28 February 2014

Just a quickie

We've had some lovely well wishes for Mr John, following my last post so a big thank you to everyone.  It's been a fairly quiet week other than the excitement of the new job so I didn't think I'd have anything to say today.  And then we went for dinner last night.

For ages I've been saying that Taan (Tom's mum and head chef at the corner shop) has been spoiling Mr John.  I'm sure his bowls of food are slightly bigger than mine and last night confirmed my suspicions!  She delivered a complementary bowl of French fries.  It's the first time this has happened and with the language barrier we're not sure if it's the last but he thoroughly enjoyed them as they contained a good selection of crispy ones. 

Today is the last day for the kids at Mr Johns' school as they'll have finished all their exams.  Next month is meant to be used for planning for next year - even though none of the teachers know what classes they'll be teaching and if they have the same again, then they already have their lesson plans from this year.

Mr John saw the Director yesterday to tell him that he was leaving.  The Director invited him to a goodbye celebration at the school today starting at 5:30pm.  It was the first Mr John had heard of this gathering and, on getting back to the office, found that none of the other foreign teachers knew about it either.  A classic example of the lack of communication.

Anyway, it's a quiet weekend for us.  We're still tracking the protests in Bangkok which don't look like ending anytime soon but thankfully it's all still quiet here in sleepy Chan.  Hope you all have a lovely weekend and wherever you are in the world, the weather is kind to you.

26 February 2014

Exciting News

The end of school year is drawing near.  In fact, Mr John finished all his exams and marking a couple of weeks ago.  This week he is invigilating for other exams and the students last day is Friday.  He still, along with the other teachers, has to work March and this time is used for preparation for next year.  The school he has been teaching English in is a secondary (or High) School even though he has qualified as a primary teacher.

His time at this school has not been as joyful as his old school.   The teachers are not as inclusive and there is little communication - which usually comes in the form of a letter left on the desk.  Mr John would have remained at the old school however they were using an agency and he was looking to be paid direct (you generally get more money because the agency aren't taking their cut).  The current school has been really helpful for us though, with having the old house for us to move into and become more familiar with the town.  We have found the location to be perfect for us as it's a bit of a village atmosphere and we can walk to the Old Town for a drink (Mr John, quite rightly refuses to drink and ride).

So, he has been looking around for another school and has been in the fortunate position of having a few job offers (including the old school which is now going direct).  He has, however, chosen a Primary School which is an extra three minute walk from the current school.  He will be teaching all the usual primary subjects - Maths, English, Science, Health, Social Studies and Art - but in the English Program run by the school.  He's chosen this school because of the classroom facilities, the friendliness of the staff (we also know teachers who are already there) and the fact that this is what he trained for.

I'm so proud of him and he's really excited - already planning things to do and what displays to put up on the classroom walls.  He also gets a Thai assistant in this role and a moderate pay rise.  He's pleased to have an assistant (in his current role he's been left to his own devices) which will be a help on a lot of fronts. 

From a personal point of view, I'm also glad it is so close to where we live.  During "the wet", the rain can be quite torrential and at least with this school, he could walk if he wanted to so I wouldn't have to worry about him on the road.   Now all I have to get through is the six weeks of him being on holiday.  For various reasons we've never been at home together for such a long time - I just know he's going to interfere with my routines (and maybe find out that it only takes 10 minutes to tidy the house).  Oh dear.....

24 February 2014

Latte Coffee House

We decided we'd pay our internet bill on Sunday at Robinson.  The weather was roasting and of course no trip out is complete without the obligatory coffee shop visit.  There's a shop recently opened on the road where The Hang Out is, not long after the right hand turn from the bridge.

Inside was really nicely decorated with lots of comfortable looking chairs but was absolutely packed and so we had to sit out the back.  The courtyard at the back looks out onto the river and occasionally there was a cool breeze.  Unfortunately, the breeze was few and far between and so we were pretty hot even though we'd bagged a table in the shade.  Perhaps going earlier in the day may have been prudent. 

This is one of the pricier coffee shops in town however the cake selection is huge and tastes really good.  I had a Tiramisu cake and Mr John ordered the Strawberry Bavarian cake.  They were both to die for, trust me.  At 89 and 99 baht respectively, we will have to limit our visits here (that's a lot of meals), but they also do a variety of macaroons so we'll have to test drive those.  The coffee is also excellent. 

With free Wi-Fi and sit down toilets, if you could manage to get a seat inside where it's air-conditioned, I can imagine spending quite a while here with either the newspaper or a good book.

21 February 2014

The local scene

Leon has found it a huge advantage to come to a place where tourists are few and far between and have "locals" show him around.  He's enjoyed meeting our Thai as well as western friends.  Here's an overview of our local trips.

It's been pretty action packed, and has involved a lot of food!  Arriving back in Chan on Sunday night, we took him to The Hang Out to meet some of our teacher mates.  With Mr John at work for the first three days, I took him to Doi Chaang for coffee with our very good friend Pii Kob, Vietnamese Food for brunch with the obvious look around the Catholic Cathedral and then spent the rest of the day at the Maneechan Resort pool.

You can use the pool for the day but it is quite expensive (by Chan standards) at 300 baht per person.  This allows you to use the pool and gym facilities.  I have to say it was very swish and the latte we had was very good.  As you can see, it wasn't over-crowded.

We walked the town centre and looked at the temples, had coffee with Mr John at Vintage followed by lunch at Timeless.  With Mr John joining us in the evenings we also did a walk of the lake and watched (no we didn't join in) the free aerobics class at the side of the lake whilst enjoying a fair few meals with Tom at the corner shop.

A highlight (if I can call it that) was the trip to Robinson market and the bugs that both the boys ate.  I stayed firmly behind the camera and away from this gourmet delicacy!  I did however join in when we went to Svenssons for ice cream where I had waffles.

The boys headed off to Koh Chang for a three night break and had a very good time.  Of course the Friday was Valentines day and whilst Mr John and I do not buy into all the commercialism, I did try and give him a bit of grief - as is my wifely prerogative!  So he came home with two lovely sarongs for me.  There are some photos flying around, but I think it's best to leave them where they are.  Needless to say they were pretty tired when they got back.

We had a fabulous trip to Pu Nim restaurant with Pii Kob, which Leon found amazing, the day before he left - which I have to say came all too soon.  And so the last day dawned.  Not having a car is no hindrance to getting around here, so Mr John popped back from work and loaded Leon and his suitcase (held between his knees) for the trip to the bus station.  I got away with just taking the hand luggage strapped to my bike seat. 

Speaking of bikes, Leon had his obligatory "accident" here.  Thankfully it was right near the house with no traffic around and he was absolutely fine.  Pride definitely more damaged than his body as it was in front of the rather crowded corner shop!

We loved having him here and he's so easy going.  I'll see if we can manage to get a little guest blog spot off him for his own observations of how he found his visit.  He has also threatened promised to come back again next year.  As with all things in life, we'll have to see how that goes, but here in Chan we have our fingers crossed.

20 February 2014

Wat Pho

Having spent 150 baht each for an all day ferry ticket, we though we'd do a bit of hop on / hop off travelling.  Mr John is none too keen on crowds and seemed reluctant to start the hop off. Having reached the end of the route and heading back to our starting point, both guys being slightly indecisive, I asked if we could get off at Tha Tien Pier (N8) for the flower market.  I thought it would be pretty, good photo opportunities and there was bound to be food vendors.

So I was indulged and we were allowed to get off the ferry.  Leon spotted the souvenir sellers and decided he should get some of his shopping out of the way - we pointed out that Chan is really a tourist destination and if he wanted anything, now was probably his time to get it.

And we're following the little tourist booklet you get with your ticket for the instructions to the flower market.  On the way, we pass a temple and Mr John asks whether Leon would like to see one.  Up for most things, he decided it would be a good idea.  We were then rather pleased to find that entry was only 100 baht (and includes a free, small, bottle of water) and I was beside myself when I found out we were actually at Wat Pho - home of the 150 foot (46 metres) reclining Buddha.  It was something I'd always wanted to see and couldn't believe we'd found it by accident. 

As you can see, it is too big to fit in one photo (I didn't have a panoramic facility) with it being about 45 foot (15 metres) high.  It is covered in gold leaf and the feet are inlaid with mother of pearl.  It's the most beautiful statue and the building it is housed in is incredibly ornate as well.  You are given a bag to put your shoes in and if you're inappropriately dressed (too much leg or arms showing) there are robes you are given to cover up.

The grounds are roughly 19 acres (or 8 hectares) and although busy, we didn't feel that it was impossibly crowded - even Mr John enjoyed himself and he's not a fan of crowds. We spent quite a while wandering around the grounds before heading back to the pier and enjoying a really good pad Thai and some souvenir shopping.  The ferry is a great way to get around and we would definitely do the trip again.

19 February 2014


There's so much to mention, I don't know where to start.  The beginning I hear you say.... good point.  On the Thursday night before Leon arrived I went to print out our hotel voucher for the weekend.  I open my emails ready to search for the confirmation when I spot an email from that morning headed up Cancellation of Booking. You what?  I was fuming.  We had the same problem when Mr John first booked the accommodation.  We thought it was a blip so we re-booked in my name.  Why so frantic?  I was determined to have a two bedroom apartment for the three of us.  When we went to Brisbane last October, my brother-in-law Graham booked one and it was the most brilliant way of spending time together whilst having sleeping privacy.

Anyway, you can imagine my panic when I find out the night before that we have nowhere to stay in Bangkok.  Determined (or some might like to call it bloody minded) I brought my dinner over from Tom's and sat with it and the computer trying to find suitable accommodation.  A chance phone call suggested the Sukumvit area and I found exactly what I was looking for.

So Friday dawned and I headed off on the big bus to Bangkok so I could check in and then get the train out to the airport to meet Leon.  Mr John managed to finish school a little early and he took a mini-bus which stopped at a taxi rank so he could get to the airport direct and meet the flight too.  He was getting a little anxious but not only made it in time, but also managed to eat a Burger King meal and have a coffee (the joys of being in the city).  And so Leon arrived, looking a little pale and tired, but in one piece.

Considering the lateness of our booking, we were really pleased with the Citadines 8 and Leon thought it was great we were all in the one place.  The hotel was very clean and the staff very friendly with a good command of English.  The apartment was not huge but perfectly adequate for us.  It was on a vibrant street with plenty of bars and restaurants and the Nana BTS only a 5 minute walk away (or less on the free hotel tuk tuk).  The best thing about the location was that the hotel was on the back half of this street which meant that it was very quiet and excellent for sleeping - so the best of both worlds really.

We decided to do a bit of sight-seeing on Saturday and thought a trip down the river would be good.  There were still protesters in the city and although not life threatening, we needed to be a bit sensible about our travel plans.  We had one of the best days....and I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.

17 February 2014

At the bottom of our garden..

It's been quite some time since I've written anything.  This is because we've been enjoying our time with Leon who, unbelievably, is nearly ready to leave now.  Actually, he's not quite ready and keeps threatening to stay but his flight is booked for Tuesday evening.  I will tell you all about his visit but I need do it justice so you'll have to wait just a little bit longer to find out what we've been up to.

Having spent a brilliant weekend in Bangkok, we returned to Chan to find the Kings eldest daughter (Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya of Thailand) was visiting the town and staying at the army barracks just up the road from ours.  Now I say up the road because the entrance to the camp is at the city pillar but the grounds of the camp we can see* from our back window.

 *Actually all we can see is the concrete fence surrounding the grounds 

I spy with my little eye...
Wicus had warned us that there was a soldier outside his front door so that we weren't alarmed when we arrived back (how thoughtful is that) and it's lucky he did.  So some people apparently have fairies at the bottom of their garden - we had a soldier!  I have to say I was mighty impressed with his camouflage - take ten points if you can spot him straight away.  I was a bit covert when I took the photo as I didn't know how they'd take it and those guns were real.

I didn't mind any of this.  What I did mind was being told we had to keep the back door shut for the two nights she was here.  Presumably we had to do this so we couldn't put out a sniper riffle without them spotting it or maybe they were shielding her eyes from the poor people - who knows?  Not only did the door being shut make the house a bit stuffier but my lime tree, yes my pride and joy, got burnt because at the bottom of the back door (on the outside) is a metal plate.  I didn't realise the consequences when we closed the door but obviously the afternoon sunshine reflected off the metal and straight onto my little tree.  The lime that was on there fell off and had lost all its green pigment making it look more like a lemon and my seven little flowers are now one little flower.  Aaaargh!!!  I think it's slowly recovering and the lime in my vodka was really good, so not all was lost.

If you remember, I promised you a picture of our "soundproofing experiment" in the old house.  Well here it is.  Sadly, it's not really worked but next door has provided some light entertainment for Leon.  He seems to have coped quite well and, as I keep reminding him, you get what you pay for!

03 February 2014

Bits and bobs

We've had quite a fun weekend.  We've prepared the old house for Leon's visit, having put cardboard up on the wall between us and next door.  It looks fabulous - I'll share a picture later in the week.

Bangkok is still the focal point of the news.  The election took place yesterday and on Saturday there was some gunfire and a couple of injuries.   My main task this week is to identify all the protest areas, note where we are staying next weekend, what we want to see and plan a secure route to all these things.  What's the opposite of a military operation??

Friday night saw us at the usual place - Sangchareon - where Wicus joined us.  It turned into rather a late night resulting in Mr John being put to bed at midnight (for those who know him, picture the cup of rum incident) with Wicus and I up until 3am.  I really enjoyed myself but suspect I'm getting a bit old for such a late night as I was exhausted on Saturday.

The weather is back to normal, and by that I mean hot.  The strong winds of December / January have gone and they helped keep the temperature down.  It's still nowhere near as hot as it was when we arrived last year though.

Mr John continues to enjoy his bike.  We've been out on it this weekend and my seat at the back is much higher than the old bike so I feel a little exposed but it's fine.

I attempted a pork tagine last night in the electric frying pan - which in all honesty produces dinners like they've been slow cooked, rather than "fried".  It was quite a success and nice to have chunks of meat. 

But even more exciting is that the lime tree has seven flowers on it.  It had more but I "de-flowered" it to make sure I get a good crop (fingers crossed).