Sunday 27 January 2008

Dancing Bird Waterfall

This is one of my favourite waterfalls located about 20 kms from our place. It's not the biggest, nor is it the smallest, but it's superbly luscious and always brings peace to my restless soul! Most of the time we also have the entire waterfall to ourselves which makes it particularly special to be floating in the pools, surrounded by dense forest with only the sounds of nature. This waterfall is not accessible in rainy season due to the steep dirt road leading up to it turns into a mud slide so we haven't been for quite a long time. As it was, driving up there was quite the adventure since half the road had been washed away from all the rain. A bit of two-wheel driving never hurt anyone! Once you get to the top the walk back down to the falls is steep and muddy but only about a 50 metre drop if you take a tumble!

As clean and sparkly as the water was, twas a wee bit nippy, so only took a micro and out in less then 5 minutes!

Tuesday 22 January 2008

The Power of Freedom could light up New York....

Is there a song called "Last Train to Freedom"'s ringing a bell with me somehow..I've got the lyrics going round my head -
"an' I saw her go,
go on that tray-e-ain,
out my life now,
for just five day-e-ays.."
Perhaps it's just because this sacred blue and white vessel just took away the bane of my existence and brought me a whole lota overjoyed rapture to boot. The folks in law have gone to Bangkok for 5 whole days! It is the first time in almost 3 years they have ever gone anywhere overnight! Oh, I get quivers just thinking about how long they're gone for! You couldn't keep the mile wide grin off my face in the car on the way to the station. They weren't looking too impressed at my very apparent joy, that's for sure! We can stay up late, sleep in late, take the car for joy rides, go riding the motorbike at night...all of which we did today with not one comment about how reckless and irresponsible we are. Oh yes, I am feeling the rebellion surging through my veins. Somehow with their departure I feel more like a naughty teenager left home alone then when they actually reside here. Oh lord, I need. to get. a life.

Thursday 17 January 2008

Hello, my name is Drunk.....

My neighbour, 3 doors up, has the most gorgeous 8 year old identical twin boys. They came to play internet games at our house yesterday and it dawned on me that I don't know their names. The eldest by a few minutes is "Beer". The younger twin is "Wine". They have a 3 year old little brother named "Spy" (sa-pai in Thai). I not. Thais think it's "so cute".

What's cute is that their 24 year old mother met their father at school, as he was her Maths Teacher (he's 50 something). I am not making this was very controversial in the hood and people still gossip about it (obviously!). But since they have been together for 9 years it's much more acceptable now (obviously).

Other kids' names in the village include Film, Cream, Fern, Bank, Dome and Ice. Ice is kinda cool...

Wednesday 16 January 2008


I've become a bit of a slack bott lately with this blog. Is it because the luster has worn off? Is it because not much is going on in the ville? Is it because I'm trying to think of large, impressive words to put on my resume without being highly repetitious? hmm, I choose all of the above!

Have to think about the possibility of a Thai City Life blog! I wonder if it's possible that by the pure will of positive thinking I can manifest this job. It will be perfect in every way and I will enter phase two of my fantasy life! As you can see I'm already living in a purely fantasmic world...

Saturday 12 January 2008

Big news, big move....maybe?

My guardian angel has been really in my face this week sending me messages. What's the message? Get the hell out of the village and find thyself some friends, books, money, freedom, variety in life! Did I mention freedom?

It has seriously never ever entered my head to live in Bangkok. It's a ginormous, ugly, dirty, stinky, overcrowded human zoo of disgustation! I'm not a fan to put it lightly. BUT, the last time I was there a feeling of acceptance crept in and I liked that I could get fresh fruit or a thousand different delicacies right outside my door, I liked that I had hot water and could sit down to do my business, I liked the air-conditioning on the sky train and I liked the fact that I could go to a movie in English any time I wanted.

I've been a bit of a cranky puss the last indefinite amount of time (don't ask my husband for a more accurate time frame!) because frankly, it sucks living with a certain species of woman that gives birth to a son and I ain't referring to Mary. I have morphed into the non-smiling, non-happy, cranky pants person that I'm forced to live with and I can't bear it! I shall not BE my MIL damn it! Therefore drastic action is required. I was tossing up whether moving back to Australia was dramatic enough...and yes, yes it is, but the logistics of doing that when you're poor and husband's visa is a lot of mula put the breaks on that. Several other options were tossed around in the maze and just as I'm working myself into a confusion pit I get my first divine sign via email (thanx ghs). One sentence that mentioned MIL, Bangkok and vacancy in the same sentence and an explosion of light almost blinded me. The second sign was opening a magazine (thanx ghs!) to the exact page titled "Is it time for a change?" " your life predictable? You may be suffering a condition for which there's only one cure - change". Now tell me that's not a slap in the face getyourbuttouttathere message! Followed by "there's a lot to be said for being in a rut. It's safe, secure...blah blah blah". I'm in a rut. A rut where I'm 30 and living with parents....enough said really. It's time for change, face the unknown, shake things up a bit, get some mula to make my dreams come true!

Don't get me wrong, I love the village, love village life, love the people, the scenery, the lifestyle but unfortunately my current living situation (involving no freedom whatsoever) doesn't look to be changing any time soon. Yes, the trees were cut for the bungi but more delays, no signing over that was promised years ago, and so on and so on just tells me that I am the one who has to take action and not wait for things to happen. Even if I don't get the job perhaps it will spur some people whom shall remain nameless into action! Fear of no grandchildren is a great motivator!

Wednesday 9 January 2008

Tsunami Volunteer Centre, Khao Lak

This post is for all my lovelies that worked at the Tsunami Volunteer Centre in Khao Lak and haven't seen it would blow your mind!

It's been 2 years and 9 months since I left the centre and I've only managed to see a few of you since then but thanks be to the internet you're still in my world. On Monday I was on a quick day trip with a group of 60 housewives (and a sprinkling of fellers) from my village. While everyone was eating lunch at the National Park I went to visit our old home since it was only 100 metres up the road. What a ghost town its become! Only one person was on site holding down the fort.. was truly bizarre. The centre looks great though on the top level with heaps of pictures on display (I assume they are Mike's) and info boards around. The lower foody, meeting areas look like they haven't been tread on for millennium. The lovely Thai girl brought me up to speed with everyone and said the only project still going on is the English curriculum in a few of the schools and there's only a dozen or so people still actively involved.

The main drag of Khao Lak is incredible... it's like nothing ever happened. Clothes and souvenir shops selling all the same wears line the road with a gazillion restaurants, resorts, massage places and bars filling every available space. Down on the beach front is mainly privately owned with little beach access unless you walk through a restaurant or resort.

What I find daunting was this restaurant on the right (click for larger view)... they even had sand bags because of high tide. This is in the area where the 100 day memorial was held. It beggars the question as to why are they allowed to repeat the same mistakes? Why are there no building restrictions within a specified limit of the shoreline? Two answers come to mind: this is Thailand and mafia. I can only imagine what Phi Phi Island has turned into. That island was flattened by the tsunami but I'm betting it's 'bigger and better' than ever and buildings are probably even closer to the beach then before. I mean who wants to pull up a towel on the beach and have restaurant patrons gawking down on you? I'm stoked that the locals have been able to rebuild their destroyed lives and make a lucrative living again but why why why is there no balance between making money, environmental concerns and safety standards. Do they not learn from the devastation? All too often it's just about the money. The resort next to this restaurant was one of the only ones left standing, although it was a mere shell with barely any 2nd or 3rd level roof left intact. It is MASSIVE now. Insurance must have been a lottery win. It's like a tropical rainforest with enormous Thai style buildings.. it's actually gorgeous, just defies reality of what was left a couple of years ago. Unfortunately couldn't take any photos in town cos the people were on a mission to eat so we didn't even get off the bus to look around.

It was fabulous to be able to see the place again as it's where I made so many life long friends.... collective awww.

I'm outta here....

This is me approximately one hour ago. The bungalow builder is going away for 2 weeks. No possible action until after the 19th of January. The trees have been cut for weeks, they're still lying on the ground untouched. No stakes in place, no holes being dug. Nothing. Not a happy pappy...

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Unseen Thailand

Sometimes I teleport into an alternate universe that is just so surreal that I can't actually believe it's reality and is in fact, my life. Yesterday was one such day. This entire week is one such week. I am in a vortex of alienosity. Follow me down the rabbit hole Alice while I tell you my tale...

At 2.30 AM I was abruptly awakened by loud chirping cricket noises and a vibrating pillow... I'd changed the mobile ring tone of my alarm from a rooster crowing to a tone less prone to give heart failure at obscene hours of the morn. At 2.50 am, J and I are on the motor bike hooning up to aunty's house where about 50 people had already congregated out the front. What the hell are we doing milling around in the middle of the night you may wonder? The village Housewives Club (I kid you not!) goes on a day trip somewhere a couple of times a year, and this year we jumped on board (being the housewife that I am!). Destination - Khao Lak. Oh lovely, nice area one might think. On closer inspection this involves crossing 4 provinces, 500 km and a 6 hour drive. This is a **DAY** trip people! No overnight stay involved....hence the early start. Well, at 4 am we're all still standing around grumbling about the fact we could have slept for another hour because our bus driver (from a more southern province) had obviously slept through his cock crowing and didn't rock up til and one half hour late grrrr-gr.

As the bus pulls up I nearly get trampled to death by the fearful mob trying to board the bus as fast as possible cos no one wants to be standing the duration of THIS trip. Although the bus pulled up directly in front of me, I was the 3rd last person on board and got the last remaining seat! Thais are slippery lil suckers and have killer elbows! I'm thinking "great, I can get a bit of shut eye before the sun comes up" but alas, I had forgotten that This Is Thailand and I was on a DISCO KARAOKE bus (from hell). On goes the video, on goes the blaring music and on goes my highly audible groaning that I forgot my AK-47 and could possibly do some damage in order to get a little more sleep and some silence (haha silence in Thailand?..haha guffaw guffaw). Thank the lord that someone ESP'd the driver and the karaoke only lasted 10 minutes and everyone fell into crinked necked sleep. My knees were jammed against the seat in front and they didn't recline. Thais are generally a small people but I'm not tall damn was a close fit.

First pit stop 7am...loo and refreshment break where a cop gets on the bus, grabs the karaoke microphone and gives us a 10 minute talk about the delights of Krabi and all the tourist destinations we could visit, had we only the time! Thanks buddy, gotta go... still got 300 kms to go til our destination. Since everyone is obviously awake now it's the PERFECT time for more music. This ain't your standard karaoke music clips with 10 backup dancers wearing taffeta tutus and long white gloves. This was 4 women wearing lace, g-string underwear (with little stars covering their nips!) dancing as you can imagine in a bedroom while the lyrics display on the screen and the old ladies just kept on singing bless their aged hearts. The secret of why karaoke enjoys such fervor has been revealed! Anyhoo, trip uneventful for a few hours, just watching Thai women in their underwear dancing on beaches with beefcake idea of a good time for sure.

As we crossed the Phang-nga Provincial border my little heart was aflutter... I had lived in Khao Lak for 4 very intense months of my life after the tsunami so it felt amazing to be 'coming home'. I can well and truly say that on the surface it looks as if no disaster ever hit the place. Massive resorts and beach front restaurants rule the entire strip of beach where 3 years ago was flat and rubble. It was odd because the last time I was there, only a few buildings remained standing and only coconut trees stood in the wake of the tsunami. Now the resorts look as if they're amidst tropical gardens and luxury with thousands of tourists wandering the streets.

By this time it was almost 11.30 (7 hours to reach our destination!) and the people were apparently starving because we pulled up at the beach, got out for about 4 minutes to survey the area for a place to sit and eat pre-packed lunches and go to the loo but only found sand, water and lots of seats, no public toilets. Back on the bus, out to the main road, back the way we came and stopped at the Khao Lak National Park where you would think would have picnic tables or some such. The poor park woman didn't know what happened when 60 people rushed her at the gate and she's telling people to stop "it's 10 baht entry"...good luck love going against a hungry mob of Thais! No one paid. Toilets were found. No seats, no tables. People set up camp on the ground outside the restaurant to have lunch. Only about 10 went into the restaurant to actually pay for lunch (myself included). As J explained to me, villagers rarely leave the village to go to tourist areas and they just don't know how to do. Lunch was very reasonably priced as it was the national park, not a resort, with a gorgeous view.

So, that was Khao Lak. 7 hours. Touched the sand for 10 milliseconds to snap off 2 pictures. One drive through of town. No walking. No shopping. No stops except for a one and a half hour break for lunch at the National Park at the top of the hill. I laugh in hindsight that I had packed my swimming little I know of Thai day trips!

Back on the bus we head back to Krabi where someone has decided to stop off at the Shell Cemetery. Of all the lovely things to see in Krabi we go to the SHELL CEMETERY. Hmm. It's about 4 pm so I'm just happy we can get off the godforsaken bus as my butt and knees are seriously numb from sitting almost continuously for 9 hours. This pic shows the millions of year old fossils in what looks like a layer of concrete. Seriously a thrill a minute. Highly advise going to this incredible place...NOT. About 20 stalls all selling exactly the same thing - shell windchimes, shell curtains, anything shell. Depressing sight actually to see millions of shells end up this way instead of laying on a beach somewhere... a couple of people bought a puffer fish light...

Last stop was Ao Nang and Noparatthara Beaches in Krabi where we stopped purely for a photo op (I was at the beck and call of 60 people wanting their photos taken ALL day!). This poor German lady was innocently sitting on a bench waiting for her friends to finish swimming when our entire bus load of people enveloped her and wanted group photos and individual photos with her lily white self. It's almost the most hilarious thing I've ever seen here. It was her first time in Thailand. Friendly people, Thais! Funnily enough on this trip I found myself looking at all the foreigners as I imagine Thais do... with a sense of wonder at how strange they are! The clothes, the attitude, the whiteness! So, if you see Thais looking at you, don't get a's all about fascination! In our countries most of us are so used to seeing all different types of people with all different skin and hair colours but the vast majority of Thais live in their own little worlds of Thai only communities so it's understandable they like to look when the opportunity arises!

So after half an hour and 80 photos later we're back on the bus heading home and this is where the party started. I swear some people do these trips only for the karaoke party on board. The volume was cranked. I had so much toilet paper shoved down my ear canals I swear I could feel it tickling my brain. It was so loud my ears were still vibrating through the paper in my ears. This is photographic evidence that this shiz actually goes on in the world. Disco ball - check. Stobe lights - check. Microphone - check. Sexy film clips with lyrics - check. Obscenely loud speaker system - check. This is the trippy disco bus..these women were seriously shaking their butts in the aisle. Was absolutely hysterical and really gave me the best laugh making the insanity of the day all worth it!

We got home at 10 pm with 175 photos to get developed.

Things I've learned: Thais are insane. Thais are so much fun!

Sunday 6 January 2008

Patriarchal Thailand...

Last night was another New Years family shindig..this time it was the mother-in-law's fam consisting of her 6 sisters and one brother, aunts, uncles, cousins galore. Big ass families in Thailand... it was pretty amusing to be a spectator at this party due to every single person (except the marry-ins) looking exactly the same. The facial bone structure, eyes, mouth and eyebrows were almost identical on 30 people!

It's a pretty established fact that Thailand is a patriarchal country and never has it been so apparent to me in the entire time I've lived here, then last night. Oft is the time I see women give way to men... the oldest men get served food first, then remaining men (even in my house I serve the rice as I'm the youngest woman and always serve father first, husband second, mother third and myself last.. although serving mother second is not frowned upon.. tricky unspoken rules of Thai etiquette!). The fact that it's a patriarchal society doesn't usually impact me greatly as my husband is all for equal rights blah blah blah but I was staring in open mouthed astonishment last night as an observer of aliens having landed or spotting giraffes on safari might.

Everyone rocks up to the party in a long convoy of cars as most of us live within 3 kms of each other. The men automatically go to sit outside at the tables, beer and whiskey is a flowing and the women either sit inside or go to the kitchen to help preparations. At NO time do the women and men sit together. Now, I'm not new to this concept..I've been to a gazillion Thai parties and it's always this way - men and women generally just don't socialise together. I am always a rarity because I'll either sit with my husband with the men and be the only woman or he will sit with the women and be the only man. It would be absurd but this is old school culture at its best. So as the men are boozing it up all the women set about bringing bowls of every Thai food imaginable to place on the men's tables. When they finish bringing about a thousand curries and fish etc out they start to lay the food on the mat on the floor inside the house (for the women folk). But then when the food is all placed and ready to go we all just sit around watching the men eat! Like for.eva man. J kept on waving me over to come and sit with him to eat but I wanted to eat with the chicas and observe this social behaviour (scientist in me coming out!).

So, us ladies sat for about 25 minutes watching the men gorge themselves and living it up and finally J, obviously riddled with guilt watching his starving wife looking lustfully at our food sitting all neglected on the floor, came over and asked why I wasn't eating. This was met by 3 women telling me to "yes, eat, eat now". I said in quite a loud voice "I'll eat when everyone else eats", followed by "oh no, you must eat now", followed by my not so naive question "Why aren't the women eating?", answered by averting eyes and little giggles! I did it more for amusement sake but truly I was also baffled because it was literally half an hour since the men began the feast. AND didn't that just spur people into action! The farang wouldn't eat until everyone else ate, so all of a sudden all the women came and sat down to the lovely feast on the floor (did I mention the men had tables?). I don't really think it was due to the farang not eating.. I think all the women were starvin marvin but no one wanted to start the ball rolling (disrespectful to the almighty men??)! Who knows...was a sumptuous feast though!

After din there was a lucky dip draw to distribute presents (wrapped in Christmas paper!). It's too cute, like they're 2 weeks behind the rest of the world. We scored a nice sarong and a plush bath towel. J's mother gave me the sarong and less then a minute later said to me "oh, better if I keep it" and took it promptly off me! Not even a raised eyebrow in my camp I tell you. New Year, new thoughts... I am a being of light and positivity!! ha.ha.ha.

Saturday 5 January 2008

Girly Day...

Hoorah for girly days... the first of many I think. Many a year I have spent on my lonesome here in the village (ah, not counting the husband of course!) but today I drove to Trang (on my own) which is about 70 km from our village. Not a huge accomplishment in itself I know, but exciting none the less. With my hair blowing in the breeze, the cassette tape of early 90s grunge rock on full ball and me singing my little lungs out with a big smile on my face, I felt like a mother-in-lawless teenager again! Ah, the freedom of ditching the husband for a few hours!

The purpose of driving across provincial boundaries? To visit a lovely lass who's also married to a Thai dude. I'm thinking of starting the THC committee - something about Thai husbands and club stuff, you know (I'm trying not to groan at my own comment there). It's just that we're starting to pop up everywhere. Before stumbling upon the Thai Visa Forum I seriously thought I was one of about 3 couples in the entire world made up of farang (foreign) woman with a Thai man. Not so, not so. We are spreading across the globe. I am now friends (via the wonderful web) with 6 couples in the same boat... the boat may be sailing on different, slightly richer waters, but I feel the bond.... I feel the luurve.

Great thing about my girly morning (apart from the fantabulous company and goss) was **FARANG FOOD**. Go the Chicken Burger and Fries mam.

Also, very amusingly, I was pulled over by the police (first time ever in 3 years!) for doing an apparently illegal u-turn on the main drag in Trang! There was no sign damn it saying No U-Turn! Why did I commit such a heinous crime? Because I was following the motorbike in front of me at the traffic lights who helmetlessly did the u-turn and it turns out he's a cop. He tried to "fine" me 500 baht but feigning ignorance of a foreign language should never be underestimated. Big smile, big wai...see you later alligator.