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Friday, December 31, 2010

สวัสดีปีใหม่ (sawatdii pimaï)

สวัสดีปีใหม่ (sawatdii pimaï) is Thai for Happy New Year. For those following the Gregorian calendar welcome to the year 2011. For the Buddhists welcome to the year 2554.
December 31st is a public holiday here. It makes some sence to me, when I harken back to my working days and the staff who would be lining up to go home early to get ready to go out for New years. I figure very little actual work got done anyway as they were hard to find after 11AM, and I think if I had a choice I would prefer to have December 31 and January 1st instead of December 25 and 26. Most businesses are closed today except for the shopping malls. Like idiots we decided to go to the mall today.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

First Christmas in Thailand

Central World looking down from the 6th floor
Well the Christmas season has been upon us. Unlike our experiences in living in North America, the fact that it was Christmas could easily be forgotten, were it not for the interest that has been generated in this foreign concept. Thailand is largely Buddhist in it's religious practices and beliefs. On previous trips, I recalled being in Bangkok on Christmas Eve in  a balmy 34 degrees Celsius and seeing one of the Christian churches singers, decked out in Olde English costumes, singing Christmas carols. Most of the local people watched in fascination at this procession, sometimes going through the go-go bar streets and bars with patrons at tables lined up three deep into the street.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Welcome Finland

Welcome to the newest country listing for readers of this blog. Finland!

Bangkok and Christmas

I am just back from a week away in Bangkok. I love that city and have photos to upload on how they dress the city up for Christmas, in a country that is 95% Buddhist! If that spirit of celebration crossed nationalities and beliefs, maybe we could have peace on earth. Best wishes to you the readers of the kites from Phuket.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Welcome Singapore

Welcome to the newest reader, from Singapore. Now joining readers from 17 other countries.

Patong Carnival + Phuket Street Festival

The Patong carnival and the Phuket Street Festival are both underway. I am working on the blog to cover the experience. In the interim, photos are on the Flickr site. I had hoped to be able to provide links, but it is proving frustrating to find that, let alone in English.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Welcome Slovenia

Welcome to the newest country to be reading this blog: Slovenia.
 Joining readers from: Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What WAS That!?!?!

The Scene of the Crime
Coming to Phuket, we knew would be different than being back in BC on many different levels. From the food to the language and customs, there is also the wildlife. My biggest concern would be to see a snake. But in the area of Canada where we lived, the most dangerous would be the typical garter snake. It's biggest threat was a heart attack from jumping out when you least expected it. We had many many spiders, and I never paid them much attention, except to go through the house on a regular basis and raze their webs, only to run into a newly spun one the next morning, usually across the doorway as I was headed out to work.

Thailand has a large concentration of creepies and crawlies. Some of them just on sight alone are enough to cause you to steer a clear berth, others look so benign they almost invite close-up inspection. This is a habit that I am learning is probably not a good idea.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Cat Named Pancake

I am always constantly amazed at the lack of evident presence of cats here. Mostly because I know there is generally no attempt to spay or neuter and I know that cats, like rabbits like to breed. I suspect that the lack of cats on the loose is a direct result of a number of factors that are not in their favour. They make easy prey for the soi dogs and snakes. Poison as a control method for the dogs, must surely be effective with cats as well. For a short time, we had neighbourhood cats that would wander into the back yard in search of particularly filled dog food dishes, that the bassets had decided that had their fill. I would watch in amazement as the cats would deftly walk along the top of the cement wall, that is topped with broken bottles, hop in, do a survey, eat and hop back up and out. I expected to find one slashed or impaled, but that never happened. I am sure that if I was to actually count the number of cats I have seen, it would not be above 12 in all the time I have been here.

I had noticed one of the visitors coming in for a late night snack, was heavy with kitten and I had not seen her for a few weeks now. So yesterday, as I was working on refurbishing Thunderbird three, as the weather takes a heavy toll on paint, and the salt water and air are pretty good at forming rust in record time. I heard a kitten crying,

Garbage As Art Updated

I have updated the entry Garbage as Art with information following our visit to the exhibition at Nakhonnai Museum.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Austria and Sri Lanka

Welcome to the newest readers, from Austria and Sri Lanka!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Garbage as Art

We walk the dogs along a number of beaches here and have gone to some beaches without the dogs. A break is sometimes in order. We noticed just prior to, and during the rainy season, the large volumes of garbage that floats into the beaches. After one particular storm, the accumulation was incredible. Palai beach was literally covered from one end to the other with debris. I went to Siam beach one afternoon and was taking photos of the skyline across the ocean horizon, I kept seeing what I thought was floating coconuts in the distance. A few hours later the "coconuts" turned out to be two used rusty propane cylinders, similar to what you would use on a propane BBQ. The following visit I paid closer attention. A heavy few days of storms on the ocean had managed to push the debris into the small cove at Siam beach and I was amazed at what I found. I actually began to try and sort it out into piles, as it was impossible to get to the water without walking through the stuff. I stopped counting disposable lighters after 100. The toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, moisturizer, eyeliner, lipstick,  and shaving cream containers could have filled the shelf at the moo shop.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Welcome Vietnam

I see by my stats, that I now have a reader in Vietnam. Welcome to my blog. Vietnam is a country that is on my list of places to see! You join readers from 12 other countries!

A Night at Loy Krathong- Part 2

We attempted to cross the road from the temple, in order to make our way to the Chalong Pier. It was a very interesting exercise in dodging traffic. By now some very brave police officers had stationed themselves on the center line. You need to understand that the roadway is 4 lanes wide. On this night, the west side was jammed with tables of the Krathong sellers, and people had also double parked in front of them with sidecars, trucks and motorbikes. The northbound traffic was thick and some of them were trying to create a third lane northbound. Others had simply double parked in the slow lane and there was traffic making it's way (mostly motorbikes) southbound, weaving between the parked vehicles and the northbound traffic. The south-side was not better. We had parked on the east side and our bikes were somewhere in the maze of parked bikes, as well as those who had created an additional parking space , with southbound traffic was whizzing past, again there were three and sometimes four lanes in the space of 2 marked lanes, and looking both ways was paramount, as some people were driving northbound in the southbound lanes.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Night at Loy Krathong- Part 1

Every year there is a festival, called the Loy Krathong Festival,  that spreads across Thailand. It is not as promoted here in Phuket as much as the vegetarian Festival, and availability of information, at least in English is very sparse. But the Phuket Gazette did have a writeup that was published before the events, that acted as a fairly good guide. 

A guide to the celebrations referred to the origins of the festival as follows:
"Different legends surround the origins of Loy Kratong. The most popular version is it was an expression of gratitude to the goddess of water 'Phra Mae Kongka' for having extensively used, and sometimes polluted, the water from the rivers and canals. It is also in part a thanksgiving for her bounty in providing water for the livelihood of the people.
Some believe the festival originates from Buddhism. They say the offering of flowers, candles and joss-sticks is a tribute of respect to the footprint of the Lord Buddha on the sandy beach of the Narmaha River in India, as well as to the great Serpent and dwellers of the underwater world, after the Lord Buddha's visit to their watery realm. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Getting Beached

Sarongs and Beach Dogs at Laem Ka Beach
One of the main attractions of Phuket is for tourists to come here, lay on the beach, and swim in the beautiful waters. The west side of the island has the best beaches from the perspective of long stretches of sand and lots of open water. But the east side has some good swimming and relaxing beaches as well. The west side seems to attract the tourists. With any of the beaches there are more what I refer to as local beaches, primarily used by the local Thai and the expats who find them; usually not well sign posted and normally involving a hike up and down some wandering trails.

Some, like the beach at Laem Ka, is close to well known areas, such as Rawai and Nai Harn.  Laem Sing beach is between world famous Patong beach and the beaches at Kamala and Surin. Trying to find these lesser known, but just as beautiful places, even on brochures, travel magazines or the internet is a challenge. Laem Ka beach for example, is not on any of the 8 maps of Phuket we have, nor 15 of the first hits on the web when searching for beaches on Phuket as your search parameter.

Loy Krathong Festival

It seems that not  a month goes by that there is not some form of festival, celebration or cultural activity. I read in the local paper a comment from a young person who commented about "just another cultural event", almost as if it was a bad thing. I think these events are great and am happy be be able to be where people take great pride in the diversity of their cultures and celebrate them openly and with great fanfare. I am just finishing a couple of Kite writings, but wanted to take this opportunity to let you know about Loy Krathong. I will be writing about the weekend and will have, I hope lots of pictures to share when I do post on this event. The issue right now is to decide what sites to go to and what i want to see and experience most. This event is celebrated all over Thailand and in some parts of Lao PDR (Laos).
In the meanwhile if you would like to know more and see some photos from past years please follow this link-

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bienvenue France

Another country added to the readers now viewing this Blog. They join those of you from:

 Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Taiwan, UK and USA
Thank you all.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Tribute to Shaun

Shaun (R) with his friend Rick(L) all glittery and decked out to party circa 1984

I had not ever intended that this blog would be making so many entries about the passing of friends, but as with all of life there are no accurate predictions, when it comes to people passing on. Today I was saddened to learn that a friend of our had died in Vancouver. His name is Shaun O'Flanagan.
Shaun played a pivotal role in my early years of coming out and was responsible in many ways with introducing Clive and I to each other 27 years ago. He was very active in a group called Hominum, that had been initiated by another friend Andrew. The two of them were good friends and often out activities in those days always included both of them. At the time he lived in a high rise in the west end of Vancouver. This was a whole new experience for me. Living in the country and always living on military bases, the concept of what a high rise apartment was foreign, and he used to be amused by my need to go out to the balcony to look over the city. He would often accuse me of going out to be a pervert and try to look in other peoples apartments. But I was such a hick, I was actually more fascinated with the way people looked so small walking on the sidewalk so many stories below.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Welcome Germany

A new reader to the list of countries, now includes someone from Germany. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The County Fair

In a previous blog I mentioned that I have been hearing live band music for a few days. Well the few days has now passed the one week mark, and I am serenaded to sleep by various live Thai bands, playing about 1/2 kilometer away.
Each night has been different. One night was country and western Thai music, and then one night I found myself singing along to a popular rap type song. I found I must have lost my place with the words, until I realized this WAS the song, but it was in Thai that I was hearing it performed.
Any time I had to go to Chaofa road, I saw at the junction of a street we use to come home and Chaofa road was a market style activity, with lots of neon lighting in various hugs and colours of the rainbow, some solid, some banded with various colour combination. Along the Chaofa Road they had also stuck these 2 meter long florescent tubes along the roadway, banded in the colours of the Thai national flag.
Despite the activity and my natural curiosity, I never went to see what was actually happening, until tonight. I had not been feeling well for the past few days. Mostly because with Clive in Australia snarfing the wine, I was with the dogs and tend to let my eating habits go to hell. So I am sure my diet was contributory, with my self diagnosis and a strong need to be away from the dogs for a few hours, I decided to walk over to see what was going on and where the music was actually coming from.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


The biggest marketing slogan for Thailand is that it is "The Land of Smiles" and that is certainly true.  It is also said that Thai people have a difficult time to say "no", which can be confusing, when you mix a smile with a no.
Without a doubt, this country has the largest percentage of smiling people per capita than probably anywhere I have lived. And just like anywhere else, that smile can be deceiving. I myself have been known to be guilty of smiling while telling someone politely to take a hike when I was in Canada. For some reason that was normally in a work situation, especially reinforced if I was listening to the certain Chumba Wumba songs from their Showbusiness!  album, or personal favourite of mine performed by Lilly Allen.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Khun Pon

We learned of the death of Khun Pon at 33 years of age. He was at the Vegetarian festival last Friday and had a heart attack. When we decided to move to Phuket, we dealt with an agency called House in Phuket, where we met Welta the owner and her brother Pon and other great staff. They both have helped us a great deal in getting a house, and helping in some of the issues we have had in transitioning here. Pon was a large Thai guy with a beaming face and a smile and happy personaility. He was here at the house 2 weeks ago and in our discussions he saw the Gohonzon ste-up, that we use to practice our buddhist prayers. While this is a primarily Buddhist country, it is rare that someone would recognize the arrangement we have, as it is unique to the SGI Budhism we practice. Like most other major religions, Buddhism is a practice, but it has many different schools of thought and practices. I grew immediately interested in his recognition, as we have tried to find other SGI Buddhists here, but not been able to, so we practice alone. Perhaps fate or the universe or whatever power that may be, provided that brief contact that brings a sense of not being alone, and that there are other SGI'rs here in Phuket. With his passing, Khun Pon is remembered for his help, his excellent english (which was so important for him, but hindered by his shyness) and his generosity. Of course his big smile and eagerness to help were a bonus!

In memoriam: Khun Pon

On Friday morning, 15 Oct 2010, around 07:30, while joining a parade at the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket Town, my brother and our colleague, Khun Pon passed away. His heart just stopped working. When they arrived at the hospital he was already dead. He was 33 years old.

Khun Pon worked for House in Phuket almost 6 years, made almost all pictures on our website and has been a main contributor to make our business as popular as it is today.

Khun Pon, thank you so much for everything you did for us and the endless love you gave us. We will always love you.

Wellta and staff.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Vegetarian Festival

Every year they have a festival in Phuket called the Vegetarian Festival. It originated in 1825 in the community of Kathu where a traveling opera company from China was performing and all became ill. The origins of the illness has traditionally been seen as a  result of misdeeds or straying from spiritual practices but in more recent years it is believed the malady was malaria. Nevertheless, the company believed the treatment was to follow a strict vegetarianism rituals. From that time onward on the first evening of the ninth lunar month, for 9 days celebrations begin. On the first night a long pole is raised at the temples with 9 lanterns lighted to signal the commencement of the festival and at midnight a large fireworks display is made to call upon two gods, Yok Ong Hong Tae and Kiew Ong Tai Tae. On the ninth night there is a very large gathering of all of the temples at Sapahin park where they set off fireworks to send the gods on their way. There are 10 rules for the festival, which I posted on a previous blog that outlines the responsibilities of the devotee's during the festival time. The highlight and spectacle seems mostly in to be in the firecrackers/fireworks and the street processions, of thousands of the faithful dressed in white and escorting people who have pierced their bodies with various items or self mutilate by doing things like licking the end of an axe blade

From One Festival to Another

Well the vegetarian festival has finished, and the remnants of the firecrackers are still being felt afterward. I suppose that you have to dispose of the collection before the humidity makes them unexplodable (if that is even a word). Annie has managed to find the house entrances well and if nothing else the explosions has made her want to be closer to us more often and she finds great comfort in heading to the bedroom and settling on a king sized bed. After 24 hours of a more quiet neighbourhood, the evening has been resounding in the playing of live music. Although the venue is probably 1/2 a kilometer away, it is very clearly heard inside the house, even with the windows closed, that we can close. Tear down time is sometime after 1AM. They have stalls and multi coloured lights all around, so an investigation may be in order.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Even Enough For Me

A rare "G" Rated moment

Today, I left Clive at home to go to see day two of the processions for the Vegetarian Festival. Not a good start as the rain was pouring buckets and the winds howling all night as a tropical storm descended on us. But it is the rainy season and you adjust; you can't stay locked up inside all day either. Off I rode on my trusty Scoopy(i) to find myself in the middle of almost gridlock traffic. I say almost, as if the road is stopped, there is always the sidewalk. I have learned to simply follow the local traffic flow, and being on the bike, I made it downtown through some interesting maneuvering. To my surprise, the procession had already begun to return to the temple Tui Jui, and I found myself having little choice but to take my pictures where I could. Why of all my days here, is 830AM actually 830AM and not 9ish-10ish). I pulled out the handy Cannon and turned the on switch to no response. This is when I remembered, I had plugged the battery in the night before and obviously not put it back int he camera this morning. I pulled out the trusty Coolpix and got on with my objective. The celebrants were certainly different today and I saw more creative use of everyday goods. After about 2 hours, I thought to myself that I could be here all day and after a few hours over 2 days, the novelty wears thin.  Today of particular interest to me was the piercings with the following objects inserted: Meter long shards of glass, a pair of fully automatic guns similar, if not actually, M-16's; a room ceiling fan with light globes; red electric drills, with foot long socket driver shafts; regular umbrella's with the handle through the cheeks or just your lower lip; a rod similar to the aluminum poles that hold up my outdoor shelter; swords and daggers of every type description and number, with or without sheath;multiple brightly coloured fringes, similar to those on a jacket or you used as streamers on your bicycle, all individually help in place with various pins and needles; a hand carved traditional sailing ship mounted with a very extended rudder to be able to pass through both cheeks, and my point of "is this reality?"; the two sets of scuba diving octopus (regulator,2X oxygen masks and depth gauge, hooked to a chrome center point and then affixed to a tank of oxygen), the piercing material of that choice was the rubber hoses that attach the oxygen masks. There was also one young man with a hookah pipe, I am still trying to examine my photo to see how that was attached.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

One month and 10 Countries

I have been surprised at the readership of my blog. One month ago I started to put this together and today I have readers in 10 countries! The list to date is : Australia , Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan,Thailand, UK (sorry but the stats do not break it down, but I am assuming England, in the UK) and USA. Although 9 people are listed as followers, the traffic has been amazing. Thanks!!

One Mans Interest

Traffic in Phuket Prior to the Procession

I have been amazed today at the reaction spectrum to the photos I pasted on my Flickr site and another site where I post my photos dedicated to Art. On Facebook most replies have been disgust at the photos and on my email, people are stunned and repulsed, yet oddly enthralled. Sort of like a train wreck, where you know it will look bad, but you just HAVE to see it. On the art site, I am attracting much positive attention and feedback, with people wanting me to post more!

Warning Graphic Photo's

I have just uploaded some shots from the Vegetarian Festival procession this morning in Phuket. These may be disturbing to people, so please view with that in mind.

Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Rules For Vegetarian festival

This is the week of the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket. There are a number of publications on the history and activities of the festival including the 10 rules. These rules are as follows:
  1. Clean your body and your mind during the festival
  2. Clean kitchenware and use them separately from others who do not attend Vegetarian festival (or use kitchen utensils for only this festival)
  3. Eat food prepared from vegetables and do not consume strong smelling vegetables
  4. Wear white clothing during the festival
  5. Behave physically and mentally
  6. Refrain from eating animal flesh
  7. No sex
  8. No alcoholic beverages
  9. People who are in mourning cannot participate in the festival
  10. Pregnant ladies and women with period can eat vegetarian diets, but cannot attend any ritual or visit shrines
All of this got me to thinking, that given the number of followers, a good percentage of the population here; how is business doing in Patong without people drinking or having sex? And what about those places like McDonalds, KFC and Burger King?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Silly Season- Tourist on Motorbikes

It seems that the high season increase in tourists has begun. The most obvious signs are the people who are more than 25% above the ideal body weight, who have not seen sunshine in about a year, in their bikini's or speedo low risers and flip flops, motoring along the roadway at 80KM an hour without a helmet. The sun glistening off the undulating rolls of lily white fat, enough to cause temporary blindness. The German ambassador seemed to have summarized it best a few weeks ago in an interview with the local paper.referring to them as  idiots who would never even dream about doing this at home, but will want the air ambulance paid for by the government to get back to their own country hospitals.
I have had 2 near misses this past week and the scenario is the same. Tourists on a motorbike, taking delight in going through red lights or crossing traffic to get to the other side and forgetting that the oncoming traffic is opposite to what they have at home. The screams of the girlfriend on the back still resonate in my ears and I was proud to be able to control my skidding on hot asphalt, although Clive was certain that he would be watching me fly through the air. Of course going 50KM or less is a good factor in my favour, and knowing that you always look left, look right, look left again and then right and then go. There is no forgiveness at the red lights, as the crossing traffic has begin to rev up when they have 4 seconds left on their red light and as it blinks green, they are off like a herd of stampeding horses. Perhaps I have become too adjusted to riding here and the defensive training I have had suits me well, it's the people who put their bodies and minds into vacation mode that scare me now.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bang Bang

Well this is the day after the official Vegetarian festival kicked off. It was clear at 5AM that the day had arrived, as firecrackers began exploding in the neighbourhood. The past week has seen period of sporadic firecracker activity, but tonight I felt like I was back in Kosovo listening to gunfire, and by now getting as used to the sound as I did then. The intensity is increasing now with what they call firebombs basically about 1000 firecrackers wrapped around a large firecracker, so that as the 1000 finish their blasts, the big daddy goes off. The smell of gun powder is in the air and the dogs are all hiding in the bedroom. Annie is more stressed out than usual, but even the seasoned dogs headed for shelter after a few fireballs went off. This activity is to continue for the next 7 nights, culminating is what is called a big blast and fireworks display at midnight on Saturday next. I am getting my batteries charges for the cameras and will begin my photo documentation, with a full kite on the sights, sounds and experiences of the festival.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the Job Done

Workmen on bamboo scaffolding on Big Buddha

Of all of my observations, the most prominent recollections is how geared this place is for getting the job done. By some North American standards, the safety features employed here would startle some occupational health and safety committee's at my previous work sites, and maybe even yours.  Living in Thailand you quickly realize that there is a huge population base to draw from and, given it's geographical location, we are lucky to be able to get materials and goods from around the world. Most of it is available made in Thailand as well, and there is the constant flow of mass produced goods from China. I recently went to the pottery market and bought some plates and bowls. We had company coming and no crockery to feed them from. The crockery market is about 1/2 a city block long and sells every type of crockery, pottery and dish-wares you can imagine. It was not until I got home, and washed them, that I noticed the IKEA marking on the bottom. It dawned on me that these are actually made in Thailand for sale through IKEA. I was buying direct from the factory. A television documentary last week on the Asian Food Channel was about 8 young British students who come to Thailand and work for 2 weeks in the industries that mass produce the food they eat in the UK. Thailand is one and in many cases the largest supplier of chicken, tuna and rice in the world. I recall seeing frozen seafood and canned tuna in the grocery store, and they all came from Thailand. In the documentary the students went from picking rice by hand in the north, through a fish cleaning house to the monstrous chicken processing plants near Bangkok and ended in Bangkok with the bar girls who play for money.The bottom line for the documentary showed how people in other parts of the world have little understanding of how they contribute to the abject poverty in countries like Thailand.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegetarian Festival. Why the blood?

I am getting myself prepared to see the annual vegetarian festival that commences in about 10 days. In our naivitee, we thought this would be a celebration of the vegetarian community. Lots of interesting foods and products all began based. Apparently this is not the case. It is instead a 10 period of time where people practice self mutilation, in an effort to release demons. I am all set to go to do the photography, as I think it will be of real unique interest and spectacle. Clive was looking forward to the evening festivals, where they would have great tables laden with food. Apparently, there is not vegetarian food, but with all Thai events there will be plenty to eat. It looks like Gary and I will go to see the body mutilations and Clive and Deb will go for the evening events. Stay tuned for my coverage of this event. In the meantime, this is a link to the events site.

Princess's Cup - Kho Samui

Clive and Adam at completion of the Samui Marathon
Koh Samui

Living in Thailand gives Clive the great opportunity to participate in the marathons that seem to be happening in some country or location not far from us, 12 months of the year. Since our arrival getting settled, the Koh Samui (Samui Island for the anglo’s) was the first local event he could do. We had looked at many ways to get there, but flying was very cost prohibitive, as only one airline serves the island, they apparently own the airport, hence no competition. We had heard of horror stories about taking public transit. And renting a car to do the drive seemed less practical, so we decided to brave the public transit system and be prepared for whatever may come.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cooking With Bruce

I have been doing Thai food cooking for a few months and decided I would put some of my creations on my blog.  This entry is a versatile dish, Thai Peanut Sauce.
This dish usually accompanies satay of chicken, pork or Tofu. But it has many more possible ways to be used in cooking.  It is a good veggie dip and you can add it to hot or cool noodles for a salad or a meal. I spread some on BBQ hamburgers and think it is fab! I can usually get three different dinners per batch.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Monk and His Dogs

While on Kho Samui, I noticed that the dogs there seemed to be better looking than most of my Thai dog encounters. When we walked along the street, we were amazed at how friendly these dogs were and how they approached you with tails wagging and nudging your hand for a pet. We also noted no obvious signs of skin rashes or ticks and it was also evident that they were not lacking in adequate feeding, some of them being outright fat.

One evening I had seen the dogs at low tide walking along the beach and they all seemed to be frolicking and running about. I then noticed that they were accompanied by a monk in his saffron robes, picking up litter along the beach. Our friend Adam commented that there was a solitary monk who lived not far from our hotel along the beach and he had a collection of dogs and there was some sort of cemetery there. At one point, not being much of a beach person to be able to just go and lay still for a few hours, i wandered the beach and found the said monk, living a solitary existence in a single room hut, and an assortment of dogs, all of who came to greet me. Behind his hut was a small cemetery with a mausoleum type structure as well as full-on cemetery plots. The area was meticulously maintained, including the sweeping of the sand walkways and no garbage or tree debris to be seem. He spoke no English, but was happy to see me and took me to view the headstones.

On race day, as I looked to the beachfront, a rainbow appeared and there was the monk with his dogs out doing beach clean-up.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Koh Samui

I am getting my camera equipment cleaned up and checking the batteries as we prepare to head to Kho Samui  an island on the Gulf of Thailand tomorrow for a few days. Clive will run in the Samui Marathon, doing the 1/2 marathon portion of the run. We will travel by inter-provincial bus and make the 8 hour trip crossing the bridge off of Phuket to the mainland, across to the port of Surat Thani to board a ferry across the waters to Samui. I am looking forward to the bus trip just for the experience of riding in one of these super coaches, usually bright pink or purple and of course to experience a water crossing on a Thai ferry. Our friends Adam and Win have already got plans in place for us to see the sights, take in some entertainment and of course then there is the run on Sunday. I am sure this trip will prove a mother-lode for the basis of a kite. Speaking of which. I have not gotten what I had hoped to post before today, back from my "editor" (HELLO Clive) , so sorry for no new kites yet.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Fiddling Around

Well I think I am finally done the major "fiddlin' and fartin' around", as my dad would say, with this blog and getting it established. I am amazed with the number of hits from around the world. So far I am being looked at in Thailand, Tiawan, South Africa, Canada and the US. Thanks for those of you who have written to give me some good feedback and encouragement. I have one set of Kites in for review and a second one I am just finishing writing before I send it to Clive for his feedback.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ministry of Transportation

Now legal to drive

After 90 days in the country, you are required under Thai law to obtain a Thai drivers license. While it has not been a continuous 90 days, it was time to deal with that official issue. From previous writings, you will know that the bureaucracy here can be overwhelming. Usually after every experience with a government department, I am amazed at the amount of time it takes to do anything, but also that the outcome is actually more efficient that what I experienced previous to coming here. The motor vehicle branch is a daunting ministry to deal with in just about any jurisdiction in the world. My driver license experience in Canada had been nightmares. You would automatically set aside 1/2 a day to renew your drivers license. With that experience, I was very dubious about how to prepare here for this license department.


Mannequins have seen better days, but is that a real Vercase??

Shopping is something you tend to do everyday for a large variety of reasons. The availability of things from around the world and of the latest technology is abundant and the pricing is as varied as the authenticity of the product.

The word knockoff is one that come to mind quickly. A stroll in the night market has stall upon stall of designer wear from sunglasses, to electronics to footwear and of course clothes and jewelery. To the casual eye, it look real, but Tiffany is not likely to be found in a night market on a card table, which should be the first clue. That beautiful sterling silver neck chain in the blue silk bag and the blue box with the Tiffany stamp are convincing enough, I guess. The up side is that the quality of everything is good and when you want a T-Shirt that is comfortable, light and cheap, the label is of little consequence. I recalled my first experience in this market when I was in Kosovo in 2000 and was surprised when we left Zurich on a flight and everyone under the age of 30 was dressed in Prada, Gucci and LaCoste. For a war recovering area, in my naivety I wondered how they could afford to buy such luxuries. Only by going to the market stalls did I begin to understand that the label may be real, but the goods certainly were not. It was a stark reminder of how much emphasis is placed on the label and the status that comes from being able to advertise for the fashion houses. Oh yes, if you are that concerned about the genuineness of the good, they do have actual fashion retail stores where you can get the real deal and pay accordingly, although to me, two people in a Paul Frank T shirt look the same, one may be $2 and the other $200.

By far the best experience is shopping in the markets. There are  day markets and night markets and even some that start at 4 AM when the fish boats dock and the seafood is still kicking.

Dog Walking

Dogs taking us for a walk on Nai Harn Beach

Moving from 2.5 hectares in Canada to the tropical climate of Thailand in a house with about 750 sq. feet of outdoor space, put a severe curtailment to the bassets ability to wander in and out and sniff away and run and play. We knew that the move would bring some adjustments for them, including getting acclimatised to the tropics. It also meant walking on a lead in a harness.

I am the first to say that these things confound me every single time no matter how often I have to put them into and take them out of the harnesses. Clive gets rather frustrated with me, but the mechanics truly elude me. After a few months I am actually recognizing when it is on wrong, its just the steps to get there that are the problem. I must admit that the dogs show enormous patience with me, except for Grace who simply goes passive resistant and drops her full weight to the ground and relaxes all muscles. If you try to roll her, she will yelp as if you have just kicked her, usually sending Annie into a flight panic. I am getting good enough that I am capable of actually doing this with her laying prone. All of those years spent in prisons with passive resistant people, especially the Dukabour women, were there is a will there is a way.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Grace in Canada

Grace is a spayed female tri-coloured basset hound about 4 years old. She came to live with us through the kind people at Washington Basset Rescue WARB . We knew little about her, but what we did know was that she not only had that classic Hush Puppy look, but she also had the textbook basset temperament. What were listed as behavioral issues and problems, were all easily resolved, by understanding bassets and getting them exercise. They may look like a couch potato, but they are a hunting breed and she can and does run, when she is onto something.Her favorite way to avoid being in trouble or having to do something she does not want to do, is to go completely passive and drop to the floor, as a mound of jello. She is my constant companion in the kitchen when I am cooking. She is happy to sample whatever it is that you are eating or preparing. Her diet has changed considerably since she came to Thailand. She loves her mango, fried banana and most of all RICE. To her a clean face is a sign of a basset who hs not lived properly. Most photos require some photo-shop to remove whatever is is she has on her snout, face or ears, sometimes all three. She is mostly a loner, preferring to find a place put of the way to snooze. She is the naturalist of the four, finding and inspecting any insect that she comes across. Her free time is little, as she works at night stalking gecko's, when she is not sleeping, eating or standing full tilt forward in Thunderbird 3, ears a-flappin on her way to the beach. She loves to wade in the tropical ocean water, preferring it to the cold hose of a rinse when she gets back home. She loves to lay on her back and wiggle around on the sand, to get a good back scratch and bring home the kilo of sand she has managed to grind into her back hair. Grace has been given the nickname "Bear" as she looks like a cute little bear cub and sometimes has the temperament of a bear in a bad mood if disturbed by Byron being a pest. Her adoption information and phots are found at this link ,
Grace after a wade and back-rub on Palai beach, Phuket


Dixie is a spayed female "lemon" (white with tan patches) basset hound. She came to live with us, along with her roommates Annie and Grace, courtesy of the Washington Basset Rescue     .  We do not know much about here except that she is in excess of 7 years old by vet estimates. She came into rescue found roaming the roads, heavy with pup, which she happily delivered the same night she was rescued. Giving birth to cross, basset-retriever or lab, puppies. They apparently had the physical characteristics of the retriever-lab and the legs of the basset. She had been identified as an escape artist and has proven to this day that she is not just an escape artist, she instigates and gets followers and no small escape possibility passes without her knowledge. She has adapted well to Thailand and has earned the nickname Bpoo (pronounced Boo), the Thai word for Crab. She loves nothing more than excavating palai beach sand in search of crabs. She is very efficient, and requires human intervention, lest she actually catch the poor crab who has just had their hiding space torn open to the bright sunshine. She has managed one incident of the crab deciding to latch onto that great basset jowl for dear life. She simply flips her head, tossing it to the water and she plunges back in scuba style to try and catch it again. Her favorite things are crab hunting, sleeping and being petted or touched.  She is the guard dog, noticing things and barking at people, whether she knows them or not. Information and photo's about Dixie's adoption can be found by following this link,

Dixie searching for crabs on Palai beach, in Phuket

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Annie in Canada

Annie is a 4 year old spayed female "lemon" (white with tan patches) basset hound. She is a survivor from a basset puppy mill in the US Midwest. She had been bred to the point of herniating, and deemed unfit to breed, so she was found at a dog auction, where she was being auctioned for medical research. She came to us through the kindness of Pat and the people of the Washington Basset Hound Rescue in Spokane Washington USA. In rescue she had been named Lady, but we decided that with a new life should come a new name, so she became Annie. She has had developmental issues with humans, and of course, self confidence. I have been chronically her journey from abused,in a near-feral state, fearful of any movement or sound, to making such small but significant steps to actually taking food from my hand.  From someone who would dig and hide under the house, to jumping up and barking orders to get her into her halter and get Thunderbird to the beach, NOW. This Annie however can disappear as quickly as it surfaces and she will bolt to her safe haven behind the water tower where she will stay for hours. The she will suddenly decide to be sociable and want to get her belly rubbed and ears scratched until she dozes off with a snore. Miles to go, but miles have already been crossed in less than 2 years. She has adapted to moving to Thailand well. Her favorite things are going for a ride in Thunderbird three, off her halter and running free as fast as she can. Her adoption information and photos are at this link,

Annie in Thailand


Byron in Canada

Byron is a 4 year old tri coloured neutered male Basset Hound. He came to live with us in Canada through a newspaper ad, from people who could not keep him.  His best friend in the world and his playmate is a female red Basset Hound of the same age, named Lucy. They used to have frequent sleep-overs and loved to race 2 acres of property to the point of exhaustion. The constant basset howling scared any wildlife within 10 kilometers of the property. The move has caused them to have a long distance cyber relationship through the magic of Skype. If Byron or Lucy hear each other bark through the computer speakers, all hell breaks loose, ending with Byron at the yard gate barking and three bassets behind him howling their support in the belief she is walking up the moo any minute. In his spare time he likes to sleep, go chasing crabs on Palai beach riding on Thunderbird 3 spraying slobber all over the driver, sleep, have treats and eat, sleep and then go to bed for the night. He prefers to go to the bathroom privately, except for when he wants a drink of water out of the toilet. This requires one to go open the door, turn on the light, lift the lid, flush and then he will drink. It is easy to follow this routine, as he will stare at you and look at the action required, as if to say, "i'd do it myself if I had opposing thumbs". It works not only with us, but he has company trained as well. He avoids baths at all costs, as he is usually the one who found the dead rotten fish on the beach and rolled in it and seems to think is scent is great.
Byron, Crab Fishing at Palai Beach in Phuket, Thailand

Byron, Annie, Dixie and Grace

Byron, Annie, Dixie and Grace are our four basset hounds, who moved from Canada to live on the tropical island of Phuket in Thailand. They feature prominently in the kites.

Soi Dogs

A Soi Dog is basically a dog that lives loose for the most part on the streets. The Thai word for street is Soi, hence, Soi Dog or Street Dog. You will find ocassional references to Soi Dogs in the kites. At some point I will dedicate an entry to Soi Dogs, but until then, I would appreciate it if you checked out this link to a very worthwhile foundation Soi Dog Foundation

Back to School

One of the things we had decided was that we needed to be able to speak and understand the Thai language. We live in an area where we are very much a minority in skin colour and language. Our neighbours do not speak English and the local store use a calculator to show us what the bill is when we buy anything there. Early on we had some difficulties with some repair work that needed to be done and deliveries to be made, where the trade person or delivery man could not speak English and our Thai was limited to sa-wa-dee (hello/good morning/good evening) and check bin (bring us the bill). We had managed the word Nam quickly as well, which means water. If we wanted the large size or we wanted it cold, we made gesticulated and tried various forms of sign language. Clive did his homework and found a language school in Patong. So off we went on our trusty Scooy-i’s to register for the 5 day intensive “foundation” course.

The Moo Shop

Friday evening, and the shop at the end of the moo is bustling with people. We refer to this very local corner store as the Moo Shop. We live on what is called a Moo in Thai. In English we would probably call it a lane way. Wide enough for a car and a half lined on one side by a cinder block wall about 6 feet high on one side with one opening to the driveway of one house and on the other side of the moo it is lined with a variety of housing. A small cottage type structure at the end, then a duplex type cottage. Next door is a massive new home, two stories high, with huge gardens, silver and gold coloured gateway and 2 luxury vehicles a large HAM radio mast antenna and servants.  I have nicknamed this the big house. They also house three small dogs, who tend to bark at any movement on the moo. Normally ignited by our approach on Thunderbird 3 as Dixie whines and barks in uncontrollable excitement of another ride to the beach.

The informed voice of whats happening on Phuket

Phuket Word

Thunderbird 3

Clive and I have been long-time fans of a marionette television show of the late 60’s called the Thunderbirds. The fact that you could clearly see the marionette strings and the special effects leave much to the imagination when viewed in 2010, it was still imagination gripping TV, and after a few episodes, you tended to not notice the strings anyway. I know as we spend a rainy Sunday a few years ago renting the TV series and sat and watched episode after episode.

When we bought out Scoopy-i’s we named them Thunderbird One and Thunderbird Two. One afternoon as we cavorted through a massive empty parking lot, it felt like we were on the Thunderbirds water crafts, as we swooshed through the area, calling out “Thunderbirds are GO”. As in the TV series, everyday here in Phuket is an adventure and a learning experience. We knew that at some point we needed to add a Thunderbird three to the fleet, so that we could transport larger items, but more importantly take the dogs to the beach. Dogs are welcome at the beach here and the salt water is great for their skin, but walking there is not a good idea. Given that the trip in the hot sun would probably wear the dogs out before they got to the water and most assuredly we would be a sight to the local people as they watched the two of us try and carry 4 basset hounds back home.

Essentials for Motorbikes in Phuket

Off to the market with mom
Shortly after arrival, we needed to get transportation and then learn how to operate a motor vehicle on the opposite side of the road to what we had been accustomed. On Monday we decided that we need to have transportation, but also to get my named added to the house lease, as you cannot do much of anything here unless you have a work permit or on a lease agreement. Clive had come earlier and arranged the house. That was fine, but if I wanted to open a bank account or buy a vehicle I needed to be on the lease. The house agency is about 3 KM away and we began a walk, looking for a tuk-tuk or a motorcycle taxi. They are on the roads frequently and you simply waive or better yet as they approach you from behind they toot their horn and if you want them you simply wave them over and negotiate the fee. The first one was a motorcycle taxi so Clive suggested that I take that one and he get another, but the rider insisted he could take both of us. Picture the two of us perched on the back seat of a Honda 100 cc motorbike. The driver managed to get us there, I was amazed I did not have graze marks on my butt from the overhang of sitting on the back, with Clive pushed between me and the driver, but 100 Baht later there we were.

Why Kites From Phuket?

I have been fortunate enough to have had a favourable career as a federal civil servant in Canada. Having retired after 29 years of service to the Correctional Service of Canada. During that time I worked in Kosovo under the auspices of the United Nations Mission In Kosovo (UNMIK) and I began to chronicle my personal experiences and observations of being in a post war country as an outsider in Kites from Kosovo. In many ways the inside of a prison is a place that most will never experience, but many have opinions of what they think it is like. In a prison environment the ability to communicate information inside and sometimes out of a prison was by a written note or letter. The prison colloquialism for this note or letter is a kite.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kites From Phuket

This is my first ever posting for a blog. I am somewhat hesitant to do this, but have been encouraged to put this out for people to see. I hope it is helpful and entertaining at the same time.