Thursday, 22 January 2015

Hydroponic Hills (11 - 21 January 2015)

Whilst Carole has been here it's been easier to explore areas where I wouldn't always want to walk to on my own, especially away from the beach and up into the wooded hills behind. So we have been exploring a little and wandered around the little roads, through small villages, temples, past isolated houses and negotiated rather too many barking dogs for my liking. Up the gentle gradient past, fields full of coconut palms and cooler in the shade of the high trees. It's really peaceful up there away from the ring road traffic noise so we were surprised one day when venturing way off the beaten track to spot a large red miniature windmill on what appeared to be the roof of a local house......

We investigate further and enter the slightly surreal world of "Samui Sheep Farm and Salad" a rather bizarre combination of a hydroponic lettuce farm and children's playground featuring the cleanest sheep Carole or I have ever seen...

It looks like it should be in Kent. It has an extremely well organised series of open sided sheds growing lovely looking salad leaves which he apparently sells to the local restaurants. But the children's area was amazing. He has a five year old son and I think this may have been his inspiration. As well as huge models of Shaun the sheep, there are eight real live ones he shipped in from a farm near Bangkok.

There are also other creative things around, the sink for the loos is based on the muddy puddle from Peppa the Pig, there is a magic one legged chair. In the middle there is a sheep pen ready and waiting for what looks like the next episode of "one man and his dog" but having seen the state of the local dogs I'm not sure any of them would have been up to the task! The guy who owns it was interesting, perfect English, but no idea of his back story. He showed us all around. It's due to officially open in a couple of weeks but we can't quite work out who it's aimed at.

On our walks we also came across a coffee shop looking for staff. I was going to get Carole to apply, well she may as well earn a bit of pocket money on rainy days but we then realised exactly how much it paid. At 40 baht an hour (80p), like Naomi Campbell she really felt it was it quite worth getting out of bed for even if it was raining....

The time Carole's been here has, as usual gone too quickly. Though she did arrive in Royal style. The night before she came here the son of the owner suggested she should have a bouquet of flowers to greet her at the airport. Well I guess that's what happens at the Florist Hotel... I wasn't sure quite how much of a plonker she might feel but they were so sweet in suggesting it I agreed. Unfortunately we were, due to traffic, a little late going to pick her up so I didn't have the time to find the obligatory small child in a frilly frock to make the actual presentation. All the other tired arrivals just couldn't work out when she was going to cut a ribbon or launch a plane and were hurriedly checking out last week's Thailand Hello! Mag to find out who this Duchess of Geneva actually was....

But as well as hydroponic in the hills, the weather's been a bit too hydroponic with the rain still too frequent for our liking. People are making, unnecessarily I feel, jokes about it being English weather..... We were going to reply that no, it was more like Welsh weather but thought the subtlety might be lost on the other European nationals. The roads got flooded in Chewang one day when 21mm fell in a short time, but there has also been the almost all day long stuff... But it hasn't stopped us doing the usual lolling around by the pool and having the odd glass or two of why why. So much so that even Carole is greeted by "why why?" as soon as she walks in anywhere... We make the annual pilgrimage to Tropical Murphy's, check out the new shopping centre in Chewang, shop in Jim Thompson. On our walks, so far snake free, but loads of very large spiders, at times it has felt like Easter with a couple of little chicken families, one with yellow chicks and one with black chicks scrabbling about.

Carole has also pulled - well in the guy's dreams.... The French proprietor of a beach restaurant took a bit of a fancy to her and thought that telling her he was from Monaco might swing the deal - again in his dreams. We reckon he was more from Marseille than Monaco anyway. They are stupid though, all that trying to come on to people does is mean they just don't come back to your restaurant. We have also watched in horror as the local tailor delivered the latest in "Hausfrau Chic" to the German couple in the room next door to Carole. It was hard to contain our shocked gasps as he proudly presented the bright orange, man made fibre, shiny, crushed velvet fitted number with a lot of front drapery that she has ordered. We were very surprised when she seemed pleased... I just hope that when she gets it home she realises and doesn't wear it to the office party. People never learn! Carole also had the pleasure of her first returning guests party here at the Florist Resort. It was a slightly more subtle affair than usual, obviously a few less returning guests in January and sadly without the mad cocktail juggler and his flaming Malibu bottles.... But they provided free food and drink and a man with a guitar. I would also like to say he sang but even in a charitable mood I couldn't call what came out of his mouth singing.... But again, how nice and generous of the hotel to do this. But the hotel is still really empty given it's high season and Carole noticed how much quieter Chaweng was compared to last time she visited. But it really will be empty tomorrow, Carole has to go home already.....

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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Thai traffic rules (5 -9 January 2015)

A summary....

Please drive on the left wherever possible. But don't worry too much if you are only going a few hundred metres, it's probably not worth crossing the traffic just for that. If you are on a motorbike you can drive on the wrong side for as far as you like.
Motorbikes may use the provided pavements as motorbike lanes to travel any distance in either direction. These handy motorbike lanes are also for use by pedal cyclists.
If driving on these motorcycle lanes at night it can be helpful to use the horn to warn any pedestrians to get out of the way but it's not obligatory, you can just come up behind them and rev the engine, they will soon jump quickly out of the way. It's good fun to do this as well.
Motorbikes and pedal cyclists are not required to have lights on at night.
It is the responsibility of pedestrians to move out of your way not the other way around even on pavements. It is fine to miss them by a hair's breadth or even just touch them with your vehicle but any more than that may slow down your journey.
There are not many traffic lights on Samui, so don't worry, just treat them as pretty lights. Obvs Europeans do know what they are for, but hey, you are on holiday so it's cool to ignore them.
The new signs asking for 100% adherence to helmet wearing for motorcyclists is advisory at best - or just a pretty pale blue street decoration.
Similarly any advisory speed limits can be seen in the same way, pretty yellow street decorations.
You do not need to move to one side to let a flashing blue light vehicle go past. Just speed up a bit of possible. If after about ten minutes they still can't get past, you may pull over for them, but it's not obligatory.
The faded black and white zebra like patterns on some of the roads can be ignored. We think they mean something but the reason has been lost in the mists of time along with most of the white paint.
You can park your motorbike wherever you like, the middle of the pavement is a good place as it's less likely to get hit by anything else. Pedestrians can walk in the road to get around it.
If you need to reverse to get out of your pavement parking spot you don't need to look around to see if there's anyone there. Most pedestrians have a sixth sense.
Whilst riding along the pavement on your motorcycle if you come across a stray dog trying to get food from the rubbish bags it is fine to give it a healthy kick.
The legal driving age for motorbikes is flexible but boys can start on the roads at about age 10.
Texting and updating Facebook on the go is allowed. You only need one hand to drive a motorbike.
European's on unfamiliar motorbikes on the different side of the road from at home should just go with the flow. It's fine for your small kids to be on there with you with no protection at all. The bone setters at the local hospitals are very experienced.

Ok slight exaggeration for literary effect but not too far from the truth! But the road madness seems to work for the Thai's at least. They seem to walk around here undamaged whereas you see loads of Europeans each day with various bits of their anatomy bandaged or in plaster casts, with walking sticks or crutches.

But whilst the Thai's do seem to forget their manners whilst driving their two or four wheeled chariots at least on "dry land" they are polite. Contrast that to most Europeans. Given the bike parking situation and heavy rain creating huge puddles, it's often necessary to "give way" to another pedestrian to get by on the pavement. "Grumpy old woman alert now." Just when did virtually all Europeans forget their manners? You wait to let someone pass and they completely ignore you, no thank you let alone a simple acknowledgement - even the kids who I would have thought the schools may have taught better. It's really getting to me, unnecessarily I know, but each time it happens I say "you're welcome" as if they had actually uttered the thank you word. Childish I know but it makes me feel better. Rant over!
The dogs here continue to create contrast too. There are some very pampered, very cute dogs. There are also some definitely less than pampered ones. Even some of those with a collar on who are owned by someone can be in a state. There's this old boy I pass every day.

Looks like he's owned by the upholstery/ foam cut to size shop so there are lots of comfy places for him to rest. But he seems to prefer a dip in the pavement filled with sand. He's got such a sad little face. Then there's this little pooch, dressed in the latest Thai doggie fashion, a nice cosy padded jacket, well he might get cold it is only 30C...

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015

What year is it anyway? (26 December 2014 - 5 January 2015

As New Year's Eve dawned, I could be forgiven for being a little confused. The hotel had asked me to come and celebrate the start of 2025, a hotel in Bophut had been wishing us all a Happy Xmas 2015 for the last week and in Thailand we were approaching the year 2558.

But being certain we were still in 2014 I started the evening with a glass of pink bubbles (pee why?) and some Kettle Chips by the pool with the two Swedish girls next door before entering the fray that the hotel promised as an evening of fun, food and games..... It's so good of the hotel to put this on free of charge as an "opportunity to improve our relationship and connection". The party promised free food, soft drinks, a staff funny show and the cocktail showman - as Mr Bennett may have said - who has been my friend these many parties..... Additionally we would be invited to participate in games. Hoping to avoid the latter, Irene, Agnita and I chose a table as far away from the small stage as possible... Normally there is a very good live band headed by Angel, the very popular front of house manager, but for some reason not this year. It was a shame, she was really missed by us all, there are a lot of returning guests here and it was a pity she was not part of the party.
And as returning guests, we three had a bottle of wine delivered to the table from Surajit and his family (the owners) which was really nice of them and of course much appreciated. The good food eaten, the festivities began with drinking games on the stage, a raffle for many prizes, and no, I didn't manage to win the rice cooker I had so coveted, and the housekeeping staff doing their "funny show" of Hawaiian dancing. The poor girls had to work really hard appearing four times, the only time I didn't like the performance was when the new General Manager joined them on stage and proceeded to inappropriately, I thought, "bump and grind". But the girls "did good", one or two helped I feel by the odd cocktail...

And speaking of cocktails we were treated to two performances of the juggling cocktail man, he's getting a lot better and I think only dropped a couple of molotov's... They did seem to be brushing up a lot of glass though throughout the evening. But everyone enjoyed the show with lots of loud, good natured cheers at his near misses. My main Health and Safety concern was him taking a large slug of beer every so often during the difficult bits. There was also a great German couple, she looked so like Sharon Osbourne and at one point led a conga around the restaurant, out onto the beach and back in again. She was in bed most of the next day...
But eventually we were called to the beach to welcome in the New Year, whichever one it was! The hotel provided lots of lanterns to light. I was smugly PC in refusing one (I know, not a position I take very often...) they are really dangerous to to sea life here. They have made an effort and use a wooden frame but most still have a fine wire cross frame to hold them together. I'm sure the hotel used non wire ones...
The weather this year was ok with no rain so it was lovely to be on the beach at midnight watching the massive displays of fireworks all around the huge bay here and across on Koh Phangnan.

But the weather didn't quite play ball when it came to the lanterns. The wind was just a bit too high and as each one was released it seemed to blow directly sideways, a live firebomb landing on any human who got in the way... The odd one that got any lift soon got trapped in the palm trees at onetime setting the trunk on fire! But on a positive note it did mean fewer to damage the Dolphins! Tina and John, my Brit blog readers joined us in time for New Year so that was good, but sadly the lack of a live band meant we had to miss out on John's excellent stagecraft...

All in all it was a great evening and good on the Florist Resort for putting it on.
All has been quiet on the Western front since then with Thailand taking a long holiday with a lot of the world and going back today, 5 January. I have spent my time as usual wandering, lolling and reading. I did finally pop into Chaweng yesterday for the famed Sunday lunch at Tropical Murphy's - a must do at least once when I'm here. I also wanted to see what the new Central Festival shopping development looked like. I have always like the chaos that is Chaweng, the road behind the beach. It's a mish mash of stalls, shops, bars and restaurants. Motorbikes are parked all over the pavements so you end up walking in the road, dodging the taxis and songthaews, the sound of the taxis touting for trade drowned out by the bargaining going on in the shops. I was hoping they hadn't taken any of this madness away and was pleased to see that they hadn't. They've done a good job with the entrance. It's big but not too obvious and the mix of new shops and restaurants inside is good, including a new Central department store, a first for Samui. Carole will also be very happy at the huge new Jim Thompson shop there and it's only a few steps away from Tropical Murphy's. Excellent town planning.

On my travels I saw this push chair (look carefully, it is there behind the photographer's headphone cable...) being used to carry veg and lemongrass that had just been picked and it made me realise that you never see a Thai child in a push chair. Not sure if this is to do with the very uneven pavements or the fact that they also seem to be unofficial but handy motorbike lanes. The children are either carried in a blanket if they are really tiny, tucked between the adults on a motorbike or toddling along under their own steam. Contrast that to the two American expats opposite me who had a huge contraption worthy of a Sherpa going up Everest with this tiny baby lost within it once it was hauled on to the father's back. It did make me think that a we sometimes over engineer our lives - I just wish they'd over engineer the bits I want like the wiffy....

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Friday, 26 December 2014

Brit's Abroad - the sequel (24 - 26 December 2014)

Finally it's that time again, and I am very excited. Not about Xmas you understand, but in 24 hours I can open and eat my mince pies....
The hotel decided to get into the holiday spirt by hosting a Xmas Eve Extravaganza, well a do in the beachside restaurant. We were promised good food, alcoholic beverage, cooking demonstration, the juggling bartender (and old friend these last few years.....) and unspecified games... I have palled up again with Tina and John, party pals and blog readers extraordinaire who I met here last year at Xmas. It's so nice to see them again.

So we all pay our money for the do but I think Mr cock up visited the booking process and it was not as well attended as it might have been. In total we were we were an eclectic mix of three Brits, four German girls, two Swiss couples and one very bemused Russian couple. There was also one random single man whose nationality we never did discover but what we do know about him is he was "feeling no pain" and we were relived the next morning not to discover his body in the pool. And a lot of empty tables... On a positive note that did leave lots of of extra food for us and no queues for it! The bbq went down well. Another positive for the hotel it also left lots of leftover salad for the breakfast buffet... But like the Titanic the band played on, as usual it was Angel who does this very well. There was also a new lady singing who I have not seen before in a rather fetching Xmas outfit...

John got the dancing started with a good tune or two. He was also wearing a rather special Xmas outfit, the tropical version of a Xmas jumper...

Then the juggling bartender appears. Someone, somewhere on this island drinks lots of Malibu as empty Malibu bottles, fabricated into Molotov cocktails by the addition of a diesel soaked rag stuffed in the neck are what he juggles... Health and safety eat your heart out. Tina, John and I knew what was coming so slowly moved back out of the line of fire but the poor Russian couple were taken somewhat by surprise as the lethal, flaming glass bottles were tossed about with gay abandon, and unusually for Russians seemed to be too polite to move away... As soon as he started one of the staff appeared at the edge with her dustpan and brush at the ready - not much confidence there! But I think he's been practising this year as he only dropped one. I know I make a lot of fun out of him but he is quite good in his own way and very entertaining just perhaps not quite in the way he means to be! The cooking demo and games were cancelled though for not enough participants, which was probably not a bad thing so the band played on.....

It was a really good evening though, well we enjoyed it it, just such a pity for the hotel that it was so sparsely attended. We were looked after by a staff ratio of more than that of the best cruise ships. Today they are already sorting the bookings for the free New Year's bash on the beach so that should be a bit livelier. The fact that it's also free may make the difference too!
Having had all the celebrations in the European mode on Xmas Eve, it left little festive cheer for we three Brits come Xmas Day. But in the absence of a turkey dinner or even a turkey stir fry we meet up early afternoon in the hotel restaurant. Picture the azure blue sea, white dotty clouds, gentle beach breeze and slowly swishing waves on the pale yellow sand.... Now picture the reality! Huge waves leaving very little sand, the wind and storms of the last few days have washed up enormous amounts of seaweed and detritus which cover the little sand there is and the wind whizzes in with a real wind chill factor under steel grey skies. But undaunted we Brit's are at the seaside for Xmas Day so we struggle through hamburgers, chips and chicken sandwiches. Followed by a mince pie from my P&G hamper (note to hamper suppliers, change them next year they weren't very nice) and a Ferrero Rocher bought from the 7/11 all washed down with diet coke. We know how to live it up! It really did feel like we were at Southend or Scarborough. I was so cold I had a sweater on and there was that smell of seaweed that you get at home. But it was fun I enjoyed it. Looking at Facebook though, we had swapped beaches with Wales where they really did have gently lapping waves, blue skies and little scudding clouds. World weather eh! The local dogs think it's cold too, they're all wearing their vests!

As it's an ordinary day here in Thailand everything goes on the same and it was Walking Street in Mae Nam. I took a Xmas evening stroll around but it was generally same, same but with Santa hats.

The other reason for wandering around was to find some wiffy to Skype or Viber home. It had been hopeless most of the day so I thought I'd try elsewhere, but no luck. Then the monumental thunderstorms starting at 10 pm and going on through the night (the rain was so loud and heavy you could hardly hear the great claps of thunder through it) put paid to any wiffy hope for a while. It was off completely first thing this morning (Boxing Day) but has now come back on for a while. But when the power goes off which it has, the wiffy goes off before the generator kicks in. I managed to get a walk this morning before the rain restarted but now sit by the pool under cover with a towel round my shoulders to keep warm watching the rain fall into the pool. It's such a shame for people only here for a short time, this weather really is unseasonal, by now it really should be gentle waves and little scudding white clouds. The storms do seem to have blown away some of the wild wind however, today the sea is much calmer and at there was even some activity at the boat pier where there has been none for the last few days. I do hope so, the season is quite short here in Samui and every day with no boat trips or beach bars open is another day less business for the locals who depend on the tourist baht.
But wiffy permitting later I will be doing what most Brit's do today, lolling about in front of the telly, all I'll be missing is the leftover turkey! Enjoy...

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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Samui Flipflop Camp (20- 23 December 2014)

I know it's more normal to call it boot camp, but in the absence of boots I am doing all my walking in some lovely, spotty, brought direct from Brazil by David and Ant Haviana's. And have the scars to prove it....

I discover my UP24 can log individual workouts, well workouts is perhaps pushing it a bit far, perhaps we can call them walkouts instead? Being able to measure things like effort always spurs me on to greater effort so I have made some rather grand strides (in more ways than one...) recently. I am most proud of my 15.5 mile walk yesterday. But frankly, had I done a bit more measuring of the cakes in and the steps out during the summer perhaps I would have needed to make a little less effort and measuring now!

The cloudier and cooler weather is really helping though, it means I don't have to get up too early to walk before the sun comes out - it's not bothering too much at the moment - or wait till the evening when it gets cooler. It's really wild and windy at the beachside but just back from the beach the cloud cover and breeze make it good, pleasantly cool walking weather. That's a first, me describing weather as pleasantly cool, I never thought I would use those same words in the same sentence...
I was in the middle of a walk yesterday when I received the text telling me David was back on Radio Wales Celebrity quiz. I was stranded in Carrefour, and in a first for Thailand I had great difficulty finding any free wifi. Yes, Carrefour provide it but it was broken. I ended up paying an outrageous amount in Starbucks, outrageous in as much as every little bar and restaurant here provides it free. But worth every baht as David triumphs again. Let's hope he makes it to Friday's final. It was funny, last time I was in Carrefour was in November in Calais stocking up on wine - plus ca change, that's what I was doing there yesterday. It was all a bit different though - little choice and high prices. But festive fare purchased, a heavy box, and in the spirit of all boot camps I carried it back in my backpack, the extra weight meaning more effort. But Xmas shopping is now over as I brought the mince pies with me!
The walks continue to be entertaining, there's always something to look at.
There's the tailor with a big shop and beautiful display making obeisance to the beribboned tree outside. Not sure if it's working too well though as the display has been the same for two years to my knowledge so not sure much has shifted. Then there's my search for odd signs. These two caught my eye. The first, rather puerile I know, did amuse me but I did wonder how the two bottles to stop it waving about were filled...

And the second, not too clear from my photography I know, advertising the astonishing fact that their laundry is done in "clean water". Does make me wonder what the local Chinese laundry I use locally uses...

There are always lots of animals to admire - or otherwise! The dog on a lead being taken for a swift run by two people on a motorbike. Then there's the line up of dogs in the temple getting their daily feed from the monk. It's hard to see in this picture but there's a sweet family of Mum and tiny puppies right at the end. I won't get too close for a picture though as the dogs are a bit feral...

There's quite a bit of local building work going on and I am always surprised that in this, a fairly conservative culture, the majority of plasterers are female. I'm not sure if they are local Thai's as I know a lot of labour comes in here from Cambodia and Myanmar.
Most days I get as far as the Lomprayah Pier on my walk but with the high seas there doesn't seem too much activity there. I'm not convinced anyone leaving from here recently would have had such a "Bon" voyage.

The local papers here talk a lot about how the military have done sterling work clearing some of the beach areas, especially Pattaya, of the dense covering of deckchairs and seedy bars. I think they perhaps should now pay attention to the pavements. Any walk here is an obstacle course of not only the usual broken pavements and broken sewers but sleeping dogs (let them lie is what I say...), parked and moving motorbikes, and stalls doing a roaring trade in BBQ chicken.

In my travels I also walk past many beauty shops but the fish spa asking clients to remove their shoes seemed a slightly obvious instruction to me, not sure how the fish could nibble away otherwise... I also see the white dog with one ear up and one ear down. Today I apologise, I did call him a "handsome boy" before, but I now need to change that to "pretty girl", today I noticed evidence that she is probably feeding pups... And I always see a surprising large number of chickens, given this pic was taken on the main ring road round the island...

Anyway that's all for now, only two sleeps to Xmas so I need to get back to Flipflop camp before I eat all my mince pies!

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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Catching Up (15 - 20 December 2014)

It's still all quiet here, there are a few more people generally but not many, even Walking Street on Thursday was half empty. But there's good news on Darling, the lovely black dog (above) from last year. Apparently he was still a bit naughty after he had been "done" and was still chasing motorbikes. One of the local traders further down the road wanted him to be "removed", as in permanently, but luckily before that happened a new home was found for him. The people who have taken him on are friends of the girl who had been looking after him here. They apparently have a bit of land where he can run about. They often bring him back to the beach here so I will keep a look out for him. But apparently he's got fatter in his contentment so hope I still recognise him! I do miss seeing him though.

There's been a few more wild days, the seas on Wednesday really were high. The evenings are chilly (well Gill's version of chilly which is quite warm really....) but one evening I needed light wrap and leggings! And today people eating at a beach restaurant were wearing sweaters against the wind chill. But it's still more than warm enough to sit and enjoy this whole pool that I have had all to myself for a week but as we get nearer to Xmas it is slowly filling up. I guess I have been really spoiled having the whole place to myself and am not sure I like these interlopers. The man on the roof by the way is trying to fix the iffy wiffy.

I have also been catching up with the snake population. I saw my first and hopefully my last in snake alley. Carole and I christened the part of the road where we had more frequent sightings this last year. We were always more watchful walking there. It's part of the nice back road route on our morning walk. This one I was glad was at least dead, but I guess the snake may not have felt the same!

I've also been catching up with old faces. The hotel put on one of their "welcome back and thankyou returning guest parties" on Thursday night, coinciding with the return of their two grown up children who are studying in Australia. There was a big family table as well as guests and Surajit's family is quite a large one now. Angel, the front of house manager, her husband and another of the front of house staff did sterling work as the band - they are very good and do it professionally as well as their day job. I met up with a Swiss couple I have met here the last two years, it's always nice to see a friendly familiar face. It's so good of the hotel to do this, free food and drink, plus the music - but perhaps this is why they have so many returning guests.
I've also been getting my daily steps back up, for some reason it's easier to get up here and go for a walk than it is at home. It's so much easier just to get up and don a pair of shorts (don't try and visualise that, not a pretty sight, but even that is better than some of the get ups you see Europeans in here...), a top and a pair of flip flops. The UP 24 doesn't quite know what's hit it. However I do have a summer of too many Mary Berry Great British Bake Off challenges - both cooking and eating - to walk off... And an evening walk does always make that first glass of why why taste much better... The words are still "why why" by the way - I did try the other day asking for "white wine" but got no further than the usual puzzled look. As soon as I changed to "why why" the look of comprehension dawned accompanied by the relieved "ah, why why", not as relieved as me of course as the cold wine was served!
The Thai economy obviously is doing better than the Russian one, on one of my walks along the back roads some of the places that were just open plots of land now sport lovely little houses. But the gardening business perhaps isn't doing so well. One place that had a beautiful flower nursery has had the greenhouses bit knocked down and a new house built. But what is growing well there is the cute little white puppy who had one ear up and one down, now grown into a handsome boy as you can see.

Wifi issues continue to plague me - I really should be chilled about it. I do find it really annoying though as the Sky reps found to their cost this summer at home! At Jordan's tonight, usually my one port in a wiffy storm had network communication issues, i.e. no wiffy. The Florist have had people working this afternoon so fingers crossed it's good now at the hotel. I guess wiffy can't be good in all places all of the time, but I'd be happy with some of the places some of the time... But wiffy allowing I have been catching up with my reality tv. Given I'm 7 hours ahead, most of the excitement takes place too late for me to watch in real time so I have to be very careful that social media doesn't spoil the surprise. I got it very wrong with the X Factor. Just before watching the final, I went on to the iTunes Store for something and the first thing that greeted me was a banner ad for "the winner's single" and Ben's picture - bit of a giveaway but I guess it took away the tension whilst watching! I'm being a bit more careful with the Apprentice, but the best time to avoid knowing what's happening is to watch early morning here, and even I don't want to go to Jordan's bar for that. Hopefully the Florist fix on the wiffy here will help so I can watch at my leisure with a coffee in the morning. Just for clarity for any new readers to this blog, wiffy is the tech why why equivalent here. Ask for Wifi in a normal English accent and you often get a puzzled stare. Then ask for Wiffy and a password is proffered post haste after the relieved "ah, wiffy" along with a huge smile is heard. Easy.
I've also been trying to catch up with life under military rule which is still in effect here. The only real visible difference I can see is that the big sign with inflated taxi prices has been replaced with one insisting on 100% adherence to helmet wearing by motorcyclists. Not sure the sign is that clear as as far as I can see, almost 100% don't wear them. The Europeans are as bad. I saw one family yesterday, the man, the woman and two small children on a motorbike, the only one with a helmet was the man - just shows where his priorities lie. I still haven't found out the taxi answer. The military are supposed to be clamping down heavily on the taxi Mafia here. I do hope so as it did make the taxis here almost on a par with a black cab in London.
I've also done a quick recce of the big Tesco Lotus, I needed to pop into the Boots there for Soltan. Quite proud of my Thai language recognition, I can now tell when it's on 3 for 2 or just special offer. For those who are interested, no big purchases this time, it was just on special offer... But they still don't recognise a UK Advantage card only the Thai one. Same in Tesco's, free wiffy if you enter your Clubcard number but it wouldn't take a UK one. What's gone wrong with the global economy is what I want to know...
And the good news is that the hotel wiffy is back up to speed - hope I am not speaking too soon. I guess the only downside to that is I don't have the excuse to visit a local bar just to catch up and communicate....

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Home Alone (11 - 15 December)

24 hours door to door, three flights including an unusually empty Bangkok Airway's flight and I finally arrive but it looks like I'm home alone... Great welcome from the hotel and a lovely coconut to drink made all the nicer by a sneaky measure of local rum. But everywhere is so quiet. In my area of 12 rooms around the pool I am the only room occupied since I arrived five days ago and the rest of the place is almost empty too. I know the Russians are staying away due to their economic problems (shame...) but it still feels unusual. So I am enjoying the peace which the hotel tell me will change a few days before Xmas. And the empty pool, not been in it yet but it does feel a lot warmer than last year. And of course at the moment no young kids splashing around in there either...

Nothing much has changed here in the past few months apart from the two huge new houses built by the hotel for the family, very impressive they are too. There's a new small shopping centre in nearby Bophut beach and the lovely beach bar there where you sat on the sand on big cushions sipping an early evening cocktail (Carole, Deryn and Anna Marie will remember those) has gone, looks like a victim of progress in the building of the shopping centre, such a shame.
The weather is also same same. The dry season doesn't really kick in until mid to late December so the first few days here have been a bit wet and windy with narrow beaches and thundery nights but am also hoping that will change by Xmas. But of course regardless of wind or rain it is also lovely and warm all the time. Same as the people - lots of warm welcomes and welcome backs.

Technology doesn't change either - well the management of it with wifi being the most annoying. The rain seems to really affect the signal which seems a bit last century to me. But Apple and iOS 8 play their part too. Slingbox is hopeless on the iPad or mini iPad, I am reduced to watching the telly on my phone, hooray for android is what I say! Have managed to catch up with the The Apprentice and the X Factor finals. Looks like Gogglebox for tonight and am sure to remember to sky plus Xmas Day's Downton Abbey. But my tech issues do spread to the hotel too. Their wifi is not too good in my room so am forced to sit in Jordan's sports bar or here in the Irish Bar in Bophut catching up. I guess we all have to do what we have to do...

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