Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Postscript

It's been a week now. As usual nothing seems to have changed at home or work. It's as if we never went away. We are all missing Thailand. The holiday went so quickly.

I wrote a letter of thanks to the British Ambassador in Bangkok - His Excellency Quinton Quayle - Now there's a Manx name! I commended his staff for all the help that they gave me in my hour of need.

Now it's work and save for our next trip to Thailand. Possibly in 2010.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 21

Sad day today. Everyone was locked in their own thoughts. We visited Wat Luang Pa Nak to say goodbye to the senior monk. Back home, we finished packing and then we set off for Udon airport.

Many tears were shed at the airport. No-one wanted us to leave and no-one wanted to leave, but leave we did. PJ and William were inconsolable. Mai was equally upset at seeing her two grandsons leave.

On arrival at Bangkok, a taxi ride from Don Muang (Domestic) to the new Suvarnabhumi (International) airport saw us checked in and silently waiting for departure to the UK.

Surprise! Uan and Pui turned found us in the airport and kept us company until our departure. The Thai Airways 00:30 flight - TG910 - was on time. After a dramatic 48 hours we were finally on our way home. We all slept quite peacefully throughout most of the flight and arrived at London Heathrow at about 06:15 the same day. Time differences does strange things. We collected our hire car and drove to Gatwick airport, stopping off at a Little Chef near Horsham. The burgers were great!

The Flybe 12:35 flight from Gatwick to the Isle of Man went without a hitch. Another surprise! Dang, Noi, Leonne & Joanna met us at Ronaldsway airport with our car. We loaded up the car and drove the final leg home, exhausted! My ears are shot to pieces after 5 flights in 2 days.

After the rest of the weekend to recover, it is back to work on Monday for me, work on Tuesday for Jeep and back to school for PJ on Monday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 20

I cought the red-eye flight from Udon to Bangkok Don Muang airport this morning. On arrival I grabbed a taxi and went straight to the embassy. The two Thai ladies at the embassy - Khun Pareena and Khun Siwaporn - were extremely helpful and curteous and helped to ease my anxiety. It was decided that I will have to apply for an Emergency Passport - cost about £55. I would have to return in the afternoon to collect it. In the meantime, I kicked my heels around Surkumvit (which is close to the embassy) and wondered past the many bars and massage parlours (quite quiet at this time of day) I visited a couple of the glitzy shopping malls in the area and had some lunch. At 3pm I returned to the embassy to hopefully collect my EP. I had to wait in the queue. I should have returned earlier.

It wasn't until 4pm that I got my EP. Now I only needed to replace my entry visa and get that stamped on my EP. No entry visa - no exit visa! I quickly started to walk towards the Thai Immigration office. Big Mistake! It is further than it looked on the map. Time was ticking by. I grabbed a taxi bike and hurried on. The Thai Immigration office is due to close at 4.30pm!

The 'Lost Passport' desk just closed as I arrived and the two young ladies were preparing to go home. After much pleading and wai'ing, the girls had a change of heart and re-opened their desk and processed my visa. With my EP duly stamped I left Thai Immigration. I phoned Jeep the good news and started my journey back to Udon. Another taxi ride back to Don Muang airport through the evening traffic. That journey took about 90 minutes! I managed to get on the next flight out of Don Muang to Udon, departing at 18:35.

Jeep collected me from Udon airport and after some late night shopping we drove home.

Phew! What a day!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 19

Still no reply from the embassy. I called them. The Thai staff were not very helpful. I guess they were very busy and phones were an interruption. Eventually, I was put through to a British member of staff - Mr Callum Stevenson. From here on, things got less stressful. Mr Stevenson was very helpful. He quickly confirmed that my passport could not be used. Which, basically meant I was stranded in Thailand until I got a replacement. I was due to return to the UK in 2 days!

I booked a flight for the next day with Nok Air, departing Udon at 07:30, arriving in BKK an hour later. We'll see how I get on tomorrow.

I phoned JimboPSM and Doug today. We'll meetup some other time.

C'est la Vie!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 18

Ooh! I have a bit of a hangover!

I replaced the tax and insurance discs in the car this morning.

Mai wash my trousers early this morning. Unfortunately, my passport and international driving license were still in my pocket. The driving license was completely destroyed, The passport was destroyed also, all except the plastic coated biometric page. I spent the rest of the day in contact with the British embassy in Bangkok via email and phone. I got the remains of my passport scanned and emailed to the embassy. No reply today.

Thailand Holiday - Day 17

Jeep and I drove into Udon today without the boys to do some shopping. Another snake 2-3ft long crossed our path. Police were out in force this morning with traffic checks. A falang behind me got pulled over. We were lucky. I discovered later that we did not have the car documents in the car (legal requirement) also we were still displaying last years tax and insurance discs (we had them, just weren't displaying them) Oops!

We bought a rice steamer and a water boiler to take home to the IOM with us. We did a little Christmas shopping. Jeep traded in some of here broken gold jewellery and bought some more. Later, we collected Plai from the bus station and returned home before it got dark.

That night I drank a lot of beer with Toey's wife and got drunk.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 16

Suan Hin Pha Ngam
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

After breakfast we all drove to Suan Hin Pha Ngam (The beautiful cliff stone garden) also called Thailand's Kunming, after China's stone garden in Kunming, Yunnan province. The limestone outgrops are between 230 and 280 million years old.Uplift and erosion created the spectacular cliffs and hidden gardens. We climbed to the top of one of these outcrops for a fantastic vista. Poor Mai, it was a tough climb.

After returning to the car - a 16 seater Toyota mini bus - Gulab let me drive. It was a pleasure. What a smooth ride. The Toyota just glides along.

On the way back to Gulab's house, we stopped by a roadside resturant next to a fish pond and ate lunch. Once we arrived at Gulab's house it was a tearful goodbye and swap cars to drive back to Ban Phue.

We had a wonderful time and after we arrived home, it was a quiet bathe and then to bed - exhausted!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 15

Gulab's Guest House
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

Saturday saw us travel to Loi province again and visit Gulab and her family. We arrived late in the evening after a delay at home looking for a car for Jeep's sister Pui. This time we took Jeep's dad with us. He was perking up quite a bit. We all sat down to a tasty evening meal under the guest house. Jeep and I had a sleepless night tending to Pa's frequent need for assistance. Not that we minded, Pa was enjoying his visit.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 14

Si Sa-At Road, Ban Phue
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

A quiet day today. I rode around town on Jeep's motorbike with PJ and William and took many photos of the town. I wanted to make a street map of the Ban Phue but Google Maps does a good job - only the minor roads missing and some of the temples. Jeep visited a nearby dentist and we were so impressed I had a clean and polish myself. Very good, very quick and very good price. We tried a Skype video call to Mum in Spain, video not too good, internet quite slow.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thailand Holiday - Day 13

Wat Luang Pu Nak
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

In the morning Jeep, Sunisa, Myself, PJ and William visited a nearby temple - Wat Luang Pu Nak. We took food to offer to the monks and share with the other visitors to the temple. I took many photos of the sculptures depicting hell. We bought a Buddha image and some amulets from the temple shop to take home with us. Afterwards we bought some fish food to feed the temple fish.

Later, Jeep and I slipped out without the boys to do some shopping in Udon. We bought several items that we wanted to take back to the Isle of Man. We met Plai later after he finished school. In the evening we stopped by at our favourite kerbside noodle bar in Udon Datsadi Road. Afterwards to did some more shopping in Tesco Lotus before returning home. By the time we got home William was fast asleep.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 12

Loi Krathong
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

Fulll Moon - Loi Krathong festival. Aom and Garn stopped by for a visit in the morning. Aom has changed so much I did not recognise her. Lunchtime we watched the Loi Krathong carnival procession through the town. The costums, floats and dancing was a delight! Afterwards, we lunched and chatted with Aom and Garn. Later they left to return to Udon. After dark, we went into town, bought our Krathongs (floats) and set them afloat in the local pond. Later, Jeep and I went to the nearby school grounds where the main festivities were taking place. We watched a little of the beauty pagent. There were also dance competitions from various schools in the area.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 11

Sunrise over the fishponds
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

We woke early and I took some photos of the sunrise over the fishponds. We breakfasted at Gulab's house, just a short drive from the guest house. We chatted awhile with Gulab's sisters, Udorn and Lamduan, and Udorn's husband Moor. Late morning we drove home for lunch as we promised PJ we would be home then. During our drive home we spotted a snake crossing the road ahead of us. We slowed to watch it's rapid progress - this is considered lucky to witness - it is quite rare to see a snake. Amazing how quickly a snake can cross a road! PJ had a great time at home - spoilt rotten! In the afternoon Jeep and PJ had their hair cut. Both look great. Jeep's cough is getting better. Weather is noticeably cooler now in the morning and evening. When the sun gets up it is lovely and warm again.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 10

Gulab's Guest House
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

Jeep, Sa, Gulab, William and Myself drove to Gulab's home - Ban San Te Suk, ampur Pha Khaow, Loei province. We drove past Erawan Cave. We must visit it one day. We stayed overnight in Gulab's guest house, surrounded on three sides by fish ponds. Still no trouble with those dreaded mossies! Gulab and Sa slept in the tent on the balcony. The tent makes a great natural mossie net! I took some great photos of the sunrise next day - we got up early!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 9

A quiet day today. Jeep still has her bad cough. We all got up early to visit the forest temple - Wat Na Kha. It was good to see the senior monk at the temple again.

Later in the morning, we were visited by Jeep's aunt, uncle and cousins.

In the afternoon, our good friend Gulab from Loei province visited us with her sisters and brother-in-law. Gulab's family returned home and Gulab stayed with us overnight. Tomorrow, we will all go to the local temple to make merit.

In the evening, Uan, Buth, Pui, myself and the boys visited Wat Luang Pu Nak to tell our fortunes using chinese fortune sticks. I drew number 28 and PJ number 16. Both were supposed to be good. I couldn't read Thai or Chinese so I had to rely of others to translate. We bought some fish food and fed the catfish in the temple pond.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 8

Bike made for err... 4!
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

Rode the motorbike today with Pj and Jeep as pillion and William astride the footwell to the local Tescos. We did some shopping then returned in the same manner plus some shopping.

Later in the morning we drove to Uma's parents home in Thung Fon - to the east of Udon Thani - not far from Ban Chiang world heritage site. We delivered some family photos to Uma's parents and stayed for lunch.

After lunch we visited one of Jeep's cousin's who lived nearby (about 5 miles back the way we came).

On the way home we stopped off at the Big C shopping mall in Udon, arriving home late.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 7

This morning, Jeep gave me some brief instructions on how to ride the motorbikes. I prefer the pink one - twist and go - can't be simpler. The black one has a tempermental choke! I was riding about town in no time. I rode to the computer shop (where else?) and bought a sound card and speakers for Plai's computer - the onboard sound card is rubbish! Back home, I fitted the card and fired up Skype. In the evening, I called Mum in Spain. Late evening our end, mid-afternoon Spanish time. Video was great, sound not so good. We could hear Mum (most of the time) but Mum kept losing us!

Plai is well pleased with the addition of the sound card. It makes all the difference to his game playing and listening to music on YouTube.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 6

Neighbours at Gold Shop
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

This morning we visited our neighbours at the gold shop. I presented the patron with a bottle of Glenmorangie. I have yet to find any malt Whisky in Thailand. Plenty of blended stuff, but no malt. I'm sure it can be had (for a price) in Bangkok, but elsewhere I'm not so sure the demand is there.

We sat and chatted with our neighbours for an hour or so. PJ and William went off to school with their cousin Palmy. This is a private school in Ban Phue. It was very quite at home without the children. I went shopping alone at the department store in Ban Phue. I bought some shorts and shirts. I was horrified at my waist size. I must do something about this when I get back to the Isle of Man.

The children arrived home at lunchtime. PJ wasn't happy with the Thai food at school.

During the early afternoon we stood by the cross-road in the town centre to watch the Chinese festival and parade. There was a dragon dance along the main road with lots of fire crackers, some acrobatics and then a very lengthy parade. Different communities in Ban Phue put on float displays, dance troops, beauty queens and generally made as much noise as possible. This really marked the start of Loi Krathong festival. Many of the procession displayed their Krathongs - a float made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers and candles. Some were very large and ornate. These would be floated during the night of the full-moon (this year the 12th) after dark on the local waters.

In the evening after dark we went into town again to visit the fair. Plenty of food stalls - delicious! There was a Chinese theatre, a Chinese shrine, some fairground rides, an outdoor stageshow and and outdoor cinema. This fair runs until Loi Krathong itself. We will come back again. PJ, Palmy and William manage to persuade Na Sa and Na Buth to take them to the fair every evening!

PJ is taking to learning Thai under Na Sa's tutorledge. It seems to me with PJ's tantrums, all he needs is more attention. William happily plays alone or with others, he doesn't need the constant attention as PJ does. Gold star today for William.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 5

Feeding fish in Nong Prajak Park
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

I sat around home and chatted the morning away. In the afternoon we drove to Udon and fed the fish at Nong Prajak Park. Later we went to the Chaoensri Complex shopping mall. I bought various bits for Plai's PC. When we got home I setup the webcam and downloaded Skype. I checked Skype but Mum was not online. PJ and William enjoy being taken around town on one of the motorbikes with Na Sa (Auntie Sunisa). The bikes hardly qualify as 'motorbikes', 50-100cc and fully automatic. No pedals, push button to start engine, twist throttle and go! The brakes are the same as for a bicycle. If fact it is just like riding a bicycle but no peddling!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 4

Past Kings of Thailand
Originally uploaded by Evans-Amsri

Today we visited the Thai equivalent of Madame Tussaud's. It contains famous and historical figures of Thailand. The name in English of the waxworks is "Thai Human Imagery Museum".

We stopped at another floating resturant for lunch. Afterwards, we had a mad dash across Bangkok to Pui's apartment to pick up our bags (we should have taken them with us!) Then we had another dash back across Bangkok to Don Muang airport to catch our flight up to Udon Thani. This was a first for Jeep's mum. She enjoyed the flight. She didn't enjoy the run through departures to board the flight with minutes to spare! 13,300 Baht for 4 adults and 3 children, very reasonable. This was with Nok Air. Later we were to find that Thai Airways had a special offer, which put their fares very close to Nok Air. Thai Airways operates A320 airbuses, while Nok Air operates Boeing 737s. Along with the better service from Thai Airways it would have been the better deal. Next time...

We arrived at Udon at 17:30 to be met by Plai with an aircon vannette for the 40 minute run to Ban Phue - quicker than Pui and Uan's drive back across Bangkok. We got home first!

Pa was pleased to see us, more tears and hugs.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thailand Holiday - day 3

Monday we drove into Bangkok - usual heavy traffic. We arrived at the Siam Paragon shopping mall for lunch. My Abbey debit card would not work in the ATMs! I tried a bank - no joy. Jeep's Barclays debit card would not work in the ATMs either! In the bank Jeep's card was accepted but mine wasn't. I will transfer my money via the internet to my pre-payment Master Card.

We had a fun time in Ocean World aquarium which is in the basement of the Siam Paragon. As anticipated, Thais 500 Baht but foreigners 900 Baht! We managed to get in with a 1,500 Baht (Thai price) family ticket for four, 3,000 Baht for the same ticket for foreigners. Incidentally, foreigner prices displayed using western numerals, Thai prices displayed in Thai numerals, so most foreigners never know - cheeky!

The aquarium was probably worth the foreigners price as it can easily take over an hour to get through. We had a great time! Included in the family ticket price was a trip around the main tank in a glass bottomed boat with commentary. Later PJ became a stooge for a comic magician performing in front of one of the tanks. Everyone including PJ had a scream! We were crying with laughter. PJ makes a great stooge!

Later we crossed Bangkok, again in heavy traffic, for a delicious evening meal with one of Jeep's neighbours who had moved to Bangkok from Ban Phue. They remember PJ when he was a baby.

Later that evening we had a traffic free run across Bangkok back to Uan and Pui's apartment.

Thailand Holiday - day 1 & 2

Jeep caught a cold two days before we left the Isle of Man. We flew from London Heathrow on Thai Airways TG917 at 21:35 on Saturday 1st November - slight delay due to late arrival of flight crew.

PJ and william were both sick before we boarded - to much rich food? They continued to be sick sparodically throughout the flight! Little sleep for us all. We arrived tired but relieved at 16:30 local time on Sunday. Immigration were friendly and helpful and we passed through baggage reclaim and customs quickly.

Yai, Sunisa, Pui, Uan and Palmy met us at the airport. Everyone was choked with a few tears, including me! We all piled into Uan's car and drove across Bangkok to Uan and Pui's apartment. We drove west into the setting sun and across a river.

Though we were tired we dined out at a local floating resturant at Sam Phuan. A very enjoyable meal. We slept with difficulty that night even though we were very tired - Jet lag?