Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ten Year Anniversary



Would you believe that this blog is ten years old?  Little did I know that when I started this blog back then that it would last this long and be such fun.  Its been something that I can look back on and treasure as it documents from my perspective, (for myself) the events and moments, of my life for the last ten years.  

A couple of years ago, when things started to get ugly between some people here in the mango and blogs were used as a platform for attacking and hurting people, I took my blog private for a while and then decided to bring it back after some thought.  My response was to take the history offline and leave only the current year's posts available for viewing, even though I kept everything from the first blog archived.  I also published my blog in book form so that I could some day hand them over to my kids to read.

So as I celebrate this 10th anniversary and the coming New Year, I want to provide something special to my readers over the years.  I will open up access to my old posts (the first eight years) on an invitation only basis.  You can have access to the blog by simply requesting an invitation.   The archived blog link is:

http://sevenwinds.blogspot.com

Just email me or leave a comment below to obtain access.  Your comments and email information will not be published on this blog.  Also, I think you have to be registered in blogger to get access.

My first very first blog entry from December 21, 2005,

Living on the Bookends of the World

Well, I finally gave in and decided to start a blog. All this time, I was thinking "what satisfaction do people get from putting all their stuff on the net for others to read?". It finally dawned to me that someone else in the world would be interested in my life, my adventures, my viewpoints, and my speck of existence in this vast expanse of "time". It does sound a little egotistical, yet it does provide an outlet for people to express what they thought was their contribution to this world and time.

Anyway, welcome to my blog. I will try to add contributions as I can and express my viewpoints and experiences so that all can share. Stay tuned!

Anyway, please have a very safe and happy new year's eve.  If you are in Thailand, have a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Visited the JV project today plus ordered a new bow

Finally had a chance to get out and do some chores and visit the JV project after being under the weather the last few days.  Its been cold (for us California wimps anyway), with lows in the high 20Fs and 30Fs at night and a high that barely goes over 50F.  But I've been using a new down parka and so its been pretty bearable so far.

The outer shells of the stores are completed

The JV project is going beautifully.  The developer and the tenants have made a total transformation of the site into something people will want to come to again.  Our fitness tenant, Planet Fitness, is about to open and they have been selling pre-opening memberships at a furious pace.  Planet fitness is one of the largest chains in the USA and is heavily involved in the sponsorship of the TV series "The biggest Loser".  Their strategy is to provide a fitness center where there is a  "no judgement" environment and no pressure from the gym rats and "lunkers".  They offer memberships for as little as $10 per month and their top of the line membership is only $20 per month.  Interesting article here.


Inside is not finished yet, but looks beautiful

The other tenant, dd's discount is on track to open later next month.  They are a super discounter and part of the Ross chain of companies.  The store is just being finished out and no merchandise is being brought in as of this visit.

I had a hand in the retail mix of this project when we were still deciding if we were going to do it alone or take on a JV partner.  My goal was to put together tenants that reflected the mid tier consumer that is always out looking for a bargain.  That meant decent quality products at a discounted price. That retail goal might be achieved by size and scale, or by corporate strategy.  So far, that strategy has worked really well as the high end retailers are failing in record numbers while the discounters are booming. The harsh reality is that Americans are getting poorer and having a harder time making ends meet.  Discount and bulk purchase stores help a lot in helping people save money during these hard times.   Even if times get better, people are always looking for a better bargain.

Changing the subject, I ordered another bow for my collection.  Bought a new Longbow.  A longbow is different than the compound or recurve bows one normally sees in that it is startlingly simple.  Looks like a bent flat stick with a string - as primitive as it gets.  No gimmicky gears, cams, sights, stabilizers, or fancy stuff - just a bare bow.


Decided on the Bear Ausable Longbow.  This bow is one step up from their Montana, and is a lot faster and will likely hold its value due to it being made with better materials and its better performance.  Should arrive in a couple of days so I will give a report on it after I shoot it.   Meantime, here is a review of the bow with Jeff Kavanagh and daughter.  Both unbelievable traditional, instinctive, shooters.




In the meantime, have to get ready for the new year.  Lots of stuff to close out and small business stuff to catch up on, but that is what this trip was all about anyway right?




Sunday, December 27, 2015

Cheap Flights from SF Bay Area to the Mango

Anyone interested in coming to the big mango from the San Francisco Area can, starting mid February,  get here for as little as $671 USD round trip on EVA airlines.  I'm sure there are other airlines putting out cheaper fares, but if you are a frequent EVA flyer, you might want to take advantage of this sale.  The booking must be done before the end of the year (Dec 31st) and the departure date must be between 17th and 29th of Feb (its leap year).  I just check expedia and so far, the EVA website fare is still the cheapest around.

I booked my fare and trip a few weeks ago for the same time period and paid several hundred dollars more for the same flight back - so move quick before all the seats are gone!

See the table below for fares to SE Asia.  


Can't wait to start packing for the return trip...even though I just got here...555

Before and After

After I made yesterday's post about how the mango has improved in air quality over the years, I found this wonderful video on YouTube.  It shows the mango during the 80s, right up to the beginning Asian Crisis.  Brings back a lot of memories as I look back at almost 20 years of visiting, and eventually making my home here in the mango.  Some images of how things were before they built the Skytrain.  Remember those traffic jams at 1:30 am?  



Feeling a bit better today, but still staying in from the cold.  Still have a hacking cough and a bit of a headache.  At least its warm inside as we are getting some sunshine through the windows.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Clean Air...Bangkok is Number 1

Staying home today due to my cold so I have time to do some posting.  In the news today, the big mango is rated the cleanest big city in terms of air pollution according to a recent study by Airports and Hotels Website, APH.com.   Lots of credit goes to the aggressive efforts over the last decade or so by clean air activists groups suing the BMA to reduce the number of polluting vehicles on the streets.  The BMA has also done a lot in terms of encouraging mass transit and less polluting forms of transportation.


I remember the very first time I visited the big mango.  The diesel buses, motorcycles, and tut-tuts, were spewing so much black smoke you could cut it with a knife.  Traffic police began wearing masks (those were the days when they really needed them for breathing protection and not to conceal their faces lke today).  There was always a film of black sooth on my windows.  Then, it started to change.

The Skytrain and MTR were put into service, newer buses started rolling on the streets, cleaner 4 stroke motorcycles replaced the old ones, and they somehow even cleaned up the Tut-Tuts as well.  An additional factor may be that Thailand has many more newer cars on the road.  These newer cars are cleaner and must undergo an inspection after 6 years.  Because so many of these cars are made in Thailand, there seems to be a trend to trade-in the older cars for newer ones fairly often. The older cars don't always stay in Thailand as I think most are sold by brokers to neighboring countries and thus they have exported the problems elsewhere.  Now, unless there is some kind of atmospheric inversion, the air in the big mango is pretty nice for a big city of 14 million people, counting the suburbs and surrounding areas.



If the stats are correct, its actually healthier in the big mango (air quality wise)  than San Francisco!  I'm sure there are pockets in the mango where too much traffic during rush hour drives the index up, but the overall index is what is measured.

Now if they can only address the problem of traffic jams....  

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas





Its more appropriate this year......

Last year, when this light display came out, many were asking what does Star Wars have to do with Christmas?  

Anyway, with this year's release of SW, the Force Awakens the timing is perfect.  How many people will be in the movie theaters on Christmas day?...lots.  Many of them will be watching the Star Wars movie, which is breaking all kinds of records.  So, here is an updated Christmas light show from Tom BetGeorge, who has moved to a new house and revamped his show.  I was fortunate to see his display live last year and would like to see it again, health permitting.  Its even more spectacular than last year.


Likely will skip the Christmas Eve parties tonight.  Decided not to go in respect of the people and kids attending.  Don't want to give them what I got.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Jet lagged and a bit under the weather

Yeah, post title says it all.  Picked up something on the plane coming back and now I am coughing, sneezing, and have a runny nose.  One of those 'welcome back' gifts for the cold weather - and just in time for the Christmas season.

Its not the culture here in the USA to wear a mask if you are sick

Anyway, I can still get around and about, but need to have a pile of tissue nearby.  Will likely wear a mask when I go out and to the parties, in respect to not getting other people sick.  Wished the sick people on the plane did the same for me.

Never made it to the joint venture project, but did manage to go shopping for groceries and other essentials.  Also picked up a few  'money stuffers' Christmas cards as I couldn't find anything for a few of people on my list.  You can always give money, especially in this economy.

More later 


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The City by the Bay.....



Arrived safely to the city by the bay...not the big city, but another city across the bay as there are many ringing San Francisco Bay.  

Trip was slower than usual due to weather and air traffic delays in Taipei.  A bit usual, but there have been a bunch of storms in the area and the trip over was very rough at a few points, making sleeping difficult.  But in the end, we were delayed only 2 hours and arrived in one piece.

There are some sprinkles and the weather is a lot colder, but it will be what it will be.  Will deal with it over the next six weeks.  

Tomorrow, a bit of jet lag, a visit to the joint venture project, and a bit of last minute shopping.  Parties are on the schedule for the next days after that before things get back to normal.  Have a few days between Christmas and the New Year that might allow me to fit in a short excursion...don't want to push it too much at this point.

That's it for now, time to pile on some blankets for a bit of rest.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Today's the day.......

Going to hop on that big silver bird late this afternoon for the jump back to Kalifornia.  A bit sad, but also a bit eager to get going.  After all, the sooner I get there, the sooner I can get back right?

Spent a quiet evening with the girls last night.  Will miss both B and Marina a lot, but its not like I am going off to war, but these business trips seem that way - with all the same emotions due to absence and separation present no matter what the reason.  Getting too close to the family?  Maybe so, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  In the US, we teach our kids to be independent and leave the family to earn their fame and fortune...here in Thailand, we want the family members to stay close and tight, and fame and fortune takes second fiddle to love and family.  Having experienced both, I like the Thai philosophy better this time around.

To lighten the spirits a bit, click on the COW graphic below for some humor.  The world economy according to cows.  



Have a bunch of errands and last minute packing this morning.  More from the airport later.

Monday, December 21, 2015

two days left......


Just two more days left on this bookend.  Getting that feeling of being squeezed for time again but I know that this trip to California won't be very long and should be a bit of fun too.  Will just have to get used to the cold weather again since I haven't worn a long sleeve shirt since late October.

A bit late on this, but its been more than one month now that I had my hernia operation.  It was Friday the 13th of November when I had the surgery and was laying in my hospital bed wondering how difficult and long the recovery process would be.  The great news is that the recovery is so complete that unless I think about it and really try to feel around my senses, I would not even know that I had an operation.  Most days during the last few weeks, I don't even remember having surgery as I can do most things like before or better.

The three holes where they entered my abdomen have healed, but they are still dark in appearance.  But sticking to the doctor's advice, no Golf for another month - which is just in time after my return back in mid-February.   So for those contemplating the surgery...get it done its not that bad at all. 


We were going to go to the Fantasia Lagoon water park the Priest recommended last week, but Marina is getting over a cold plus the weather is considered cold for the locals (mid 80s), so instead we took Marina to Furarium yesterday.  Funarium is an indoor playground and fun park for kids.  When the average temperature outside is in the 90s, having an indoor, air conditioned playground for kids makes sense.  Along with a huge playground set up in zones according to age, there are facilities for special events, arts and crafts, and parties.  They empathize safety and sanitation so there are monitors all over the place and especially at all the slides and the equipment is wiped down several times a day.  Kids have to wear special socks and have their hands cleaned and sanitized before admission.

There are even 'quiet rooms' on the second floor for parents of older kids who don't need supervision.  Conveniently located near the Big C on Rama IV ( at Soi Ari or Sukhumvit 26), the facility is about five years old.  Their website is here:  http://funarium.co.th/

Big Slide - one of the favorites

Marina is still a bit too young to enjoy the entire complex, but I think in a couple of years it would be hard to get her outta here in 3 hours!  Still she had a great time and wore us both out supervising her. A bit pricey at 200 baht for 3 hours, but after all, this is a private playground and not something funded by the government or city authorities.  There are yearly memberships available so if you live nearby, you can take the kids everyday if you want...555


Marina feeding ball up the vacuum chute
 

We need one of these to keep her in during the day...ha ha ha
Plan to spend the day packing and getting some food items to take to the States.  I like to bring back Thai spices and other ingredients for making Thai food.  I actually miss Thai food when I'm in Kalifornia and don't like the high prices they charge at the Thai restaurants.  My 35 baht plate of Pad Thai is over $10 USD at most places...and its not even that good!  Some prepacked curries and other spices make wiping up a dish quick and easy.   Then there are those Tong Garden peanuts...

More later as its going to be a long day.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Shopped till I dropped

Went shopping all day yesterday.  In the morning, I went out to Chatuchak and wandered around a bit for small gifts and stocking stuffers.  Found some small bears and bunnies for my grand kids and also a few Santas.  Also picked up a cheap backpack for hauling stuff around the mango and in the country.   The market is changing fast with lots of new construction.    But through it all (after 3 1/2 hours), there was very little of interest to me and everything just seemed so trashy or gimmicky.   At least it was cool yesterday, making walking the market bearable.  Also the merchandise is getting more upscale and the prices are higher and harder to bargain down.

I guess there are just too many people willing to pay the asking price or too many Chinese buyers who haggle all day taking up valuable sales time.  Negotiating in Thai helps a lot and that might be the best way to approach this market in the future.  

Car 'Boot' sales section - mostly new stuff 

After coming home, I rested a bit and then went to the Ratchada Rot Fai Market 2 (the new Ratchada Train Market) behind the Espanade Mall.  Its supposed to be the makeover of the old market that was two train stops up which was closed a couple of years ago.  There are also a few markets near the Big C that I wanted to check out as well, including the dirt market at the old Jusco Mall.  Its open every night, but the weekend is when they are supposed to have the best stuff.


Found that the Rot Fai Market was a pretty neat place for something to eat and to hang out if you like to drink.  There are a bunch of restaurant/bars made from converted old trains, cars, vans, and buses.  Lots of places for cheap food from more than a hundred little food stalls that line the first couple of rows of the market. Most of the sit down places were full.  A great place to have a meal and people watch if you are in the area, especially with the cooler weather we've been having in the Mango the last few days.  Ratchada for me, is where one can find the prettiest women outside of the CBD just walking around carrying on with their day to day lives.


Clothing at this market is mostly geared for women (as are most of the markets) so its a good place to pick up gifts for younger women and girls.  But you can also get a haircut or a tattoo from a few of the stalls as well.  Impossible to find anything to fit me at these markets, so I just look mostly for things to give to other people as gifts and to drink in the flavor of the night market.

Overall, I would rate this market a 6/7 for shopping and a 9 for food, beverages, music, and a place to hangout with friends.  Easy access from the MTR as well make this something that is worth a least one trip out here.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

How did it get so low and how low can it go ???


PM's body language and face says a lot in this photo


Meantime, China and Thailand agreed yesterday to double trade over next five years
Story here:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/news/798332/thailand-china-ties-affirmed-at-meeting


To add insult to injury, the DOW fell over 367 points yesterday.  The big question is will be just a roller coaster ride or a fall off the cliff that everyone knows is coming?  Only time will tell, but the signs are getting bleaker each day.  

Three more days before heading back into the madness we call Amerika.  Going to drown my sorrows by going shopping at Chatuchak Weekend Market this morning.  Maybe find some cheap stocking stuffers.  Oops...most of that stuff is made in China too...555

Friday, December 18, 2015

Archery plus went to see Star Wars in 4DX yesterday

First of all - spectacular weather here in Bangkok today..75F (24C) this morning and a little breeze. Best time to be here and unfortunately, I am going back in a few days.



Met up with Bangkok buddy yesterday at the archery range and shot my Olympic recurve bow for a couple of hours.  I think its finally tuned properly although it still makes a lot more noise and vibration than I like.  But that's a problem I will deal with in the future as I am going to start using my traditional bows again.  There is just something about the feel of simplicity in a traditional bow setup.  No fancy sights, stabilizers, magnetic arrow rests, etc., just you, the bow, the arrow, and zen shooting.

After the session at the archery range in the afternoon yesterday, I went to see the new "Star Wars, The Force Awakens" movie in 4DX at Siam Paragon's Cineplex.  There are many choices for the big screen experience available in Bangkok.  There is the plain old 2D, digital 2D, 3D, IMAX 3D, and now the newest 4DX.



What is 4DX?  Developed by a South Korean company named CJ 4DPlex, the movie track is synced to seats that vibrate and move, plus other environmental factors such as wind, water, scents, lights, and other effects.  Think of it as kind of a cross between a Bug's Life and Star Tours for those Disneyland experts).  Jets of air blast at you when the blaster shots flash by in 3D, feel some water when they brush by water, and the seats vibrate, tilt, and roll with the Federation flyers and they dogfight, etc.  Each seat in the theater is equipped with the special equipment so its an expensive undertaking by the cinemas.  The cost for a seat next to the prime section cost 500 baht ($14.50 USD) but I would highly recommend it for a special movie such as Star Wars.

Won't say much about the movie except that it was pretty good.  Some surprises, but I won't reveal them to you as to not spoil your viewing.

Anyway plans for today include a bit of shopping, a trip out to Chinatown maybe, and then the free buffet tonight.  Just five more days before my trip and I've got to make every moment count.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

The hungry will almost always prevail

Posted without comment;

They have everything, but what are they learning?

He has nothing, but what is he learning?

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Went to Thai Immigration today....

Had to take a trip to Thai Immigration today to transfer my visa and re-entry permit to my new passport.  With less than six months remaining on my old passport, I decided to get my passport renewed here in Bangkok instead of Kalifornia.  The price was the same, but the turnaround was quicker.  I got my passport in less than 10 days after submitting the application in person.

The decision to go out there early really paid off  as there was a huge crowd waiting to get in at 8:30 am.  Bangkok buddy and Jay Leno also came along today as Jay had to take care of some visa issues of his own.  We got to the office at 6:45 am and the line was already 29 people deep.  This was one hour and 45 minutes before opening.  My estimate is that there were over 150 people in line when the office opened.

Ending up getting #3 in the "L" line and was done getting my retirement visa transferred in less than 20 minutes.  Ten more minutes to wait for the supervisor to sign off and that was it.  On the other hand, it took over 50 minutes to get the re-entry permit transferred as their system involves collecting a huge batch of passports before they start working on them.  Never the less, I was done before 10 am, and had something to eat downstairs before heading back home.  Unfortunately for Jay, he had some problems with his visas and would have to do something different.



This morning, before the trek out to immigration, I booked my trip to Las Vegas in January.  Got a great deal on Southwest from Oakland to Las Vegas for only $118 round trip.  That is cheaper than gas to drive my own car.  Plus, I got a deal on a rental car and a place to stay on another website.  I will take my annual trip to the Kite Trade Association show and well as take in the huge NFAA archery competition and trade show that weekend.   By a stroke of luck, both are back to back to each other so it will make a fun week for me to be in Vegas.


Kind of tired this evening and I want to rest up for some archery tomorrow.  Might be my last outing here in Thailand before going back.  Will definitely miss shooting in shorts and T-shirts with the weather in the 80s and 90s.  After that, I want to see the new Star Wars movie at Paragon Cineplex in the evening.  Seats are cheap here and the theaters offer world class facilities such as 4D screenings (Just booked my ticket for 500 baht).  Typical seats cost around 100-120 bath depending on the theaters and seats selected.  The theaters are modern, clean, and comfortable.  One of the best bargains in the land of smiles.


Monday, December 14, 2015

Sunflowers......





We took our 'field' trip out to Lopburi yesterday for the Sunflower festival.  Lopburi is about two hours north of Bangkok, but we  didn't go into the town proper and stayed along highway 21 and road 3017 to the Pasak Chonlasit Dam Park.  The largest sunflower fields are supposed to be in this area so we concentrated our efforts here.

Typically, sunflowers grow to a height of almost six feet so a field of them is like being in maze.  Reminds me a lot of corn fields back in the states.

The Sunflower Field

Obviously set up for father's day
Marina having a great time
A bit shy when mom is taking a picture
While there were flowers in some of the farms, I think we came too late this year.  Due to the shortage of rainfall and other conditions, many of the larger farms had already harvested their crops. But there were a few smaller farms that were still open and we did get a lot of pictures so the trip was worth it.  The farms remind me of the pumpkin festivals back in Kalifornia where families come out for the pictures and enjoy the countryside.  Lots of things for sale at the farms and admission is charged for adults.  Nominal fee of 10 baht per person to wander around all you want.

Honey and bee hives from all the flowers

lots of stuff on sale
Admission 10 baht to the farm
From there, we went to the huge lakeside Pasak Chonlasit Park.  Many people out to picnic and just hang out by the water.  There are tractor rides and booths selling everything under the sun.  Numerous eating places for those that are hungry and a visitor's center for maps and information.  We spent a bit of time exploring, but this place is too big to see in a couple of hours.

The park is located at the end of road 3017, which is off highway 21.  

Tractor rides

Park Shoreline - all the way to the distant outcrop of land

The dam
We bought some sunflower seeds to share with the relatives and for eating at home.  These are very good tasting seeds which are a bit smaller but more flavorful than the seeds normally sold in the states.  They are available plain and flavored, shelled or in the shell as well.

Best time to visit the fields in November to January, but I highly recommend the end of November or first week of December for the largest number of fields to visit.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Dark Side....

Getting ready to head out to Lopburi for the Sunflower fields and just a short, and funny post until later when I get back with some pictures.  In the celebration of the new Star Wars movie......The Force Awakens..


In the meantime, how is your dark side?

Take the test at this link:  http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20151123-how-dark-is-your-personality

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Definitely a new world's record

The Bike for Dad event is definitely going to shatter the existing world record established earlier this year by the Bike for Mom event.  Figures of 600,000 plus riders from around the country and world are quoted.  How many were actually registered, how many participated, etc., are left up to the world record judges.  But from my viewpoint, it was massive - taking many hours for the cyclists to go pass our building.  The route in front of our building was not the main procession, but instead the longer one for the more advanced riders.  Even after three hours, there were riders coming and going along Sathon Road.


You won't see this very often...CBD totally devoid of cars and motorbikes on a Friday afternoon!

Leading the procession

And they kept coming and coming

and coming until way after darkness fell
Darkness did not stop the stream of bikers...now on both side of Sathorn Road.

She wanted to go too, but it won't be for a few more years....555

Small gathering at the free buffet last night, but the lobby was full.  Lots of people in town, including a special visit by Buddha, oops I mean Jesus...  He just got in yesterday and will be here a bit.

Plan on going to the Lopburi Sunflower festival tomorrow and wander through the fields and take some pictures with Marina.  The festivals run during the dry season and usually run into the new year.  Should be a lot of fun, especially with an outing to the nearby dam.