Friday, 30 November 2007

Freedom Bungalow

After experiencing a rather intense panic filled nightmare of a day yesterday (being told in essence that I'm not to experience a taste of freedom in the foreseeable future), I'm feeling quite normal again today. The fabulous builder that we were hoping to employ is out of the good books. His quote for the construction of a tiny 4 x 6 metre (including the balcony) bungalow was 100,000 baht (A$3700)! Ba-hoomy flick flick to you home boy... Due to the fact that we have all the wood required and all that is needed is the skilled builder, bit of cement, some polls, a roof and some windows (and potentially some other stuff!), we're at a loss as to how he reached that insane figure... of course keeping in mind we're in THAILAND not in westernville mybathroomrenovationcost$20,000 type situation here. People build entire houses in Thailand for less than 200 000 baht!

After briefly fantasising about how rich and full my life would surely be if we packed up and shipped back to Oz, I came back to earth and realised "this is life". Hurdles come up, you jump it, build a bridge, climb that mountain, get on with it... so, we talked to a couple of uncles today who are going to join forces and help build our freedom house. How did I ever live without having 50 uncles on hand I'm wandering!

One of the uncies has built a couple of lovely bungy type structures such as this, his latest unfinished chill out zone). We've approached this relly at least 7 times to ask his help in building something, anything, but it's quite the challenge to distract him long enough to hold a conversation. He likes to dabble in a bit of gambling. When I say dabble I mean he runs a gambling den from his kitchen which is permanently filled with 4-10 people hitting the cards getting quite excitable. He doesn't even look up when you come in the door (although everyone else will look at you with fear in their eyes cos they think they're busted). The thing is, there will be no bustation.. uncy is conveniently very close friends with and related to the boys in skin tight khakis... and the highly amusing thing is when I was standing outside taking the bungalow picture a cop pulled up on a motorbike and I'm thinking "No fricken way..they're getting busted just when we arrive!", that would go down well. But no, he was just dropping off his mate to join in the game! Ahh, Thailand, the Land of Smiles because it just makes you laugh!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Our beautiful plot...

This is our fabulous piece of land! The plans have been handed over to the builder for a quote...this builder rocks! He finished building 2 new rooms in our current house in 2 DAYS! He is sooo gonna be finished our new abode by the New Year!!

This greeny view is standing about mid-way on the block looking south. Previously, I thought that our land only went to that first clump of banana trees on the left but J's uncle (the neighbour) told us that it goes all the way back to the tall rubber trees up the back of the photo! Woohoo!

This dirty view is looking north toward the road and is the way the future house will face. I'm not too savvy on wind direction and house placement but I think facing north is good feng shui! We put this dirt down months ago so it would have time to compact through the rainy season. Quite ridiculously, we cut down several banana trees before the dump but failed to get the roots and now it almost looks like a banana plantation cos they just love all that new soil! They grow faster and more prolific than weeds! Lucky I like the narnies..

Spent a couple of hours marking out where the bungi is going to go today (I have lovely puffy blisters on my hands to prove it). We'll be building it quite far down the back to hopefully drown out any noise from the road and the obscene village radio that plays in the mornings (which has been broken for a week allowing me sleep ins, hoorah!). The only mild concern is that there is a structure on the neighbour's land that looks suspiciously like a pig pen (unused) and I'm hoping to dear universal powers that be that they don't have any burning desire to take up pig farming any time the next 50 years! I think I would pay them to just not!

So, we're beyond excitement that things are finally moving!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

The Kindness of Strangers

The world can let you down sometimes...and then a little angel will visit you and show you something beautiful. Not that the world is letting me down at the mo, on the contrary I'm rejoicing that I'm gonna be out of the hell pit MILs clutches THIS YEAR!! Anyhoo, back to my angel....

This celestial being came to me via the chariot of Thai postage and my beloved internet connection! I got an email last week from a fellow compatriot living in-country who had obviously felt my heart yearning for printed matter across the lands and offered to cure me of my woes by sending me 7 kilograms of books!! Yes, that's 7 kg of English readability. That's innumerable weeks of planting my face in a book rather than gluing my eyes to the computer screen giving myself cancer from radiation poisoning. Aand this luscious readability is even more delectable because it contains trashy gossip magazines (which I secretly adore whilst hating every fibre of my being when reading that Tom Cruise has imprisoned Katie and is planning on exorcising the demon of Posh Spice!). Not to mention there was also a packet of chocaroonies in there (opened in a hormonal frenzy before the box was even completely open). I'm so transparent that people know that books and chocolate make my life complete (perhaps with a morning coffee thrown in!).

Thank you again for your incredible kindness and generous spirit, my appreciation is deeper than the Gulf!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Scams in Thailand

Oh my sweet lord almighty in heaven. Is there something in the water this week or what! A man just came to our house (an uncle I think) and signaled J to come with him. They went and hid in the garage. I had no idea what was going on until 5 minutes later J calls me inside all secret squirrels and shows me the folded piece of paper in his hands. A photocopy of a million dollar American bank note! Was I screaming eureka as I'm sure the man in the garage was hoping to do after gaining my knowledgeable approval of its existence? More like shaking my head savagely like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. After I broke the news that no such note existed I was met with silent disbelief. He continued to talk in hushed tones to J and photocopy the precious document while I tried to convince him of the impossibility of the note. He even offered J a $10,000 cut to help him exchange the money! Boy am I kicking myself now that we let him get away!

Apparently uncle's very close friend had been on a fishing boat and had discovered a handful of the million dollar notes in someone's pocket. Hmm, very convincing story....he nearly had me there! Apparently the boat scavenger had already cashed in one of the bank notes and was now rich beyond is wildest imagination. J's poor excited uncle was asking me what the American exchange rate was and was nearly dancing around the room when he figured out he had access to 34 million bahtaroonies. No matter what I said he just couldn't completely believe me that it was a scam. This was his closest mate, how could it be untrue! I ended up googling American bank notes just to bloody prove my point (hallelujah for the internet!). Interesting fact I learned was that once upon a time there was a $100 000 bank note. That's some big kahoonas! After seeing all the available notes on screen before his own eyes, he looked so crestfallen that I really felt quite sorry for him. At first I found it all beyond amusing which morphed into incredulity and ended up feeling so sad that people are so easily taken in by get rich quick scams. Of course I could in fact be wrong in my understanding of US money and I've led the poor man astray and cheated him out of millions... my bad, y'all just let me know now.

The insanity continues....

I was wondering this morning why there were so many kids hanging around outside, riding their bikes, playing in the yard, running here and there. Is today not a school day? Why yes, it's Monday. Perhaps it's a public holiday? Check the, no holiday. So I ask one wee willy winky, "Why aren't thou at school today?" (although it sounded more Thai then that) and the reply..."My teacher has gone to Chiang Mai" (Chiang Mai is about 1600 km from my place). Hmm..then why are those kids who are all different ages, also not at school. "Their teachers are also in Chiang Mai". Hmmm...."How long are they in Chiang Mai?"... "10 days". So, to summarize, the entire school is closed for 10 days while 70% of the teaching staff party on down in Chiang Mai. The terrifying thing is that this is not an isolated incident...

I did a brief teaching stint for 3 months the year before last and while I hated it with a passion, I couldn't really complain because out of the 3 months, I probably only had to teach the equivalent of 3 weeks. I kid you not, here's the break down: the school was closed for nearly 2 weeks due to torrential rain, then the teachers went on innumerable trips to other schools to
1. send a teacher off to a new school
2. welcome a new teacher from an old school to our school
3. training days (!)
4. inter-school competitions.
Then there were the innumerable days where all the teachers would go out for lunch. The time would be approaching 1pm and I would say "I've got a class starting in 10 minutes, shouldn't we go?"..met with "haha" or "jai yen yen (calm down)" or silence cos they pretend not to hear me! I honestly can not count the times I missed my after lunch class due to the teachers being in no hurry! Then there were a couple of surprise drug testing days thrown in which took up more than half the day each time (all the boys had to pee in a cup..lucky druggie girls obviously get away with it cos they don't get tested!). Then there was a hair checking morning which involved all the girls lining up with teachers prowling the lines to ensure no child has hair past their ear level! What happens to the evil child that has grown their hair through the holidays? They get sent home to have a hair cut! What do the boys do while this is going on for a couple of hours? They just hang around playing ping pong or watch tv in the lunch area!

Thai education is very disturbing. How can a country pull itself out of it's problems if they don't have an educated population? The stories I could tell about how kids learn here. Kids come to use the net at our house to do their homework. Usually they come in groups. They will cut and paste complete articles directly off the internet and print off 5 copies of the exact same thing to hand in! How can they learn a thing! And the really sad thing is, is that you can't blame the kids cos the teachers don't stop them doing it because they don't know any different. It's a vicious cycle of ignorance. It's something I ponder regarding my own future kids. I'm thinking a combination of big city schooling (much higher quality of education then village schools) and lots of home schooling. Either that or move back to Oz!

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Loy Kratong

Loy Kratong was celebrated last night. This festival occurs on the full moon of the 12th lunar month…and what a spectacular full moon it was! Most years the rain can wash out the festival (being rainy season) but we’ve had clear skies for a few days now and the golden orb did not disappoint.

Loy Kratong is a festival that pays homage and gives thanks to the Water Goddess, as well as asking forgiveness for polluting her waterways (which is perhaps the reason I just love this festival..and all the pretty lights). People take the opportunity to pray for their family and it is done with exceptional reverence. People generally release the kratong (a slice of banana trunk elaborately decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, incense sticks, a candle, some hair and nail clippings!) into any body of water, be that the ocean, a lake or a stream. Our local temple is on the banks of a large stream so that’s where the masses converged last night. When hundreds of kratong are released and flowing downstream, the gorgeousity is overwhelming and visually stunning.

The famous legend of Loy Kratong is that if 2 lovers set a kratong adrift and it continues floating down stream (not flipping and sinking) and out of sight, their love will last forever. Looks like I'm stuck with J for eternity then!

After floating the kratong we went inside the temple grounds for the wild and crazy show. Well, if you call countless groups of little girls (with the odd boy thrown in there) dressed like 80s Madonnas (including the boys!), dancing on stage like they're 20 years older and require a poll, then I guess you would find it wild. Whatever happened to traditional Thai dancing at these shows. Fair enough they had a group of oldies doing some manora dancing that was beautiful, but that was it! Call me old fashioned but I found it a bit sad that all the kids are being taught these "sexy" moves and not learning or showing any traditional dance (that is ageless!). In just over an hour I believe they had about 10 groups of kids doing "modern" dance and karaoke! Each group had 2 songs to perform...oh dear!

Something I find simultaneously confusing, amusing and disturbing and have seen numerous times is little tiny fellers (I'm talking 6 years oldish) who already act lady boyzish. It's just such a phenomenon in Thailand. I said funny cos sometimes the dancing is rather amusing when they are so enthusiastic! I can't tell you the amount of school boys that come to use the internet and are wearing makeup and lipstick and talk and walk effeminately. I think it's fabulous how accepting as a society Thais are (because if that happened in Oz they would get in some serious fisticuffs and teased relentlessly) but here it is such an accepted thing. It's still pretty full on to witness the anomaly at such a young age however. At last year's Loy kratong festival there was a group of 4 teenage boys (under 15) dressed as women in gold hot pants, fish nets, boob tubes and high heels, complete with long hair wigs, dancing so provocatively that I was just in...awe. There was really no word for it. It was so disturbing to see it but yet I couldn't take my eyes off them because I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. I'm talking MEGA sexarama, like raunchy stripper type's something that you really don't expect to see at a family outing in front of hundreds of little kids and the elderly! Or in a village in whoop whoop for that matter! By the looks on people's faces I think most people were stunned into silence. That was honestly the most bizarre thing I've ever seen since being here! Anyhoo...

Was a fab night and so good to get outside for a change...we didn't stick around for the beauty contest this year cos I found it rather freakish last out of place and the plastic uncomfortable smiles with bouffant hair! So apart from the stage show, the whole loy kratonging thang makes for a super spesh night out.

How did I ever live without the internet?

Can I just say that internet in Thailand bites the big one! I concede that in the big cities it probably rocks, but being in the village, I am not happy jan. 2 days have passed without my sacred beloved net connection (back on 5 minutes ago woohoo...not that I'm checking every 10 minutes!). It’s karma for my addiction. It’s the universe helping me to cleanse, to purge the demon, to release. But come on man, I’m getting the shakes! Apparently there’s been a problem in 3 or 4 provinces which means that thousands have been internetless for a couple of days! That’s just ridiculous…Where I am, we only have a choice of one phone company, so that doesn’t leave me with too many options. We pay for the fastest connection but 9 out of 10 days we don’t get the speed we pay for! It’s also exceptionally good for business not having an internet connection when your business IS the internet. Grrr, the frustrations of Thailand!

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Self realisation...

I realised over dinner tonight that I haven't spoken to my mother-in-law for 2 whole days! Not a word has passed between us. This strikes me as odd...the fact that it took me that long to actually realise it! And I think the only reason I did realise it was because she was pointing at stuff (the rice container, the water jug) instead of verbally asking for it over dinner. Another thing that came to my attention is that I haven't seen her smile for 5 days....doing some quick mental arithmetic, that would be the day our visitors left and Mr 3 stepped out of her life! It's a sad state of affairs in the vill.

Since coming back from the tropical gorgeousity of Lipe Island, I have had some nasty ants in my pants. I have felt the taste of freedom and realised that I MUST GET OOOUUT (of this house)! Seriously people, adults should not live with parents... I'm sure that's a universal truth hidden in the bible code dead sea scrolls. Since turning 30 (and actually admitting that I am indeed an adult) it's all I can think about. House plans, garden plans, decorating plans...I could varnish this, I could frame that, I could make some of those, I could hang that over the's never ending.

Why oh why are we still living with the folks after more than 2 and a half years? Numero Uno: Lack
of funds. Deuce: No mula. Thrice: the block of land that we were promised as a wedding present has STILL not been signed over to J's name (uh, just celebrated our 2nd year wedding anniversary last week, thanx very much!). This is a fine example of "Thai Time". Everything will happen when it happens and not before...don't rush things, you know.... Firetrucks steamrolling off man!

On the island a brilliant idea manifested and left me feeling quite ridiculous for not thinking of it say, 2 years ago!! We are going to build a bungalow type thang on the property! It's pure genius. We have the funds now to accomplish this and it 'forces' J's folks to hand the land over NOW (cos I won't build without it being in our name). So, we had a chatskies with papa bear today about our idea and boyo chackeedos if that didn't cause some friction! What is the big deal we are left wondering....a lightning rod hit me in the face and I got all these flashbacks of previous conversations over the last couple of years and it all added up to --- they want us to live with them FOR.EV.AAAA. It's true, I clearly remember MIL saying to me many moons ago when I was discussing building a building for our net bizo at the other property, she said oh so innocently "but you can have the business here and the house is big enough for all of us"!!!! Argghhh. I'm so stoopid.

So, after listening to the same excuses I've heard for 2+ years as to why the paperwork can't get signed over just yet, we came to an agreement. Tomorrow we (as in J and I) shall venture into town to suss out how much it costs to sign over and get the paperwork! Joy oh rapture oh bless the sweet lord buddha. I'm kinda thrilled. I'm gonna be out by Christmas! Ok, well, maybe New Year! They build fast here damn it!

Oh, and the other fab thing about building a wee willy house/bungalow is that we'll have somewhere delux for visitors to stay and perhaps run tours from here one day (just for the natural day spas and whathaveyou!).

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Jatukarm Amulets

Speaking about Nakhon Si Thammarat yesterday, I completely forgot to mention the infamous **Jatukarm Amulets**! These lil, seemingly unobtrusive discy thangs are taking over Thailand, one neck at a time. Originally conceived by a coppa from Nakhon 20 years ago, who has since departed this world, the craze has gone beyond all reason. Previous to about a year ago, they were merely just another Buddha image to have in the car, on the mantle, perhaps around your neck concealed under a shirt.... well today these little suckers are EVERYWHERE being shown off loud and proud. You surely can not be considered Thai if you don't own a Jatukarm Amulet. The bigger the better. The more the better. People will be in awe of you for wearing 68 amulets around your neck so you have to force the grin through your back pain. Think "my car is my penis extension" type thing and you'll have an idea of where this is going. Think I'm just kidding? Behold - the largest penis in Thailand...oops, that is, the largest collector that shows how much Buddha really means to his spiritual growth...apparently wearing 1000 amulets.

This dude is not alone. In my own little nondescript village we have more of these special people than you can poke a stick at. This one here is the leader (pu yai ban) of the village next to mine. He is shite hot and anyone who thinks diffently...booyah! He has finesse, grace, style and that belt buckle does strange things to me (I've never seen him not wear this get up!). And from reading this on the com, you just can not appreciate the cowboy swagger (the walk of someone just getting off an obese cow after riding it aall night) ..oh what it does to the lay-dies. The funny thing about Mr T Booyah is that about a year ago he was shot at (as in a gun to his face) and the bullet missed him from practically point blank range. Stranger tidings was that I was attending the local footy match when a shot rang out followed by Mr T absolutely piss bolting across the field (half time so it didn't affect the match, thank goodness) in a lightning streak, leaving everyone wondering if they had in fact witnessed it (think bionic man or the road runner running). Not that I like to gossip but to fill in the blank he (40+) hooked up with a senior school girl and her parents were pretty pissed about anyhooo. This little episode obviously convinced the larger population that to be doused in Jatukarms really and truly wuly saves your life. Irrefutable evidence. Bullets just bounce off you!

Did I succumb to the Jatu song you ask....ermm, I did indeedy. How could I possibly pass up a 100 baht (A$3.50) Jati in a plastic box?! Looks just like the one at the pride and joy, too bad it's not 15 times larger so I could fit in with the crowd...

If you want to know the history of the Jatukarm check out this web site

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Nakhon Si Thammarat

Nakhon is about 120 kms from our house going straight down the highway that leads to Bangkok (900 kms away). We like to take the scenic route past Songkla lake though, and that way takes about 2 hours. I just love seeing all those water buffaloes with their big brown eyes and flopsy ears! All the fluoro green rice fields are pretty spectacular also..

Nakhon Si Thammarat is home to one of the most important temples in Thailand, Wat Phra Mahathat. This huge temple is reminiscent of visiting some of the grand temples in Bangkok. The surrounding halls of the temple are filled with hundreds of gold Buddha statues and chedi.

I also love going to Nakhon cos of the shopping! It has bigass shopping centres and western food. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Thai food, I just need variety once every 6 months or so!

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Koh Lipe

Koh Lipe is a gorgeous little island off the coast of Satun Province in Southern Thailand. If you're doing a visa run to Malaysia or going to Penang, it is well worth a side trip for a few days. A minivan from the new minivan station in Hat Yai costs 100-120 baht to go to Pak Bara Pier in Satun. The trip takes about an hour and a half (2 hours in the improbable event that you get a sane driver). At the pier you can get a return boat ticket for only 700 baht (A$25). If you get suckered into buying one in Hat Yai (where they take commission) you'll be looking at about 1300 baht door to door (HY-Lipe-HY). The boat trip is about an hour 15. This was our first view from the boat coming into the sandy shores.

The island is less than 3 kms across and the lovely Chao Ley islanders reside in a small village near the middle of the island, living in corrugated iron houses..hothothot! And get this... the strange little scarecrow men ghostbusters were in tha house!! Couldn't believe how the superstition spread this far!

We stayed on Pattaya Beach at Daya Resort for 300 baht (A$10) a night! Basic rooms with double bed, bathroom and plenty of room to hang a hammock. Also it's owned by a local Chao Ley family (and not the mafia like some other larger places with nice views are!). Pattaya is the longest, whitest beach on the island. There are about 10 resorts along this stretch which offers a couple of hundred bungalows to choose from. In high season Dec-Jan the island can book out so you should try and arrange your room before hand ...or take a tent. There are heaps of other bungalows around the island on the other beaches, including this fab one, Mountain Resort with the best view, but all those stairs up was the turn off. My princess pea ways dictate that I require less than 10 metre walk to the water!! A flat walk at that!

Oh, the food, glorious food! Breakfast was at the Swiss dude's place almost daily due to his fabulous coffee and mountainous muesli fruit concoctions and drool producing fresh homemade bread! Argllarglll. Not to mention this view from his tiny restaurant was only just bearable. And then there was his battery operated grinding machine which I've never been exposed to before, especially at breakfast time!! Not one for the kiddies...this is NOT a TOY!!!

Only 3 places were open for dinner whilst we were there, so we alternated but these yummy garlic squiddies kept calling us back like sirens to unsuspecting sailors! They set up tables on the beach every night at sunset which was just lurvly.

Got up early one morning and was happily surprised to see a couple of monks wandering down the beach..didn't manage to find the temple but there's obviously one there.

I feel there's so much to catch up on. Have been taking lots of photos around the place so watch this space...great to be back by the way (even though I have a splitting headache from the karaoke!!)

Has it been a million years?

Well...I'm back in the land of window shaking karaoke, torrential rain and mouldy clothes! The dude across the street is getting married tomorrow and dozens of one metre speakers have just been set up 5 metres from our front door! That pole is our veranda then the road then the zillion speakers and stage. I'm gonna have a great sleep tonight!! Oh the joy of being back in the village!
The island was! How it can be so sunny and gorgeous 200 kilometres away from the rainy village is just phenomenal. It was like our little island was in a vortex of sunshine cos all around us the horizon was black and stormy looking...anyhoo, more on that next post with photos. Must re-addict myself to the internet world first!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Excuse the interruption but....

I have somewhere much more fabulous that I would rather be!! We're going away to a gorgeous island with crystal waters and sunshine (hopefully!), so won't be posting again for a week or so... feel free to be completely mottled green with all kinds of envy.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Caving with roaches, bats and humungo spiders...

This cave is located about 20 kms from home and is just a street away from town. There are BATS galore and apparently some people are quite terrified of the little critters! Imagine that! They are completely harmless lil tykes if you don't look too closely for the fangs...

The view from just outside the cave is mountainous gorgeousity! I have a real thing for the mountains and rice fields combo.

Saw this snake drop from our sugar palm tree in the back yard this morning. There's a colony of bats living in the branches...hopefully not dangerous to us big folk but lethal to the bats.