Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So we came all the way back, just to go back - Cambodia

We've been back in Oz for just over one month now. Happy to say Mr Bundy's ears are still intact, minus the points (Solar Dermatis, fancy name for my cat can't tolerate the sun. So he's doomed to a life of zinc cream coated ears). And, I've given into the fact that I WILL have to move more than two chairs and a bed back into the house and have started to do so. Can see a big garage sale coming up soon...more culling.

Stray's undone the termite damage, bar the aesthetic touches. But, I'm still pretending that the upstairs doesn't exist, even though I can safely walk up the steps. Less cleaning that way.

OK, getting to the point! Cambodia, especially Angkor Wat just outside of Siem Reap, was one of the places we intended on visiting while being so close, in Thailand. But, one thing lead to another and we never got there. So, we're heading off early next year to see that, Phnom Phen and Sihanoukville. All via Malaysia where we'll stop off in Georgetown (Penang), Langkawi and Melaka
.

Batu Caves outside of Kuala Lumpur
Sabah (Kota Kinabalu, Borneo) fishing boats
Kuching (Sarawak, Borneo) riverfront
We've visited Kuala Lumpur a couple of times, and Borneo, and our plans are fairly well set in jelly ...but if you've been to any of these places and can recommend 'what to see's' and 'what to do's' (or not) apart from what's on the usual tourist spiels, please do!

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reflecting on Marriage


Seems like a life time ago...and then again, just like yesterday. Nearly 33 years of knowing and 29 years of marriage. I think there must be some sort of medal or prize forthcoming...lol.

 Must have been a bloody hot day, get a load of that candle.


Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From Chiang Mai to Australia

From Chiang Mai to Australia  (23rd – 28th October)

THAILAND FLOODS

It’s been three WHOLE days since we landed on Australian soil...we left with very mixed emotions, and that’s not taking into account dodging the flooding in Bangkok. For those living in, or keeping a close eye on, Thailand, the feelings have been mixed, if not angry at times. There have been many discussions across the blogging world about the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’. The fact is that this was and is a flood of phenomenal proportions. I don’t think anyone was or could have been prepared for its enormity.

The way we might handle such a national disaster in our birth land, could be much different to the way Thailand chooses to approach this catastrophe. I joked with a friend in Chiang Mai, when the river Ping was flooding (she was high and dry), who couldn’t swim.

“Just get a couple of empty 2 litre milk bottles and use them as floaties.” and re-enacted how LJ used to swim (flap) around the pool as a toddler...it seems I wasn’t that far off. Kidding aside, looking at the sand bagging efforts in central Bangkok, the inner city residents did not seem as concerned as I was.

I did have the pleasure of meeting up with an email pen-pal of mine while there. A very educated man (engineer) and assistant managing director for a large construction company. We got chatting about the floods and ‘who was to blame’, if anyone. I mentioned the sandbags, or lack of, in my hotel area and he (not verbatim, but extremely accurately) said “Thai’s don’t prepare...when they see the water coming up the street, they might move...or, not...or if the flood is coming into there house...They live in the present.”

Whether it's possible to make such a broad sweeping statement or not, remember I’m only the messenger!

LEAVING THAILAND

Most people write a list of what they’ll miss and what they won’t miss, but I’ll try not to go down that track. But, but, but.... Before we left Chiang Mai, Stray and I did ask each other what we would miss about Thailand, and I replied I wasn’t sure. He did point out that the $2 a week laundry fee would be hard to beat. And, I will certainly miss my fruit being pre-cut for me, the smiley 7-11 boys offering to open my large bottle of beer in-store (accompanied by a straw), the many friends I’ve made during my stay there...some still there and some who have moved on. Stray will surely miss his teaching and students...and massages. But, for every *thing* I’ll miss, there’s something to look forward to back home... especially working, to save the money for the next adventure.

The long part of the trip back home, from Kuala Lumpur to Gold Coast, was pleasant. Avoided (after a light dinner, inflating of a blow up neck pillow, snuggling under a sarong, come blanket) with the aid of a sleeping tablet. My first try and I highly recommend it. Never battered an eyelid until I heard the breakfast cart coming down the aisle.

ARRIVING HOME

We didn’t (quite) have to machete our way back into our yard, so that was a plus. CJ, less 20 odd kilos, looking just wonderful, and grandpumpkin met us at the airport, then chauffeured us to our house where frozen home cooked meals awaited us. Shortly after, my trusty steed (small car) was delivered back to me by its foster parents (thanks Dad and Mum) looking better than I’d left him. Not to mention an esky or two of food, cheese! ham! and drinks...wine...WINE...RED and WHITE WINE...made in AUSTRALIA!

Getting in my own wheels and taking off, wherever, whenever, would have to be on the list of ‘biggest things I’ve missed in Oz', along with being able to drink water straight from a tap. However, I did feel out of sorts staring at the fruit today in our local store. Grapes $17.00 per kilo and nectarines, not much less. Nup!

And then, there was using my bank card at the shop. I had acquired a new one before leaving Australia and wasn’t sure if I’d remembered the PIN number correctly...and evidently, had not. A long (on hold) call to the bank is in order tomorrow.

Back in May, we received word that our house had been invaded by ‘termites’. A word synonymous to ‘cancer’, if it were in the human context. The deluge earlier in the year had no doubt driven the little critters indoors, away from the hundreds of more appetising trees on our property. It’s now October, and they’ve just apparently been halted, killed, exterminated. If it hadn’t been for CJ and her partner listening, touching, poking and crumbling off bits off our house, it would have been in much worse shape than it is. Still, they’ve eaten a path from the rear, through a staircase, in between floors, inner wall and door/window frames, to the front.

So, for now, it’s clean up, settle down, repair and back to work time.

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Heading home via BKK

So, here I sit with a pore pack on my nose, relaxing in our Bangkok hotel writing this update. After arriving at Suvarnabhumi airport yesterday we dumped our cumbersome luggage (including camera>PC cable, grrr) at the ‘Left Luggage’ facility and sky trained it into the city.

Apart from the usual swampy areas along the way, there was little excess water to be seen. Looking down, only several low lying roads and house yards were partially submerged a few inches. That’s not to say it will remain that way...but here’s hoping!

Our thoughts are with those who have, are and will be effected by this massive, slow moving tragedy.

And, my biggest frustration (well, one of them) is seeing photos and T.V. footage of people standing chest deep in putrid water washing their clothes, preparing food on floating makeshift tables and of children playing, bobbing along in flotation devices.

STAY OUT OF THE WATER PEOPLE! The murky water can harbour cholera, typhoid, skin infections and hepatitis. One death from, and cases of, leptospirosis was reported in the newspaper just as we left Chiang Mai the other day (the details are in my luggage). The exact wording I can't remember, but 'wear shoes, especially if you have open cuts or wounds on your legs' rings a bell. Perhaps something was lost in the translation? 

Houses and buildings in our hotel area (Ratchathewi) remain high and dry. Some have made serious sandbagging efforts, some half hearted (and to tell the truth are a bit puzzling, strategy wise) but most, have not. Many outer lanes on high-set bridges and overpasses have become car parking lots for residents living in susceptible suburbs, which must make peak hour(s) in Bangkok even more hellish than usual.

Floods aside, today I had good intentions of trawling Chatuchak’s outdoor weekend market, however, after strolling through JJ’s (next door) for couple of hours I decided I’d pushed my baggage weight limit to the max, otherwise I would have bought this little beauty as a keepsake...
Apologies for the mobile phone quality.
...and besides, there’s no air con outside.


Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Friday, October 14, 2011

So what does it cost to live in Thailand?

So what does it cost to live in Thailand?

Of course that question is loaded with variables (especially rent), but for us, who needed a wall/door separating the bedroom from the living area (bonus two bathrooms)....around 28 000 - 32 000 Baht per month in total, for both, for everything.
Our abode was far from the Taj Mahal, but was decent and about 1.5 km from the city walls/moat. Near to two main roads, which made hailing a songthaew or tuk tuk easy. Also, we were 100 metres away from a major shopping mall.
When we first arrived we had to spend a little on set up costs, like a scooter, helmets, towels, kitchen equipment, bed sheets, soft pillows and padding for the mattress etc.

For those interested, here's a brief random breakdown of some of those expenses. For those who are not, even though I'm writing in the past tense, we still have a week to go before we leave Chiang Mai via the 'Place of olives', 'City of angels'....Bangkok.

Cheers!
*PS. There's a currency converter at the bottom right hand side of this blog.


Description
Cost in Baht
Notes
Rent – monthly
6,500
Approx. 1.5 km from city moat. 1 bedroom, 1 living room with kitchenette, 2 bathrooms. Modest.
Water – monthly
100
2 people – no washing machine
Electricity – monthly
800
Running electric fan only, toaster, kettle, induction cooker occasionally
Electricity – monthly
1200 – 2000
As above, but including nightly and some daytime air conditioning
Cigarettes
58
Mid range packet of 20
Beer Leo
46
Large bottle from 7 - Eleven
Beer Leo
60 +
Large bottle at restaurant
Milk – fresh
85
2 litre bottle from supermarket
Butter
73
500 grams
Bread
30 – 40
Small Western style loaf – no sugar
Bread roll
7
Multi grain, small – from supermarket
Coffee
65
Moccona instant – from supermarket
Cup of coffee
30 – 60
Depending on where you buy it
Pineapple/Papaya
39
Medium size – Pre cut and packaged – from supermarket. Approx. 500 gram
Mango
79
Per Kg – Pre cut and packaged – from supermarket
Rambutan (Lychee)
25
Per Kg – from local market
Fruit - various
10
Pre cut from street vendors. Approx. 150 each
Chicken/Pork
170 +
Per Kg – packaged – from supermarket
Yoghurt
22
Natural low fat 150 gram
Rice
25 – 30
Per Kg
Honey peanuts
10
45 gram packet
Meal
30 – 60
Per meal – eating at road stalls or local style restaurants. Usually rice, noodle or soup dishes.
Steak, chips, salad
160 – 200
Restaurant. Some road side stalls prepare a small version, without chips for around 60 Baht
Pizza
80 - 200 +
For two people
Wine
1000
Regular promotions – 3 x 750 ml bottles – 445 Baht per litre
Wine
390 – 440
2 litres South African Mont Claire Shiraz/Cab Sav – 220 Baht per litre
Rum
220
Sang Som Thai Rum 700 ml
Toilet paper
50
6 pack
Fuel - petrol
38
Per litre
Fuel per week
200
110 cc automatic scooter – around town
Hairspray
65
150 ml pump spray
Hair band
10 – 30
Plastic
Thongs/flip flops/scuffs
40 – 60

Shoes
200 – 400
Medium range
Shirt/blouse
150 – 250
Low cost department stores, markets
T Shirt
80 – 150
Low cost department stores, markets
Shorts/long pants
150 – 250
Low cost department stores, markets
Mr Muscle
65
500 ml multi purpose cleaner
Laundry
60 – 100
Per week at our local laundry. 3 – 6 baht per item, even for a bed sheet. Double price for ironing.
Laundry
25
Per small load at hotel. Coin operated using your own detergent.
Cook top
800
One pot (induction cooker) – Tesco Lotus
Electric Kettle
400
Mid range 1.8 litre



Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Friday, September 23, 2011

Breast slapping - not sure if it's for me!

You know how you get those emails (thank you Ernie) from time to time, that you just want to share with everyone. Couldn't go past putting this on Cooee....since it's so totally Thailand.



"Sometimes we have to refuse treatment because some breasts are too small to be enlarged." 
I can just see the tears now.

This is the original article in the Herald Sun

Apparently it's not a new concept -
The Independent 2003 
The Health Ministry offers the classes as a substitute for silicone implant surgery, increasingly common among slender Thais. The government seems to consider the beauty of Thai women a vital natural resource to be better developed....The ministry launched a six -month study on volunteers aged 20 to 60, and found vigorous massage left their breasts cancer-free and measurably bigger.
Hmm...not sure, but I reckon if I went in for regular slapping around, I'd increase by a few centimetres of swelling too. Although, I did read that it not only involves slapping, but also pinching massaging and the permanent relocation of fat! So, maybe I could have my butt and thighs gradually relocated to my chest?

One thing I do know for sure is, that at 8 - 10 million baht per course, I'm in the wrong business.

Any thoughts?

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cue the queue rage

So...just exactly what is a 'queue'?

Well, according to Wiki it's 'where a line of people wait' = first come, first served.

In Thai it's spelt คิว (kew) and sounds the same as the English word 'queue'. "French (out of Latin coda), from the French cue, a word originally meaning "tail", but evolving over time by the 1700s at least in French to also mean line." Askville Amazon

If you've frequented shops here, like 7-Elevens, you'll soon learn not to leave a gap more than half a (Thai) person deep, between you and the counter, or the person in front of you....in the queue, if there is one!

Don't get me wrong, there are pusher innerers in all countries, under the different pseudonyms: queue jumpers, butters, bargers, budgers, skippers and ditchers etc. And, I've even encountered (on two occasions here) where a gentleman actually moved aside for me, before his transaction had even finished.

* Waiting in line in Hong Kong airport and an Indian guy interrupts our hamburger order to ask 'What can I buy for?'...holding out a handful of coins.

* Waiting in front of an informal queue, in Australia, for the ticket dispenser to be filled (so we could officially queue), only to have my hand nailed and grazed by some bogan diving from the back of the group to collect her number.


*Standing in Barcelona airport, discussing with some German (I think) guys about what name they had for the people who'd just jumped our queue...'forward people'. 

* Just recently, waiting at Chiang Mai airport, when Air Asia decided (in its typical wisdom) to divert 2 small queues of individual travellers into one, to make way for a massive group who were travelling together...all would have been hunky dory, had it not been for the family of 8 causing some sort of half an hour hold up at the counter.
* In reverse, (Australia) having shopkeepers literally look over the top of the heads of children in front of me, in the queue...what? Anyone under your eye level is invisible?

* And, when some European guy blocked my way at immigration, shoving his passport under the nose of the lovely ticket dispenser man...'Is your name Snap?' dispenser man asks...'No' the guy says....'Well get back in line.'

Same guy had borrowed a pen from me earlier, when first arriving (at 7 a.m. in the morning!!!!), to put our names/number down in blue and white on a paper queue. I seriously thought he was going to have some sort of convulsion if I didn't lend him the pen first. He hovered over me as I rummaged around trying to retrieve it from my bag. I stood my ground  however, and passed it to him after I'd put my John Hancock on the list.

Strike me down if the same guy wasn't leaning on the counter, trying to get in front, when my number was called. Whatever! That's why we have numbers on our tickets.

No matter what country you're in, you encounter some people who haven't been educated in queuing etiquette, to some degree! And, if you're in that country for a while, you really start to *notice*.

...so, I'm in one of my semi regular 7-Elevens, once again (I know what the go is there...there is no go! Hug the counter, or the person in front of you, or someone will slink in from the side) and I'm second in line. The staff see me and start talking and joking, in Thai, about my usual order...another story.

I'm waiting behind three students buying Slurpee type drinks and microwaved goopy food, when I spot a small lady leaning in from the left. RIGHT! That's it! There is a time when one tires of being the invisible person in the line ... and farang are big, so she can't say she hasn't seen me.

She starts to lean in even more, so, ever so inconspicuously and slowly, I slide my foot forward between her and the students. The students eventually pick up there purchases and begin to move away from the counter.

The small lady goes for the kill, to plonk her stuff on the counter before me. I say "excuse me" (in Thai) politely *smiling* and look to the 7-Eleven boy, who is holding his hand out to ME in a 'your next' gesture...which is a rarity.

VICTORY!!!!!!...is that pathetic?

I return to my Thai friend's restaurant and ask her what the go is with queuing here? It's OK, she's used to farang asking rude questions. Apparently she has similar problems, so I'm relieved to know it's not just me. I was starting to get a complex. How does she deal with it? Usually the same way I do. Generally ignores the situation or says something to the person next to her, loud enough for the culprit to hear.

However, when you don't have language on your side it leaves one without the option of indirect verbal castigation, with only charades, facial expressions, tactical maneuvers or brute force remaining ;)...or there's always vipāka.

Cheers!

Snap's other blog Chiang Mai Thai

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Looking for a good massage in Chiang Mai?

So, I'm lying there...on my back...fully arched over the raised knees of the masseuse underneath me. I'd usually have some reluctance about being in this position, being, well not the lightest compared to most Thai women. However, my lady today is not what you'd call 'delicately boned'. But boy, does she and her colleagues know what they're doing!

Anyway, as she's massaging my temples, possibly so I don't notice the blood rushing to my head, and I think to myself, I really ought to give this place a plug.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11 is a little different for us

Today will no doubt be a solemn day for many as they recall the horrific tragedy of ten years ago. For us however, it has a very different meaning.

27 years ago today CJ came into our world. We were completely spun out that we'd actually created another human being. She arrived determined, intelligent and one of those kids who is sixty years old trapped in a tiny person's body.

Exactly two years later her sister appeared. A fairy like child (who slept most of her time in my womb) and who I can never could imagine growing into an adult, with an adult's voice...but of course, she did.

Both births were quick and easy...so I've been told, just ask Stray. Each only taking 3 to 5 hours of  what I'd call real labour pain.