30 September 2015

Countdown ...3, 2 ...

Yes, the countdown continues with only two weeks to go before we head off to Hanoi and then welcome our international visitors. We just can't wait. 

In the meantime, I went to pay our internet / TV / Phone bill the other day. Yes, they're all with the same provider but of course, they have to send us separate bills. Why? Who knows. Anyway, there's a self service booth at the shop. Helpfully it even has the instructions in English, you know like "scan bar-code here", "insert bank note here" and my favourite "kiosk doesn't give back change". So you'd think this was a pretty simple operation, right? Wrong. Think again - This is Thailand or TiT as I like to say for various reasons (say it out loud, you'll get it). When you arrive at the shop, you are warmly greeted by a member of staff. They're very smiley but there's not a massive command of the English language. These lovely staff members tend to direct you read foreign people to the self-service machine presumably because the counter staff have no English either.

Anyway, you can't operate the self-service machine ... yourself. You need to have a member of staff operate the self-service machine. Not only that, but because the machine doesn't give change, the member of staff goes to the counter staff and gives them the money you've handed over in order to get change. The member of staff then gives you your change and feeds the correct money into the self-service machine. Awesome!

All this excitement however is tinged with sadness as we have to say goodbye to the lovely Chantal next week. She's been an awesome addition to the Chan community and we wish her well in her next endeavour. Naturally, we spent the afternoon with our colouring-in books for some quality time. 

Orla cooking flat breads
In order to celebrate properly and there's a few other events planned, a few of us had a home cooked dinner on Saturday night and much game playing ensued. Games like bananagrams and apologies for the language shithead card game. If you've never played these games then use the links to find out how they work. There was a lot of fun and a lot of laughter. 

28 September 2015

Relaxing Massage

Last Tuesday I did something to my left shoulder. I still don't know what it was but either I had sat awkwardly on the couch or I slept weirdly. Either way, if I reached out with my left arm I was in agony - enough to wince each time. 

If I sat still for too long, as soon as I moved it would hurt. Putting my hand up in the air or waving it around felt OK though so I carried on going to yoga. I was talking to my Pilates instructor after class Wednesday, who suggested I try a massage at either KP Grande or Maneechan hotels. I mulled this over for a day and decided to do it. I picked out the Maneechan because I thought more foreigners would stay there and I was more likely to get a western style massage.

Having been warmly welcomed at the front door, I headed to the Reception desk to make my request. Funnily enough, they had a large list of massage services right next to the desk no, not those sort of services, this was legit and I duly advised I would like a head, neck and back massage. I was lead through the hotel, passed the pool which looked lovely and to the room on the other side of the complex. There were about six mattresses all at floor level. That seemed a bit to caring and sharing for my liking but I was the only one there so didn't think anything more of it.

Alarm bells did still not go off when I was given a fetching little outfit to put on. I've confirmed with the very nice lady who did keep calling me madam which I hate but hey that I want my head, neck and back massaged. I've done this by also including hand signals pointed out my head, neck and back. She's nodded and directed me face down onto one of the mattresses. And, by the Gods, then it starts. Without a drop of oil in sight.

Have you every had a Thai massage? I can't say I recommend it. Sure, some people love it. They think this is the original massage which we should all have. Quite frankly, this is not my opinion. By the time she turned me over yes I know, why on earth do you need to be turned over when you're having your head, neck and back done all sorts of thoughts were going on in my head. 

My first thought was - I wonder if anyone has ever gone for a massage, fully functioning and come out the other side a paraplegic? I kid you not. This woman was pulling and pushing me for all she was worth and not just with her hands. Oh no, she had a foot firmly planted on various bits of me and went to places that not even Mr John has been to in twelve years. Not only that, but every now and again she would punch, yes punch, the soles of my feet. What the ...... insert expletive of your choice...!

My second thought was - do you have any formal qualifications for undertaking this "service"? Health and Safety is, well, not very healthy or safe in Thailand. The general "sabai, sabai" namely chill out, relax, whatever approach coupled with a Buddhist belief that when your time is up, your time is up means that the Western obsession with your own personal safety just gets in the way of living life so best not to bother with all that.

One of the problems with all of this is that as she's working on one part of you, the rest of you has tensed up waiting for the inevitable surge of pain that's about to head your way. If you've already got a part of you that's tense, this sort of massage can surely only lead to other parts of you felling tense? And why do I have to roll onto my back when I'm only meant to be having my head, neck and back massaged? And what do you mean, sit up??

By the time she was jamming her chin into the top of my skull I was ready to run out screaming assuming I wasn't actually paralysed. I had been breathing so deeply and exhaling so dramatically think pregnant woman, labour pains whilst face down that I'd left a damp circle on the sheets and presumably they'd have to get a hair dryer or some equivalent to the mattress so that it was dried out for the next victim customer

I get up off the mattress. This was only achieved by rolling myself onto my knees and gingerly, one foot at a time, raising myself up. I lurched to the bathroom so I can change out of my "massage outfit". I feel like I've been 10 rounds with Mohammed Ali. I'm offering up all sorts of promises to the Gods that I'm still able to ride my motorcycle home and will not be stuck here until Mr John finishes school.

Then 300 baht (about GBP £5.50 / AUD $11.80 / US $8.30 / EU 7.40) plus a tip what was I thinking later, I'm on my bike heading home thinking I should have tried the KP Grande. To be fair, it's feeling a little better but I'm not sure whether that's due to the skills of my masseuse or just time passing remember, this was no serious injury. I somehow suspect it was the latter.

22 September 2015

Too much coffee?

The eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that I didn't post anything last week. Well, that was because, quite frankly, I was having way too much fun! You see it was my birthday last Tuesday and I had a lovely week. Got to eat cake, went out to dinner with friends, got some lovely cards in the post and even some pressies. Awesome. So a quick thank you to everyone who made it so special for me.

Actually, I had loads of things to tell you, so you may actually get fed up of me by the end of the week. Did you see the US Open Tennis final? I even skipped yoga to watch the end of it shock horror but it was exciting. 

I think the staff at Doi Chaang thought I was moving in but who can resist coffee cake? Infact, I had my first ever coffee rush while I was eating it and enjoying my latte. Have you ever had that? I felt like I was drunk. Whilst I have never experienced it before, I saw a guy I used to work with experience it and I have much more sympathy now. I think on my third visit of the week, they were contemplating a restraining order!

Of course the really big excitement of this week has been the start of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. I don't want to labour the point because quite frankly it just makes me feel way too old but I saw one of the Pool games in Brisbane in 1987 at the very first World Cup. There has of course been the predictable results though Australia don't play until Wednesday but the biggest upset and I must say once of the most exciting games of rugby I've seen in a while was when Japan beat South Africa. 

South Africa is an incredible rugby nation and, like Australia, have won the RWC twice. You can imagine, how unbelievable it was that Japan beat them. As a neutral it was the most incredible game to watch sorry to all our South African friends, I know it will have hurt

Mr John naturally wanted to see England's first match and due to the time difference, this started at 02:00 on Saturday morning, our time. So Friday night saw us in bed early and several alarms set. I enjoyed watching the opening game but, honestly, I think I'll leave him to get up on his own all England's matches are at the same time. Except when they play Australia of course. Oh, our poor neighbours! 

11 September 2015

Sport Crazy

I've been watching the US Open tennis tournament this last couple of weeks. There's been some very exciting matches. On Wednesday I was watching the Djokovic / Lopez match and it was an incredible match. Lopez, unbelievably, was two sets up and the fourth set was 6-5 in his favour. I was meeting someone for coffee and even put them back 15 minutes so I could see the end of the set - come on, if he'd have won that set Djokovic, number 1 in the world, would have been out. 

Lopez was about to serve when, the screen went dead and this appeared. Yes, it's part of the three times daily, we're going to interrupt your life so we can update you with our propaganda progress. This goes on at 8am, 12pm and 6pm. Lovely. I shouldn't complain, they now include English subtitles.

It's been a bit of a hectic week, this week. I've gone back to yoga with the torturer and continue to feel a bit like a human pretzel. The good news is Friday classes are back on so now I can go Monday, Wednesday and Friday which spaces it out better and lets me get things done on Tuesday and Thursday. Seriously you wouldn't believe, by the time I have been, get back, shower, let my hair dry it's suddenly 11 o'clock and I haven't done anything. Mr John's underpants don't wash themselves you know!

Speaking of him indoors, I'm sending him to Mars. OK, well not literally to be fair, I'd miss him, but don't tell him that. He's "scheduled to depart 4 March 2016". And you should see the frequent flyer miles - amazing! Mr John teaches science at school and is a bit of a geek with these sorts of things. It cost nothing to submit his name and I thought it would be interesting for him.

Whilst there'll be tennis finals showing on our tv this weekend, the thing we're really looking forward to is the start of the Rugby World Cup next Friday. Well, actually, given the time difference it starts here at 2am on Saturday. All Mr John's England matches are on at that time he he hee but Australia has some very civilised times like 22:45 except when they play England. Pool A is a tough group to get out of as not only does it have Australia and England in it but also Wales, Fiji and Uruguay. So, best get a new set of divorce papers printed out don't worry it's just our running joke. 

Have a lovely weekend everyone.

08 September 2015

Countdown 5, 4 ...

Now that it's September and quite frankly how did that happen? Mr John is feeling the strain of non-stop teaching for the last four plus months and is looking to October with slight desperation. Yes, it's the three week "mid-term" break and I don't think it can come soon enough for him or some of the other teachers.

We're so excited about October because we have so many fun things happening. Firstly in approximately 34 days we are heading to Hanoi. We've not been before and are really looking forward to it. In fact, Mr John has booked us into an Executive room so there are high hopes all round it even has a bath. It's really just a city break, so for us that's four nights and we're staying in the Old Quarter it's the shopping district so look out.

We'll be landing back in Bangkok just before lunch on a Saturday in mid-October and I can't stop giggling every time I think about it. Why? Because cousin Abi and her boyfriend Dave arrive just after lunch on the same day. Isn't that awesome! In fact, I'm not sure whether we should meet them flight-side or be out in the arrivals hall. It's Abi's first visit and we can't wait to see them.

And as if that wasn't exciting enough, guess what? Ross is coming back for a week and is bringing Bryony with him. And guess what else? Yep, they're arriving around lunch time on that same Saturday. What a hoot. All six of us will be in Bangkok for the weekend and I think I can feel a headache coming on already. I'm just beyond excited.

As a consequence of all the above, we've been keeping our heads down here in Chan to save as much money as we possibly can. Fortunately, some others are in the same boat as a lot of teachers head off travelling for the two / three weeks unbelievably it does vary between schools. Of course, some things are exempt from the saving binge - like coffee. I mean, that's an essential and definitely not a luxury. Right??

The political scene here continues to be perplexing. The draft charter was rejected and so the current "government" will be in place for at least another 22 months. Investigations are ongoing into the bombing at Erawan Shrine. In fact, Mr John's school had a visit from Immigration the other day supposedly because of it. Apparently they spoke to some of the teachers and wanted to see visas and work permits. 

So now, Mr John is meant to keep these documents on him whilst at school - just in case. It seems a little weird, I mean, why not just speak to the Directors and review their hiring process but then, what do I know. I've also read that Immigration officials have been told to strengthen their checks of foreigners coming in and out of the country. No doubt that'll slow some things down at the Airport but we have nothing to hide so will just have to be patient with any ensuing hold ups. There really never is a dull moment here.

03 September 2015

Bake Today

I was having coffee with Wicus a while back and discussing how expensive a visit to Bangkok Hospital is for me because I'm not covered by a school

Actually, to be fair, the visit itself is not that bad at 500 baht but it's the cost of any prescription they give you which last time cost me an added 2500 bahtHe kindly told me of a clinic where the doctor speaks reasonable English I think her English is actually very good but she lacks practice and therefore has to think a little before saying anything and it's down near the park / lake. So I headed there when I had my recent bought of bronchitis and sure enough, my whole visit only cost me 820 baht. Winner. 

But I digress because the point of this post is to tell you about a coffee shop that is next door to the clinic and one I've been meaning to try for ages.

Bake Today's big draw is their "all cakes for 35 baht" and I've been intrigued about this for some time but being on the main road I just haven't found a reason to stop. Having visited the doctors, this seemed the perfect excuse to pop in and check it all out. 

Have you ever heard the expression "you get what you pay for"? Meaning if you don't pay much you won't get much. I think that's pretty much the situation here. Cakes around town tend to cost between 60 and 90 baht generally speaking so I'm sure you can understand my curiosity. Ignoring the doctors advice that I not have any hot drinks I'd not been out of the house for a week and felt rubbish so to hell with it, I needed a coffee and to feel like a human being I dragged Mr John into this place and afterwards, was a bit sorry I had.

The interior was "asian cute" which means there were stuffed toys everywhere which I will never understand with table and chairs to sit at. The coffee was OK and a standard "ish" price of 40 baht for latte and the cake was edible but a little on the dry side. Somehow I don't think I will be heading back here, which seems harsh because the lady behind the counter was very nice and welcoming. 

01 September 2015

One Pot Pasta

I can't begin to tell you how much better I feel today. Thank goodness. Often when you're in the middle of "being sick" it feels like it's been going on forever and will never end. Mr John has been his usual awesome self keeping on top of the washing, food shopping and making sure I was fed without having to actually do anything. He even abandoned his exercise regime so I ate at appropriate times.

In order to keep life as simple as possible we reverted back to the one pot pasta meals that we enjoy but haven't cooked for ages. A bit lacking in liquid early on, he soon got back into the swing and made some of the yummiest dinners we've had in a long time is it only me that thinks food cooked by someone else tastes way nicer than something you've cooked yourself? 

Anyway, I thought I ought to revisit the recipe and share it with you all again. I've managed to be a bit more specific so hopefully your efforts will be more successful. You can make a tomato sauce or, if you're feeling decadent, a creamy sauce. Either works really well with this recipe though I probably wouldn't add the dried chilli if I was also using cream 

Although this recipe uses fettuccine you can use any pasta you want to. Mr John particularly likes fettuccine but to be honest, I use whatever is in the house. If you're going to use penne or fussili pasta, then replace the 100 grams with one cup (250 ml) for each person. 

The joy of this recipe is that you can use whatever you want and, more importantly, whatever you like. Vegetarian? - don't use any meat. Don't like spicy food - don't add the chilli. Like spicy food - add more than one chilli. Don't like mushrooms or broccoli - think about pumpkin or snow peas in fact I might try one with some grated pumpkin to see what happens. 

Free you mind, think about pasta meals you have eaten in the past, what did they have in it? Your only limits for this dish is your imagination.

Serves: 2
Time: 5 minutes preparation, 10 minutes cooking
Utensils: Deep pot with lid, large spoon for stirring, knife for chopping

  • 1 chicken breast , skin removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 medium sized onion chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 350 ml boiled water you can add a chicken stock cube if you like
  • 1 dried chilli they pack a punch here
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 100 g mushrooms
  • 1 inch round of fettuccine  I make a circle with my thumb and forefinger snapped in half
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 100 g broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese

FOR A TOMATO SAUCE add 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
FOR A CREAMY SAUCE add 1/4 cup heavy cream

  1. In a deep pan, brown the chicken pieces in olive oil.  Don't worry about these being cooked through as they will cook more once everything is in the pot
  2. Add the garlic and onion and fry with the chicken for a minute or two
  3. Add the water I use water just boiled by the kettle as its helps speed up the process and fettuccine
  4. Add the chilli, herbs, mushrooms and season to taste
  5. Add the tomato ketchup or cream 
  6. Bring the liquid to the boil then turn the heat down until it's a gentle simmer. 
  7. Put the lid on and cook for 5 minutes
  8. Give the contents a stir and add the broccoli 
  9. Cook for a further 5 minutes check the pasta is cooked simply by tasting a piece
Take the pot off the heat and stir through the parmesan.  Then just dish it up.  It's that easy.  

As an added bonus there's hardly any washing up as you serve straight from the pot into your eating bowls.