30 May 2014

Still fun

Even though the coup is still in place, we continue to have some fun here in Chan.  They've altered the nighty curfew to midnight until 4am.  The TV channels can still be interrupted by another announcement, at any time, and we lost the Fox channel for a while and the foreign news channels are still off-air.  Nonetheless, it still feels a it as though it's happening in another country!

Wednesday saw the first match (of 3) of State of Origin. This is an annual event between the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW).  Even though he's a blue (NSW) supporter, we invited Iain who works with Mr John round to watch the match. 

He loves his rugby league and was good company and didn't gloat too much.  It was a close one, with NSW winning 12 - 8. Hopefully the tables will be turned in three weeks time.

I met with my friend Kik for coffee this week.  It's always lovely to catch up with her she's a very busy lady and it gives her a chance to practice and improve her English.  Her opinion is that my Thai is coming along but she's not sure how Mr John will get on.  You see Mr John is slightly tone deaf and the Thai language is tonal.

I've mentioned our "laundrette" before but what I've failed to mention is the coffee shop between it and the 7 / 11 store.  The coffee is OK I've had better but then I've definitely had worse and the best bit is the price - only 25 baht for a latte that's less than a meal at the corner shop!

They randomly give you three Ritz biscuits with your coffee which, so far, have always been soft.  Still, it's a good way to pass the 45 minutes / hour that the washing takes when you live too far away to make it worthwhile going home.

Have a great weekend everyone

28 May 2014

Classroom Scrabble

I recently made a set of Scrabble tiles for Mr John to use with his students and thought I ought to share it with you.  I love doing creative things and had visions when I "retired" of doing all sorts.  The heat and humidity here make it a bit harder both from a concentration level and acquiring the necessary materials.   So I was very excited to get stuck into this project.
I should point out that this idea is not my own.  I found it on the Fun English Games site.

What you need:
10 x A4 sheets of card
Scissors (or paper cutter)
Marker Pen
Drawstring bag for storage

Because I love scrap-booking, I have a paper trimmer and it's durable enough to use for this thick card.  If you don't have one, check with a friend that has hobbies like card making, you might just be able to borrow it.  It certainly makes the job easier. 

The "tiles" need to be 7cm x 7cm.

I chose a card thickness of 500 gsm.  This is pretty thick and should be able to withstand the usage!

I chose to make 100 tiles, though you can do less, but with Mr John having a class of 40 I thought it best to ensure that when the children had a tile in their hands, there should be at least one in the bag ready for the next round.

An A4 sheet of paper measures 210mm x 297mm.  This means you can get 12 tiles from each sheet of card (4 down and 3 across). 

Mark up the long side of the sheet, using a ruler, with pencil marks I used a small dot at 7cm, 14cm, 21cm and 28cm.  You will have a small piece of card to trim off. 

The short side of the sheet means there's no excess with marks at 7cm and 14 cm

If you're using scissors, draw feint pencil lines across the card to ensure you get a straight cut.  If you're using a cutter, there's no need to do this as the dot will line up with the slicer

Once you've cut your tiles, you can start labelling them.  You could use a ruler or a stencil of the alphabet to ensure your letters are perfect but I chose the home made look and just wrote on them.

A cloth bag is ideal to store the tiles as it allows you to give them a good shake before the children chose their tile.

This game, just like the board game, is conducted in rounds but each child has one letter.  In teams of 8 to 10 the children agree on one word and the score is added up.  Remember, the team with the most points wins!

Letters and values:
0 points
  • Blanks x 15 tiles you can draw something on here if you want, I went with stars
1 point
  • E x 12
  • A x 9
  • I x 9
  • O x 8
  • N x 6
  • R x 6
  • T x 6
  • x 4
  • S x 4
  • U x 4
2 points
  • D x 4
  • G x 3
3 points
  • B x 2
  • C x 2
  • M x 2
  • P x 2
4 points
  • F x 2
  • H x 2
  • V x 2
  • W x 2
  • Y x 2
5 points
  • K x 1
8 points
  • J x 1
  • X x 1
10 points
  • Q x 1
  • Z x 1

26 May 2014

Life continues..

I'm struggling to piece together my post for today.  There is so much happening here, though mainly in Bangkok, that it feels foolish not to refer to it.  At the same time, life in sleepy Chan goes on as usual and there's really no need to be concerned about us.  Having said that, it has been lovely getting messages and calls from our friends and family to check up on us.  I hope the following can convey the ordinary and extra-ordinary things going on around us.

Our long weekend was really rather lovely.  I made potato salad on Friday and Wicus joined us for dinner and a small sherry yeah right all to the accompaniment of Mr John's playlist as there was still no TV.  In fact, channels didn't start broadcasting again until later on Saturday thankfully as Mr John was spitting feathers over his lack of rugby.

Other than the broadcasting restrictions and Britain's BBC and America's CNN are just a couple of the international news services that are still off air there is little sign of the coup here in Chan.  I did see a truck of soldiers in camouflage gear going the opposite way to me on my way to the laundrette but that's it.

The news from Bangkok appears not so great with anti-coup protestors now taking to the streets resulting in the 37th announcement from the junta and civil laws suspended  according to the Bangkok Post.  Not only that but a couple of journalists have been detained and some business leaders summons to a meeting.  Meanwhile, the Senate has been dissolved and I really don't know how this whole thing is going to pan out. 

On a brighter note! 

There's always a silver lining though in any situation and ours was that Yas, Mr John's fellow grade 6 teacher, had baked about 100 cupcakes on Thursday evening before the announcement of the school closures on Friday.  She very kindly gave us a dozen and they were absolutely delicious.

23 May 2014

It's a coup

I had a whole different post in mind for today which quite frankly involved the arm of my glasses having come off leaving me looking at things lopsidedly.  Anyway, last night, Mr John and I finished watching something on-line and so turned the TV back on. 

Every channel - and we have 80 odd even though the majority of those are Thai language only - was showing this screen and some really ordinary music was playing.  Apparently, it was the Army radio station. 

So on Tuesday it wasn't a coup but by 6:30pm last night it was.  I've never lived in a country that's had a coup before and I waiver between having a grab bag ready to leave the country you know just passport and credit card oh, and clean pants and being intriguingly excited.  Mr John is just cheesed off that he can't watch his TV!

There's a curfew in place across the country so we have to be in our homes by 10pm and can't resurface until 5am.  Mr John has helpfully pointed out that there's little point being indoors at those times as there's no TV to watch anyway.  He's so practical.

So they've shut down the TV and radio channels and we await now to hear more news.  Because it was a school night, we hadn't been out anyway, so I don't know if the Army are out on the streets in Chan or not.  I do know that the Hang Out was closed by 10pm. 

And another order issued, for some reason, has closed all the schools today, so Mr John is once again under my feet bless him. You can read the detailed story here.

21 May 2014

Marshall Law

As you all know, I am "a-political" on this blog but I thought some of you might be concerned about us and I better let you all know how things are. 

The story so far is that anti-government protests have been taking place since November last year, the Prime Minister was removed from office earlier this month by the Constitutional Court and at 3am on Tuesday morning the Royal Thai Army declared martial law.  The General, who's in charge, has said this is not a coup and that it's been invoked to maintain peace and order whilst the political situation is sorted out.  At this point in time, there is a proposal for another election on August 3rd.

Mr John and I went to the Hang Out last night to see Pii Kob and have a good chat.  We didn't see any soldiers on the street and did not have to present any papers at any checkpoint.  As usual, sleepy old Chan continues to be a sea of calm in the troubled waters that is Thailand politics. There's no need to worry, we're absolutely fine.

So enough of that, onto more serious stuff and the issue of a lack of storage in our bathroom.  I know you can never have enough storage but seriously we have nothing and the plastic holder we have kept falling off the tiled wall all weekend and was driving me nuts.  As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and so I got creative and thought I should share my results - you know, in case anyone else is thinking the same thing right now.

And here it is!  Fashioned from three empty plastic milk bottles and a good amount of string, this sturdy device manages to hold a number of toiletries.  You could decorate the holders using felt-tip pens or sticky back plastic to ensure it matches your colour palette.  Private message me if you'd like the pattern and instructions . . . .

19 May 2014

Fire Flies Rock

Well, Mr John seems to have settled in already at school.  I've never seen him so happy after his first day at work as I did on Friday - ever!  He loves having his own classroom.  There are still some things that need sorting and he's not sure how PE (physical education) will go because it's all still a bit of a building site but so far so good.

The weekend was a little quiet from my point of view but action packed for Mr John - with what seemed like back to back rugby matches all weekend. Yay!  Don't get me wrong, I love sport but it did wear a little thin for me, even though the semi-final between Northampton and Leicester was one of the most exciting games of union I've seen for a while.

We managed our once-a-month spoiling ourselves trip to Latte Coffee House and weren't disappointed with our cake selection.  This visit was made even more enjoyable as we met up with Ake, a friend from Bangkok and of course the lovely Wicus who returned safely last week from his amazing trip to Nepal.

Speaking of Saturday, did you know that it was International Whiskey day?  My sister-in-law Joan is an expert on international days and if she says it was, then it must be.  Mr John and I like nothing better than a good whiskey.  Choices here are a bit limited and our budget doesn't quite stretch to the posh stuff yet.  Hong Thong is a Thai whiskey and I strongly recommend you drown mix it with coke / lemonade / anything at all.

We had the most amazing display of fire-flies at the back of us on Saturday evening. Don't know if it was weather related, but it was like having fairies at the bottom of your garden.  They're amazing and reminded me of Koh Mak where we saw loads on our way to Bamboo Hideaway for our gorgeous Italian meal.  Speaking of weather, we suspect the rainy season might be well and truly about to start.  It did nothing but rain on and off all day yesterday with lightening and rolling thunder thrown in for good measure. 

16 May 2014

School's back

So I've waved Mr John off on his first full day of school.  It might seem odd that the children are back on a Friday, but the theory is it let's them get all the excitement out of their system and then settle down to learning on Monday.  We've had a lovely time together over the past couple of months and yes, he did mess with my routine but I know I'll miss him during the day now.  Still, I'm sure it won't take long to get back to my coffee mornings with the paper and doing what I want to do.

Sadly, the first thing I'm doing is giving the house a good clean as it's had little more than a lick and a promise recently.  Still, they say a clean house is the sign of a boring housewife I'm going to hold that thought.

The school has built well is still building really some new classrooms for Grade 4 and upwards but they haven't quite managed to finish both buildings.  As with any building project, there are teething problems.  The Wi-Fi is not working yet but fingers crossed.  Mr John is a bit bothered that the teachers office is not air-conditioned and so has bought a fan.  When he went in on Wednesday he had to move his desk which had been taken to the third floor when I saw the office only his and one other desk had been moved in.  It's been a while since Mr John has done any manual labour and his back problem flared up again.  Still, a lie down on the floor and a hot shower pretty much sorted him out.

So I'll get all the low-down when he gets home tonight.  One thing I do know is that the foreign teachers are a nice crowd and a mixture of seasoned (some over 4 years) and new residents of Chan.  Good luck to all the foreign teachers starting the 2014/15 school year.

14 May 2014


We'd read about a good German run bakery on the island before we'd even left the house and knew we needed to check it out.  You can imagine our joy when we found you could read the menu on line and drool over what you might order.  One thing to note is that this place closed at 6pm unless you've booked the candlelight beach dinner.

We took a taxi to Ao Nid pier (50 baht per person) and found that this gorgeous little spot had the most amazing views with the seating area situated over the beach itself.  We were the only ones there for the whole of the two plus hours we spent at this idyllic spot.  We started with coffee and a piece of the home made (that day) coconut cake.  It's worth coming here even if you only have coffee and cake.

For lunch we both ordered rib-eye steak and it was the best meat we've had in this country.  I really have no idea how Geppi (the owner) does it, being on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere.  I had a jacket potato with "cream" as it was described in the menu.  I had my fingers crossed for sour cream and was not disappointed I told Mr John I could happily swim in it (apologies to the visual thinkers).  Because we weren't riding, we treated ourselves with a glass of wine for me and a german beer for Mr John I promise we don't normally drink at lunch time but when in Rome!  Our bill came to 1500 baht, having finished with coffee as well, but we think it was very good value for money don't even go there with how many meals that is at our corner shop

We were also very fortunate to have the Food Art Hut a 15 minute stroll from our accommodation.  We went here a couple of times as the pizza's a freshly made.  Dinner usually cost about 300 baht for a large, shared, pizza, garlic bread, beer and a soft drink.

Geppi also runs the Diner Hut at CoCoCape but unfortunately it wasn't open the night we were there - the island is winding down for the rainy season but if you are at this resort, you must eat with him.

13 May 2014


As I've mentioned, we decided to stay in Trat the night before going to Koh Mak so we didn't have to rush in the morning and Mr John is seriously not a morning person, in fact I often tell people that some days I wake up grumpy and other days I let him sleep!

You don't have to do this and in fact you can get a taxi (around 750 baht) direct to Laem Ngop pier or a bus to Trat Bus Station, be accosted by a helpful person there and pick up tickets for your boat trip.

My regular readers will have guessed I much prefer the "big bus" to a mini-bus.  I think it has something to do with motion sickness which I am susceptible to if my field of vision is limited.  Anyway, the good news is there is a big bus to Trat from Chanthaburi Bus Station (which is near the Stadium).  Another bonus for me is that your luggage can be put away whereas the on the mini-bus you have to have it on your lap and if the driver deems it to be too large, he'll charge you for an additional seat even though it gets put just inside the back doors.

Chan bus station
I should point out that the Information window in Chan is manned by some very helpful people who have good English, so don't ever feel over-whelmed.  We went with Cherdchai Tours, sounds impressive right?  Well, its not really but the bus is clean and could possibly be described as "shabby chic".  Our tickets, one way, were 74 baht each (roughly GBP£1.50 / AUD$2.50 / USD$2.30). 

No refreshments were served but we had Thai music videos for the hour trip much to Mr John's dismay who quickly reached for his headphones!  On the return trip, we used the same company and whilst we didn't have to endure any music videos it cost us 80 baht each and we got a sealed cup of water each presumably that's why it was more expensive on the way back.

Being an island, the only way to get to Koh Mak is by boat.  There are a number of operators and we used two different ones.

Ao Nid Pier, Koh Mak
Boonsiri run from Laem Sok pier.  One way costs 600 baht (roughly GBP£12 / AUD$20 / USD$18.50) per person on their high speed catamaran.  We quite liked this boat which was air-conditioned and had comfy seats and the price included the taxi ride from our hotel to the pier.  The trip took around 50 minutes and arrived at Ao Nid Pier. 

We'd messaged a copy of our tickets to Goodtimes Resort and they were there waiting for us I recommend you do the same regardless of where you're staying

Our return trip was with Panan speedboat.  This trip cost 450 baht and took us to Laem Ngop pier.  It really was a speedboat and you sat on your bench seat the whole way.  We were grateful it wasn't raining!  Although cheaper, it was not my preferred transport option.  A shared taxi back to Trat Bus Station was 60 baht per person and they are waiting at the pier for you, so no problems there.

12 May 2014


I can't believe we only stumbled across this place just before the end of our holiday.  If only we'd found it sooner.  We didn't stay here and so I can give you no advice on the accommodation available but we did use the restaurant and the bar that's found at the end of the pier. 

CoCoCape is situated on northern part of Koh Mak, but faces west.  The only downside we found going here was the steep descent into the resort itself.  Whilst this isn't a problem, walking back up the hill after partaking of a few small sherries can be challenging and require yet another shower when you get back to your accommodation.

First things first - the Bar!  What an amazing place either during the day where you can watch the water and the scenery to your hearts content or at sunset when you can capture the most amazing scenes.

Chai, who speaks good English, was running the bar when we were there ably assisted by Bee.  They were very welcoming and always had a smile for you, nothing was too much trouble.  Chai can even mix a fabulous vodka and lemonade, complete with a piece of lime this is a rare skill in Thailand.

On our penultimate day we took advantage of some free snorkelling.  Wisely, there is a sign warning you to be careful of the sea urchins and I really have never seen so many.  I think there's a lot of western chefs who'd love to have access to this delicacy.  About 200 metres from the pier is some lovely fish of varying sizes and some different corals.  Mr John and I have been quite spoiled with the snorkelling we've done over the years and whilst this was not on the same scale as the Barrier Reef, we finally found some cooler water to swim in.

We had a good dinner at the restaurant with calamari and green curry.  We also spoilt ourselves with a reasonable bottle of wine.  The service was quick but not overly friendly however the food was excellent we were told to finish our bottle of wine at the pier but to bring our glasses back when we'd finished.

09 May 2014

Artist's Place

So as I've previously mentioned, Mr John did sterling work in securing us accommodation in Trat the night before we left for Koh Mak.  He's signed up to Agoda (who we've had some seriously good deals through this year) and received an email about this place.

It's only been open since last year and it's a little calm, cool oasis amid the town of Trat.  There's a lovely water feature that seems to instantly calm you.  Not to fear that you're out of the way though.  It's very well located with only a 10 minute walk to either the day or the night market. 

Our room had air-conditioning but because there's no fly-screen in the window or door, they provide a mosquito net for you to sleep under.  Breakfast was perfectly adequate and included in our 700 baht ( roughly GBP£10 / AUD$23) rate.  The owner speaks reasonable English and was very welcoming.

If you turn right when you come out of the hotel and walk about 100 metres, you'll come across Oscar's Bar on a corner.  The owner Sal, makes a fantastic Pad Tai and drinks are reasonably priced and suitably varied.  You can recognise the bar building because it will say "laundry service" on a sign at the back and at the other end of this building is the bar.

We'll definitely stay here again, should the need arise.

07 May 2014

Picture Perfect

 What can I say about our week away.  It's just been fantastic.  So much so, that I'll actually breakdown our trip into a few blog pieces so that, hopefully, you'll have enough details for planning your own trip.  Koh Mak (pronounced Ko Mark) is such an idyllic place that we feel like we've been away for much longer.  There's little to do except swim, eat, drink, sleep and it suited us down to the ground.

Mr John, in one of his hyper organised moments organised for us to stay in Trat the night before our boat to the island and we stayed at The Artist Place which was just fabulous stay tuned for details on this newly constructed oasis.

Our boat tickets included free pick up from a nearby boutique hotel.  All the ferry points in Trat province seem to be a long way from Trat city centre and the trip took us well over 30 minutes which wasn't helped by the fact we had to stop at a garage for a spot of welding on the back seats!  I think the driver took pity on me because I got to sit up front with him in air-conditioned comfort.

The boat, a fast catamaran took about 50 minutes to arrive at Ao Nid pier on the island.  The water was the most amazing colour and we couldn't wait to get unpacked and settle in.  We were met at the pier by our resort representative and boarded the open taxi for the 10 minute trip to Good Time resort. 

Now I know the name sounds a bit dodgy but it had got really good reviews on the internet and you certainly could not beat it for it's convenient location between two fantastic beaches.  We had a room in the Islanda Suite new build on the property.  It was one of the cheapest but we didn't feel like we were slumming it at all.  The resort is huge and there are individual houses dotted on it, some of which we coverted - well, at least those that had an outdoor Jacuzzi.  The staff were very friendly and nothing was too much bother and the breakfast adequate.

Actually, the only downside of the resort was the swimming pool.  On the day we arrived it was closed for cleaning but, to be honest, it never looked particularly clean.  Well, I say that but I could see my feet when I was in it, it's just that it had a weird green colour to it.  Perhaps that was why we had it pretty much all to ourselves. 

With the sun being so fierce, the water was really warm, though not as warm as the shallow water at the beach.  I kept joking that you could catch fish, drag them into the shallows where they'd be broiled to death so you could consume them straight away.  This is not a topic that has appeared in any reviews we avidly read before booking our holiday weird.

We ate really well while we were on the island though finding a good coffee was a little impossible until we went to the Steakhouse I'll tell you more about this in a later post as it deserves it's own review.  Unbelievably, walking back from dinner one night, we saw a large wine selection in one of the mini-marts and Mr John reappeared with a bottle of Mud House white wine.  This is a fabulous vineyard in New Zealand's Marlborough district which we were fortunate enough to visit in 2004.

We had a thunder storm and heavy rain one afternoon and we took refuge in Reception (which also has a Library upstairs full of DVDs and books).  One of the dogs at the resort is obviously terrified of thunder and tried to worm his way into Mr John's pocket.  There are a couple of dogs at the resort and they all have a lovely nature and are no bother.  The only other rain we saw was on the morning we left when, at 06:00 we were woken by thunder and torrential rain which continued until we walked up to Reception for our breakfast curse you 09:00 boat trips.  Needless to say, although it had all settled down by the time we were driven to the pier, Mr John did not dry out until we got home.

02 May 2014

Food stuff

Here are a few more recommendations for what to buy when you live here.  We do most of our shopping at Tesco Lotus as we find it's well priced.  For a good selection of foreign goods, Tops Supermarket is the place to go.  Of course Bangkok is the place to go for really hard to get stuff and Mr John and I are considering a trip there in early December to stock up for Christmas.

 Anyway, being a girl, I'm very particular about toilet paper much to Mr John's consternation boys just don't get it and after trying various brands and types, this is my recommendation.  It's imbued with a fragrance so your bathroom smells pretty too - bonus.

The one thing you'll really need here is bug spray, if only for the ants that appear out of nowhere!  This is my preferred as it doesn't have that chemical smell and the house smells of flowers once you've used it.  Seems a bit of a floral theme going on here.  It also deals with a number of different pests and I guess that's the main thing to look for when you're buying.

As you know, we love to go for coffee and cake but that can be quite expensive.  When we're feeling a bit poor, we compensate by having a cup of Starbucks instant coffee at home along with one of these lovelies.  They come in six to a box and cost about 30 baht.  Our friend Wicus put us on to these.

Of course, sometimes you just need potato chips / crisps and we've found the Lay brand to be good.  You need to be careful of the flavours as there as some really weird ones, along with the obligatory seaweed.  You just can't go past some good Australian Cheezels though either original or BBQ!

Not that we'll be buying anything for the next few days as we've booked our holiday to Koh Mak.  It's an island off Koh Chang and is only 16 square kilometres in size.  We can't wait as we've heard there's good snorkelling too, so our kit has gone in the bag.  Look out next week for my review of Koh Mak.  Have a good weekend everyone.