Remember

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month many millions of people around the world stop whatever they are doing.

Stop to take a moment from their hectic lives to pay their respects to the fallen. To those who paid the ultimate price to ensure that our busy lives can continue day by day with hardly a beat missed.

The 11th November 1918 saw the signing of the armistice treaty that officially brought an end to World War 1.

One year later in the grounds of Buckingham palace King George V hosted the first service of remembrance to commemorate the signing of the treaty and this became a national tradition. Two minutes silence is observed, the first minute is a time for reflection and give thanks for those who sacrificed so much, and the second is a time to draw your thoughts back to the living, to those who were left behind, the families who lost so much.

In 1939 the traditional armistice day services were moved to the closest Sunday to the 11th in order that production for the next Great War would not be interrupted. This continues to this day, although in recent years the focus has once again shifted back to the day itself.

 

RBL Paper Poppy
RBL Paper Poppy

Inspired by the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ written in 1915 by Major John McCrae,  the poppy has become a symbolic item worn by many as a mark of respect for those who perished and those who still serve. In the United Kingdom, remembrance poppies are sold by The Royal British Legion (RBL). This is a charity providing financial, social, political and emotional support to those who have served or who are currently serving in the British Armed Forces, and their dependents.

This year is the 100 year anniversary of the commencement of world war 1 and there have been many events organised in commemoration of this. By far the most striking is an instillation at the Tower of London titled ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red‘,  designed and created by Tom Piper and ceramic artistPaul Cummins   There are 888,246 ceramic poppies that cover the lawns of the tower, one for each of the British and commonwealth lives that were lost in the conflict. The last of which was placed there today by a 13 year old army cadet.

The many people that I know that have seen it have all been moved in different ways by the piece, I have only seen it in photographs, but have been similarly moved. The sheer scale of the piece brings into sharp focus just how many lives were lost.

Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon
Photograph used with kind permission of Michael P Mulcahy of Innercitylifelondon*

 

There has been much controversy in recent years about the political nature of wearing a poppy, but for me it is not a political statement, but a personal one. It gives a focus to my thoughts and I have a deep and emotional attachment to it.

During my life as an ex-pat it has become quite a mission to secure my remembrance day poppy. Although the poppy is a recognised symbol in mainland Europe, actually finding one was nigh impossible.

When we lived in France it was a simple matter of asking my mother to pop some in the post, but the mail delivery here in Thailand has proved to be somewhat hit and miss. And last years were hastily cobbled together from craft paper and pins. This year I was a little more organised and made crochet poppies to wear.

Crochet Poppies
Crochet Poppies

This morning I made sure that my hustle and bustle was completed in time for me to head to a local park where I could spend a contemplative few minutes in the tranquility of the flower garden alone with my thoughts. But it turns out I was not alone. There was an elderly gentleman who approached me as i meandered along to the coffee shop. He stopped me and in very broken English told me I looked sad and asked if I was ok. In VERY broken thai I told him I was fine and we sat and had a conversation only made difficult by the language barrier. My thai lessons are going well but I’m not yet up to discussing the geo-political nature of global conflict, so I did the best I could to explain why I was here and what my wooly poppy was for. It took a while, but the understanding in his eyes spoke more than words. When we parted he took my hand and said;  “War is bad, you remember- is very good”

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Jer Gan Mai

 

*I am a huge fan of this exceptionaly talented urban photographer. Please take a moment to look at the work of Michael P Mulcahy at Innercitylifelondon.

 

Loi Krathong

November the 6th was the full moon day of the twelfth month in the Buddhist calendar. It is a very special day, particularly in the Lanna kingdoms in the North of Thailand. It is the festival day of Loi Krathong.  Now as with any good Thai festival (particularly one that falls near a weekend) it has extended itself from one day ( the day of the full moon) , to 3 days of parades, contests, sky lanterns and, much to my dogs dismay, extremely loud fireworks.

The origins of loi Krathong are to be found in the ancient Hindi religious texts some of which have been wholeheartedly embraced by the wonderful mish-mash that is thai Buddhism. The basic idea is that you give an offering to the river goddess to thank her for life sustaining water and apologise for any harm you may have caused to the water.
The name itself is a literal instruction for the event. Loi meaning ‘to float’ and Krathong which is ‘a basket that floats’. So during loi Krathong you should float a basket that floats.
The simple krathongs are made from banana tree stems wrapped in banana leaves and decorated with flowers, incense and a candle. It is also traditional to put something of yourself in the basket so the goddess knows who exactly the offering is from. Locks of hair and fingernail clippings are the preferred items of choice. The baskets are made and filled, then taken to the riverbank, lit and launched and your offering of appeasement to the river goddess is carried downstream. ( Quite how launching hundreds of thousands of floral tributes, that will soon become nothing more than litter, into an already polluted waterway is seen as an appropriate apology for polluting the river is up for debate, but not right here or right now).

My very own Krathong
My very own Krathong

The process of making a krathong has developed into a true artform. I am rather proud of the one I laboured over today in my Thai culture class, but as pretty as it is, it pales into insignificance when put beside just about any other one you can buy from the numerous vendors throughout the city. To watch the nimble fingers manipulating the banana leaves into such delicate,  intricate and beautiful sculptures is a joy to behold. And that’s even before they start getting fancy with the flowers. But a Krathong can also be as simple as a banana leaf ‘boat’ with a single flower inside. There are also now some made from a dough like substance filled with fish food that breaks down in the water and feed the fish as they go, which I think is a rather splendid idea.

Small Person and her 'fish food' Krathong
Small Person and her ‘fish food’ Krathong
Launching my Krathong into the Ping River
Launching my Krathong into the Ping River

Over the years the festivities have of course grown and have become a major tourist draw. Despite Thailand’s many problems, over the last year in particular, which has seen a vast drop in tourist numbers it has been estimated that an additional 200,000 people will be in this city alone for the festivities.

Of course Chiang Mai has an additional draw besides the Krathong.
In the northern or Lanna kingdoms of Thailand we have the YI Peng festival as well. Ye Peng (  directly translated from the Lanna language it means ‘second full moon day’ ), is a festival of light. The origins are rather hazy but most scholars agree that this was again taken from an a incident Hindu ceremony which was incorporated into Buddhism many centuries ago. As Chiang Mai was the ancient capital of the Lanna kingdoms it is a focal point for the celebration.
During Ye Peng people will decorate their homes and businesses with khom fai and khom thew which are small decorative paper lanterns and lanterns on sticks illuminated by small candles. This is a time for making merit at the temples and offering your hopes and prayers to Buddha for the coming months.

 

Loi Thew
Loi Thew

But the main attraction are the khom loi, hundreds of thousands of paper lanterns released into the night sky. The main spiritual purpose of the lantern release is one of cleansing. It is said that you speak all your troubles and woes as the lantern slowly inflates and as it takes off into the sky, so does your burden. Whether your troubles really do float off into the distance is I suppose a matter of opinion, but for one night at least it is a soothing thought.
It is a sight that I will never tire of seeing and one that I find both mesmerizing and deeply moving. I once again feel blessed to have been a small part of it.

Up up and away.
Up up and away.
Let your troubles drift away
Let your troubles drift away

Jer Gan Mai.

Did the earth move for you darling?

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation. But at around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

So tonight I was all ready to post a blog about His Majesty The King, it is after all a national holiday today to mark the anniversary of his coronation, I had done my research and had my notes ready to compile. But I’m afraid that post will have to wait until another day.

At around 6pm something happened that changed my mind. Something big and a little bit scary.

I was on the phone to hubby casually chatting about the days events and all of a sudden my tummy started to feel a bit odd. Now its not unknown for me to get a few butterflies from time to time when I’m talking to my belovéd, ( even after all these years 😉 ), but he’s never actually made me feel queasy before. It was then I noticed that the tv was rocking gently before my eyes and I had a fleeting worry that I was about to faint. My fear of fainting was soon overtaken by a deeper concern as I noticed that not only was the tv moving but the pictures hanging on the wall behind it were swaying from side to side. Simultaneously I became aware that my feet were moving too, even though I was sitting down and they were flat on the floor, which could only mean that the floor too, in fact the whole house, was having a not insignificant wobble.  I tried not to panic as I grabbed small ones hand and dragged her into the garden whilst my poor, dear husband had to listen to me verbalising these events on the end of a phone 6000 miles away. It wasn’t till I was almost through the door that my thought process  caught up with my physical awareness and the word “earthquake” arrived in my brain.

By the time we were in the garden, less than 30 seconds since it had begun, the ground had resumed its usual and much more welcome position of reassuringly solid and the only visible signs of something awry were the hanging orchids swinging from side to side in the still, calm evening air. I handed the phone to small person as I did a quick perimeter check of the house to ensure there were no blown out windows or new cracks in the masonry and was satisfied that no obvious damage had occurred. As I finished the circuit of the house I noticed the garden wall, which has never been the sturdiest of structures, had sustained some damage, but other than that we appeared to be in the clear.

Several large cracks appeared in the mid section
Several large cracks have appeared in the mid-section

I spoke again to my worried sick husband and assured him that we would be staying outside for a little while in case of aftershocks, and that I would speak to him again soon.

Then I did what had to be done.

Within seconds I had confirmed via twitter that it had indeed been an earthquake, and not a small one. A 6.3 magnitude quake had been recorded by the USGS, ( United States geological survey), 12km south of Chiang Rai, which makes that just over 130km of us here in Chiang Mai, but that there were, thank goodness, no immediate reports of serious damage or casualties.

Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai
Epicentre 10km south of Chiang Rai

Then I took to Facebook to let my friends and family know that all was well should they hear news of an earthquake in Northern Thailand, and of course to swap immediate news and ‘quake stories’ with my fellow residents of this fair city. In the immediate aftermath it became clear that whilst there have been a few reports of structural damage, there was nothing major to report other than a sense of overwhelming relief that we seemed to have got off so lightly.

This is not my first earthquake, I’m up to 4 now, but this is the first big one. The others were insignificant by comparison, registering as no more than a momentary shift that had to be confirmed by news reports after the fact ( and one not registering at all as it happened while I was asleep and was so small that it was barely there at all).  However I very much suspect that it won’t be my last. Whist not on a par with ‘the ring of fire’ or the San Andreas Fault, Thailand, I have discovered, is no stranger to earthquakes. The area between Chiang Rai, the epicentre of todays quake, and Chiang Mai sits on right on top of the Mae Chen Fault and over the past 40 years, Thailand has experienced mid-sized earthquakes (magnitudes 5.0-5.9) 8 times, or once every 5 years. 5 of these tremors struck in the north, while the other 3 were centred in the west. Virtually all earthquakes recorded in Thailand are under magnitude 6.0*, but todays was clocked at an impressive and rather scary 6.3.
photo
There have been reports of some small aftershocks in Chiang Mai at around 7.30, but I didn’t feel anything personally. Possibly as I was being pulled headlong into a series of storm drains by my dog who was making great sport out of chasing lizards on his nightly stroll around that time.

But of course it wasn’t just me that felt the earth move this evening and its time to look at things from small persons perspective.

After her initial period of wide-eyed wonderment at feeling the floorboards shimmy beneath her feet, and telling  daddy that it was ‘just like being in the earthquake room’ at the Museum of Natural History in London, she quickly lost patience with my insistence that we stay outside in the garden for while, just in case. Her impatience grew even stronger when she realised that her beloved ipad was just too far away from the router inside to pick up the wifi.

My request that she was to go to bed in our room tonight (which in all honesty is more for my comfort than hers), was treated with not a small amount of disdain, until she remembered that you get much better Internet in our room than hers and suddenly decided she was a bit too scared to go to sleep straight away but she would probably be ok if I let her play mine-craft for half an hour…. As I went up to declare the final bed time I asked her if she was ok, to which she replied ;
‘Honestly mum, what’s the matter with you tonight,  it was only an earthquake’.

Jer Gan Mài

 

*source ; source http://www.cicc.chula.ac.th/en/current-campaign/203-likelihood-of-earthquakes-in-thailand.html

Farewell old friend…

Today for the first time in 8 and a half months I left something in the back of a songthaew ( redbus/taxi ).

It wasn’t anything expensive or vital. It wasn’t a thing of great beauty or importance. It was just an empty bag. An empty,old dirty, worn out bag. I am unreasonably sad about the loss of my old, dirty, worn out bag.

Today for the first time in 8 and a half months I left something in the back of a songthaew ( redbus/taxi ).

It wasn’t anything expensive or vital. It wasn’t a thing of great beauty or importance. It was just an empty bag. An empty,old dirty, worn out bag. I am unreasonably sad about the loss of my old, dirty, worn out bag. We have a history you see. A full and wonderful history.

the bag of wonder

Somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert, it was waiting. Waiting for the moment that fate and an excess baggage problem would bring us together. Waiting to be found. I could feel it drawing me ever closed like a fish on a line pulled inexorably to the shore. I turned a corner of the tat filled mall in a tourist trap laid out in the sand. And there it was. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would be together for an age of adventure, spanning continents, conquering new worlds….

OK so I’m probably getting a bit carried away now but it was a REALLY good bag.
We have been together on many adventures, starting with the honeymoon in Vegas and LA, it’s still got the hotel stickers on. Although we bought it together it was soon ‘my bag’. My husband thinking (probably quite rightly) that it was just too small for him. But you would be amazed at how much you can fit inside. It could happily contain the necessary requirements for me and small person for up to a week’s worth of travel.
It’s been with me on buses, planes, trains, motorbikes, boats, cars. And travelled to many destinations including. Paris, Rome, Nagoya (Japan), Holland, back to America (twice), Macau ,Hong Kong, Phuket and all over the UK .It has suffered in the bowels of many a national express coach the length and breadth of the country, been trundled through as many railway and underground stations as you could mention and been the mainstay of many a house move, not to mention yomping through the country lanes of rural France filled with groceries from the nearest shop that was 2 miles away through rugged forest and field paths.

From Rural France to Thailands second city, my trusty bag has continued in it’s service. Due to its slightly worn ( already once replaced) shoulder straps, the ever-so-slightly awkward zip and the slowly growing hole in the bottom it has been demoted from essential travel bag to family workhorse. Accompanying me on the weekly water run and on trips slightly further afield to Tesco Lotus to assist in the conveyance of ‘the big shop’. It was todays ‘big shop’ that led to my distress. For unknown reasons we jumped from the back of the songthaew, paid the driver and watched him drive off into the distance. It was only then, a minute too late, that I realised my bag was not on my shoulder. I must have set it down as we got in and got carried away eating sno-cones and chatting with small person and not realised that I had left my wonderful bag inside.

I KNOW it is unreasonable and quite ridiculous to become emotionally attached to a travel bag. I know.  But that doesn’t alter the sadness I feel. I KNOW that I needed to get a new companion as after 13 years of faithful service it was more than a little frayed round the edges, and yet I haven’t . I KNOW its just a piece of luggage and I haven’t lost the memories contained within its canvas shell and I KNOW I will find a new bag, but my goodness it will not be easy, it will have a VERY hard time living up to it’s predecessor.

 

Jer Gan Mai

Burn Baby Burn

Here on the ground it is an otherworldly scene reminiscent of a galaxy far far away. Above the smog you can easily imagine the twin suns of Tatooine burning, searing and blinding, but the dust hangs so thick that the power from our single sun cannot penetrate.

 

The heavy haze hangs listlessly in the air unheeding of the gentlest of breezes. Even the butterflies seem weighed down as they career in a tipsy fashion across the garden .
The sounds in the air , like the air itself, have a slightly muffled quality.
The voice of a monk backed by the melodic auto harp oozes ethereally through the temple speakers, punctuated by the calls of the cicadas as they drift lazily by, slightly slowed by the not quite oppressive heat.
Here on the ground it is an otherworldly scene reminiscent of a galaxy far far away. Above the smog you can easily imagine the twin suns of Tatooine burning, searing and blinding, but the dust hangs so thick that the power from our single sun cannot penetrate. We are left in shadow, edges blurred, life through a soft focus lens.
It’s burning season.

20140407-015825.jpg
Farmers throughout the north of the country as well as those in the south of Myanmar, Laos and China are illegally burning their fields after harvest to prepare the ground for next seasons yield and clearing tracts of forest to use as agricultural land. The smoke hangs heavy and dense across south east Asia, with no real winds to disperse it and no rain of any significance since October add that to the traffic and industrial pollution that rises from the cities and you get the ‘perfect storm’ for the whole of the north of the country to be locked down by smog.

*(For a more comprehensive read about the problems of Burning season this is a great article that was featured in this weeks Chiang Mai City News)
We had of course read about the burning season and thought we were ready for it and had our dust masks purchased , but nothing can really prepare you for the reality of the alien landscape and the sheer lack of visible familiar surroundings day after day.

From our bedroom window the usual view is this;

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During burning season most days it has been this;

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Quite a difference.

When you are in a city it can be easy to believe that this is a local issue but my visa run to Myanmar showed me just how widespread the problem is. The further north you travel the heavier the gloom becomes and the more the eyes sting from the acrid smog.

The problem, categorised as ‘urgent’ for the last 10 years, is deliberated over and debated every single year with proposals put forward and initiatives rolled out to convince the farmers not to burn but clearly once again the initiatives have not succeeded and the locals of Chiang Mai have either donned their dust masks or done what we will be doing at this time next year and fled south to enjoy clean air and fresh breezes. It’s no mistake I’m sure that ‘summer holidays’ coincide with burning season.

I love my new city with a passion I haven’t felt for a place in a very long time, but I can’t recommend visiting it at this time of year ( there is a reason the tour packages to northern Thailand are significantly cheaper now). It’s still a beautiful city, but its much more spectacular when visibility is above 500 meters and your breathing isn’t impaired. For now we go on in the hope that ‘they’ are right when ‘they’ say it should be over by Songkran ( Thai new year festivities mid-April ) and in the meantime join the locals in their happy dances when the occasional storm passes over. The last couple days have been significantly better due to a tropical storm front sweeping through bringing with it the cleansing power of the rain and as I lay in bed last night gazing out across the mountain that has been hidden from view for most of the last month it feels like the end of the burning season, as well as the lights from the temple, are in sight.

Jer Gan Mài

 

 

The Accidental Tourists

Power cuts are something you have to learn to live with in Thailand. Sometimes the power will drop out for a few seconds, sometimes a few hours, but never usually much longer than that. We have learned to be ready. Torches are dotted around the house in convenient location, candles are at the ready in the kitchen drawer and there is always a lighter on hand in case of a night time outage. It’s not really been a problem ( well not since hubby got a U.P.S. for his computer anyway), just a minor inconvenience. So when the power dropped out yesterday morning, we thought nothing of it and carried on as we were waiting for it to return.

Lunchtime sandwiches were eaten and water boiled on the gas stove for coffee while we watched the battery power on our phones and computers slowly head towards zero.  Which was not a problem as the power would be back soon right?

By 3pm  hubby was beginning to panic. His laptop had just died and his evening Skype meetings were approaching with alarming rapidity. Of course these were the meetings he could not afford to miss but with no power ( and therefore no Internet ) it was not looking too favourable, so a plan was hatched. Hubby would go into town and find a convenient coffee shop with free wifi and charging facilities, and if the power was not back on by the time I left to pick up small person from school he would book himself a cheap hotel room for the night and conduct his meetings using the hotel wifi.

When hubby got to town he sent word that it was the whole of our area that was out, but the city centre was good. As I formulated my reply and wondered just how many candles we had left in the drawer I heard the glorious sound of our little fountain spluttering back into life. 7 hours later we had power back- huzzah!

I texted hubby the good news and hurriedly found every chargeable appliance and plugged them in. A few minutes later hubby called me back and rather sheepishly confessed that he had panicked on the way into town and reserved a hotel room for the night just in case, and then tried to cancel it only to be informed that such a late cancellation would incur a full fee penalty.

We ran through our options. Hubby could go ahead and use the room, but would not have access to his main computer so wouldn’t have all the information at his disposal. We could join hubby at the hotel but would have to keep small person quiet from 7pm, and get her to sleep without interrupting his phone meeting ….. never going to happen. Hubby could just come home and we could chalk the whole thing up to experience, or, I could pack an overnight bag pick up small one from school pick up the hotel key from hubby then send him back to his office at home and she and I could enjoy dinner in town and a night in a hotel.

Guess which one we picked?

A bag was duly packed and a very confused small person was whisked into town to meet up with hubby and find out where we were staying for the night.

When we arrived at the 4* Imperial Maeping hotel I was rather impressed. Of course I have seen the hotel before as it is brilliantly located in the town close to the night bazaar, but as we live here, we have not stayed in it before.

Imperial Maeping Hotel
Imperial Maeping Hotel

Top tip coming right up ; It may seem rather extravagant for hubby to have booked a 4* hotel, but if you are booking in the low season ( march is not a big tourist month here generally ) and at the last minute the 4*&5* hotels can often be almost as cheap for a night or two as the mid range 2*&3* so its definitely worth checking.

We bid hubby a fond goodnight and checked in. It was a very nice twin room with coffee making facilities ( often lacking in most hotels these days) and being on the 12 th floor we had a lovely city view.

View from the 12th floor
View from the 12th floor

But it was the bathroom that made me squeal with joy. Literally squeal. It wasn’t a huge room, there wasn’t anything particularly remarkable about the colour scheme or the fluffiness of the towels, but there was one thing in this bathroom that filled me with joy and presented the perfect way to spend the evening once small one was in bed.
And that one thing was a bathtub. ( Which of course is the only picture I took that came out fuzzy and out of focus ).

I love having baths. I haven’t had a bath for 7 months. Our house, as wonderful as it is, has no bath. The vast majority of houses in Thailand (and I’d go as far to say the vast majority of houses in Asia ), have no baths. Plenty of showers but unless you are in a place that has been specifically built for westerners you will more than likely not have a bath in your bathroom. Now this wasn’t a deal breaker when we rented the house, but it was close!

As I have said, I LOVE having baths. It’s not just about getting clean you see. A bath is so much more than that. It’s a place to relax, to wallow, to pamper, to read, to have a glass of wine or two and on occasion it’s a fine place for a snooze. Bath times in my younger days were a highly controlled affair. With a family of 6 living in our house I had to clear a large window in the family schedule to enable my wallowing, but even then there was always the chance of interruption, and I was always getting into trouble for using all the hot water. A 3hr bath needs a lot of topping up.  When we moved to a house with a separate toilet and bathroom it was heaven. I think my longest ever bath was around 5 hours. I didn’t plan to stay in there that long  but I was heavily pregnant at the time and after waving hubby off to work I decided to have a bit of a read in the bath. I was so heavily pregnant that getting into the bath was a struggle and getting out was impossible. Thankfully my toes could still reach the taps so I didn’t have to suffer the indignity of cold water while I waited for hubby to come home and rescue me. Equally thankfully it was a very good book.

But I digress, the hotel room was lovely, but we were hungry so we headed out to eat. It’s a curious thing being a tourist in your own city. We wandered out to the night bazaar and browsed a few stalls, but as we know this market fairly well we knew the busy areas to avoid and we were able to recognise when ‘market fatigue’ kicked in and we knew exactly which side street to head down to find the right eatery to satisfy our needs.
The panoply of culinary options available to you in this area of the city is quite breathtaking. From tradition Thai street food to high end European menus all within shouting distance. The choice can be somewhat overwhelming and the ‘what would you like for dinner?’ question can be both hazardous and time consuming, luckily for us small one had already decided that a burger was what she needed and despite being surrounded by some of the most delicious and exotic of dinners a burger was what she had.

Sometimes only a Burger will do
Sometimes only a Burger will do

With dinner over it was time to retire for the evening ( small person still had school to get up for in the morning ) and we headed back through the busy streets with nothing but having a long luxurious bath on our minds. Well that was on my mind anyway.
Obviously small person had to go first, but she doesn’t appreciate a bath as much as I do and it didn’t take long for her to be tucked up in bed and at last it was my turn. With a cold beer in my hand and a freshly downloaded book on the iPad I lost myself for the next few hours.

Sunrise over CM
Sunrise over CM

Morning arrived all too quickly and the scramble to get small person ready for school was unchanged by our location. Breakfast in a tuk-tuk was quite fun though. I waved goodbye to her but instead of heading the short distance back home to a bleary eyed husband ( who had been up until stupid o’clock in the morning and was now fast asleep) I turned around and headed straight back to the hotel. Well the beds were so comfy and the pool looked so inviting and as I still had 3 and a half hours till check-out it would be silly not to. Might even have time for a quick bath before home time……..

not quite time to check out...
not quite time to check out…

Jer Gan Mài.

 

A change of plans and a ‘slightly’ overdue explanation

“One good reason to have detailed plans is so you know exactly which details can be changed”.

So, rather obviously, we are now in Thailand and so far we are loving every minute of it. But some of my friends are a little confused because for the last 12 months I’ve been telling everyone about the lovely little island that we are going to live on, how beautiful the beaches are, how hot it will be there and how warm the sea will be.

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But so far in my blogs not even one tiny mention of the sea, and not a single picture of a beach. How so? I hear you ask . Well, it went a little something like this;

Everything was going according to schedule and the flights to Bangkok had been booked long in advance just waiting for us to decide on exact dates for the connecting flights to the island. The school place for small one had been reserved and was awaiting her arrival with all the appropriate visa paperwork in hand.

The move from France happened with not too many hitches and even those that occurred were relatively minor. When it was all done and dusted I sat in my mothers back garden in Eastbourne waiting for the day of our flight, relaxed in the knowledge that we all knew the plan and everything was in place for our arrival on Koh Samui in 3 weeks time.

“Now this is just a thought, and it’s a little out of the blue I know, but just hear me out and see what you think about it. Why don’t we have a little look at Chiang Mai before we fully commit ourselves to Samui”.

When hubby said those words on the phone to me I wasn’t exactly in the most receptive frame of mind, being tired from the move and already mentally, if not actually, committed to moving to the island. My enthusiasm for even entertaining the idea was somewhat lacking. I mean neither of us had ever even been there and we knew nothing of the place. And lest we forget we were due to move in less than 3 weeks. So I voiced my opinion that we should just stick to the plan, but agreed to have a bit of time on-line having a little look at the place anyway. In all honesty, and with apologies to my dear husband, I only agreed to to look to make him happy as I was convinced that nothing could change my mind.

So I duly started a casual browse and began to google maps, images and blogs concerning Thailand’s second city.

Landlocked. If fact about as far away from the sea in any direction as you can get in Thailand. So no beaches then.
A couple of lakes though, and a river and mountains- quite a few of them, all round the city in fact.
And what’s that on the map, a city centre ring road? Oh hang on that’s a moat. An actual moat surrounding the city centre. That’s quite cool really, but it’s not a beach is it?

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But just look at all those beautiful temples, more than any other city in Thailand you say?
Oh and lots of huge street markets all over the city and shopping galore….well I suppose on an island the shopping might be quite limited.
Oooohh, cinemas 2 or 3 with more in development, bowling, and quite a lot of museums and galleries too because of the big local art scene.
And of course there are swimming pool, I mean just because it’s not a beach, doesn’t mean you can’t go swimming does it?
And you know, with the weather the way it is being on an island you are much more likely to be affected by storms and the risk of tsunamis and so forth.
Not that we aren’t going to the island, I’m just saying…
And the temperature fluctuates more in the north. It’s still hot, but it seems to get cooler at night at certain times of the year. In the south it seems to be hot day and night. I mean don’t get me wrong I love the heat during the day, but slightly cooler nights would have been perfect.
And look at the choice of schooling, WAY more than an island would have, even though the school we picked for small one is lovely, there is a lot more actual choice here.
Oh wow, that’s where the elephant sanctuary is that I’ve read about, and it is quite close to the tiger temple too.
Not that we are going to live there you understand, but maybe we could have a little look, I mean there’s no harm in going to see the place, it’s not like we are actually going to move there, we’re just having a look, just a little holiday before we ‘actually’ move.yes that’s what we will do, just a little break there, then we would book our onward flights to Samui.
Just a little break. Just to see, you know.

As hubby was flying out a week before small one and I, he sent his reports by phone and email, and it has to be said they sounded favourable. So what was the harm in him contacting a few estate agents, just to see what was around, not that we were definitely moving there or anything, it was just to have a little look. When the pictures of the properties started arriving in my inbox the vast majority of any remaining doubt was blown clean away. I mean we still had to see the place in person. I might arrive and instantly dislike it, although I was almost sure by now that wasn’t going to happen, I still had to entertain the possibility.

As the plane made it’s final descent the landscape beneath took my breath away.

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The lush green tropical mountains soared around a large, but surprisingly, low-rise city. The sun pierced the clouds and dazzled us with the reflected light from what seemed like hundreds of golden temple domes. The river snaked its way around the city and the well defined square of the moat shone up at us like a ribbon of molten silver encircling and protecting the city within. Even before the wheels had touched the tarmac I was quite sure I was coming home. And nothing I have experienced since has persuaded me otherwise.

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I mean beaches are overrated anyway, the sand just gets everywhere.
And it itches.

My husband is a very clever man.

A Bientôt.