Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Little Ella walked today...

Ella and her 'Walking boots'

Ella walked today.  Not far, but she took about 5 steps before falling into the arms of Grandma.  I held her up, pointed her to the direction of Grandma and she staggered like a drunk, but she made it to the other end.  I like to document these things in this blog because there is nowhere else we write these things down except in our memories, and our memories can be very forgetful.

She is a little rascal right now

She is on schedule with Marina, who also walked at about 13 months.  As I said back then with Marina, we are in big trouble now.  At least for the next year or more, we will have to keep things hidden, locked, or otherwise out of reach of her little hands.

Finished assembling both bikes, but I will have to wait to ride them because I am hobbling around a bit today.  Stubbed my left pinky toe yesterday and my left toe and joint is swollen.   Can't put a lot of pressure on it, but this morning, the swelling is better.  That will give me some time on the internet today as I've been busy doing lots of physical things for the resort the last couple of days.

This  8 channel unit was only $107 (used) on eBay

On Monday, I ordered some equipment for our Bamboo Market Project to make it stand out from the rest of the businesses in the area.  Because we are an outdoor market, and there are lots of them, I wanted to do something special to get people to come.  The idea I had was to put on a light show on a regular basis.  Not just an ordinary light show as Thais really don't appreciate or understand them, but how about a light show coordinated with music, just like in a few of these scenes below (without the house)?  Naturally, ours would be a LOT smaller and a lot less complex.

While it sounds expensive and looks very time consuming, its really not that bad after the first setup. The initial hardware purchase for the controllers is the biggest expense.  The company I chose, Light-O-Rama is having a huge summer sale now and I picked up some professional units in 220V for a great price.  The lights used are either regular outdoor Christmas lights or the new LEDs and both can be had very cheaply from Khlong Tom Market, Bangkok's Chinatown or directly online from many Chinese suppliers.  As for the software sequences, I found out there is a cottage industry of people building sequences for sale. They range in cost between $8 - $50 and are plug in and ready to run.  As one continues to build on the system with more controllers, lights, and music the show gets more spectacular.  The system can be left up for weekly shows or done seasonally, but I think it will create quite a stir in the area where this kind of technology is unknown.  

Here is a simplified narrative of how the system is  put together and how it works.  Naturally, I would use a different system to connect the lights instead of the many plugs to ensure a weatherproof connection.  Also, the controller I chose had a built in director so I don't need to have a computer connected to run the show times can be scheduled in advance.

Anyway, I will have a lot to carry back on the next trip.  

Planning to go back to the mango on Friday morning, spend the weekend there before heading back to Kalifornia for about 6 weeks.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Back upcountry again.

I'm back upcountry again.  This will be the last time before I get on the plane to Kalifornia.  There is a lot to do and just a few days remaining.  We have to come back to the mango on Friday because Ella is scheduled for some vaccination shots on Saturday and I have to get on a plane the following Tuesday.  Can't believe how quickly the time has gone by on this trip.  The time was well spent with family and the recovery from heart surgery continued without incident.  In fact, except for a few moments of awkward movement which stresses the sternum, I don't even feel I had surgery just three months ago.

Many quaint spots for wedding pictures

Left around 7:30 am and arrived at the resort before noon.  Evidently, the resort was full this weekend because as soon as we rolled in, one of our European customers needed some information and a ride. A group of people came in for a wedding yesterday and there is some kind of stuff planned for them later today and they needed someone to give them a lift.  Its all part of the service and it was no big deal as it was only a few kilometers down the road.  We often get couples that come to the resort to just take wedding pictures even though they did not get married here.  We don't charge them, but often they will return at a later time when they come back to the area to visit family - its all part of the business I guess.

Just finished replacing the hard drive on the resort security system.  After 4 1/2 years, it started to send alarms and finally failed about two week ago.  Once it failed, the system would continuously reboot after a HDD alarm.  Replaced the HDD with a new WD black HDD and it came up right away. The new drive has a five year warranty and we will get our money's worth because the security system is running 24/7 and that is a lot of time in use over 5 years.  On the positive side, I've never had a HDD failure with a WD Black series - not once on any of my three desktop PCs.

My next task is to replace a couple of batteries for the broken UPS units.  Lastly, if I have time, I will try to assemble my new bikes which came in the day we left for the mango last week.  

Busy, busy, busy, but I believe that's what keeps a person physically young and mentally sound.  Its far too easy to let life go and become a bored mindless slug here in the land of smiles.  Besides, working on things for me is a lot of fun!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Holiday is done, now its back in the mango

Marina likes the water - a lot
We left about noon from Cha Am and are now in the mango again.  B had some business with her aunt this afternoon and so I am baby sitting Marina.  I really don't mind too much as she is easy to keep entertained and is pretty independent in terms of food, etc.  Thank goodness for TV, tablets, and other kids videos, because they make great stand-in sitters and helps them learn. Marina speaks three languages now; Thai, English, and a bit of Isan.  Her Thai is often better than mine and as for Isan, I am a flunk out...555

Last night's stay at the Grand Pacific Sovereign was very pleasant.  Didn't swim yesterday (it started to sprinkle)  but we did this morning after breakfast.  They have three levels of swimming pools, a spa, a fitness center, and lots of restaurants within the complex.  Its not as popular as the other hotels because its on the opposite side of Cha Am near Hua Hin and the street and beach narrows considerably from the normal road.  During our stay, almost 100% of the guests were Thais.

Dining room for breakfast overlooks the pool

Pool on upper level - infinity edge
Water comes down over wall to the second level

Mid level pool with swim up bar

Finally the lower level  pool for the poolside suites
I took these pictures after sunset on my Oneplus 5.  Must say that after a couple of months of use, the phone's picture quality and photo capabilities are amazing.  Its also shoots super clear HD movies as well and I don't even bother carrying my old powershot camera anymore when I travel.

Couldn't get free to go to the buffet tonight.  Maybe next week.  Tomorrow I have a few chores to do and then hopefully can hang out a bit later in the afternoon or early evening.  Have to go back up to the resort one more time before going back.  More tomorrow.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life as a four star beach bum

Enjoying life as a beach bum - four star style.  Marina, B, and I are in Hua Hin and Cha Am for a couple of days of relaxation.  Marina got to come because she is only in nursery school and Ella is too small to tag along and is with grandma.  We checked into the Hyatt Regency last night and will leave today at noon.  Afterwards, we are going to Cha Am and will stay at the Grand Pacific Sovereign, Its one of our favorites and a little bit of a secret as it a great hotel at a very reasonable price.  Its off the beaten path as its on the far end of Cha Am, away from the other big tourist hotels and most cater to Thais from Bangkok.  Most regulars who come to the land of smiles never heard of the place.

Lots of pools and great service.  Beautiful private beach is just across the road

We had lunch on our beach yesterday but found out that our tables under the umbrella were removed in the government's effort to clean up the local beaches of vendors.  Kind of sad because the beach is now kind of devoid of people.  A more reasonable approach would have been to limit the number of umbrellas and chairs so that people going to the beach don't have to trek and carry their own.  Most of the people who come are tourists and/or visitors who don't normally have chairs and umbrellas with them.  

Don't build your castles on Sand little girl

Fortunately after lunch, we checked into the Hyatt and they had plenty of umbrellas, chairs, and towels. But by then, it had started to sprinkle so we just ended up watching Marina having a great time playing with the beautiful sand.  The Hyatt is a great hotel in a very nice location.  The grounds are beautifully landscaped and the rooms are very nice.  Normally wouldn't stay here because of the cost, but free room perks are something I can't refuse...555

One of the many pools on the site

The view from our balcony

More later as we head over to Cha Am.  B's comment that Hua Hin is now more of a tourist trap seems to hold true more that ever.  Development is going on everywhere and places we remember as quiet local places are now gone and big condo developments are in their place.  I don't like what I see and am glad we didn't fall into the trap of buying property here when it was promoted heavily a few years back.

Cha Am seems to cater more to the local Thais from the mango and the prices, food, and attitude seems to be markedly different than Hua Hin.  They are twenty kilometers apart, but that is enough to make a difference in this part of paradise.  I feel more comfortable there - is that because I am finally undergoing the transformation of being assimilated into their strange culture?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Big City Life - just passing through

My table and umbrella is waiting for me

Yep, back in the Mango again.  Got back yesterday after a leisurely drive but tomorrow its off to Hua Hin and Cha Am for a couple of days of R&R.  I've been looking forward to this holiday for some time as I have been busy since getting back to the land of smiles at the resort.  It seems fitting that I have at least one holiday on this trip back to celebrate my recovery from heart surgery.

Spent the last couple of days getting some chores done.  Found my silk screen shop's new location as they had to move due to the building's renovation.  Got my order in to print the resort and market shirts and the will be ready by next week.  This shop is the best and cheapest I've found and I've been using them for over 10 years. Cost me only 950 baht to print 50 shirts and that included the screen setup.  

Afterwards, I went out to Fortune Town and bought some more batteries for the UPS units and a new hard drive for the security system.  Later in the afternoon, Vanna got a much needed car wash and now she is all prettied up for our vacation to the beaches.  

Even though we will be at the beach, I will not be without a shirt on.  Don't want to freak out the people around me as I still have my zipper on my chest from the surgery.  Its completely healed, but I still have a scar visible that is going to be with me for a while - Don't know at this point how long or if it might be permanent.  Ordered some Scar Away from Amazon and will pick it up on my trip back and use it for a few months.  Its supposed to really help reduce the discoloration and appearance of the scar.  At worse, it will be my bragging rights of who has the longest scar from surgery...555

We have one night at the Hua Hin Hyatt and the second at the Cha Am Pacific Sovereign.  Our fingers are crossed that we will have some good weather and not get rained out.  At least there is a decent mall in Hua Hin to hang out if things go badly.  We will hang out at the beach, eat, and take life slow - after all, this is paradise isn't it?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

No least not for me

The party Friday night was a lot of fun.  We had a show consisting of three singers and three dancers (six performers) on a medium sized stage over at the new market location.  They were all set up in their show clothing and did a very professional job entertaining the audience.  It was a private party by invitation only and not open to the public.

The party was for Gaeow, my 11 year old stepson but there was also other reasons we had such an elaborate party. There is no doubt he had a great time, but I think it was a bit over the top for such a young kid.  But he is a good kid and right at that early stage when he is about to start his teen years.  Raise him right now and hopefully he will stay our of trouble and do well in life.

The  decision to have the big party was based on testing a couple of concepts by B and the band/show group.  This is a very popular and long established group and the audition show was done for free ( I would never agree to pay for such an elaborate event for such a young kid) , with only tips, food, and drinks provided for the entertainers. The show venue was still under development and was mostly mud, but we wanted to check out the layout and other aspects of having live music during certain events and market days. The sound system company wanted to do a promo and the stage/lighting people wanted to get involved too. And lastly, the boys in brown wanted to see how the site would work for traffic and security issues.  The BIB involvement was a late last minute surprise, but no harm or foul as they are good friends of our resort and only got paid food and drink like the other party goers.  They also kept uninvited guests out of the party.  The night was a test of how we can use our facility to host private parties, weddings, and other events.  It showcased various vendors and how things could be put together in one big package for a very reasonable price.  

This is the medium sized stage

We learned a lot too about a night time outdoor show, like how to deal with bugs being attracted to the bright lights of the show.  We didn't have enough toilet facilities and people had to go in the bushes down at the bamboo field...555  Parking needed to be expanded, so I will need to elevate the front portion of the market to make it level with the road.  We learned lots of good things too, like the venue was quite beautiful next to the lake and once the breeze started, it was a joy for the singers and dancers to perform and a very pleasant place for the audience to see the show.  Setup was fast and easy.  We had plenty of power and the stage locations were flexible.  The band likes it so much that they want to make it kind of a 'home base' for them to play and practice when they are between jobs...of course at no cost to us,  That is something that I will have to negotiate later as the market is at least one year from its opening.  Everyone who participated had a great time and are excited about our site and venue.  Now we just need to get all the parties lined up.

The big boy Gaeow with his name on his Jersey

Lighting the cake
Lastly, the plan is to go back to the mango on Monday and on Wednesday we will leave for a couple of days of R&R down in Hua Hin.  I have a free night at the Hyatt each year as part of their credit card promo and lots of points to redeem.  It will also be my last chance to holiday a bit before my return to Kalifornia.  That's it for now, more when I get back to the mango.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Back upcountry and looking at the setup

Back upcountry after an uneventful drive this morning.  Got here before noon and the show people are already setting up the stage for tonight's party.  The dance group/band is going to perform for Gaeow's birthday, but its really a promotional appearance for them as well as a dry run of the space we have allocated for entertainment at the Bamboo Jungle Market.  Its all dirt now, but the trees are in place and the general layout done. Now we will have to see how this all looks once they get here this evening.

We are not paying the group except for food and drinks.  I might tip them some if they do a good job since they had crew out here most of the day.  They are hoping for exposure for weddings, birthdays, and other special events and we want to test/showcase out eventual venue at the market. Its also a potential site for wedding parties and other social events. We will learn a lot tonight for sure.

That's it for now.  Time for a little nap before the evening fun.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ready to leave the Mango again..

Going to drive back upcountry tomorrow again.  But the few days here in the mango were very productive.  I did a lot of shopping.  Bought computer parts, picked up all my stuff from Aliexpress, bought some shirts for silk screening (next trip), and even ordered two bikes for use up at the resort.
Winn Cyclocross Road Bike 700C
Coyote Tempo 700C

Saw some inexpensive bikes in Chinatown near Khlong Tom market, but found the same or better bikes online at Lazada.  If you order the stuff online, it includes free delivery so I had them deliver them to me up at the resort to save me from having to haul them up myself.  Decided to get 27.5 or 700C bikes because they have larger wheels for stability and speed.  Don't plan to take them offroad except very occasionally and the WINN CycloCross Bike should do just fine.  The Tempo is more of a road touring bike and I will use that for smooth roads when we travel to the national parks in the area. These bikes were on sale and cheap enough that I won't cry too much if they break or get stolen. Besides, its my cheap version of a lifecycle machine because we don't have access to a gym upcountry.

B, Marina, and I ate at Fish head two nights ago before I dropped them off at the bus station.  We didn't want Marina to miss too much school this week because we plan on taking her out most of next week.  B wanted to get back also to set up Gaeow's birthday party tomorrow.  

We have a few days of vacation planned for a trip to Hua Hin to take advantage of a free night's stay I have at the Hyatt Regency which is going to expire in October.  We will likely stay at the Hyatt one night and then go to Cha Am where will stay at the Grand Pacific Hotel for one night.  Hopefully by then, the rains will ease up and we will have a few days of sunshine.  

This is low season in Thailand for hotels because its rainy season. Its been raining every day for some period since I got back to the mango. Even though many folks in the States or Europe have summer holidays this time of year, most don't travel here too much this time of year because they know they cannot guarantee beach time or getting around without getting wet.

More tomorrow after I get back to the resort.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

In the Mango

Got into the big mango around noon yesterday.  It was a very pleasant 4 hour drive even though it was the last day of the big mother's day weekend.  There was a lot of news about people being stuck for hours on the highways Friday so I think a lot of people left early.  However, traffic was extremely light inside the major areas of the mango.

Met up with Bangkok Buddy at Fortune Town as we were both looking for computer components.  I also had his long overdue mail which I forgot to give him before going upcountry.  Bought a battery for one of my dead UPS units at Amorn even though I wanted four total as they did not have any more stock. Found my wireless keyboard/mouse combo and purchased a mini thumb drive.  Also checked out HDDs and confirmed that its cheaper to buy these online in the States than locally.  For example, the cost for a 6TB Western Digital Gold HDD was over 15,500 baht - the same drive cost 8,085 baht from WD directly.  Its even cheaper from other online sources like newegg. The lesson is that not everything is cheaper here and you have to shop around.  You would think that in this case, since most of the world's hard disk drives are made here in the land of smiles, that the prices would be a lot cheaper and it turns out not to be the case. Afterwards, we had coffee at Holly's in the Central Rama 9 mall because we wanted to check out another computer store there.

Also played around with my blog layout last night because I think I had too much coffee at Holly's and couldn't get to sleep early like usual.  Added a short playlist to test if I can introduce some background music to the blog.  Got it working on some browsers, but didn't check them all out because it was getting late and Marina was starting to get a bit sick.  If you hear some background music, then it working for your browser.

Want to go out to the fishing store today or Mega Bangna, but I have to visit the condo office and the post office first so the day is in flux.  Busy, busy, busy...

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Back to the Mango tomorrow

Will be going back to the big mango tomorrow for a few days.  I have a lot of goodies to collect from Aliexpress at the condo and some shopping to do. Get to hang out a bit too at the malls. Also might get my back checked out as I've been having back spasms for the last few days, especially in the late afternoon or evening.  Think its posture related or just muscle strains, but its better to get checked out in case its something more serious.  I've been taking ibuprofen and it seems to help except when I sit at the computer too long.  Definitely something to do with correct posture and back muscle exercises.

Bottom leaves yellowing, but upper leaves getting bigger

Its been dry for a week now and so the flooding seems to have subsided a bit.  Fully expect to have most or all the water gone when we return on Friday.  The strange thing is that this bamboo actually grew during the flood and expanded their leaves.  Some of the culms actually grew taller during the flood so that indicates this variety is flood proof for mature plants.

That's it for today.  Want to get stuff ready and make a list of things to buy so my time in the mango will be productive.  Have a nice weekend everyone.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day.  And to HRH the Queen, Happy Birthday!

Its mother's day here in the Land of Smiles. Just like in other places in the world, sons and daughters have traveled from all over the country to be with their mothers on this special day. Last night, relatives from Bangkok arrived including B's sister.  We had a big barbecue feast of giant prawns, steak, and Thai noodles.  B's aunt brought the prawns up from Khlong Toei market and they were pretty big for this time of year.  We had a great cookout (B's Uncle can be seen doing the Barbie below) last night and partied late.  Thais like to eat and party at night because its the only time when its cool enough to be outside. 

This morning, the mother's were honored by the kids who gave flowers and bowed to thank them.  It was a sweet time and I was able to capture some precious moments that I will keep in larger photos. Fortunately, I had my good camera with me on this occasion instead of just my phone.  You can immediately see the difference in quality and composition.

On this special day for moms, a special thanks from all the dads in Thailand for making our kids lives (and our lives) so great.  

Ella was a bit teary eyed because she didn't want to give the flower away to mom

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The birthday party that turned into a cake fight

Daddy feeding Ella her first ever birthday cake

All was going well for yesterday's party for little Ella.  After all, it was her first birthday ever and her extended family was all around her.  We had plenty of food.  On the menu were shish kabobs of beef and pork, salads, and of course plenty of rice.  There was the customary eating, joking, and fun and then the birthday song.  The cake was cut and we started into our individual pieces and of course, because of all the parties we've had lately, there was lots of cake left over.


Anyway, B gets the idea that it would be a good time to smear some frosting on her father's face. Well that didn't go unchallenged and pretty soon, everyone was smearing others with cake.  Between bouts of uncontrolled laughter and running, I think we looked like a bunch of crazy people out on the drunk instead of attending a baby's first birthday party.

No harm and no foul and a good time had by everyone.  Its definitely a party that we will remember for a long time. Its back to peace I hope, until the 18th when we have Gaeow's birthday.  Marina is already getting ready for the cake fight...555

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