Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A few more days........

Beautiful day, but winds were very strong

Been one heck of a few days.  Attended the Berserkly Kite Festival over the weekend and had a great time with the team.  The wind conditions were very difficult because they were so strong that we had trouble holding on to our handles and staying upright.  We use 200lb line on each handle so we can have an aggregate breaking strength of 400lbs and we needed every little ounce.

Rehearsal with 'sticks' 

But is was fun as I had not flown with the team for almost nine months and went into the routine cold after a stick practice session.  But once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget I guess.  If you want to watch a video of one of our routines, its here on youtube:

Anyway, I have to do some followup work today and get to some shopping before the weekend as I am leaving this Sunday evening.  Already two bags are nearly full and I'm trying to not go to a third bag, even though I'm allowed to bring one on EVA due to my card status.

By the way, have you all stocked up on your surgical masks yet?  I think there might be a run on them if this Ebola virus jumps out of Africa...which I think is a real possibility.  Be sure to get at least a N95 mask as the other paper masks are virtually useless.  

Good bug out bag item...You know us crazy preppers....better safe than sorry.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

One Week left on this bookend

Only one more week and then its back to the mango!  This weekend, I am planning to attend the kite festival in Berserkly with the team.  It will be good to see some old friends again as I haven't attended this festival in many years due to my visa timing.  Normally, I am in the LOS in July and have missed this festival and the one in Southern Oregon for the last 10 years.

One week left means time to scramble to find and order any last minute items that I forgot and to wind up this stay's objectives.  My business deal is all but wrapped up and waiting for the other party to remove their contingencies which I have no control of.  I have to make sure all the bills are paid, etc.  Anyhow, I plan on coming back to California anyway in September for a few weeks for my son's birthdays.  Sevenwinds is going to be a jet setter this year, racking up mileage and being in a continuous state of jet lag.

Being a jet setter means that I also purchased the "Thailand Travel Shield" package for the year.  While I am pretty sure I can personally handle most illnesses and minor problems, having some coverage on the big items is something I think is worth while.  Travel packages with loss baggage coverage, flight delays and cancellations, etc are not unusual, but also included in this package are things like personal liability and travel assistance.    Most travel insurance packages in the USA are vastly more expensive so having a yearly package with as often as I travel in and out of the country seems like a good deal.  The only limitation is that the coverage only applies to the first 60 days of any individual trip into the kingdom.  So, if you travel to the LOS 10 times for no more than 30 days, it covers you.  But on the 61st day of any trip, the insurance is no longer valid for that trip.  I guess that is to discourage long term residents from using this package as a cheap medical insurance plan.  

Insurance is one of those things you hope you will never need, but if you do need it, its good to know that you have a good policy.  If one of my bags are lost and covered this year, the policy will be worth its coverage.

I also checked into family medical coverage in Thailand the last few days.  My only comment is that they are very expensive.  For the three of us, the monthly premium is over $1050 USD, so that is going to make me think about and explore other alternatives for medical coverage in the LOS.  The idea of paying as you need to seems like the only reasonable alternative since the prices are so low and the insurance coverage costs are so high.  No wonder most Thais do not carry any kind of medical coverage.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Insurance Bargain?

TAT has implemented a new insurance program called "Thailand Travel Shield" in conjunction with a number of reputable Thai insurance carriers.  Looking at the plan, it seems like a great way to get insurance coverage for those traveling to the LOS and those that are here on extended stays who travel in and out of the country and stay no longer than 60 days at a time, .  This is especially useful to those whose medical coverage do not extend overseas (i.e. medicare) and do not have supplemental coverage that deals with out of country illnesses.  

The premiums vary in cost from 650 baht to 12,000 baht depending on the length of coverage.  For the top end coverage, you have 1 year of  coverage (but you can't stay longer than 60 days on each individual  trip) for up to 2,000,000 baht for loss of life, accidents, or sickness. The medical costs in Thailand are very reasonable, but can add up quickly if you have a complicated problem that prevents one from returning to their home country for treatment.  For example, my kidney stone operation and hospital stay cost me more than 200,000 baht at Bumrungrad.  Having something like this would have saved me a bundle of money.

If you are into active activities like renting a jet ski, riding a rented motorbike or car, or sports like Thai boxing, it makes sense to get some kind of accident coverage.  The way some buses and cars drive here in the land of smiles, a bit of insurance can prevent a whole lot of misery and financial loss.

You can apply for the policy coverage online before your trip.  I know that I am seriously considering the annual coverage and think readers of this blog might consider something that is right for themselves before their next trip over to the land of smiles.  Click on this link for the details:

Unfortunately for me, it doesn't cover other family members so I am doing some research on family medical plans and insurance coverage and will post more when I find out the options.

Democracy, Thai Style

Why didn't something as innocent as a program to help poor farmers work under a democracy?  Did someone neglect to say that democracy did not guarantee that there would be no corruption?

The results of the rice scheme or should I say rice scam.........

Scaffolding instead of rice in warehouse

The farmers got paid, the politicians got paid, the scammers got paid, only the tax payers paid.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You are what you eat

Since I am here in California, I decided to change my diet a bit because I noticed I was getting tighter at the waistline that I wanted.  This started when I was getting fitted for my suit to attend the wedding last weekend.  To make a long story short, I started to go on a diet of sorts, and have pretty much omitted almost all carbohydrates from my diet.  That means stuff like bread, chips, bagels, and even rice.  There are various names for this kind of diet, primal, caveman, etc., but to me its just like eating normal except leaving out one food group...carbs.  

This diet change along with my daily walks and trips to the gym have started to produce results. I've dropped 5lbs already and one inch from my waistline and my body is looking a lot different.   Anyway, I'm hoping to lose about 5 lbs more before I get back to the land of smiles, but I will be happy with another 2-3.  Continuing my diet in Bangkok will be much harder as items like cartons of egg whites, lean meats, and other protein sources are harder to find.  The good thing is that there are far more choices in veggies and fruit and they're cheaper too.  It will be nice to get back on the beach again without a shirt and still look OK for an old geezer like myself.  

A video for your perusal about food and how we have changed our eating habits as we get more 'civilized'.  Makes a lot of sense, and why so many people are so unhealthy in our supposedly perfect environment. 

About 2 weeks left before I get to go home....yeah!  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Restarted one of my old blogs

Started up one of my old blogs this week.  Its one that pertains to golfing in Thailand.  Check it out if you are interested:

Link here:

Saturday, July 19, 2014

For the Golfers......


Looks like TAT is organizing a great event for those that are going to be in the land of Smiles in August and September.  Some great golf courses in Hua Hin for as little as 1000 baht ($33 USD) per person.  Great area and some of these courses are world class.  Play some golf and then hang out on the beach, and then have a wonderful seafood dinner...all for a bargain price.  

Link here:

Website here:

I have a couple of nights that I can use at the Hyatt Hua Hin due to CC points.   It looks like a great way to spend a couple of relaxing days with B and Marina when I get back to the LOS next month!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Finally here!

After a 14 month wait, my SVI Infinity 1911 pistol is finally here.  Sort of anyway.  The pistol that I ordered is custom made to my specs, and currently there is only one model from SVI that is legal in California, so I will need to go through some legal maneuvers in order to get exactly what I ordered.  The process will involve getting a California Legal gun registered, then send it back to the factory to have it upgraded to my specs.  But such is the fate of any custom gun as the gun control laws are so prohibitive here in Kalifornia.

The nice thing about a custom gun is that you can specify every little detail in its construction, including a custom serial number of your choice.  So my special number will contain something like #SEVENWINDS XXXX.  Why go through the trouble of a custom gun?  Well, its like owning your own race car, with your specs and only your budget limiting how it going to perform.  The SVI Infinity is commonly referred to as a 'race gun', or a gun designed for high speed competition shooting.  Mine will be fairly tame looking, but it will be geared towards competitive shooting, while still maintaining a look of elegance.  This will be my most expensive gun and the crown jewel of my 1911 collection.

Here is a video of another SVI Infinity which looks a lot like mine, except mine will have rosewood grips instead of the black G10 material on this gun.  It will also have the Titanium Nitrite accents like the gun shown to create a Rolex style stainless steel and gold appearance.  

And it doesn't just look pretty as its built for performance too, with a very flat recoil and recycle rate as shown on this video of a mag dump.  Unfortunately we are limited to only 10 rounds here in California.

Anyway, tomorrow I have to go to the FFL dealer and pay my taxes and fees.  Then there is a ten day wait period, plus the time it will take to get it back to the factory for the changes.  Looks like my real baby won't be back until September, when I make my next trip back to California.

Unfortunately I cannot own or possess a firearm in the Land of Smiles so I will only be able to enjoy it when I am here in the Bay Area.  And no, I'm not one of those crazy gun kooks, I just enjoy shooting and collecting fine guns.  

Sigh...another two-three months more.....


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Do you miss the Big Mango?

Do you miss Bangkok?  I know I do, but since that is my home now its understandable.  If however, you also miss Bangkok and want to get a glimpse of what's happening there in terms of weather and traffic, there is a website that gives live webcam feeds from as much as 100 locations throughout the city.  The locations are all in Thai, but get a good automatic webpage translator plug-in for your browser and you can get all the captions in the language of your choice.

Even if you live in the big mango, this site is useful for checking out the traffic before you take your car out or even decide if you want to go out at all.

Not all cameras are up all the time, but during certain key times during the rush hours they are functioning. There are a couple that are situated in the reservation as well as a radar map showing rainfall throughout the city.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ordered some archery equipment

In preparation for the target range at the resort, I purchased some archery equipment yesterday.  Also, I've been planning to buy myself a compound bow for some time now and thought it was a good time since I will be here a few weeks to take delivery of it here and then carry it back with me.  I decided on a Diamond Infinity Edge bow because it has the ability to be adjusted to fit archers from kids to adults.  In addition, I also ordered a recurve bow for the more traditional archer.  

Archery is very popular in Thailand.  There is a archery range and pro-shop in the Ratchada area at the All Star Sports complex near the Lao embassy.  There is a national team, competitions, clubs, etc.   

I plan on taking an intro class at Archery Thai when I return to the mango and have my equipment adjusted. Unfortunately, the cost of archery equipment is very expensive in Thailand since all of it is imported. Purchasing the bows, arrows, and other accessories in California saved me at least 20% over the best prices I could get in the land of smiles.I doubt I will get very seriously involved in the sport, but I would like to learn the fundamentals and avoid picking up bad habits and doing unsafe things.  Taking an intro course for 250 baht seems like a small investment in understanding the basics of the sport.

No, I am not planning to use this stuff in a survivalist scenario, as I believe a 22LR survival rifle is a lot better for that.  Instead, it looks like a lot of fun and something we can do at the resort for ourselves and our guests. But....if you have to, you can  do some silent hunting in the woods, do some bow fishing,  or scare away varmints (both animal and human) without waking up the entire neighborhood.

Monday, July 14, 2014

US to eat humble pie?

In my June 25th blog post, I wrote on how the US policy towards Thailand was pushing the country closer to China and other 'friends'.  I also pointed out how the threat of pulling Cobra Gold and putting it in Australia was a stupid and hollow threat and would hurt the US more than Pattaya (yes, it was a deliberate entry instead of Thailand).

Well, I guess its time to eat some humble pie if the US wants to hold Cobra Gold in Thailand this year.  The Junta has demanded, in writing, why the US first threatened to pull the exercises due to the coup e'tat and then decided it would now like to hold it in Thailand again.  See article in Nation here.  

Could it be that a lot of other ASEAN nations, including China has indicated a willingness to hold exercises on their own since the US has shown itself to be a less than reliable partner and friend when things don't go their way.

As they say, the entity that has the most to lose is usually the most disadvantaged in any relationship.  It looks like Thailand is willing to walk away and has the least to lose so its in control. They want to US to eat some humble pie and apologize in a roundabout way.  

Or is it that the boys in blue realize that the teeraks in Pattaya are far better than their pricey counterparts in Aussie land?  Whatever the case, I hope the powers that be enjoy the taste of humble pie....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chaiyaphum is finally getting some world attention

Chaiyaphum is the least visited province in all of Thailand.  At least that is what has been publicized about the province in which our home and little resort is located.  But that has changed recently with of all things, the World Cup.  The World Cup is the mostly widely followed sport on the planet and by coincidence, Chaiyaphum has one of the most unique attractions of interest to these fans.  

At a National Park about a hour from our resort are many strange rock formations that make up the landscape.  And one of these formations looks just like the World Cup Trophy.  So Thais from all over, especially the big mango, have been flocking to the area for pictures.  It also happens to be time for the Dok Krachaio flower festival so one can see both at the same time in the park.  

The rock formations even made the UK news.  Article here:  Talking about the world coming to your doorstep, who would think a rock could draw so much attention.

Anyway if you don't want to go over to that article, pictures here:

Anyway, if you are planning to come visit us at this little known, but very beautiful part of Thailand, I know a great place for you to stay!

What a shameless plug of a promo...5555

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sleepless in California

Its 4am and I am wide awake.  Its expected it since I slept so much on the way back from the Mango.  In fact I'm surprised I was able to sleep this long at all during the first night.  

The trip over to California was non-eventful.  Using the same airline and connecting airport all the time makes it more like a long commute.  The same lounge, the same routine, and even the same seat configurations.  Imagine how we would describe our experience to people hundreds of years ago.  

"We get into this building and then into a long tube with seats in it.  In a few hours, we are magically transported to some location that you would take months to get to"  Its magic!

I'm seriously looking forward to the day when transporters are commonplace as 17 hours is still a long time to spend traveling.   Wouldn't it be nice to just step into the chamber and be transported to your destination in a flash?  As unbelievable as that might be for us today, even a hundred years ago, what we are doing quite commonly now was science fiction to them.  I remember my uncle taking a boat to back to China in the 50s and it would take him almost a month...and the 50s were not that long ago (for me at least).

California...the countdown begins starting today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Getting ready

All my bags are packed

I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin'
It's early morn
The taxi's waitin'
He's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome
I could die..

These lyrics are so appropriate when you are going away on a trip.  I wanted the night to last forever yesterday and didn't want to sleep as I felt Marina sleeping next to me.  I know that I will miss her a lot, even though its just a three week trip.  I've become very attached to my little girl, and knowing that she will know I'm away is even harder.

But life must go on, and Kali-forn-i-a awaits and the sooner I get there, the sooner I can get my stuff done and then I can come back.  

Got Vanna all scrubbed and cleaned this morning and she is all covered up for the trip.  Also, my motorbike, Victor, got his covering all done as well.  Now, its just a few last minute details, a quick shower, and then a trip to the airport.  I love these late afternoon flights and won't have to leave for the airport until noontime.

Last post on this side of the bookend.  More when I get back to the bay area.
Peter, Paul and Mary - Leaving On A Jet Plane (Remastered LP Version)

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Headed back to California tomorrow

Will be leaving the mango for Cali-forn-i-a tomorrow.  Can't believe its a month already, but time goes by very fast when you are having fun.  Spent all day yesterday running errands and shopping for the trip back.  Wanted to leave today free for some time with Marina, but she might not be up to anything much  as she got her one year old vaccination shots yesterday and was running a little temperature last night.

We did manage to get some dinner at Fish Head restaurant, but couldn't stay long as she was starting to get cranky.  We didn't figure she was running a low temperature until we got home as she is normally really good at restaurants.  A little baby, especially a baby girl, is a magnet for Thai women, as every one of them will want to play with and/or hold the baby...even total strangers.    Its all part of the culture and the fun of living here.

Also picked up a suit for the wedding that I will be attending.  Had it made at Tom's Fashion on Sukhumvit Soi 8.  Very convenient for me as I get my massage on the corner and meet the guys at the free buffet near there.  By the way, they are rated among the top five tailors in Bangkok and their prices are quite reasonable.  More info on them here: I can highly recommend them at this point as the suit came out great.  I've had similar suits made in Hong Kong and these compare in quality at a fraction of the cost.

Today, its a bit more of shopping and maybe a bit more 'hanging out' as its going to be three weeks before I get to come back home.

By the way, after one month of living under Junta rule I can only say good things about how its been here in the land of smiles.  There is optimism and hope for a brighter future and the people are really happy.  Not for all the people, only about 85% of them, but that is a lot better than the divisive situation we had just a few weeks back.  Efforts are underway to break the corruption and mafias that control tourist destinations.  A lot of wholesale and sweeping changes are underway to transform the country.  Living here has been heaven and I dread my return to Crazy Kali-forn-i-a tomorrow.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bikes and Babes

I love living here in the LOS, especially here in the big mango.  There is always something happening somewhere for everyone.  The big press coverage and advertising for the week was Comicon, the comics and superhero convention at Siam Paragon.  But in my opinion, the bigger event was the Bangkok Motorbike Festival at Central World.  But I guess its all in what you like...comics or motorbikes.  

In my case, I prefer motorbikes...both for the bikes themselves, and the 'pretties' that are usually used to promote them.  Like the motorshows, all the manufacturers and dealers have their team of pretties working the mostly male audience.  Bikes and Babes...what a combo, especially with some of the hot looking babes we have here in the mango.  

The pretties doing a 'promo'

I would like to take her for a ride

Anyway, spent a few hours there checking out the bikes and accessories.  Didn't buying anything except a couple of event Tee Shirts. It was a pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon.   As I approach my 'third' childhood (the second one passed a long time ago), it might be a good time to save up some cash for that Harley or Big Wing Honda (just kidding of course).

In the meantime, its just my little 110cc Scooter with 12 inch wheels....5555

Friday, July 4, 2014

GTG for another year!

The early bird catches the worm...or so they say.  One thing for sure, the earlier you get to Thai Immigration, the better.  

I was out the door this morning at 6AM for a bit of breakfast and the drive up to the government complex on Chaeng Wattanna Road.  Even with a breakfast stop and driving pass the complex and having to make a U-Turn back, I managed to get into the building around 7AM.  The immigration office doesn't open until 8:30AM, but that gave me a chance to get my photo taken and copies done downstairs.  If you ask some of the photo shops, they will have the government forms available for you to fill out in advance of getting into the offices.  That will save you one stop in the process and that means quite a bit of time saving and places in the queue.  

I then had a nice cup of coffee at the Amazon Coffee place downstairs and went up to the office around 8:15 AM.  By then, about 50-60 people had already started to form a line in front of the door.  After the doors opened, I went directly to the queue line and got my number.  I was number 4 in the 'L' Section, which is the visa section.  I was called about 5 minutes later, and had to fill out two more forms and make some more copies and then got back to the officer's office.  From there it was to her supervisor's desk and  I was done before 9AM.  

Next was he re-entry permit.  I had to wait for my visa extension to be issued first otherwise it would do me no good to have a re-entry permit if I didn't have a visa to get back in.  That took another hour, and I was out the door by 10AM.  It was a record time for me and  now I am back in the condo with the afternoon free.  Might go out to Khlong Tom or Bobae market this afternoon before getting a foot massage and going to the free buffet.  

Sevenwinds, GTG for another year in the Land of Smiles...big smile of contentment

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Busy Bangkok Day

Got back to the big mango yesterday and fell asleep early.  It was going to be a full day today.

Started out this morning with my walk at 6AM in Lumphini and then it was some breakfast before heading off the the US Embassy for some documents.  Not too bad a wait as I had completed my form online ahead of time and just had to sign in front of embassy personnel to complete the form.  Incidentally, the cost for an affidavit of Income is $50 USD -- I guess someone has to pay for all those high priced consulate employees on assignment here in the land of smiles.  

Back home for a bit and then it was off to the tailor for my suit fitting.  I'm having a suit made for a wedding I am attending in the Bay Area later this month.   Since the traffic was bad, I decided to take my motorbike.  It was the worst I've seen in a long while and while I was weaving through traffic, I decided to do a dumb thing by trying to ride on the sidewalk.  It turned out to be a mistake as somehow I caught an uneven hole and tipped my bike over from the sidewalk onto the street.  It was at slow speed tip so no harm or foul except for some roughed up plastic on the slider. No harm to me except a little scratch on my elbow and I was wearing a helmet so no brains were left on the pavement.   It was more embarrassing than painful as I had to pick up my bike in the traffic jam with everyone watching.  Finally made it to the tailor and got fitted and back home safely.  Moral of the lesson...the sidewalks of Bangkok are not good places to walk on much less to ride a motorbike!

From there, it was a meeting with Bangkok Buddy to catch up on things.  He is doing well and has lost about 20 lbs, which is great for his control over his diabetic condition.  We met  at a coffee shop down in the Silom district where there are prime seats for ogling the pretty office girls getting on and off the MRT.  Soft window seats, good aircon, decent coffee, and a spectacular view...hanging out place at it finest.

We went our merry ways at around 5PM and then it was home for me and dinner.  Tomorrow I have to get up early and go to the immigration office for my retirement visa extension.   Can't believe its another year here in the LOS...but time does fly when you are having fun.  Life is still grand in the land of smiles.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The projects

Yep those are fishermen in the background.  
They will sell you their fish to barbecue right on the shoreline

Progress is being made on 'The Projects' up here at the resort.  First there are the beach huts on the lake.  A guy in a tractor and roller tiller arrived this morning and began work to clear the shoreline of weeds, tree stumps, and brush so that we can have a neat and pleasant setting around the huts.  The government actually owns the lake and the shoreline, but they have not kept it up for years.  They welcomed our attempt to clean up the shoreline and are using us as an example of how the other people around the lake can do the same.  I doubt people without businesses will do anything however.  A few years ago, the city government spent money  building this lake along with a playing field and a kids area hoping to make it a recreation area, but it has fallen under neglect due to monetary issues.

Getting rid of all that underbrush and those stumps

Also hedges are being planted as we speak for the target range and the Cathedral Grove.  The Target Range is a multi-purpose 25 meter range that can be used for Archery, airsoft guns, and other target sports.  I plan on bringing some recurve and compound bows (adult and kids) from the US on my next trip back.  It should be a lot of fun for our guests and something for the kids to do during the summer months.  We already have a variety of Airsoft pistols that are pretty accurate up to 10 meters.  I will have to think hard about paintball as its quite messy and I don't want paint all over the trees, etc.

The Target Range 

The Cathedral Grove is a project that will take a while to mature.  I am envisioning a circular grove of tall Royal Palm trees, surrounded by a six to eight foot high hedge.  It will be grass on the inside and a perfect place for weddings, parties, and other special events.  Once inside the grove, there will be total privacy and quiet as its at the very back of the resort.  The royal palms we got planted were started from seeds obtained from some trees down the road and will take at least 7  years to mature so its going to be a continuous 'work in progress' to nourish the trees and keep the hedge in shape

These are Royal Palms fully grown

Can't see much now, but this is the Cathedral Grove
Looks small but its a bigger space than it looks

Getting work done in the country can be quite economical, but the timing has to be right.  At this time of the year, labor and equipment is available and cheap.  Get near crop planting and harvest time, and you can't get any help at all - no matter the price.  We got this guy with the tractor for 400 baht an hour.  The guys doing the planting by hand are getting 250 baht a day, working really hard,  and are eager for more work.  The improvements are not costing us a lot because we started our own trees and got a great deal from a friend on the hedges - they were like $3 USD apiece.

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