Earlier this week I visited Ban Koh Lone School on the small island of Koh Lone, just off the coast of Phuket. The island was devastated by the 2004 tsunami. I went along with 2 colleagues to carry out some preliminary checks before we go back in a few weeks en masse to redecorate the library and the 2 classrooms still in use.
It’s been over 10 years since the tsunami hit and I would hate to see what is left of this place left to rot and ruin. I’m really looking forward to helping out this small community – a little bit of help can make a big difference here.
Here’s my Snapchat Story from the day to give you a feel of the condition of the school and this island. Apologies for the poor camera quality, I will be taking proper kit with me when we go back to do the volunteer work in a few weeks.
Every time it happens. And every time I fail to see what is happening to me until it gets too late.
Every rainy season, without fail. The rain comes, the sun goes into hibernation. My summer sun-kissed-ness (new word) fades.
Every. Thing. Is. Damp.
And somehow I let myself become the weather personified.
I am the cloud. I am the rain. I am the doom and gloom and I forget why I ever came to Thailand. A brief internet search has me self diagnosing myself with Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder. Which I probably don’t have considering I have survived many a grey Autumn/Winter back home in the UK.
My facebook news feed fills up with friends enjoying ice cool ciders on a Cornish beach. With festivals and BBQs and all that is wonderful and right about a British summer. Deck chairs. Pimms. Sipping Pimms in a deckchair. I even find myself thinking about the bloody seagulls. Yes, I miss those flying vermin that snatch tasty treats right out of your hand.
I can’t believe I would ever find myself hankering after a BRITISH summer. They aren’t exactly renowned for being that great.
The blog all but dies, and Facebook has a wonderful time reminding me of posts I had made when I first came here and rainy season was just a bit of exciting weather and everything was new and exciting and inspiring. Now I have nothing new or exciting or inspiring to post about. I am sorry dear readers, but I am beyond the point of writing just for the sake of it. And I am sure that you are glad of that.
But times are a’changing my dear.
Today is November 1st – the first official day of high season here in Phuket. And, same as every year, it’s like someone has flicked the sunshine switch back to ‘ON’ and it is glorious and beautiful and all things that make the weather in Thailand wonderful.
Today I am feeling thankful. Thankful that the sun has finally made an appearance that will hopefully continue for the coming months. Thankful that I can once again wear my summer dresses and my flip flops and have beach trips on the weekends and BBQs in the evenings. We may not be able to have a glass of Pimms but I can make a bloody good attempt at making some sort of Sangsom based summer cocktail.
I realise that as you read this in your Autumnal homeland with Winter drawing in and the prospect of not only rain, but sleet and snow and de-icing car windscreens and frozen pipes and… here I am complaining about a few months of rain. But it’s all relative baby – and I should count my lucky stars that it is hot once again and that I have survived another rainy season.
#firstworldproblems? I got me #Thailandproblems. And I would rather make it through a thousand more rainy seasons than ever have to de-ice my car or wear thermal underpants ever again.
Time to once again start loving my Thailand life. Expect more blog posts soon. I am out of hibernation once again.
Yes, that is a one-eyed cockerel. He mysteriously appeared in the garden yesterday morning. I’m guessing from his missing eye and the fact that he walks with a limp that he is an ex-fighter. I’m going to ask around but I have a feeling he may have been thrown over the garden wall – we are a bit of an animal sanctuary anyway so it makes sense to add a battle worn fighting cock to the mix. He spent the day following Marjorie around and it wasn’t until after a few hours that he actually made any attempt to have his wicked way with her. I’m not sure what this means in terms of eggs and chicks and all that, I guess if she gets broody and sits on her eggs then perhaps we will have mini Marjories on the way!
Any ideas for a name for the gent?
In other chicken news… the chicks are well into their teenage stages of development. Marjorie has had a turn around from her initial dislike of the chicks and now won’t leave them alone! We actually released the chicks into the garden free range this weekend (maybe the cockerel has a taste for the younger lady and this was the reason for his arrival…) so they are having fun running around and chilling out in the shade of the banana trees.
We also have a group of four jungle fowl that have taken up semi-residence in the back of our garden. They are like skinny, long necked chickens and I am hoping that they join the ever growing flock that I have. We are leaving them alone but each day they edge closer and closer to us – the more the merrier I say! Just need to brush up on my egg recipes…!
That’s all for this backyard jungle update – stay tuned for more riveting news as it comes!
If you are looking for a travel brochure style review you are in the wrong place – this is all based on my own experience and I tell it like it is! Feel free to skip past my musings on this trip to view my pictures at the end of the post.
The name’s Bond… James Bond. James Bond Island to be exact. Or, as it is actually named; Khao Phing Kan. This island in Phang Nga bay was the setting for the bad guy’s lair in James Bond: The Man with the Golden Gun. It’s the one with a midget (sorry, little person) butler man and a lot of martial arts.
I had my family staying with me and it was their first time coming to Thailand and it was therefore my mission to try and demonstrate to them why I haven’t come back to the UK yet, mostly so my mum stops asking me and making me feel guilty (jokes… sorry mum!). My dad has arrived armed with not one but two Phuket travel guides, and having spent many hours on not one, not two, but three flights to get here, they had all had a good look at what was on offer and had compiled a pretty jam packed list of things to do while they were here. Going to see James Bond Island was pretty close to the top.
Personally, I’ve never fancied going on a trip to see James Bond Island. This probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t actually like James Bond films, or activities on or near the water. Nevertheless, the parentals were in town and the trip was being funded by the bank of mother, so now was the best time for me to check it out for myself.
Luckily for us, T had recently taken some other visiting friends to see the island a few weeks ago while I was slaving away at school (how rude) and so we had a little bit of background knowledge on whereabouts to go and a rough guide on pricing. We weren’t keen on booking a package trip through an agent in Phuket as these almost always end up overpriced, overcrowded and always involve some sort of unwanted stop off at a crappy factory outlet store where you are given a free drink (yay!) and have to listen to a rubbish talk about an equally rubbish product that no-one actually wants (sad face).
After a lazy morning we headed up through the north of Phuket and onto mainland Thailand, Phang Nga province. We drove for about 30 minutes, past lots of signs promising tours to James Bond Island, but these places are yet again your trusted packaged tour from your money grabbing agent. We wanted to get to the boat man ourselves and bargain us a deal. We reached a right hand turn off for can’t recall the name pier (really should have paid more attention). The car park was full of Chinese and Korean tour coaches so we knew we were in the right place only it was 1-0 to us because we didn’t have to endure a visit to the driver’s wife’s cousin’s daughter’s jewel shop beforehand – winning!
No sooner had we pulled up, a rather brash woman wearing a huge sun hat was on us proclaiming, “I have boat! I have boat!” but she was quickly pushed to the side when another lady recognised T from his previous visit a few weeks ago. “My friend! You come back!” – everyone is a friend when money can be made. We were swiftly escorted to the pontoon and told to wait while a boat and driver were arranged for us for the price of 2800THB for the whole group of us. Compared to the minimum 1200THB per person that all the tour agencies want this is a good deal, and you get a boat and driver all to yourself for the afternoon. The boats could easily seat 12 people (they definitely squeeze on at least 20 Chinese/Koreans but I’m being realistic/not ridiculously unsafe) so at that price it could work out at a really cheap price per person.
Our driver was called Khun Wim and he was happy to follow our lead for the afternoon. We started our journey travelling up river among the mangroves, which quickly opened out into the sea of Phang Nga bay and those infamous limestone cliffs jutting out of the water. It’s stunning scenery, but when you cast your eyes down from the ginormous cliffs you see the sheer amount of boats out on the water ferrying mostly Korean and Chinese tourists around the bay. Maybe during low season it might be a different story.
Our first stop was to go canoeing – this was at an extra cost to our original price but we were aware of this. We paid 400THB per person to be canoed around by friendly Thai guys who pointed out rocks shaped like elephants and took us through caves that were so small you had to lay down flat in the canoe. Last time that T went they had to pay 500THB… so the price is probably only 250 or 300 in reality. Next time…! Again, the landscape was beautiful, and it was really fun going in and out of the caves but doing so among hundreds of other people wasn’t quite the idyllic experience. I’m getting more and more keen to check this place out once tourist season is over.
Next on our itinerary was James Bond island itself. Our driver told us that for 200THB per person (surprise, another added cost) we could go onto the actual island and walk around. We took one look at the island, with streams of tourists moving from crap shop to crap shop and decided we were happy taking pictures from the water. We went around the island, our driver making sure we got all the good angles and were happy with our pictures before moving on to our next destination. I’ll be honest; the actual James Bond island part of this trip was probably the worst bit – the canoeing and our next destination were definitely much more enjoyable. Seeing James Bond island is more to be able to say you’ve been there, and have the picture on facebook to prove it.
Our third and final destination was Koh Panyee (which I have written about before here) – a place that I have always wanted to visit since seeing the story of their floating football pitch in a Thai advert and on a Vice documentary on YouTube. This floating community seem to have set up camp where the environment makes it almost impossible to do so – completely built on stilts with no dry ground to speak of – it’s a good thing they like eating fish. We had a top notch dinner stop (affording our driver to claim his free plate of fried rice) which actually wasn’t too expensive and was really, really tasty. Side note: this is a Muslim community (the shining golden mosque dominating the village is a slight giveaway) so please don’t do what my dad did, and ask for a large Chang beer while also wearing a Chang vest. Cringe. After our food we went on a quick explore through the village; we had to tunnel through endless lanes of more crap souvenier shops before getting to the parts where the locals hang out. We were mostly interested in seeing the floating football pitch, so after making our way there we headed back to our driver, who took us back to the pier where our car was parked.
The whole trip was just under 4 hours long – plenty of time to do and see all that we wanted to. We kept our driver’s number this time so that we can come back during low season to see what it is like without being surrounded by other people!
Here are some pictures of the day – as much as I complained about the amount of people and the little hidden costs, it was really nice to explore the area and I think the pictures say it all.
Click on any image to take a closer look.
Our colourful boat
Pretty stunning scenery
Stilt houses – Koh Panyee
James Bond Island itself
Those limestone cliffs again
Approaching Koh Panwee
They send the cutest ones out to get all of your spare change
Moving to Thailand (or anywhere, for that matter) changes people. Learning to adapt, to make do, and to appreciate things that may not have been appreciated in a previous, non-expat life (like butter that actually tastes like butter, or Cadbury’s chocolate, or good underwear).
One of the most noticeable changes in myself (at least, it is the thing that I hear comments about the most), is my new found love for animals. Some people are born animal lovers – I was not. As a child I did have a bad tempered pet hamster that everyone was too afraid to hold, and a fairground goldfish that lived for 9 years (RIP Tyrone Mullet III) – but that’s about as far as my animal ownership had stretched until coming here. Having never had a cat or dog or other animal where you actually get some loving payback for your care (usually in the form of licks, sniffs and cuddles) I just didn’t get the whole animal thing. I certainly would never click on, like, or share a funny cat video online. Oh how things have changed.
Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will recall the first animal to enter my life – a scrawny, flea ridden unidentified black cat found under the stairs at school on the last day of term. I named her Cat, a non-name just in case she didn’t survive. But, two years later she is alive and well in all her semi-Siamese, bug-eyed beauty.
A few months later, we added Patchy to the mix when we scooped him up from the flooded gutter at the side of the road during rainy season. We initially couldn’t take him to Phuket with us and after a year staying with our old next door neighbour in Hat Yai he is now back with us. He’s actually not very well at the moment and is having weekly chemotherapy sessions as he has a TVT (transmissible venereal tumour) AKA a sexually transmitted cancer. Lesson learned here? Get your animals neutered, especially if they are out on the streets gang banging the night away. Luckily, the prognosis with these kind of tumours is very good, and don’t worry – as soon as he is well enough those balls are coming off.
After the move to Phuket, another animal entered the picture; this time he chose to adopt us (we surely all know about Brian). He’s old, he doesn’t have many teeth left and he has feline leukhemia (just call us Phuket animal hospice). Sometimes I look at him and think he has gotten so fat and healthy he could last for years. Other days I look at him and wonder how he is still going. They don’t put animals down here so it may be a long stretch for Brian yet, but he is very happy in the menagerie and much better off than his last home under a car in our street.
Then, when we moved to our new house with a lovely big garden, Marjorie the chicken quickly appeared – inherited from a friend from work. We were meant to be taking two chickens off her hands but one mysteriously disappeared (AKA someone spotted a plump looking hen and plucked her from the garden and onto the BBQ). Marjorie was hand reared and loves people. Most chickens run away when a person walks towards them, but Marjorie comes running!
When you’ve got one chicken, you may as well have a few more… and so five chicks were added to the clutch (yep, that is the collective noun for chickens there people). Unhappy hens don’t lay eggs, and I didn’t want Marjorie to be lonely!
Sadly Lil Benny, the runt of the chicks, didn’t make it very long. I learned an important message there about naming the smallest and cutest of a group of animals… small and cute = runt. Runt = not gonna make it. Lesson learned = lets avoid naming the chickens in future. Also will help if we end up having to eat any of them (clearly Marjorie will not be appearing on the dining table any time soon).
People often ask me what we will do with all of these animals when we finally move home. Luckily for us, home is the UK – and the UK is surprisingly laid back on bringing animals into the country. There are no quarantine requirements if your animal is micro chipped, has all of the necessary injections and a blood test to prove that they are rabies free. The only difficult part is paying to fly them home… we’d better start saving now! Obviously the chickens won’t be coming home with us. Maybe we will have a big leaving BBQ… chicken wing, anyone?