Friday, 27 November 2009

East meets West

The drive from Phuket airport to Kata Beach Resort feels like one long contradiction.   The overall feel is of traditional Thai countryside and slightly ramshackle houses, but each time I come there are more Western influences.   

Jostling with the mass of scooters driven by bareheaded youths (the occasional one does wear a helmet), pickups with crates stacked with coconuts or carrying workmen, and men pulling karts full of ladders there are smart pickups, vans and cars.  But the smart pickups will be parked under a very flimsy looking homemade carport which looks as though it would fall down in the first strong wind. My taxi was a pimped minibus with wall to wall leather, so much so I felt the need to take a photo of it!

But the main Westernisation is the shops.  There are still roadside food outlets (neither 'restaurants' nor 'cafes' is really the right description) and scooter repair shops and traditional Thai shops with Thai writing.   There has been a large Tescos here for some time, but on the drive down today I noticed more large superstores, and a retail park that wasn't there 2 years ago.  Nike, Adidas, surfer clothing, Xara - it was as if someone had taken a bunch of shops from a designer outlet in the UK and dumped it in the middle of a bit of Phuket wasteland.

As well as the scruffy scooter roadside hire and repair shops there are big flashy motorbike show rooms with new bikes from Honda and Suzuki and the like; on the car front I saw a massive new building which was obviously going to house several motoring companies.

Large billboards in English: adverts for Lifestyle Living, new apartments, spas, home-improvement centres, IT centres, MacDonalds... some of it seems very incongruous, especially when a few minutes later there is a place selling Thai noodles or gilt statues of elephants or very elaborate gold and red ornaments to put outside your house.   It makes you mind shift all the time between the familiar and the unfamiliar, which is really quite a strange feeling.

And amongst it all is the love the Thai people have for their King.   Yellow flags flying on gateposts; posters showing the King and his wife at work with their people; gold framed photos of the King outside houses and shops.  Maybe this is because the week I come here is the week of the King's birthday, but somehow I know this is an all-year love and respect shown openly, something you would not expect to see in the West.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Little things

On my way to work I often see a man cycling the other way, with a small child who looks about 2 years old perched on a crossbar seat, happily clinging onto the handlebars, bright-yellow-helmeted. He cycles with her rain or shine and I can't help smiling, and wondering where they are going, Dad and his little girl.

It's the little things that can brighten up your day sometimes.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Similar yet so different

Himself is away for a couple of days and nights, and I find myself trying to think the way I did when he was away for a year, but it's not the same... I don't have time to waste sitting around on the computer or reading the paper - those things that I want to do need to be done by tomorrow morning, rather than leaving it until the last minute before he next comes home.   That makes it sound as though they are things he would expect me to have done by the time he gets back, but that's not what I mean. They are things that need doing outside, and I want to get on with rather than expecting him to do it or waiting to 'do it together'.

He's not here, get on with it - that is the state of mind I got into when he lived away. It's just harder to achieve when it's only a couple of days, which I would love to spend sitting around drinking tea and reading my latest favourite author.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

This stuff gets in your head..

I am only 6 weeks into my Social Sciences course and already the grey cells are exploring their new knowledge.

While out for a dog walk the other day, himself and I ended up discussing:

- supply and demand (and how low the demand had to get before something was taken off the shelf rather than just getting cheaper; and whether that was a good or a bad thing for the Bangladeshi workers);

- the demise of fur coats and the difference between being a means of keeping warm like eskimos, and conspicuous consumption (and, why wasn't the fur isn't on the inside?)

Since we no longer have a TV (yes we watch iPlayer but actually forget to watch even the things we had our eye on most of the time), I fear we may start spending our evenings in social science debate, and subsequently boring any unsuspecting dinner guests to death...

But it will still be more interesting than X-Factor.

Monday, 9 November 2009

What have they done to the eggs?

When I were a lass, the standard time to boil an egg were 3 minutes for soft-boiled.  Everybody knew that.  I used to do them for a bit longer, say 4 minutes, because I like them a-bit-further-along-the-way-to-hard-boiled.

These days if you boil an egg for 3 minutes it would climb out of the shell when you opened it.  I boiled one for 5 minutes this morning and it couldn't quite heave itself out on to the plate, but almost.  The yolk ran everywhere and the white was watery (not pleasant). 

So WHY do they take so much longer to cook than they did 30 years ago?   Are they feeding the chickens olive oil? or are the shells a micro-millimetre thicker? 

Nowadays, if you want to Go to Work on an Egg you have to get up a few minutes earlier.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Dreams... and reality

The other night I dreamt that my work colleagues irritated me so much that I threatened to throw mayonnaise at them all...

I have just booked myself on an Essential Management course, which I think may be more useful, but without a doubt not nearly as much fun!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Brain tricks and games

I remember when I could go food shopping and it worked out at approximately £10 per bag.  Unfortunately my brain still compares everything to that benchmark - the thought that it is now more like £20 per bag is not one that I have managed to store away successfully; maybe if I did the checkout would be less of a shock.


The clocks have just gone back yet still some people don't realise that they will show up a lot better on their bicycle if they fix those red and white glowing things to the front and back; and perhaps don't wear black. Every year Autumn/Winter comes and every year there are idiots riding on the road barely visible.  I never feel stupid in my day-glo yellow jacket because I am not the one hearing the squeal of brakes as someone drives past inches from my elbow.   It's the equivalent of motorcyclists in the summer riding around in shorts and t-shirts. "But I'll look stupid in leathers in this heat".  You'll look a lot more stupid with no skin.