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A few days ago, my wife and I spent several hours with Alexander at Surin Beach, just west of the twin Muslim communities of Chergtelay and Bang Tao.  We'd actually wanted to visit Bang Tao Beach but there are so many resorts and restaurants lining the road that we couldn't find a way to get through to the beach!
Click on the maps for a more detailed view

We used to come here quite often with various friends last fall but hadn't visited in quite some time.  There are quite a few nice restaurants lining the beach — more farang-oriented huts at the northern end and more Thai-style stands towards the south.  It's also one of the few beaches on Phuket where the price of a lounge chair with umbrella is still only 50 baht (it's 100 baht per chair virtually everywhere else); how long that will last is anybody's guess.

During this particular day, there were some very large waves (which Alex and I both enjoy quite a bit) as well as a strong outward tidal pull (which tires you out quickly as you try not to get sucked out towards India).  Alex loves diving headfirst into the approaching waves and then being rolled back onto the beach where he waits for the suction to pull him back into the water thus signalling another approaching wave.  It does tend to frighten others when they first see him rolling head over foot in the surf but they soon see how much fun he's having (and how diligent Mum & Dad are at preventing him from being swept out very far).

We stayed until almost six before making the long journey back to Chalong (made even longer by cutting across the island to the Heroines Monument Circle, then south on Thepkassatri Road to the Bypass Road before finally picking up Chaofa West down to Chalong).  For a then-unexplained reason, my wife didn't feel like driving the more direct (and rather shorter route) south along the coast through Kamala and Patong where we can either continue south through Karon and Kata before veering east or across the mountain into Kathu and thence to the Dara Samut Intersection.  When we finally arrived home, Tim revealed that she'd wanted to eat dinner at the Super Cheap Prawn Barbecue but couldn't find the proper turnoff from Thepkassatri (she took me there once, last May or June).

Alexander looks more like a little gangster in this photo than someone ready to go swimming.


With our lease expiring in early April, Tim and I have begun the search for a new home.  She never really liked our current location in Chalong and our recent water woes has led her into finally convincing me to relocate.  There are two other main considerations:

  • My wife has long wanted to operate a small restaurant;

  • Alexander doesn't have any friends to play with (nor is there much yard space to play in around our present house)
Because of consideration number one, we have been focusing our search to shophouses.  In such a building, Tim could have her dream restaurant on the ground floor which would save us having to rent a separate location for the business — in the process cutting down on having to hire security and also on commute time since we would be living upstairs.  Of course, this means that we would never be able to completely have a holiday away from the restaurant...  Most shophouses on Phuket are three storeys tall, although the second level usually consists of a half-floor overlooking the ground floor.

We haven't yet looked at any "traditional" houses but I want to show Tim a few before making any decisions.  My requirements for these would be
  • a completely detached house (our current home is "semi-detached" meaning we share a long wall with one of our neighbors — there's a small sliver of land and a wall separating us from the other neighbor)
  • at least a small yard on at least three sides of the house, complete with grass (a tropical garden would be the ideal)
  • must have a large auxiliary water tank already installed in addition to a reliable water source
I really don't have any preferences for location on the island although, for some reason I'm not sure of, I have some sort of prejudice against living in Kathu.

Ironically, our favorite so far is a shophouse on the northern edge of Kathu, near the large open-air market.  It's a four-storey building with fairly large floors.  The ground floor is open with a bathroom to one side and a kitchen/washing area at the rear.  There are balconies along the back on the second, third, and fourth floors and along the front on the third and fourth.  The second storey indeed has an overlook to the main floor below but there's actually enough floor space to house an office or sitting area between the stairs and the overlook (the railing has yet to be installed).  The third storey is a vast open space with large restroom near the rear balcony; it would be an awesome living room and could even be partitioned into two (or even three) rooms.  There's a small bedroom at the rear of the fourth floor and the master bedroom occupies the front half with enough room in between for another living area.

There isn't a whole lot of development (yet) in this area of Phuket and both the front and rear of the house offers wonderful views of the surrounding mountains.  It's on a wide road; turn left and it's a fast way over to Phuket City, bypassing a lot of traffic while you can turn right to get back into Kathu and have easy access over "Death Hill" into Patong.  The price of 30,000 baht per month (approx. USD $880) does seem a bit steep but is still doable (I've seen a few three-storey shophouses advertised for 10,000 per month; we haven't yet looked at any of those).

Anyway, here are a few photos of our current favorite.  Click on the thumbnails to see a larger view.
The ground floor features a garage-door style front entrance.  There's a bathroom to one side and the rear area has space for a Thai-style kitchen along with a washing area out back.  There's a pedestal in place for a large water tank.

First photo shows the view from the edge of the second-storey overlook; obviously, a railing needs to be added.  I'm not sure why the three windows aren't centered or why they didn't include a fourth...  There's a balcony along the rear of the second, third, and fourth floors, overlooking the small washing area on the ground floor.

The stairways
seem to be wide enough to carry furniture up (i.e., mattresses, bed frames, large bookcase, etc.) but it's hard to tell.  That's the one real disadvantage I can think of for moving into a shophouse — the sheer difficulty of getting our stuff up to the living spaces...

The third storey includes a nice balcony at the front (as well as one at the rear) overlooking the street.  I can visualize sitting up here just watching the traffic go by.  There's a bathroom towards the rear.  The large open holes can be filled either with cinder blocks or large plate glass windows (if it wasn't for the windy conditions during the rainy season I'd actually prefer to leave them open!).

There are two bedrooms on the fourth floor separated by an empty space.  We could see that the one at the front included a balcony.  However, the doors to both rooms were locked and a key wasn't available on our visit.  I think they both wrap around since the space in between is half as wide as the other floors.

The one thing I really dislike about this particular shophouse is the pink color of the facade (many, many shophouses on Phuket are also pink; I don't know why...).  I think they're going to put in a large plate-glass side door on the ground floor; I'd rather have it as a solid wall with a steel door for security.

Anyway, this Kathu shophouse is the current front-runner in our house search.  I think we'll be doing good to find something similar at a lower price.  We'll be looking over in Phuket City this afternoon (I quite like the areas near Sam Kong School and between Bangkok-Phuket and Vachira Hospitals.


How can the sidewalk work?  (Seen near the north end of Karon Beach.)



...the faucets produced water.  Upon returning from an afternoon of swimming we discovered that running water has been restored to our home.  I could hear the shower blasting out liquid as I fiddled with the keys and in celebration I spent about 20 minutes getting as clean as I possibly could.  It was even fairly warm (we don't have a hot water heater) so the shower was even more enjoyable than it already was.  My wife was very amused at the little "happy dance" I did once I emerged from the bathroom.

The big question is, "How long will it last?"  At any rate, we're now getting caught up on scrubbing floors, doing laundry, changing the aquarium water, etc.  The plants are finally getting a heavy dousing as well but it's too late to save my prized palm...



I now have my Thai (automobile) driver's license.  The entire process took just under two-and-a-half hours but really wasn't very difficult.

Franz and I arrived at the Provincial Land Transport Office in Phuket City just before it's 8:30 opening this morning.  There were already a dozen or so Thai people waiting.   As soon as a few workers appeared behind the counter, everyone rushed up without any semblance of order.  A couple of workers tried to form the mass into a proper queue but it didn't really work.  The application form was in Thai but we didn't have to fill any of it out ahead of time.

Once I got to the head of the line, I handed my pile of papers to the lady behind the counter.  She asked if I wanted a car license or one for motorbikes.  I told her both and she said that I could only use the International Driving Permit for one license and that I would have to take the motorbike test.  If I only obtained the car license today, I could come back another day and use the IDP to apply for the motorbike license without taking a driving test.  I, of course, opted for this since I can't actually drive a motorbike that doesn't have a sidecar attached to it.

Also, I didn't bring any copies of the IDP (nothing I'd read mentioned they needed copies) so I was sent over to the photocopying queue.  They didn't accept Franz's tabien baan (house registration book) as proof-of-residency so he was sent to the Immigration Office to get the proper form.  (Supposedly, this isn't allowed for driving licenses anymore but he returned an hour later with the 100-baht address proof and this was readily accepted.)

All of the proper copies in hand, I once again handed the pile to the clerk.  She stapled everything together, had my write my name at the top of the application, and sent me upstairs to a testing room.  The queue snaked out of this room and down the hallway.  There were several other farangs staring through the windows trying to figure out the purpose of the various exams we were to undergo and hoping the administrator spoke enough English to give them instructions.  While waiting, we watched a number of Thai people struggle with the tests; the lady in charge had a good sense of humor and allowed each person to try until they passed (we figured she didn't want to lose face by failing anybody).

The first test was for reaction time.  There were two pedals on the floor; we had to give "gas" to the right-side pedal and when a series of green LED's began lighting up we had to quickly stomp on the left-hand pedal before the LED's turned to red.  Many of the people seemed to struggle with this greatly but I got it on the first try.

You then had to pull two long strings to align a pair of uprights (reminded me of football goalposts) inside of a large block.  One guy pulled the string so hard that it broke!  After that, the lady pointed to various cirlces of color on a large board (reminded me of a psychedelic poster from the 60's) while you called out which color she was pointing to.  The trouble with this was that most of the color circles were so small that her pen would completely cover them when she pointed.  Finally, your peripheral vision was tested by placing your head against a dot while she flashed colored lights opposite of your ears.  Everyone struggled with this one. I couldn't tell the difference between the green and yellow lights but I seemed to guess correctly as I didn't have to retry this one.

The lady then signed your application (the top sheet on your stack of paperwork) with a flourish and sent you back downstairs.  Someone told me to take a number and wait until I was called.  The numbers were called out in Thai and I ended up helping a few other farangs by telling them when their numbers were up (I'm glad I've mastered that bit of the language!).

When it was my turn I approached the counter.  The lady asked to see my passport and she compared it with the photocopies.  I was then asked to sign all of the copies and if I wanted the license laminated.  I was given the blank driver's license card to sign and then pointed to the cashier.  I paid 105 baht and was given a receipt.  Ten minutes later they called my name ("Khun Mark") and asked for ten baht for the already-laminated card.

The first driver's license is good for one year.  The day after it expires (you can't do it before or on the day it expires), you take the old license back to the transport office and they swap it (no tests of any kind) for a five-year license.

I'll report back on how that goes next year...



Franz and I are heading over to the Provincial Transport Office tomorrow in order to obtain our Thai driver's licenses.  Although most residents don't even bother (you can drive here using your home country license AND an International Driving Permit) but it does have it's advantages including being recognized as a form of credit and a proof of residency (allowing you to pay Thai admission prices rather than the two-tiered rates).

If you do have an IDP, you can basically just swap it out for the Thai license without having to take the driving course or test (administered in the Thai language).  I believe we will have to take a vision test, however.

You need to take several things with you to the transport office:

1) Passport with valid Non-Immigrant visa (Tourist visas don't qualify).  The list from the American Citizens Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy says to take one photocopy of both your details page and the page with your current visa; past experience with Thai bureaucracy suggests it's a good idea to take two copies of each.

2) Proof Of Residency.  Previously, you could obtain this at any local Immigration Office presenting your rental lease or house registration (tabien baan) book but they now require you to obtain a notarized affadavit from your home embassy or consulate in Bangkok.  This is one of the many changes in immigration policies instituted around the time of the September coup.  My form cost 1,140 baht (approx. USD $30) at the U.S. Embassy last month.

3) Medical Certificate.  You can obtain this at any local clinic or hospital (just don't use one of the big international hospitals).  It's sort of an expat joke that this is the easiest obtainable official Thai document —

"Are you breathing?"
"Congratulations.  You passed."
I obtained my medical report from the Wattana Clinic in Patong (on one of the small sois leading off the beach road) today.  We'd had a bit of difficulty actually finding a clinic that was open — most of them on Phuket don't have daytime hours, only operating between five in the afternoon and around midnight.  I told the receptionist that I needed a health report for a driver's license and she retrieved the proper form.  She took my passport and gave me a number.  After a two- or three-minute wait, the doctor took me into a small examination room.  She touched the stethoscope to my heart and to my belly button and asked how long it had been since my last doctor visit.  I honestly don't know but it was at least ten years ago.  I told her "three."
"Nothing has happened in the last three years?"
"Okay.  Sign here."
She then had me follow her back out to the cashier where I paid 100 baht (USD $2.95).  The cashier stamped the form and I was on my way five minutes after entering the clinic.

4) International Driving Permit.  These are good-for-one year translations of your regular license issued in your home country by the national automobile association or similar agency.  There are many people who advertise international driver's licenses but these are a scam that have no validity (although I doubt if most Thai traffic police would know the difference — I've heard stories of foreigners presenting school ID's or even library cards, passing them off as licenses).  The U.S. Embassy list mentions the state license but I don't think you can swap this for the Thai license without the IDP.

5) Two 1-inch by 1-inch photos.  I obtained mine at the Kodak Express in Chalong Circle — six for 80 baht.

The fees are 105 baht for a car license and 55 baht for a motorcycle license (I think I might get one of each).  Oh yes, if you want the license laminated (and who wouldn't?) it's an extra 10 baht.


I know they mean carp but...  (Seen at the Wat Chalong fair — plus, they had three or four varieties of the banner, all with the same misspelling!)


I'm not guessing who may have read about our continuing water woes in this blog, but...

Yesterday our landlord delivered a 500-liter (I think that's around 150 gallons) water tank for us — free of charge — to be filled whenever we need it, also free.  They also ran a hose from the tank into my master bathroom so we wouldn't have to haul water in buckets.  Jon then informed me that the Provincial Governor would be meeting with the Water Authority today to find a resolution to the lack of running water.

We'll see what happens...

In the meantime, I think I'm going to go out today and see if I can find a "camp shower" to hook up to my new "running water" hose.

Perhaps, sometimes it does pay to complain on this blog as you never know if someone who can effect change will be reading.  Thank you whoever you are...



I sometimes feel that I'm the primary target for the local mosquitoes to aim for.  It often seems as if they have special radar that tells them they should bite the farang as none of the Thai people around me ever have a problem with them.  My wife says it's because my blood is sweet but I think it's just payback from living the previous twelve years without having them around (Albuquerque was relatively mosquito-free because of it's altitude and the dry desert air).  I've only found one spray that works against them but this is only available in America (my sister sent me several bottles last fall).  I've been particularly worried about bites ever since my friend Ben was hospitalized a few months ago and they didn't know if he had dengue fever or malaria (it turned out that it was neither, but they never did actually figure out what he did have).

And, yet, I don't think I've ever written an entire blog about the pesky little biters.  Vern over at Thai Pulse beat me to that.  I really can't improve on what he's written (and I can relate to many of his observations) so I present his entry here:

Thailand Mosquito Bait: You

I am a 71 kg piece of mosquito bait.

The mosquitos in Thailand are OFF THE HOOK down here in Surat Thani.  I'm not sure how they're getting in the house, except that by now they must be breeding under the couch and in that dark room that we never have the light on.

Living in the northeast (Isaan) we experienced some level of mosquitos that I thought was HIGH.  I lived in Florida for a number of years and we have mosquitos, but they are BIG.  We can see them.  We can control them for the most part because they are so big and easily seen.

Here in Thailand we have the citronella coils that we light — but they don't work here.  In Florida they work pretty well.  We have torches in Florida too — that work well.

We have mosquito lotion that we rub in and the mosquitos don't bite us... here they bite me THROUGH my shirt if there is lotion on my arm.

Are their suck-tubes that long that they can go through my shirt AND pierce my skin through the 3rd layer to reach blood?

That's amazing, because they are so small!

In Florida you FEEL the mosquito as it's biting sometimes.  Here — never.  In Thailand I only feel the after-effect, the insane itchiness that doesn't last all that long but that drives me farking insane for a few minutes especially when they get me on the tops of the feet or between the toes.

There are some mother-mutant mosquitos around the house here too.  I've caught a couple on video.

These are like UFO mother-ships that spit out hordes of babies every few hours.  I kill those immediately sparing no effort.
The greatest tool we have in Thailand for controlling the population of mosquitos indoors are these mosquito racquets.  These have an electrified wire grid that is great fun to use — and I never tire of the rush of hearing (and smelling) a mosquito sizzling on it.

The mother-mutants are not easily killed with these racquets though.  Two days ago I zapped one in the outside restroom.  I got it about 3 times leaving it for dead.

My girlfriend told me that night that she found it — laying on the floor in the restroom still alive and she tried to nurse it back to health!


I asked her, "Weren't you just bitten over 70 times by mosquitos when you stayed in Bangkok at your friend's apartment?"

"Yes" she replied.

*E#*)#()$*%! I said...

"But Buddhism says we shouldn't kill something."

Mai pen rai, krup I mumbled...

With large bugs she has a problem with killing them, or me killing them even... but with small mosquitos, no problem!

The notecard above shows the times of day that you're likely to get bitten by a mosquito in Thailand.

If you are walking in the woods outside though, you will get bitten anytime of day or night.  They love the cool shade, and this is where I was bitten yesterday as I walked around Suan Mokkh Temple in Chaiya.

I had a couple bites on my head where I didn't apply the lotion so thick, and the rest on my back where they bit through my shirt!

:( Cover up and lather up with the repellant. I've had one friend get Dengue fever here and seen another kid or two at school get it.  (They're never really sure if it's dengue for some reason).

Posted by Vern at 2/19/2007 11:21:00 AM
I've never seen the "mutant mother-ships" Vern describes but I pray we never have one of these in our home.  And, I've seen the electric mosquito swatters in Big C but I just thought they were for some odd Thai version of bandmiton or something...


I've come to accept the system of two-tiered pricing in Thailand — that farangs are expected to pay slightly higher prices than Thai people for admission to national parks, the zoo, etc.  When bargaining at open air markets, I know that as a Westerner I'll never be able to get the same price that my wife will pay.  What I take exception to is that occasionally greed takes over in certain situations; fortunately, before this week, I'd only heard stories from other foreigners rather than experiencing any obvious price-gouging for myself.

In the past few days I've been the victim of two incidents of attempted highway robbery of the greed-induced variety.  In one I was able to come away relatively unscathed.  I'm just now dealing with the second.

With our current (lack of) water situation it's needless to say that tempers are beginning to flare.  We still are unable to receive any kind of answer as to when running water will be restored and my landlord became irate with me the other day when I asked (it was the first time I'd seen him or asked the question; he's from Grenada by the way).  We'd been buying large jugs of drinking water every day until that supply diminished and a community well was soon emptied as well.  Finally, the village council ordered a daily delivery from a water truck.  Water was to be provided to each house in our soi; the council paid for the water each day and they were to fill up as many containers of water as we had at no extra cost.

Apparently, the guys on the water truck decided they would try to make some extra cash on the side.  I was working in my office two nights ago when my wife burst inside yelling that I needed to tell the water man to give us water.  Tim rarely becomes angry with anything so I asked her what had happened.

"I don't know why water man speak not nice to me."

She went on to say that she'd gone out front and showed the men on the water truck where our buckets were (we have two round plastic garbage cans, a medium-sized ice chest, and two small pails for bailing water out of the big buckets when they're full).  He told her 100 baht.  Tim, remembering I'd told her the water was free, asked him again and he'd yelled at her that he'd said 100 baht — not 100 dollars (knowing I was a farang).  That's when she came to get me.

I walked outside and asked which of the three men told my wife that the water was 100 baht.  One of the men said that she misunderstood and that it was 100 baht for each container so I needed to pay 500 baht!  Just then, our landlord walked into view so I called out to him that they were trying to rip us off.  Normally, Jon is a very soft-spoken gentleman but he became very irate and began yelling that they'd already paid for the entire water delivery and that the men needed to fill up our buckets and I wasn't to pay them anything.  (In Thailand, you simply do not show anger towards a Thai as it never has a positive affect.  Jon's lived here for nine years and he knows how the system works but you can tell that the constant complaints about the lack of water, etc. is really taking it's toll on him.)  Our buckets did get filled but there was a lot of tension left hanging in the air.  I kept waiing and apologizing to diffuse the situation and was very happy when the truck moved to the next house.

Afterwards, Nadier told me that he'd paid the man 1000 baht two days before and Franz said he'd paid 100 baht.  Neither knew that the council had already paid for our water until they'd heard Jon yelling at the men on the truck.  Pen also told me that the girls living in the house next to her had been complaining the men had been trying to charge them every day and they had refused knowing it was supposed to me free.  Thus, they had been borrowing water from other neighbors.  I think that a representative of the council should meet the truck from now on and accompany it to each house to make sure this doesn't happen again.

If it was only a couple of days that we'd have to rely on this water truck then I probably would have just paid the 100 baht (or even the 500 baht) and accepted it as part of the system (although I'm still not happy about a Thai man being rude to my wife — perhaps he's actually Burmese or something...).  But we have no idea how long this will continue (11 days without running water and counting...).  Someone from our soi did call the main office of the Water Authority in Bangkok a couple of days ago and a couple of other people are writing letters to the Phuket Gazette so we'll see what happens...

The second attempt (successful) at "robbery" was not so easily diverted, if much less dramatic.  In Thailand, if you are farang and involved in an accident you are always at fault no matter how many witnesses you might have that state otherwise.  (I'm not sure what happens if two farangs are in an accident together; they're probably still in the wrong and the settlement goes to the street vendor at the corner.)  My wife is a very cautious driver but driving is chaotic here at best so it's just a matter of time before any one person is involved in some sort of accident.  We had a near miss on New Year's Eve but that was just a slight scrape.

A couple of nights ago (yes, the same evening of the "water incident") Tim was leaving work when she ran into a car on her motorbike.  Now, I'm not sure of the amount of damage to the car   Tim told me "car broken" and showed me some nasty-looking scrapes on her knee.  She waited until tonight before telling me as she was worried that I'd be angry about paying money since we'd just paid Alexander's tuition on Monday.  Ordinarily, since it was a Thai-on-Thai accident the money paid would be minimal (although most drivers have some form of insurance usually one just pays cash on the spot).

But Tim managed to run into the brand-new car of her boss as driven by his wife.  They know that she is married to an American (which most Thai people automatically think means "big money").  She says that she had no choice but to give them what they asked for — she hasn't told me how much but I'd just transferred some cash over from the States and gave her a nice amount to deposit into her account.  That's gone now, plus more (she had my debit card as I'd asked her to pick up something at Jungceylon on her break; I haven't checked how much yet...).

I could tell she was very upset when she told me as she was more worried about the money than the accident itself.  I told her that the money wasn't the important thing — I made sure she was okay (and was happy Alexander wasn't with her at the time).  Accidents do happen — you can't really plan for them — we'll be okay regardless of how much she had to pay her boss's wife.  I do know that if it had been somebody who doesn't know she's married to a farang that Tim probably would have gotten off by paying one or two thousand baht at the most.

I had wondered why she hadn't gone to work last night (she said she wanted to take us to the Wat Chalong Fair instead and asked Jum to tell the boss she wasn't going to work).  Tonight, Tim told me that she didn't have to work but needed to go talk to the "big boss" about something and would be home within an hour or so.  She left around 5:30 and didn't come home until almost 1:00 (I'd called her twice and both times she'd said the boss was too busy to talk to her but she would wait because it was important).

At least when I get my Thai driver's license, I can pay the Thai prices at the zoo, aquarium, etc.  Too bad that won't work at the market, with the water guy, or when we have fender-benders.

Maybe I need to have a t-shirt made up that says, "I'm American but I'm not 'big money'..."




This weekend, my wife, son and I are planning to check out the temple fair at Wat Chalong.  Here's the info from Phuket Gazette:

CHALONG: The annual Wat Chalong Fair this year will be held February 16 to 22. Each day of the fair, which was first held in 1954, will feature a sermon by monks, live entertainment and hundreds of stalls selling food and wares.

The fair is free to enter and will start at 4.30 pm each day.

Thai country music (look thung) stars, including Roong Suriya, Arpaporn Nakornsawan, Bew Kalayanee and Jingreedkhao Wongtewan, will perform live at the fair from 10 pm to midnight as follows:

Feb 16 Mangpor Chonthicha

Feb 17 Bew Kalayanee

Feb 18 Ying Thitikarn

Feb 19 Jingreedkhao Wongtewan

Feb 20 Rung Suriya

Feb 21 Lew Arjareeya

Feb 22 Arpaporn Nakornsawan

Before the stars take to the stage local students will perform live on stage.

Each night of the fair Asian and European movies will be shown at an outdoor cinema from 8 pm, and there will be live performances of traditional Thai shadow plays (nang talung) from 9 pm to 2 am as well as traditional Thai music.

The Wat Chalong Fair attracts thousands of visitors each year. Motorists are warned of tailbacks in the surrounding areas.

Vendors looking to join the fair may bid for their preferred pitch at an auction of stall sites at the fair at Wat Chalong on February 4, starting at 9 am.
But tonight we'll be at Jungceylon Shopping Center in Patong for their "Pinky Piggy Celebration" for Chinese New Year.  What sold me was the listing of the Hip Hop Dragon Show with the Rhythmic Exotic Backpackers.  With a name like that, I just have to film and blog about it (although I will be missing the Phuket International Blues Festival with the Soi Dog Blues Band).


One of my favorite new television shows is CBS's Jericho.  It's a drama set in a small western Kansas town following a series of nuclear explosions.  I only discovered the program following the mid-season finale at the end of November but I just finished watching all of the previous eleven episodes.  The series is set to resume on February 21.

This past week, a special recap episode — "Return To Jericho" — was broadcast:

Catch up on Jericho during a special recap that chronicles what took place during the first 11 episodes of the series. Jericho is a drama about what happens when a nuclear mushroom cloud suddenly appears on the horizon, plunging the residents of a small, peaceful Kansas town into chaos, leaving them completely isolated and wondering if they're the only Americans left alive. Fear of the unknown propels Jericho into social, psychological and physical mayhem when all communication and power is shut down. The town starts to come apart at the seams as terror, anger and confusion bring out the very worst in some residents.
For a limited time, iTunes is offering a free download of this recap show.  Click here.


Our village is still without running water; it's now been one week since our faucets have gone dry.  The community well gave up the last of some really murky brownish water a couple of days ago and even the guys who sold 10-gallon jugs from their motorbike sidecars have run out.  The landlord (who is on the village council) has not been seen for a few days and nobody will tell us when they expect the water to be turned back on.  At least 7-Eleven still has small bottles of water...for now.

And yet, we just received our water bill.  It's about a third higher than usual (still under 200 baht — USD $6.00 — though).  It sort of reminds me of how flood victims in Ayutthaya received significantly-higher-than-usual electric bills a few months ago despite their homes being under water for two or three months previously.  The Electric Authority admitted they had "guessed" how much to charge because it's workers couldn't reach the homes in order to read the meters.

We'd all like to take a decent shower or use the toilet without any fears.  Tim wants me to find us a new place to live; despite her growing up in a very remote area of Thailand she never before has had to deal with so many water outages.  And this is one more thing that is creating problems with Alexander...

I hope that I can soon report that we have running water at home and are able to clean floors and clothes...



Yes, Chinese New Year is widely celebrated in Thailand — many people of various Chinese ancestry here, particularly Hokkien Chinese who came to Phuket from Malaysia in order to work the tin mines in the 18th and 19th centuries.  This year of 2007 (or 2550 on the Thai calendar) is the year 4704 — Year of the Pig — on the lunar calendar.

Although the New Year begins on February 18th, celebrations have already begun and transportation hubs are clogged as family members travel to visit each other.  According to the Bangkok Post, this weekend one should:

Saturday, February 17
  • Fill an auspicious rice urn with rice to the top.  Place an 'ang pow' red packet containing nine different currencies of rich countries inside the urn.  In addition, your fridge should be full of food when entering into the Chinese New Year.
Sunday, February 18
  • Wear red clothing to welcome the Chinese New Year and the first thing you eat should have a sweet taste.

  • Decorate the house with fresh blooming flowers.  Place a pair of auspicious lime or orange trees in front of your house to prevent bad energy from entering your home.

  • To increase good 'chi' energy, roll 8, 18 or 28 bright oranges with golden coins into your home at 9:18am.
I don't know about rolling oranges into the house Sunday morning but I do think we'll go watch some fireworks at Jungceylon tomorrow night.

Happy New Year (and it's only two more months before we celebrate Thai New Year/Songkran — my favorite of the three New Year celebrations we have here in Thailand).


I've recently become hooked on podcasts, mostly because of browsing within the iTunes Store.  A podcast is an audio or video program, usually in a talk show format, that includes a syndication feed that you can subscribe to.  New episodes can be automatically downloaded to iTunes and added to your iPod.  It's really the next step in broadcast radio and there are a lot of really cool shows out there (and a lot of junk, too).

That's part of the appeal of podcasting — any yahoo with a microphone and something to say can make one and distribute it far and wide.  I've just read the chapter on podcasts in Steven Levy's fascinating The Perfect Thing:  How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness (Simon & Schuster, 2006) which has inspired me to create my own.

I doubt if the GOODNIGHT PHUKET Podcast will garner as many readers as, say, Car Talk or that it will be interesting to anyone at all.  This first episode (001) is simply an experiment.  I wanted to check each step of the process — from recording the program (and I don't even have a real microphone, just sort of a tiny hole on the top of my laptop) to editing it, uploading the show to a server, and generating an RSS feed so listeners could subscribe.

Episode 001 is just a brief introduction to who I am — Mark in Phuket, new family man and unemployed English teacher living in a new country — and offers an idea or two of what I'd like to do in future episodes of the podcast.  The only audio in this first episode is the sound of me talking into that tiny hole on the laptop, wondering if it's actually recording.  It's just under three minutes long but it could be the start of something big.  Or not...

listen to Episode 001  XML feed
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UPDATE:  I did something wrong — the podcast subscription shows up in iTunes but it won't download the episode.  Back to the drawing board.  (At least you can listen to it online...)



From an article in the Bangkok Post:

Love Is In the Air, At Least for Some, On Day of Romance
There was love, ambition and anger in the air on Valentine's Day yesterday. A couple in their eighties formally tied the knot, a student tried to rob a dentist to raise the money to take his sweetheart out, and a high-profile pathologist received a pestle in protest against her work.

With the aid of a cane, Grandpa Mak Charoensuk, 88, walked hand in hand with Grandma Ui, 86, to register their marriage at the Muang district office in Nakhon Ratchasima yesterday.

Grandpa kissed his bride, whose wide toothless smile lit up her face. They were among 34 couples joining a mass wedding.

In Suphan Buri's U Thong district, Sorn Poh-ngam, 68, and Nuan Unpee, 66, kicked a kerosene can to show that they are physically fit. In the Thai saying, people able to kick the kerosene can ''hard and loud'' are fit enough to have sex.

All 60 couples who converged there received free health check-ups.

In Trang, 40 couples were married 12m under the sea.

In Prachin Buri, seven pairs glided 60m down the Weluwan waterfall cliff to register their marriages.

But Bang Rak, Bangkok's ''district of love'', remained the favourite place with 665 couples choosing to formally tie the knot there.

In Nonthaburi's Muang district, an engineering student tried to rob a dentist in the morning in order to take his sweetheart out last night. But police chased and arrested Supatchai Sudglao, 26, after spotting him hitting Kamol Tangkij-ngamwong, 37, on the back of his head with a wooden stick. Supatchai was charged with attempted robbery.

To patch up differences after the dismissal of Pol Gen Kowit Wattana as national police chief on Feb 5, Supreme Commander Gen Boonsang Niampradit hosted a reunion of Class 6 of the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School.

All Council for National Security members and their spouses went to the party at the residence of CNS leader and army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin last night.

But for pathologist Khunying Porntip Rojanasunan, a pestle wrapped in a red ribbon and a lawsuit against her did not signify love from Noppadol Thammawattana. The head of the Central Institute of Forensic Science said after the second autopsy of his elder brother, Hangthong, that murder was the cause of death eight years ago. Mr Noppadol was charged with conspiring in the murder, before a third autopsy confirmed suicide was the cause.