Living In Thailand Blog
Sunday 25th February 2018
There was a lot of rain at the end of last year and the beginning of this one and consequently the local reservoir is looking full and healthy. Capetonians will be envious.
Klong Laa Reservoir, February 2018
Klong Laa Reservoir, February 2018
Compare these photos to August 2016 when the reservoir was virtually empty.
Klong Laa Reservoir, August 2016
Klong Laa Reservoir, August 2016
Klong Laa Reservoir, August 2016
I thoroughly enjoy my outings into the Thai countryside. It's peaceful without any of the craziness of urban Thailand and rural Thailand is as beautiful as urban Thailand is ugly.
Rural Thai folk still have a charm and innocence that I remember from my early visits to Thailand, but there is very little evidence of this in towns and cities. I also enjoy seeing the old way of life, such as this gas/petrol station.
Thai petrol station near Klong Laa Reservoir in Songkhla province, February 2018
Thai petrol station near Klong Laa Reservoir in Songkhla province, February 2018
When I visited Samui Island in 1987 I remember seeing a petrol station like this, but they are quite rare these days. Thailand has changed/is changing so quickly and in many ways it is quite sad.
Filling the tank - Samui Island, Thailand in November 1987
Fringing the sides of the roads were several different kinds of wildflowers. I'm no horticulturist so can't give you the names, unfortunately (apart from the lotus flower), but what a pleasure it was seeing so many unexpected explosions of colour by the roadside. I didn't see any snakes today, which is unusual because I normally see a snake or two in this area.
Wild flowers by the roadside in southern Thailand
Wild flowers by the roadside in southern Thailand
Wild flowers by the roadside in southern Thailand
Wild flowers by the roadside in southern Thailand
In this area people grow a lot of fruit that they sell in front of their houses, but there was none today. I guess it must still be a little early in the year.
Friday 23rd February 2018
I try not to get angry in Thailand, but I went apeshit mad on the school run this morning. There are a number of reasons why I get so upset about driving in Thailand, when most Thais don't.
Firstly, everything is relative and the vast majority of Thais have never known anything different. I have, because I learned to drive in the UK. Since I moved to Thailand in 2003 many UK friends have told me that driving standards have deteriorated, but when I was there last year and drove my father's car the driving standards in the UK were still infinitely better than Thailand. Infinitely.
Russians enjoy visiting Thailand and from what I have seen of Russian driving on YouTube clips, the driving in Thailand is probably an improvement. It depends where you come from and what you are used to. Everything in life is relative.
It also depends on individual personality traits and my particular personality traits have made it very difficult for me to adapt to driving in Thailand.
- I generally abide by laws. This is just the way I have been brought up. I don't always agree with laws, but accept that they are there and must be followed. Most Thais have a very different attitude, especially towards traffic laws.
- Fairness. I have always had an English sense of fair play. If I arrive somewhere and there is a queue of people I wait at the end of the queue, because it is fair. Again, many Thais have a completely different attitude. In a queue of traffic they will use any method possible to get to the front of the queue and there is absolutely no sense of fairness. It's dog eat dog.
- I don't suffer fools gladly. This is a big one because I see so many breathtaking examples of stupidity on Thai roads. Observing people doing stupid things can be amusing, but not when they put other people's lives at risk - especially the lives of me and my family. This was the problem this morning.
On the school run I have to use a very dangerous road where accidents occur all the time and I have to make a right turn. Waiting in the middle of the road to turn right can be quite scary with huge container trucks thundering past a few inches away at very high speed. I always hope there won't be any oncoming traffic so I can turn right as soon as possible and get off the dangerous road.
This morning there was no oncoming traffic, but I couldn't turn right because a stupid woman had parked her car across the entrance to the side road. I don't have a clue what she was trying to do, but being blocked in a dangerous position with my two young kids in the car made me furious and I made my feelings known. She was just sat there, unable to go anywhere and completely blocking the road. Apparently, this didn't bother her at all and she must have thought it was quite acceptable.
The following illustration might explain it better.
This kind of thing is just typical. They do whatever they want to do with no regard for the safety and convenience of other drivers. It is absolutely crazy. I simply can't believe some of the things I see and, as my German friend pointed out, in other countries you would be thrown in jail in if you drove the same way as Thais drive in Thailand. Thailand has the second most dangerous roads in the world and if you drive in Thailand for a while you will understand exactly why this is so.
Just one illustration of the stupidity on Thai roads
Thursday 22nd February 2018
I had guests come to stay at the house over the weekend and since then I've been doing more painting. The sliding gate at the front of my house is rusting badly and if I leave it another year I probably won't be able to repair it.
I started doing this job on 25th May last year - the same day that our cleaner discovered the termite infestation. The termite problem, along with some other major problems, wiped out the rest of the year and set me back about nine months. I am now trying to get back on course.
I'll talk a little today about Thai cultural behaviour. If you ever plan to be more than a two-week tourist in Thailand there are certain aspects of Thai cultural behaviour that you need to know about, otherwise it can start to drive you crazy.
As a newbie in Thailand you will encounter many different types of unusual behaviour and this can be extremely frustrating. I know because I've been through it myself. Once you understand a little about what is going on, it doesn't make the unusual behaviour any more acceptable but at least you know why it's happening.
First, let's return to my painting as I've been doing quite a lot recently. When I rented an apartment room I didn't have to worry about any kind of property maintenance. If there was a problem I just told the apartment management and they arranged for someone to do it.
I started renting a house in 2010 and we moved into our own house in 2012. Since then, I have spent a lot of time doing property maintenance. I've had to do a lot of jobs because of a Thai trait known as muk ngaay, the directly translation of which is 'like easy'.
The term 'path of least resistance' sums this up very well. When asked to do a task, many (but not all) Thais will opt to do it in the way that involves least effort. Invariably, there will be problems shortly afterwards that will need fixing.
Since living in my present property I have found many examples of this and almost as soon as we moved into the house, which was brand new, I had to start fixing things. Even if the termites hadn't started to eat my parquet flooring, I would have had to replace it anyway because it had been installed abominably.
For several years I had the attitude that because Thai and Burmese workers worked quite cheaply I would get people in to do jobs, but there was a big problem.
Painters would come in and finish a painting job in one day. My gate has already taken me three days (not whole days) and I have yet to finish. I spent a few hours on the first two days removing the rust and loose paint and on the third day gave the metal a proper rust treatment. Once that is dry I will add a coat of primer and then a couple of coats of top coat.
I look at these jobs in the long term and once this job is finished I am hoping it will last for several years. Most workers who do jobs in my house only look as far as getting paid - they have no long term interest in jobs they do. Success with painting is all about preparation, but that is the part they don't want to do. I've now realised that the only way to get jobs done properly is to do them myself.
Now, on to another couple of aspects of Thai cultural behaviour.
I had invited my guests to stay with us, but received an e-mail asking about hotels near my house. I replied that it would be fine to stay at our house.
This is the Thai notion of greng jai coming into play and it is very powerful in Thailand. It is an extreme reluctance to impose on people but - as with all aspects of Thai cultural behaviour - it goes to far and there are big contradictions.
Not imposing on people at certain times in certain situations is simply common courtesy. If we know that someone is very busy, we don't bother them with trivial matters. This is fine, but there are lots of twists in Thailand - as there always are.
If I invite you to come and stay with me there is automatically an implication that staying at my house isn't imposing on me.
If you ask Thais something they will often say no because of greng jai. I now just give visitors to the house a glass of water because if I ask them whether they want some water they will say no.
However, at times Thais will impose on you and greng jai goes out the window. A couple of years ago an old student called me at home. I was quite surprised because she always looked thoroughly miserable in class and we didn't get along that well.
She had arranged a job interview in Phuket and wanted to come to my house so that I could help her prepare for the interview, which was in English. I told her that it wasn't convenient, but she insisted and duly turned up.
I can't work in Thailand and wasn't expecting any money, which was convenient because she made it very clear when she came that she wouldn't be paying me anything. I did, at least, expect her to say thank you, but she never did. After her job interview she never contacted me again.
This is what I mean about some of the contradictory behaviour surrounding Thai cultural behaviour and if you ever drive in Thailand forget about any form of polite Thai behaviour.
There are many unique aspects of Thai cultural behaviour and in many cases they aren't used on their own. When the different aspects start being combined it can get really difficult.
There is a strict social hierarchy in Thai society that is strictly observed by all Thais. Everyone knows their position in the hierarchy and those lower down act very deferentially to those higher up. My wife is in her mid 30's and quite mature, but I have written before how she acts like a little child when in the company of 'poo yai' (big people).
When I was teaching in Thailand I would always ask my students, "Any problems, any questions?" There would never be any questions and the students would always say they understood everything, whereas this was never the case.
My Thai friend's niece was here at the weekend and she works for a large, multinational company in Bangkok. There are Thai employees, but also a lot of foreigners, and - like all big companies - there are lots of meetings.
She told me that the foreigners complain about the Thai employees because they never say anything at meetings. This is very typical behaviour for Thais, but a foreigner's perception is that they never contribute anything. It's one of those cultural problems.
Of course, the Thai employees are fully aware of any problems that might exist and probably have ideas how to solve them, but they won't stand up in meetings where 'big people' are present and make their ideas known.
I asked my friend and his niece if there was anything they wanted to do while here. Greng jai came into play again and they told me nothing. They just wanted to visit me and my family.
I took them out for lunch on Sunday and we finished around 2pm. My friend then said he wanted to go to the beach in Songkhla. I had to say no. It's about an hour away normally, but a lot of locals go to the beach on Sundays and there are major road works on the way at the intersection for Yo Island.
I have two young children who need to do school work for school the following day and I can't make decisions like that at the drop of a hat.
However, if he had ignored greng jai and been honest about what he wanted to do we could have set off early on Sunday and arranged to go to the beach for lunch.
I wrote some things about Thai cultural behaviour a while ago, but these pages hardly get any visitors. Visitors to this website are a little like visitors to Thailand in general. They are mainly interested in nightlife, sex, massage, shopping, etc and have no interest in the things that foreigners really need to know about Thailand, such as language and cultural behaviour.
As I said above, if you are just a two-week tourist it doesn't make any difference, but it does make a difference if you go beyond the tourist stage. It still amazes me that so many foreigners live in Thailand for years and have absolutely no interest in learning anything about the spoken or written language.
One thing that my friend's niece did mention is that the younger generation of Thais - especially those who have studied abroad - are different, and that their thinking is quite Western. This is promising, but it will still take a very long time before any change becomes noticeable.
When I was teaching, the school would send a few students off to another country for a year on a scholarship. When they came back the change in not just their ability, but also their behaviour was astounding.
Not only had their English language ability improved immensely, but they just had so much more confidence and they weren't afraid to speak out or ask me questions.
Shyness is regarded as a very positive characteristic in Thailand. 'Big people' run the show and little people are meat to be shy, deferential and obedient. Many visiting foreign tourists find their hotel staff to be very endearing because of the culture, but when you spend any amount of time in Thailand some of the cultural traits can start to cause quite a few problems.
Friday 16th February 2018
When I got hold of my old film negatives last year I was quite excited about seeing the photos from Thailand that I took in 1987. The problem is that many of the scenes don't look a whole lot different to how they are today.
There were a lot fewer tourists in Thailand back then and a lot less development, but this isn't obvious in many of the photos. Beaches and temples look exactly the same, many Thais nowadays lead a similar way of life, and the Thai way of driving never changes.
The most noticeable things are those that are missing from the photos. Bangkok 30 years ago was mainly on one level - street level. There were no elevated highways or railways and not that many tall buildings. Nowadays, the Bangkok skyline looks completely different.
Bangkok 1987 - many things in Thailand never change
Bangkok Chinatown in 1987
Thais still install electricity cables the same way
Other locations have changed a lot more. In 1990, when I first visited Singapore, many areas had yet to be developed and Singapore these days looks a lot different.
In 1991, when I did a tree-planting expedition in Sequoia National Park, my Thai friend and I drove from Ventura, California to Las Vegas. It was my only trip to Vegas. Despite having spent a lot of time in the States, Las Vegas has never been my kind of place. I never went back, but I have become familiar with Vegas from TV and movies and the Las Vegas I see now is very different to the one I visited in 1991.
All of the landmarks in the following two photos seem to have been demolished now or, in the case of the Candlelight Wedding Chapel, been moved - the Morocco Motel, Silver City Casino, Riviera Hotel and Casino, La Concha Motel, El Rancho Hotel and Casino, Algiers Hotel. I must be getting old.
Las Vegas, 1991
Las Vegas, 1991
I have a bit more spare time on my hands these days and will upload more old photos soon.
Thursday 15th February 2018
In the last few years many people close to me have died, including my mother. However, the death of my cat last week has probably hit me the hardest of all. I know this isn't the kind of thing I should admit to, but after not being able to sleep on Saturday night and looking around the Internet I found that it isn't uncommon. Many people suffer enormously after losing an animal companion.
I read that the sense of loss is just as great, but that it doesn't last as long compared to the death of a person.
I've probably spent more time with my cats in the last eight years than I have done with any person. As I write now, my remaining cat is sitting on my desk next to me. That's quite normal. Wherever I am, the cats follow. They have been permanent features in my life for a long time.
With my wife soon to return to work I was looking forward to spending some quality time at home with my feline companions. I prefer their company to the company of many humans. Now, there will be just one, not two.
My two cats were very close
I think I made a mistake last week by not letting the female see her dead brother for the purpose of closure. She seems better now, but for several days she didn't eat. All she knew was that her brother disappeared last week, when I took him to the animal hospital, and never came back. They grew up together and were very close. I feel really sorry for her.
On Monday my wife and I went to a local temple to make merit for Monty.
The temple where we made merit
Suffice to say, my creative juices aren't flowing right now I haven't really been in a writing mood this week. I sat down on Wednesday and uploaded some of the old film negative scans that I retrieved from the UK last year, but this was just a mechanical process.
It's Chinese New Year tomorrow and this is a big festival in Thailand. In many countries it is just celebrated in 'Chinatown' areas, but in Thailand it is celebrated everywhere. My wife bought a whole chicken last night, as she does every year. She will roast it and put it on a table at the front of the house along with other goodies while she goes through a little ceremony to bring forth good luck.
My wife's Chinese New Year offerings in 2014
She's not Chinese, but the Thai people came from China originally and there has been so much Chinese immigration in Thailand over hundreds of years that all Thais have at least some Chinese DNA in their blood.
There's a small story attached to the chicken. One of the parents at my kids' school sells chickens as a sideline and although the price per kilo is expensive, my wife agreed to buy from her as a favour. The woman sold her a chicken that she said was 2.3kg. My wife thought it was small and weighed it when she got home. It was 1.8kg. This has really upset her.
As I have mentioned before, there are two realms of existence for Thais and these are quite separate. The inside world of family and friends is one in which people are kind, honest, trusting, and help each other. The outside world is pretty evil and is full of bad people who cheat, deceive, lie and perform all kinds of immoral activities.
Many foreigners get scammed in Thailand and Thais know that if they deal with someone from the outside realm there is a good chance they will be cheated. Word of mouth is very powerful in Thailand and the main reason is that if a close fried or relative recommends another person it will be a person who can be trusted.
When Thais are dealing with people in the inside world they expect honesty, integrity and trust. This includes the parents of our children's friends and by lying about the weight of a chicken my wife feels that this trust has been betrayed, especially as the price was high in the first place.
I'll post again soon, but I'm still not feeling that great at the moment.
Saturday 10th February 2018
House burglaries are common in Thailand and not since I went to South Africa have I seen so much protection against burglary. Many houses have burglar bars on windows (lek dut) and many private housing developments have their own security guards. The guards monitor who enters and leaves the development, as well as carrying out patrols every hour to make sure there aren't any problems.
The peace of mind that comes with this is a major reason why people choose to live in 'gated communities'. Had I bought some land elsewhere and had a house built I could have had a bigger house, but without any of the security. However, security was very important for me and my family so we decided to buy a house inside a gated community.
Naturally, security guards have to be paid for and if someone chooses to live inside a gated community then you would think that they would accept having to pay for the service. But that isn't necessarily the case in Thailand.
When I paid for my house just over five years ago I had to pay two years service charge at the same time. After that I was expecting a bill for year three, but for years 3, 4 and 5 no one asked for any money. This quite surprised me and I have never found out why.
However, late last year the owner of the development gave every house a service charge bill for the coming year. Considering that I didn't have to pay for three years, it seemed quite reasonable. The amount varies according to how much land you own, but my bill was Bt16,176 and the other houses are about the same.
Thailand works very differently to the UK. In the UK everyone has to pay a council tax (the charge used to be called 'rates') for local services. There is no equivalent in Thailand and I'm not sure exactly how the local municipalities are funded.
Thais should count themselves quite fortunate, but that's not how many think. Quite a few think that any money they earn is just to spend on themselves and they don't like paying taxes, insurance, service charges, or anything else that doesn't benefit them directly.
We have paid our service charge, as have about 10 neighbours. However, there are many people refusing to pay. Some don't want to pay anything and some only want to pay a few thousand Baht, but they still want the security guards and all the other services.
In addition to paying the wages for the security guards, the owner of the development also pays for street lighting, gardeners, cleaners, garbage collection, a CCTV security system, and he is building a leisure complex at the front of the development that will benefit residents.
It's a pleasant development and when people drive in they are generally impressed. But, of course, looking after the development requires money and someone needs to pay.
My housing development
In the UK if people refused to pay they would be taken to court and made to pay through the legal system. As I have mentioned many times, Thais don't seem to like taking punitive action against others and they won't do this. I find it very strange and asked my wife what would happen if some people continue refusing to pay. She told me one of two things.
If someone refuses to pay and then wishes to sell their house, they won't be allowed to sell it until this debt is paid. If they refuse to pay for another five years and accumulate a bill of Bt80,000, either they or the person wishing to buy the house will have to clear the debt first.
The other alternative is to refund the people who have already paid and then to remove all services. The development will be pitch black at night and there will be no security guards. No one will clean up, garbage won't be collected, public green spaces won't be tended, and it will start to look terrible. The rat population will probably explode and this will probably lead to an increase in the snake population.
This second option won't be at all desirable, but it may persuade our stingy neighbours to part with some of their precious money - and they do have the money.
One guy who is making a big fuss about the service charge has a big pickup truck, an even larger Toyota Landcruiser, and a big motorbike. These are his toys and he is happy to spend money on such things, but won't spend any money on essential services.
Thais don't like paying taxes, either. Probably none of us do, but most of us accept that we have to. Last year Thai immigration started getting very serious about foreigners in the country proving where they live and one of the things they ask to see is a foreigner's rental agreement.
I was talking to a foreigner who had a big problem with this because her landlord didn't want anyone to know she was letting out a property. The reason was because she didn't want to pay tax.
Similarly, I was talking to a restaurant owner who wanted to move to smaller premises. He found a suitable location, but then had a problem. He wanted to do everything above board and register his business, however, the owner of the property didn't want anyone to know he was letting out the property because he didn't want to pay tax.
I still don't know what will happen, but if one day the security guards don't turn up for work and all the other services stop I won't be very happy.
Life is suffering.
As soon as we are born we begin to suffer from illness and eventually death. In addition to our own physical suffering, we suffer when others near to us suffer and die. If we aren't very careful about the way we learn to think we also suffer emotionally and this mental suffering can actually be far worse than physical suffering.
As a logical and pragmatic person, Buddhism struck a chord with me when I first started reading about it. No leaps of faith were necessary, I didn't have to believe in any God, there were no unrealistic expectations of life and no false optimism. Its central tenet, that life is suffering, may sound pessimistic to some but that's how life is. Once you accept this you can then start learning how to stop the suffering.
I've always regarded Buddhism as a philosophy and the greatest ever understanding of the human condition. Sometimes I refer to is as a 'religion', but I don't really like this term because it has far too many negative connotations.
After a bad year last year, 2018 started quite well without any major problems. It didn't last long. During the last few months I've spent countless hours digging up my garden to remove rubbish and prepare it for grass and plants. I thought I had finished, but today I found myself digging once again. I have never dug a grave before.
Some people love animals. I don't think there are many people who dislike animals, but quite a few are indifferent about animals. A minority enjoy killing animals in the name of sport.
I'm in the first group, and have a special affinity towards cats. My parents had a cat before they had children, so as soon as I arrived in the world I had the company of a cat. After that one died, more followed.
Thailand has lots of cats and every one I meet gets talked to and stroked. I find urban Thailand far too frenetic and one of my favourite ways to escape the hustle and bustle is to visit a temple and make friends with the temple cats. Every temple in Thailand has a menagerie of animals.
I can't make other people love animals, but as a father I can try to make my kids love animals. After getting married we got two cats before our children arrived and my plan work. The kids have grown up with cats in the house and we have also made a point of introducing them to lots of animals. It was probably in their genes anyway, but they are also animal lovers.
My two cats just over seven years ago
The first cat I got here was a really sweet male. He was really friendly and didn't have a spiteful bone in his body. A little later we got him a little sister. Unfortunately, his blood had a problem and a few years ago he became very ill. He stopped eating, slept all the time and became very emaciated. I was sure he was about to die.
As well as having good human hospitals, Thailand also has good animal hospitals. One of the local animal hospitals diagnosed leukemia. They treated him, gave him a blood transfusion, and it gave him a new lease of life.
However, he started to show the same symptoms again about a week ago. I took him back to the same hospital on Thursday where he was admitted. They said they would try to treat the infection first and then give him another blood transfusion if necessary. This morning I was about to pay him a visit when the hospital called. He died during the night.
I know it's 'only' a cat and I know that nothing is permanent in life. I know these things, but it still hurts. The cats have their favourite sleeping spots around the house and we get used to seeing them. When he was admitted to hospital on Thursday the house felt really strange. I mentioned it to my wife and she made the remark that they are just like family. Today I lost a member of my family.
In the UK whenever pets died at the vets the vet always took care of the body. That wasn't the case today and he was given to us in a cardboard box. Fortunately, the garden is big enough for a burial plot. If not for that, I'm not sure what I would have done.
This has all happened very quickly and this latest death has hit me quite hard.
Thursday 8th February 2018
I was only given homework at school when I entered high school. It's different in Thailand, where kids are given homework as soon they start Kindergarten at the age of three. Could you help a young Thai child with their homework? I'll give some examples in a minute.
If you are reading this, then I assume you are fluent in English and helping with English homework wouldn't be a problem. The only problem I encounter when I help my daughter with her English is trying not to confuse her when I point out all her Thai teacher's mistakes and try to explain that what she has been taught at school is wrong. This happens a lot. Nonetheless, the Thai teachers are qualified to teach in Thailand whereas I'm not. This is just one of a multitude of problems with the Thai education system, but that isn't today's topic.
Homework for Kindergarten (anubaan) kids isn't a problem, but all the instructions are written in Thai, which is a problem if you can't read Thai. The youngsters are just taught to count and are expected to know the English alphabet and Thai script. There is also a lot of colouring.
After three years of Kindergarten they go into Pratom, where they will stay for six years. I'm no longer sure what this is equivalent to in other countries, but it's probably what I used to know as junior school and Pratom students are around six to 12.
My daughter is in Pratom 1, but at her school - which is regarded as being a better school than most others - the kids follow the national curriculum for the year above. She is therefore studying at Pratom 2 level.
I mentioned the problems with English above and she also has a lot of maths homework. Thai students do learn the Thai numbering system, which is vastly different from Arabic numerals, but they don't use the Thai system for their maths school work.
After many years of living in Thailand I have concluded that nowadays Thai numerals have only one purpose in Thailand. The system of dual pricing is widespread in Thailand and Thai numerals are used solely to hide Thai prices from foreigners, the vast majority of whom can't read Thai. Thais don't want foreigners to know that they pay a lot less than foreigners to visit the same tourist attractions.
The Thai script in red is Thai numerals, which most non-Thais can't read
Because Arabic numerals are used in Thai schools, helping Thai kids with maths homework can be very easy. On the other hand, if the child only speaks Thai and is taught in the Thai language at school you will need to know some basic Thai. Knowing your Thai numbers and buak, lop, koon, harn (add, subtract, multiply, divide) is useful.
Homework for young Thai children
Once again, though, to do a lot of the homework you need to be able to read Thai. Many of my daughter's maths homework questions are in a written form. "A woman has 47 oranges, but 7 are bad. She puts the remainder in bags and each bag can hold 8 oranges. How many bags does she need?" For Westerners this is extremely easy in English, but not so easy when the questions are written in Thai.
Look at the next two examples to see what I mean. The first one is about time. Kem is the hand of a clock, sun is short and yaaw is long. The verb chee with one tone means to urinate, but with another tone means to point. The question is asking where the hands of a clock are pointing at 11am. The second one is about selling baby chickens. It's basic stuff, provided you can read Thai.
Homework for young Thai children
Homework for young Thai children
I can still keep up at this level. My daughter reads faster than I do and her reading comprehension is better than mine, however, even though it takes me a bit longer I can do these questions. What I'm not sure about is for how much longer.
I suspect that my current ability will be exceeded next year because of the emphasis on the Thai language. To mitigate against this I am concentrating on developing my daughter's English language skills so that she will continue to be bilingual.
That way, if I don't understand the instructions for a maths question but she is able to translate for me, I may still be able to help her with the actual mathematics.
On the positive side, I do like the style of maths teaching that she has to do. It reminds me of my old junior school, which still had a lot of post WW2 teachers and where subjects were taught the old-fashioned way. The type of problems she has to solve are relevant to life.
When I went into a 'progressive' secondary school this was all dropped and all I seem to remember doing was drawing Venn diagrams and other esoteric things that never helped me in life.
An update on my wife. She went back to the school on her own yesterday to tell the school she had changed her mind about the job and wouldn't be accepting it. She returned home and told me she would be starting work in May. Mmm, I had a sneaking suspicion this would happen.
I've mentioned the Thai system of social hierarchy many times and people who are low in the hierarchy feel very small and insignificant when they talk to those above. They don't have the confidence to speak their minds, but only want to placate big people (poo yai).
I mentioned a while ago that when my wife and I went to talk to a high ranking immigration official about my visa extension she used the personal pronoun 'noo' for 'I'. It means mouse. This was to indicate to the big official that in her presence my wife was just an insignificant little mouse.
This is what happened yesterday. My wife, a lowly teacher, was talking to the head of the school and didn't have the confidence to say no. It was easier just to say yes, even though we had decided beforehand that it would be best for her not to work.
We will now have to see how it goes. Some days will be great and I will have all day to myself, which hasn't happened for a long time. At other times I will have to look after the children all day while she is at work. If it doesn't work out she can quit after a year, but fairly soon I will have a working wife.
Wednesday 7th February 2018
Yesterday, my wife was offered, and verbally accepted, a teaching job. Last night and all this morning she was filling in reams of forms and photocopying various documents. There is a huge amount of bureaucracy in Thailand and everything is paper-based. My passport has been photocopied so many times over the years that the ink has now started to fade.
She has been very quiet and I've known her long enough to know that something wasn't quite right. I have been deliberately keeping out of this because I want her to make the decisions that affect her life. However, today I simply asked her if she was sure ("Nair jai mai?," as our language of communication is Thai).
"Mai," came the reply. No, she wasn't sure. We then sat down to discuss the matter and she poured her heart out. She told me she was thinking about this all last night and didn't sleep.
For about 20 years (since the time when my own life started to go off the rails making me unhappy), I've read a lot about the way people think, act and behave.
My wife's problem is a classic conflict between heart and brain, something that has affected me in the past and something that I would guess affects most people.
There are things in all of our lives that make us happy and things that make us unhappy. These things are different for everyone. We all know precisely what they are, but what may seem very strange is that many people make decisions that will make them unhappy. Why is this?
It is very easy to become conditioned/programmed by society and this conditioning becomes a major part of our thought process. Money and status are valued very highly in our societies and therefore jobs that pay lots of money and have lots of prestige are highly valued. I often hear it said how well a person who has a high paid job is doing, even if they are under immense pressure, stressed out, don't have time to spend with their families, and are close to having a nervous breakdown.
This conditioning is very powerful and I saw it a lot when I was teaching at a Thai high school. Students are pressured by their parents and conditioned by society in general to go into well-paid careers. For this reason, lots of Thai students have aspirations to go into medicine because it is one of the few career options in Thailand that pays reasonable money.
However, a young person may have very different ideas what it is in life that will make him or her happy. And money and status may be so unimportant to that person as to make these things insignificant. But that's not what society tells us.
This conditioning affects the brain, but that is just one voice inside our bodies. What we should really be listening to is our heart/gut/intuition/instincts/sixth sense - whatever you want to call it. That is the voice that really understands what it is that will make us happy or unhappy.
My wife knows perfectly well that taking this job will cause all sorts of domestic strife. She will be treated almost like a slave for her US$475 a month and the work will make her very tired. As a result, she, me, and our children will all suffer. Her heart is telling her not to take it.
However, her brain has been telling her that having a job is better than not having a job, earning a salary is better than not earning a salary, that we will get a discount on school fees, etc etc.
At the times when we suffer from these internal conflicts it is often the brain that wins, but what I have discovered in life is that it is always better to go with what our hearts are telling us.
The last time I saw her today, she was going to the school to tell them that she has changed her mind. I am waiting now to see if she actually did this, or backed down and changed her mind again. She feels under pressure and thinks that if she says no it will be letting them down, but I have told her that she has to put her own life first.
If the working hours were less or if the salary was higher, there might be some justification. But knowing how Thai employees are treated and knowing how little they earn, it seems hardly worth while.
I can understand Thai teachers resenting the foreign teachers who work alongside them. When I used to teach in Thailand I started work late and finished early. Thai teachers start work at 7am, or earlier, so that they are around when the students start to arrive.
They work several hours after the students finish, work during school holidays, and many also work at weekends. The standard salary for a foreign teacher around these parts is Bt30,000, whereas it is half that for a Thai teacher and their salaries only increase by Bt200 per month each year. Thai teachers get a really bad deal.
Foreign teachers do less work, earn twice the salary, and still whinge like crazy about their low salaries. They're not wrong. Compared to other countries their salaries are very low, but in Thailand you have to make comparisons with Thai salaries.
I'll make another update later. This year started off really smoothly compared to the last few years, but there are always complications.
He's been at it again. Pathetic.
Tuesday 6th February 2018
The airline industry has gone crazy in this region since I moved to Thailand in 2003. At that time if I wanted to fly from Hat Yai to Bangkok there was only one option - the national carrier Thai Airways. The trouble was that it was very expensive and thus very few people flew.
Instead, people used road and rail services. There are trains with sleeping carriages and although it is cheap and a pleasant way to see the southern Thai countryside, the journey takes a very long time. The slowest train takes in excess of 18 hours.
Minivans are faster, but the way they are driven terrifies me and for many, many years I have avoided minivans in Thailand at all costs. The only time I ever ride in a minivan is when there is no other option, which is sometimes the case on certain journeys.
There are also big buses. These range from basic public buses with small, hard seats to private VIP buses where you have big, reclining seats and can actually sleep.
In 2004 the budget airline industry suddenly took off in Thailand. Budget airline fares to Bangkok were about the same as bus fares, but with a journey time of just over an hour it was far better to fly. If you kept an eye out for promotional fares you could get to Bangkok for far less than the bus fare.
The reliability wasn't great at first. In 2004 I took an Air Asia flight to Bangkok, which was fine, but there was a 7 hour delay with the return flight. Instead of arriving home at 8pm I got in at 3am and had to work the following morning. I vowed then never to fly Air Asia again and in future always flew with Nok Air. However, I have to admit that I have since flown a few times with Air Asia and their reliability is now better.
Whenever I fly between Hat Yai and Bangkok the plane is always full and I have to assume that most people choose to fly these days.
The same thing has happened in other Southeast Asian countries and new routes open all the time. The Bangkok Airways flight I took from Bangkok to Da Nang in October was very convenient and also cheap.
Of course, the demand for planes has grown and because so many routes are fairly short, aircraft manufacturers have discovered that customers want relatively small planes, not enormous A380s. Accordingly, the demand for pilots has also grown. In the next two decades the world will need another 637,000 pilots.
I spoke yesterday about the lack of job opportunities in Thailand and already I am getting concerned about my kids' futures. My wife and I have talked a lot about our son being a pilot, but because most pilots pay for their own training (about US$200,000) I'm not sure how this will happen. Anyway, it will be his decision as to what he wants to do in the future. I don't believe in parents planning their children's careers.
China is offering US$500,000 per year to experienced pilots and I think that it would be a fun job. My kids are like me and I think they would hate the boredom and confinement of working in an office.
I'm now going to get a little political, but only to highlight the stupidity of the world we live in today and to underline why I have been enjoying listening to Jordan Peterson's voice of reason so much recently.
According to the report I linked to above, only 3% of experienced commercial pilots are women. Historically, airline pilots have been regarded as male and I guess this had discouraged many women from taking up the profession.
Every Thai dentist that has ever done work on my teeth has been a woman and women are just as capable as men of driving vehicles and flying planes if they have been properly trained and have the experience. Because of the way that most Thai males drive, in Thailand I would choose a female driver every time if I could. If my daughter, rather than my son, announced that she wanted to become a pilot I would do everything I could to support her.
However, the fact of the matter is that currently just 3% of experienced pilots are women, meaning that the vast majority of experienced airline pilots are men. So, if someone was to make a decision that starting tomorrow half of all pilots will be women, how would you feel? The reason for this decision being: Because it is 2018.
Airlines would no longer be able to appoint pilots based on ability and experience, but would just have to fill a quota. The result would mean that lots of very experienced male pilots would be grounded and out of work, and many planes in our skies would be flying around with female pilots who didn't really have enough experience.
It doesn't make any sense at all, does it? Yet this is exactly what Justin Trudeau did when selecting his cabinet in 2015. His reason: Because it is 2015. Listen to what Jordan Peterson has to say about this.
I am not racist, sexist, misogynistic or any other label that you might want to pin on me. Of the three most important people in my life, two are female and all three are Thai citizens.
I consider myself pragmatic, realistic and all I want to hear is some truth and common sense coming from the mouths of our elected leaders, but it is becoming impossible these days. The good news is that I am now starting to hear more and more voices fighting back against this insanity. Maybe there is some hope?
My wife has gone off to apply for the teaching job today. She spoke with some teacher friends at the school yesterday and one of the benefits is that if she starts working there again our kids will get quite a big discount on their fees. That is good news for me.
If she starts taking the kids to school and bringing them home it will give me a lot more free time, which will also be good for me, although there will be times when I have to take care of them at weekends. It will also mean me doing more housework, but it is already me who does most of the dishwashing and laundry and I don't mind doing it.
I'm quite happy being at home and some extra free time will allow me to get on with some of the projects that I have in mind.
I was fortunate earlier in my life to get a lot of things out of my system. I did a lot of travelling, owned bachelor pads, drove sports cars, and generally did whatever I wanted to do for a long time.
I certainly haven't given up on life, but there is no long list of things that I want to do and I also believe that by having these so-called 'bucket lists' it can make you dissatisfied. Always striving to have things or to do things is 'grasping', in Buddhist terms, and ultimately it leads to suffering.
My life is comfortable and fulfilling enough as it is and all I want now is for my wife and kids to be happy. If going back to work makes her happy, it's fine by me. If she wants to quit again, that is also fine.
Monday 5th February 2018
A couple of weeks ago I saw a lot of news coverage about the new Amazon cashierless supermarket that has just opened. This is where you simply walk into a supermarket after registering first with an application on your mobile phone. You take what you want, leave without paying, and the electronic gadgetry inside the supermarket charges your credit card directly. It was all made out to be revolutionary and very leading edge.
However, I then saw a report on Channel News Asia about the same technology in China, where it already seems to be quite well established.
None of the reports I watched about the Amazon venture mentioned that the technology was already well established in China.
China now has the world's fastest supercomputers (running on Chinese designed and made CPUs) and whereas Chinese goods might have been regarded simply as cheap copies once upon a time, that is certainly no longer the case. For almost every piece of Western technology and software application there is a Chinese equivalent. Chinese technology is getting very good and it is generally a lot cheaper.
I'm not into mobile phones and must be one of only about 10 people in Thailand not to own a smartphone, but most Thais are obsessed. For a long time Thais have had a love affair with Apple iPhones, but my wife was telling me recently that no longer applies.
For starters, Apple phones are very expensive - and Apple also charges a lot for extra memory. There is a lot of proprietariness with Apple products and the products seem to have built in planned obsolescence. At one point it wasn't possible to replace an iPad battery. Some iPhones were rendered useless by an OS update after being repaired outside the Apple service network.
People who wanted to use earphones found that the new iPhone had no earphone jack and that it was necessary to buy expensive wireless earphones. People wanting to connect devices to their Apple products have to buy adapters because of the proprietary Apple connectors and the latest problem was the discovery that iPhones run slower the older they get (planned obsolescence).
My wife has told me that her next phone won't be an iPhone and she tells me that many of her friends feel the same way. The three brands she mentioned are Oppo, Vivo and Huawei, which are all Chinese. The quality of these brands, she tells me, is very good.
My perception is that Apple also make good products, but they are expensive and that Apple's profit margin and desire to protect future business is always the most important consideration, rather than what is best for the customer.
The world has already changed dramatically as a result of China's modernisation, but we are now entering another very interesting stage. Up until now China has just been used for the cheap manufacture of both Western and Chinese designed goods. The Chinese designed goods coming out of China have generally been quite low tech. Now, however, that is changing and China is producing high tech products.
Western employees demand so much and have so many rights that it adds a huge overhead to the price of Western made goods. This isn't necessarily a bad thing and workers should be protected from exploitation, but I can't see how Western countries can compete against countries in which salaries are so low and where workers have virtually no rights or benefits.
Up until now, Western goods have had the advantage of higher quality and leading edge technology, but that advantage has now been eroded and will continue to be eroded.
I met my wife when I was teaching at a high school; she was an art teacher teaching the junior school kids. We both stopped teaching when our daughter arrived, but both our kids now attend the same school and she has remained on good terms with the teachers and the people who run the school.
Last week she sat me down to talk about something and I knew by the look on her face that it was something ominous. It wasn't as bad as I first thought, but it wasn't great either.
One of the art teachers at the school has just left and they want her to go back to work. I know she misses the social side of teaching and that sometimes she gets bored, so in some ways it will be good. In other ways it won't be good and this will have quite a big impact on my life.
Thai teachers work hard. They have to deal with lots of students and in addition to classroom time there is lesson preparation time and a huge amount of administration. Image always comes before substance in Thailand and it is far more important to have reams of student documentation and grades about the students rather than actually teaching them anything.
In addition, whenever there is a school activity and posters are required the request simply gets sent to the art department. If she works again there will be times when she will have to work late into the evening and/or at weekends. Whenever this happens it will be me who has to take care of the children.
Thai kids get long school holidays, but this doesn't apply to the teachers. The long breaks usually give us a chance to travel somewhere and we can choose quiet times. If she starts working again we will only have limited opportunities to travel and those times will be when everyone else wants to travel, meaning traffic jams and high hotel prices.
There are lots of disadvantages, but I could accept them if she was going to start bringing in a decent amount of money each money to help with our finances. However, that won't happen.
When she first started work she earned Bt7,000 per month (about US$222) - yes, that's a monthly salary. One of Yingluck's big election pledges was to raise graduate salaries to Bt15,000 a month, and this is what she will be earning - about US$475. How many teachers in the US would work for US$475 a month?
I've told her that it's up to her and I'm waiting for her to make a decision. I don't want to influence her decision either way because if there is a problem later I don't want to be blamed. If we lived in a Western country she could make good money cooking Thai food, giving massages (women only), and selling her artwork. These things would be valued quite highly in the West, but in Thailand these services pay peanuts.
Without any doubt there is an obsession with money in Thailand, but to a large extent it is quite understandable. There is no welfare system, as such, and therefore no safety net when you have no income. There are also very few opportunities for ordinary people to earn good money, even those with degrees.
One of my old students came to visit last week. After high school she went on to do an engineering degree and was hoping to get a job related to her degree. It just didn't happen and she is now working as a tour guide for her father's travel company. There is one option in Thailand for young, attractive girls to make very good money, but it isn't an option that is acceptable to every Thai girl.
This whole 'degree' thing has become a complete joke. When I left school in the mid-70's you went to university to do a degree if you wanted to enter a profession that required a degree. There were lots of great jobs with the best companies in the world that didn't require a degree and thus many people my age didn't go to university. Since then a degree has simply become the minimum level of qualification for any job, especially in Thailand.
In Thailand you can't apply for any job without a degree, no matter how qualified you may be in the real world sense. Conversely, if you have a degree in any subject whatsoever, you are qualified to do anything - according to Thai logic.
I read recently that a Swiss university is now offering degrees in yodelling. Yodelling graduates from deepest rural Switzerland with only a rudimentary grasp of the English language will now be able to get jobs in Thailand teaching English. On the other hand, if you are fluent in English with excellent knowledge of the grammatical structure of the language and an ability to be able to explain the language to foreign speakers in their own language, you have no chance of finding work in Thailand if you don't have a degree.
I spoke to my Thai friend again today and he will be coming down to visit us next week. He is the one who has lived in the US longer than he ever lived in Thailand and he is back in Thailand trying to decide where he will retire. He has been flip-flopping on this issue for years and my gut feeling is that he will die before he ever makes a final decision.
Today he told me he doesn't want to live in Thailand. The country has changed too much, the cost of living has gotten too expensive, too many people try to rip him off, there is too much traffic, he now has language problems with Thais, and he also has problems with his family.
He lives alone in the States and enjoys the lack of responsibility that he has, however, his family in Thailand remind him every day of the Thai cultural trait of taking care of his family. He doesn't want to be near his family and doesn't want this responsibility.
He's in his mid 60's and - as far as I am aware - has never been in a relationship of any kind. He's not gay, but I have known him since 1987 and he has never really expressed any interest in females, either.
I asked him today if he would like to settle down with someone and he immediately replied that he wouldn't. If he did, it would be virtually impossible finding someone in the States but not impossible in Thailand. With all kindness and respect, he wouldn't be considered the greatest catch, but having lived and worked in the US for a long time he has a regular monthly income and any man with a regular monthly income can find a partner somewhere in Thailand.
When in Thailand he acts like a farang tourist. He has just been hosting a friend from the States and they have been to Pattaya and Krabi. In Bangkok he likes to go to the Khaosarn Road where there are always hordes of farang backpackers.
He seems to have an affinity for Westerners and because he can bridge the gap between the West and Thailand, foreigners also like him. That's how I met him in Pattaya in 1987. I was in Thailand with a friend and we were like fish out of water. We had no language skills and, like all tourists, knew nothing about Thailand. He was a good person to have around.
When he called today he told me he was bored. His friend has gone home and he has visited Bangkok's tourist attractions so many times that they bore him.
I'm no psychoanalyst, but I have been watching quite a few of Jordan Peterson's videos this week. In one he mentioned that life can't have any meaning without responsibility. I found that comment very interesting.
My friend seems to want a life without responsibility and I see the same thing with a lot of Western expats in Thailand. I don't see many where I live, but whenever I visit Bangkok I see a lot. They walk around alone, eat alone, drink alone, and presumably live alone. They won't admit it, but when I look at their eyes I see a lot of unhappiness.
I guess for a lot of men a life without any responsibility must seem very desirable and when you live in Thailand where there is so much prostitution it is very cheap, simple and convenient to satisfy sexual needs while still not having any responsibility or commitment.
However, one of the most important lessons I learned in life was that you can have anything, but you can't have everything. At times I wish I could do whatever I wanted to do, which I can't now, and I wish that my money was all for me, which it isn't now, but my new responsibilities have also given me meaning in life.
As I was approaching the age of 50 in Thailand I had a plan. At that age I would be able to obtain a retirement visa and I would also be able to start collecting my private pension. My plan was to live temporarily in Thailand in a small rented room and to spend most of my time travelling around the Southeast Asia region.
This independent style of travelling, checking into hotels in all sorts of unknown and exotic places had always been something that I enjoyed immensely. What I didn't realise at the time, though, was that I had changed as a person. This lifestyle - which was all about me, me, me - started to bore me and I started to suffer from intense loneliness.
I married and became a father very shortly afterwards. Doing so meant taking on huge responsibilities and commitments, but I have probably never been happier and more content. I have none of the freedom that I used to have and, for the first time since I was about 21, I have to watch my spending because I am now financially responsible for four people, but it doesn't matter.
Men are notoriously wary about committing themselves to relationships, but I don't believe the quest for happiness in life can be achieved solely by attempting to avoid all responsibility in life.
Sunday 4th February 2018
Last month I wrote a little about Phattalung province and yesterday I took the family for a day trip to another of Thailand's lesser-known and lesser-visited provinces.
Satun is Thailand's southermost province on the Andaman coast and borders Malaysia. It has a Muslim majority and you see a lot more mosques than you do Buddhist temples. Because of this, no doubt, some sources will tell you it is dangerous but there are no problems at all. I would never take my family somewhere that could endanger them.
The beach at Pakbara in Satun province, southern Thailand
Satun does get quite a few visitors, but I would imagine that the vast majority head straight for Pakbara pier and board speed boats to take them to the nearby islands - Tarutao, Lipe, Bulon, etc.
Interestingly, I also saw quite a few gangs of Malaysian Mat Rempits yesterday on their little underbone bikes. Further into Thailand it isn't unusual to see gangs of Malaysian bikers on big bikes, but I guess Satun's proximity to the Malaysian border makes it more suitable for Mat Rempits.
Speedboat charters are available to the nearby islands
As I said, most visitors to Pakbara probably only see the pier but it's actually a pleasant little town. Along the coast is a narrow strip of beach with very fine, almost white sand and there are seafood restaurants, massage shops and hotels right on the beach facing the sea.
It has a very different feel to the well-known tourist resorts in Thailand, but that isn't always a bad thing. The beach was almost deserted, the restaurants were almost empty, and it was very peaceful and relaxing. The kids enjoyed building sand castles and playing in the sea and I enjoyed lying in a hammock under a Casuarina tree listening to the sea and taking in the view.
Can you see my hammock?
Because there are so few tourists the beach doesn't get cleaned like it does in places like Patong and the sand is covered with leaves and various flotsam and jetsam, but it's a small price to pay.
The economy of Satun province appears to be mostly agricultural. It has enormous rubber plantations and in addition I saw lots of palm oil and fruit trees.
Our lunch venue a few yards from the Andaman Sea
Pakbara is just a couple of hours' drive from my house. I have visited the beach at Songkhla so many times that it is now quite boring and it was good to go somewhere else. The Andaman coast is further away than the Gulf coast, but because peninsular Thailand is so narrow it doesn't take long to get over to the west side.
Many of Thailand's mainstream tourists resorts have turned quite ugly because of mass tourism, but the good thing is that there are still plenty of other places that are relatively unspoiled. For the time being, anyway.
Most visitors to Pakbara head straight off to the islands
There was a plan to build a deep sea port at Pakbara, but the local people protested against this and the owner of the restaurant where we ate yesterday told me this plan has now been abandoned. It would be such a shame to industrialise what is such a beautiful area.
Saturday 3rd February 2018
I hope the following doesn't offend anyone because that's not the intention, but this is the problem. Everyone is so easily offended these days that we are constantly avoiding saying or writing things that might provoke an attack.
Freedom of speech is being eroded and for every subject there is just one view, which we all have to adhere to and we can't say what we really believe. Below is a link to an interview on this subject that has been viewed by a lot of people recently. If you haven't already seen it, it's worth watching.
How long before there is a mass migration of white men from Western countries to Asian ones? One of the reasons I moved to Thailand (there were many) was because of the post-modernist, politically correct movement that attempts to deny the basic human behaviour that has come about through millions of years of evolution.
As a middle-aged, white, conservative, heterosexual male I started to find that I was being marginalised and discriminated against in the workplace and as I couldn't do anything about it in the UK the only way was to go elsewhere.
I'm glad I did. Not only Have I never had any desire to return, almost every day I read news stories that vindicate the decision I made to leave.
Radical feminism isn't only detrimental to males, it is also detrimental to females. There were two stories this week, which were basically the same. Certain sporting events that attract mainly male audiences have traditionally employed attractive girls to promote the events and keep the male audiences happy.
The girls who do it are not coerced in any way at all. On the contrary, they enjoy the work, enjoy the money and attention they receive, and do not feel 'objectified'.
The 'grid girls' who promote Formula 1 get to travel around the world and have a really good time. However, a lot of these girls will now lose the employment that provided fun and money.
It's not a problem in Thailand where lots of events are promoted by attractive girls. The girls who do this are known as 'Pretties'. Of course, this will upset the feminists, but the girls enjoy the work and need the money. The people who employ them appreciate what they do and male spectators enjoy looking at pretty girls. It's a win/win/win situation, but no longer in Western societies.
One of Thailand's 'Pretties' promoting motorbikes
If I was still living in the UK (which, thankfully I'm not) and if I was still single I wouldn't be allowed to approach a female for fear of my 'unwanted attention' causing offense. Poor, precious little things.
Fortunately, there are still countries in the world such as Thailand, where this isn't a problem for anyone. As a male, any attention you give to a female will not be 'unwanted'. Lots of girls will actually be interested and even those that aren't will at least have the common decency to be polite and considerate.
Thailand is also a good country for Western females who don't want any male atention. On several occasions in tourist areas I have seen groups of young Western females who, after spending hours preparing themselves, go for a night out in their best frocks.
They then find that they are completely ignored by other people. The local girls are generally far more attractive, far shapelier and - most important of all - aren't cursed with the same bad attitudes as Western females. Thai men aren't particularly interested in farang females and most Western men in Thailand certainly aren't.
One day these precious females who gripe about unwanted attention might actually realise that the only thing worse than 'unwanted' attention is to receive no attention at all.
I 'discovered' Jordan B Peterson on YouTube last week as a result of the train crash interview he had with Cathy Newman on Britain's Channel 4. What an incredible pleasure it was to hear a highly intelligent, articulate man speaking common sense and stating the truth about life, and what an antidote to the constant drivel I read in the mainstream media.
Remarkably, he is Canadian. Probably the two worst culprits in the Western world for politically correct nonsense at the moment (because of their respective Prime Ministers) are Canada and New Zealand.
Friday 2nd February 2018
The lack of blog updates recently is because I am desperately trying to get some external work finished around the house. I bought some items to do this last May and was about about to start work on the 25th May when our maid discovered a serious termite infestation inside the house.
Dealing with the termites became our most important issue and we stopped work on everything else. My mother then became very ill and died shortly afterwards, necessitating an emergency trip back to the UK. My daughter also underwent quite a big operation on her feet (with complications) and I had to make several trips to the hospital in Bangkok and also help with looking after her at home. 2017 wasn't the best year I have ever had. It seemed that I was dealing with emergencies the whole year and didn't get anything else done.
By comparison 2018 has been a breeze so far, but I need to catch up with all the work that didn't get done last year. I've been starting work immediately after returning from the morning school run and on several days I have worked into the evening. I've actually been enjoying the work and the results are very satisfying, but I haven't been able to get much done on-line.
Here's just a few photos from this week. On Wednesday evening we enjoyed the spectacle of a Super Blue Blood Moon. A total lunar eclipse caused the moon to go very dark and glow red. Apparently, it is a bad omen in Thailand and Thais were firing guns into the air to ward off evil spirits. I heard several shots.
I had an excellent view of the moon from my house and although I could possibly have got better photos from a different location, I didn't have much time to prepare. A friend of my wife's in Phuket told her that heavy cloud obscured the view there.
Super Blue Blood Moon over southern Thailand
Yesterday, while continuing my work in the garden I had a visitor come to the house. These green tree snakes are known as Golden Tree Snakes, and sometimes called flying snakes. They can't actually fly, but they can jump from great heights and glide down to the ground.
A year or two ago one visited my neighbour's house. For some reason she was concerned and called the security guard, who arrived and went about tackling the snake in the usual Thai fashion - with a large stick. I had to plead with him not to club it to death.
Apparently, they bite if you try to handle them, but they aren't venomous or aggressive and they are attractive snakes. I don't like seeing cobras in the garden, but these ones are quite welcome. After this one got bored with an ugly farang taking its photograph, it jumped on to the floor, went into my neighbour's house, and disappeared into some bushes.
Golden Tree Snake in southern Thailand
Golden Tree Snake in southern Thailand
More later ...
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand