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

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Final Work On The House

Well I hope we have reached the end. We needed to add some block walling to the front to stop erosion. Done now we can set to and do some planting and make the place get an established look.
Again I'm away so Wanna deals with it all. Easy part is just adding the photos. At least she remembered  to take photos which is better than my last weekend out in Atyrau....  Enough said.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Dumbo No Camera

Well I’ve been in Atyrau for a week.  Been sunny and warm throughout.  Had a very good Sunday walking round the place.  We, that’s four of us including a guy called Peter with whom I worked on Ruwais (west of Abu Dhabi) several years ago.  He seemed to be the fountain of al knowledge and directed us to various places.  We have a good lamb curry for lunch and afternoon tea in a local shop. Then concluded the day with a trip to the local market.  Market has everything. Fruit and veggies, clothing, electronics etc. 
Stupidly I did not bring my camera…. So apologies.  Next Sunday for sure I’ll be clicking away. And I can assure you there are a lot of beautiful sites and lots of interesting bits and pieces.
Strangely through it is a difficult place to describe. Its old soviet union buildings and modern ones seem to sit side by side. Also the few big houses you come across are all new. So there  is obviously a lot of new money around. Even saw a Hummer parked up on a side street…. It’s like going back to the 1970’s with the large council housing projects, and yet so very different.  Photos would help I know…
Cost of living. Difficult to say but not cheap. I think all the oil development has enables locals to open more bars and restaurants and support services to cater for expats. Apartment blocks to high standards etc. These places are of course expensive. Example. Bottle of beer in the supermarket is 1 US $. In a restaurant is 6US$. I think I’ll be remaining sober for a long time in Atyrau.     Bread is about 60 cents US$ in the supermarket. Our curry lamb lunch with a coffee was US$ 20. So you can get some idea of cost.
Places to see and places to go. There a re a few monuments, mainly war heroes and there is a quite stunning blue mosque and a beautiful Roman Orthodox church. Photos to follow.  
The main river apparently freezes over in winter. When for several months it can get down to -15Deg C or lower… Not looking forward to that.
Photos to follow.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Atyrau Day 1

Well I had planned to leave Ban Muang on Sunday morning. However an email arrived Friday afternoon with my ticket details. 10.30am Saturday morning depart Bangkok. It's a 7 hour flight. So first it's an over night bus Friday night from Khon Kaen to Bangkok and then taxi to the airport and off with first stop being Almarty. We arrived in Almarty while it was still light. Looking out the window I could see a line of mountains with what I guess was snow on the tops.

Lovely view but it was followed with an 8 hour layover...  I was supposed to be booked into a hotel but the hotel driver did not turn up. Not really an issue. Watched a lot of sport on the box. Seems here they over boxing, ring fighting, judo etc etc you name it including Muay Thai boxing.... Drank coffee as I dreaded the thought of missing the connecting flight.
Anyway flight to Atyrau departed on time. I had when booking in at Bangkok been told my baggage would go straight through. And I was given my second boarding card in Bangkok as well. Even so I did before getting on the last flight check my baggage was on the flight.  I was assured it was. Interesting as I have come from Bangkok and gone through Immigration and customs in Almarty. On arriving in Atyrau I collected my bags. No Custom or Immigration. Everybodies baggage appeared to have had a hard journey. Seasoned local travellers all had their bags plastic sheet wrapped. I was therefore getting worried waiting my my two bags. Would they arrive and if they did in what state..... One was a soft holdall type containing cloths but the other hard cased and contained my guitar. Both arrived OK but the banding I had put on my guitar case had been torn off as had the 'Fragile" signs... Unbelievable...

But things were looking up. This time I was met at the airport and taken to an apartment block. Very nice.

View form the room shows a very flat landscape. No distinguishing features visible. And all low rise buildings.

I needed some coffees and a few bits to eat. But it was only 6.30 am so not much open... I took a walk down the road and on a back street found a small supermarket open.  The place had everything I could possibly want. Also reminded me very much of the "Tops" supermarket in Khon Kaen. So as far as cooking meals and eating at home I think I'm sorted.

Initial impressions of Atyrau.  Flat, cold in early morning, that's relative to Bangkok... The place seemed deserted and basic, walking down the road most of the building had few interesting features.

That said, I am not sure exactly where I am, probably in a residential area.  The people at the airport, Apartment block and in the supermarket were friendly and smiled. Even had a small chat with one of the customers. Although getting off the plane was a bit of a scrummage. Definitely every man and woman of themselves....
Strangest thing was watching the grass being cut at the central reservation to the road. It was only 08.00am in the morning. % guys with petrol mowers. Weird. Almost, well not almost it made we take a second look....

Lets see how next few days go.... Yes, I just realised that I know what's missing, dogs. Have not seen any dogs. I'm so used to seeing strays in Thailand that here the absence seems a bit weird.... :)

Just for interest what you see in photo below coast 12 USD or 8 pounds...Not to bad I suppose.First off I'm going to close this post and go make a sandwich. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

Bangkok and back

Just been down to Bangkok for a couple of days.  Checked out or Condos, caught up with Owen and Orn, attend an Horticultural Fair in Bangkok International Trade Exhibition Centre. So all in all a good few days.

We used the sky train once parked up and found it easy to get around. Had some street food. (Charlie eat your heart out....) Show was good in terms of features, flowers and presentations but did not have a great deal for us.  We met up with some other aquaponics guys and by chance also met a charming old chap,  Professor Rapee Sagarik (91 year old) who had been in charge of one of the more prestigious Universities in his earlier days did a lot for national agricultural development including setting up collages etc,and indeed had been a close advisor the the King. Very interesting person. Wanna told me he was a very respected person in Thailand. Told us he was having a good long life and his secret was to eat little and sleep little and keep busy.... Well I was impress as he told me he was off the the Chelsea Show later in the year and next year off again to Australia. I think he impressed Wanna the most by telling her how much he loved the Issan area around Khon Kaen and that he had been camping near there only  a few weeks back with his family.....

Charlie's Restaurant.....?
 The restaurant is across the road from our Condo. Easy to order.  They hold out a plate of fresh steaming rice and you just point and choose what you want. It goes on top of the rice and arrives at the table. Plate of rice, two choices comes to GBP 1.50. Can handle that....

On the way back  we stopped to buy some fruit etc and 10 monks walked passed. Quite a sight.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Local trip to old temple at Ke Kaew

Had a quick trip out to look at some local ruins. This is an old building build around 1300 Century AD.  It's obviously beyond repair. Supposed to be of historical interest but to me it just looked sadly neglected.  However it as on a whim we decide on a quick trip out away from the house. Just somewhere to go for a ride. Its always good to have a destination and being it's only 12 kilometers from our house so no issue. And believe it or not..... Wanna had never been. Funny, me showing her things in the area where she grew up!!!!

So a few photos and also there is a small Buddha shrine where you can take a chance at getting your fortune told. Yes you shake the tin with a lot of sticks in it.(in the left hand corner of the photo)  Choose the first one that falls out onto the floor, (requires some practice to only let one fall out.) then on left side of the statue is a board with about 40 different fortune forecasts. All sticks are numbered. The number on the stick matches one of the fortune cards.  Wanna's appeared to be good.  I could not make head of tail of mine. Perhaps a good thing....

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Local Bike Trip

Just cleaned up the bike. Got a bit dirty on the roads yesterday as a result of the rain.  We'd gone into town and got caught out... Coffee in Global, the local builder supply company. Well today also looks overcast but we do need to get out and have a trip....

Mine is the one of the left....

Wanna to this as you can see from the mirror reflection...
A little bit of "Easy Rider" for those of you old enough to remember it.  We just did about 110 kilometers all up as a round trip. Hardly a major passage but fun. Getting more and more used to the bike and Wanna tells me it was comfortable on the back.. So all good.

We first stopped at a place called Beng Saen for lunch.  It is on the lake shore with a series of floating restaurants all laid out in a row on small pillars over the water. Just park up and choose one from the 20 or so which were open. All chasing for business. Lunch was served where we were sitting out on wooden floored bamboo shelters and comprised grilled prawns, grilled fish on charcoal, Yam Tallay and fried rice. Water to drink, no beer as we were driving. Fantastic spot. From there we went to the dam site but only for a few minutes as we had visited last week with Hadyn. 

Then back through some rural roads home.Now for a cold beer.

Bike went very well. Cruised around 70 kilometers/hr except when slowing down for pot holes, tractors or dogs... Latter no nice when trying bite your legs...

See all the safety gear, water and helmets.
This is a stand alone 'pontoon' restaurant rented by the day, comes complete with full head on very loud Karaoke!!!!!

These's the food. Forgot to take the shot before I started eating... Apologies....

Rice Fields. All a bit dry due to lack of rain.

Quick Trip round NW Issan Part 3

Of all the things I did not mention in my last two postings. While we were preparing to leave Phu Rua guest house we had a coffee and were approached by a chap selling raffle tickets. Well National Lottery and we bought 1 ticket. 110 Baht. WOuld you believe yesterday we won 2,000 Baht...... Talk about icing on the cake. The trip had been good but now only better.....

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Quick Trip round NW Issan Part 2

Phu Rua is a lovely spot. Up in the mountains its cool and tranquil. We found a small guest house just off the main road. We knew about it before as we had been camping in this area a few times last year.
The trip over the first set of the mountain range. Stunning views and we took a rest....

 The cabins in Phu Rua were 'home built'.  Wanna had chatted with the owner who explained she had used wood cut from her property and with family help had set up a 10 cabin lodge. Planning to expand. On arrival where is a sign in Thai. Translated it said "we are not expensive just ask..." It was Baht 500 per night (12GBP). We had a cabin with on suite bathroom, cable TV and WiFi and Aircon. And free bottled water in the room fridge. Really good value.  Wood Cabin Resort

We found only one restaurant open in the evening. But we were lucky.  Food was excellent.. So end to a perfect day.

Day 3 we set off to Dan Sai and had a look at the local Wat and a small museum for a collection of the local arts which are used in their annual Ghost festival. Read the link for more info. Festival of Ghosts

The masks are made of the bamboo rice steamers use for cooking sticky rice and the leave of a coconut tree. Add in lots of colour and its enough to frighten any ghost.

On from Dan Sai to the mountains and through a National Park. Road was terrible but beautiful views.

That's right, watch out for wild elephants crossing the road. That's what the sign says.....

 Then down to the plains and home.
Last photo is of me checking the route......