A wise man once said....

A wise man once said
"When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new."
Dalai Lama

Monday, 31 August 2009

Pattaya’s Finest.

Went out for dinner last Friday evening to a local roadside Issan Restaurant. I think we have frequented it regularly on a monthly basic for the last 5-6 years. And it must be about 4 years ago that on one visit, we had parked up and just as we sat down a motor biker ran straight into the back of my car. He when straight up and over the top and made a real mess of himself sprawled out over the road. Needless to say “rent a crowd’ arrived within seconds. Made for a very unpleasant evening and I now have a lingering set of memories as he died a few days later from the injuries. He left behind a young family, and to this day I still don't know his name. I think I was so very lucky not to have been in the car at the time. Had I been, it would have been my fault for sure. As it was there was enough discussion over the following month with the police about insurance, consideration payment to the family etc. I’m pleased to say it all got sorted out properly with the insurance paying up. And worth mentioning that in spite of all the bad press and comments we hear almost on a daily basis against the Thai police they did in this instance, a really good and fair job.
What reminded me of this incident, apart the obvious that I was at the same restaurant, was the presence this evening again of the Police. Whilst sitting and eating we watched them arrive and park up adjacent to us. And also across the road from us were another group of them where they proceeded to set up road blocks.
One thing I have observed about Thai Police. Always very smartly dressed and their shirts always fit so well never mind the shape underneath….
They were clearly setting up to do checks on bike licenses and ensuring all riders were wearing safety hats. No license comes with a fine, no hat comes with a fine and probably no road tax or insurance also comes with a fine. For your information road tax for a small motor bike is 101 Baht and insurance runs at about 350 Baht per year. Not drastic amounts. Although I am not to sure what you actually get for your insurance.
And it's good in some ways to see the Police doing the checks. I’m not saying I never ride without a hat!! I do most of the time, but not all the time. Now it is getting a lot stricter with more and more checking.
In any event, it seems like a good chance to get some Police footage. Especially for me sitting in the comfort for a restaurant table! Had a road side chat and front row viewing.

video

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Crossed Legs....

Sunday saw us in Rayong attending a small ceremony to mark the opening of our Friend Phuk’s Internet café. Was a quick visit by us, due to no particular reason, but was quick because we arrived late!!
The ground floor was empty. Everyone already upstairs. We took our shoes off and rushed upstairs. The Monks were in full flow chanting etc. everyone was sitting on the floor crossed legged with their hands in the praying position. Plays havoc on my legs sitting cross legged even if only for a few minutes, let along through what seems hours of chanting. In reality about 5 minutes!!! I doubt I'll even get fully used to it. First I sit cross legged then move about then side almost sideways with my legs to the side to me. Best is if you can sit close to a wall and gently lean back. Takes the weigh off the ankles. Lovely....
Have been told it is rude to point your feet at the Monks. Easy for them to say... They were brought up sitting in all these different ways, whereas we tend always to be brought up to sit on chairs. All the chanting finally came to a close and I did manage to straighten my legs...There were a few 'creaking' sounds which could be heard coming from the direction of my knees!!!!
It was all followed by a super Thai lunch, excellent.
With all the prayers and Phuks commercial sense I'm sure it will be a good and successful business.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Forgotten Elephants

I have no wish to reduce my Blog to just regurgitating other Blogs and news articles. However there are some things which I read and think are worth passing on through this space.
However before I do just that some background.....
I have for some time been following on a daily basis an Expat web/forum site for Thailand. Thai Expat Forum Its interesting but to be honest, I do find to often that most of the comments posted are negative from what appears to be a bunch of moaners. They appear to live here as a clear preference to their own homelands but seem to spend their time knocking and finding everything wrong or not as good as home!!! But that’s only my opinion. Read for yourself.
On the plus side, and a very big plus side it is too, the site clearly has great qualities in my opinion which clearly outweigh the effects of the 'moaners'. It is an excellent source for good information on what, where, who and how much etc etc…. to find almost any of your requirements while being in Thailand. That's anything from camping to obscure books to rocket science. So really it can turn out to be a very useful site, not one to be quickly discarded. Definitely if you are interested in Thailand, for a holiday or coming to live, and/or indeed if you want an insight into Expat “physic”. Worth a read.
Which brings me to my original point of not wishing 'to just regurgitate other Blogs'.
One posting put up today in the Expat Forum very much caught my attention. "Forgotten Elephants". All about the decline in the role of the Elephant in Thailand both in terms of work and culture. Sad to see another decline in world wild life. I see them every day and take their presence for granted, and so for it to be so close and symbolic makes it hit home a lot harder. Forgotten Elephants
I followed some of the links and got to the New York Times photographer James Estrin. Stunning photos and a sad story. The links are worth following. I could go on and on, but why bother, when you can read it all for yourselves in his column and follow his links. Just click on Bangkok Elephants
Enjoy and have a good weekend. And a big thank you James Estrin, you to have a good weekend.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Pornudom herbs

Had a quick visit to a small ‘farm’ come ‘Nursery' located about 25 kilometers south of Pattaya. Pornudom herbs http://www.pornudomherbs.com/ (All Thai Web site). In fact I pass it every day to work but only today did I finally make a visit. My colleague Tawatcahi and I took some time out to pay a short visit and have a look round. Tawatchai had been before. It’s a small set up comprising 10 Rai, about 3 acres of land where he grows orchids and also rice in flower pots. The rice is growing well but I cannot imagine it being anywhere near commercial. There much be some benifit to the orchades and rice growing together. Even if it is just to attract visitors like myself! He showed us round which took about 10 minutes, that was leaving out the walk round the forest area where he keeps wild chickens. I think I was most impressed with the tranquility and sense of peace which seemed to prevail. He explained that 2 years ago he had bought 500 Baht worth of Orchids. Since then he has produced about 5,000 additional plants. Quite a good result! All in a nice peaceful environment. MAybe thats what helps the plants grow?
He also showed us his hand driven rice milling machine. Clever thing used a lot about 20 years ago by Thai farmers.
Also of particular interest to me was the papaya grafting which seemed successful. Never though about doing it before but it clearly is possible and effective.
This trip out was followed by us having to return to work. Not before having a quick lunch in a local road side restaurant. Really delicious food. Stir fried mixtures using lots of ginger and herbs mixed with a choice of Ostrich, pork or Deer meat!!!! Delicious.

Bangkok Dangerous, did not turn out quite so bad....

Bangkok dangerous, did not turn out quite so bad, in fact a really great time. Relaxed but at the same time exhausted.
It had been along time since I had been able to have time with Sarah and Vivi so off we went Friday afternoon. Up to Bangkok.
We had a couple of nights there booking into a small old (read worn out) hotel on Soi 20. First evening was an Indian dinner followed by a walk round the small trade stalls lining Surkumvit Road and doing some shopping.
Saturday was all out… First the house of Jim Thompson. Jim Thompson was an American who came over to Thailand at the end of the second world. The hand weaving of silk, a long neglected cottage industry captured Jim Thompson’ attention. He devoted himself to reviving the craft. Highly gifted as a designer and textile colorist he contributed substantially to the industry’s growth and to the worldwide recognition accorded to Thai silk.
His house combines 6 teak buildings which represent the best in Thai architecture. On March 26th 1967 Jim Thompson disappeared while on a visit to Malaysia. No one knows how or why or indeed what happened to him. Disappeared without trace. Makes the visit to his house all the more interesting to have some intrigue added in.
Some beautiful; gardens and the houses are wonderful. Quite how one lives in a lot of up and down places I do not know but he certainly made the most of it all.
He had decorated it with old Thai statues of Lord Buddha etc. Some dating back to the 11th Century. My photos do not come anywhere near doing the place justice.
We enjoyed the guide tour and walking through the gardens. In a sense quite surreal as there is only a wall between this oasis of tropical gardens and the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. In fact it is only about 5 minutes walk from the National Stadium and the end of the overhead railway system. At which is a MBK mega store and I mean massive in being several kilometers along and packed with people buying phones. Cloths, gold you name it they’re buying it.. So quite a contrast!!
We went back there after the visit to do a little shopping. Bumped into a little old America woman looking for a book stall. So that became out first point of call in MBK. MBK is next to the national stadium. And outside was a small football pitch. Blue coloured grass?....
Quick lunch and off to the Grand Palace. Not the best timing, to go, on a Saturday afternoon when the roads are packed and the temperature is rising. Just very hot and no wind.
What a place. It really is a grand palace complete with walled gardens, a massive Wat and numerous building and statues etc. The Wat hosts a load of murals showing various scenes on the life of Lord Buddha etc. and I would suggest any visitor to Bangkok to find time to fit in a trip there. In fact essential to any list of ‘to dos’ in Thailand. I see little point in listing out all the details but the link below will provide you with all you need to know. http://thailandforvisitors.com/central/bangkok/ratanakosin/prakeo/ Really is worth a visit. One thing that did strick the 3 of us. The murals were being restored. The persons working on the restoratiosn were all young, so unlike parts of Europe the traditioinal trades appear here to be carried over from one generation to another. V Good. There were also several Thai students wandering around and stopping visitors and undertaking impromptu interviews. Sarah and Vive being amongst them. My photos are mostly of the Wat as by the time got the the Palace we were worn out!!!!
It was just hot and we expected rain at any moment as it was so humid and close. Well we made it back to the hotel still hot, no rain but the air felt really heavy. We showered and got ourselves ready for dinner. Just ready to go and down acme the rain, yes the tropical storm arrived and we were stuck in the hotel. And it poured just like standing under a bucked of water being thrown at you. Went on for hours, finally at about 9pm we made it out for a dinner, followed by a dance and live music. Soi 22 to be precise. No details available for the evening entertainment….No camera…..
This completed our Bangkok trip and Sunday saw us drive back to Pattaya. Stopped off at a friends for a quick pool practice and then an early night.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Bangkok Dangerous....

Its been a long busy week where time seems to have finally reached Friday afternoon. This week I've not had anytime to get started on my cooking videos. But, the good news is I received some comments on my earlier posting requesting feed back and advice on my videos and style etc. Much appreciated. Thanks in particular go to "Camden" Graham for some very constructive comments (http://www.camdenmarket.co.uk/).
So without to much self criticism and analysis, I am going to move on and make a much more concerted effort to produce videos in a more exciting and fun format both for me to enjoy in the making and more importantly for you watch. 'Maybe', well not maybe, but for absolute sure the content also need some major improvement.
So new video opportunities. Where? When? How? And imporatantly to start being more creative?
Lets start with a weekend in Bangkok Dangerous...Nicholas Cage in his film made it all look so good and dangerous. I need to do the same...So... planning....
Background. Sarah and Genevieve came over from Seychelles for a week and tonight we start a weekend in Bangkok. Way to go!!! Should be fun. Lots of video opportunities not just of them but location, location, and more locations.
Planning doing lots but am not so sure the 'old man' is up to it. Just have to keep the video rolling.
Locations and Timings.
Tonight we have planned a trip to a local night market and jazz club either Brown Sugar or Saxophone. Decisions that will only be concluded during the course of the evening.
Tomorrow day time, its the Royal Palace and Jim Thompson's house. Both on the list of must sees....well for some people. Sure there will be some shopping thrown in as well.
Tomorrow night time surely following on from last night with music somewhere... So far discos in Soi 22 have been mentioned to be followed by a visit to a jazz club, that's all on for tomorrow. Venues yet to be advised/announced. (Don't forget video and more video, I need quality not quantity.. I know!!!)
Sunday morning is Chatuckat Market followed by catching up with Friends. Then, and only if I have been lucky enough to have survived that, I'll crash out early in the evening...
Need some energy to be ready for the weekly Monday evening pool league.
So if interested in our weekend watch this spot and please please comment. I know what your thinking? What is this stupid, funny, fluffy animal picture all about. Answer ... Nothing. But the fact that you asked means you read this far. And if you managed such a feat then write/comment to me...
Finished Product. Videos and photos to follow. Watch this space.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Village life and food.

Had another really good weekend up in Ban Muang. It is so easy to jump on a bus on a Friday evening in Pattaya and wake up in Khon Kaen the next morning. Going VIP class costs Baht 450 about GBP 8. The seats are like business class on a plane with the added set of buttons to give massage. Real luxury. Furthermore I really enjoy the few days away from work and Pattaya.
This weekend was no exception. We managed to relax for a while amid all the chaos. The chaos was caused by us, so cannot really complain to much. Last week we had started getting the house painted. Not completed yet but certainly it makes what was a cement coloured hut into a major transformation to a good weekend home. I took some photos and am very pleased. The house now looks completed. Yes, I know I do need some doors. Eventually….. We chose some bright colours much to the surprise of Wanna’s Dad who kept complaining he now needed sunglasses!
The colours to me are fine. They also tend to show the ceiling in a good light (pun!!!). The ceiling is a compressed bamboo like a matting or thin plywood. I suspect it would not pass any fire regulations anywhere, even here! But it looks good.
Wanna on Saturday morning prepared a breakfast for her parents. Nothing special for any of them, just normal Issan food. The just ‘normal’ consisting of ‘Lap’ which is chopped beef, chopped very very finely into what we would describe as a mince. It was prepared in two ways, some was cooked in the frying pan and some just cured with lemon juice, both recopies involved the meat being mixed with several herb, tamarind, ground sticky rice, dry roasted chilies and various fruit leaves etc. Also she made a beef soup/stew. And in addition from out of nowhere there appeared a bowl of freshly fried insects, sort of grass hopper type. (always a good source of protein), all this topped off with some sticky rice and Volia! Breakfast.
So it was great not only for them but also for me. I managed to be around there at the correct time to watch Wanna preparing this amazing mixture into a really tasty meal. I had at the beginning of the cooking stopped her for about two minutes so I could rush home and get my video camera. No sooner had I returned than she started cooking, did not wait for me to set up etc. Getting to hungry so I rushed into it and started filming.
It was all going so well till Wanna got fed up all the activity going on around her and I think the straw which broke the camels back was with her Mothers constant advice and chatting, all this while trying to translate to me what she was doing. Finally she just about lost it.
However the video of the cooking was not the loss I was beginning to expect it to be despite the rush to get it all up and running, no rehearsal etc. I’m certain with some (for ‘some’ read ‘a lot) of editing I can produce something possibly worth watching… You decide on that. Only down side during the filming was that we used a remote (blue tooth) microphone, nothing wrong with that but….we forgot to switch it on till about half way through the proceedings. Dumb or what!!!! I’m blaming Wanna and for some strange reason she seems to think it’s my fault… I’ll never understand women.
After all that hard work watching Wanna cooking, I got to eat some good food. We all enjoyed it. And finally it was Wanna's turn behind the camera. My turn in front and all you can see is me eating...

video

The rest of the weekend was one big relaxation. Till next time.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Issan style Fishing And Bar B Q

Had yet another great weekend at Ban Muang. We were having our usual relaxing time when asked if we wanted to go fishing. Sure!
Off we went to Therm and Phu’s farm. They have several rice paddy’s and have over the years built themselves a small shelter. They use if while working on their fields and also as a place to go on Saturday afternoons. We joined them and spent the afternoon fishing and then eating our catch. This Blog posting is definitely not going to be one of my planned cooking videos. That’s still a few weeks off. This one is really to give you insight and another dimension to life in an Issan village.
Basically most people up there have small plots to grow rice etc. Often quite a way from the main house. So nearly all then build a shelter of some sort. Therms is not elaborate but is sufficient for their needs. It comprises a roofers area and a raised area where they can sleep and relax. Add in the main shelter where they can park their bike and leave some space for cooking etc. There is even a sort of kitchen. Water comes from catching and storing the rain. No electricity so they have some home made ‘lanterns’ made from bottles containing paraffin oil and a wick. Organized and simplicity at its best. Very relaxing indeed.
Enough of the descriptions. We needed to do some fishing. Well the pond measured about 20 by 40 meters. About half the size of our one. (Look at last posting). According to Therm it is full of fish. We’ll see. Sure enough we, that’s me and the boys, set to it. Catching 9 fish ion an hour. The fact that is was a constant heavy rain did not seem to make any difference.
These fish were kept in a small holding tank till we were ready to cook them. Bar B Q was prepared. Again a simple thing. Concrete stove and add some wood or charcoal. (No beer so I had to do a quick run to the shops and stock up). Also got come coke and crisps for the boys and some additional charcoal. All set.
Preparing the fish takes on a different meaning n up here. No gutting, no cleaning… The skin is salted and the mouth and gills are stuffed with fresh lemon grass leaves. Gives a really good flavour to the meat.
Just like that they go on the Bar B Q. What next. Wait till their cooked that’s what…
Once ready all you do is peal off the skin and eat the meat. Delicious. The skin has dried with the salt and acted as a moisture barrier to the meat which has remained soft and sweet. You can taste the lemon grass coming through as well. Well you just keep on picking and picking. Luckily we had the 9 fish. Soon gone.

video

I took a few pictures and also the usual video to try and capture the afternoon. Possibly tried to cram too much into the Video. Hope you enjoy this with us. And your comments please....#$%