28 June 2013

It's a Honda!

Mr John takes delivery
Yes, we've bought a scooter!  Mr John snuck off and organised it all including insurance and registration with a little help from some of his fellow teachers.  We got a good deal apparently and a helmet thrown in - though Mr John has gone and bought his own.

Isn't she pretty!
It's an Airblade 110 cc and is by all accounts perfect for two people, with a larger than average seat and twin shock absorbers at the back - presumably for heavy loads! But most importantly, it has a really good sized compartment under the seat (pretty sure it'll hold a large bottle of vodka). Sadly, no cup holders!!

26 June 2013

Rain? What rain?

So we're well and truly into the rainy season now.  The downpours can be torrential which I absolutely love.  I call it "giggly" rain as that's what it makes me do (and others here agree with me).  We've never been in Thailand in the rainy season before, but I don't think it's meant to rain all day, which it has been lately!  We had taken a stroll into the old town the other night and were surprised at how high the river was, so I took another stroll at the weekend and couldn't believe how much it had gone up again already.

Looking at the picture, you can see the flood "ruler" in the foreground, but what's slightly harder to see is the one behind it.  The other week there was about 2 foot showing of this short one.  Now, I'm not prone to panicking but I thought it looked a bit high and did some digging around on the internet.  The last time it flooded was September 2011 and the local Tesco Lotus had no stock left on its shelves!

So we'll be keeping an eye on the situation in case I have to move all our valuables up to the bedroom (which was Mr John's instruction to me last Saturday night after a small sherry!)

24 June 2013

CleVer Bar

Clever Bar
With its unassuming frontage, the Clever Bar is a great place to go to.  It has free Wi-Fi which is able to handle video feeds. So it was here we went to on Saturday so that Mr John & I could watch the British Lions play Australia at rugby.  Of course, Australia was robbed and lost by 2 points - still, another two matches to go so all is not lost!  We had some friends join us though I have to admit I was on the soft drinks as I'd overdone it a little the previous evening!

Somehow, we also ended up spending the rest of the evening here with a great group of Brit, American & Canadian teachers.  They often have live music here which usually consists of a singer/guitarist or sometimes a duo.  I must say I felt fairly sorry for the chap on Saturday night, who I'm sure hadn't banked on a sing-a-long when he launched into an Oasis track!  Still, we enjoyed ourselves. 

The bar backs onto an estuary
Mr John & I ate here as they do quite good food.  I say quite good because the menu is entirely in Thai though the first time we came here one of the lovely bar staff translated four items into English for us, so we picked from those and have stuck to them since (even though there must be over 20 items on the menu).  We enjoy the crispy prawns, cheese wantons and French fries for a bit of a treat. 

21 June 2013

Doi Chaang Coffee

Enjoying an evening latte
On the last night of our scooter hire, Mr John took me for coffee by the lake.  We like this place for several reasons - the coffee is reasonably good, inside is air-conditioned and there is a comfy sofa as well as free Wi-Fi which will support video style downloads.  And they do a lovely apple cake.

We enjoy a good coffee, which can be hard to find here but our search continues.  I think we've been spoiled with too many trips to Italy.

The view across the lake in Taksin Park
As it was a Tuesday night, the view across to King Taksin park lake was uninterrupted.  This is not always the case as on Wednesday nights the market stalls are all out with their fruit, plants and hand carved wooden furniture.   It was quite a mild night by recent standards with a light breeze and so we took advantage of sitting outside. 

After the dreadful day I'd had (read What a morning! for the gory details) it was a lovely end to the day. 

19 June 2013

City Pillar

Chanthaburi City Pillar

Chanthaburi City Pillar shrine is on Luang Road (near the National Archive Centre and public library).  These Pillars apparently have religious significance and are usually located at the centre of a town.  We can walk easily to this one and the detail is amazing.  Well worth a visit.

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18 June 2013

What a morning!

I hadn't intended doing a post today, but I just have to share my morning with you.  Firstly, I'd heard that you could use the swimming pool at the New Travelodge (just down the road) for 100 baht for the day and I thought that might be a nice way to spend a day off.  Also, we got an electric bill which needed paying and this could be done at the Tesco Lotus - which is on the way to said Travelodge.  Although it had rained early this morning, the sun was beating down and I took the opportunity to get some hand-washing done.  Then I loaded up a bag with swimmers, camera (so I could report back here), kindle and suntan lotion.  I had my breakfast across the road and off I went.

First stop Tesco, paid the bill picked up some water - no problems.  Then off to the swimming pool - hurrah!  When I get to reception, I'm told the swimming pool is closed - boo hiss!!  OK, so no lounging round the pool enjoying myself today.  Why waste a trip out? I thought I'd head to the lake and have a coffee.  Start up the scooter and off I go again.  Scooter feels a little "stuttery", decide I'm probably being paranoid and it's just that I've got two bags hanging off me.  Carry on.  Turn left at the lights to head to the lake, get about 150 yards down the road open up the throttle - scooter comes to dead stop. I'd run out of petrol!! Thankfully, I was right across the road from a garage so "man-handled" the bike to the forecourt.  Didn't know what type it took, helpful man filled it up completely ignoring my "nit noy" instruction (meaning little bit).  Anyway 150 baht (5 meals!) later we have a full tank of petrol - I wouldn't mind but the bike goes back tomorrow!

By this time, the heavens have opened and it's lashing down.  I wait in the forecourt, where it's dry, for it to ease off.  About 10 minutes later it has slowed right down, so off I head.  I get a couple of hundred yards down the road and I'm riding into more rain!  I pull over and get out my very attractive plastic, see through, poncho.  I don't know if you've ever tried putting one of these things on when you're already wet - it's not easy!  So by this time, weighed down by my "by the pool" bag and wet, I decide to call it a day and head home.  The only bright spot in may day was that I'd tucked the washing in under the eaves out the back of the house - so it's not wetter than when I put it out. 

QUESTION: Is it too early in the day to drink vodka??

17 June 2013

Mr John goes mobile!

So far, the scooter hire is proving successful!  Mr John took it on a trip to Robinson on Saturday to get a better feel for it.  So on Sunday we decided to try the two of us on it, with Mr John riding.  Well, what a star!

He decides we're going to go round the block and if that is successful, head to Tesco Lotus.  Well after the first corner, he just headed off to Tesco without so much as a by your leave!   We needed to go there as it's where we top up our internet gadget.  Apparently he felt fine with me on the back after the first corner so just decided to head off there.  Watch this space.....

15 June 2013

Getting to Bangkok

Fill her up!
I was just thinking that I've talked a bit about our trips to Bangkok and yet never shared how you get there.  Believe it or not, the simplest way is by mini-bus.  There are several bus stations around Chanthaburi and if you get in a taxi and ask for the mini-bus to Bangkok you're likely to be taken to any one of them depending on the taxi drivers knowledge!  Timetables are more a guideline but generally they seem to leave on the hour (though most will wait until the bus is full) and Mr John and I have never had to wait too long. 

It's roughly a 220 kilometre trip and if you get there in 3 hours you've done really well (and, religious or not, said a few prayers on the way) - it's usually 3.5 / 4 hours.  The mini-bus is air-conditioned but you won't need a sweater, it simply makes it all a bit better.  You can sit in the front seat with the driver if you're lucky but won't stand a chance if a monk is on the trip as they always seem to get that seat.

The trip costs 200 baht per person one way (roughly £4 / AUD$6.50) which I know sounds like a bargain.  To be fair it is pretty reasonable but you have to remember we are both living on a poor teachers wage!  To put this into context, our breakfast (lunch or dinner) across the road cost us 30 baht (roughly 60p / $1). Therefore the bus trip is 6.66 meals for one of us.  This is how I've taken to understanding the cost of things - convert it all into meals.  It's the best way, otherwise I just keep thinking how cheap everything is and forgetting we're not earning western wages!

On the bus, we try and position ourselves where I have a good field of vision as I'm prone to motion sickness.  Thankfully (or is it?) the mini-bus always stops at a service station on the way to fill up and you can get out, use the conveniences, get a drink or snack.  My advice though is to keep an eye on your transport as they don't muck around once the tank is full.  We do this by making a note of the number plate as one white mini-bus looks the same as the next! 

Genuine sign in the ladies
Using the toilet is always a thrill.  Sit down toilets are becoming more common and there is some government drive to have 70% of toilets in Thailand being sit down by 2016.  Of course the one thing you can't do is put the toilet paper down the toilet and flush.  You have to put it in the waste paper bin provided.

You also have to remember that a lot of toilet blocks (including those in bars, restaurants) have the toilet paper outside the loo and you have to get it before you go in.  I've taken to carrying a small  pack of tissues in my bag to cover emergencies as sometimes there's none in the holders!

  • In Chanthaburi, the mini-bus station next to Tesco Lotus tends to go "on time" rather than waiting to fill up all the seats
  • Make sure you take a bottle of water and tissues with you
  • Don't forget your headphones unless you're a fan of Thai radio / music
  • Be prepared to wait in Bangkok (best place we know is near Victory Monument) as the buses don't run as regularly
  • If the ticket seller in Bangkok gives you a time the bus will leave don't necessarily take it as read.  The other day we were told at 1pm that our bus would leave at 3pm.  We did go and have a quick bite to eat but then loitered by the terminal just in case.  Glad we did as when I had gone into the shopping centre to use the loo, they came and found Mr John as the bus was heading off soon.  By this time it was around 1:30pm!  Don't worry, we made it!

13 June 2013

Mrs John goes mobile!

We thought we'd have a go at a scooter. Traffic can be quite bad here and peak "hour" is around 07:30 - 09:00 and then around 16:00 - 17:30.  Don't get me wrong, we're happy to walk and there are taxis but we thought it might be more fun to have our own transport at hand and thought hiring one would be a good way to find out whether a scooter is for us.

Driving back from the hire shop was quite an experience - I can't really believe they let me hire one given the skills I was demonstrating!  Now, before I launch into my trip home, I think I need to explain how driving is treated here.  Firstly, they drive on the left - easy peasy then you're thinking.  Well think again! Lane markings are apparently guidance, much like the rest of the road rules.  You can turn left at traffic lights at any time (even if they're red).  Overtaking, undertaking - anything goes.  Frustrated that the red light is on too long when you want to turn right, no worries, turn left, chuck a U-turn and Bob's your uncle!  Add this to the fact that I'm not overly familiar with the layout of the town and it turned into quite an interesting trip.

First off, curb crawling - no not that sort!  I did this regularly on the way home so that I wasn't in the traffic too much and I could pull over if it all got a bit much.  I pulled over the once to try and orientate myself as to where I needed to go next.  I realised I had to turn right up ahead and there were 2.5 lanes of traffic going on.  I decided the best course of action was to turn left at the intersection and turn around.  Fortunately, it was a nice big road and there was shade on the left hand side.  Stopped again and waited until I could turn around.  There's a roundabout on the way home and managed that with little trouble and also managed to use the smaller back roads.  In days gone by I've heard that some women (typical stereotyping) would drive out of their way in order to only turn left because they couldn't face turning right.  My standard response was, well give your licence back then.....never judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes!  I did manage to turn right a few times but will confess if there was an alternative, I took it. 

I can tell you 30+ years driving a car does not prepare you for riding a motor scooter anywhere in Thailand!  I will keep you up to date with the week's hire and hopefully not from a hospital bed! 

Mr John used the scooter after dinner last night to try it out. 
Went round the block looking like a professional...grrrr!

11 June 2013

Disaster Trip

Victory Monument
We went to Bangkok on Sunday so we could go to the Immigration office on Monday and sort my non-residency visa.  The Pullman Hotel was fully booked and so we booked the Victory Hotel, which is nearby, as we like the location.  When we arrived we went straight to the Siam Paragon so we could catch an English film.  Fast and Furious 6 was playing in 4DX.  We'd never experienced this before and it was brilliant.  The seating is in sections of four and the chairs move as the action on the screen moves.  In addition there are "vents" set into your headrest and vents facing you which are on the back of the chair in front.  This lets out smells, in keeping with the movie, and also shoots water at you if appropriate.  It was hilarious, brilliant but hilarious!  I really enjoyed the film too, there's much more humour in this one.

Victory Hotel Bangkok
So after a great film we headed to check in at the hotel.  Reception looked fine and the staff were friendly.  The room was clean, though to be fair I didn't look too closely just in case, but all the décor was very tired.  It's likely its heyday was somewhere in the 1980s.  We went up to the pool (situated on the top floor) where the water was clean but the wall above the water could have done with a good scrub.  Again, there was potential to make it really nice but it was sadly lacking in any comfortable chairs and decent shade (which wasn't an issue for us as it was nearly 6pm by the time we got there). To add insult to injury, we looked down on the Pullman pool with all its lovely sunbeds and umbrellas!

Mr John at the Saxophone bar
 Having not spent too long in the pool, we headed out for dinner and decided on pizza - big mistake.  The dough was not properly cooked and before Mr John had even paid the bill, I'd had to go to the toilet where I got to see my pizza all over again.....  Refusing to let that spoil my evening, Mr John took me to the Saxophone Jazz Pub which is near Victory Monument.  It's a wicked place with really good live music.  We'd highly recommend it if you're in Bangkok.

The next day we headed to the Immigration office and to cut a very long, upsetting story short - I came away with nothing.  There's about 15 different things needed to get my visa changed and so it's back to Chanthaburi to get documents from the school.  Not only that but the British Embassy needs to certify the copy of our marriage certificate, so next time it'll be a few days in Bangkok.  I'll be extending my current visa and we'll be making sure we can get into the Pullman hotel before heading back up.

09 June 2013

Fruit Festival

Some of the woodwork on sale

There's a fruit festival currently on (until 10th June) at King Taksin Park which is where the big lake is.  Mr John & I took a wander down there on Saturday and the place was heaving with all sorts of stalls and market sellers.

Now that's a table!

This table was one that blew us away and I hope you can get the perspective with Mr John standing halfway down it.  The wood items were just glorious.  Of course, we'd have to remove the front of our house to even get part of it in!

Café Delight has sit down toilets
Across from the park, on the main road leading to/from Big C shopping mall, is Café Delight.  We stopped in here for the first time and really enjoyed it.  There's a water feature at the front with fish in (think they're koi carp but I'm no fish expert), the shop is air-conditioned and has free Wi-Fi and there's a large deck outside with several fans and, sat back just enough from the main road, is a pleasant place to sit.

07 June 2013

We have a "winner"...

Graham H has successfully identified this fruit as a MANG-KOOT also known as a MANGOSTEEN which grows on trees - honest!  Thanks for joining in Graham.

It's a Boy

Just had to let you all know that in the early hours of Wednesday morning (AEST) my great nephew Theodore (Ted) George arrived into the world weighing in at 4kg / 8lb 4oz.  Mum and baby doing well.  Hoping to see him in person later this year along with his gorgeous big brother Roman.

06 June 2013

One day left to "guess the fruit"

Tomorrow, I'll be revealing the name of the fruit shown on the Just for Fun page.  Have a look and leave your comment with your best guess.

05 June 2013

Tamajun Bar

Tamajun (or the Rabbit bar as we call it) is situated right on the river and it serves German beer (much to Mr John's joy), good Thai and semi-western food and has live music at the weekend.  The toilets (which are sit down) even have a small waterway running through them with small fish - so you have something to do whilst you're sat there. 
The staff are friendly and welcoming, though the level of English spoken varies.  The bar opens at 5pm and there's also free internet.  On Buddhist holidays, no alcohol is served. We tend to use this bar as a bit of a treat to ourselves and only really go once a month as, by local standards, it's quite expensive.

03 June 2013

Hello All

Here we are in Chanthaburi.  And here's my blog all thanks to my mate Debbie who gave me a "Blogging for Dummies" book as a leaving gift.

The town is about two hours south east of Bangkok, heading towards Cambodia.  It is know for its Gem Markets and the Waterfalls (which we intend to check out at some point). There was a massive Gem Festival recently and there were stages and stalls dotted all around the Old Town.  Now I say Old Town because Chanthaburi is very spread out and there seems to be three "areas", two of which are defined by the shopping centres (Robinsons and Big C) then the Old Town where we are living.  Both shopping centres are around 25 minutes walk from our house.

The corner shop viewed
 from our front door
The house is provided by the School and therefore is free, we only have to pay for water and electric.  It has a roof, fly screens and the bedroom upstairs has air-conditioning - all of these are essential when living in Thailand.  What it doesn't have is any white goods and this includes a fridge.  So although I'm now officially a housewife I can neither cook nor do washing.  This is very tragic.  Fortunately, we have a corner shop across the road that provides these facilities at a very reasonable price. 

02 June 2013

Sunday Lunch

Muslim Food, Chanthaburi
Mr John decided to take me out for Sunday lunch and this is where we went.  It's called Muslim Food and he had eaten here before based on a review in the Lonely Planet (other travel guides are available, but this is our favourite).

Our lunch came to 155 baht
We shared a variety of dishes, including some roti's, all of which were excellent.  We'll certainly be coming back here again with its excellent value for money.

UPDATE: From the end of 214, Muslim Food has relocated to across the road and just down the street. The premises are much bigger and the signage is still the same so you can't miss it.