31 July 2013

A fruity little number

It's been a quiet week so far.  Fun activities like scrap-booking are suspended at the moment because everything is still up off the floor or upstairs as the rain continues to fall - though not with the ferocity of last week thank goodness.  Monday however saw the arrival of a care parcel from my friend Debbie which caused great excitement.  Obviously a keen reader of the blog (which is just as well as she's responsible for this whole site!) we got some perfect things and the unexpected headphone splitter which means Mr John and I will no longer have to share one set of headphones when we're watching programmes outside the house!  So a big thank you Debbie.

Whilst we continue to eat rice, and we've given up counting how much, the lovely Taan (who is Tom's mother at the shop across the road and does all the cooking) still provides us with sweet treats after our meals.  If you check out the Just for Fun page you'll see the latest offering.  See if you can guess what it is!

29 July 2013

Life's a beach

Chao Lao beach
So Mr John had the whole week off due to the rain / flooding last week and it was much needed.  This term runs from May to October with the odd long weekend and he was feeling a bit run down.  He was perked up a bit by the arrival of a toaster on Friday when we got to enjoy peanut butter on toast....mmm bliss! 

Anyway, he announced on Saturday that we were going to the beach the next day and our friend Juls decided to join us.  About 38 kilometres (or 40 minutes on the scooter) is Chao Lao beach and so off we went.  Although it had rained in the morning, the sky didn't look too threatening, so we chanced it and were rewarded with a sunny dry day at the coast.

The unassuming entrance
The beach itself was a little disappointing (we've obviously been spoilt by the beaches on Koh Chang) but it wasn't overcrowded and we enjoyed a lovely lunch at our own thatch shaded table. Fortified by a lovely cup of coffee, we headed back down the coast for a bit of an explore before heading back to Chanthaburi. 

We were given small fish to feed the big fish!
It was well worth the small detour as we came across the Sea Farming Demonstration Unit in Kungkrabaen Bay.  It didn't look much, just a sign with a long walkway and a network of further walkways at the end of that.  In fact, Mr John didn't come down the walkway at first. 

Laem Sadet Aquarium on the beach
The fish they were "farming" were amazing.  There were leopard sharks, bull sharks, turtles and .... I knew I should have taken more photos of signs as I've forgotten half of them!  Heading back towards the main road is Laem Sadet and we stopped here to see an Aquarium that Mr John had seen on his last stay in Thailand.

There's a huge variety of fish, moray eels, sea urchins and sharks to see and a small walkway through a plastic dome so you see the fish swimming above you.  Now anyone who's been to an aquarium is probably thinking that's fairly standard - nothing new there - except this place is free to get into!  Needless to say we all left a donation in the box by the exit.

27 July 2013

Exciting.....some might say

Mr John staying dry!
Well, after threatening for some time now, on Wednesday it actually happened.  The water started lapping near the front door!  It all started when I got up early and settled down to write a post.  Mr John was having a lie-in having been told there was no school on Wednesday.  Anyway, about 09:45 I decided to pop over the road and pick up a Milo (it's an Australian chocolate milk drink).  I opened the front door and found a bit of a commotion - must have been really engrossed in my blog that morning. 

Kids having a ball!
The reason for all the commotion?  There was water all over the road and it was lapping at number 4 (we're number 7).  So having popped over the road I called to Mr John that he'd best get up!  We heard later that the water was coming in 1cm / hour but having decided it seemed quite stable, we took off to Vintage Coffee as there was little we could do and it's near enough to the house.

Truck delivers bottled water & rice
Some time later, it started getting closer and closer to the house so we got everything up off the floor - the fridge on top of a desk, the couch on top of the dining table!  Everyone had been commenting on homey our place was looking but I can tell you it ended up looking like some sort of weird warehouse!  Meanwhile, on the street, there was something of a festival atmosphere.  Various food carts appeared and the usual "eateries" were in full flow. 

Business as usual
There was a stall down the road with a woman sat on a plastic garden chair, with the water up to her knees, smiling pleasantly and serving whoever wanted her goods.  Around our corner shop were bikes and cars where people had moved them to get them away from the worst of the water. 

I took a walk down the street and the water was up to mid-calf level on me.  Mr John was getting a bit frustrated that cars kept coming down the road as every time they did there were waves of water getting closer and closer to the front door. 

I wonder if you can picture Mr John trying to find the Thai word for sandbag! 

So we headed off to a local hotel for the night and hoped for the best.  The GOOD NEWS is that the water did not make it into the house and by Friday there was no water left lying around and services have returned to normal - though Chanthaburi is still making the news!  Of course the weather forecast for the weekend is not good with drenching thunderstorms predicted for Saturday.  Mr John is happy though - no work until Monday!

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26 July 2013

Vintage Coffee

Mr John, far right, on the scooter
This place is just down the road from Mr John's school opposite the Chanthaburi National Archives - about a five minute walk from our house.  If he gets a decent break in his day, which he does on Thursdays, I meet him here for coffee.  Although the view is not as attractive as Doi Chaang, the coffee is fantastic. 

They're currently extending it, having built a little room on the side, so that they have more indoor seating.   It's open from 8am to 8pm and inside is air conditioned.  Outside (at the back) there is a covered patio with more tables and chairs.  The toilet is out back with the key to it kept on the counter and it's a sit down loo!  The staff are very friendly and have a little English.  Definitely recommend this place.

UPDATE: From late 2014 Vintage not only closed it's doors but the building itself was demolished. Don't worry, there's still plenty of coffee shops in Chanthaburi Mrs John

24 July 2013

Koh Chang

We've just had a fabulous long weekend at the Koh Change Paradise resort.  Koh Change is, I believe, the second biggest island in Thailand and is near the Cambodian border. To get there, we rode to the bus station to get a mini-bus but there wasn't one, so instead we took a taxi which took about an hour to get to the ferry terminal.  The ferry takes 25 minutes to get to the island and once there, you have to be quick to get into a shared taxi with various drop-offs and for us, this took about another 25 minutes.  The centre of the island is quite mountainous and going up and down the hill in an open taxi is quite an experience.  If you can open your eyes long enough, the views are spectacular!

We save about a third of Mr John's wages every month - and pretty much blew the lot on this weekend.  It was so worth it.  Mr John booked us a beach villa with its own pool.  Because it's rainy season it cost a third of what it would during the dry - which really helped.

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Paradise Resort sits on Klong Prau beach.  As you come out of the resort and turn left, there are quite a few shops including a small Tesco Lotus for any last minute forgotten things.  Before you get to Louts, there's a coffee shop - Marin - which does good coffee though a little pricier than we are used to.  Behind Marin is a little cocktail bar called The Malibu Bar.  The owners are very friendly - even before they found out Mr John had taught their eldest daughter last year!  They play reggae music and, whilst I'm not a huge fan of this genre, it provides a very relaxed atmosphere in which to enjoy a cocktail or two.

Past the Lotus, on your right, is an avenue of shops which contains an Italian restaurant called I buoni a nulla.  We found the food to be excellent and discovered afterwards its currently rated 2 of 120 odd restaurants on Koh Chang by Trip Advisor.  They sold red wine in a half litre carafe which was perfectly good quaffing wine.  It was a rare treat as we haven't drunk wine since we arrived three months ago.  Again, the owners were very friendly and hailed from Milan.  Mr John didn't know whether to ask for the bill in Thai, Italian or English!

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So instead of moving in permanently, which we wanted to, we headed back to Chanthaburi.  Mr John still had another day of holiday but he didn't want to arrive back and go straight into school next day.  As it turns out, we could have stayed an extra day as the school is closed today due to the flooding in the town.  We're OK at the minute and I'm hoping there's not another "News Alert" post required.  The river is very high but we're keeping our fingers crossed.  In the meantime I have a very happy teacher at home who is messing with my daily routine!

22 July 2013

Things for Boys

Don't let the title fool you.  Yes there are things...for boys, which are great for all you Mums and Grandmas out there (who should definitely check out the practical tips) but there are other things too for those of us not blessed with off-spring.  My favourite cocktail of all time is the French Martini and you can pick up the recipe from here.  There are craft things to do if you're feeling a creative urge and also great food recipes - for example Sticky Date Pudding with toffee sauce and even recipes for our vegan friends who should definitely try the apple cake recipe (though this recipe is not exclusive to vegans!). 

Go on, make yourself a cuppa and forget about the ironing / washing / dusting.  Enjoy some "me" time for 10 minutes and have a good look at things for boys

19 July 2013

An exciting week

Amazing what a couch can do to your life!
Wow, what a week it's been here!  On Monday Mr John judged a maths competition and got an early dart so we went out to look at couches and ended up buying a fridge which was delivered that afternoon.  On Tuesday I went and bought a couch we had seen on the weekend which was delivered that afternoon.  On Wednesday we went with our friend Kik to an internet shop and signed up for Wi-Fi and TV as she'd found us a good deal.  On Thursday the engineers called and installed said Wi-Fi and TV. 

It's just amazing the transformation in the house.  And last night we got to watch a replay of the State of Origin rugby league deciding game (played on Wednesday) whilst sitting on the couch and having a cold drink - heaven!  Best bit was I didn't know the result so it was like watching it live. 

This weekend is a four day weekend for a Buddhist holiday so Mr John has booked us a lovely place at Koh Chang which, I believe, is the second biggest island in Thailand.  We head off there tomorrow morning for some R&R which is greatly needed for Mr John as there are only two terms in a Thai school year and this one is incredibly long.  He popped out and bought a microphone last night, which is a common thing for teachers to use over here, as he's been in danger of loosing his voice all week.  He's still got his sense of humour though as when I told him on Wednesday night how busy I was now going to be, what with the internet being installed which means I can continue my family tree research amongst other things, he regaled me with his thoughts of my busy day - back to bed for an hour, coffee by the lake, lunch, bit of shopping.  Honestly, the man has no idea!

17 July 2013

Whoop, Whoop!

Orbitz near Big C
We had, overall, a really good weekend.  It started on Friday night when we went out with a crowd of teachers (Brits, Americans, South Africans and Canadians) and ended up at Chanthaburi's idea of a nightclub - Orbitz.  It was heaving inside when we got there and there were male dancers on stage who had no shirts on - I was so horrified I found it hard to avert my eyes!  There is a large area outside with a bar and couches which looked really cool but we were a bit late to snag one of these.  It was a fun, very late night.

Saturday was a fairly quiet day with Mr John deciding he could not keep up with 20 something's anymore.  KFC was delivered to the door (because I'd gone to pick it up on the scooter) which earned me a lot of brownie points!  Sunday saw us return to Delight Cafe having had Sunday lunch at Muslim Food.  This time we had Alo Pratha, Cheese Pratha, mutton curry and salad. Super scrummy. They haven't failed to deliver yet!

15 July 2013

In just three days..

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Yes, after just three days of no rain, things are starting to return to normal.  We did have a massive storm in the early hours of this morning, but it's not the rain here in town we have to worry about - it's the rain higher up the surrounding mountains! 

If you compare these to the pictures I took last Thursday, you'll see why we were getting a bit anxious.

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13 July 2013

Art Hair

Mr John and I had our hair cut on Thursday evening.  Now this may sound like a fairly normal event but those of you that know me well understand that I'd rather change doctors than hairdressers - it's a very personal thing.  When Mr John was last in Thailand he did evening tutoring and one of his "students" was a hairdresser, Kik.  So he got back in touch with her and off we went. 

I had a fabulous time, just love being pampered and having my hair washed and the cut is just fabulous.  I was worried things would get lost in translation and I'd come out with curls above my ears....but no such problems.  Mr John didn't look too bad either - it seemed such a shame to come back to the house and not be going out somewhere but it was a school night!  I did do something reckless however, rode home on the bike without a helmet on - well it was so pretty I didn't want to get helmet hair!  Will be recommending this place to anyone who wants to listen.

Not only does our hair look fab but Kik has promised to go to the internet place on Sunday with us to try and sort out a better connection.  I hope they're open on Sunday?

12 July 2013

Another sunny day in paradise..

So today the sun is shining and it doesn't look like there's a rain cloud in the sky, of course this can change fairly quickly. Hopefully this will help in reducing water levels around the river and I promise, when things are back to normal, I'll put some photos up to show you how it normally looks so you can appreciate our concerns.  Perhaps now I can start putting things back down on the floor!  Anyway, I thought I'd share a post I planned to put up earlier in the week.

When we first moved in, I was very excited to find banana trees out in the back yard.  You can imagine my horror when last Saturday morning, I opened the back window shutters to find that "our" banana tree (well the one that's directly behind our house) had collapsed.  I have no idea what to do, any suggestions?

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My lovely raincoat was given to me as part of a leaving present from my friend Jo and miraculously it's still in one piece! Can't understand why these haven't taken off in the fashion stakes but rest assured I'm doing my bit.

11 July 2013

Minor ray of hope!

So yesterday we had about 4 hours without rain - until we were just about to go to sleep when the Heavens let loose! Thunder, lightening the whole lot. By the time we got up this morning it had stopped, so I've had a walk and still the roads are clear but the water level has gone up about a inch. What we don't need is any more rain but by the look of the sky there's a bit more to come.

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These photos were taken around 10am and it's now 12pm.  We've had about 15 minutes of rain but now the sun is out and it's very muggy.  Best news is the washing from Monday has dried, so some more has gone out.  I've also met Mr John for coffee up the road whilst he had a break in classes.  Fingers crossed there's no more rain for at least a couple of days!

10 July 2013

Water still rising

So, I had a whole other post in mind for today but considering yesterdays news flash I thought I ought to keep you posted.  It rained non-stop yesterday though mostly it was fairly light during the day but it hacked it down in the evening.  Mr John popped over the corner shop to pick up some water (bottled) yesterday evening and was shown the news on TV which was showing the bridge / river here in Chanthaburi - don't think that's a good sign.  Obviously Mr John was not able to gather information as the program is, quite rightly, in Thai.  It was kind of spooky because I'd been telling him over dinner how I saw a bunch of people by the bridge with an old fashioned looking camcorder! 

Anyway, it's continued to rain today and I have already been for a walk .  It's not looking good!  So thought I'd share the latest pictures with you...

L to R: The gauge at the back is to 4 metres, The steps to the temple are down from five to three, this house is about 100 yards down and across the road from our house.

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09 July 2013

News Flash! Flood alert.......

OK, so maybe I have a little too much time on my hands but yesterday I thought all my Christmases had come at once.  At 09:00 it was 26' and didn't get a lot higher - raining all day. It was just so lovely not to be sweating everywhere!  Today it's 10:30 and 27' again another lovely morning where the temperature in the house was borderline cooler than the bedroom (which has air-conditioning).  I fancied getting out of the house but didn't really want to go anywhere in particular and it suddenly popped into my head that I could take a short stroll to the river and check out what's going on. 

Now Mr John & I went through the under-pass at the bridge on the weekend heading into the Old Town and the river level was much lower and the gauge pretty much on show for all to see.    Well, not today - the one in the background has disappeared!  Here's how it looks this morning along with how it looked two weeks ago.

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08 July 2013

What a sporting weekend

We've had an unbelievable weekend with lots of ups and under downs! Yes, my first reference is of course to the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia culminating in a Lions victory on Saturday.  Those of you that are avid readers will know that we have been going to the CleVer Bar to watch these matches.  You will find us huddled around our iPad, sharing one headphone set and often with a finger in the other ear to block out the banging Thai tunes being played.  Well, dear readers, our perseverance has paid off.  On Saturday we turned up, got everything connected, ordered our drinks and one of the lovely bar staff found the TV station showing the match and we got to watch it on a massive screen.  Mr John was beside himself and didn't even mind that there was no commentary!  Needless to say, after the Lions victory  - and I'm assuming by now someone has told Mr Horwill that points win prizes and if you get within kicking distance of the posts, then for goodness sake kick it!!  Sorry where was I? Oh yes, Mr John seemed to think drinking a lot of beer was a good idea...and it was... until Sunday morning.  Needless to say there was little sympathy going on at home though, to be fair, the best team on the day won.

KFC was required apparently for Sunday "dinner" even though Mr John had promised me a lovely lunch at Muslim Food.  The scooter came in very handy but the trip was rather more sedate than usual (Mr John even went for a lie down in the afternoon which is pretty much unheard of).  So when it came time to watch Andy Murray play the Wimbledon final which started at 8pm here, I was pretty much left to my own devices.  This was probably just as well as I got the proper headphones all to myself and did some fantastic mime as points were being won and lost - well by this time it was getting later and our teacher neighbours have to be in work early and the walls are really thin!  I only had one incident with the Wi-Fi connection which was at the start of the last game of the second set...a few expletives were nearly vocalised I can tell you.  But I'm so pleased for him, he's carried the weight of the British people for a long time now and has grown up on the circuit and his life will never be the same again.  And it's always good to have a back up plan - I'm sure that commentators slot on the BBC is in the bag!

And if all that wasn't enough, the Tour de France is in full flight.  This is a Mr John favourite that he's got me into - though every year he still has to explain the various jumpers jerseys to me and how they work.  In my defence, it's a long time between Tours!  We're hoping that by the final stage we will have a more permanent internet connection at the house because......drum roll......Mr John gets the final stamp for his work permit later on today.   This is fantastic news for us as it means I should be able to get more than a tourist visa (and therefore get to stay), the scooter will be registered with us and we can sign up for broadband (though we need a fluent Thai speaker who has good English to help us, not an easy task).  But, that means there should be no problems with video downloads and that Skype will once more be working - at least, that's what we assume!  Fingers crossed everyone.

05 July 2013

The Heineken Bar

There's an air-conditioned room at the front
OK, so that's not actually its name, but we can't read Thai and there's a big Heineken sign outside - so that's what we call it.  Situated near the start of the Chanthaboon Waterfront, we ate here for the first time the other day and I have to say the food was outstanding.

Our gorgeous dinner

Dinner consisted of French fries (a Mr John personal favourite over here), crispy chicken wings served with a sweet chilli sauce (but with extra chilli) and Tom Yum soup.  Oh my word, the soup was delicious and Mr John couldn't get enough, which is a bit rich quite frankly as he used to turn his nose up at western soup!

TVs show movies in English
There's an eclectic mix of furniture and two TVs on the wall show films in English with Thai subtitles, however the volume is turned down so you kind of have to make up the plot if you don't know the film! The walls inside the bar have been painted white and the owner is more than happy to give you a marker pen and let you write your own message on the wall. 

At the front of the bar is an air-conditioned "lounge" and we have sat in there as a party of six.  The back of the bar is open to the elements (don't worry the roof is long enough that you won't get wet or have sun on you during the day) but there are plenty of fans and you get a really good view of the river and the local bridge.

03 July 2013

Sunday dinner...but not as we know it

The other day, Mr John decided we should have Sunday dinner out at Tesco - very salubrious!  When we arrived, I couldn't get over the number of scooters that were parked outside and I need to point out that this isn't the only parking area for scooters.  It was like some sort of scooter convention!  At least ours didn't look out of place.

"Dinner" was at The Pizza Company and we have no idea why they insisted on giving us tomato sauce but there you go!  To be fair, the pizza and garlic bread-stick starter were very good and we ended up taking a couple of slices home as we couldn't finish it all.  It's quite expensive but a lovely treat. 

It's funny here because things you might turn your nose up at home suddenly become food of the gods.  We are very fortunate to have some very good pizza cooks in our family which tends to spoil you for anything else - but needs must!

01 July 2013

Where do I start.....

There's so much to mention about last week, I genuinely don't know where to start!  Those of you that read What a morning! will be pleased to know that I have fixed the cistern .... easy-peasy!!  Though I don't think "plumbing" is quite what I want to do when I grow up.  I extended my tourist visa for another 30 days as we need to have Mr John's work permit before I can change mine to something more permanent.  He should have it this week  (it's something the school arranges) but as we have to go up to Bangkok to get my visa changed it'll probably be another month before it all happens.  Now I don't want anyone to worry, I can extend my tourist visa up to three times in total!

The scooter is proving most valuable.  I took a trip to Doi Chaang coffee shop on Friday and had great fun getting there - got up to just over 30 kph at one point (that's about 20 mph) and would have felt the wind whipping through my hair....if it wasn't for the crash helmet!  It was another beautiful day, baking hot but that's what you get for living in the tropics.

As previously mentioned, this coffee shop is opposite King Taksin park with its gorgeous lake. Here's what it looks like in the daylight.

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