30 April 2014

Stuff and Things

The other day was "lets see what the Farang do" day.  Tom's uncle decided to let us try Durian fruit.  It's the weirdest, stinkiest fruit I've ever had and our faces must have been a picture judging by the raucous laughing from the locals.  I want to say don't ever try it, but guess we all need to experience some things in life.

We also received an exciting car parcel recently for Easter.  Sent by Hannah, the April heat had unfortunately got to the chocolate a bit but we whacked them straight in the fridge and they tasted yummy!  This was a timely gift as the Tim Tams we were sent by Joan, which were absolutely gorgeous, had been consumed.

Whilst Mr John takes full advantage of being on holiday and having a lie in, I continue to trek to the "laundrette".  I'm having to get up earlier as the heat by 08:30 is just ridiculous.  I was so early the other day I got to see a monk receiving food from a nearby residence.  They remove their shoes before placing the goods in his bowl and receiving a blessing. 
I've mentioned Latte Coffee House before and we were there on our monthly trip the other day.  Although there was an outboard motor on this little boat, the owner seemed quite happy using on oar.  I have no idea how the boat did not capsize, but there was no incident whilst I was watching.  Amazing.

28 April 2014

Another year

So many things have been going on, it's hard to know where to start!  But first, it must be to wish Mr John a very happy birthday today.  He's getting very close to being in the thirty several club.  I should explain that Mr John's Nan was nearly 80 when she died but if you asked her how old she was, her standard response was thirty several.  She was an amazing woman and quite frankly, if it was good enough for Nan then it's good enough for me.

A year ago today we were celebrating Mr John's birthday at the Pullman Hotel in Bangkok having arrived on April 26th.  So we've been here over a year now and I can't believe how quickly it's gone.  Having given up work on March 31 last year, to be honest, I expected as some point to wake up one morning and say "Know what, I fancy going to work", but as it turns out, I don't miss it at all.  Of course I miss lovely people that I've worked with but really enjoy getting to choose everyday what I'll do.

So on Friday, with Mr John having secured a new contract with a local Primary school on their English Programme, we've headed to the school for our 9am appointment to get his visa and hopefully mine.  We had to go to the Labour Office first for work permits.  One of the administrators, Goi, was with us and she had seven to do in total.  Because there were so many, they suggested we come back in the afternoon when they'd had time to process them.

So off we went to the Immigration Office.  As my regular readers will know, I dread going to this place as there always seems to be a problem for me to tackle.  So with my heart in my mouth, all three of us enter the office.    It's relatively busy and so there's a bit of sitting and waiting.  Mr John is sent a couple of time to the small office across the hall for photocopies and what a great business they must have, handy for photocopying and they also have a camera to snap your visa photos - genius.  His seems to be progressing OK until they ask for the work permit.  This of course, is still at the Labour Office and so they advise us to come back  but to make sure it's before 4pm.

Goi heads back to school having mentioned the medical test Mr John will need and suggests he gets that done.  She will call us when it's time to go back to the Labour Office.  I get dropped off at Brunch to have coffee whilst Mr John goes to get stabbed with a needle.  I must point out that he has a bit of a fear of needles and if you want to teach in Thailand you have to get a syphilis test...I know!  Apparently it's because there was an outbreak of syphilis a long time ago which killed many Thai people and so this test is mandatory.

Mr John, free of syphilis, picks me up having been contacted by Goi.  We're to meet her at the Labour Office.  More waiting but finally she gets a piece of paper confirming Mr John will get his work permit and off we go back to Immigration.  I needed to visit the ladies whilst I was here and there was a sign for the "Toilet Lady".  Feeling hopeful I headed in to find three toilets - 2 squat and one sit down.  Opting for the sit down, I was very grateful I had my trusty tissues in my handbag as the newspaper's quite stiff.

Meanwhile, back at Immigration Mr John gets his visa and they start on mine.  He needs more photocopies wonder if it's a relative who runs the business over the hall and I have to sign a form saying I will abide by the conditions only the bottom half of the form is in English and I have no idea what conditions I'm agreeing to.  More sitting and waiting, I hand over my 1900 baht just like Mr John has and then....... we've got them.  We're here for another year, hurrah! 

Not only that but now my 90 day reporting is linked to Mr John's and I don't have to leave the country every three months.  What a result and Goi was so good to us acting not only as guide but interpreter.  Finally, we can relax and think about getting away for break before Mr John starts school in about three weeks.

25 April 2014

Lest we forget

I have a lot of bits and pieces to tell you about, but today is not the day for such frivolity.  Today is the day Australians and New Zealanders commemorate ANZAC Day.  ANZAC stands for Australian & New Zealand Army Corps.

Today marks the anniversary of the first major military action by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War when they set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula at dawn on 25 April 1915.  By the end of 1915 over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed.

So instead of reading my blog today, please visit the ANZAC site and read all about those brave men who gave their lives for us and other service personnel since then who have, and continue to, put themselves in harms way.

"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them".*
* extract from The Fallen by Laurence Binyon

24 April 2014


Hi everyone!  Are you ready for the fashion revolution?  Here's what we've been wearing, inside out of course. 

Please post your photo on your favourite social media and title it #insideout to create a flash-mob and ensure that the Bangladeshi workers who lost their lives a year ago today, did not die in vain.

Mr John was wearing a top by Nike manufactured in Mexico.  The Nike website tells their manufacturing story including their Codes of Conduct that cover worker protections as well as environmental impacts.  They have an interactive, global Manufacturing Map which you can filter to get your information.  Pretty good result I'd say.

My top comes from a UK chain - Debenhams.  The brand itself is Mantaray and the website gives details of the profits from one of their key clothing lines to  Mantaray Marine Conservation Society.   I was initially very pleased by this, but then thought, hang on - who makes my clothes?  It took a lot of searching on the Debenhams website but finally I got to their Supplier Code of Conduct and whilst this doesn't tell me exactly where my top was manufactured, the Code seems pretty robust.

Thanks go to Abby at things for boys for helping raise awareness.

22 April 2014

Aussie Steak

We've looked at this place a few times and finally tried it out the other night.  The Australian connection is that the owner studied in Sydney and speaks good English.  A little pricier than Black Sheep but the food was good and the view is very pretty. 

Situated on the corner passed Doi Chaang, Aussie Steak has quite a big menu and although it is all in Thai, there are plenty of pictures for you to guess the dish.  We chose pork lasagne and French fries (the onion rings were off).  I've not had pork lasagne before and it was a little bit weird but at the same time really good, plenty of cheese and pepper and those lovely crispy bits of cheese you get around the edges of the dish.  A bigger portion can be done for 149 baht we were advised only after we'd eaten our dinner as the standard one is 79 baht.

As you can imagine, there were steak choices but we just want something to eat before heading to Hang Out.  The staff are really friendly though the dog had some issues with Mr John and there's plenty of choice if you want a drink. Mr John & I will certainly head here again to try some more of the menu.

I'm not sure if there's bathroom facilities but there is a public toilet between the coffee shops

Fashion Revolution Day Handmade

18 April 2014

Green fingers

As Chan settles back down to its default sleepy state, we're suffering a little from the post Songkran blues.  April is living up to its reputation as the hottest month and I occasionally get the urge to "do a Songkran" that is, tip a bowl of water over myself whilst fully clothed.

I purposely waited to post todays update because I was hoping to inform you all that Mr John had his new visa etc. etc. however, whilst he has signed everything at the school, we're waiting on some letter before he can get the new visa.  His current one expires at the end of this month, but we're pretty certain it'll all be ok.  For that reason however, we've not yet gone away on holiday we were concerned we might be forced to leave the country and of course school starts in mid-May so we're getting a bit twitchy.   Hopefully we'll managed a few days away in early May.

We came back to the house the other day when I noticed that half the leaves had fallen off my lime treeI can't believe the trauma one small tree can give feel completely jinxed with this thing.  I still lament the end of my seven beautiful flowers.  And yes, I probably should have grabbed the leaves, chopped and frozen them for a steady supply of lime leaf but I was too slow.  Today however, we came back from coffee and it seems like all of a sudden there are three lovely little limes growing.  Hopefully this is all a good sign and any time away will not result in further loss.

Other exciting news is that nephew 1 - the number refers to the fact that he is the first born of the nephews and nieces and not necessarily the favourite bet they are all wondering which is the favourite hee, hee, hee - has a job in Hong Kong that begins August 1.  We're thrilled for him and as an added bonus we might just get free accommodation when we visit for the Rugby 7s. 

For all those in Christian countries, have a lovely Easter.  There's no sign of it here but we might just have a chocolate bar on Sunday to keep with tradition.

16 April 2014


Sawatdee Pi Mai - or - Happy New Year
I've got to say, the Thai's really know how to welcome in the New Year.  Before I even begin to tell you about the most amazing weekend we've had here in Thailand, I just know I won't be able to do it justice.  If you're ever planning a trip to Thailand then please consider being here in April.  It is the hottest month of the year, but this festival has to be experienced to be believed.  You can get a flavour of it here on my new YouTube channel.

For history buffs, the Thai calendar was aligned to the Gregorian calendar in 1941, though the Thai's consider that year to be 2484 (being based on Buddha) thererfore this year (2014) is 2557.  Anyway, it's mid April and we've just had our third New Year.  The western January 1, Chinese January 31 and now the traditional Thai New Year.

I've mentioned before how Chan is quite a sleepy town and Thai's are quite reserved as far as touching people goes.  For instance, hands are not shaken on being introduced but instead you "wai".  Another example is that some touching is OK but only if the person is younger than you - for instance you can pat a child on the head.  Well, that whole thing goes right out the window at Songkran.  Everyone is touchy feely, Chan is no longer sleepy and everyone is smiling even more than normal.  To coin a phrase - letting your hair down - just isn't descriptive enough.

It seemed like half the town was on foot and the other half on the back of utes/pick-ups or motorbikes we chose the foot method.  The music from the vehicles was blaring, people dancing and throwing water.  Everyone had at least one drum of water with them and being on the back of a ute, had a good vantage point when throwing water.  Some of them had ice in the drums so the water was absolutely freezing.  Add this to the fact that nearly everyone had a water gun and you can imagine the chaos.  We're glad we stayed in Chan as we've seen coverage of other cities and people couldn't move the crowds were that big. 

It's not just about water fights though.  The water is actually to cleanse away the old and bring good luck for the new year so people will approach you with a bowl of water, smile and proceed to tip it all over you.  It's also about temple visits and giving alms to monks.  Of course a new year means it's also time for a thorough house cleaning and in particular the bathing of buddha statues with scented water. 

Another custom is to spread chalk / clay onto peoples faces. This is supposed to mirror the act of monks blessing objects and is done with a polite bow before being applied.

We must have walked 10 miles over the weekend and it's much easier to do that when you're drenched with water, it hardly seemed hot at all!  On Saturday night we walked from our house to the park  (aka lake) up to Hang Out and back round to the park before heading home.  Sunday saw us head back to the park and do the full circuit, with a stop off at Doi Chaang for coffee and a ham and cheese toastie - which was much needed.

Mr John said it was a little like Christmas, you really look forward to it coming, you are excited when it's arrived but also glad when it's over - it's pretty exhausting partying that hard.

  1. Don't wear your best clothes as the chalk /clay soon covers everything
  2. Check that your clothes don't become see-through when wet and make sure you have enough of them for the number of days you're celebrating
  3. Buy clip seal plastic bags (from any supermarket) for anything that you don't want to get wet
  4. Leave all your valuables at home
  5. Don't ride a motorbike unless you've been doing it since you were nine years old - you'll never cope
  6. Buy a waterproof camera or a bag designed to go underwater for your camera if you want lasting memories

14 April 2014


It's been a while since I've done an entry on a coffee shop and I don't want you all to think I'm resting on my laurels.  I spied this place a couple of months ago on my way to and from the "laundrette" but decided to wait until Mr John was on holiday so we could go together.

It's located on the same side of the road but after the Shell garage which is after the big bus station by the Stadium.  The name Brunch for farang conjures up images of eggs, bacon, pancakes etc. but sadly this isn't on the menu here though there are sandwiches. 

Happily though, there is a really good selection of cakes (we tried the crepe cake) and also macaroons. Mr John & I sampled a coffee one and a buttered caramel one and they were really good, though  I should point out that each one cost the same price as a meal at our corner shop.  Shock! horror! 

However, on the flip side, the coffee is only 40 baht for a latte and 25 baht for an Americano so for once Mr John is a cheap date.  It's air-conditioned and there's plenty of comfortable seats inside with more seating out front.  The toilets are the "sit down" type and there's also free Wi-Fi.  Definitely a hit with us.

11 April 2014

Crua lung cheoi

We went for dinner with friends on the weekend to a great restaurant near the Eastern hotel (it's actually a block back towards the park / lake side).  The name of the restaurant is Crua lung cheoi (written in karaoke Thai as Pii Kob calls it).  When trying to spot it, look for the red "globes" handing out front.

A regional specialty here is moo cha muang.  Neither Mr John or I had ever come across this dish and it was aroy mak mak (very delicious).  The pork (moo) is super moist as if slow cooked and there's a slight sweetness to the sauce.  If you're ever here, get to this restaurant and order this dish if nothing else.

Of course, as there were five of us, that's not all we ordered.  We had crispy grouper with came with a sour and spicy pickle that was really good, mushrooms, prawns served with a fish sauce and a tamarind dip.  We'll definitely add this to the list for Leon's next visit.

This week has seen us doing coffee, swimming in the pool and preparing for Songkran.  This festival is to celebrate the Thai new year and I'll tell you more about it next week after we've recovered but it's a water festival and Mr John and I have our super-soakers at the ready.  Sooooo looking forward to it. 
Hope you all enjoy your weekend whatever your plans and Gareth, don't overdo it today even though it's your birthday x

09 April 2014

Immigration has moved

Last week Mr John had to report, as he does every 90 days, to the Chanthaburi Immigration Office.  I'm not due to report until the 27th of this month so it was too early for me.  You can report seven days before and up to seven days after the date they stick into your passport.  Off we went to the place we've been frequenting (it's a miracle we don't have a loyalty card) for nearly a year now only to find IT'S NO LONGER OPEN.

Oh my goodness, me and this immigration office just don't get on.  Fortunately, there were officials - not in any uniform but they did have official badges slung around their necks - who showed us a map (an A4 piece of paper with some lines on it).  Turns out the whole office has been moved to opposite the new Post Office.

If you're not sure where this is, simply head towards Big C but turn left (if you're coming from the lake) at the Eastern Hotel.  Follow this road past Orbit (night club) and you'll see it on you're left.  It's a big building fortunately and therefore hard to miss.  We parked to the left of the building and made our way in through the side entrance.  This was really fortunate as there was the office just on the right.  In true Thai style, there are no signs to help you.  To be fair, they may add them in the future however, like the old place, they are likely to be in Thai only  .

Is it just me that thinks Immigration should have signs in other languages?

Opening hours are 08:30 - 16:30 with lunch closing between 12:00 - 13:00

And don't forget the big push for April 24 and our fashion revolution.  Spread the word people.

Fashion Revolution Day Handmade

07 April 2014

Still spoilt

We've had quite a busy week with Mr John starting his holidays last Tuesday.  In celebration of the event, we spent a good chunk of the day in the pool at the New Travelodge.  We swam, read and mistakenly ordered coffee.  It wasn't very grand.  It cost 90 baht and I got my latte but Mr John got an espresso instead of his Americano.  Hmmm.  The best bit was the powdered milk sachet he got with it - priceless.  But at least a bird didn't "poop" on his arm...grrrrrr.

We were very lucky to receive another care parcel, complete with beef jerky (a favourite of Mr John's).  Hannah & Ross (niece & nephew)  sent a "congratulations on your new job" present for Mr John.  It also contained a beautiful glass hand-made (by Hannah) heart for our anniversary.  It's hanging our front window and looks amazing first thing in the morning when the sun shines on it. 

I packed Mr John off to Tesco on Friday morning so that I could clean the house - rock 'n' roll.  He did quite well with the budget as I know other blokes (yes Rog, you) who's only "help" with the groceries is increasing the bill.  Anyway, luckily for me he spotted the Cheezels on the shelf.  It's probably only the Aussies reading this who'll get it, but these are great and are fully imported.  He got the original cheese as well, but we scoffed them before I could take a picture!!

Being the amazing wife I am ... I made burger and chips for Mr John's dinner.  I know it's not completely healthy but it isn't rice and there was salad.  We managed to find some beef mince at Tops Supermarket in Robinson and as I desperately needed to defrost the fridge last week, this was his reward.  So all in all, an excellent week.

We have a lot of family and friends with birthdays in April so, before any more days go by, let me wish Mike, Andy, Paul, Gareth, Debbie, Jack, Luke, Debbie, Joan, Rohan, Mikey, Judy,and Helena a very happy day.

04 April 2014

Who made your clothes?

Don't you love picking up a bargain.  Isn't it fabulous when someone comments on your outfit that you've managed to put together from one of those cheap chain stores / supermarkets for say GBP£10 / AUD$20 / USD$16? Or a T-Shirt that cost £1 / $2 / $2.50?  But what's the real cost?

On April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh 1133 people lost their lives when a factory they worked in collapsed.  Many more were injured. Christmas Day, just gone, almost 200 people were still missing.  It is very likely that these people made that top / outfit you're wearing. 

If you think this doesn't impact you, check out the list of companies who were making clothes at this factory on the day it collapsed.  "So what?" I hear you say, "I don't buy at cheapie shops".  OK then, what about Mango or Benetton?  Clothes for export to the UK, US, Canada, Italy, Germany and France were all being made here.  Fashion Revolution says enough is enough. 

Fashion Revolution Day Handmade

Abby at Things for Boys challenges you to ask the question Who made your clothes?.  It's so easy to get involved - just use the link and SIGN THE PLEDGE to create a virtual flash mob.

Then, on April 24, take a photo of yourself wearing an item of clothing inside out and post it on your preferred social media.  Make sure you title your photo with #insideout.  And if you're talented enough to make your own clothes then add the title #handmadeinsideout

If you're camera shy, just take a photo of your garment inside out on a coat-hanger.  If you really want to make an impact, contact the manufacturer via email / Facebook / twitter and ask them ... who made my clothes?

So come on grab the button, tell you friends, blog about it, spread the word and do something good.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit. ARISTOTLE

02 April 2014

Curry Night

such an easy recipe - give it a try
So I really need to tell you about the dinner I made last Friday.  It was a simple chicken curry which I found on the BBC food website from the Hairy Bikers.  The electric frypan we bought which really is a "quick" slow cooker was perfect for this recipe.

That left me time to make the accompanying roti bread.  You do get fed up of rice here and Mr John had been banging on about a curry for quite a while, so I kept my dinner a secret but thought including Wicus would be a good idea.  Well it was a good idea until 3:30am when we were all still up...

Making the roti was a bit of a challenge.  Not because I can't cook or follow a recipe (though admittedly it was the first time I'd ever made them) but because of the heat of the day and my lack of rolling pin.  I can hear you all telling me what I could use as an alternative
  1. a beer bottle but all I had in the fridge was a can and Mr John doesn't drink 'til Friday evenings
  2. a water bottle except ours are of the square variety
  3. kitchen towel inner tube except we don't use these here and there's no way I'm putting toilet roll inner tubes anywhere near my food
So what to use....I know....my thermos mug yes, the lovely pink one that Mr John bought me for Christmas when I hate pink and he though it was blue because that was the colour on one, yes only one, side of the  box*.  The draw back of this was the top part where the lid sits, is wider than the body so I had to do the rolling with the "lip" of the thing hanging over the edge of the table. 

The result?  Well, the thicker ones were a little bit doughy and they weren't at all round but they went down a treat and actually, all in all, tasted quite good.  Dinner was a big hit with both guys (there was even potato in with the chicken) and the yummy ice-cream that Wicus bought for dessert went un-eaten that evening.  Marvellous how a decent chunk of meat, root vegetable and bread can fill you up better than rice.
* actually I love the whole story and especially my pink mug