Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Thoughts on coming home

You will no doubt notice that I've said nothing about the referendum. Well until now that is. It's been most interesting watching it all from afar and with the Bangkok News (THE paper of choice - or at least that's what it says on the masthead) for my catch up.

Many of the guests here asked my opinion, and as the result unfolded there was a shaking of heads and a distinct air of worry as to how this was going to pan out across the world. The Thai Government has already announced that it's leader would not stand down if the vote here (which is happening very soon) doesn't go his way... or in his words in today's paper, 'I will not do a David Cameron. The situation in our country is very different.' Well yes, that's true as it's a military junta and it seems they can do pretty much what they please no matter what the populace decides.

I'm coming to the end of my stay here and I can't say I'm thrilled to be coming back to a divided country, which undoubtedly will become more divided as, without doubt, the SNP will call for another vote on Scottish Independence. Yes, we did vote already on that and decided what we wanted, but now the landscape has changed and so, apparently, have the rules of democracy i.e. we're only democratic when people agree and if you don't... well we'll have another vote!

For my part, if I'd been able to vote (my postal vote will undoubtedly be waiting for me in the pile the Post Office will deliver after I'm home), I'd have voted remain. But that's by the by now. We now have to get on and make it work, no matter how tough that is, but I fear all the political fall out from it all will take years to overcome and in the meantime that means instability for us all.

However, on the bright side, I've been offered work back here again next July. Probably not the best time to come to Thailand weather-wise, but I'm happy to be asked and who knows what will be going on by next Summer in the UK, so any chance to be away has, in my view, to be grabbed with both hands.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Party Chiva Som style

The staff party was hilarious. First of all we had to wear masks and choosing them was quite something. Because the chairman of the company was in the HR office and it was the HR Manager who'd purchased a whole lot of masks for everyone, she had to secrete them to the locker room (as the chairman didn't want evidence of the party in a work office), where it was a bit of a bun fight picking one.

The Communications Manager, my friend Teresa, and I immediately spotted a silver one that we both liked. I managed to grab it first, but then decided that actually it might look better on her, so I ended up with hers, which was a black lacy effect one. Pretty damn scratchy too!

Then, the whole shindig was held at this amazing place called Venezia, which is Hua Hin's version of Venice. I can't actually say that it resembled Venice in any shape or form that I recognised, but rather it reminded me of a very downmarket Las Vegas attempt! However, we did have a red carpet to have our pics taken on.

The Doge's Palace?
Your guess is as good as mine!

Our masks lasted all of 5 minutes, as the moment we could we just took them off! A friend of mine, Natasha, had taken a bottle of wine for us to share, but Tal (one of the naturopaths, who was my companion for the night) declined any and as Teresa was driving, that left the whole bottle for just the two of us. On each table there was a bottle of Thai whisky (which I'm not sure would pass any whisky tasting test in Scotland), which smelled more like brandy than whisky and I'd been advised to steer well clear of... and Tal decided he would chance that. Brian, the Facility Manager, who joined our table kept Tal company in the whisky drinking stakes.

The food wasn't the best, a kind of Chinese Thai mix of not the best variety, so I didn't eat much. So what with little food and the wine and Tal and Brian loading on the whisky, we were actually a very jolly party!

One lovely thing though, is that the party is a true celebration of the work force and the chairman gave out certificates of good work practice, flowers and presents to the 2 employees of the year and everyone who has worked for the company for 5, 10, 15 and 20 years respectively got a special gold gift. I think it's something like a ring for 5 years, a bracelet for 10 and getting more and more expensive as the years go by, which I thought was a lovely touch.

There were over 200 staff there, which just goes to show how many people it takes to run a place like Chiva Som and it was lovely to see everyone let their hair down and enjoy themselves.

The funny thing was though, was that, to me, with the music from the band strictly 50's and 60's (the chairman is a member of the band and is renowned for singing 'Johnny B Good'!) it felt like I was in a time warp. And because most people had dressed up to the nines, I kind of felt I was at a wedding party circa 1958!

By 10.30 Tal and I decided we'd get the bus back, but it turned out the bus was non-existent, or at least it hadn't turned up when it was supposed to, so Teresa very kindly gave us a lift back, for which we were very grateful.

Here are some pics for you:

Me waiting at the Staff Bus complete with scratch mask!

Tal and Me just before we took our masks off

Natasha and Teresa
Some of the Holistic Team + Teresa, who joined us for the evening, all glammed up!

Monday, 20 June 2016

... and it's back to Thailand

I'll bet you thought I'd disappeared of the face of the proverbial, but the truth is I've been busy. I'm not sure quite with what, but the time has truly zipped by.

My time in Perth was fantastic. The weather wasn't brilliant, but it didn't mar anything.

I was picked up on my arrival by my friend, Jim, and whisked off to his place to have dinner with him and his wife and then we went out to a jazz club. As I had been 2 hours ahead in Sydney, it turned into a very late night. I really enjoyed myself, though the table next door to ours and I were rocking the music and in the end we all decided I would have been better off at their table!

The next day Jim took me on a tour of South Perth where he lives and to his office and from there into Perth itself. We walked across the Narrows Bridge to Kings Park and amazing views of Perth, South Perth and down the Swan River to Fremantle. A lovely lunch in the park and then a wander round town, a stop at a pub and a good catch up with all that we'd both been doing since we last saw each other and finally took a water bus back over to South Perth. Then it was out to dinner at a restaurant on the jetty, Mister Walker's, which was ok... not brilliant, but it was a lovely location looking out over the lights of Perth. Of course I forgot to take my phone, so no pics of that!

The next day I went on a 6 km walk down the Swan River foreshore. It was just amazing. Flat parkland flanking the river and quite beautiful. Then Jim and I went off for a drive to the Swan Valley wine region for lunch, where we had a wine tasting at Jane Brook Winery and a picnic lunch out on the porch. Then Jim decided we should go on a wine crawl and he wanted to go to Sandalford. Ok, this sounded great. We got in the car and zoomed off. This would have been fine except we'd travelled quite a long way and couldn't find it. Jim put his phone on and asked Siri where we were. The voice came out saying, 'You are in Brigadoon'. I'm sorry, but at that point I was in hysterics and almost pissed myself laughing. We turned around and then Jim spied some lemons on a tree at the side of the road and he encouraged me to get out and pick some. I was still laughing from the Brigadoon gaff and lemon picking just made me laugh even more.

Picking lemons from the side of the road in hysterics!

And of course Sandalford turned out to be just down the road from where we'd started! Jim was pissed off and I just couldn't stop laughing.

We eventually got back to South Perth, 8 lemons to the good, feeling very mellow from our day out. Then it was out to dinner at an Indian restaurant along with one of Jim's sons, Ian, and his lovely wife, Kate and their 2 boys. It was a very companionable evening.

On the Friday I went off to Fremantle on my own. I sailed down the Swan River on a Captain Cook cruise. That day in Perth it was raining, but by the time we got to Fremantle the sun was shining and it was just brilliant. I took the free bus to orientate myself and then decided on a walk along the beach by the Indian Ocean.

On the beach at Fremantle

Then it was off to look at some exhibitions. I went to the Shipwreck Museum, which was fascinating and then met up with an underwater photographer and went to see his exhibition, which was great. Then it was time to head back to Perth on the cruise.

Perth in the distance from the Captain Cook cruise on the Swan River

The sun was shining, the dolphins were playing, lunch on board with wine and all in all it was a great way to spend a day. I loved Fremantle.

Looking over to Perth from South Perth

That evening was Jim's CD launch for one of his bands, Jimjam. It was a fun night and I got involved with a crowd of guys who plied me with wine and kept me laughing all night.

The next day was my last in Perth and Jim and I took a long walk with his wife's dog, Jyoti. All along the foreshore are exercise machines and Jim insisted on showing me how good he was... I made no comment at all!

Jim doing his thing, or in this case posing, though I think Jyoti did a better job of that!

On the way we passed a whole jetty full of pelicans... what a delight!

'Pelican city' South Perth foreshore

And then we had a final lunch together at Mister Walkers, which was lovely. After that it was back to Jim's house to watch him make his bean chilli hotpot for the musical soiree that we were going to before I got my plane back to Sydney - which was leaving at 11.55 pm.

Jim cooking up a storm in his goggles to prevent an onion attack!

My final evening was spent at the musical soiree, where a whole bunch of bands get together and have a half hour slot to play their stuff, while their fellow musos drink and eat and don't dance... no sirree... far too cool for school! One of the guys who'd plied me with drink the night before and had taken a shine to me plied me with drink again and then it was time for me to go get my plane.

I arrived back in Sydney at 6.15 am Sydney time - which is 2 hours ahead of Perth time, so it was 4.15 in the morning! I made it back to my hotel no bother and spent the day with my friend Su and recovering from my early start. Then it was out being sociable in the evening to a place called The Camelot Lounge, where Su and I and everyone else in the place danced non-stop to a fantastic Columbian band. I was adopted by these gorgeous young people at the table next door. 2 of the women were Columbian and one from France... the 2 Columbians married to a German guy and a guy from Iran. They were a fantastic bunch of people and I had a ball.

My lovely adoptees
Me with my girls!

On my final day in Sydney, I wandered around for the day. The guy who was supposed to be taking me to lunch had got the date wrong (I'm saying nothing!) and so I had the day to myself. I went all the way to Mrs McQuarrie's Point and sat in the sun watching a plane write 'marry me' in the sky.

How romantic!

I also had my last photo of me and the bridge and opera house.

Final Sydney photo call

And then for my final evening my friend Su and I went for a slap up meal at The Gantry, an upmarket place on the waterfront near Darling Harbour.

The next morning was an early start (5.45) to get my plane back to Thailand. I was a touch disappointed that I didn't get a second pair of Quantas pyjamas (which are really very nice), but I think they only give them out on a night flight. But the wine and food more than made up for it. I arrived back in Bangkok no problem and was met by my driver and aircon limo, which was just as well as it was 38 degrees and we were stuck in traffic trying to get out of Bangkok. I eventually arrived in Hua Hin at what would have been midnight Sydney time, so was exhausted and pleased to get to my bed.

I had a day off before starting work again. The last few days have been pretty low key as there are renovations afoot and so there's only about 28 guests in the place. So I've spent my mornings going on long walks along the deserted beach, which is fab. I aim to do 6 km a day and so far am on track and feeling pretty fit.

The beach at Hua Hin. On the hill at the end is the golden Buddha statue
And here he is

Then in the afternoon I get a bit of sunbathing in and doing a bit of work with the staff. I still have my morning class twice a week and my talk once a week, but it's all pretty low key.

One of the lovely things is though, they're having the annual staff party - a bit like a Christmas Party, but because it's high season at Christmas they have the party in June. Everyone's very excited and get dressed up to the nines. Although I brought a couple of dresses with me, I didn't really have anything suitable, but I bought a dress off a friend who comes from Chiang Mai before I left for Australia, so at least I have something to wear. It's a bit on the short side, but is pretty glamorous... ok, well maybe glamorous isn't quite the word... I think 'sexy' was the one they all used when they saw it!

So that's me for now. I'll report all from the party in due course, but I thought I'd leave you with this photo of a herd of goats that just leaped out from a side street when I was out walking the other day and I think thought I was herding them. They negotiated the traffic far better than most pedestrians do in Hua Hin!
The goat herd trotting down the pavement!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Last day in Sydney.... for now

After the storm weather, it cleared yesterday. Su and I decided on a visit to the zoo as I'd not, as yet, seen any indigenous Australian animals.

We had a really lovely day. Of course a lot of the animals were sleeping midday, but we still managed to see a lot of them, even if they were sleeping!

At least the kangaroos were active!

We managed to time our visit pretty well for the koalas though, who woke up for their feedtime.

Time for dinner!

And then there's my absolute favourites, which were the meerkats. There were 2 adults and 2 youngsters. They had a cardboard box to play with/hide out in. And they were making the best of it. But even better, was one of the meerkats, which was standing stock still under a heatlamp. It was so cute!

A cardboard box is a source of endless fascination

Well I certainly would, wouldn't you?!

After the zoo (we were there for about 4 hours) we took a boat across the water and had dinner at Darling Harbour. And then finally back to my hotel for a glass of vino and then bed.

Today I had to get up at 4 am as I had a webinar about my book. I was invited to do this a while back and the timing wasn't the best for me. It was 8 pm in the UK, but here it was 5 and I thought I'd better get myself showered and dressed rather than being on webcam in my pj's!

It actually went a whole lot better than I expected and I'm really pleased I've done that now. I'd be very happy to do one again, which is just as well as I have an interview to do on Thursday. This one will be via Skype. Fascinated to see how that one goes.

So now it's goodbye Sydney and Perth here I come. I've got 4 days there with my songwriting pal, Jim and his family, and he's got his cd launch happening on Friday, so that should be fun.

Looking forward to seeing a different side of Australia... and it really is a different side as it's a 5 hour flight and a 2 hour time difference! I'll be coming back to Sydney on Sunday morning ready for 2 action packed final days in Australia before I head back to Thailand and a bit more work.

Friday, 3 June 2016


Sydney has been fun. I've been sightseeing and meeting up with friends and just generally having a blast.

Currently in Sydney there's a festival on called Vivid. The whole city gets lit up at night and various light shows on iconic buildings are displayed. It's pretty cool.

My friend, Su, and I went on a night cruise last night to watch it all from the water. It was beautiful. And before we did that we went to meet up with a mutual friend, Alejandro, who we've been in contact with for a few years as we both buy his products. He's such an interesting person and I think it's fantastic that just because I've bought stuff off him, he wanted to meet up when I got to Oz.

I've been a very good tourist and done lots of touristy things. Today I went on a Captain Cook cruise, which was 2 hours of fun on the water. And then the rain set in. I was pretty lucky as it just started as we drew into my final destination. I was hoping to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but I think that'll have to wait as we're due loads of rain over the next couple of days and I have no intention of doing that in the rain.

In the meantime I've also met up with another writer who I met online through the course I did to get my book done. It was so lovely to spend time with her.

So, a few more days here, where I'm spending time with Su. We're off to the Blue Mountains on Monday when the weather is supposed to be better and then I'm off to Perth on Tuesday.

Here's some pics for you of my time so far. Lots of the bridge, which I can see from my bed in the hotel.

The view from my bed with the close up lens
The same view with the Vivid lights on

Opera House and Bridge from the night cruise

The Opera House from the Captain Cook cruise
The Bridge from the Captain Cook cruise
And finally... the Opera House and Bridge as we were off on our way to Watson's Bay