won't have time to get to it for a while!

We did do a few more-than-usual motorbike rides this past week:

We discovered the nearby Chalong Tourist Pier (we never had a reason to go down the access road before) which is very nice.  I want to return one morning at sunrise to try out some new techniques I've learned in my travel photography book.

We drove to a resort that Tim's friend Puk works at near Kathu and spent a nice afternoon swimming in the pool.  We were also shown a couple of very nice bungalows and main building rooms that we could rent for 15,000 to 17,000 baht per month with everything (daily maid service, free breakfast, electricity, phone service, ADSL, etc.) included (we currently pay 12,000 baht to rent our house and then have the other expenses on top of that).  It was very tempting (the setting is absolutly beautiful) and we had a long discussion that evening about whether we should move there or not.  In the end, we decided against it...

Yesterday, we made a final try at finding the Robinson's Shopping Center in Phuket Town (the town's layout is VERY confusing and it's easy to get lost) and ended up discovering an interesting section of the coastline with a variety of seafood restaurants.  We added it to the growing list of places to take family members on future visits.  What I liked most about this drive was that I finally got some decent photos of Phuket elephants.  It never ceases to surprise and delight me when we unexpectedly come across elephants just wandering down the streets.  Usually, I don't have my camera ready or we aren't able to stop for a photo.  This time I had Tim pull over to the side of the road (there were no other cars save for one behind the elephants, waiting for a spot to pull around them).  The two large creatures were just ambling down the middle of the road without a mahout (their handler/trainer) in sight.  As they got closer, Tim kept muttering "I fear" (she doesn't trust the elephant won't try to stomp on her) but I set up and managed to get three or four good shots before they turned off into a driveway (their "home", I suppose).  As we were getting back on the motorbike, suddenly we saw their mahout running down the street looking left-and-right.  We pointed out the direction the elephants went and he raced down after them!

Oh, we did eventually find Robinson's.  It wasn't all that it's cracked up to be and the prices are very high.  However, the base of the building has a KFC, a McDonald's, a Swenson's Ice Cream Parlor, and a Pizza Company so it might be a closer source than Patong for these if I ever feel the urge for any of these types of fast food restaurants (so far, I haven't...but you never know).

Well, I suppose this catches us up sufficiently where I can move on and report about current events once again.  There is some more "news" in the pipeline (marriage details and info on my impending TEFL course, for example) but I'll write more about those at a later time...



As long as I can remember, I've had a particular interest in pirates (which extends from my interests in most things nautical).  I believe this was first sparked from either reading Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson or Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe as a young boy.  Or, perhaps I saw one of the earlier film adaptations first.  To be honest, I don't really recall...

This interest in pirates was rekindled in part with our recent viewing of "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and then again this morning by reading several Wikipedia articles on the subject matter.  Following a few external links on the "piracy" article led me to a wealth of interesting sites (including online texts of Treasure Island and Robinson Crusoe which I'm planning to print-out and read at my earliest convenience).  And that in turn caused me to do a search for pirate books on and I've just placed an order for Under the Black Flag : The Romance and the Reality of Life Among the Pirates by David Cordingly (2006) and The Mammoth Book of Pirates : Over 25 True Tales of Devilry and Daring by the Most Infamous Pirates of All Time edited by Jon E. Lewis (2006).  (Of course, now I'll have to wait for a month or more for the books to arrive!).

My interest, however, doesn't extend so far as to wanting to dress up like a pirate (well, perhaps if there's a decent Halloween party on Phuket this October), or even talking like a pirate (there's actually a day — September 19, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, dedicated to doing just that!).  I'm just drawn by the sense of mystery that seems to surround pirate stories, both real and fictional.



Lately, it seems as if everytime I turn around there's another shut-down of this nation because of one holiday or another.  It makes it difficult to do things like getting our motorbike repaired (none of the Honda shops are open for four days or so this week because of the latest holiday) or picking up mail at the post office.  On the other hand, watching the organized celebrations for the various holidays on television (they air live coverage of ALL the observances) is fascinating.

Today, the holiday is Asanha Puja, a Theravada Buddhist festival which takes place on the fifteenth day of the waxing moon of the eighth lunar month and commemorates the Buddha’s first sermon in the Deer Park in Benares and the founding of the Buddhist sangha.

Tomorrow, the holiday is Wan Kao Pansa, the first day of vassa (พรรษา or pansa), the Theravada rains retreat.  According to Wikipedia, this

is the traditional retreat during the rainy season lasting for three lunar months from July to October.  During this time Buddhist monks remain in a single place, generally in their temples.  In some monasteries, monks dedicate the Vassa to intensive meditation practice.  During Vassa, many Buddhist lay people reinvigorate their spiritual training and adopt more ascetic practices, such as giving up meat, alcohol, or smoking (Vassa is sometimes known as "Buddhist Lent").  And in countries such as Thailand, the laity will often take monastic vows for the Vassa period and then return to lay life.  Commonly, the number of years a monk has spent in monastic life is expressed by counting up the number of Vassas he has observed.


The origins of the vassa tradition are ascribed to early Buddhist times.  Gautama Buddha ordered his disciples to observe a pre-existing practice whereby holy men avoided travelling for a three month period during the rainy season, in order to avoid damaging crops.

The period begins on the first day of the waning moon in the eighth lunar month; the preceding day is Asalha Puja.  The focus of celebration by the laity is the first day of vassa, Wan Kao Pansa, during which worshippers donate candles and other necessities to temples, a ceremony which has reached its most extravagant form in the Ubon Ratchathani Candle Festival.

Vassa is followed by two of the major festivals of the year among Theravada Buddhists, Wan Awk Pansa and Kathina.

The end of vassa is marked by joyous celebration.  The following month, the Kathina ceremony is held, during which the laity gathers to make formal offerings of robe cloth and other requisites to the Sangha.
(Sorry for the quick cut-and-paste of the meaning of "vassa"; Tim's ready to go watch some of the celebrations and I don't want to make her wait while I paraphrase the meaning...)



It's been a week full of new experiences, one that hasn't allowed me much time to sit and write blog entries (although I did find some time to work on a few Wikipedia projects).

The most interesting activity occurred on Tuesday with my first (of many) visa runs.  We actually went by minibus rather than coach because there were only six people going on this particular day.  We left Chalong a little before six in the morning.  Our driver seemed to have had his training as a kamikaze pilot as we traveled at warp speed and he delighted in passing slower-moving (i.e., everyone else on the road) vehicles by overtaking them in the oncoming lane of traffic, particularly on blind curves near the summits of hills.  This produced numerous "close calls", the most jarring of which was when he ran us into the grass on the far side of the road as he swerved to avoid two large elephants that came up over the hill as he passed a large truck stacked high with chickens.  One of my fellow passengers (a man from England who talked my head off at the beginning of the trip but was frightened into silence as we entered the twists-and-turns of the rough-surfaced and mountainous roads outside of Phuket) dubbed our driver "Luke Skywalker" since he was using the "force" in place of safe-driving skills.  Unfortunately, such techniques are common among Thai minibus and big-bus drivers and there are numerous accidents everyday (Thai television news never censor the scenes of death and destruction — more on the pleasant images the press shows the public in another entry...).

Anyway, we arrived in Ranong about an hour-and-a-half ahead of schedule.  Our first stop was the Thai Immigration Office where our passports received exit stamps; the official didn't think my passport was my own as I no longer resemble the photo (had much shorter hair and a goatee three years ago) and he repeatedly asked me if I was sure that was me!  We were then taken a short distance to the entrance to the boat dock, the last 100 yards of distance saw us walking through the most squalid of slums with trash piled high on either side of a small walkway.  The ancient wooden dock led out to our boat which had definitely seen better days as it looked ready to collapse into the surf at the slightest stiff breeze.  We had surrendered our passports to our minibus driver (I didn't like giving up control of the passport; it's illegal as it's U.S. Government property and the State Department advises against doing so) who now gave the stack to the boat "captain" and paid our Myanmar entry fees (USD $5.00, which is ONLY payable in U.S. currency — there are touts surrounding the pier who sell American five dollar bills to other travellers who aren't part of organized visa runs).

The boat trip across to Myanmar (the U.S. Government doesn't officially recognize the name, still using "Burma" so as not to support the military junta that now runs the country — for more about this see the Wikipedia articles, "Myanmar" and "Explanation of the names of Burma/Myanmar") only took about 20 minutes or so, with a brief pause at a Thai Immigration hut in the middle of the channel where our passports were checked for the exit stamps.  As we entered open water on our way to the former Victoria Point, the water became very choppy and we were constantly being doused by the spray.

We eventually neared the Burmese coast and observed a number of Buddhist temples, gleaming golden under what little sunlight was left (a storm was rapidly approaching).  We also saw many signs of the military junta with cannons and other materiel on various hilltops and surrounding official-looking buildings.  There weren't any soldiers on the pier as we arrived at Kawthaung, but there were several surprisingly well-dressed (in crisp white shirts and black trousers) touts who called down to us as we docked to ask us (in flawless English) if we wanted to buy some things.  Beer, whiskey, and cigarettes are pretty much the only items to purchase here, along with cheap Viagra — I had no need for any of these so I, along with everyone except one man from France, elected to remain on the boat while the "captain" took our passports to Myanmar Immigration.  He returned about five minutes later with our entry and exit stamps properly applied and gave us back the passports.

Our journey back to Thailand was a bit different as we slowed while passing a small platform in the middle of the water which was manned by some tough-looking Burmese soldiers with machine guns and what looked like an anti-aircraft rocket launcher.  They looked us over and quickly waved us on our way.  When I raised my camera to take a photo, one soldier brandished his gun while another waved at me.  It began to pour rain just as the boat docked at Ranong; we reboarded the minibus and returned to the Ranong Immigration Office where our passports received Thailand arrival stamps; my visa now expires on September 1st.

A quick lunch followed at a nice restaurant east of the city, slighly up one of the mountain slopes (this area is riddled with spectacular-looking waterfalls) before embarking on our harrowing drive back to Phuket.  The driver seemed to be going a bit slower and not overtaking as many other vehicles to the welcome relief of all his passengers.  He even played a VCD for us to watch ("King Kong", dubbed in Thai — NO English subtitles, so Tim was the only person who could understand the dialogue; I was the only other person who had seen it before so I didn't pay much attention and even managed to doze off for a time).  We were back at Mike's Bikes shortly after six, hitting the nearby market (where we ran into Franz and Pen) before going home.

I planned to relax most of Wednesday (not having had much sleep the night before) but we had visits by Lek, Jum, and Puk at various times.  In the evening, Tim found out that there was to be a concert that night in Patong and asked if we could go.  I thought this might be fun so I agreed and we met Jum at the concert's site — a large open space near the beach on the north end of Patong.  It was walled-in and admission prices were 200 baht or VIP at 500 baht.

I decided to buy the lower-priced tickets:  upon entering the enclosure, you gave your ticket stub to a man who gave you a plastic stool to sit on and then you found an empty spot of ground to place it.  The VIP tickets simply got you a plastic chair (with a back which would have been nice as the stool became increasingly uncomfortable the longer I sat on it) in an area closer to the stage.  It was a pretty large area and the stage was comparable in size to many of the large outdoor amphitheatres in America.

We missed the opening acts (there were at least four performers in total) but we caught the beginning of the headliners, Pong Larng Sa-orn, who released their debut album back in March but are an extremely popular concert act.  They play a hybrid of traditional Thai (primarily Isaan-style) and rock music but with (mostly) traditional instruments (such as those huge bamboo panpipe flute-like things , a xylophone-type instrument, and plenty of congas).  Even the bass and guitar were more of a Thai design than a Western one.  The group has many, many members:  numerous flute players, a drummer, keyboard player, xylophone player, bassist, guitarist, lead male singer, several female singers (who also played congas) and various combinations of "traditional Thai" dancers.

It was all very entertaining, but they did take one thing a bit too far:  there's a tendency for many Thai musicians to turn parts of their performances into comedy routines — they will pretend to make mistakes during the songs themselves, use sarcasm to make the audience laugh, etc.  This group did the comedy thing during almost every song, often breaking each song up multiple times in order to make people laugh and then would try to finish the song.  As a result, most songs were strecthed ten or fifteen minutes each when they could have easily performed the song alone in three or four minutes.  The only songs I can remember that didn't have these sorts of breaks in them were the instrumental opener (which seemed to be a medley of many traditional and popular Thai tunes) and a cover of "Zombie" by Irish band, The Cranberries (seemingly, the most popular foreign song here).  This latter tune did have some comedic elements, but they did managed to get through the song without stopping in the middle.  I think I would have enjoyed the comedy much more if I could understand more Thai (or if Tim was willing to try and explain some of the jokes to me, many of which were physical comedy but I didn't understand the cultural references).  I did laugh a number of times and I did enjoy the show on the basis that it was interesting music and a fun presentation.  I just think that if they cut down at least half of the joking around and play more songs "staight" then they would have a more cohesive set.

One thing I've noticed when watching Thai concerts on television (many are aired live) is that many members of the audience will hand money or garlands of flowers to the performers during the show.  These flowers are usually of the type you see hanging from the rear-view mirrors of cars and trucks (to ask for protection from the spirits of the roads).  I guess it's comparable to people in America occasionally giving roses to certain of the less rock-oriented musicians or girls throwing their bras up to male pop singers.  Anyway, at this particular concert people were constantly giving money and flowers; at one point, someone handed the singer one of those sticks with a skewered barbecue chicken thigh on it that you buy at any market.  Very funny!

Thursday became our "lazy-around-the-house" day, although we did venture out in the afternoon to watch "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" at the SFX Coliseum in Central Festival.  It was a fun movie, but not as good (I thought) as the first one — it was much too long and the sudden ending (leaving you to wait for the third installment to find out what happened to Jack) was a surprise.  Tim reported that the Thai subtitles were well-written but agreed that it was too long (particularly since she had to read the entire movie).  I think we might go see "Superman Returns" next week.

The remainder of the week is somewhat of a blur:  We did go to several open-air markets in the Suphan Hin area of Phuket City, including one that sold primarily wooden furniture (some really nice pieces there).  I barbecued an excellent chicken breast one night and Tim made me various different kinds of sausages on other nights.  We watched a movie at home last night ("Zathura", which we both enjoyed) and began watching another ("Freddy Vs. Jason", which I fell asleep during — I've never been a big fan of horror flicks).  I also tried to help Franz fix his computer — apparently, the shop people had installed an illegal copy of Windows XP Professional on his machine and the latest Microsoft update gave him the "blue screen of death".

I'm not sure what we'll do today.  It looks like rain so we'll probably end up staying home for most of the day — Franz's computer problems got me to thinking that it's been a while since I've backed-up my hard drives so I might start working on that.

It might be a few days before I feel like writing another blog entry.  Of course, there are a few things I've been wanting to write about but haven't yet found the inspiration (such as durian, since it's now in-season and the numerous stands selling it on Phuket make driving anywhere a very "aromatic" experience!).  We'll see if the muse strikes...



I make my first visa run tomorrow to activate the second entry of my tourist visa.  Tim and I leave on a double-decker coach bus for Ranong (ระนอง) at 6am on the Fourth of July.  From there, we take a boat across the channel to Kawthaung, formerly known as Victoria Point, in the Union Of Myanmar.  We get our passports stamped there, then it's back over to Thailand where I receive an entry stamp allowing me to stay another 60 days in the Kingdom (after which, I may apply for a 30-day extension before I have to make another visa run).

We booked our trip with F1 Visa Run, which is affiliated with Mike's Bikes just a little bit east of Chalong Circle (very close to our home in southern Phuket).  I had originally tried booking with Eva's Tours using their e-mail form on their website; after several days, someone called me to say the boss would call me later.  When she called, she said that they probably couldn't take me on Monday (my preferred day) and would Sunday be okay?  I said it would and she said she would call me back the next day (which would have been Wednesday).  She never did and I tried repeatedly on Thursday and Friday to call her back without success.  I called a different company Friday afternoon but the person on the other end couldn't understand my English.  I decided that Tim and I would drive around Saturday after she returned home to find another visa company and book the trip in person.  We were lucky to find Mike's Bikes with their large "visa run" sign out front.  I paid 1400 baht for myself and 999 baht for Tim (Eva's wanted 1600 for me and 1400 for Tim).  They didn't have any space for Monday, so we settled for Tuesday instead (which is the actual day my first visa expires).

The office where we meet the bus opens at 5:30 and they have coffee, banana cake and fruit available while we wait.  There's an enclosed/secure parking area where we can leave the motorbike (I was concerned about leaving the bike at some of the other companies' pick-up spots).  The bus is scheduled to stop for breakfast (included) at Tukua Pa (wherever that is:  I couldn't find a listing on Wikipedia nor is it on any of my maps), lunch (also included) in Ranong, and afternoon tea (Tim and I will probably take something in our backpack) at Khao Lak (เขาหลัก) National Park (which was hard hit during the December 26, 2004, tsunami).  If all goes well, we should be back at the office in Phuket by 6:30 in the evening.

I'm looking forward to the break in our home routine.  I also haven't been taking very many photos recently (being very far behind at uploading the ones I've taken to my Webshots photo albums) so this will give me a chance to photograph someplace new.  I am a little disappointed that we have to go on the fourth because I was planning to introduce Tim to a traditional American Independence Day celebration, complete with picnic (hamburgers, hotdogs, corn-on-the-cob) and some fireworks.  Oh, well.  We'll have a good time anyway (and perhaps I can plan for us to visit the States for Memorial Day or the 4th of July next year or in 2008).



Tim returned earlier this morning (after a much-longer-than-expected bus journey down from Bangkok; it arrived in Phuket over three hours late!).  Baby and mom are doing fine after both were a little sick most of the week — the baby is very small and developed a fever.  Miao should be able to leave the hospital in another day or so.

Anyway, Tim had the honor of giving the baby's nickname.  She chose Noo-dang, which means "little mouse."  This is nice since her daughter's nickname is Miao (pronounced fairly close to "meaow"), meaning "kitty cat."  In the Thai-Buddhist culture, if the child survives it's first thirty days then it is given it's "real"/official name by a monk who consults a naming book (which I imagine is similar to the books parents use in the West to decide on a good name).

Tim bought a camera while in Bang Pa-In and took several photos of our new granddaughter.  As soon as we get the film developed (today?), I'll scan the photos into the computer and upload a few (wow, I'm REALLY far behind on uploading other photos but I'll put these at the top of the queue).  I've already seen a couple that Tim shot with the camera on her phone and Noo-dang is very cute. (Tim also recorded about a minute or so of the baby crying; I told her that would be something good to play in the morning in order to wake me up!).