27 November 2014

Cost of Living

Now that we've been here over 18 months where has the time gone I realised I have not shared our living costs. Whilst we are no longer "rich" in monetary terms, we live a reasonable life. It's simply a matter of choosing where our money goes. I think of it as an "either / or" situation. We can either eat out seven days a week or we can go on holiday a couple of times a year.

Before we get to the figures, I think I should explain some of them. Our rent includes internet access and TV. So why choose to have additional expense? Well, the internet is shared between the other 14 apartments and when everyone is at home it slows right down. The TV includes "free to air channels" which, of course, are all in Thai. The TV package we have is the mid-range and is mostly the choice of Mr John as it includes his favourite rugby channel. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining because it also includes Australia Plus which means we get to watch Australian Rules Football as well. The point is, this cost is purely our choice.

The electric cost is representative of a fairly high average for us. The most expensive bill we had was 950 and the cheapest 520. It's the air-conditioning that seems to impact the most so April and May tend to be expensive. There were times last December when I didn't even have a fan on during the day so one of our cheapest months. This differs to the water cost which is a minimum 85 baht and we've never gone over that figure even though some days I shower five times!

Food and Drink includes coffee and alcohol and covers all our household staples. I've included eating out separately and although we tend to eat at Tom's across the road, we usually spoil ourselves at least once on the weekend with western style food.

Personal Expenses is the money Mr John and I have for ourselves to spend or save as we see fit. For me, it's mostly to fuel my caffeine habit whereas Mr John saves his for bigger treats I should also point out that he has less opportunity to spend his being at work all week.

So, there you go and here's the figures.
* rates are approximate and have been rounded up or down
Weekly costs can vary
Savings (minimum quoted) covers holidays and bike registration / repairs etc
Wifi / TV / Mobile costs are with True Vision

21 November 2014

He's away again!

Well, as I write this, Mr John is in Chiang Mai. All the English Programme teachers, which includes Thai teachers, have gone on a field trip. They left at 1pm yesterday on a bus for the 16 hour journey. As you can imagine he wasn't overly enamoured with the mode of transport.  

Factor in all the stops for food and comfort breaks and they arrived there around 6.30 am. Time enough for a "wash" and change of clothes at a petrol station before arriving at the school they're visiting. Whilst the trip is paid for, each teacher was given material to have a shirt made for this school visit. There's a lady around the corner who does sewing so we left it with her. Whatever you think of the shirt itself and I have my own opinions the craftsmanship is amazing and all for 550 baht.

They're having lunch at the school and then back to the bus for some sightseeing this afternoon before rocking up at the hotel around 16.30 this afternoon. Yes, that's right, a total of 27.5 hours without a bed or shower! There's more sightseeing planned for tomorrow after the 7am breakfast call and 8am bus departure. Luckily, they can also choose to do their own thing in Chiang Mai and I think Mr John might be choosing sleep! 

Never mind, they leave at 8am on Sunday for the trip back complete with various temple stops so I'm not really expecting him home til close to midnight. He's one of the lucky ones though as next week Grade 6 are taking exams and so, at most, he'll only have to invigilate. Imagine that bus trip on Sunday and then having to teach Monday morning? 

I did the usual washing earlier in the week and I've taken to popping in the local coffee shop while the washing is doing it's stuff.  The lovely man there I really must find out his name speaks reasonable English and he kindly offered me some passion-fruit that his Uncle had given him from his garden.  It's the best I've ever had. Quite sweet but with the lovely passion-fruit acidity.

Some of you may have noticed I've not been posting as much lately as I usually do. The truth is, I've been really out of sorts. I enjoyed Mr John being on holiday and of course Ross' visit was exciting and once that was all over I just found I don't know what to do with myself. I had so many plans when I finished work - scrap-booking, family tree, painting - but it's just so hot here all the time that doing these things takes a massive effort. A fan blowing at you is not at all conducive to having photos and paper and glue spread out in front of you. Turn said fan off and the result is a pretty sweaty, horrible mess. 

Bex & Jules
There are times when I'm extremely lonely. Foreign teachers are a transient bunch, tend to be quite young and it's very hit and miss whether you find people who are decent and you actually want to hang out with and who themselves don't want to go clubbing every night. I don't think it helps that I was spoilt when I met Juls and Bex. Those girls were amazing and I miss them a lot. 

19 November 2014

Festivals R Us

The end of the rainy season festival was on recently. I think someone forgot to tell the "season" though because it continued to rain for at least another week. We're very lucky with this festival as it takes place in the old town which is a five minute stroll from our house.

The food vendors are also fantastic and we often wish we knew where we could find them the rest of the time or that we had them there once a month. Loads of people were out and about and the strangest things was we couldn't walk more than about 100 metres before someone said "hello" to us. Some of these were past students of Mr John but quite a few were friends or acquaintances of ours. 

The other lovely thing we did was go to the park (aka lake) for Loi Krathong. You may remember last year we went to the local temple on the river near our house, but went for something a little different this year. This was partly because our friend Anne took me to the park early in order to make my own krathong. I had a ball and my Thai friends have been very impressed with my abilities! Wonder if there's a full time job for making krathongs?

14 November 2014

Koh Mak

What is there to say about Koh Mak This is my favourite island, of those close to us.  A chance to relax, eat some good food and go to bed early, feeling like it's midnight! This is one of the odd things about this place.  I guess because it's so laid back and darkness falls here by 6 o'clock that by 10 you feel like you've had a really good night and should consider going to bed.  How rock 'n' roll!  
It was a bit of an early start as we didn't want to waste our first day but the taxi got us to the pier in lovely time to catch the 10:45 Boonsiri catamaran. At this time of day, it stops at Koh Kood first, so it was like a mini cruise of the area. We stayed at Good Time Resort just like we did in May.  I really can't recommend this place enough and it always seems as though Mr Peak cannot do enough for you. In fact, having headed to CoCoCape Pier to have a drink and watch the sunset, we found that their bar had not opened for the season. Having had a lovely lunch at German Steakhouse, we weren't looking for a big dinner.  So, we headed back to the resort when we saw Mr Peak and he arranged for pizza to be delivered to our holiday house!

We stayed in Pineapple House (though we had booked Villa Ginger).  It was a great space for all of us with one bedroom and en-suite on the main floor and another bedroom with en-suite upstairs.  To access this bedroom, you had to go up the outside staircase, which was also the way to the "crows nest" as I liked to call itThis spot, which had seating on three sides and a table in the centre, was a perfect place to catch the breeze and enjoy a glass of wine! 

Of course, that was until we had a massive storm one afternoon and the loudest clap of thunder seemed to be right on our roof.  I wish I'd had the camera ready for Ross' face as it was a picture and Mr John, ever the conservative one, had us heading back downstairs safely out of harms way!
In fact, we had rain a few times while we were there and because a large seed pod had got stuck in the "drain" pipe, we had about an inch of water on the patio. Once removed though, everything drained away pretty quickly.

A highlight of our time away has to be our trip to Bamboo Hideaway with it's La Dolce Vita restaurant.  Massimo and Francesca are the nicest people and the food, you simply cannot miss a visit here if you go to Koh Mak.  We had an amazing three course meal, complete with coffee and limoncello. In fact, the boys even had an extra main course to share! I like to think it was because they had a small taste of my lasagne and wished they'd ordered it too.
Our trip back was no less fun and by pure chance we got a taxi back, driven by Mr Egg.  He owns Leelawadee Speedboat and speaks good English. In fact when Ross and Mr John told him they were from England - his response? Lovely Jubbly! If you're unfamiliar with the British Sit Com, Only Fools & Horses, have a look.

In fact he has quite a sense of humour. Turning down one street he said he was taking a short-cut and we'd be in Chan in 20 minutes it's a good hours drive.  So I think next time, we'll be contacting him for our travel needs. The good news is he's from Chan and knows the area well so getting dropped off at the house was no problems.