31 March 2014

Walking Market

We've had a really fun weekend, though I've been a bit slow to get started today and haven't even been to do the washing.  I'll regret not doing that later in the week.  We had a terrific time on Friday night with Wicus and I cooked a great dinner (even though I say so myself) but will share that with you in a later post.

Every weekend until the end of April, the walking market is on at the Park (aka Lake).  We took a trip down there on Saturday as Oil has a stall selling the "famous" meatballs.  It was amazing to see everyone out and about and fortunately the weather had cooled a little by the time we got down there.  We were in for a great surprise as Bitong (Pii Kob's daughter) was also there and we haven't seen her for ages.  She's really growing and her English has definitely improved.

The weather has cranked up the heat and I think it is here to stay for some time.  The walking market stops at the end of April because then the rains come ... something to look forward to.  Depending on who you speak to, they say Thailand has two seasons - hot and very hot

Mr John has gone to school today, along with the other foreign teachers.  The last day of the month is payday so they're all there but there is nothing to do, pretty much no one else in and the lady with the wages won't be in 'til after 2pm.  Every other foreign teacher we know seems not only to have finished school already, but also left on their summer travels. Feeling a bit like Cinderella.....

28 March 2014


Well, the wind down for Mr John is well and truly on.  He only has to go in Monday (the prime focus being to pick up his pay) and then he's done.  It's been a difficult week for various reasons.  There's nothing to do at school except catch up on some TV and movie watching.  He comes home for lunch and we've been having coffee with Wicus on a Wednesday which has been great.

There was a trauma for both of them this week as one of the Thai teachers, who can speak a bit of English, wandered into their office gave them some forms and said they'd have to pay 5000 baht in tax.  You can imagine the impact this had and to say Mr John was not a happy bunny would be an understatement.  There's no mention of tax in their contracts.

So we went to see Pii Kob (that man is a saint).   He looked at the forms, explained to us it is personal tax, that so much of your income is tax free and then there are legitimate deductions and........wait for it....... Mr John has to pay 25 baht tax. Phew!  Another classic example of the lack of communication at the school because none of this was explained to them.

On a brighter note, the lovely Taan (head chef at the corner shop) gave us yet another lovely sweet treat this week.  Star fruit (Thai's call it something else that I still can't pronounce let alone spell).  It was aroy mak mak (very delicious). Not only did we get a bowl after dinner but we were given two to take away, that needed a couple of days to ripen properly.  Like all the fruit we've tried here it was beautiful.

Even more exciting was a surprise package from Oz for our anniversary.  Joan (my sister-in-law of OMG 41 years) just knew we'd appreciate these.  If you're not from down under you may not have heard of Adriano Zumbo but he is a patissier god.  So far we've only tried the raspberry white choc - one of my favourite combinations - and it didn't disappoint.  Looking forward to the Choc Brownie - rationing obviously is taking place!  Thanks Joan, you're a star.

26 March 2014

Food stuff

I think that when you live in any foreign country, there are food stuffs you will always miss and things you will continue to need.  Someone Mr John knows here went to England on a two week holiday and made sure there were noodles in her suitcase.  Just one example.  Anyway, we have found some items through trial and error that I thought might help any westerner settling here in Thailand.

Mr John is a total teapot - by that I mean he could not survive without his cups of tea.  In fact, I've only ever come across one friend (Podge) who rivals him in the tea drinking stakes.  I think it's something he acquired through spending so much time at his Nan's who always had a pot of tea on the go.  Whilst you can get teabags here, we've found none to rival the tea he is used to in England and so these are "imported" either by us or friends. 

A lot of consumables here are tinged with sugar.  Things such as mayonnaise, tomato sauce, milk even bread have an oddly sweet taste.  It's taken us some time to pin down items that translate well to a western palate and here are some of them. 

Being Australian, there's quite a lot of products here that I can identify with and that really helps.  If you've never heard of, or tried, Tim Tams go seek them out.  They're made by Arnott's and you can pretty much trust this brand for any biscuit / snack goods. 

Of course you can also get imported goods too and these are easily identified by the "additional" sticky label written in Thai.  We found this by chance at Tesco. It had been put on a random shelf so we have no idea where to get another one.

And finally, we all need a little luxury and this is ours.  We are lucky enough to get these included in care parcels from friends abroad which are coveted and rationed out like you wouldn't believe.  Of course here, we have to keep them in the fridge.  The good news is that Starbucks can be found in Bangkok (and we could get them there) but it is an eight hour round trip and they cost about 20 evening meals. Best keep fingers crossed for the care parcels then!

24 March 2014

Easter Saturday?

Well, it was in 2008 I remember it well.  You see we've just celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary (though we've been together nearly twice as long as that).  We really enjoyed our wedding and still, miraculously, are enjoying married life.  It was a very quiet affair - in actual fact, we told only six people who were invited to the ceremony.  It took just 13 minutes at the registry office to get hitched and then we caught the ferry 'cross the Mersey to go to an Aussie bar for burger and beers.

One of my nieces was about to head off to Australia and I couldn't have imagined getting hitched without her there.  In fact, we used her leaving as an excuse to invite people for a drink in the evening where we announced our news.  This didn't go down too well with all the family, having kept it quiet.  But either you tell virtually no-one, or you tell everyone and we hadn't even told Mr John's parents.

It's not that I'm anti big white weddings.  Mr John's cousin had a fabulous traditional wedding and we had an absolute ball there, along with all the other guests.  It just wasn't for us.  We had a business together and had bought a house together so really we just wanted to make it all official.

But enough reminiscing.  Late Friday afternoon, there was a massive thunder and lightening storm but thankfully it really cooled things down.  On Saturday we went to Vietnamese Food for brunch and whilst there, there was another downpour but nothing as severe as Friday.  We then went off to Robinson as Mr John wanted to pick up some bits.  Just a short trip we thought followed by a good coffee down by the Lake.

Nothing out of the ordinary - right?  We did our stuff in Robinson and made our way out when we were confronted with the most torrential rain and yet more thunder.  There was no way we were going to make it anywhere so we headed back inside for coffee and a sit down.  About 20 minutes later, the storm had reduced itself to mere drizzle and as the sky didn't look great, we just headed back home.

Mr John pushed the boat out for the anniversary getting a bottle of red wine and having pizza delivered.  It was most enjoyable and only marginally bettered by the English Rugby Union matches on TV - he knows how to treat a girl.  Sunday was Australian Rugby League watching.  Lucky for him I'm not your average girlie and am quite happy watching men in shorts with leather balls....

21 March 2014

Toms' shop

 Finally, here's the piece on our corner shop that I've been promising for ages!  You can easily get here if you know where the Police Station is.  It's on the road that Tesco is also on (3150 Thaluang Road) but you need to head towards Wat Chan.  If the Police Station is on your right, you need to turn left or if it's on your left, go straight ahead.  If you've come from Wat Chan and over the bridge you will see it on your left ahead of you and you need to turn right at the lights.

I can't say enough about the whole family and their welcoming attitude to all who drop by.  Taan (Toms mum) has "adopted" Mr John as I'm sure he gets slightly bigger serves than me and we are often given sweet treats afterwards - mostly in the form of fruit.

This shop sells everything, and I mean everything.  You can get a litre of petrol for your bike (only 25 baht), cleaning supplies, beer, cooking supplies, toilet paper, eggs, ice and a plastic bag filled with ice, then coke and a straw added for convenience.  We got Leon to have one of these when he  was visiting.

Then of course, there's Taan's great food which is very reasonably priced at 30 baht for pretty much all meals.  We especially like the crispy pork and pad Thai.  You need to be aware though that cooking stops at 6pm in the week and 5pm on the weekends but you can eat anytime from 6am.  Tom has written the menu not only in Thai but also in English.  I guess he's done this because the houses across the road often have foreign teachers staying.  What ever the reason, it's incredibly handy.

Tom is a Manchester United fan (so of course we gave him lots of stick last weekend when Liverpool beat them 3-0) but has a large collection of football shirts, of all sorts of teams - including Liverpool that he's been given over time. 

He has a Thai - English dictionary and likes to spell things and look them up if it's a new word.  His command of conversational English is not that great and so when you speak to him it's almost best to do it in "broken" English.  This gives him enough time to come to grips with what you're saying.  He's pretty much self taught and can tell you things - it's the conversation side that is a bit trickier. 

I should point out however, that his English is way better than my Thai.  He's also very helpful at telling us the Thai word for things and we do our best to remember them.  If you get a chance, pop along for dinner. You won't be disappointed

19 March 2014

All quiet on the eastern front

The highlight of my week so far (I know, I need to get out more) is that I have figured out the TV set top box.  This might seem an anti-climax but when you live in a country where your language is not the countries language, believe me, it's a real success. 

Firstly I managed to change all the instructions to English - remember, to do this, I was confronted with nothing but written Thai.  Then I put all our English channels (all 17 of them) on to favourites so that we don't have to remember the channel numbers.  Now we can get the TV guide up and chose the best of a bad bunch for our evening entertainment!

Mr John only has a eight days left at school - he's not sure if there's a requirement to turn up on Monday, 31st so maybe nine days.  His teaching English to the Thai teachers seems to be going well and he's enjoying it more than having to look busy at his desk.

I keep mentioning my limited facility cooking - probably to the point of boredom - but a good search of the Internet has resulted in my finding an oven alternative.  I intend to give this a go as soon as I can find a suitably sized cardboard box.  This could be very interesting and naturally, I'll update you on the results.

We live such a cocooned life here in Chan that we feel slightly removed from a lot of the news we hear.  The political unrest has quietened down in Bangkok and the state of emergency decree has been lifted today.  This is meant to encourage tourists back to Thailand and in particular Bangkok.  There are currently six independent agencies opening political peace talks.  This doesn't mean everyone is "at the table" with the "opposition" currently rejecting all talks.  It seems every side is claiming it is near to victory without there being any real evidence of this. 

The lack of progress on finding the Malaysian missing plane (which is just awful and really weird at the same time) means that new bulletins here are starting to focus on how air traffic is set to triple in the next 20 years in the Asia / Pacific area and whether the infrastructure can cope with it. 
We don't even have a train line yet between Bangkok and Chan!

17 March 2014

The Unexpected

I hope you all enjoyed reading Leon's post.  It must have set off some form of karma though, because we have seen the weirdest things in the last few days.  When he said expect the unexpected, he wasn't joking.  Here's a taster.

It's blurry because he's on the move!
Sitting having dinner at Tom's (and I really must do a piece on his shop) on Thursday, this guy turned the corner right in front of us.  He hand-crafts chairs and sells them in town.  All his goods are balanced on his bike.  Amazing.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but the newspapers here are fairly graphic with their front page, colour, pictures.  This article is about a car crash about 100 kilometres from Chan (between here and Bangkok).  One car crashed into an elephant and a car behind also hit the already damaged car.  As Tom put the death toll - people 6, elephant 1. 

We keep getting messages appear on the TV at the moment.  Apparently between March 10 and 19 there will be sun outages which will impact our signal.  We're not sure whether its solar flares or sun spots but are grateful for the English message.

We headed to Robinson to pay our internet bill over the weekend - such is our rock 'n' roll lifestyle - and came across a very smiley taxi driver.  He enjoyed posing for our photo!  Certainly brightened up an otherwise boring trip.  No gorillas were hurt in the taking of this photo - it's a cuddly toy people!

And on a more normal note, we stopped at Latte Coffee House to enjoy some lovely coffee and cake.  So you see, Leon was spot on.  Expect the unexpected.  Hope this has brightened up your Monday morning.  
Happy St Patrick's Day and a very happy birthday to my nephew-in-law for today

14 March 2014

Leon writes...

As promised, I have a guest blogger today.  The lovely Leon has written the following and I promise we didn't pay him any money for it.

So, it’s nearly one month since I arrived back home in England… what can I say about Chanthaburi?

If you love rush hour traffic, enjoy the cold and damp, thrive on the unwelcoming feeling when you walk into anywhere new, look forward to receiving no praise for anything you do, and if you can’t stand being immersed in a completely different culture, then read no further, because this place is not for you.

The people, the place, the temples, the markets, the food… I miss it so much.  I am so grateful that Mr & Mrs John invited me to stay as I never would have experienced anything like this in my life if they hadn’t. I will most definitely be heading back in the not too distant future to see my best mate and his awesome hostess/tour guide wife!

It is so easy to fall for this place. Fact is, I fell not only for its beauty and atmosphere, but its randomness, i.e. expect the unexpected, but expect it to be the norm where you are!

I have to give special thanks to Kob for his amazing generosity, also to Tom and his mother Taan (the local shop owners) for being so friendly and helpful.Thanks also to the girls for taking my laundry and then giving me fruit (now where else would this happen)? And just thank you to all the people I met for making it such a fantastic stay.

I don’t want to go on too much, so I’ll leave you with this. If you ever get the chance to go and see this beautiful place, take it, you’ll be so disappointed if you don’t.


Thanks for blogging today Leon. We had a load of fun too and look forward to your return visit.

12 March 2014


We were fortunate enough to have curtains left in the apartment when we moved in.  They're not what I'd choose but it's better than nothing.  When the sun comes up it rises at the front part of the house and with the weather starting to hot up I realised they weren't going to do the job - letting heat as well as light in.

So I measured up the window and went in search of some better ones.  This proved fairly difficult but I did manage to find a single curtain that, if I was creative, I could turn into two to fit the front window.  What they really needed though was a lining.  A bit of driving around town resulted in a material shop that sold dress fabric and I settled on a cream colour that would do the trick.

It hasn't been easy as I don't have my sewing machine with me so I've had to be a little inventive and it's involved a lot of hand sewing which is very time consuming.  Still, I'm quite pleased with the results (and the double sided sticky tape has helped line it all up!).

10 March 2014

Normal service resumed

So having felt decidedly flat all last week, I'm feeling much better today.  It might in some part be due to the reminder from some readers that mint and lime make a great mojito!  What really helped was having a good blow out over the weekend.

The scene on Sunday morning!
It started off reasonably civilised with the usual Friday night trip to Sangchareon.  Then on Saturday night we headed back to Black Sheep Steak with our friend Wicus (and I blame him ... totally!).  We'd pushed the boat out and bought a bottle of red wine and I took a glass of it with me to have it with my dinner.  It was heaven.

Mr John was on Coke at that stage because he was riding (and as you all know won't drink) and to be fair, Wicus was on water.  Anyway, we headed back to ours and might have got a little carried away. Wicus left about 2am and we got to bed a little later.

Anyway, Sunday dawned - to be honest it was nearly midday when I surfaced, so well past the dawn stage.  I was craving a full on carb intake when I had this genius idea.  In Thailand, KFC (that's Kentucky Fried Chicken just in case you're not familiar) deliver to your door.  So we went on the website, got the English version up and off we went.  Like most delivery sites, they take an email and phone number and sure enough, Mr John got a phone call some ten minutes later.  The lady on the phone spoke reasonable English but we've noticed that directions and Thai speakers don't really go hand in hand.  I don't know what it is.  I think maybe they work in the same way as I do when I'm explaining directions - you know turn left at the big supermarket then right at the "some traditional name" pub - except our limited Thai fails us.  To get to the point, Mr John could not make himself understood with our directions, so he took the phone over to Tom (at the corner shop) and got him to speak to her.

And here's the end result!  I practically inhaled mine and unbelievably, the fries had survived the trip.  I meant to take a picture of the delivery guy on his motorbike, but realised all too late and he was nothing but dust by the time I got to the front door!

I don't imagine we'll be doing this too often because we're usually quite sensible (and it cost more than Friday nights lovely dinner), but it's great to know we can manage it . . with Tom's help!!

07 March 2014

Weird week

Well, it has been!  I've been a bit out of sorts this week - restless, whilst doing very little.  Perhaps I need to get out more?  Anyway, I keep trying to give myself a team talk but with little success.  Mr John is being very supportive, as always.  So I guess like thousands of women across the globe I best just pull myself together and get on with it - if only it were that simple.

I failed to mention my semi-successful venture into burger making last weekend.  We couldn't get hold of crusty round rolls, so I made the burgers rectangular.  I could also only find pork mince, so they were a little bit different all round.  Still, Mr John thought they were tasty and it made a change for us.  We also spied some beef mince in one of the other supermarkets (after I'd made them of course), so next time...just you wait.

Mr John has had a lot of help from a teacher at his old school trying to get him to go back there.  The teachers are very friendly and inclusive and until he heard about the primary role, he was all set to go back.  Anyway, we thought some flowers might be nice as a thank-you and off we went to one of the nurseries in town.  I had a ball looking around and got very excited about what was on offer.  In the end we bought a flowering plant and a nice pot to go with it.

We, however, came home with a mint plant.  It smells gorgeous and although we can't get our hands on any lamb, it will go lovely in the couscous we "imported" from our trip to Australia (all two boxes).  I'll have to "google" what else you can do with mint to make sure we get full use out of it.  I've put the plant on the steps leading up to the house.  It gets the morning sun, but not too much of it as it's pretty much gone by 09:30.  I've also moved my lime tree (which is still devoid of flowers since the Princess incident don't get me started) to under the stairs. 

Mr John is still at school, though none of the pupils are.  He and the other foreign teachers are to start teaching English to the Thai teachers next week.  Apparently this happened last year except that halfway through the 10 days, the Thai teachers attendance dwindled somewhat.  Never mind.  He's also taking two classes a week after school for a lady that wants to improve her spoken English.  He's decided he wants his own iPad and the money's quite good.  It'll keep him busy during the holidays (and out from under my feet) without taxing him too much.

There, see, I told you it was a weird week.
....and a happy wedding anniversary (today) to nephew number 5 and his gorgeous wife

03 March 2014

Black Sheep Steak

There's a new restaurant opened up by the lake that we've been meaning to try for a few weeks and on Saturday night we managed to go.  It's called Black Sheep Steak - which appears a contradiction but hey.  The chef spent 14 years living in Dunedin, New Zealand completing high school and a university degree there.  This accounts for the tempting sign outside (the board mentions pavlova which got Mr John's attention).  Sitting outside affords a lovely view of the lake and they have a fan out there too.

The menu is in English as well as Thai (and no, pavlova was not on it) with a variety of meats on offer.  We chose garlic bread, French fries and rump steak.  What we didn't realised was that main course came with a green salad and French fries, so we overdid it on the chips!  There was a good vinaigrette on the salad which made a pleasant change as you often get salad cream here (which, like every other condiment, has a sweet taste).  After we'd ordered, Mr John realised we hadn't been asked how we'd like our steaks cooked.

We got the attention of our lovely waiter, who had a few English words at his disposal, and went for "rare" as we thought medium-rare was pushing our luck.  I'd opened up my Thai App and was showing him the word "rare" when he indicated I should speak to chef.  At this stage I didn't know the chef was fluent in English and so I showed him my phone saying "rare" at which point he said....yeah sure!!  I was a little mortified but think I successfully managed to laugh it off.

Initially we got some round rolls delivered to our table that had a garlic type butter over the top.  We thought this was our garlic bread and although below expectations, it tasted ok.  Then we got our real garlic bread which was a delicious, hot, crispy roll done the traditional way.  This was served up with our very good French fries.  We didn't think anything of the order in which we were served as you often get fries as a starter here.  Then our steaks turned up (complete with salad and more fries) and looked and tasted excellent. 

The steaks aren't as thick as you'd get say in Australia but I've yet to see beef cattle here, so what else would you expect.  They were well cooked, nice and juicy and the whole meal came to 435 baht which we thought was good value for money.  It could have cost us less as we were pretty stuffed having had two lots of chips but we're already planning our next trip and won't make the same mistake!