Wednesday, 26 December 2007
I cheated slightly and put my gorgeous new silk bedspread on the bed on Christmas Eve (I did it on the basis that after a wine or five (...aherm) I would not really appreciate it when getting into bed on Christmas Day) so we awoke on Christmas morning covered in luxurious silk!! (Good Start eh!!). We then got up, had breakfast and opened our pressies. OMG....Chris had outdone himself.....not only did I get the aforementioned gorgeous bedspread but he got me the stunning 9 days in Thailand photography book I had been hankering after (We had gone to the exhibition and it was just amazing), a small camera and photo printer (he sat on our last one so it no longer works!!.....the camera not the printer!!) which we will both use and best of all......he bought me tickets to see Maroon 5 (OMG OMG OMG......I love that band.....he is definately number one husband!!!). Chris got a soooper doooper zoom lens for his new camera (I have to admit that I am slightly intimidated by his new camera - he keeps talking about apertures and white balance.......I think I will just stick to the good old point and press!!), a tripod, a couple of funky T-shirts and a new bean bag which is olive green and in the shape of a chair. (This prompted much grumbling along the lines of 'There was nothing wrong with the old one' - I beg to differ... it had.....maybe about 5 beans in it and looked like a big black wrinkly puddle on the floor!!). I made up a photo album for Moon - she doesn't have many photo's of her kids so I included lots from when they were here including her 30th birthday and there were some very funny ones of her when she's been out and about with us (Yes Jo - there was one of the two of you fighting over the driver!!) and we're going to take her for a night out when she gets back from seeing her family. (The cats got toys too - god we're sad!!)
We then got organised and headed over to Claire and Roger's - there were 8 of us (us, Claire and Rog (obviously), Louise and Gordon and Sue and Graham). I have to say that their house is absolutely stunning - they have one section which is like a huge conservatory which looks out over their swimming pool. Two sides of it open up completely so it feels like you are outside when your inside and the outside feels like an extension of inside (does that make any sense what so ever??). We started with Champagne and smoked salmon sprinkled with caviar nibbles and then sat down at the table which I have to say looked absolutely gorgeous. We had all been given a course each to prepare so we had carrot and coriander soup which was made by Louise, followed by the full traditional meal, beautifully done by Claire, followed by a choice of Christmas Pudding with brandy butter, chocolate and orange cake or Mango Ice-Cream, made by my fair hand (Except the pudding which my friend made for me) and then after a good long break ham sandwiches followed by cheese and port which was brought by Sue.
It was a very drunken affair (we started at midday and got home at midnight!!) - we discovered that none of us are very good at charades and I ended up in the pool with all my clothes on!! (Don't ask!!). We laughed a lot (you may be able to tell from the photo's) and I have to say a HUGE thank you to Claire and Roger for inviting us over - it was a brilliant day!!
Monday, 24 December 2007
Friday, 21 December 2007
Wednesday, 19 December 2007
Two lovely things happened yesterday -
I don't blog about it every week but you know that I go with a few friends to Pakkred Orphanage to visit the kids (I have been assigned to Mo-Cha-Ya (little 7 month old girl) who not only recognised me today but actually waved at me from her cot!!). Well whilst we were there today we spotted an older couple deep in conversation with Khun Som (She is one of the ladies that runs the place). They were just across the grass from where we were sitting and we thought that perhaps there were there to take home a child that they had been matched with (we have seen this before and it's just brilliant watching the little one go to start a new life). We were in the middle of speculating about this when a 20 something lad came over to us and thanked us for coming to visit the babies and that he had been told first hand what a difference it can make to their development. It turned out that he was adopted from Pakkred when he was just over a year old and the older couple were his Mum and Dad.......he wanted to see where he had started life. It was incredibly moving - I can't even begin to imagine how he must have felt.
The second lovely thing -
Every year The British Club hold a Christmas Party for kids from an orphanage that they support throughout the year. (The orphanage specialises in taking care of children who have profound hearing difficulties or are completely deaf). So Caroline, her daughter Hannah and I headed over to The British Club to meet up with my other volunteers Gale, Carolyn, Wiff and Tanya to help out. It was fab - there was face painting, biscuit decorating (which proved very popular as the biscuit could be eaten after), a bouncy castle, clay moulding, pony riding and a huge slide and all this was followed by a spectacular magic show (which involved disappearing chickens!! I have no idea how the hell the guy did it!!) and dinner. Then the guest of honour turned up (yes, Santa.....who else!!) in his Tuk Tuk (none of this reindeer nonsense!!) and gave each child a present (Which had been sponsored by the BWG) and do you know what.......after the presents had been handed out the kids were told that they could give their presents to us. Every child had made a card or a Christmas tree decoration and they got to choose who they were going to give it to - Santa got the most (which was to be expected) but all the volunteers left with a little pile. I've scanned a couple of mine so you can see them....... (The ones on the left represent the hand shape you make when you want to tell someone you love them. The writing on the hand says love and the writing on the arm of the other one is the girls name)
I don't volunteer to get thanks or recognition - I do it because I know that I am incredibly lucky and I feel that the least I can do is help someone who has it a hell of a lot tougher than I do. (especially being here where the difference between those that have and those that don't is so huge)
I had a wonderful day yesterday and it has actually put me in the Christmas Spirit (I am still singing the same Christmas Carol line over and over again but somehow I don't mind so much today!!)
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
So far I have
A Lipstick Namer
Can you imagine how cool that would be!! I think I would be fantastic.........you could have things like Purink (which is a combination of purple and pink obviously) or Zombie Blue or Road Kill Red!! (See, told you I'd be great!!)
I could be a Fashion Detective!! (or maybe constable??)
I could arrest people for having incredibly stupid hair (there seems to be a lot of that about at the moment - I saw a girl today that was obviously trying out two different styles on either side of her head), I could insist that teenage boys go wild and actually buy trousers that fit and I could ban shell suits for life!! (I think the world would be a better place without shell suits!!)
A Hairdresser Torturer
Not all hairdressers just the ones that wash your hair. They always seems to manage to spray the water down both your front and back before then going on to try and give you a frontal lobotomy whilst pretending to give you a scalp massage!! (and I'm not even going to get into the scalding hot vs freezing cold water thing)
I'll follow people, whom I find mildly irritating, around all day singing annoying little ditties that they can't then get out of their head for weeks and weeks (Like Wigfield's Saturday Night or The Chicken song)
or maybe I could just be a Fairy Princess......what do you think?
(Can you tell it's been a LONG day!!! I went shopping - I tried to buy a lipstick....I gave up, I saw some outfits that were criminal, I've had a haircut (They've made a really good job of the cut but I do think hairdresser torturer would be a good occupation) and I've been singing bloody Christmas Carols since I got home (I'm doing a JJ and only singing the one line over and over again and it's driving me nuts.........I think it's only fair that I get to inflict that suffering upon someone else!!))
I think it's probably just as well that I am staying at home tonight!!
There has been an announcement that all foreign pilots will have to be put through rigorous testing prior to being allowed to fly in Thailand - and the reason for this new test - because Thai pilots need to get to know one another before they can work well together whereas Farang pilots just get on and do the job without needing to get to know their co-workers!! So the new test will be to establish foreign pilots social skills.............I am completely flabbergasted!!!
Monday, 17 December 2007
We got up the following day and Chris and I located our new lodgings for the evening. We had moved to a slightly more upmarket establishment and had gone from our hut on a raft on a river to a more sturdy wooden hut over.......wait for it......a swamp!! It was actually very pretty (as you can see from the photos) but I have to admit I was slightly concerned that we were both going to get eaten alive......we could see daylight through the planks of wood!! (We covered both ourselves and everything else in deet - Chris still got bitten but amazingly I escaped......he was muttering comments about having to re-think his money making plan of renting me out for weddings, funerals and bar mitzvah's to stop other people getting bitten!!)
Anyway, we had already planned to go to Chungkai Cemetery (we'd not been to that one) and then visit the temple Wat Tham Khao Poon - we were planning to hire a SongTao but when we were checking in we noticed that you could visit both these places by boat so that's what we decided to do. A long tail boat came and picked us up and our first stop was to the JEATH war museum (The name JEATH is an acronym of six of the countries involved in the railway; Japan, England, Australia, America, Thailand and Holland). (We couldn't take any photo's so I've posted some of the temple it was next to). It was basic to say the least - it was the first museum to be set up, it is housed in a reconstructed Allied POW hut made of thatched palm and has been surpassed by more informative museums in the area. It was still interesting though as it is home to a small collection of war time photographs and has an archive of newspaper articles and letters from former POW's who have revisited the area. (If you don't have a lot of time I wouldn't recommend going to this one - the best I've seen was at hellfire pass). From there we went on to the Cemetery - I was struck the last time I was here at how beautifully kept all the graves were and this time was no different. I felt a profound sadness as I looked out at the rows and rows of graves - what a waste of life!!
Then we got back in the boat and went to Wat Tham Khao Poon. It was absolutely stunning - we climbed up cliff-side steps onto a road that took us round to an oversized, pot-bellied golden Buddha who sat on a ledge looking out at the most magnificent view of the Kwai Noi river. It was stunning (and would have been very peaceful had it not been for the partying Thai's on a karaoke barge that was stationed at the bottom of the cliff-side steps!!) We then doubled back and followed signs to the Wat. The complex was huge and I would have loved more time to do a bit of exploring but we needed to get back so Tony could get his train so we went straight for the main attraction which is a nine-chambered cave connected by a labyrinth of passages. In our guide book it was described as 'every ledge and knob of rock is filled with religious icons' which I think was a slight exaggeration - there were icon's but there were dotted about the place rather than filling it!! It was beautiful though - there was a stunning reclining Buddha in the main chamber and we saw another one that was over 500 years old. I definately think we'll go back again when we've got a bit more time!!
Tony headed off and Chris and I went and did a bit more exploring of the market area - we found a whole new section behind the bit we had been looking at the day before. I have no idea how we missed it before - it was huge and I think you could buy just about everything you could ever possibly want.......and I'm not kidding......we had to laugh when we spotted a stall selling tractors next to one that was selling teddy bears!!! The market was packed and it was a gorgeous temperature as we wondered through the narrow paths between stalls smelling all the different foods that were being cooked and looking at all the different things you could buy. It was lovely!! Then we went back to see the show again.....only this time from dry land!! (mainly because we hadn't been able to take many photo's the previous night.....not easy getting clear shots from a small boat which bob's up and down every time something went past!!)
I have to say that the highlight of the night for me was discovering an Indian restaurant that did proper pakora!! We had chicken and mushroom pakora and both Chris and I thought we had died and gone to heaven.....we're trying to resist the urge to up sticks and move to Kanchanaburi!! My mouth is watering as I am typing (must try not to drool on keyboard!!)
The following morning we went back to Wat Tham Sua which was one of the temples we visited when we went with Jo, Tracey and Derek. (We resisted the lure of the Floating Nun Temple - we couldn't find any Taiwanese people to take with us to see if they would be particularly impressed!!). Chris managed to get some of the pictures that he didn't get when we visited last time and I enjoyed seeing it in all it's glory in the sun. (I went up the stairs this time - not brave enough to go the vernacular route a second time!!). All too soon it was time for us to jump on the train and head back to Bangkok!! I think it did us both good to get out of the hustle and bustle of Bangkok for a couple of days!!
Thursday, 13 December 2007
We'd been kind of talking about going away for the weekend (It was a long weekend due to the fact that Monday was Constitution Day..........a bit of a joke really since the coup but hey, Chris had a day off so I wasn't about to start complaining!!). We only decided on Friday that we definately wanted to go somewhere and that that somewhere was Kanchanaburi (We have been a couple of times - you can read about the history of the place here). Once Tony heard we were going he asked if he could tag along for one night since he's never been so most of Friday was spent trying to sort out how we were going to get there and where we were going to stay once we did.
It was an adventure - we decided that we would travel the way the Thai's do and take the train. Now, depending on which website you looked at, the train, and there is only one train leaving in the morning, either left at 7.15, 7.30 or 7.45 from Bangkok Noi (Where??? I had never even heard of it - we found out where it was eventually......Chris's colleague Rung was very helpful and even drew us a map). We decided that we would err on the side of caution and aim for the earliest time - we were up and out the apartment at 6am (No-one should ever be up at that time in the morning.....unless they haven't been to bed yet!!) to get a taxi to the station. The station was exactly what I thought a Bangkok Train station should be like - there was a huge food market next to it and there were just people everywhere.......farangs with backpacks, kids running around, people cooking breakfast on their stalls, people carrying huge bags of food, chickens squawking in woven baskets.......what an atmosphere. It was just as well there was lots to look at - the train didn't leave till 8.30!!
The journey itself was great (took about 4 hours in all). It was an old fashioned style train with windows that opened and fans on the ceiling. The scenery was amazing and we passed all sorts of things - a couple of Bangkok slums, a huge temple, some building that had amazing metal sculptures outside it (I've no idea what the hell it was), a man working in his paddy fields and then, as we got closer to Kanchanaburi, the mountains. I absolutely loved it - at every stop people dived on the train and then walked up and down it selling water, beer, freshly cooked chicken, freshly cooked omelettes with rice and all manner of Thai sweets and the cost of our trip........100 baht each which works out at £1.42.
Now, I had really struggled to get accommodation when booking on Friday (as you can see our room was a rather basic hut on a raft on the river - but it only cost 250 baht (£3.60) so what did I expect!!) and had just put it down to the fact that there was a long weekend. I was delighted to discover that there was a light festival that weekend telling the story of Bridge over the River Kwai...........and was even more excited when I realised that we would be able to get tickets. We spent a chilled afternoon looking round the market at the bridge then made our way back to our hotel where we were collected by boat and taken to a position on the river from where we could see the show. OMG it was absolutely fantastic!!
The bridge was lit from different angles and the show started with lights going from green to blue to red as Thai soldiers, carrying flags from all the nations involved in the building of the bridge, walked onto the bridge itself and then, when all the flags were half mast, a lone trumpeter walked to the middle of the bridge and paid tribute to all the soldiers and civilians who's lives were lost at the hands of the Japanese army during the actual building. (I cried!!). It was so cleverly done - There were straw huts at the other side of the river bank built to resemble what had been there at the time and turrets on both the bridge and the river bank representing the Japanese Guard Towers. The show then progressed to tell the story of the building of the bridge - it was amazing.....they used small flashes of light combined with sound effects to make it sound and look like there were actual people there doing the building and this section culminated in the completion of the bridge and a real steam train going over it. Then for the finally they used fireworks to simulate the bombing of the bridge - small fireworks represented the British bombers and then there were huge explosions of fireworks from points both on the river and on the bridge to represent the bombs landing. They had people dressed as Japanese soldiers running around the bridge pretending to fire back and then (God I nearly had a heart attack) one of the guard turrets burst into flames and fell into the river followed by two of the soldiers - I really wasn't sure if that was supposed to happen.....it was bloody convincing!! (It was supposed to happen cause they had people on a boat do the same but the Thai's don't really go for health and safety and there was a real moment when I thought.......). During the show there was a voice over who told the story and gave the official death toll. It was very very moving and very very beautiful!! (They had a huge fireworks display at the end)
They do this every year apparently and change and add to it each time - if you ever get the chance to go do......it was really worth seeing (My words don't really do it justice but hopefully the fab pictures Chris took will!!)