Visitors to our Thai village

My brother and his family were not arriving until about 6pm but I decided to head into Ubon early anyway. I checked into T3, set up my office and managed to knock over about six solid hours of computer work using the much more reliable internet at T3 then the very poor substitute I have back in the village.

I only took one quick break all afternoon to grab a snack.

My afternoon snack from Indochine, a Vietnamese restaurant located only 100m from the T3 hotel in Ubon Ratchathani.

My afternoon snack from Indochine, a Vietnamese restaurant located only 100m from the T3 hotel in Ubon Ratchathani.

I was on my way to the airport when they rang, asking where I was as they had arrived a few minutes early. I put the foot down and 90 seconds later I pulled up out the front where they were all waiting. The kids were stoked when I told them that they were allowed to ride in the back with all the luggage. A real shame I forgot to take a photo.

Back to T3 to show them to their rooms before we hit the streets of Ubon looking for a feed. We ended up at a very popular place on Sapahsit Road that opens late in the afternoon but never seems to close until around the time that the sun comes up. We created quite a scene walking in with four gorgeous blonde kids in tow! Lots of yummy Thai food was consumed before it was back to the hotel for some sleep.

My brother and his family tucking into some Thai food in Ubon.

My brother and his family tucking into some Thai food in Ubon.

The next morning we my brother and I went off to pick up their hire car for the next 8 days. Via Balcony Kiss for a coffee of course! I have previously talked about Jay Jay here on my blog but that was all about hiring a motorbike in Ubon Ratchathani. They now also do cars and once again we got excellent service, a good price and a great car. I can highly recommend them.

Once the car was sorted it was back to pick up the others, a quick visit to Tesco and then the drive back to the village. My kids were very excited to welcome them to their house. They had been talking about this moment for years. It wasn’t very long before the visitors had worked out where things were and had made themselves at home.

Rebekah was the most adventurous early on at trying out new things and attempting to play with the shell shocked local kids.

Rebekah was the most adventurous early on at trying out new things and attempting to play with the shell shocked local kids.

That night, after dinner and showers the kids decided to put on a show for the adults. Some of it was quite funny.

Farang kids in Thailand playing

Farang kids in Thailand playing

Kids at Attention

Kids at Attention

The next few days disappeared quickly. A lot of the time was spent just hanging out around the house and village but a few trips were taken as well. The weather was very cool so just the one swim was had at the river.

Last year I blogged about cooking damper over the coals and it was a lot of fun so we did again this year. With the cool weather the cooking was not only fun but kept the kids warm as well.

Kids cooking damper in Thailand over coals

Their trip coincided with a Sunday so we took them to the little local church that we had found the previous holiday. It is conveniently located next to the only 7/11 for 40 kms so an ice cream just had to be bought. Talk about taking up all the room!

Kids eating ice cream on the steps on a 7/11

One afternoon we had a little free entertainment right behind our house with a few rounds of cock fighting taking place. I was surprised that Ariya seem pretty interested in watching but not really anyone else.

Cock fighting in a Thai village

The next (and last) photo for this entry shows some of the kids at a waterfall. It was an interesting day with the kids become celebrities for an hour but I am going to save that for a separate blog coming very soon…

Thai waterfall


Back in Ubon Ratchathani

After a great three days in Bangkok with family it was time to head to Ubon. Both girls had been sick the day before and while Marisah was a lot better Ariya was still under the weather. The taxi ride wasn’t much fun for her and just as we pulled into Don Muang airport her stomach gave way.

As I had most of the luggage (5 bags) it was quite an effort trying to deal with Ariya plus get us through the night mare that is the Don Muang bag scan and check in system. Eventually we were on our flight and made it to Ubon with only one more vomit!

Due to the girls sickness Seerung and I had decided it would be best if we rested up the night in Ubon before she came and picked us up the following morning.We caught a taxi to the T3 hotel and took our usual connecting rooms on the 4th floor. Both girls had a sleep that afternoon and when the woke they were feeling much better so we went out for an early dinner before heading back to the hotel. More sleep and by the morning we were raring to go.

After waking we packed our bags before walking down to a favourite coffee shop of ours, Balcony Kiss. Unfortunately the coffee had changed and so had the food (there was none) but we still enjoyed the cool morning sitting outside with my coffee and the girls juice. I walked down the street a little and found some kebabs and sticky rice for us all to much on for breakfast.

After a long wait eventually Seerung showed up with the car and Jacob and a nice mini reunion was had! It was then back to T3 to pick up the bags and check out then onto Central for some shopping before heading home to the village.

It is always a great feeling being back in my tojo ute pick-up making the drive over the rough dirt roads back to my second home. It was lovely to see everyone again and to notice that once again my in laws had done an excellent job looking after the house and garden.

The next few days were spent catching up with all the rellies as well as settling into the slower pace that is Village life. Before too long though it was time to head back to Ubon to pick up my brother and his family for part two of their time with us.


Hanging with the cousins in Bangkok

As I mentioned in my previous post, my brother Paul, his wife Anne and their four daughters were on their way to Bangkok. My kids were so excited and so that morning organising breakfast and packing everything up in out hotel went very quickly.

We left the Oaks on Sathorn for a very quick taxi ride down the road to where we were going to spend the next three nights, The Chatrium Residence Sathorn. We had booked this quite a while ago when Paul first booked their tickets. We had stayed in their sister property The Chatrium Riverside three years previously and had been very impressed.

My review of the Chatrium Residence Sathorn.

My review of the Chatrium Residence Sathorn.

We were unable to check in straight away so left all our bags in the lobby and hopped into another taxi to take us to the airport. We had enough time to have a quick lunch before suddenly the family had arrived. Many hugs and laughter and then logistics were discussed on how to get 3 adults, 6 kids and a pile of bags back to the hotel! We took two taxis and arrived almost at the same time about an hour later.

Without going into a blow by blow account of the three days we spent together I will say that it was a wonderful time. Bangkok can really sap your energy and with so many kids it can be tiring but watching them play and laugh together in a different country was a real treat.

The kids on their first afternoon together eating ice cream on the streets of Bangkok.

The kids on their first afternoon together eating ice cream on the streets of Bangkok.

To summarise though, that first afternoon we went out for lunch followed by a swim at the hotel. The evening Paul and I went out for some take away street food which we ate back in the hotel.

The second day was a taxi ride to Silom road to exchange money then a walk to the sky train and a train ride over the river towards the Mall Tha Pra. Here we let the kids run wild in the playground for ages before having lunch and doing some shopping. Back to hotel for more swimming and then out for dinner.

The third day was a real disappointment for my kids as they woke up unwell. I am glad I kept them home even if they weren’t. They missed out on watching a movie and going ice skating with their cousins.

The following morning it was time to say a brief goodbye. They were heading up north to visit their children that they sponsor through Compassion Australia (a great organisation) while we were heading east to Ubon Ratchathani to await their arrival there in about a weeks time.


Bangkok running

The 12 hour direct flight from Auckland to Bangkok with Thai airways was uneventful which must mean we had a great flight! Apart from the plane having seen better days we left on time and arrived slightly early plus the kids all slept a few hours and when not were busy eating, playing or watching movies.

Here is my flight report from the last time we did this same leg two years ago.

We arrived remarkably refreshed and headed straight for our hotel, The Oaks on Sathorn. No need to write up my thoughts on the place when I have already done so with Trip advisor so here is a screen shot.

Review of the Oaks Sathorn

It was around 10pm when we checked in and while I went out hunting and gathering for food Seerung got the kids are bathed and ready for bed. A quick snack and soon they were all snoring. I went to bed shortly afterwards and woke up feeling great at 6am. Not expecting anyone else to be up at least for another 4 hours I decided that it was time to do something I had always wanted to do: Go for a decent run through the streets of Bangkok.

I laced up the sneakers and hit the road before then sun had even began to peep over the horizon. Up Naratiwasrachanakarin road and right onto Sathorn. Up to Lumpini park for one and a half laps before popping out on Ratchadamri road. All the way down Surawong road and then back up Silom road until run keeper told me I had hit the 10km mark. It was basically a cross country course (apart from the park) given all the traffic, road side stalls, stairs, holes and dogs.

This is Sathorn road that I ran down. I took this photo after breakfast on my walk back to the hotel.

This is Sathorn road that I ran down. I took this photo after breakfast on my walk back to the hotel.

Normally I cannot eat any food at all for at least an hour after a run but on the occasion I think I must have run past more then 100 road side stalls cooking up all sorts of wonderful smells so I was ready to eat straight away. More importantly though was a coffee! I had always wanted to try Dean & DeLuca and seeing as it was on the way back to the hotel I dropped in. The coffee was excellent but my smoked salmon pancake at 275 baht was overpriced rubbish.

Review of Dean & DeLuca Bangkok

Everyone was still sleeping when I got back to the hotel but eventually one by one they all surfaced. The next two full days were going to be all about Seerung. I said I would take the kids and she could do what she wanted. Her best friend had organised a few days off so they went off shopping for the next few days. We hung out a lot at the hotel and the swimming pool as well as meeting them at various places around the city for meals.

The pool was cold but it didn't stop the girls. Here is Jacob pointing out the night lights to the girls.

The pool was cold but it didn’t stop the girls. Here is Jacob pointing out the night lights to the girls.

The commercial side of Christmas stretches for many months in Bangkok so the kids were delighted to find some fake snow to play in, even though it was January.

The commercial side of Christmas stretches for many months in Bangkok so the kids were delighted to find some fake snow to play in, even though it was January.

We could see the robot building from the pool and the kids were all quite fascinated by it.

We could see the robot building from the pool and the kids were all quite fascinated by it.

The Ashes were also currently being played so a few hours were spent explaining the finer points of the game to the kids while the Aussies crushed the hapless Poms!

On the third day Seerung flew east to Ubon with Jacob while the girls and I stayed in Bangkok waiting for some very special guests. My brother Paul, his wife Anne and their four wonderful daughters were coming to visit us for a few weeks. My daughters and my nieces are simply the best of friends and so you can imagine the excitement I had to deal with prior to their arrival as they had not seen them for almost two months. More on that coming soon.


A look back at my 2013 resolutions

Back in January 2013 I made this blog entry.

Part of it was a look forward into 2013 and a few plans that I had hope to achieve. It is unusual for me to put such personal goals on line and there were quite a few of a more personal nature that I decided not to include.

I thought it would be good to look back and see if I managed to achieve any of my New Year Resolutions.

* Teach my kids chess

Yes! I had great fun teaching them chess and they picked it up very quickly.

* Play more card games / jigsaws with my kids

Yes! Not really the jigsaws but I bought a few different card games which I play with them fairly often.

* Run 5km in less then 23 minutes. (currently my best time is 25 mins)

50/50 I managed to get my best time down into the 24 minute area.

* Run 10kms in less then 50 minutes (currently my best time is 53 mins)

50/50 I managed to get it into the 51 minute area on two occasions when really pushing it.

* Have everything in order for Seerung to gain Australian Citizenship and have a date set for when it can happen in 2014.

Yes! Had a meeting with immigration in Darwin and was given a date of May this year when we can apply.

* Get myself an APEC card for travel.

No. Looked into it but my business in Laos did not quite have all the requirements so I have let this drop.

* Travel with my family to somewhere different (either in Australia or a different country)

Yes! We had a lovely time in Tasmania. (Check out my entries from December 2013.)

* Work on getting over my fear of public speaking

50/50 I forced myself to accept a couple on invitations to speak in front of a medium sized group. The first time was bad but the following two times were much better. I was the MC at my sisters second wedding which went well even though I was a bundle of nerves. I am on my way but still need a lot more practice.

* Eat less meat

50/50 I started to have some specific days of not eating meat but after a few months I stopped doing it. I am more conscious of how much meat I cook or server up so a small success but could do a lot better.

* Turn my computer off for longer periods

No. I failed miserably at this one.

* Take the kids camping at least once.

50/50 We did not technically sleep over night but did spend a full day with a camp fire cooking three meals and exploring the area with friends.

* Take the kids bush walking.

50/50 See above.

* Read more about fasting and participate in my first fast.

50/50 I did three fasts. They were small. 24 hours for the first one. 48 hours for the second one and I gave up after 24 hours for the third one even though I had planned to go 2 – 3 days.

* Complete or have everything in place for at least one new business or real estate deal.

I spent a lot of time working on a project through out the year but unfortunately a lack of land thwarted my efforts for a while. When some came up I then discovered that someone else with the same idea had already started construction and so I was pipped at the post. A very good lesson in striking while the iron is hot. I did however purchase a property late in the year that I am happy with and have things in place for 2014 along the same line.

So there you have it. Over all not a bad outcome I guess considering this is the first time in my life I have ever written a list like this.


4th (and final) week in New Zealand

Amazingly the weather continued to be, well, amazing! Bright blue skies and sunny days with temperatures between 20 and 25, perfect in my book!

With such great days our holiday continued along in a similar trend to the previous weeks with a lot of time spent outside, running, visiting parks and generally just hanging out.

We visited McLaren Falls Park twice in a week. Being only a few kms down the road it is a favourite spot. Lots of picnic areas and trails as well as a dam and river.

We visited McLaren Falls Park twice in a week. Being only a few kms down the road it is a favourite spot. Lots of picnic areas and trails as well as a dam and river.

Heaps of wildlife as well.

Heaps of wildlife as well.

Jacob loved the place and enjoyed trying to help Grumpy catch some of that local wildlife I just mentioned.

Jacob loved the place and enjoyed trying to help Grumpy catch some of that local wildlife I just mentioned.

That's it….. just a little closer…..

That’s it….. just a little closer…..

Gotcha!

Gotcha!


Jacob then got braver and decided it was time to get up close and a little personal.

Jacob then got braver and decided it was time to get up close and a little personal.

As you can see, Jacob was somewhat outsized by his new friend.

As you can see, Jacob was somewhat outsized by his new friend.

Friend? Mmmm perhaps not! At this staged I switched to video mode so that I could capture the Australia's funniest Home video winning entry but alas his mother called him away. She is no fun sometimes.

Friend? Mmmm perhaps not! At this staged I switched to video mode so that I could capture the Australia’s funniest Home video winning entry but alas his mother called him away. She is no fun sometimes!

There were a few little patches of sand that the kids enjoyed.

There were a few little patches of sand that the kids enjoyed.

You could even walk across the shallow water to a small island.

You could even walk across the shallow water to a small island.

My girls are into climbing trees at the moment so therefore Jacob has to join in as well. Of course he cannot actually climb then, he just gets lifted up to a branch where he sits for a few moments before wanting to get down.

My girls are into climbing trees at the moment so therefore Jacob has to join in as well. Of course he cannot actually climb then, he just gets lifted up to a branch where he sits for a few moments before wanting to get down.

One of the highlights for Ariya was finding an English  Hedgehog in the garden.

One of the highlights for Ariya was finding an English Hedgehog in the garden.

'Hedgy' was very cute and prickly.

‘Hedgy’ was very cute and prickly.

We had to try and keep 'Boots' and 'Hedgy' separated.

We had to try and keep ‘Boots’ and ‘Hedgy’ separated.

Dog playing with a English Hedgehog in New Zealand


One of the highlights for me was doing an afternoon run through the town of Mount Maunganui as well as running around the actual Mount. I then met up with my Mum and we climbed to the top. The views from every single angle are breath taking. I had also done an 8km run that morning so by the evening I was pretty stuffed!

One of the highlights for me was doing an afternoon run through the town Mount Maunganui as well as running around the Mount. I then met up with my Mum and we climbed to the top. The views from every single angle are breath taking. I had also done an 8km run that morning so by the evening I was pretty stuffed!

No trip to Grumpy's house is complete without a few runs down the driveway  on the go cart.

No trip to Grumpy’s house is complete without a few runs down the driveway on the go cart.

Ariya had crashed just previously and did not want to go again so I don't have a photo of her. Here is Marisah at the controls.

Ariya had crashed just previously and did not want to go again so I don’t have a photo of her. Here is Marisah at the controls.

Jacob was only six months old on his previous kiwi trip so this time was his very first go. He loved it!

Jacob was only six months old on his previous kiwi trip so this time was his very first go. He loved it!

As we were flying out to Thailand on the morning of New Years Day, New Years Eve was a complete non event although the following morning was a bit of a debacle! We were all packed up and ready for the two hour drive to Auckland Airport, said goodbye to Grandma and then discovered we couldn’t start the van as it had a flat battery. Jumper leads and another car were found and fairly quickly we had the van engine running. Said goodbye to Grandma again and off we went. For the next half an hour I noticed that the electrics were playing up as the speedometer and other dials were jumping all over the place. Then I started to lose power. The final straw was when we arrived in Matamata and I went to use the indicators and discovered that I had none. We pulled into a petrol station and called for back up.

Luckily we caught my Mum just as she was heading out the door to go visit the neighbour and she jumped in her car and came to rescue us. When she arrived we moved all the bags from the van to the car plus car seats etc and this time said goodbye to Mum (again) and this time Dad as there was no room for him in the car. Thank fully we had a bit of time up our sleeve and so managed to make it to the airport in time. In the mean time the neighbour came over and towed the car to a local mechanic and took Mum and Dad home. They then jumped in another car to drive to the airport to pick up the car we had left in the car park. They made such good time that we were able to wait for them to give them the keys before clearing immigration. Dad dropped Mum off outside and drove home and Mum came to find us. We gave her the keys and once again said good bye with more hugs and kisses. 10 minutes later she was back as she couldn’t find the car in the car park! More directions and then yes you guessed it – more good byes!

Finally it was time to say goodbye to New Zealand and settle in for the 12 hour direct flight to Bangkok.


My three previous entries of our holiday in New Zealand can be found here. Week 1, week 2 and week 3.