Friday, April 29, 2016

Kalifornia Dreamin

Back on the other bookend.  Arrived a bit early last night after a normal flight where I tried to sleep as much as I could.  I like the late afternoon flight out of Bangkok and it helps me sleep although I did see one movie - Point Break.  Thought the photography was pretty good although the movie was very predictable.

After I got into SFO, the first thing I did was to go outside and take in the cool air.  I watched the famous bay area fog roll in over the San Bruno mountains and felt the 60F cold air take a hold of my body.  The air was cold and my face was cold to the touch...ahhh   One doesn't know how great that feels for someone who has been in the mango the last few weeks.  It felt good for about 5 minutes and then it was time for a jacket and back inside the terminal to wait for my ride...555

So I'm here for a month.  Lots to business to take care of so I don't know how much I am going to blog.  Most of my readers want info on Thailand and not being there, can't really report much of what is happening there.  Will post anything that pops up of interest.

Missing the mango already.....

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The lounge

Posting from the EVA lounge and acting like the lounge lizard of old.  Chomping on snacks, downing drinks, and sinking in the soft seats.  Trying to drown my sorrows of leaving but a bit relieved from this record heat.

Time for that jump over to the other bookend again.  B and Marina brought me to the airport and we had a last lunch together for a month.  Going to miss that bratty little girl a lot.  Thank goodness for LINE as that will allow us to video call and chat.

Not much to post as I don't feel motivated right now for obvious reasons.

More from the other bookend.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

One more day before California.....

Just one more day before heading off to California.  In about 24 hrs, my ride on the big silver bird begins and I will spend a month in the golden state.  While I will miss B and Marina, I am really glad to be able to get away from this heat for a while.  B likes the hot weather and Marina doesn't know any better, but I was raised in a cooler climate and a heat index of 121 F (48 C) doesn't appeal to me at all.

I've been here during this time of year many times, but this year is one of those El Nino years where everything is more extreme.  There have already been many deaths and records broken for the total amount of electrical demand in the country.  Obviously, this demand is from aircon or fan usage and its absolutely necessary this time of year.  When even the locals are complaining, you know that this condition is unusual.  See this article from the Bangkok Post.  This is not a good time to visit.

Years ago when I first started coming here at this time of year, I laughed when I saw students riding the MTR Skytrain for hours at a time to study in a cool place.  Thinking back, if I didn't have a place to stay or lots of money, that would be a good strategy as long as you kept track of the time inside the terminal.  Nowadays, I think the students find places like McDonald's or food courts in the malls to get away from the heat.

Talking about malls, I spent part of the day shopping at MBK for some birthday gifts for the twins. They are going to be 4 years old next month and I will be going to their party about a week after I get back. Even if I am half way around the world, I try to make it to their birthdays every year.  Some day they will chuckle at the fact that their aunts will be younger than they are, but I'm sure its not that unusual as there are many more older, start over dads these days.

Plans call for a quiet dinner at home tonight and time for us to be together as a family.  Tomorrow, its some last minute chores in the morning before B drops me off at the airport.  

By the way, its going to be a high of 65F (18 C) tomorrow at SFO when I arrive.  Can't wait to put on a jacket for the first time in three months...

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why Bamboo???

This question was asked of me several times by both friends and some of the locals in my area.  Its a good question as there are no bamboo plantations in our area and most of the farmers around here grow only rice.  

The answer I give to everyone is that I think growing rice is a failed business model.  There are too many farmers who are going broke in this area from growing rice.  Its hard work and the returns are small.  Its highly weather dependent and the lack of, or too much water can easily ruin the current crop and force many farmers who take out loans for seed and fertilizer to get into big trouble. Unfortunately, while these farmers are really good, hard working people, they have not been trained or know of any other way of making a living except to grow rice. They have been doing this kind of farming for generations and change is hard, especially when considering that just 10-15 years ago, much of the heavy plowing work was still being done by bisons.  

bamboo can be used for timber, flooring, and furniture

bamboo groves at a small plantation
I started to research alternative crops when we first decided to buy the property next to us.  Crops such as soybean, cassava, corn, etc., also are very labor intensive and while the returns were a little bit better, none matched the returns from Bamboo.   Some studies show that the internal rate of return on bamboo is around 31% each year on investment.  That is the kind of number that I was interested in.

The disadvantage of bamboo is that it takes 5-6 years before one can get their first harvest, and there is considerable investment needed in acquiring the stock, preparing the land, and nursing the small plants until they are big enough to be planted in the ground.  Not too many farmers can wait that long for income, especially if they are barely scraping by with their current situation.  Once in the ground however, and with proper care and maintenance, a bamboo plantation can produce a steady income for 50 years or more before having to be redone -- and that is the major advantage of this kind of investment.

These are moso black bamboo shoots...highly valued in Asian cuisine
 But I am taking a long term view of this and trying to build for my family's future.  We know that there is going to be a lot of curiosity in the area from other farmers and perhaps even the local government, but in a way its good as bamboo can be a significant crop in Thailand's diversity efforts when it comes to agriculture.  I know that I am personally very eager to see how all this turns out and am willing to invest the time and money to give it a run.

If other farmers want to copy and get into the business,  I won't mind as I will have a five to six year head start and besides its great for the area.  There is more than enough market to share - not to mention playing the carbon credits game...

Anyway, waiting for the workers to finalize work here.  Leaving for the mango after lunch and expect to be in tonight.

Three days left before jumping over to Kalifornia......

Sunday, April 24, 2016

One day at the resort only.....

Got up here before noon this morning.  Left at 7AM and by 11AM, I was here having a bit to eat. Sunday morning is usually a good time to drive up here, but today there was a lot of activity at Ban Suan, my normal stopover for something to eat.  Ending up just buying some food to go and continued driving.

My goal was to stop by the plant sellers just before the hill near Farm Chokchai to get some plants or trees. While we won't be planting anything until the rains come, I will be buying the plants and trees and keep them potted and cared for at the resort until we are ready.  
A good shade tree

Today, I bought four Longan Trees for 280 baht apiece.  They are about 6 feet tall and will make good starters.  Eventually, I am hoping that they will be both good shade trees for the market as well as bear fruit that we can eat or sell.  

Huge tree with lots of fruit in season

Later when it gets cooler, I will go out and layout the electrical posts and water pipes.  That will be the assignment that I will leave for them while I am away in California.

Time for a quick nap...

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Don't see this on MSM very often

And those 28 pages are just the beginning as likely there were many co-conspirators in this tragedy as it took years to plan.  Its time to give those 9/11 conspiracy folks their due as this onion get peeled.

There is only a brief mention of the petrodollar in this video, but its the lynch-pin that this whole relationship with the Saudis is based on.  It started with Nixon when he unilaterally took the US off the gold standard and made a deal with the Saudis to accept only dollars for oil (you can thank Kissinger for that). Essentially, pull the petro-dollar lynch pin and the whole US dollar and banking system collapses.  Guess who is holding the pin? Its been the albatross hanging on every US President's neck since then.  Its a myth that the US President is the most powerful man on the planet if he has to bow over so that the country doesn't go bankrupt over a threat to sell US bonds or uncouple from the petro-dollar.  

Its also brings up the topic of our invasion of Iraq and all the wars in the middle east.  Were we suckered into getting involved in all these regime change wars just so that we could help the Saudis remain the dominate power in the region?  Or was it pure greed?  How about our bifurcated view of human rights abuses where we on one hand allow some governments to be labelled abusers while we look the other way on the behavior of the Saudis? 

While the US is struggling with this problem, China is quietly and successfully getting their currency backed by gold.  The April 19th Shanghai price fix was highly successful.  Now its a waiting game for all the future contracts and hedges to come due before the run up to the price that gold should be.

Going to be around for a bit longer

Initial health results came out as expected and it looks like I am going to be around for a tiny bit longer.  Some items continue to plague me and I am finally going to start medication to lower my cholesterol.  That means taking statins and all the potential problems with that drug group.  Three separate doctors told me I needed to address the problem even though I have no blockages to my heart and my blood panel was in great shape.  

I've had his problem for  years and once I was on medication, only to give it up when I started to get side effects.  With the new medication, I am hoping to avoid those effects and keep the cholesterol down.

My overall impression of the BNH health screening was only so so.  They were less organized and the exam took just as long or longer than Bumrungrad.  The doctors didn't really care too much about anything except to read out the results, with little or no recommendation for treatment.  She simply looked at the results and said these results are high, etc.  Go check with you doctor in the States. Almost like they didn't want me to be treated there as one of their patients - so back to Bumrungrad next year.  Its about 30USD more expensive at BNH as well.

Went to the free buffet last night.  Small showing as only Bangkok Buddy and I were there.  After the buffet, we went over to the lobby and ran into Singapore Jimmy.  Haven't seen him in like forever and he looks great.  Told us about his trip to Japan and how things have gotten a lot cheaper relative to the past.  Evidently, the economy is really on the ropes there and the exchange rate is taking a beating along with the prices.

Have a couple of appointments today and some work to do so that I can meet with the workers tomorrow at the resort.  Want to layout the underground water pipes and the overhead electrical posts for the jungle market so that they can get those done when I am away.   It will be the start of rainy season when I get back and we can do some planting of the trees and bamboo then.

Another project I want to start is our plant nursery.  We are using a makeshift structure made of bamboo right now and I want to make a larger steel framed structure with room for larger plants. That will allow us to start a lot of smaller plants from seed and protect them before being planted in the resort or the market.  Great place for growing our duckweed too.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Not quite done yet.....

I'm in the middle of my physical exam this morning.  Changed hospitals this year to see if anything new or different shows up.  B seems to think that BNH is going to be better and faster, but so far that hasn't been the case.  In fact, I'm on a two hour break waiting for my EKG and stress test.  The nice perk however is that I got a 200 baht meal voucher for food at the food center or the Secret Recipe restaurant on the second floor.  It costs a bit more too at this hospital, but I must say its not nearly as crowded and the demographics of the patients are different.  At Bumrungrad, the vast majority of the patients are now from the middle east, while at BNH the patients are mostly Thai.  Not that any of this makes any difference, its just an observation.

The reason I wanted to do my exam here this year was to establish a health record at the hospital.  I had my very successful hernia operation at this hospital last November and wanted to have a couple of choices for medical service.  Secondly, B's OBGYN is here and its going to be the hospital where the second baby will be born.  Lastly, being a 5-7 minute walk from the condo is a big plus.  I had my lunch, and walked home to do this post and will rest here a bit before walking back for the other half of my exam.

Kokomo beach 
We spent a nice day at the beach yesterday.  Bangkok is very hot this time of year and a day at the beach with a strong wind is quite a nice change from being indoors.  Found Kokomo beach and decided we were going to do the 'free' side this time.  With the money saved, we ended up with quite a nice feast and the chairs and tables were free too!  We had our own drinks in the cooler and so the whole trip was very economical.

Partial view of the feast...still missing the fried rice and soup

Marina had a nice time in the water although with the wind, the waves were a bit rough.  She didn't mind however and we will definitely come back to Kokomo again in the near future.  B didn't have to do too much as she is getting bigger each day.  She just kept a watch over us and ate...555

Marina digging into one of her favorite - Som Tom Thai - still dressed and ready to go back into the water
Then there were the ice creams and the desserts.  As they say, too much food, too little time.  But a good time was had by all......

Back to the physical exam.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Beach Day...

Going to the beach today.  Taking Marina to the beach for a little getaway before I run up to the country this weekend.  After that, a couple of days of shopping and then its off to Kalifornia for a month.

We're going to try our 'secret beach' today.  I'm going to nickname it 'Kokomo Beach' after the fictional beach in the Beach Boys song...555.  We found out about it last time we were in Hua Hin and didn't get a chance to do anything there except to take a couple of pictures.  This is a very tiny beach and hopefully not crowded at all during the weekdays.  A beach club is right up next to the sand and the other portion is free for public use.  

This is the 'free' side

This is the beach club side

Supposedly, for 200 baht, which could be applied for food and drink, we could use the beach club facilities but that has to be confirmed on this trip.  If not, the free side is perfectly acceptable and we can use the rental chairs and umbrellas.  Also, the food prices seem pretty reasonable at the food shack - why pay tourist prices when local food is better and prices a lot cheaper?  Besides, a couple hundred yards or so is all the difference between the two.  I mean this is a very tiny beach!  If showers are part of the deal, then I would definitely go the beach club route.

This is the free side food shack

Plan on having dinner there and returning a bit late.  Have a annual medical exam scheduled for tomorrow and then plan to visit the buffet later in the evening.  Fully booked schedule until my trip.

More later or tomorrow after we get back.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Disturbing Development

I don't know how to put this any other way except to say its very disturbing.

According to Khaosod English, Thai immigration is starting to collect personal information about all foreigners living in the Land of Smiles.  Article in full here.  This is currently being done on a 'voluntary basis' when one renews one's visa or to complete the 90 day report.  The information includes bank account numbers, social media information, car information, and even places where one tends to 'hang out'.    All this data collection is done under the justification of 'national security'.  

While its currently voluntary, its usually a first step in getting sometime to become mandatory.  I see it as a test balloon of sorts to see what the reaction is going to be.  If its going to make a huge stink, it will be pulled, otherwise expect it to be a future requirement for any kind of visa to stay.  I personally think its a invasion of personal privacy.  As long as I am following all the laws and regulations of the land, I should not have to tell authorities where I like to hang out or what social media I engage in, what kind of vehicle I drive, etc.  Even local Thais have more rights to privacy.

And with the recent system hacks of Expat addresses and nationalities on the same computer that will house this info, I sure as heck would not want something as sensitive as my bank account numbers sitting there.  I think there is going to be a big fight over this requirement or it will mostly be left blank when people fill out the form.

This is going to cause a lot of current and potential Expats to consider other alternatives for retirement, etc.  More on this later as this gets air time and hopefully in a couple of months when I renew my visa, it doesn't become mandatory and a big issue.  Heck, like they don't already know I hang out at the free buffets on Fridays and then go over to the lobby....

Sunday, April 17, 2016

No weekend market for me today.....

Decided not to go out to Chatuchak this morning after visiting Khlong Thom yesterday.  About 2/3 of the stores were closed yesterday, and the street portion was empty.  I don't expect things to be normal in the Mango until tomorrow except at the big shopping malls.  Even there, many of the regular employees are gone and newbies are manning the counters.  But today is the last day of Songkran and hoards of people are streaming back into town.  Might swing by Mega Bangna to check out the mall but it all depends on how much energy I have left after the gym.

I have just 11 days before going to Kalifornia for a month, and will be a bit busy with appointments and shopping, so careful planning is essential to not miss anything.  

Spectacular Bamboo Forrest in Japan

On the resort and market front, we've decided that we would be using a lot of bamboo in our landscaping.  Thailand is a great place to grow bamboo and a former rice farm isn't a bad place to consider a bamboo plantation.  To that end, I've begun researching different kinds of bamboo and their availability.  Its seems like a perfect crop for replacing rice because its sustainable, gets better returns, and is flood resistant.  It doesn't take a lot of care and some of the species we are planning to use in the jungle market are quite spectacular in appearance, especially the giant timber bamboos.

So in the interim, we will be collecting lots of differ species in different sizes for our 'nursery' and plant yard.  Having different species will help us learn about how to take care of their special needs and if they can even grow in our situation.

Dendrocalamus Gigantus (largest bamboo in the world)

Its going to take a few years to get them established, but a good grove of bamboo can offer a good food source (bamboo shoots), timber, and lots of shade.  With some of the larger species, I think of them more as 'trees' than the tall grasses which they really are. They can be harvested after 5 years and continue producing with proper care for years to come.  Bamboo is used a lot these days in flooring, furniture, and even bows used in archery!

Bamboo plantation 
bamboo shoots are popular in Asian dishes worldwide
I found a source in Chiang Mai that has both seeds and cuttings for many of the common and exotic species that grow in Thailand.  The challenge is to find the right kind of bamboo that will grow in our area and can meet the goals we have.  Will want to talk to them about how to start a plantation and how to grow and take care of the plants.

That will likely be our project when I get back from California.  Might even look for some exotic bamboo seeds there as well.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Songkran's last legs....

Its almost over.  The long Songkran week has been a strange mix of being terribly busy to outright boring.  It seems like there is always a rush to get somewhere to meet some family member or do something related to Songkran, and then there are those moments where absolutely nothing is happening.  Many of the stores and businesses are closed for the holidays and some friends are afraid to come out due to the water fights and the hot weather.  

During our stay upcountry, we went to the local Wat in the evening to see the show.  It was kind of mild this year due to the drought and the impact that it has had on the local rice farmers.  Just 12kms down the road from us the residents have no water in their taps - let alone to do any kind of farming. We were lucky to have invested in building up our water infrastructure last year and thus we still have plenty of water in our fish ponds and khlong.  

Marina getting ready by Grandma for the big dance

The show really simple this time.  No Vegas style costumes and showgirls like last year.  Only a really good band and people dancing and having a fun time.  Its not too big a community and everyone knows everyone else.

Everyone having a great time dancing or watching

For 20 baht, you can buy a ticket and have a dance with one of the pretty girls on stage

As it was at the local Wat, no alcohol was on sale...

Having been back in the Mango for a couple of days, its been pretty quiet as many businesses are closed.  Even on the last evening yesterday, there were water fights in my neighborhood.  Worries about being ambushed caused a number of guys to cancel out on the Friday night get together at the free buffet.  

On a great note was a LINE call I got from a friend who I thought was still in Saudi Arabia.  Evidently,  he finished his contract several months ago and has returned to Phuket and his family.  He accomplished his goal of making enough to be financially secure for his family and himself after more than five years in a less than optimal environment.   He will be in California next month when I will be there also and we are going to get together and catch up on things then.

That's it for now.  I might visit Khlong Thom market today and maybe go out to the weekend market tomorrow in the morning.  Have to do some shopping before I head to California at the end of the month.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Back in the Mango.....

Yes, back already.  That was a very pleasant and quick trip back from the country.  I had forgotten that that was how we avoided the traffic every year around Songkran.  We would leave during the first day of Songkran, or immediately the morning after, to beat the traffic, figuring the people would still be there and secondly, sleeping late the second day after partying hard on the first day.

B reminded me of that as I had forgotten and thought we could just leave during the weekend and be fine --not!

The Exodus from the Mango...but they shall return in equal numbers.....

The thought of sitting 9 plus hours in bumper to bumper traffic in 105F or 42C weather just terrifies me as to the stress on your car and more importantly, your passengers and your own body.  Yugh!

Safely in the condo and time for a little nap as B is taking Marina out to see her aunt and to go to the Wat again this afternoon.  Time permitting, I'm going to cruise a bit inside Vanna to see what kind of action is happening in our area in term of water fights.  Otherwise, peace and quiet until this evening....

Leaving in a few mins for the Mango

B was right.  Traffic is almost non-existent this morning so we are going to make a dash for the mango and hope to get there before people wake up this morning from all the partying yesterday.  Just finished breakfast and we are waiting for Marina to get a bath and then we will be off.

Will post more from last night later.  Interesting little show and outing, but not much water play here as the drought is very serious near us, with no tap water for some folks for a few days now.  If we don't get water soon, a lot of people in this area are going to suffer big time - a crisis might be looming.

For that reason, we curtailed our annual water fights to conserve water.

Gotta go, time's running out for the traffic.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Heading out to the Wat for Songkran

Leaving for the Wat in a few minutes.  Don't know how long we will be there, but we decided to go back to the Mango tomorrow morning early to beat the traffic.  Heard people are already leaving tonight because of the bad experience they had coming up.  Some neighbors told us they took 9 hours to get up here, when its normally only 3-4 hours.  

If I can't post pictures in the morning, I will do so later in the day from the Mango.

Happy Songkran Day!

Happy Songkran or Happy Thai New Year!

This couple was given a free pass...they had a baby in tow.

From all of us to all of you, may this year bring health, wealth, peace, and happiness to you and all your loved ones.  May this virtual 'sprinkle' of water represent a refreshing new start and blessing for your New Year!

B's mother is already at the Wat.  She left at 6AM and tonight there is a big celebration there and I will take some photos to share.  Supposedly we have lots of 'dance' tickets which should be fun as I don't have any idea of how to do Thai Style dancing...

When she gets back, we are going to have the traditional family rituals to express love, respect, and blessing and among members.  A tiny bit of water and powder is always added for fun too.  Truly what Songkran is really all about.

But later in the day, we are going to have some 'gentle; water fights in front of the resort.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April 19th....a day that will live in US dollar infamy???

We were expecting some kind of big financial event this year.  In fact we've been expecting it for the last six to nine months, but it keeps getting pushed down the road.  Well the time for waiting is nearly over as next week's April 19th fixing of the price of gold in Yuan on the Shanghai Exchange is going to create monster tsunami sized waves to the western banking system that is barely afloat on leaky life rafts.  This event has not been a big secret.  The Chinese have been planning this for a long time. They have been secretly and openly buying gold on the open market and mining gold inside the country.  Now they are in a position where they hold enough 'real' gold to influence its price and take on the artificially manipulated London market. 

By pricing the fix in Yuan, China is also sending a message that its currency will be eventually backed by physical gold.  That will send shock waves throughout the fiat currency world and make those currencies that don't trade the Yuan near worthless.  Going it alone is not easy, but China this time has a good partner in Russia.  Russia too has been accumulating physical gold in massive amounts.  Don't forget India, which has the accumulation of gold as a national obsession.  

Sound crazy?  Why then is there an emergency Federal Reserve Meeting on Monday and then a meeting between Yellen and Obama and Biden right after?  Why are all the western G20 and the IMF bankers in DC this week for meetings?  Its likely that they are trying to avoid the house of cards falling down because they know their fiat currencies are a fraud backed by nothing at all.  Once again, I suspect its business as usual -- pushing off the hard decisions and actions until the last possible moment.  

With a gold backed Yuan, there would be no need to accumulate a lot of dollars and thus trillions will be flowing back into the US, creating soaring inflation.  Some estimate 30% or more inflation.  Some derivatives are going to be blown out of the water and many businesses with interest abroad will fail because of the exchange rate collapse.  In other words, hard times are ahead.

Rumors are that the meeting with Obama and Biden is not just for a briefing, but a warning that martial law may be required in the event of multiple bank failures and currency control. There may even be 'bail ins' where the banks borrow or take your money you've deposited to keep themselves afloat.   There would likely be riots and civil disorder from an already very unhappy American public who can't get to their money and are living hand to mouth.

It would not be a shocker to many who have been prepping for this and the expected NWO to be created out of the chaos.  But for most, its going to be a life changing, life or death change.  Best advice right now is to have plenty of cash on hand as the banks are likely going to be closed, along with all the ATMs, and credit cards.  

All this may be just a theory, but one won't have to wait long to see the results.  April 19th is just one week away and it may take a week or so to develop.  In the meantime, its going to be an interesting week to see what panic measures are going to be installed and if they even have a remote chance of working.  

Seriously thinking about delaying my return to Kalifornia at the end of this month if things go sour quickly.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Trying to keep cool.......

Its that time of the year where I begin to dislike the land of smiles.  Its the hot season where everyday the temperature up here goes above 100F and 105F is the average we've been having to deal with lately.  There seems to be no end to it as the 10 day forecast through Songkran is calling for the same conditions.  Right now, its 107F outside where just sitting or standing around means sweat dripping off my body.

Sure we have aircon, but I like the outdoors and not spending a large part of the day inside a bubble of cool air.  We have a few hours from around 5AM to about noon at the latest where its bearable, but the rest of the day its staying inside to avoid heat stroke.  This weather reminds me of when I worked on a secret project in Phoenix, Arizona for three months in the summer.  The streets would be empty during the day and only in the early morning or late at night, would we see any people around.  All the rest of the time, people would be inside their aircon offices, houses, or cars.  

From what I can tell, its no better in the mango.  The temperature is lower, but the heat index is much higher or on some days it feels hotter than up here in the country.  

No further sightings of the python were reported yesterday, although I swore I heard some noise outside my bungalow last night.  Guess I am just a bit anxious about the situation and am now likely hearing things that aren't there.  The resort is full but no complaints or sighting from the guests.  They are just glad also to have good aircon rooms up here.

The other news is that B's mother decided not to move the house from her aunt's property over yet.  Said something like April was a bad luck month to move houses.  The number 4 is bad luck to most Asian cultures so she might have something there....or maybe its just too darned hot to do anything at the moment...

Lastly, family members have started to arrive and drop in on almost a daily basis.  B' father side is here at the moment and they are busy with the Barbie and some fresh fish from our fish ponds.  Looks like a lot of beer is going to be drunk tonight....555

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Python Alert!

We issued a Python Alert this morning to all the people at the resort, including our guests.  When the contractor of the market pad came by today and we were surveying the next project to be done, we noticed a huge snake track near the back of the resort.  It came from under one section of the barbed wire fence and kind of 'disappeared' near a large sand mound as dirt got harder.  We are not sure if its hiding somewhere on the resort or has left, but that is why we are being cautious this morning.

Track disappears after the sand mound, but it looks like it went right

Living in the Thai countryside has its adventures, especially when it comes to the natural wildlife. There are no wild bears around, but there are plenty of snakes, birds, and nasty insects that co-habitat the land with us.  I killed a 4 foot long snake a couple of years back using a PVC pipe to cut off its head, but this guy is too big for that kind of technique.  Maybe my archery equipment might be of use this time...555 but seriously a good .45 ACP 1911 is the optimal tool for this job.

Track leading from under the fence

Kind of hard to tell without some are the tracks next to my foot - I'm a size 10.5 (US)

Based on the snake track, it seems like this guy is over 3-4 meters long and weigh overs 40 kilos.  We think he is visiting our resort because B's nephew is raising some pet ducks and chickens near the back of the resort.  He's been missing a couple of them lately and now we think we know the cause. These pythons can eat a whole chicken in one bite easily.

Anyway, more later if anything develops. but here is a video of a 3-4 meter long Thai python in action.  And if you think you are safe in the mango, think again as this video is of a python in the city.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Upcountry Living......

Spent yesterday doing a number of things like checking out the Jungle Market pad, installing my new wireless router, and making a trip into Chaiyaphum to do some shopping and check out some trees.  Typical boring stuff that needs to be done in person.  I saw a large group of trees off the highway on the way up here the other day and I think its someone offering them for sale.  Might drive back today or tomorrow and check it out as getting some large trees for the market is one of my goals for the next couple of months.  Starting out with large trees gives instant shade in this hot climate and makes the whole place look more 'mature' from the very start.

These trees were over 20 years old when we got them

For example, we spent a tidy sum getting full grown palm trees and other plants for the resort.  That gave us a few years head-start in the landscaping and now we are in a position to be growing more of the plants from seed and small cuttings on our own.  The difficulty is being able to identify the trees and their scientific names vs what the Thais call them.

B's little anniversary 'surprise'

B told me that she was getting me something special for our anniversary.  As it turned out, as it goes with Thai women sometimes, that little surprise for 'me' turns out to be more of a surprise gift for 'her'. But I didn't mind as I was looking for something like this anyway as a way to begin my classic car collection here in the land of smiles.  Aside from some really expensive and old imported cars, there is shortage of cars from the 80s and 90s, and getting one is pristine condition is very rare.

1994 BMW 318i M Series body

As it turned out, we (as I paid for most of it) got a fairly good deal for a very cherry car.  The owner is a port official that likes bimmers, and was unloading one from his stable for a song (around 150K) because he is out of garage space. Its a 1994 318i, four door sedan with only 140K kilometers.  The car is 22 years old and averaged only around 7K per year.  Its all functional and body and interior are in perfect condition and will be 'our' weekend toy. It also has a LPG conversion so that it can run cheaper on long trips. I was kind of hesitant as I did not have a good experience with my 90's 5-Series bimmer - ended up in the shop a lot more than my Honda ever did.  But we got a good reference to a cheap BMW mechanic in the mango who maintains this vehicle and his work seems very good and cheap.  Consumers Reports also gave the car a 4.5 star rating (see link)

From the feel of it however, I think that B will be driving this vehicle a lot more as I am perfectly happy with Vanna. The only catch is that the car is maroon and that's a shade of red.  We all know how that color is kinda taboo at the moment, so I'm hoping it won't be an issue around town.

The chores remaining this week include moving one of the wooden houses from B's aunt's property to our resort as a possible rental unit.  More on that later in the week as it time to get the day started.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A toasty little greeting from the resort

Greetings from the resort.  Its a toasty 104F (40C) right at the moment but it could be a lot worse. With less humidity than in the Mango, it feels like any other hot day in the central valley in Kalifornia.  If you are in the shade with a bit of a breeze, its not so bad.  Still prefer to be inside with the A/C running however and won't venture out until later in the evening.  Like in drier climates, when its get down to around 90F and there is a breeze, it can be quite nice.

B had a bit of excitement coming up on her own.  She has our new 'toy' which she bought for me for our anniversary.  Only thing is that I have to pay for my own gift.  More about this toy later in the week.

Time for a little nap before dinner.  

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Great Blog Post

I don't normally reference other' people's blogs, but this one is a keeper.  Being a child living in the 50s, and the things I remember about then, is what draws me to the Land of Smiles.  Lots of the good stuff is still around, but it just isn't in the USA right now.

Click on the image above to go to the blog post.

Some Technology shopping before going back upcountry

Spent the day looking for some network stuff for the resort.  Went to both Fortune Town and Pantip Plaza with a nap in-between because its been really hot during the middle of the day.  Went to Fortune town to pick up another wireless router.  Decided on the Asus RT-AC68U as its rated one of the better performers for speed.  Didn't want the newer AC3200 stuff because most of our customers and equipment will not have the special hardware to take advantage of the newer protocol and speed.  I just needed a solid, fast, and dependable router for everyday resort and customer WiFi use.

Price was not bad at 6400 baht, which is around the same price that I could get it from Amazon.  The beauty is that there is no tax and I get to have it now instead of waiting to bring it back from Kalifornia.  I also wanted a box of Cat 5 cable, but couldn't find any at Fortune Town.  In the late afternoon, I made my way over to Pantip Plaza and found a place that sold it by the box.  1000 feet for 1700 baht.  They also had the connectors in stock for 1.5 baht apiece so I'm all set.  

The plan is to leave tomorrow early in the morning and stay at the resort until the last day of Songkran. Supposed to be a full house starting this weekend.  We will then head back to the mango for a couple of weeks before I make a dash to the states for a month or so.  Back in late May and then wait for the new baby to arrive in September.  Don't want to take a chance and miss the birth like last time for Marina.  She was a month early and was born while I was on route from Taipei to Bangkok.  I thought I had plenty of time arriving a month early, but fate had it own plans and I got here a few hours late instead of being early.

Weather is going to be hot upcountry.  Over 100F everyday for the next week or so.  The saving grace is that the humidity is lower (around 30%) so we don't have that heat index rise like here in the mango...more like Las Vegas weather in the late spring or summer.  But that is why we have aircon right?  

More from the resort tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why the American Two Party system is over

Regardless of whether Donald Trump wins or loses the nomination, there is likely going to be a three ticket race for President.  Maybe even four, if Hillary doesn't gets knocked out by being indicted by the FBI and the Justice Department.  

For the Republicans, their death spiral started when they began to plot against Trump.  Unlike in years past, when shady and secret deals could be made in dark rooms, today's information and leaks can go viral in seconds around the planet.  

Even mainstream news media, long the dependable propagandists on retainer have found their effectiveness shattered as social media and blogs have proliferated.  Voters can do their own research for free, whereas in the past, media would have to pay thousands for the same information.  Pocket phones with video, phone records, surveillance cameras, and just people out for a buck make every place and corner a potential source of good or incriminating evidence.    

So when the Republicans and the 'establishment' began to plot against Trump, they did so with ridiculous arrogance and stupidity.   They all flew in their private jets to the not so 'secret meeting' which everyone knew about.  They had other meetings to develop a 100 day plan to stop Trump from clinching the nomination on the first ballot.  In the not so secret maneuvers,  they are trying to infiltrate Trojan horse delegates who will flip their votes on command.  The funny thing is that all this might work...they will likely thwart Trump's nomination, but that will also mean the end of the Republican party as a credible source of political leaders.   For over 1/3 of its base or more is likely to leave the party over this scandal.  Already behind in numbers against the Democrats, this reduction will guarantee Republican defeats in all future elections for many years to come.  No one wants to back a losing political party so donations and backers will abandon in droves.  

A big miscalculation is that the Republican party will be able to get the Trump supporters to rally behind their 'chosen' candidates.  The big surprise is that they won't.  Nor will they ever believe anything the party leaders tell them, knowing full well that the game is rigged and their votes mean nothing.  They may have won the 'battle' to deny Trump the nomination, but in the process they lost the 'war' over the hearts, minds, and loyalty of a large portion of their party members. 

As for the Democrats, its likely that Hillary will get the nod even though she should be in jail.  I don't think the Sanders votes will hold their noses and vote for her just to be party loyalists.  But we all know that of all the candidates, she was the only one chosen to attend the Bilderberg meeting so she is likely the 'chosen one' for this go around, despite her corrupt and criminal record. 

Wouldn't this be a great name for a new political party????

All this means that its ripe for other  parties to get organized.  Before this period, there were many skeptics of the effectiveness and need for a third or fourth party but now people understand that without this option, they are indeed powerless. In the UK, there are 16 parties, in France, at least seven, and even in a country like Israel there are 11. Most so called democratic countries have more than two parties. 

Now, what if Donald Trump runs as an independent and gets more Electoral College votes than either the Republicans or Democrats but not a majority?  Wouldn't that send a bigger message to the two party 'establishment'????  He is not going to be President as that scenario will call for the Congress to pick the President and the senate to determine the VP.  We all know how that is going to come out.  So for Trump, its the first ballot or bust.  There are no other scenarios where he can become President.  What he can become is a political martyr as he will likely suffer what no one should have to go through just wanting to serve his country.  He will be millions poorer, but he will awaken a whole generation of  voters who will unleash their anger with a vengeance  never seen before in American politics. The whole world will be watching our 'perfect democratic model' of governance in action.

My last political rant for a while as it gets depressing.  I rather concentrate on how nice it is living here in the land of smiles where its just the military in control....555

A bit of Nostalgia - revisiting Bang Khun Thian

B and I celebrated our 10th anniversary today.  It was a low key celebration as we are kind of limited by what she can do with the baby on the way,  and having to make sure Marina can participate as well.  Any fancy trips or stays at exotic resorts will have to wait until sometime in the future.

We did however, decide to go to lunch at one of our old haunts.  Many years ago, when we wanted to go somewhere quiet and away from the mango, we would head over to Bang Khun Thian Seashore. Back then, the area was not yet developed and getting to the various restaurants would require a bumpy ride over a single lane, pot holed road.  It was a great  place to go because it wasn't too far away from the CBD and once there, it was a peaceful oasis for us to dine.

The seafood was fresh and one could dine and even take a little nap after lunch in one of the booths without worry.  

Today, the roads have been widened and all the holes are a memory of the past.  Many new housing developments now dot the landscape where once mangrove trees and shrimp farms were the order of the day.  Factories continue to expand and even the Transportation office is starting to get very busy here, which was one of the other reasons for coming out this way again.  B had to replace her Driver's license and I had to pay my motorbike tax.  We got both done in less than 45 minutes.

Looks small, but its huge inside
Sprawling complex and even paddle boats for the kids
 After the visit to the Transportation office, we went to one of our favorite restaurants:  Ao Kraben Seafood (Mega Ray).   Its actually a huge restaurant with seating for over 1000 people, but its business is mostly in the evenings and weekends.  As in the past, we like going during weekday lunch, where had the place all to ourselves.  

Banquet Style or tables over the water (in Background)

Its one of the last restaurants on the right side of the road as you head towards the water.  You can identify it by the huge sting ray sign and the large number of over the water structures.  We like it because of the location and the cool breeze that is always present there.  We've been coming here on and off for more than 10 years and have our favorite section of the restaurant.  

This is our favorite section - with the reclining pillows and low tables

Yum...look at all that food

Today, the food was as good as we remembered it and the cool breeze made the outing very refreshing.  The water surrounding the restaurant provides a natural cooling effect even in the middle of the afternoon.  The water surrounding the restaurant is also full of fish and one can buy fish food to feed them or I've seen others just throw leftovers into the water (no recommended).  We bought two bags of food for Marina and she loved the experience.

Pricing was fair, but not cheap like it always has been.  But the servings are very generous and the menu varied.  I just have to remember to come out more often and shouldn't require a special occasion to come out to this very special place.  With all the development going on in the area, I don't think this place will be around too much longer in its present state.

To get out here, take Rama II road (also called Hwy 35) and get off before the Big C.  Go along the frontage road until you see the Bang Khun Thian Road sign and make a left turn on the road.  Follow the road for about 7 km and the restaurant will be on the right.  Look for the sign with the sting ray.

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