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Just two days into my TEFL course and I'm already feeling a bit overwhelmed.  But that's a good thing as I'm getting accustomed to being back in a classroom (how many years has it been?), studying, and taking exams (we have our first one tomorrow!).  My classes run from 10 in the morning until four in the afternoon, Monday through Thursday, for the next six weeks.  It's very intensive and we're scheduled to begin teaching actual Thai students as early as the week after next.

The hectic schedule has drastically cut the amount of free time I have.  Last night, I had to prepare a 15-minute presentation on the topic of "how to make a visa run;" I actually volunteered to give my speech second this morning (I don't think I've ever volunteered to do public speaking before) so I could get it over with.  I did fairly well and the teacher/peer evaluation went well.  On Thursday, I need to give another 15-minute presentation — this time the subject will be the grammatical use of articles so I spent some time this evening refreshing my memory about these.

I'm trying to get into the routine of doing the grammar portion of my daily homework as soon as arriving back home in the afternoon.  Then Tim and I have our dinner and talk some before I disappear into the master bedroom to do any reading assignments or research needed.  Tonight wasn't as bad as last night since the next presentation isn't due until the day after tomorrow — I did a Google search on "articles grammar" and printed out the best explanations I found (I'll read a bit on the topic later in one of my TEFL books brought from America).  I also studied my notes and re-read Module 1 of our course material in preparation for the exam.  All that and it's only a bit after 8:30 at night.  Perhaps my wife won't feel so neglected this evening...

I'm really looking forward to the weekend (although I might have to do a visa run on Friday, depending on if they approve my 30-day extension or not).  It's great being back in school but I will take me (and Tim, for that matter) another couple of days to adjust to the new routine.  It's definitely worth it!



Yesterday afternoon, Tim and I set out with the goal of reaching Wat Phra Tong (near the turnoff for Ton Sai Waterfall) which is notable for it's large half-buried Buddha image.  However, the clouds in that direction began to look very ominous so we decided to stop at Wat Sri Sunthon instead.

This particular temple is located just a short distance north of the Tha Rua Intersection (the circle which contains the Heroines Monument) on Thep Kasattri Road.  It is named after one of the Heroines of Thalang, Chang and Mook, who led the Phuket islanders in defeating Burmese invaders in 1785.  King Rama V later gave them the honorary names of Thao Thep Kasattri and Thao Sri Sunthorn.

Wat Sri Sunthon is situated in a very lovely garden setting with many tall trees shielding it from the nearby highway.  The most remarkable feature is the very large reclining Buddha on the roof of one of the buildings.  Apparently, one can go up to the roof for a closer look but it began to rain so I decided against taking any photos up there.  I did, however, take several pictures just walking around.  I had wanted a closer look at the ornate doors on the viharn, but there was a gate blocking access to the steps.  Near the large temple guardian statue, there were several creepy-looking concrete figures of animals and tortured souls.  These are erected after the funeral ceremonies of particularly greedy or selfish people, representing all they did wrong in their lifetimes.

The skies really opened up after we'd spent only a few minutes at the temple.  We hastily took shelter in the base of the bell tower and donned our plastic rainslickers.  I took a few more photos under the umbrella before we retreated to Chalong — it was a long, wet, and cold ride home but strangely enjoyable as we were laughing all the way!


I begin my TEFL certification course on Monday.  Last week, I stopped by the school to pay the balance of my tuition and pick up my course material (seven good-sized books — a lot to cover in the next six weeks — housed in a very nice messenger bag).  While there, I met Paul — the course director — and a fellow student from South Africa who seemed a bit perplexed by what he called the "primitiveness" of Phuket.

Last night, we had a gathering so that all of us classmates could get acquainted.  This meet-and-greet was held at a bar called Footrot Fat's on Nanai Road owned by a New Zealander (it's named after a popular Kiwi cartoon).  There are a dozen or so students in all, only one woman.  The majority are from the UK or Australia, there are three Americans (from New York, Las Vegas, and myself from New Mexico), a Canadian, and several other nationalities.  All seem to be very friendly and outgoing.  It's a good bunch of people and I'm looking forward to starting class tomorrow morning.



Over the past few months, I've strived to write only of positive/happy subjects in this blog.  The world is already full of so much negativity, I felt why should I contribute to it?  I have found great fulfillment and happiness in my life that the few black clouds that do occasionally pass over me are swiftly dealt with and forgotten about.

Thus, the subject of today's entry — the death of my mother five years ago — was, at first glance, a topic that I didn't think I could write about.  Her passing, after a lengthy illness, hit me hard.  She was the first person very close to me to have died and that alone was difficult enough to deal with.  At the time, I was living a great distance from my family and didn't realize how serious the situation actually was.  It had been some time since I'd visited; I actually had a flight booked home for the weekend after my mom passed away.  For a long time afterwards I felt a lot of anger because I thought I had been "robbed" of the chance to say "goodbye."

Dad & Mom at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco, shortly after their marriage in November 1959.

I suppose a large part of how I dealt with Mom's death and my depression in the months following it was greatly influenced by my Catholic childhood.  Christians in general, and Catholics especially, are taught to fear death — the whole conflict of heaven and hell plays a big part in this.  Despite the inevitibility of death — we've all got to die sooner or later — the subject is often considered the "great unmentionable" and many people are unwilling to discuss it or even to accept it.  Thus, many are not emotionally prepared when they finally come face to face with death.  I certainly wasn't.

I have learned a lot since August/September 2001.  And while I certainly don't celebrate death, I do understand more fully who to deal with it.  I've let go of my past feelings of anger or resentment over the passing of my mother.  There have been other deaths close to me over the past few years — both of my mother's parents, my dad's mother and his older brother, a favorite cousin, even a former girlfriend among them.  But none hit me as hard as that of Mom and each succeeding one has seen me handle a bit better.

I have also come to realize that one's death shouldn't be viewed as the ending.  A funeral shouldn't be a somber affair full of sadness for the family members and friends of the deceased.  I think the New Orleans jazz funerals have the right idea:  these are parades celebrating the life of the person who passed away with plenty of music and fun.  Many Thai funerals — at least those held in Theravada Buddhist tradition — are almost cheerful events with plenty of eating, socializing, and celebrating one's life even to the point of giving attendees a small book with the deceased's life history, some poems, and personal writings.  I would much rather leave a funeral full of warmth and remembrance for the person who passed than full of sadness for the loss of the person from my day-to-day life.

Mom and I sometime in the late 1980's.  Moustache was a "mistake."

While my entire attitude on life in general has changed greatly in the past five years (and I believe Mom would be very proud), I still do experience some moments of sadness when I think about her passing.  But most of the thoughts I do have of her now are of great happiness and pride.

My mother was a very remarkable woman and she made a positive impression on all those who met her.  My dad and her never had any problems in the almost 42 years of their marriage.  They raised my sister and I in a very happy home, taught us to respect others and others would respect us in return.  Mom was very supportive of our activities in school and beyond.  She encouraged any interests we had in the world outside our home.  When I developed interests in far-off lands, reading any book I could get my hands on, and taking up various hobbies Mom was always supportive and helpful.  Even when she was working, she would always make some time for a question or a talk.  Some of my favorite times after moving out on my own would be to go for a visit and spend an evening watching an old movie with her, or playing UNO, Scrabble, or some other game.  After I left Kansas City, I knew she was always just a phone call away — I just wish I would have taken advantage of this more often.

Mom and Dad were very much in love.  He took wonderful care of her right up until the end... and afterwards also.  In fact, Mom's passing brought me much closer to my dad — something I think she would revel in (and perhaps she even knew would happen).  Yet another thing I can thank her for.

My sister's favorite ever picture of Mom; she's holding my nephew — Spencer — when he was seven months old (California, Halloween)

While I no longer fear (or much believe in) the entire Catholic concept of heaven and hell, I do sometimes feel that Mom knows — and is proud of — the intense happiness and fulfillment I've found in my life.  I'm proud to honor her by remembering the wonderful person she was in life and that she is in death.  Much of the strides I've made in my own life were influenced — either directly or indirectly — by her.  And I suppose that in itself is as good as a tribute that one can offer.

Yes, I do miss my mother very much.  But I've learned to miss her with happiness in my heart rather than sadness.  I'm happy that today I can look back in remembrance without shedding a tear.  I found it much easier to write this blog entry than I originally thought it would be.  Thank you for letting me honor her memory in such a way...



Tim's and my code for driving aimlessly around the island with no real goal in mind is to go "look around."  Many times, we'll leave our home with no idea of our destination and often not even a direction in mind.  We just follow where the road leads us.  Yesterday, we took or first such drive since installing the sidecar.  We left home around noontime and returned about three hours later; the sun was particularly brutal and we both ended up with sunburns (a raritiy for us these days!).  The "motorbike muse" led us east, through Phuket Town and over a khlong (canal) onto the island of Ko Siray...

Soon after arriving on Ko Siray (which is connected to Phuket by a short causeway on Srisithat Road), we got lost in a tangle of narrow roads (lined by numerous karaoke bars and other sailors' haunts) and soon came across a bustling fishing port.

I just love the colorful Thai fishing boats (unfortunately, the resizing of these photos doesn't do them justice).  Many of these boats haul in crab or prawn.

After enjoying some softdrinks at the fishing port, we headed south and discovered Rassada Harbour.  This statue of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) stands in a field just inside the main entrance.  The tourist ferries and speed boats bound for the Phi-Phi Islands and Krabi (as well as some other destinations) depart from here.

A jumble of boats at the Port of Rassada — several fishing boats (including a couple with large holes in their hulls), a speedboat, even a Marine Police or navy patrolboat lie beached at the edge of the channel.

Looking west from Laem Thong back towards Phuket Town.  The row of dilapidated tin shacks along the shoreline is a Sea Gypsy village (this one is close to Saphan Hin, a district full of parks, sports facilities, and open-air markets).  Rising in the distance is Khao Nekkard, the small mountain (or large hill) that sits right behind our home in Chalong.

Our favorite activity on "look around" trips involving a beach is to search for seashells.  The promontory just to the south of Rassada Harbour was covered with interesting shells.  Unfortunately, many of the ones Tim brought home were still alive so I'm now freezing them to kill the critters inside!

We drove through the Sea Gypsy Village in Tambon Taladyai; I wasn't very impressed (it's marked on many of the tourist maps).  It was just a collection of tin shacks along very narrow lanes.  The buildings along the coastline (plus along a nearby swamp and canal) were raised on stilts that looked as if they could collapse at any moment.  I didn't feel the area was very photogenic and we failed to locate the supposedly wonderful seafood restaurants.

Much more interesting than the Sea Gypsy Village were the many fishing boats laying in the Bang Yai Canal.  This khlong runs up through the center of Phuket Town (Kra Road runs along the eastern bank while Rattanagosin 200 Pee Road, later Takuapa Road, parallels the western shoreline).  The most scenic section is in the south, close to the well-tended areas of Saphan Hin; a nice parkland with trees and benches lies to the east of the canal here, offering nice views of the boats.

On a walls enclosing a school or government office west of Saphan Hin, we found a number of murals painted by children.  This is one of my favorites.

After a hot afternoon of "look around", one needs some cool refreshment.  Here, Tim purchases a bottle of sugarcane juice from a roadside vendor.  He also had seashells and rotisserie chickens for sale on his cart (which sits atop a sidecar of the same type as ours).

A sample of the shells we gathered on our journey this day (drying on towels after I cleaned them).

We're planning another "look around" journey today (but will plan for a time when the sun is less intense).  Who knows where we'll go or what we'll see?  Stay tuned...


We recently removed the sidecar from Tim's old, junked, motorbike.  After sanding and painting it, we had it installed onto the bike she bought earlier this year.  It is actually a frame (and storage area) for a vendor stall (food prep area) which will eventually be installed on top of it.  This type of sidecar is called a sa-ling in Thai.  Tim previously sold fishballs on the western tourist beaches of Phuket and would like to begin doing that again sometime.  She plans to sell drinks as well (my idea for a used book stand was shot down — I've actually seen a guy doing this in Patong).

Anyway, at my father's request for photos of our sidecar, yesterday I shot a few out on Ko Siray — an island just to the east of Phuket Town:

I can ride either sitting on the bottom with my back resting against the frame (really needs a seatback and -bottom), or sitting up on the frame (which I prefer — not as bumpy and dusty).

And here's a shot of my view when I'm sitting on the frame and we're racing down the road:

It's a bit of a different ride than just sitting on the back of the motorbike.  Tim's learning that she can't go over the bumps as fast so she doesn't throw me off (I do hold on very tightly) and I'm learning how to lean on the particularly tight curves.  Getting up some of the steeper hills is also a bit more difficult but certainly not impossible.  It's a less stable platform for taking photos while we're moving than I had on the back of the seat but that may just be becaue I'm not yet used to it.  And, of course, the gas consumption has gone up a bit (with gas prices increasing from around 20 baht per liter to almost 30 since I arrived that can add up; it costs about 70 baht to fill the tank).

It's a lot of fun to zip around Phuket in the sidecar (if only to catch the looks of amusement from Thai and farang alike as we zoom by!


140 DAYS

According to a nifty little counter I have on my desktop, I've been in Thailand for just under 140 days now.  Originally, I had this application counting down the time until I was due to land in Phuket back on April 6th but when that date and time passed, it began counting up.  The actual statistics (at this moment) are:

Time since Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 6:05:00 PM (Bangkok time)

139 days
3349 hours
200952 minutes
12057149 seconds

Alternative version
It is 139 days, 13 hours, 12 minutes and 29 seconds since Thursday, April 6, 2006 at 6:05:00 PM (Bangkok time)

Current time is
2006-08-24 07:17:29 (local time in Bangkok)
2006-08-24 00:17:29 UTC
You can get your own customized countdown clock at Time and


Tim has a new hobby to keep her busy while I read or work on the computer:  she does needlepoint.  She's very good and very fast — in the past couple of weeks, our living room has seen the addition of covers for our coffee table and one end table as well as for the TV.  She's now knitting something for my sister.  As you can see from the photos below, even the neighborhood cat likes Tim's work...



One of the projects I've been wanting to do is to visit and photograph many of the local wats around Phuket.  Wat Chalong (วัดฉลอง, วัดไชยธาราราม) gets a lot of attention due to it's size and history but there are many other temples just as (or more photogenic).

Yesterday, Tim and I made a quick stop at Wat Suwankirikhet in Karon.  It's located on a bend in Patak Road where the route jogs south after passing through a grouping of dive shops, bars, and guesthouses.  We had previously stopped here during an open-air market held in the school's courtyard but this time we happened to come around the corner just as the setting sun hit the spires of the viharn.  It was a lovely setting and I quickly snapped off several photos:

Approaching the main entrance to Wat Suwankirikhet and school from the west.

View from the side entrance, a bit further up the road.  Notice the tangle of electrical and telephone cables so common in Thailand.

Straight-on view of the temple's viharn, a prayer room where the monks were chanting during our stop.  The steps are flanked by naga, large cobra-like snake deities which — in Theravada Buddhism — are the enemies of the eagle-like garuda (one of which is depicted on Thailand's coat of arms).

Head of naga with the viharn in the background.

The naga with the monks' living guarters in the background.  The temple backs up to a very scenic mountain.

Another shot of Wat Suwankirikhet's viharn.  The blue flag honors HM Queen Sirikit while the yellow flag honors HM King Bhumipol.

I hope you like these, the first in my "wat series" of photos (many more to come, I hope).  Unfortunately, I couldn't find any information about the history of Wat Suwankirihet on the 'net.


I just migrated my blog to Blogger's new Beta version.  There are a host of new features already in place with more to come, particularly in the editing of the template (now called "layout").  I briefly changed the appearance of the blog to test the ease of customizing (screeenshot below) but was disappointed that raw HTML editing has been removed.  Thus, most of the sidebar content that I have added over the past months simply disappeared.  Luckily, when you switch Blogger saves a backup of your old template so you can revert if needed.  I think I'll hold off changing mine again until they add the ability to edit the raw code in the new layout.  I do applaud Blogger for adding some badly-needed features (click here for more info).


I'm still not used to unexpected encounters with elephants as we drive around Phuket.  Sometimes a week or two will go by without us seeing any at all.  Yesterday, while on a "look around" trip with Jum, we came across no less than seven elephants in different parts of the island.

These two were doing some "gardening" in the Laguna resorts area near Choeng-Talay.  Elephants are still used for logging in some northern Thai forests but you don't usually see them doing this in the southern provinces.

Although they were securely chained to large trees, Tim was still nervous and stayed a very far distance away while I snapped a couple of shots.

Most of our "close encounters" with chang (the Thai word for elephant) are of the blink-and-you-miss-it variety as we're driving along the highways and byways of Phuket.  We came across a total of four along the mountain road between Patong and Karon — two on the west side of the road, just grazing in the brush, and two more on the east side among the trees.  No mahoots (their handlers) were in sight.

Another elephant on the Patong-Karon road; usually, I have to be quick to snap a photo as Tim is afraid of these beasts and will rarely slow down (let alone stop) so I can get a decent photo.  This photo is a typical — blurry — result.

The sun was beginning to set and we were racing back home after a long afternoon which took us to the northern stretches of Phuket.  This particular elephant was spotted less than a mile from our home, near the Green Man Pub and Phuket Shooting Range on Patak Road.

It's these types of chance encounters that make our rides around the island constantly interesting.  You never know what you're going to see and I (almost) always have my camera at the ready so I don't miss something unusual.  Even after almost five months of living here, the "novelty" and variety of such sights haven't lessened for me.



I began collecting stamps at a very young age when I "inherited" my mother's and uncle's World War II era collections.  Throughout my youth, I concentrated on worldwide accumulations.  In adulthood, I became more of a philatelist rather than "just" a stamp collector.  I specialized in the American and British classics (aquiring nice examples of U.S. Scott Nos. 1 & 2 as well as a couple of Penny Blacks, including one on cover).  I also had a very nice collection of New Mexico postal history (particularly of the early markings of "Old Albuquerque" and "New Albuquerque") and town postmarks.  In the later years of my philatelic activities, I managed to put together a complete collection of mint stamps and first day covers from the tiny stamp-issuing Finnish island territory of Åland that was housed in a premium Davo album.

My interests in stamps culminated with my attendance at the huge Pacific 97 exhibition held over two weeks in San Francisco during late May/early June 1997.  It was attended by hundred of dealers and exhibitors as well as the postal administrations of more than 140 nations.  While there, I sold some of the rarities from my collection and actually financed the trip in this way.

My stamp collecting and philatelic activities have waned in recent years, replaced by other interests such as computers and seeking out rare recordings by my favorite musical artists.  Indeed, I haven't done anything with stamps or covers for at least the last couple of years and my collection resides in numerous boxes back in New Mexico.

However, the spark has been reignited in recent weeks primarily due to the challenge of obtaining some of the stamps issued in Thailand honoring the 60th anniversary of HM King Bhumibol.  Since I've arrived in Phuket in early April, there have been two separate releases of stamps and souvenir sheets (plus a nice commemorative banknote and some coins).  ALL of these sold out minutes after being put on sale and so one has to resort to such avenues as eBay.  Earlier this month, I managed to obtain a sheet of newly issued stamps honoring the birthday of HM Queen Sirikit.

The collecting bug was really pushed along by my recent discovery of the Phuket Philatelic Museum, housed in the old P&T building next to the main post office in Phuket Town.  I've visited the museum twice now — once with Tim and once with Franz.  The main hall contains panels housing most of Thailand's stamp issues from the past 30 years or so, nicely arranged on pages giving plenty of information (only in Thai, unfortunately for me).  The stamps of this country do a wonderful job at portraying it's history and culture and I suddenly realized that I should start a proper collection.

The most interesting part of the small museum for me are a series of panels along the back wall which detail the early history of the Thai postal systems (in Thai and English); photographs of many early issues, covers, post offices, etc. illustrate these panels.  I wish I could find the same information online or in book form.  There is a library in a back room of the building with several locked cases containing some tempting books (i.e., 110 Years Of Thailand Postal History as well as a few catalogues and albums).  Unfortunately, the clerk in the sales room said these were only for show although there were at leave five copies of each book (he didn't have a key so I couldn't even study the books there).

The philatelic sales counter is nice; you can purchase stamp issues going back several years at face value plus a number of first day covers, souvenir sheets, presentation packs, etc. are for sale.  I bought a couple of sheets and FDC's of the last two issues (Queen Sirikit issue pictured above; the newly-discovered flower was named in her honor) as well as a folder containing Royal Barge stamps.  The shop didn't have any suitable albums and an Internet search proved futile so we made a stop at Tesco-Lotus where they have some very nice stock albums with glassine sleeves for prices ranging between 70 and 150 baht.

I have found out that there are no stamp shops (aside from the Thai Post-run museum counter) on Phuket although there are plenty up in Bangkok.  It's just as well as it would be too much of a temptation for me.  Since stamp collecting is such a popular pastime in this country (many schools have stamp clubs), perhaps I could eventually open a small shop here (I have thought about a used bookshop as well but that's all further down the road...).  At any rate, I have a "new" hobby to keep me entertained for now while Tim works on her knitting (more on this in a future blog entry) and if I can't find anything to read (free time is rapidly coming to an end, however, since I start my TEFL course in a little over a week).



We have a community cat that seems to spend most of her time hanging out either at our house or that of Franz and Pen.  During the past week or so, almost everytime I would stretch out on our sofa to read or take a nap the cat would amble in through the open patio doors and jump up on my stomach.  It would often curl up, begin purring loudly, and soon fall asleep.  I even gave the cat a name, Miaow Kueng which is Thai for "cat with claws" (since she was always digging her claws into my stomach when trying to get comfortable).

Yesterday, Miaow Kueng gave birth to three tiny kittens.  The location for this auspicious event was inside Franz' wardrobe.  Both mother and litter are doing fine.



According to Entertainment Weekly, the fourth Rambo movie is set to begin shooting October 1st in Bangkok.  Blogger Newley Purnell writes about it funnier than I could hope to:

Rambo: Coming to Bangkok (and Burma)
August 3rd, 2006

Rambo IV. Baby

Hide the women and children.

Bangkok bad guys: run for the hills.

Rambo is coming to the Land of Smiles.

Filming for “Rambo IV” starts October 1st in Bangkok, baby.  Who will (a now nearly geriatric) Sly Stallone be hunting down and killing like the vile pigs they are?  None other than the Burmese military junta!  This EW story is full of gems.  Stallone, in making this new film, had to figure out who to slaughter (apparently an idea hatched in 2002, in which Sly would head to Afghanistan to take out Osama Bin Laden was scuttled):

‘You know, it’s hard,'’ says the 60-year-old star.  ‘’Politics have changed so much.  Who do we fight?  The Finns?  You can’t do that.  The Dutch?  That’s not gonna work.  Wooden shoes are not gonna look cool.’

Sly Stallone: stand up comedian!  He’ll be here all week, folks.  Be sure to tip your waitresses.

Stallone may be joking, but finding Rambo a fresh foe was actually a serious problem for the Nu Image/ Millennium Films production.  After ruling out the Mideast, Africa, and Korea, the actor finally hit on a solution.  ‘’I called Soldier of Fortune magazine and said,  ‘What is the most critical man-doing-inhumanity-to-man situation right now in the world? Where is it?”’  The answer was Burma.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m jonesing for information on international human rights crises, my resource of choice is Soldier of Fotune magazine.  Those pantywaists at Amesty International?  Lilly-livered pinko eggheads, the whole lot!

So, the script that emerged — a ‘’first draft'’ Stallone has written with Art Monterastelli (The Hunted) — finds Rambo living a monastic lifestyle in Bangkok and salvaging old PT boats and tanks for scrap metal.  ('’It’s like he’s stripping himself down,'’ says the actor, pensively.  ‘’That old piece of military equipment.'’)  When a group of volunteers bringing supplies into Burma disappears, a relative of one of the missing missionaries begs Rambo to find them.  He heads off with a team of young guns, a plot point required by the financiers, who wanted to hedge against Rambo’s possible mono-generational appeal.

When I walk through the streets of Bangkok, I am struck by two things: 1) the countless retired Green Berets I see living monastic lifestyles, and 2) the preponderance of old PT boats and tanks lying around — you can’t swing a dead cat on Sukhumvit road without hitting discarded military hardware!

I cannot wait to see this movie.
You know, I always thought there were more than three Rambo movies (I think I've only seen one).  Sounds like fun; too bad they aren't casting for extras down here on Phuket...


I don't spend a lot of time these days working on my main website.  Sometimes I do, however, actually implement an idea or two I may have had (ideas that usually come to me while riding on the back of Tim's motorbike).

I was never very happy with the top and left frames of my homepage nor with the vertical switch menu so I recently began changing the appearance of that page.  I decided I wanted a static top frame containing the masthead, a horizontal menu, and date but I can't seem to remember how to make that work!  For now, it's just a single page of simple HTML with a big Thai flag (reading "We Love The King") serving as a placeholder until I figure what to do with it.  I am happy with the new menu which is made with a not-so-simple bit of JavaScript coding.

With the re-organization of items within the menu, I have decided to add a "Thailand" subsection to the website since this is where my current interest lie.  A few weeks ago, I had scribbled my plans for such a section into my notebook with an idea for "An Expat's Library" containing mini-reviews of the books I've found helpful in my relocation to Thailand.  I've seen similar lists on other websites but most of these don't include the latest books or the works are out-of-print and difficult to find.  I visualize scanning the spines of my books in order to create a pictorial menu.  Although I did create a placeholder page yesterday, I think it will be quite sometime before I get the actual page off-the-drawing-board.

The second page I'd wanted to create for a while is one listing all of the many holidays — official, religious, or just plain fun — and festivals that we observe here in Thailand.  Partly, I wanted an easy-to-use reference so I would know when not to expect mail delivery, etc.  I also wanted to know the Thai names for these special days and the significance behind them.  Several different websites list the major national holidays and religious events (including United Nations Thailand and Wikipedia) but they don't include a number of celebrations and ceremonies.

My first step was to combine these two lists (contained in a basic table to make it easier to read — I don't have my HTML book with me so I had to search online for instructions to make a table since it'd been so long since I'd made one!) and then I scoured the Internet looking for information on other festivals I knew about.  I eventually want to include many of the local festivals — the region known as Isan in northeast Thailand has many unique celebration days — although it might be difficult pinning down exact days.

I have uploaded my "Public Holidays &Festivals" page although it still needs a lot of work.  I plan to dress it up a bit with some photos, perhaps a Thai flag or two, and include an introduction (including an explanation of the Suriyakati calendar and Buddhist Era years).

Since I don't/can't spend a lot of time on the computer these days, it might be quite sometime before I finish this.  For now, it gives me a one-stop list so I know what events to look forward to in the next few months.



Whenever Tim and I take drives around Phuket, I am always on the lookout for what I consider "real" restaurants (i.e., not the open-air noodle shops and street-vendor carts so common here).  Particularly those with farang food.  We rarely actually eat at those that I spot, but still I look.

So I was fairly surprised a few days ago when Tim suggested we take our neighbors to one such sighting — Los Amigos Mexican Food Cantina lies close to the fork in the road where you can choose to drive up to Laem Promthep or down to Nai Harn Beach.  It was a wonderful evening of great Tex-Mex food; the meal was even better than a similar menu we tried up north in May at the Chiang Mai Saloon.

I ordered the Combination Plate which includes an enchilada (choice of beef or chicken; I chose beef), a very large taco, Mexican fried rice, and refried beans.  A steal at 150 baht (approx. USD $4.00); my only complaint would be that the taco and beans were made with mozerella rather than cheddar cheese but that did little to distract from the overall experience.  I can honestly say that the taco was the largest and tastiest I've had this side of the Rio Grande (and possibly on the other side as well!).

Tim surprised me by ordering a beef burrito that came with chips and excellent salsa (it's also some of the best I've ever had — and I'm a self-proclaimed "salsa snob" — they should bottle this stuff to sell in local markets).  We also shared a plate of cheese quesadilla.

Franz ordered a pork chop that came with a thick gravy and a bowl of vegetable salad.  Pen was disappointed that there wasn't a larger selection of Thai food (only about five items including a Mexican-styled phat Thai and green curry) and ended up ordering a tostada.  This was a very large tostada but I don't think Pen found it spicy enough for her liking so she swapped with Franz.  Actually, we all shared our food in the Thai style and everyone (except Pen) thoroughly enjoyed the entire meal.

To drink, I had a Corona which came complete with slices of lime; Franz and Tim drank Singha while Pen opted for bottled water.  Wine (imported from Chile) was also on the menu by the bottle or the glass.

Not only was the food very authentic and tasty (and I consider myself a bit of an "expert", having lived in New Mexico for almost 12 years) but the decor of the restaurant included sombreros and bullfighting posters.  The setting is nice on a fairly quiet lane (the building is Thai-styled in that there is no wall facing the front) and it was packed despite our relatively late-evening dining time of 7:30.  The prices are very reasonable with most meals in the 120-150 baht range.

Since it's only a 10-minute or so drive from our house, I can see Tim and I becoming regulars at Los Amigos.  If only simply to gorge ourselves on the chips and salsa and enjoy another bottle of Corona (very expensive if you can find it in the supermarkets).

They also do takeaway orders until midnight (tel. 05-8885725).



Today, August 12, is the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit (Somdej Phra Nangchao Sirikit Phra Boromarajininat, สมเด็จพระนางเจ้าสิริกิติ์ พระบรมราชินีนาถ).  In Thailand, this is a major holiday and is celebrated as National Mother's Day (Wan Mae Heng Chat, วันแม่แห่ชาติ).  Portraits of the queen are raised throughout the country, flags are flown, large concerts are held (it is a great honor for a musician to sing in a concert honoring Her Majesty), and fireworks light up the night sky.  And everywhere, Thai people send flowers or small gifts to their mothers and take them out to dinner.

Mon Rajawongse Sirikit was born on 12 August 1932 as the eldest daughter of His Highness Prince Chandaburi Suranath and Mom Luang Bua Kitiyakara Snidwongse.  The name "Sirikit" was given to her by King Prajadhipok or King Rama VII.

It was while her father was stationed as Ambassador in Paris that she first met His Majesty Prince Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was then completing his studies in Switzerland.  He occasionally travelled to Paris where they had the chance of meeting each other.  The meetings in Paris ripened into mutual friendship and understanding.

Later on, when His Majesty Bhumibol Adulyadej had a very serious motor accident in Geneva, Switzerland, and had to stay in a hospital at Lausanne, Mon Rajawongse Sirikit was a frequent hospital visitor.  After Prince Bhumibol was well enough to leave the hospital, she arranged to continue her studies at the Riante Rive boarding school in Lausanne.

They were engaged on 19 July 1949 in Lausanne and returned to Bangkok on 24 March 1950 for the cremation ceremony of His Majesty King Ananda Mahidol (Rama VII).  The royal wedding took place on 28 April 1950 at the Pathumwan Palace in Bangkok.

They have four children:
H.R.H. Princess Ubol Ratana, born 5 April 1951, in Lausanne, Switzerland.
H.R.H. Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkron, born 28 July 1952 in Bangkok.
H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakir Sirindron, born 2 April 1955 in Bangkok.
H.R.H. Princess Chulabhorn, born on 4 July 1957 in Bangkok.

One of the Queen's grandchildren, Bhumi Jensen (also known as Khun Poom), was killed in the December 26, 2004, tsunami.

When His Royal Majesty King Bhumibol entered the monkhood in 1956, Queen Sirikit was appointed as Regent of the Thai Kingdom.  She performed her duties so successfully that she was given the Royal Title of high distinction of Somdejphra Borom Rajininath (Queen Regent) by the government and the Thai people.

Queen Sirikit is perhaps best known for her efforts in reviving many of Thailand's ancient arts and crafts.  The Queen's SUPPORT foundation (Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques) has expanded progressively since its establishment in 1976 to include craft shops in many of Thailand's cities and tourist areas, and 2 Thai Folk Arts and Crafts Training Centers at Chitralada Villa and at in Bangsai, Ayutthaya.

I send out birthday greetings to Her Majesty and Mother's Day greetings to Tim's mother.  It's a rainy morning so Tim and I will just stay at home and watch the numerous celebrations in Bangkok on the television.


Growing up in Kansas City, one of my favorite musical genres has long been the blues.  Artists such as Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, and the bluesier works of Eric Clapton count among my all-time faves.  I used to be a regular at Kansas City's Grand Emporium (voted Best Blues Club in America for many years in a row).  After moving to New Mexico, I found a small but thriving blues scene with one or two good clubs and an annual blues festival over in Madrid on the Turquoise Trail.  A number of fine regional blues artists also played shows nearby, most notably Los Lonely Boys from San Angelo, Texas.

So, I was thrilled earlier this morning to discover the existence of a highly-regarded Thai blues band — the Soi Dog Blues Band (found while looking up the link for Phuket's Soi Dog Foundation).  They're based in Bangkok and play regular gigs at Tokyo Joe's on Sukhumvit Soi 24 where I doubt I'll be able to get to anytime soon.  Lo and behold, they are scheduled to play down here as part of the Phuket International Blues Festival next February.  I'm really looking forward to this!


I just can't fall asleep tonight.  Granted, we had a couple of lazy days of not doing much of anything — paid rent, Tim bought some yarn for her knitting, and we made a brief trip to Nai Harn beach this evening.  I made the mistake of taking a nap earlier tonight so now I'm wide awake (it's just after three o'clock now).

I did manage to upload another batch of photos to my Webshots albums today (six "new" albums).  I'm now just over two months behind!  In that spirit, I wanted to show a few more recent photos here; these were all taken yesterday.  Enjoy.

Your's truly modelling a new shirt my bride recently bought me.  It says "We love the King" (his official color is yellow, signifying his day of birth — Monday; in Buddhism, it is important that you know and honor the day of the week that you were born) and shows the Royal Barge Procession in Bangkok honoring King Bhumiphol's 60th year on the throne.  It is a little tight around the middle as Thai sizes run small for farang.  Still, I love it and it's one of my favorite shirts.

Rawai Beach (หาดราไว) at low tide.  We've actually never seen the water here this low so it was a bit of a shocker (Tim asked "why no water?" and seemed a bit concerned; she now knows that if the water rapidly retreats, it signals an incoming tsunami).  The longtail boats ferry tourists and locals to several uninhabited islands off of Phuket's southern coast.  A nearby village of sea gypsies fish these waters as well and there are a number of great seafood stands and small restaurants in the area (there are miniature tables above the beach at which you sit right on the ground).

Looking south from Nai Harn (ไม่พบคำ) Beach towards Laem Proenthep (cape at the southwestern-most point of Phuket).  The surf is still pretty rough here this time of year due to the monsoons over the Andaman Sea (they'll calm down around the end of October in time for the "high season" of tourism).  Nai Harn is one of my favorites on the island; nice scenery and not so many tourists.  There are many expats living in the area between this beach and Rawai along with many interesting restaurants in the various soi's hidden among the trees.

New temple at Nai Harn.  For some reason, Tim doesn't really like the newly-constructed wats.  Notice the blue flags honoring Queen Sirikit's birthday (today, August 12).  This particular one was patrolled by a number of very loud stray dogs (since the December 26, 2004, tsunami, the population of these "soi dogs" has reached astronomical levels on Phuket and surrounding provinces; the Soi Dog Foundation does good work at treating and feeding many).  At the time of our visit (shortly after 6:00 in the evening), the resident monks were inside chanting the dhamma.  I was too shy to venture inside to take photos...

Detail of portico at Wat Nai Harn.

Lagoon at Nai Harn — a very popular jogging trail rims the water and a nice grouping of houses lie just to the north (for rent and for sale).

My lovely wife, enjoying the Nai Harn lagoon.

We got turned around trying to return to Chalong (ฉลอง).  We drove down the wrong soi and found ourselves on a very scenic road through a grove of rubber trees.  Just after coming out of the forest, we were treated to this view.  The small mountain to the right is Khao Nekkard and the "bump" on it's peak is the base for a 45-meter-tall golden Buddha named Mingmongkol, currently under construction for Wat Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri.  The mountain is right behind our house (by the way, I just found out the actual name of our village is Yot Sane (ยอดเสน่ห์), one of ten in tambon Chalong; in our lease agreement and mailing address, it's written just as "moo 10") and is on the short-list of places Tim and I are thinking about for our traditional wedding ceremony next year.  With Khao Nekkard in view, we headed off towards what we thought was the right direction but soon ended up even more in the boondocks.  We did a bit of back-tracking and ended up back in Rawai just a short distance from the Chalong Circle.  I do enjoy exploring these types of remote roads but would rather do so when we still have hours of sunlight remaining!

I hope you enjoyed these low-res photos.  Don't forget to check out my higher-resolution pics over at Webshots.  I'm far behind but I'm now back into "upload mode" (seven "new" albums just today!); next up will be our "official" engagement photos, taken in Chiang Mai back in May (I forgot to upload these in chronological order but a recent email from my sister reminded me).