Thursday, 21 April 2016

Oriental memories (8 - 11 April 2016)

So on to the traditional end of season flashpack, this time to Bangkok for a return visit to the iconic Oriental on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Bittersweet memories as I was last here with Kev many moons ago. Not much has changed since my last visit but now they have another small pool and cabanas as well as the original one. When Kev and I were here we lolled about for a few days by said pool and this time it was more of the same! The only memory I didn't repeat was the turn around the ballroom. When Kev and I were here we found a very ornate small ballroom in the Author's Wing and decided to act out part of the "King and I" by recreating the polka scene as we took an energetic turn around the ballroom. Looking back, I hope it was so long ago it was pre cctv....

The hotel is amazing, not just the building itself, but the staff. I got a big welcome back and "welcome home", they appear to keep such good records and make sure they match them up when you return even after all those years. And the staff always call you by name, they must only employ people with exceptional memories.... A few economies stand out though. In the "old days" you got two dressing gowns, one cosy towelling one and another lightweight one. Now it's just the lightweight one, but in this day and age I guess we all need to economise...

This time it was my birthday whilst I was there so I used that as an excuse to lounge about round the pool yet again in one of the new cabanas where amazing little food offerings were delivered along with cold towels and water throughout the day. And the hotel helped me celebrate my birthday with a cake and their signature macaroons and a very embarrassing rendition of "Happy Birthday" on the Riverside Terrace at breakfast along with a lovely bouquet of orchids, two cards and another cake in the room. A lovely day.

I really thought the hotel had gone the extra mile the day after my birthday with an enormous, very impressive firework display launched from a barge on the river facing the hotel. The fireworks were so big and loud they made the hotel shake.... and at the end more fireworks gradually spelled out the words Happy Birthday - but then the four letter name after that was not Gill but Vlad..... Looks like the problem with the rouble hasn't hit everyone then!
So as I took the hotel limo in one last flashpack to the airport any pretensions of grandeur I had were well and truly squashed by Thai Immigration. It was nearly a quick journey from the Oriental Bangkok to the Bangkok Hilton. After checking in I went through the immigration channel only to be hauled out and told I had overstayed. Trying to explain to the woman that I had a year's visa and had reported in after 90 days to Samui immigration as required made no difference. All she could say was "you no risten". And you got the feeling that if you didn't "risten" and do as you were told the may be consequences. My passport was thrown on top of a heap of others and I was told to wait with no idea how long that would be or indeed what the hell was going on. After about half an hour I was called back to the counter and told I had overstayed. Explaining again that I had already paid £125 for a one year visa of which I had used only four months and had reported to Samui immigration as required after 90 days and who had provided the form that was residing in my passport as proof, I was told that it was the wrong form. So due to Samui immigration incompetence, I had apparently overstayed and the fine was 16500 baht, nearly £350 pounds, Thai cash only please, now. Off I was marched again to the bureau de change for the cash. So my £350 fine plus the £125 visa charge added a grand total of £475 to my trip. At this moment I'm not sure it was worth it. The Thai's need to get this sort of stuff sorted as it leaves visitors with a shocking impression of the country. But at least the Bangkok Hilton was avoided and perhaps a there was a touch of hubris, I should never have tempted fate with my blog post "a brush with the law"...

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Change in Cha am? (4 - 7 April 2016)

At the end of the touristy bit of Cha am beach, after a short stroll at the very end of the beach through some dusty scrub, you get to where it all would have started, the original fishing village. I love the sign to it "Cha am jetty - drawbridge of blue crab pulling". 

As well as where they land the catch with the rough looking painted boats, the market and fishermen's houses are crowded together with a very rickety foot and motorbike bridge joining the two. 

There is also a very long breakwater fairly recently built to protect the harbour area. It's a nice walk along it in the cooler evening. It's about half a mile long and apart from two very large squid to keep you company at the end you feel like you are really the middle of the sea, hopefully as near to being in the middle of the sea as I'll ever get! It's a favourite for the youth of Cha am to get together and for line fishermen to see wha they can catch from the edge.

And the one benefit the locals here have over the holiday makers is that from the village they can look West and see a glorious sunsets and the distant hills, the beach itself faces resolutely East.

I've liked Cha am, it does what it says on the tin, seaside and buckets and spades. But there are signs that changes are afoot. There have been a few new boutique hotels opened in the last year or so, all clearly targeted at Western tourists and not Thai overnighters. And there are also a lot of beach road areas that have already been cleared ready for new buildings. A big new condo is just about finished, branded Lumpini Park Beach with Lumpini Park being a swish area in Bangkok, so obviously targeted at the moneyed Bangkok middle classes for investment. But at least with this they've done a good job, it's low rise, only four storey so at least the development hasn't gone the awful way of Pattaya and Phuket with huge high rises. But the new shopping area being developed behind it of coffee shops and chi chi bakeries and boutiques will never be affordable to or probably even attractive to the current day trippers. But I think the danger is that the more swishy places that open up, the less they will want to put up with the three miles of old fashioned stripey deckchairs and umbrellas supporting the Thai holiday maker and will want the beach opened up. They've done this in Phuket and banned all sunbeds and umbrellas. But if that happens here not only will the current economy collapse but the one beach place in Thailand that I've ever found that still "belongs" to the Thai people may disappear for ever and that would be wrong.
I found this Lonely Planet piece which I think sums current Cha am up perfectly, I just hope it doesn't change...

"Cheap and cheerful Cha-am is a popular beach getaway for working-class families and Bangkok students. On weekends and public holidays, neon-painted buses, their sound systems pumping, deliver groups of holidaymakers. It is a very Thai-style beach party, with eating and drinking marathons held around umbrella-shaded beach chairs and tables. Entertainment is provided by the banana boats that zip back and forth, eventually making a final jack-knife turn that throws the passengers into the sea. Applause and giggles usually follow from the beachside audience.
Cha-am doesn't see many foreigners; visitors are usually older Europeans who winter here instead of more expensive Hua Hin. And there are even fewer swimsuits on display as most Thai's frolic in the ocean in T-shirts and shorts. But Cha-am’s beach is long, wide and sandy, the grey-blue water is clean and calm, the seafood is superb, the people-watching entertaining and the prices are some of the most affordable anywhere on the coast."

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Off the buses.... (23 March - 4 April 2016)

Not sure if it was an extra busy weekend, but today, a Monday, Cha am seems like a ghost town. The one day/one night trippers in their colourful coaches don't get here until later and the weekend visitors made the long late journey back home yesterday, sitting in the big traffic jam at 7 pm last night. The big decorated double decker coaches, known as "chor ching cha", (and here's picture of my favourite artwork so far, "dogs having a party"...) are absent over the weekend as visitors arrive under their own steam. 

That steam appears to be big pick up's which must account for at least 90% of all the weekend vehicles. Most are closely parked up against the three mile long ribbon of umbrellas and deckchairs, but some break for freedom at the extreme ends of the three mile strip where the deckchairs peter out a bit. They empty their occupants from up to four generations out of the pick up, then the contents of the back, spread out a tarp, empty the stripy bags, light the small BBQ and cook up a veritable feast that would feed many in a Thai buffet restaurant that smells amazing as you walk by at eight in the morning. And all washed down with beers and the seemingly obligatory bottle of Hong Thong the local whisky for the men and brightly coloured pop for the women and children. But even if you do forget something for your picnic you need not fear. I have never seen as many 7/11's in my life, even more than in Samui, it feels like there's one very few metres. But very helpful if you need a quick cool down on a walk, like mini cooling stations as their aircon is fierce!
And this week there's an extra attraction here. From the big poster I recognised a "31" and a "6" and from that cleverly deduced, as the rest, like all notices and ads here (and hotel front desks), are in Thai only, that the small market that has appeared on the prom at the main beach junction is just here for this week. It's a bit like Mae Nam's walking street but on a much smaller scale but without the Western influence! I have no idea what most of the food offerings are except for these fried insects, apparently a really good source of protein - think I'll stick to the local seafood for that! 

There are additional clothes stalls including one selling the stylish full head cover ups for when you're working outside, quite scary! There's lots of soap and even a tent for "face candling". And each evening a concert. The first night was a Thai orchestra playing traditional instruments followed by gentle Thai dancing, bizarrely, the next night was a solo guitarist blasting out old Shadow's numbers on his electric guitar. I kept expecting Cliff to appear but no luck there...

But the food offerings here even outside the market are non stop. Obviously the seafood, but also the breakfast stalls selling all sorts each morning before the over nighters clamber back on their big decorated buses. One thing I'm not too sure about is the white sliced bread, very lightly toasted and spread with something yellow, could be butter. That sits there till someone wants to buy. Then it appears to be sliced into soldiers and dunked in warm Carnation milk.... not for me!
But going back to the buses, you'd think that with the expensive artwork on them they'd be careful drivers, but no. Every day in the paper and online there are terrible reports of bus crashes, dangerous driving, high speed crashes and even drivers on drugs (a frequent report) to stay awake. But in fact all Thai driving seems appalling. As a nation my observation is that generally they just don't look where they're going, pedestrians wander in front of you, cyclists pedal along looking anywhere but where they're going. When vehicles reverse out of a parking space, they don't check if anything's behind them, I've learned after a few near misses to never walk behind a parked car, as they all have smoked glass you can't tell whether there's anyone in there or not! No one ever gives way to a pedestrian even on zebra crossings. Motor cyclists are always texting as they go and completely ignoring red lights. But it's the bus accident rate that keeps me off them these days.... It just so happens taxi's are a bit more civilised....

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Seafood, shells and sunhats (22 - 26 March 2016)

think I came here to Cha am slightly the long way round - more comfortable but longer. It's still on the Gulf of Thailand but on the mainland. The shorter way would have been a ferry to Don Sak and then a bus north..... but when you can get a flight north and a taxi south....
I like it here, it's a great place. Not fabulous like St Tropez or even mind's eye Thai beach like Lipa Noi. It's probably more like Margate or Southend in the old days, unashamedly bucket and spade! It's also unashamedly Thai, and not for the Western tourist. I'm one of the few Westerners in the village! Most of the signage is in Thai without the English translation and there's not a girlie bar in sight. What there is are loads of day trippers arriving on their gaudy painted coaches and young Thai families enjoying their seaside. 

Hua Hin, 26k down the coast has been the smarter relation for years and is very Western and over developed, so I guess the Thai's decided to keep something for themselves, quite right too. But there is a downside. Food choices are limited as apart from the the big hotels I am still looking for Western type Thai restaurants, I can only find places where the menu is in Thai and the tables are on the dusty side, putting it politely! But It seems that any European's settling here have been Scandinavians so there are a few Thai places with a Norwegian flag outside to try... And even more of an issue, no laundry choices. In Samui they are everywhere and do a great job at 35 baht (70p) a kilo, here I have managed to find only one so far and at the outrageous price of 90 baht (£1.80) a kilo and she was very clear that that included "no eye-ron". But on a positive note, after three months without, I am getting used to warm water (this is Thailand, so no, not actually hot water) in the bathroom basin again so if push comes to shove a bit of Tide and Downy from the 7/11 should see me through....
Cha am is a long sweeping beach about 3 miles in length. But not that you can see much of the beach - along all three miles is a ribbon of old fashioned striped deckchairs, up to 12 deep, all arranged around small, low tables covered with easy wipe oilcloth and covered with so many sun umbrellas that not even one ray of sun would not get through whatever time of day. 

It appears to work like this. You get here first thing, either on one of the gaudy buses or in your own transport, mainly pickups loaded with all sorts of stuff - water, food, tarpaulins, children and stripey big bags. You choose which deckchair set you and your family want, pay the man and settle in for the day. The kids, regardless of the dangerous currents and jellyfish (including box jellyfish) warnings, leap into the sea, especially after hiring huge black inner tubes to play on and then try to avoid the jet skis and banana boats speeding along very close in shore. All manic but it seems to work! Also along the whole three miles are small stalls with fresh fish and seafood. Looks like if you're peckish, you choose some, send it somewhere to be cooked then eat it. Or you can buy some of the huge pre cooked battered prawns the girls carry round. These look especially yummy. They appear to be cooked first thing in the morning in rather dark, dodgy looking oil, then kept in the 33 degree shade till someone buys them for lunch.... Hmmmmm....  You also appear to be able to get food from your favourite restaurants, you always see waiters on their motorbikes, driving with one hand and balancing a couple of uncovered plates of Pad Thai with the other..... Late afternoon when it's cooled down a bit, the family hire bikes to ride up and down the beach road - and these are bicycles made for two - and three and four. Whole families climb on the four seater ones and giggle their way along the prom! They also have the other four seaters with the little roof that I still have pictures of at home from holidays we took in North Wales, all very Enid Blyton! Less Enid Blyton is the Thai love of karaoke, that comes out early evening, but perhaps that's just the modern equivalent of songs around the beach camp fire...

It's a low rise place apart from four hideous high rise hotels, including the ubiquitous Asia. Can't imagine how they survive. The hotel economy here seems to be tour groups who stay one night, often all in the same colour polo shirts, either work, youth or school groups. They are all queuing up patiently in the mornings to get back on the big coaches to take them home, but only outside the smaller Thai guest house type hotels. The big places must earn their money with weekend bookings, it's only a couple of hours down a good highway from Bangkok and is a popular weekend destination. Certainly this hotel, apart from a works do one night when it was full, has been like a mausoleum all week, but now it's Saturday the pool of my pool access room is teeming with screeching kids... Funnily enough I don't mind these kids at all! They are sweet and wave hello to the strange farang as they doggy paddle past. I used to find the European ones in the Florist really annoying, for some reason they just seemed like spoiled little brats! Cha am is also well set up for the day tripper business. All along the beach are small establishments offering loos and showers. Often tucked in between two buildings and constructed mainly of corrugated iron, they offer a necessary, but I know from walking past, not a very fragrant service! The souvenirs are here aplenty too. As well as the usual t shirt and swimmie stalls and brightly coloured inflatables and buckets and spades and sunhats, there are lots of shell stalls with shell picture frames, mirrors, ornaments, mobiles and door curtains. Funnily enough the beach here has no shells at all..... perhaps that's why! 

But the big food take home here is not mint rock or candy floss but dried fish. There is the usual dried brown squid that I recognise but also whole fish that don't look that dry, wrapped beautifully in frilly cellophane like a Harrod's Easter egg. Can't work that one out at all. But there is a shopping frenzy each morning and evening just before people board their coaches for home. Not sure I fancy the eau de dried fish fragrance that must permeate the journey! In summary, if you've only got a couple of weeks holiday in Thailand this probably isn't your best choice, but if you're after a bit of full on seaside, this is it - charming Cha am!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Fat girl slim (14 - 21 March 2016)

can now finally move on! One of the reasons I have stayed in Samui so long this time was that I knew it was a good place to complete my Gill Goodwin Patent,100 day Walking Power of Ten Samui Bootcamp. Hmmmm, think I might need a snappier title for when this goes viral... Frankly I blame Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood. Too much eating of too much Bake Off baking during the summer and autumn left me with a few pounds to shift and I decided Koh Samui was the place to do it. 
So the Bootcamp regime has been (results in brackets)
1 meal per day (av 0.95)
10 miles per day (av 10.7)
10 kilos weight loss (10 kilo's + see below)
100 days (100 days)
1000 calories in per day (av in 917)
1000 calories deficit per day (av deficit 1124)
1000 miles total (1075 miles total)
100,000 calorie deficit total (112350 total)
Plus a total of 2,345,748 steps 

On paper, by dividing the calorie deficit by 3500, I lost 32 pounds, 14.6 kilo's, but unless I was a lot heavier than I thought when I started, that's not right. Sadly I don't think it's quite as straightforward as that! If that were the case I'd be able to fit Victoria Beckham clothes and I don't think that's going to happen any time soon... I do bring a lot of stuff away with me but not bathroom scales so I don't really know! But I must admit I avoid the scales anyway, it's too easy to become obsessive but I do know that my clothes now fit a lot better! Hooray...
But I've had some encouragement along the way. All the little 7/11's here have scales outside, you put in your 1 baht and get your weight and a little tune. There was a very big Russian man outside one, complaining to me that the weight machine was broken. Then he said he thought he was so big he had broken it. I was in the process of advising him to go into the shop and get his baht back when I realised it was unexpected Russian humour... He repeated again, with a glint in his eye, "it must be broken, I cannot possibly weigh that much." He told me he was 174 kilo's when he started but was now down to 160. He had such a long way to go that suddenly my pounds didn't seem so many!
Then there were the comments from people I'd see on my walk every day. My favourite was the girl in the massage parlour I walked past in the evening. She looked at me and said with outstretched arms "before, you fat, now you not", and drew her hands back in. You gotta love the Thai's, they do speak as they find like Kev on steroids! And the girl in Jordan's who looked quizzically at me with her head on one side and said "now you less". Or the lady in the little shop who every evening as I walk past does a thumbs up and says "exercise good", and one day added "slim, slim" as well. It all helps keep you going.
And just to prove what a goody goody I've been, this is the first time ever that 100 days on there's still some duty free gin left in the bottle.....
So now to move on and move forward and make sure I pack and take home the willpower I've had here because even though I do love Samui the biggest challenge now is not having to do the same next year...... 

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Who'd have thought 500 posts..... (13 March 2016)

I'm sure The Proclaimers had a song about that didn't they? But seriously, this is a mega post in the blogosphere! Indeed who'd have thought that on that December day in Puerto Madryn in Argentina in 2007, Ant and I would be starting the blog that has been going strongly since, with this, the 500th post. In those days Ant and I had to write it "live" whilst online on a small windows computer, no iPads or apps then! And finding wifi was an art in itself, how times change! But we started as we meant to go on with a glass of why in hand...  It all started with

It's seen a few contributors, me, Ant, David and of course the Dyl's notable contribution of the posts from our trip to Chamonix. 
It's seen visitors from the UK come to join us, Derek in Argentina and Carole and Anna Marie in Thailand and Deryn in Thailand and Goa.
Out of the seventy odd countries I have ever visited so far, 38 countries/territories feature in the blog, some as re visits and some on numerous occasions. They are:

Malaysia - mainland
Malaysia - Sabah and Sarawak
Hong Kong
New Zealand
New Caledonia
Cook Islands
Sri Lanka
Antarctica (Ant on his own, too cold and adventurous for me!)
Brazil - just a fleeting visit
Paraguay - just a fleeting visit
St Kitts and Nevis
St Lucia

We've travelled in all kinds of ways, some more comfortable, some more exciting than others!

Jet planes
Propellor planes
Elastic band job planes
Ferry boat
Rowing boat
Long tail boat
South seas boat
Hotel launch
Slow cargo river boat
Converted rice barge
Ice breaker (Ant only!)
Classic yachts
Ordinary Yachts (Ant)
Canoe (Ant and David only...)
Train - day and sleeper
Bamboo rail train
Funicular railway
Tuk tuk
Hire car
Motor bike
Push bike
Mountain bike
Road train
Pickup truck
Horses (Ant)
Surrey with a fringe on the top (Gill)
Pony and trap
Horse and carriage like Katie Price's wedding one
Shank's pony

I have tried to think what is my highlight but discover that that is impossible. So many things standout for so many different reasons. Here are a few with a link to go to that post if you want to read it.

The first ever post of the blog from Puerto Madryn on our Argentinian adventure

Kev always said that one day he'd tango in Buenos Aires, he never got that chance, but Ant and I did it for him, took our lessons and off we went!

Most magical places, there were so many but these are my top ones - the Estancia in Argentina, Mai Chau, a Shangri la of a green valley in North Vietnam and our stay on a sampan travelling the Mekong in South Vietnam, we liked that one so much we went back and did it again with David! 

The saddest post in a black comedy sort of a way, the Sputum Express. We were on the overnight train in Vietnam going north sharing our 4 berth compartment with a very old, very ill man and his daughter.
Silliest post when we were ultra uber flashpacking at the Nam Hai near Hoi An in Vietnam. Our personal butler "wrote our blog post" for us as she did everything else...
The coldest we've been in apart from Ant in Antarctica that is....

The real coldest one, Ant's Antarctica adventure

Perhaps the maddest place we went to. How Ant persuaded me to spend any time at an ashram is beyond me (and we stayed two out of the three planned days). This is Amma'a place in Southern India, the divine hugging mother....

My strangest overnight - on a cargo boat on the Mekong in the freezing cold...

Another mad idea.... Once we saw Graham Norton and Dolly Parton doing the old "Islands in the Stream" duo whilst floating along in a rubber ring at Dollywood Splash County at her theme park in Pigeon Forge and decided we wanted to do it too. We did...... We also did Elvis at Graceland, Kennedy in Dallas, JR and Sue Ellen at Southfork in Dallas and of course cut our own disc in Nashville....

The cleverest series of posts, as written by the Dyl... This is just the daddy Ant birthday one but he also wrote all the posts either side. What a c   lever boy!

The post that encapsulates the enduring thread of this blog - alcohol or indeed the lack of it in Brunei!

Perhaps the weirdest place visited, Nay Pyi Daw the new capital of Burma/Myanmar. So glad we went when we did. This mad city had only been open to foreigners for 8 days when we got here.

Perhaps slightly the scariest post, when I was evacuated to the hills overnight during a Tsunami alert in Ao Nang, Thailand

Ant's mountain climbing adventures, Adam's Peak in Sri Lanka and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah

Ok, I didn't do Kinabalu and only made it up 3/4 of Adam's peak, but I did manage the hills in Sapa!

We've flashpacked along the way too. Notably the Nam Hai in Vietnam, the Tea Trails in Sri Lanka, suites in the Intercontinental in Saigon, the Estancia in Argentina, the Conrad in Hong Kong, but we have balanced that with places at the other end of the scale. The worst had to be the Achinka Holiday Inn in Sri Lanka where Ant had to stay the night before climbing Adam's Peak. The cockroach infested Queen's hotel in Kandy comes pretty close. The Long Villa in in Kep with ants in the coffee. The hotel in Mumbai that felt like a public lavatory. The Dugout Motel in Koh Kong, Cambodia that was nothing but a "knocking shop". The horrible and freezing La Gite del Sol in San Christobel de la Casas in Mexico.

We've had so many laughs but a few really stick in the memory. David, still not used to our slight backpacker pretensions, desperate for a semi decent hotel at Ngapali beach in Myanmar. Even Ant and I had turned down the first flea pit so we asked to be taken to the best hotel in town. As we approached, David was hanging out of the taxi window, his fingers in a Churchillian V shouting in desperation "two rooms, two rooms!"  When finally shown two very nice rooms, David did just have one more question to the hotel person who didn't speak much English as we surveyed the rather large rodent traps in the comer....  "big mouse, little mouse, big mouse, little mouse?"
Another was Ant and I in a freezing cold replica of a Scottish Hunting lodge in Ooty, the Glyngarth Villa, in the hill station in Southern India. We  were happily knocking back the pre prandial duty free gin in the living room trying to keep warm. We were the only people staying in this place but the staff still decided we needed some entertainment and had booked a man with an electric keyboard to play for us. He started, he was so bad, then he started singing the usual Frank Sinatra type lounge music with a very strong Indian accent, that was even worse. We really shouldn't have looked at each other... Just the two of us, two gin and tonics down and unfortunately the giggles started. And we couldn't stop. Really bad manners but we did give him a huge tip to try and compensate...
And then there was the time, just after we had discovered Candy Crush, sitting round the pool in Mui Ne, Vietnam, when Ant shouts in the loudest, most excited voice ever at some problem in the game "oh no Gill, you've just lost your cherry!". We did get some rather old fashioned looks from the other people....

And my favourite photo of all - all three human blog contributors, just missing the non human one, the Dyl! 
So the first 500 posts have been amazing, am now looking forward to the next 500....

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Munchin' in Mae Nam (1 - 10 March 2016)

Thai's always seem to be eating but not at home. In the small houses I walk past here there are no kitchens, any cooking appears to be done on a makeshift BBQ arrangement outside and the rest of the kitchen is a plastic bowl to wash and store the dishes and a hose pipe. I think most eating is done out as the main road is lined with small stalls some with BBQ satay, fish and chicken balls on sticks that look more like the sort of thing a drug smuggler would swallow whole... There are Pad Thai stalls and fried rice stalls and green curry stalls. And stalls with steaming pots of lovely smelling things and sounds of popping, hot fat. These are going all times of the day and people are always picking up food and carrying away their sauces in little plastic bags like we used to carry goldfish home from the fair, festooned from their motorbike handlebars. But the smell as you wander along is pretty good!
But we tourists like things a bit more the way we are used to and Mae Nam's one Main Street between the ring road and the beach has everything you need. It can't be more than 200 metres long but it sure packs in a lot. As well as the huge choice of eateries there are travel agents, private houses, laundries, motor cycle hire shops, ships chandlers, three jeweller's shops, an Internet/fax shop, a barbers, massage and beauty parlours, a fish spa and a fantastic old grocery and pharmacy full of dusty items but with a pharmacist who can apparently cure all ills. Most of the restaurants are only one shophouse front wide and some are even open air. The choice is:

Austrian Corner - err...Austrian!
Pat Thai - this is the typo, not an Irish Thai place
Jordan's - Sports Bar, Aussie run and my local for a pre dinner why why
Mathis cafe - quite posh now, international food, was the old Firestation Bar
Well Done - European/Thai. Last year you couldn't get a table. It changed hands a few months ago and now on one ever goes there....
San Remo Lounge - Italian and Thai
Vegetarian tapas - run by the guy who used to have a bar on the beach
About Cafe - she does a mean porridge and decent bread for toast
Juice and ice cream stall
Anjuli's - sort of bad French but with a good sea view
Seaview - my choice for my lunchtime Diet Coke - honest!
Cupid - Thai seafood
Thai restaurant
Corner bar - Aussie run by a couple who regularly drink the profits I'm told.
Beach way - light French and decent coffee
Archetto's - a new Italian
Korean BBQ
Ma yom - the most popular joint on the street. Great Thai food, really cheap. One dish and stee rye with a glass of why why for under £4. 
Tommy - Swiss - run by Tommy who has the biggest beer gut you have ever seen. He never wears a top, just carries all before him in all its sweaty glory, not a place I frequent as it really puts you off your food although loads of others do...
Bavaria Road - German
La Bonne Franquette - French

There are no big hotels here so the restaurants cater to people from smaller beach hut type places and small family hotels like the Florist so no need to dress up! Apart from Thursday's that is, when Walking Street attracts people from miles around. Then you can get anything, insects, cake, fruit stalls, sushi, fried octopus, spare ribs, fried seafood, barbecue bananas, sticky rice in banana leaf, and so much else. If you add to that even more places in the village and places on the main road, you see why you never need get the munchies here.
My favourite is Ma Yom and a standard sort of meal and wine is £4 which obviously to us is a major bargain. Hold the wine and you're talking £2.... The bill in many of the other places can vary but you would be hard pushed to spend a tenner in most of them.  But I still can't reconcile that with daily minimum wage here. In the news today new set rates for some skilled jobs were announced and even for skilled supervisory jobs is only around 400 baht (£8), but with unskilled people on 300 (£6), suddenly £4 for a simple meal seems a lot and explains why the only locals you ever see near these restaurants are younger girls with new European men friends... I think for locals living in a tourist area things can be difficult as tourists push the prices up but their wages don't follow.
There are a few things I haven't tried though. The first is from this stall. She has a couple of boiled chickens in her plastic case first thing in the morning and bits get used up as the very warm day goes on - her plastic case is not refrigerated.... but I am attracted by her display of golden chicken - the new Golden Arches perhaps? They are also there every day and look as if she used a tin of gloss...

And talking of food, who could choose between these two delicious offerings - "fried rice with shrimps and squit" or "Coffee with Apple Cack"? Mmmmmmm!