Sunday, September 23, 2012

Phuket low season that never was...

Wow! Where is time going to? Phuket has what some describe as 'low season' from May to October inclusive. I am usually a bit depressed at this time. I don't like being quiet and not having much to do. Bring on 2012 and this low season has been manic! When i returned from the UK in June, business at SUB AQUA Dive Center (where I am Manager) immediately ramped up through July with the European Summer holidays kicking in at the same time as the Australian winter and great low season deals on Phuket hotels/flights.

More than just 'business', I got involved with a new project. You can read more about it on SUB AQUA Dive Center's blog but what started out as a small united group of Dive Centre Managers trying to do their best for Phuket is coming to fruition with the first planned event, 'Dive Against Debris' on 30th September 2012. It is the first time in all my time in Phuket that I have seen business owners/managers (particularly those in the diving industry) come together to do good. The event on 30th September looks set to be huge and I have put a lot of effort into gathering support for the project and offering logistical support in the run up to and on the day.

Then in August, I had the holiday of a lifetime. Mik and I flew from Phuket to Bali, spent 2 lovely nights in Ubud before flying on to Bima to joining Worldwide Dive And Sail's diving liveaboard to Komodo National Park.
Here are some photos from our trip:-

Villa Mandi, Ubud - tranquil setting

The best carrot cake I have ever tasted - Kafe in Ubud

Our place for a couple of nights

I could eat at this restaurant in the paddy fields of Ubud every day

I'll take the salad...

It tasted as good as it looks!

Ubud is so tranquil and beautiful

I was made up to find that cocoa beans grow in Bali!

Tea and coffee tasting - I am in heaven!

Me attempting a wood carving - I was rubbish at it!

This guy was sharpening blades for the feet of birds cock-fighting. Brutal!

Cycling in the countryside in Bali - Mik and me

This little girl let us walk around her home. Bless her.

Big smiles as we stop at a Balinese temple for a rest

Back on the road... or kind of off-roading really

This was a daily occurrence once we were on board the boat

First morning - we are awake just about. Time for dive briefing!

Had to include this - it was our 9 year anniversary!

Then came the Komodo dragons!

Dragon loving - LOL

Relaxing with a gin and tonic on the sundeck after a day of great dives

Tourist photo - Komodo National Park - tick!

Me and the man on Komodo Island

There ain't no dragon gonna eat me!

Me and my home for 10 days - ain't she lovely!

Indo Siren on 10 day Komodo diving tour

Absolutely beautiful vessel and great crew!

Close-up with the boat in my sights!

Fellow divers and crew on board the Indo Siren trip to Komodo August 2012
Then it was back to work! But there is a balance between work and play so if I took holiday in August, I then got stuck into my triathlon training and sorting the dive centre for high season. (Yes, not long now... 25th November is the Laguna Phuket Triathlon!). In September, it has been time to play a little again...

On 19th September Mik turned 40 and it was time to make sure he enjoyed every moment of celebrating it. With a few surprises, like a night at Serenity Terraces Resort , he had a lovely time. As I write this, he is off still celebrating with one of his gifts (rental of a Ducati Monster motorbike) and razzing around the Island with a couple of friends that have termed themselves 'Pie N Mash MC'. Ha! I'm so happy for him. Here are some photos of the fun we have had over his birthday week:-

The 'big' gift!

Surprise birthday cake taken to his workplace in the afternoon of his actual birthday

Evening of his birthday and it was time for a sundowner at East 88 beach lounge

Our apartment for the evening

Me and the man - combined age of 70! Crikey!

The band we rocked out with at his Party

The next morning... collection of gifts... mainly alcohol based. LOL!
 That's it. You are all updated. This week is going to be mostly spent making final preparation for the Go Eco Phuket 'Dive Against Debris' event on 30th September. Day full of press conferences and presentations to participants this Tuesday and the Rawai-Naiharn Dragon Boat Quiz this Thursday evening... It's all go this low season! Happy times.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Summer update...

Dear oh dear, I have slipped up. I somehow did not post anything in June so now I owe an even bigger update!

In May, there was the visit to Udonthani. To be honest, this was a wash out since it did nothing but rain solidly for the whole time we were there. We did a lot of eating and drinking and that was about it.

In June, I went to the UK. The primary reason for going to the UK was for my friend Lindsay Mennell's wedding. I was Maid of Honour and was thrilled to bits to be a part of the wedding and to see so many people that I had not seen in so long. Here we are... bridesmaids and groomsmen together. We were quite the team!

Ok, so the weather looks not so bad in that photo but honestly, it did rain a lot. Here are the photos to prove that despite it being June, the British are not having a 'summer' this year! 14 degrees in June... eh?!

My Dad's car thermometer (sorry i can't rotate the photo!)

From Phuket to UK in June - wrap up warm!!

Unfortunately due to being so wrapped up in the moment, I can't provide you with a photo of the Bride but believe me, she looked absolutely stunning! Hopefully some photos will get to me soon and I can let you all see.

Other highlights of my visit back to UK included watching the Euro 2012 Football Tournament with my Dad and while that might sound like a perfectly normal thing, anybody that knows my Dad will know that he HATES football with a passion. To prove it happened, I took photos (see below)... turns out he had recently bought a new TV and LG were offering 10 GBP refund on any goal that England scored. I think he got 50 quid back in the end! I was just happy it meant that I could watch the games and Sue (his girlfriend) even provided us with pie, peas and a pint! Happy days.

Me at my Dad's house with pie, peas and a pint!

Pie, Chips, Peas and the England match!
Also I was back in the UK for June 17th 2012 which was special to me for two reasons; firstly it was the first Father's Day I had been able to spend with my Dad in many years and secondly, I was taking part in the Cancer Research UK's Run For Life campaign at Lister Park in Bradford.

Me before the Cancer Research UK Run For Life 5km

Everybody gave it their all - really great!
And after all that running, it was time for a treat. I planned to take Dad to Harewood House for the Car Show but that was postponed due to rain so I took him to Betty's Tea Rooms in Harrogate instead. He had never been before so at almost 65 years old I introduced him to a proper cuppa and a scone!

Betty's Tearooms, Harrogate
I only had a few days more in Yorkshire... Spent some quality time with my Mum and she treated me to my fix of fish n'chips with my 'little' brother. I use inverted commas because I can hardly call him LITTLE anymore. Look...

Me and my not so little brother!
My UK trip left me with mixed emotions. I really noticed that the UK itself is struggling financially like I have never seen before - a lot of good pubs have closed down, tons of empty offices for let and even one of the biggest banks in my town was boarded up. Everything was really rather raggy... even finding decent fresh vegetables in the supermarket at one point proved a challenge. It seems that the type of thing to thrive in times of crisis in the UK is cafes and sandwich shops - they were everywhere and always had people in them! Another thing to lift the mood of anyone visiting the UK right now is the whole 'British' fever - the Union flag was being flown everywhere with the London Olympics coming up and 2012 being the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Year. It was awesome! Even the cereals boxes, tins, packets etc in the supermarkets were all jazzed up with the Union Flag and you could buy some brilliant Union Flag cookies/cakes in all the bakeries. I loved that. To return home and see all the Britishness and people genuinely proud to be British, along with everything that is deemed British. Great.

For me, my family are in the UK. I can never hate going back to the UK because each time I go back, I spend time with my family and even if I am 6000 miles away most of the time, it does not mean I am trying to avoid them! This makes every moment I spend in the UK all the more special... although it makes me feel incredibly guilty when I have to leave. I just have to remember that in reality, the UK has nothing to offer me at this time in my life in terms of my career and my prospects. I can't live there just because that is where my family are. I would be miserable! If I have to move back to Europe, I think I will choose somewhere with better weather too - 2 days in England and my nose was streaming and I felt dreadful which made me decide I am actually allergic to the UK. Ha!

More of the mixed emotions came from one person I had left behind in Phuket. In over 8 years, I have never been this far from Mik for so long. It was strange to see my family, some of my closest friends and of course have Lindsay's wedding without Mik being by my side. You live and you learn... Now back to where my heart really is... Phuket...
Mik and I back on the road in the sunshine

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Lost in Thailand? Not if you are a girl!

Chicky Net - The Social Network for (expat) women living in Thailand
I don't like to blog about other blogs or other websites for that matter. However there is one particular website/social network out there that really deserves a plug. Please forgive me, this once.

My personal blog was set up to keep my friends and family up to date with my antics but more and more I see people worldwide taking a look. Then recently I was approached by Chicky Net, the social network for (expat) women living in Thailand and asked if I would do an interview for them to publish on their site. I had no problem with this. Further, I was happy to help the growth of what I see as a very useful tool for women thinking of moving to Thailand or already living in Thailand.

I'll be honest. When I first moved to Phuket, I was not a huge fan. I worried, have i done the right thing? That was easily answered with, well, if you've screwed up just get on the next plane home! But worse, you are without family (although my boyfriend did move across to Phuket with me and my family at the time had enough issues so a break was most welcome). You are without friends (but you meet people very easily in Thailand with everybody seemingly so friendly). And finally, it all seems so terribly untidy after the relatively civilised and ordered life of the UK. I know some of you will think me mad for referring to life in the UK, or indeed most places in the Western World as civilised and ordered but seriously, come to Phuket... exposed electrical wires lining the streets, shops and restaurants with only 3 walls and no doors... I could go on! Strangely, men appear to seamlessly adapt to this untidy lifestyle but we girls I believe experience something different. We are less comfortable with not speaking the language of the country we are in, and we are further distrubed by having abandoned the familiarities we once took for granted. 

This is where Chicky Net steps in.

Simply put Chicky Net is a social network that only accepts women into its arena - no fakes or phonies allowed (much to the frustrations of many men living in Thailand!). There is a useful classified section where I personally have sold items from our house within minutes of posting. This is much to Mik's complete amazement - he says it is witchcraft! Ha! There are also groups that you can join by your own nationality or interests, for example Sporty Chickies for those wanting to meet up with a few girls to play tennis or badminton or whatever else might be suggested. There is a forum where you can post questions about life in Thailand and you can get decent replies from other women in Thailand that have experienced/are experiencing similar issues. We even share recipe ideas! You name it - help with your Thai visa questions, need a house to rent, have a house to rent, found yourself with too many unwanted pets, want to meet new people, want to find and try new restaurants, want some advice on health or insurance or where to get a good leg wax(!)... It is all on Chicky Net!

I'll admit that I rarely have the time to attend the Chicky Net social events that I see posted to the network regularly but for women who feel lost in Thailand, this network can only be a great thing! For me, Chicky Net is a most welcome and useful tool for women in Thailand. Everything is that bit more accessible, that bit easier and I can only imagine, that bit more fun for those who have the time to be more heavily involved.

That is it. I have said my piece. There was no Chicky Net when I first arrived to Phuket almost nine years ago but I am happy that it is there for Thailand's (expat) women now.

Stay posted because I am off to Udonthani on Tuesday to celebrate James and Ning's 2nd wedding anniversary. You can see how much fun we had last time when we attended the wedding by reading my previous blog post "Wedding Thai Style - am I married? " . This post also goes further to explain why I am currently pondering, is this MY 2nd year wedding anniversary too?!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Turning 30...

30 and loving it!
Many people get depressed on birthdays. I don't. I think birthdays should be celebrated more than anything else. I mean, you are celebrating the fact that you have made it this far in this world. What is depressing about that? For me there is no point in complaining about getting old. You just have to get on with your life and enjoy every moment of it, so when I recently turned 30 I wanted it be a memorable time for everybody. I HAVE BEEN HERE 30 YEARS! YAY! LET'S CELEBRATE!

And that we did. It was amazing. Really. I could not have been made any more happy and my family/friends made me feel the most loved person in the world, to the point that I almost feel guilty. I will never be able to thank those involved enough. You think i am exaggerating? Check this out...

The day began quite sedately. I got up, had some breakfast with Mik and opened my lovely cards and some presents that had been sent by family around the world. I got some lovely gifts and I loved the present from my brother-in-law and family that was a report of all things happening at the time I was born, 1982. Then I had to go to work at SUB AQUA Dive Center, Karon Beach, Phuket. I was there on my own for a good couple of hours and then the owner of SUB AQUA came to join me bearing gifts. This was quite the surprise but it was nice to finally have some company after being far too excited to do any real work on my computer.

At about 17:00 Mik arrived looking mysterious. I asked, "where are we going?". "Why are you smiling like that?" Now at this point i should mention that I was fully aware that I was having a 30th birthday party in the evening of my birthday, 24th March. I was also fully aware that my birthday present was to be a Honda Phantom motorbike that I had been eyeing up for quite some time. But on the 23rd March, Mik told me that I had to prepare all of the things I may need to get me through my birthday... and the next day. This should include an 'overnight bag'. Hmmmm... Now I am really excited :-)

So here I was. It was time. SURPRISE... Well, not quite yet. First I wished my 'big boss' farewell and wished him a safe return to his family in Germany. Then I locked the office. Then i clambered on to the back of my soon-to-be-old Honda Wave 125 motorbike and let Mik take me wherever! To be honest, it looked like we were going home and the whole things was to be a disappointment or a wind-up but I should have known my lovely boyfriend better as he drove down to Nai Harn lake and then took a left up a slope to the most amazing villa. He joked, "I've bought you a house!". There outside was my new motorbike shiny and complete with red ribbons - photo......

Now that is a birthday present!
Then there was this...

You too can stay here -
Wow! The reality hit me... or it slowly crept upon me as I stood speechless in this house that I had just been told was "mine" for the next 2 days!

Words do not cover it. This villa was perfect for my 30th birthday.
Mik had rented this place for not just the night, but two nights! He had arranged with the staff at SUB AQUA Dive Center that Kerry was having 2 days off and that they had to deal with it. I was being utterly spoilt rotten for a couple of days and loving it!!! Mik handed me a beer, gave me the tour and then istructed me to sit beside the pool. Happy does not cover it. I was elated... and I burst into tears of joy (not for the last time that birthday!).
Work over. Beer at the side of "my" pool! Happy!!!!
Mik had even thought to move all my cards across to the Villa so I could spend some time enjoying all the good wishes.

To be honest, I did not want to leave but I had a party to attend and I was told that I could make full use of the Villa later and the next day. So I had a perfect phone call with my 'old' friends from school, Lindsay and Alexis, telling them all about the villa and also congratulating Alexis since her wedding day in UK was the same day as my 30th Birthday. It was a shame we couldn't all be together on this day but we will be soon when Lindsay marries in June and I couldn't stay sad for long. I was on a right rollercoaster of emotions! So time to party and didn't we scrub up well?...

Mik and I ready to head to my 30th birthday party
The party was amazing too. So many great friends made it out and much to my surprise, I received some lovely gifts including spa treatments, cash to by my own, scarves, facials, jewellry, wine... Really. I am not just saying this. I just wanted people to come and celebrate with me. I never expected a pile of gifts as well but I hope that Mik and I threw a big enough party that everyone had a fun, memorable and happy time. We all certainly seemed to be enjoying ourselves and there was even a bit of KERRY-OKE!

Those photos say it all. At 01:00am Mik and I decided it was time to leave everybody partying and retire to the Villa. It must have been perfect timing because I had a remarkably clear head the next day and was able to party some more with dips in the pool, wine pretty much on freeflow and the company of good friends James, Ning and Baby Joshua! My head was not as clear the day after that one!

Mik trying to lose "the fear"

Not our baby! Mik with Baby Joshua

Here are Mum and Dad, Ning and James

The clock says 20:30 and we had been at that wine all day!

Me chatting to Wilkie and Laura (friends in UK)

Me getting some last minute relaxation in "my" pool
This was by far the best birthday celebration ever. It would have been nothing without Mik, my family and my wonderful friends that quite simply overwhelmed me with their kindness and loving birthday wishes. If this is what turning 30 is all about then I suggest you all embrace your birthdays. Create moments like these and you will never be depressed on a birthday again. I am one lucky girl.

Special thanks goes to Tracey Samantha Burr who does an excellent job of making anybody's stay in Phuket hassle-free and memorable with her Villas in Naiharn. Please visit her website here and please 'like' The Villas on Facebook. The Villas and Tracey made this birthday girl a VERY happy girl and if you are looking for a place to stay in Phuket for a real treat without breaking the bank, The Villas in Nai Harn is where you need to be. You won't regret it. (I had a housekeeper/cook for goodness sake!!!)