Saturday, December 31, 2016

Hope for Peace in the World

This was shared with me by a friend in Thailand via the LINE app.  Was very touching considering all the craziness and violence we are experiencing in today's world.  Lyrics by John Lennon and Yoko Ono:

Based on the original old English ballad melody Stewball as performed here by one of my old favorites, Peter, Paul and Mary.  Best of Folk from the old Folk Song era when I was younger - much younger..555

Memories, good ones of better times.

May the New Year be the start of more good times and especially more good memories!

Sawadee Bee Mai

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Positive side of the bad news...

Went to see the cardiologist yesterday regarding the results of my Transesophabeal echogram (TEE). I took this test during my last visit here in late October.  A TEE is a test where a probe is inserted down your throat so that its behind your heart.  From there, sound waves are emitted and a echogram view is captured and the doctor can diagnose the problem.

The bad news is that its confirmed that I will need surgery as my mitral valve leak is considered severe and it will only progress over time.  It will not heal by itself nor is there any medication that will fix it.

The good news is that the problem is caused by ruptured chords on my posterior leaflet which allows the leaflet to flap, thus causing the leak.  A posterior leaflet problem is the most common and the most easily corrected condition and the expected success and recovery rate is nearly 100%.  So basically, after this repair, my heart will be normal and good to go for my expected life expectancy without restrictions or medication.  My other heart functions and overall health condition is normal. The information needed by the Cleveland Clinic should be ready in a couple of days and I will send those via FEDEX or UPS as soon as I get the data.  Once that info is received, I will hopefully get an appointment for either a consultation and/or the surgery.  

Very straight forward repair with high rate of success

The standard procedure is to remove the valve section with the ruptured chord, sew it together, and then sew in a ring to adjust and maintain the valve size and opening.  That is the gold standard approach for this problem.

In the meantime, life moves on and I have to take life one day at a time.  Its fortunate that I am asymptomatic and can carry on with daily activities without any problems.  This is a lesson for fiends and readers that a regular check-up is very important, even if you feel fine.  I would not have discovered this problem except for a routine check-up which I have each year at Bumrungrad.  My heart murmur came up during an EKG stress test and after some follow-up, this problem was confirmed by doctors in both Thailand and California.  Otherwise, I could have continued on in my merry way until one day my heart fails or I have severe problems which requires emergency surgery.

Do your annual check-up as you get older.  It is a matter of life or death - yours!

Plan to have a low key New Year celebration.  Simple dinner out with friends and a call back home to the Land of Smiles.  I know what my new year resolution will be this year - take care of my heart and take care of my health.  There is too much at stake for being sloppy and breaking this resolution.

Happy New Year !  Sawadee Bee Mai !


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Missing Home...a lot

Title says it all.  I'm missing home a lot.

Aside from the differences in weather, I miss the family.  Keeping in touch via LINE video helps a lot but at times, the internet connection is not that great and we get some clipping.  The clipping is not due to the connection in the LOS, but here in the condo in Kalifornia.  I realized this morning my connection here had only a 2.5 MB download speed - and that was the maximum I could get from AT&T for this location.  Thank goodness they have installed Google fiber in the area and we can get Webpass for $60 per month which provides 100 MB download speed. Webpass is a small company that specializes in urban internet service, but it was acquired by Google to promote their fiber network.  Their story of entry into our market here. I made an appointment for the first week of next year to have it installed, but $60 a month is not cheap by any standard but it will allow me to finally stream movies and other content from the internet.  

Also the good news is that I was able to get an appointment with my local cardiologist today.  He had a cancellation so I was able to fill the slot for this afternoon.  This cardiologist has been terrific, however he is not a surgeon but his data is going to be used for the team at Cleveland Clinic.

That's it for now.  More tomorrow after the Dr's visit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

That crazy period between Christmas and New Year...

Christmas was fun.  Went to a couple of parties which included spending some time with my grand daughters.  They are at an age when they still believe that Santa is real, so if you have any kids still at that age, don't let them read this blog and shatter their belief in old Saint Nick!  

And don't forget the other toys I asked for next year OK?
Spent the days preceding the parties looking for last minute gifts and wrapping what I had.  Tried to get into Costco - gave up due to traffic.  Decided to walk to Bay Street which was the correct strategy because there were just too many cars out and not enough parking.  It did indicate that this Christmas season was great for the retailers.  I think that people are more optimistic of the economic future due to the elections and/or the rising stock market.  Whatever the reason, there were LOTS of people out buying stuff, even on Christmas eve.

Stock Photo of how it normally looks like, but yesterday couldn't even get in
click to expand

Yesterday was no better.  I tried to get into the San Francisco Outlet Center in Livermore, only to get stuck in the parking lot for over 90 minutes before leaving in disgust.  We even brought along my 96 year old Godmother and had her handicap parking permit available with no avail. Once inside the lot, it was impossible to get out and every single space was taken.  The afternoon wasted, we went off to an early dinner instead.

Today, I plan on another try at Costco.  I need to buy some glucosamine and vitamins which were all used up while I was in the land of smiles.  The best value and quality for Glucosamine is the Kirkland brand.  I usually buy about 5-6 bottles every time  I travel here to California for people back home who swear it has relieved their joint pain.  Know it works wonders for me.  It is sometimes on sale at MBK on the 3rd floor where they have the kiosks with foreign beauty products, etc. but its about double the price it costs here.  FYI, Glucosamine is very expensive in the land of smiles and is usually in powdered form only.

In the meantime, its holiday time in the bay area and time to get ready for the new year...and whatever it will bring.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Live from Kalifornia

Made it over to Kalifornia.  

A bit of delay getting my post up due to my computer being down while getting updated to Windows 10.  It hung up part way through the update and I had to restart it.  Took hours and hours for me to realize that it was stuck and not updating.  Anyway, I'm here safe and sound - at least for the time being.

My plans are to enjoy the weekend before contacting my local cardiologist next week.  Cleveland Clinic has already replied to my request for an appointment, asking that I send them information from my cardiologist before they will give me a date.  They want to review my files in order to determine the action required before any meeting takes place...only logical.

So far, the weather has been cold, but not exceedingly so.  For us Kalifornia wimps, 40F is cold while others around the country think that is shirt sleeve weather.  For Canadians, I think they might even break out shorts in this kind of weather.  But a cold spell is due with lows in the upper 30s so I will reserve judgement until then.

Had a very emotional farewell this time at the airport.  Gave B, and Marina especially, the longest hugs due to the circumstances. Told myself I won't let her see me cry, because Marina still doesn't understand yet why I have to go.  When I did talk to her last night via LINE, she seems to be doing OK - shows they are better able to handle things like this better than me.  Everyone is back up in the country already,  tending to business as the resort is full this week until after the New Year. Even had to hire some temporary maid help as B's mother was in BKK for the last few days and we were short handed.

Don't know how much I will be blogging as the time is hectic, but I will do my best to to keep in touch.  

So please accept my well wishes to you, your family and love ones for a very happy, healthy, and successful holiday season and New Year.  May your days be filled with peace and joy and may the wonders of this beautiful planet always bring a bit of surprise and a big smile to your face.  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Blogging mid Pacific at 30,000 feet

Broke down and paid $22 bucks for EVA wifi access.  Good for 24 hours or the entire flight.  Pretty decent speed but I did have some security issues because of the strange network IP.  We just passed Japan and that part of the trip is a bit bumpy and makes typing on a tablet hard.

Going to give it a good workout.  will try LINE next and all the other apps.  No voice though because that is restricted.

Only seven more hours to go.

Quick snack at EVA lounge

The next first family archer..

Not too bad for the sport.  Pleasant form to look at too.........

Feel a lot better about my trip back to Kalifornia already.

Last morning in BKK.  Getting up early and getting ready for the airport in a few hours.  More from there hopefully.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Last full day in the Mango...

Its the last full day in the mango.  In just over 30 hours, I will be making my way over to the airport for the ride on the big silver bird to Kalifornia.  Spent most of yesterday shopping for myself.  If you are curious what a resident of the mango brings for himself back to Kalifornia, here are some examples:  Bottle of lime juice and a package of lime powder, some Thai chilli paste, variety of soy sauces, pre-packaged spices for Tom Yum dishes, five spices dishes, 3 packs of Birdy 3 in 1 coffee packets, and of course, Tong Garden peanuts.  I also bought some shampoo and conditioner (cheaper and better than Kalifornia), some liquid body soap, and some paper products (tablets, envelopes, etc.).  Most of the stuff is pretty boring but I buy them here because they are cheaper than I can get them for in Kalifornia.

Also bought some warm clothing.  My sweatshirts in Kalifornia are getting a bit worn out so I bought a couple of light weight jackets and an insulated sweatshirt.  Also fount a Nautica  bomber 'grab' jacket for tossing in the back of the truck for those unexpected situations. It was dirt cheap at one of the outlet stores because it was a rust color and too bright to wear during this period in the land of smiles.  Aside from online retailers like Duluth Trading, or Cabelas, I don't shop at department stores for clothing anymore because I can't bear the prices they charge for clothes that I can get the same for much much less.  A tip for those expats with normal western size bodies - most of the clothes here in the LOS will not fit you.  I have to scour the export shops to find clothes to fit me and I am only a standard size L.  The sizes on the clothing here in the Thai shops are local sizes, and they are at least two sizes smaller than western sizes (i.e. XXL = L)

Lastly, Makro had a bunch of stocking stuffers for between 250-350 baht ($7-$10 USD).  Bought a few of those for the 'exchange gifts under $20' events this holiday season.   

I am going to check with bank if I send this in or just give to them to process....

I have to visit the bank today to set up auto payment for my AIS Fibre account. Due to the promo, my bill for the next six months is only going to be 336 baht per month. For those expats that plan on being away for some period, you might want to consider setting up auto payment for such things like utilities, phone, internet, cable TV, etc.  I've always had to take my id and bank books to the bank and have one of the officers fill out the paperwork for me to make it happen.  It usually takes about 2 months to kick into effect.  I noticed on the back of my AIS bill that there is a pre-printed form that allows auto payments, but it still requires a signature from an authorized bank officer.

Also have planned a visit to the salon to pick up some hair coloring and hopefully a quick dash into the new Pantip plaza for a quick look.  I have access to some hypo-allergic herbal hair coloring for those like me who are allergic to commercial hair dyes.  Found out about it through a lot of trial and error while I still owned the salon.  I plan on bringing some back to Kalifornia for personal use and some people who told me it also works for them. Its potentially a very good eBay money maker if I chose to do it some day.  If I can get all that done today, I can finally sit down for a relaxing dinner out tonight and sleep peacefully knowing that I didn't forget anything major.

Got to get going in a bit...long day ahead..hoping to make every minute count.

Monday, December 19, 2016

da Beach...

Water under our beach chairs

Spent yesterday at the beach in Hua Hin.  Being Sunday, it was a bit busy plus you can tell its high season as there were many tourists in town.  Yesterday, the tide was also unusually high which shrank the beach to beach chairs only size.  Even the beach chairs were standing over the water when we got there.  It was so high that we would get the occasional splash from the waves and had to put all our belongings and bags on chairs.   As the day progressed, the water receded somewhat but this is the highest water that I've seen since we've been coming to this beach (more than 10 years).  My guess is that its the supermoon impact and yesterday's alignment with the sun being behind us on the beach.

Rajabhakti Park, Hua Hin

Prior to getting to the beach, we also took B's mom to visit Rajabhakti Park.  This is a fairly new attraction which opened in Hua Hin a couple of years ago that features a pavilion surrounded by giant bronze statues of some of the more prominent kings of Thailand's history.  Its very popular during the weekends with the locals and tourists and is only about 5 km due south of Hua Hin proper.  Note:  the best time to visit is in the morning - otherwise the sun will be to the back of the statues and you will not see the details in your photos and the front will be in shadows with a very bright background.  We stopped for a few family pictures and then headed to the beach for some food and fun.

Spent the morning and early afternoon on the beach playing and eating.  Marina made friends with a group of people from Singapore who brought a unicorn float.  But it didn't float very well and we all got a laugh just watching them trying to stay up.  

Ella loves the beach too...

Ella had a blast too.  It was her first time to the beach and grandma had never been to Hua Hin either so it was a double treat for us to take them.  For me, this is what family and kids are all about - fun together, eating together, and spending time together in each other's company.  If we do more of that, I think the world would be a nicer place and the planet would be the land of smiles and not just Thailand.....

My perfect 10 - Bo Derek you got  competition
That's it for this morning.  Archery with BB at the range this afternoon and then more food and shopping tonight and tomorrow.  Three more days......

Friday, December 16, 2016

Busy Days ahead

With only about six days left, things are starting to get hectic.  But throughout this period, what keeps me going is that I'm going to try to get back as soon as physically possible and when I get back, I am going to be better than when I left.   While I have little or no symptoms of my heart valve problem, I want to be worry free and physically up to raising two very active little girls.  So I go back on this trip not really having a specific return date, but only the hope of getting back ASAP.  It all depends on my recovery period and assuming no complications from the surgery.

I try to keep things optimistic for the family and tell them, and myself, that its a minor 'tune-up' for my heart.  But the reality is that its surgery to one of the most important organs of the body.  While the positive outcomes are in the 99.9% range, its not totally risk free.  My only consolation is that the repairs are going to extend my survival rate from this condition so that it no longer will be a risk factor in my old age.  I'm sure there will be other things that pop up as we are no longer spring chickens by any means.

If its hard for me, its even more so for those being left behind.  So I am making the best of our time remaining in the next few days.  Likely a little trip down to the beach Sunday or just some quiet time together being close.  Why go to the US for the operation?  For one, I can have it covered by Medicare and my supplemental insurance which I am paying for every month.  Its a benefit I am entitled to, after working 30 years and paying insurance premiums all that time.  Second, I have a choice of some of the best cardiology care in the world available.  Still trying to decide if I am going to have the procedure done in Kalifornia or go all the way to Cleveland to have it done at the #1 rated Cleveland Clinic.  More research is needed and if what I have is not that complicated, it will likely be in Kalifornia.

To change the subject, Rogue One in 4DX was pretty good.  Bit of comic book corny and lots of fighting action and cool special effects - which is perfect for Star Wars fans like myself. The story line ties back into the first Star Wars movie, Episode VII and you will see some flashes of characters that will be part of that original episode in this movie - (how many can you see?)  The 4DX during the fight scenes really puts one into the action and one can feel the flight sensation, the blows and crashes, and crossfire during the shootout scenes. Its not easy to find a 4DX theater in the USA as there is only one in Los Angeles.  So if you are here in the next few weeks, take the plunge and go to one of many here in the big mango.  Its really a neat experience to try at least once - the cost is only 600 baht or just slightly more than the standard ticket price in US theaters.

I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't a bigger opening promo at the theater.  No storm troopers and Darth Vader like last time for selfies, etc.  Guess they knew this one is gonna make a lot of money with no need for any promos.  

Today's plan is for some shopping at Khlong Tom market/ Chinatown for some grab bag and stocking stuffers.  Have to do all my Christmas shopping before I get back either online or locally as there is no time remaining when I get to Kalifornia.

Lastly, I hope to make the free buffet tonight.  But if not, definitely a good foot massage.  Want to hang out a bit before going back to Kalifornia and hold on to those good memories...555

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Back in the Mango...

Been back in the mango for about 24 hours.  Got back late yesterday afternoon but was too tired to do anything so I took a long nap.  I had plans to visit MBK the big part of today but had to change plans when Bangkok buddy contacted me for a late lunch.  

I still managed to get a couple of hours of looking around at MBK and did accomplish getting a heavy sweatshirt and a few hats made.  These are not ordinary hats, but our very own blog hats with the Sevenwinds logo!  See the pictures below!  

These hats are super exclusive and not available for sale anywhere.  They can only be gotten FREE from me if you see me in person and give the secret passwords:  "I want one of your stupid hats". While supplies last only.  If the demand is great, I'll have a few more made.  Remember you got to ask me in person and give the secret phrase above.

We spared no expense...they are adjustable too..555

Anyway, had lunch with BB at Sizzler and then coffee at the new Holly's in Central Rama 9. Tomorrow, its the grand opening of Rouge One and we have seats at the 2PM showing in 4DX at the Paragon Cineplex.  Should be lots of fun as last time, there were all the costumed characters there for pictures and selfies.

That is it for now.  Countdown is only 8 days before the ride on the big silver bird to Kalifornia.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Decided on the LED lights

The electrician showed up early this morning with a choice of LED lights.  We decided over the weekend that the tubes were not going to be good enough for long term use.  The nice thing about our electrician is that he always gives us choices and prices for all the options we want and is very honest with prices and information.  Anyway, here were the choices from the back of his pickup truck.  The pole at the top of the pickup bed is the mounting pole for the fixture.

We (B's father and I) decided on the Newton 50W with multiple LEDs.  Its rated IP65 against the elements and because its LED, the life of the fixture should be very long.  The 50W fixture we selected was 3,200 baht apiece, but they also had a 60W version for 4,300 baht.  We needed a total of six, so the overall cost won't be overly expensive.  I will get the bill tomorrow morning because I think they are going to finish the job today.

So the plan is still to be back in the mango by Tuesday - what time is to be determined.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trying to wrap things up at the resort

With only about 10 days left on this bookend, I'm trying to wrap things up and dole out assignments for work to be done while I am away.  Since I will be away for up to three months (longest in years), I have to make sure everything can run smoothly and automatically or by remote control.  Its been over three years since we opened the resort and the business side of it is  pretty much under control.  The capital improvements and the market project will take a bit more coordination.

The electricians were around  yesterday with some hardware they wanted me to choose from.  Taking advice from Geo, we are going to be using LED lights.  They have LED lights in tube form (type C with external driver) that can fit the same fixture sizes as the fluorescent lights and gives out more efficient light using less wattage.  The life expectancy is also significantly greater (up to 84,000 hours).

The electricians have pulled the lines and set up the breaker boxes and outlets at each pole.  All that is remaining is for me to choose the fixture styles and output and they should be here Monday.

The other market project we are working on is the planting of some more shade trees.  I've had my eyes on some black afara (Terminalia Ivorensis) trees at one of the local nurseries. In Thailand's sunny and high heat climate, shade is a premium so any kind of fast growing shade tree is highly coveted.  I ended up buying 5 of them for around 6000 baht altogether, which included delivery.  B's father and nephew are out there this morning planting them.  This is the perfect weather for landscaping work as its not as hot as normal and its also easier on the plants and trees as well.

Here is a video (In Thai) which so how they are supposed to look like when they are grown.  They are huge by comparison to any of the trees we have now on the market property so it should be fun watching them grow in the next couple of years.

Hope to get back to the mango late Monday or Tuesday.  Planning on going to the Rouge One premier at Siam Paragon on the 15th and in 4DX to boot!  And a bit of a taster and teaser from the following trailer...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Fantastic golf getaway......

Just got back from a great golf getaway.  The weather has been absolutely perfect the last few weeks and yesterday's golf was as close to perfect as I can remember in a long time.  Could play all 18 holes without breaking a sweat and actually enjoyed being outside.  Golfers who play here often know that these conditions are very rare as most of the time we are underneath our umbrellas or hiding in the shade to fight the intense sun and heat.  Played all day without an umbrella and only drank one bottle of water.

Our home for the evening

Next to a creek which can be accessed via the steps
Our stay at Khao Yai was very nice.  I didn't realize that we couldn't stay at Creston Hills because it wasn't finished yet.  Its pretty much sales offices and lots and buildings under construction. We stayed instead at another resort owned by the company that is used for guests contemplating buying or needing a place to stay while visiting the Khao Yai area.  Its called Anyamanee resort and is set in a wooded, creek side venue.  The house we were given accommodates 15 people and rents for 15K - 20K per night, depending on the time and season.  We had the place to ourselves and there was only four of us.

All the hills surrounding the homes are part of Khao Yai

The Creston Hills development was spectacular.  It is set right next to and borders in some places, Khao Yai National park.  The gate to the park is walking distance from homes in the development which are just off the main road. Its similar to having a house within walking distance to the Yosemite National Park gate in California. Also, I was wrong about the prices of the homes here.  I said the cost was 50-94 million baht for the houses, but its for the lot/land only - houses are extra so expect to not get in under 100 million baht.  There will however, eventually be an exclusive low rise condo and shopping mall for those with lesser means.

One of the models...

How about your own pool outside the dinning room

Imagine this view from your bedroom

Lots are all set up with underground utilities
The only disappointment is the road (Hwy 2090) going to Khao Yai Park from the main freeway.  Its crammed with resorts, restaurants, and other attractions for many miles.  

These are huge resorts, shopping venues, and themed restaurants and attractions that are uncharacteristic of the area and reminds me of commercial development gone wild.  That is one reason why this development is so nice as its away from all the chatter and noise of this venue.  

Back at the Anyamanee resort we were staying at, Mr. S  and the second in charge of the development outdid themselves with a special seafood dinner brought to our dining room.  There were two styles of fish prepared and two different kinds of giant lobsters in addition to the soup, veggies, etc.  These  lobsters were was prepared traditional style with seasoning and nuts and the other was served raw.  Both were fresh and live before the chefs prepared them.  A really special and memorable dinner at a very special and memorable place.

This was the raw lobster tail packed in ice, served Japanese style with Wasabi 

Prepared with spices, nuts, and garlic...yum
The golf experience was also great.  The course remains the same.  Its a relatively easy resort style course with wide fairways but tricky greens.  Plenty of bunkers and water hazards keep you honest. Didn't do too badly in the round, collecting bragging rights by winning 180 baht out of a maximum of 200. But the most important thing was being with friends in an almost perfect getaway.

As they say, those that play together stay together...555

Golf course is ready for the New Year
The land of smiles.  There is so much really to smile about and I have a really big smile on my face today too thinking about the last two days....

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Going away for some golf

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am scheduled for a golf outing with my Thai friends the next couple of days.  I've played golf with these friends for nearly 15 years and love them dearly.  We use to play every month or when I was in the country, but due to health reasons and other commitments, we have not had a chance to play together for a while.  Its always a lot of fun as we, like many other golf buddies, have a little contest and bet going between us during the round.  But its not serious money since the maximum we can lose is 20 baht per hole, or a maximum of 100 baht.  The point is not the money, but the fun in the competition and camaraderie.  We enjoy a meal afterwards together and catch up on family and the latest news.  Without them, I would not have had the chance to see or experience so many places and courses in Thailand because I just wouldn't have known about them.

Today, I am meeting up with them at a resort where one of the players has become associated.  Its a high end resort and community near Khao Yai and very close to the golf course that we will be teeing off at.  By high end, I mean really high end, as the homes are in the 50-94 million baht range.  The link to the resort is here.   Its called Creston Hills.  We will be staying one night as guests so I will have some pictures to post when I get back.

This boat is at the left first Tee, which is a mandatory carry over the lake
Hole one...

Tomorrow we will play at Rancho Charnvee, which has become one of our favorites.  This is the same golf course that has its own landing strip for private planes and horse trails around the grounds. The nice thing is that this place is between Bangkok and our resort so its only about a two hour drive for everyone to meet.

I'll bring my plane next time...for a quick 9 holes
With only a couple of weeks left on this bookend, its good that I have a chance to see my friends again.  It may be a while before we can get together as I will likely not be back to the land of smiles until probably March unless I get an extremely fast recovery from my heart valve surgery.  I will have to wait for the doctor's clearance to travel and get back into active sports.  Whatever or where ever that road takes me, I will be ready to give it my best.

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