Thai Silk Making - Pak Thong Chai

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Pak Thong Chai, near to Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat), Thailand, has long been a centre for the manufacture of Thai silk. The family businesses that have long used traditional dyeing and weaving methods, having thrived alongside the local Jim Thompson factory, are now suffering from inflated yarn prices that make price competitiveness difficult. Those who have remained in business have adopted a mix of traditional and modern methods to improve cost effficiency.

Ban Han, close to Pak Thong Chai, is one of the bigger silk villages in the area. I recently had the opportunity to arrange for some friends from overseas to be shown around examples of the silk making process there and took to pics.

Here is an example of a traditional loom:

Traditional Silk Loom

This one is still in use in a family run factory that mainly now uses powered machines.

Here, on the same premises, is a modern weaving machine which does the job quicker but, in my view, doesn't produce the character of hand woven fabric. A Health and Safety nightmare!

Modern Silk Loom

The traditional hand winding tools that transfer dyed yarn to spools of various sizes are still in use but, in this factory and others, are gradually being replaced by powered machine like this one:

Powered Silk winder

However, the modern processes still rely on some of the old methods. Silk yarn is dyed in vats of hot water. The vats are heated over a wood fire. This example is showing clear signs of a hard life but is still in daily use:

Silk Dyeing

The Pak Thong Chai silk businesses are having to adapt in order to survive and some a doing well whilst other have closed their doors. Their problems arise not from fair competition but because yarn is being exported at more than twice the previous price to a nearby country and no attempt seems to have been made to protect this important Thai industry. How sad.

Christmas 2013 - Jomtien & Pattaya

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Jomtien and Pattaya, east of Bangkok, Thailand, offered a pleasant change in temperature this year to the prolonged cold spell being experienced back home in Isaan.

Our preference is to stay in Jomtien beach because it is much less crowded than neighbouring Pattaya. However, it's rather too quite for the whole stay unless you happen to be someone who enjoys all day on the beach. We booked again at Villa Navin which offers a choice of villas and rooms, a pool and a restaurant. It's a quiet location and only a short walk from soi 9 where we enjoy meals and drink at Walkabout and Wombat Bar and Rich Man Poor Man. Christmas lunch was again at Rich Man Poor Man.

We enjoyed the company of some good friends on this trip and, after checking in, were keen to take them to one of my other favourite restaurants, Chow Soy in Soi Chaiyapoon, off Bua Khao Pattaya. If you enjoy English style Chinese food, I recommend this place.

Pattaya was more congested than ever and the short trip back to Jomtien the next day took an hour.  Frustrating though the traffic jams were, the worst pest on the roads was the foreign motorcyclists who rode around with even less consideration for others than the locals. The much talked about improvements to Beach Road and the plan to stop illegal parking have achieved nothing. Traffic is very, very slow and pedestrians attempting to cross have a very hard time.

Our friends were interested in seeing that joke of a tourist trap, Walking Street. We walked the length of it early on our last evening and had a quiet drink in a bar restaurant at the top end where there are tables between the pool and the sea. The walk back later provided us with the usual amusement as we watched the antics of the street hookers, lady boys and the sad farang supping their beer in the hope of being picked up. The live music bars have some good bands. Other bands strum to backing tracks. 

Walking Street - Web Size.jpg

We managed to fit in a visit to Pattaya Floating Market before we set off on the journey home. It's actually in Jomtien on Sukhumvit Road. It's a tourist spot but pleasant for all that. Tourists are asked to pay THB200 to enter - a cheek because the place is only a market - but convince them that you are a resident and you'll get in free.

Pattaya Floating Market

Pattaya Floating Market - Musicians & Singers

We are back now in the cold reality of the North East with the weather forecast showing no relief from the low temperatures. 

Loy Khratong (Loi Khratong) is a festival held each year in Thailand at the time of the full moon in November. Candles are gently pushed onto rivers and lakes on floats of bamboo leaves decked with flowers with a wish. At many ceremonies, lanterns are floated skywards.

More can be found about Loy Khratong here:

http://www.loikrathong.net/en/History.php

This year, Bosswin Home Resort held a party for the owners' family, friends and guests. It was the best Loy Khratong Festival that we have attended. The owners laid on entertainment, food and draft Leo beer to start the occasion going. Following that, the guests made their way down the drive from the entertainment area to the lake behind the owners' Pak Thong Chai country home where a platform had been constructed. After the usual offer of a chanted prayer, guests quietly made their way to the waterside platform, offered their individual wishes and pushed their floats out onto the lake.

Then followed the lighting of dozens of lanterns provided by the resort owners. These huge lanterns trailed high across the sky until they disappeared from view making a fitting and enjoyable end to the quiet and simple candle ceremony.

We and our friends made our way back to the resort where we had rooms waiting for us. The ladies retired before midnight while we men continued with a discussion of all the usual expat, retirees matters of interest, assisted by a further supply of Leo.

In the morning, it was agreed through hangovers that we had thoroughly enjoyed the evening and would repeat it with our own private gathering at a future date.

Bosswin Home Resort's owners deserve thanks for arranging this event and I'm sure that guests who stayed over that night will return for their own breaks too.

There is more about Bosswin Home Resort here:

http://www.grumpyexpat.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?search=bosswin+resort&IncludeBlogs=1

This is one of the larger lanterns being prepared for its journey skywards:

Loy Thratong November 2013
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Buffalo Bill Steak House

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During our last visit to Koh Chang, we called in at Buffalo Bill Steak House and had a chat with the European owner. I must say that it's one of the best eating houses on the island. Steak is the main attraction but it's also a place to relax with a drink and watch the world go by.

Reasonably priced accommodation is also offered. There's no car park, though.

Buffalo Bill

Bosswin Home Resort, Pak Thong Chai

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Bosswin Home Resort, on the edge of Pak Thong Chai, Korat, Thailand opened in December 2012.

So far, it has ten chalets available for guests and more to come soon. The present facilities include a breakfast area (English style breakfast is available), peaceful orchard surroundings, fishing, an internet connection in the owners private home for guests (WiFi in the chalets to come), televsion and air conditioning. The owner invites guests to relax on his private verandah overlooking the lake during the evenings. A golf buggy has just been delivered for transporting guests around the resort.

Future additions to the facilities will include an all day restaurant, shop, sauna and massage.

I understand that room rates are THB500 and THB800, according to the chalet chosen.

Pak Thong Chai is 20 minutes from Korat and 30 minutes from Wang Nam Kheow, both on the 304 road which passes about 1.5K from the resort.

For bookings and enquiries, call 083 670 8909 ( Thai language). If you need information in English, send me a message through the blog. The owner of Bosswin Home Resort is my wife's cousin.

Here are some up to date pics.

Bosswin Home Resort Chalet Exterior
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Here's a view of a chalet bedroom.

Chalet Bedroom
And a shower room and toilet.

Bosswin Home Resort Chalet Shower Room
This is the fishing lake. The owner invites guests to relax on his private verandah overlooking the water during the evening.

Bosswin Home Resort Lake.JPG
The orchard walk is peaceful and you might even spot one of the domestic rabbits there.

Bosswin OrchardThis sitting room is available for internet use by guests with their own computer until WiFi is installed. Guests are invited to use the verandah beyond the glass doors for evening relaxation.

Bosswin Owners Lounge

Richman Poorman Guesthouse and Restaurant is in Soi 9, Jomtien, Pattaya, Thailand. Friends recommended it to us for Christmas dinner and to say that we were pleased would be a gross understatement.

Eddy and his wife run a tight ship at RMPM. The choice and quality of Western food is excellent, the service attentive and prices very reasonable for an establishment in Jomtien.

Remarkable too is the hospitality. On our first visit to book dinner, Eddy was quick to give us his attention, explain the Christmas menu and sort out a booking. On subsequent visits, he always found time to pass the time of day with us.

The standard menus are extensive. The separate breakfast menu is the biggest I have ever seen. The main menu is also more than adequate. RMPM doesn't cook Thai food but the staff will take orders from the menu of the Thai restaurant across the soi and have it cooked there and brought over.

After enjoying the Christmas dinner of soup and salad from the buffet bar and a huge turkey main course, we just had to visit again a couple of times during our stay.

We have yet to use the accommodation there but, judging by the reviews on Trip Advisor, the rooms are to the same high standard as the bar/restaurant.

Trip Advisor reviews

We simply must book a room for our next trip!

Richman Poorman, Jomtien

The Jim Thompson Farm at Pak Thong Chai, Korat, Thailand is open to the public from mid-February into January each year. This year's event is as beautifully done as the previous ones which I have visited.

The Jim Thompson organisation is based on the revival of Thailand's silk industry by the American of the same name. The farm produces its own silk yarn and also grows flowers, gourds, grapes, vegetables and a host of other things.

The farm is in Thailand's Isaan region and the open days always feature local arts and crafts, including song and dance in traditional costume, houses and, of course food. Produce and seeds can be bought to take home. This year, my wife has a chicken, pork and beef steak bar featuring some of the best selling dishes at her restaurant in Pak Thong Chai and dear Giuliano is furiously cooking his authentic Italian pizzas in wood oven that he built for the farm. Pizzas may not be traditional Isaan fare but Thai people love them.

Easy parking is available opposite the entrance and floats take visitors to various points within the farm. The standard of organisation is excellent. There's plenty of space to walk without feeling crowded even on the busiest of days. Shade, very welcome in Thailand, is abundant too.

Here is a peaceful shaded avenue between two popular food and silk shops:

Shaded Avenue, Jim Thompson Farm
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Some typical farm produce displayed for sale:

Jim Thompson Farm Produce





































This beautifully arranged flower stall is at the farm entrance:

Flower Stall At Jim Thompson FarmGiuliano busy cooking pizzas for the visitors:

Pizza Oven At Jim Thompson Farm
And, finally, my personal transport and driver into the farm, courtesy of the boss. Many thanks, Bill!

Jeep At Jim Thompson FarmMy previous article about the Jim Thomson Farm

Koh Chang, Thailand, Revisited

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Several years have passed since our previous visit to Koh Chang and we were warned to expect to find that it had changed. Most comments were to the effect that it was spoilt but that was not my impression when we arrived there.

The older beach resorts have grown, some with more bungalows and others with hotel buildings added. New resorts have appeared away from populated areas. I don't see the point of going to Koh Chang and staying in a hotel when there are so many well-situated and well-appointed bungalows by White Sand Beach but other visitors may have a different point of view and now they have a choice.

There are more shops, bars and restaurants and the evening beach restaurants offer a better choice of food. It was, though, disappointing to see the clusters of girlie bars, so out of keeping with the atmosphere of Koh Chang. The first indication I had that such bars had arrived on Koh Chang was when a waft of cheap perfume reached me as we walked along the beach early one evening. I turned towards the sea to identify the source and there was a young women in her working attire and with a sour face slowly making her way to what we later saw was a bar area beyond the resorts.

We took the car this time. It's just five hours from home to the ferry. That enabled us to make day time trips around the island without tangling with car hire agents or taxis. There aren't many kilometres of road but the a few hours of exploration makes a change from the beach area. The principal road has some nasty hills and hairpin bends that need to be negotiated with care. The hazard isn't the road itself but the taxi drivers who really must overtake you on bends and tourists on hired motorbikes who don't know the keep left rule. Most of the locals drive quite well.

One of the attractions for me, again on White Sand Beach, is the shallow, calm and clean sea. You can wade out 100 metres or so and still be within your depth.

My recommendation to a first time visitor would be to find a resort on the beach side of the road through White Sand Beach. Most resorts there are quiet but with shops, bars and restaurants close at hand. As the sun sets, the restaurants put tables on the beach and you can stroll the length of the sand checking the various menus.

White Sand Beach Koh Chang.JPG
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White Sand Beach At Sunset

Phuket, the world famous vacation spot in southern Thailand, is fast becoming a place to avoid. Violent crimes, theft and scams are becoming almost the norm. Even the standard tourist websites are beginning to add warnings, usually in less than prominent places. Here's an example. Look hard and you'll find the warning!

If you want to limit your view of this place to what the the tour operators want you to believe, then good luck to you. If you want the truth so that you can make your own decision about whether or not to go there, read on. Here are some recent examples of crime in Phuket:

Sixty Year Old Australian Lady Stabbed To Death

Australian Ambassador Looking For Action Regarding Crime.  Perhaps a few other Ambassadors would leave their chauffeur driven limousines to support him.

Twenty Expats. Claim To Have Been Victims Of Crime In Phuket

Jet Ski Scam.   Despite a documentary about this shown around the world, it's still going on.

Finnish Tourist Slashed In Bag Snatch Attempt

The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the US Department of State have both issued warning notices about the various risks to tourists in Thailand.

The bad publicity caused by crimes such as these is now causing a great deal of talk from on high. What we need to see is action. If the police can't deal with this crime wave, then perhaps an absence of tourists will have some effect.

Nice place to look at but be careful after nightfall:

surin-beach-phuket-resort.jpg

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The Vietnam War was one of the most pointless and evil conflicts of the last century and still the slaughter of the innocents continues today around the world. I heard mention the other day that a certain Western country still carries stocks of napalm.

Every so often, without any obvious stimulus, I get angry all over again about the atrocities committed on innocent civilians during that war. Perhaps I'd be able to let it go if I thought that the warmongers cared a damn and the rest of us found a way to prevent them from repeating their crimes.

We have all seen the still photos of the incident below but have you seen this video? Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the girl given water by the reporters, survived with severe burns as most people know. The baby with his skin hanging off died from his burns.








Here are some other of the costs of this tragedy with comments:

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Tokay Gecko, Thailand

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The Tokay Gecko is common in Thailand and, indeed, most of south East Asia. It will grow to more than 12 inches long and believe me, on your house wall at close quarters, that looks big. They live mainly a solitary life and keep their distance from humans. On the other hand, if you interfere them they will defend themselves and one look at their teeth is enough to show that's not a good idea.

Tokay Gecko's have a distinctive call which can be heard mainly during the hours of darkness. Despite their preference for hunting at night, they will hang around at the edge of the light cast by outside lamps waiting for smaller lizards and flies.

Some people fear them and some will try to get rid of them. Occasionally, local people will hunt them on the promise of big money from China where they are used in medicines. We have been asked for permission to catch them around our house but we always refuse. I like to see them on our walls. They are fascinating to look at and keep down the populations of other creatures. One got into the house a few weeks ago and cleared it of those pesky lizards in no time.

Below is an image of one that lives under the roof tiles of our verandah.

Tookay1
This next one lives under the roof tiles of our car port.

Tokay2
It catches black scorpions, takes them high up the wall and holds them until they give up trying to sting. Then the scorpion is dragged into its dining room under the tiles and unwanted pieces are later thrown out.


Scorpion Sting
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Silk Winding Machine

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Traditional silk winding devices are still in use in the villages of Isaan. Pictured below is one of several types used in and around the famous silk town of Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima. The yarn is supplied to the weaving businesses in hanks tied with string. Within the hanks, the individual lengths of yarn are short, just as they were produced by the silk worms. They must be wound and twisted into lengths that can be used for weaving. The process from hank to loom may involve several types of device that enables the winder to produce yarn many metres in length and on the various types of spool that can be used on the loom. Most of the devices are operated by hand, in some cases with the help of a small sewing machine motor. Even though modern machines that can wind a hundred spools at a time have appeared in some villages, the vast majority of family businesses still use the traditional methods.


Yarn Winder






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Buddhist Monks In Thailand

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Buddhist monks are a familiar site in Thailand. They are treated with great respect by local people but foreigners, aware of the failings of religious organisations around the world, are usually more sceptical.

Recently, I came to have a better understanding of the practice whereby sons become monks for just a few weeks. Families throw the most lavish party they can afford as I have described here. I still don't understand why dancing girls and alcohol are appropriate at these events but I do have now an insight into why the young men join the monk-hood for a while.

We were recently invited to one of these parties and my wife explained by telling me about the young man and his family. The father left home and abandoned the family when the boy was very young, a very familiar story here. The mother and boy are related to my wife and various members of the family lived close together in their own private road. Mother had to find work and my wife and others would take care of the toddler, playing with him in the safe confines of the family compound. He loved to play in water, my wife recalled.

When he was old enough, he was allowed to go fishing with the men of the family and his interest in water and fish developed. At school, he was a star pupil. His mother remarried and his new stepfather cared for him as his own. He and mother, not wealthy by any measure, managed to pay for the boy to go to university, where he was again a star. His focus was on fishery management and the tutors paid for him to lodge beside a lake where he could indulge his passion for fish in his own time as well as during study time.

The young man was awarded a Master's Degree. Sadly, his step-father died just before his son's success was confirmed. He has a job waiting for him at CP Foods, a great start to a career.

The young man decided to take the traditional time as a monk. I now know that this practice is seen as something that son's do for their mothers. The blog Thailand Life explains this better than I can and I recommend it to you.

I find the story of this young man's life quite touching. Many youths in Thailand leave school only to sit around, living off their parents, with no intention of doing anything useful with their lives. This young man had a difficult early life, even though he was loved and cared for by his mother and wider family. I might guess that the attention he received, first from younger relatives and then from older male relatives, produced benefits and awakened his interest in things aquatic.

Good luck to him and all like him who make the effort to achieve worthwhile goals in life.


Ordination - From Thailand Life Blog

Any foreigner who spends time in an Isaan village will eventually be invited to a party. The locals use almost any excuse to party, the most common being weddings, funerals, New Year, house blessings, son joining the army and son-becoming-a-monk-for-a-few-days. They all follow the same pattern except funeral parties at which the music is more sombre and the dancing girls are absent.

Most occasions require the presence of monks for chanting, eating and ritual. The party itself takes place either the evening before or after the monks have done their bit.

Invitations are handed out in envelopes bearing the invitees' names and returned to the host with gifts of cash sealed inside. The amount and name of the donor is recorded in a book as a reminder as to how much to give when a donor holds a party.

Food is essential, of course. Typical Isaan village food doesn't appeal to me so I eat before I go and nibble dutifully at anything that's looks acceptable. The locals will eat their fill. The best food is known as 'Chinese Table' - much more appealing to me and offered at parties where the host wants to show that his or her wealth is a bit above the average.

Another essential is alcohol. Many Thai women don't indulge and I'm often wary of those who do. The men make up for what the women don't drink. Usually, the offering is beer and the rice spirit know as Lao Khao or 40 Degree. The latter is very potent and, judging by the appearance of its most ardent fans, not good for the health. Whisky was also common on party tables a few years ago but less so these days.

Funeral parties apart, no event is complete without a stage full of singers and young girl dancers. When I first saw one of these non-stop spectacles I was enthralled. Eventually, though, they begin to look a little sad. The girls begin their show wearing full costume and performing slow, sedate gyrations. By the half way point, they are down to small tops and short skirts and doing energetic hip thrusts. Several of the girls on stage will barely know the routines and look disinterested. To earn a few Baht, they are supposed to tease the drunken young men who display their own dancing skills in front of the stage and the older drunks who lear at them from their tables. If you are lucky, you will get a comedian thrown in but, unless you speak Thai or Isaan, you won't know what everyone is laughing at.

At some point, the MC or comedian will spot you and call 'Farang' over the microphone. He wants you on stage to make a fool of yourself singing or dancing. Sit near the back and don't get up!

Many families fill themselves with food and leave as soon as the plates are empty. We try to be more polite than that but, eventually, boredom and alcohol reach their limit and we have chatted with all of our family and friends present and we leave with the usual thank you's and wais. As we leave, we make a point of sharing a joke or two with the local police who seem to be paid to sit with the guests. In a small community you should make an effort to get to know those officers in your family and others who will see you out and about. You never know when you might want their help.

By all means experience these parties from time to time. In fact, it's expected that at least your Thai partner will attend. I avoid all of the early morning sessions (parties can restart at 5.00am with recorded music) because the local men delight in trying to ply farang with Lao Khao.

Issan Party Dancing Girls

My Lai Massacre - Anniversary

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Today, 16 March 2012, is the 44th anniversary of the murder of 504 (347 according to the US Army) Vietnamese men women, children and babies by the 1st Battaliion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade of the American Division in My Lai and My Khe. Those soldiers, in someone else's country, murdered, mutilated, tortured and raped defenseless civilians and burned their villages.

26 soldiers were initially charged but only one was convicted. Thanks to President Nixon, he got away with three and a half years' and house arrest. Three brave US servicemen who tried to stop the massacre and protect the wounded villagers were denounced by US Congressmen, received hate mail and death threats and found mutilated animals on their doorsteps.

There's more information about this atrocity on Wikipedia.

Recently, a US soldier murdered men, women and children in Afghanistan and has been swiftly removed from the country where he may have appeared in a civilian Court to face justice.

Perhaps some have still not learned from this event but we can at least make sure that we don't forget the innocent people who were abused and murdered.


My Lai Massacre


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Thailand Law & Lawyers

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Foreigners in Thailand frequently ask friends about the law or for a recommendation as to which lawyer to use in a particular instance. It's not difficult to find a law office, but one can't be sure in advance of an enquiry which of them is expert in any particular branch of law or whether one will even be able to communicate effectively because of language differences. Added to that is the shortage of law firm websites that might help in the search.

In fact, it's not as difficult as it may seem. There are many law firms that specialise in working for foreigners. They tend to be located in areas where most foreigners live, such as Pattaya or Bangkok, and usually do have a website. It might seem more convenient to use a local lawyer but only if he suits one's particular needs. My experience and that of a few of my friends is that a law firm used to working for foreigners will travel to visit clients when necessary and have a better understanding of our expectations. Most communication can be carried out by 'phone, email and post once the client's need is established.

If you need a lawyer or want to identify one that might be of use in the future, this is what I suggest:

1. Research some of the law yourself. There are authoritative websites that can help and I have added links below. Also search the community forum websites but remember that someone's opinion is based on his own experience and needs. Find something more objective and authoritative.

2. Look for websites of law firms in the main urban areas as well as your own. Contact a few, describing your needs and ask what they might be able to do for you.

3. Before appointing a lawyer, check that he or she is properly qualified and accredited. Fluency in your own language and assurances of success are no substitute for legitimacy. Also, no good lawyer that I have spoken to quoted cheap fees as a selling point for his professional services.

4. Accept that Thai law can be very different from what you have been used to and so can the way in which legal matters progress.

Here are some links that might help you learn more about Thai law and lawyers.

Lawyer qualification and accreditation

Law database (unofficial translations)

Law guides and articles

Civil & Commercial Code (unofficial translation)

Explore those websites to gain your own knowledge and better enable yourself to discuss your issues with your lawyer.


Wheel of Law

Until 31 March, buy one large pizza (30cm) and get free a can of either Leo, Chang or Archa.

These are the large pizza prices, all cooked in a wood fired oven:

Marghareta - THB170
Hawaiian     - THB200
Salmon       - THB260
Bacon         - THB200
Mushroom   - THB200
Vegetable    - THB200
Salami         - THB220
Seafood      - THB250

Optional extra toppings or invent your own mix.

18cm pizzas are also available.

Top Cafe is also renowned for its very extensive and reasonably priced Thai food menu.

Here, too, are some examples from the Western food menu:

Fish, fries and peas                                   - THB130
Pork chop, fries or mash, peas and gravy - THB160
Pork steak, gravy and salad                      - THB89
Beef steak, gravy and salad                      - THB99
Burger and fries                                         - THB110 with onions and cheese extra
Beef or pork spaghetti bolognaise             - THB99

Unbeatable!

It's advisable to book ahead for tables after 6.00pm
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Thai Restaurants In England

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Thai restaurants have become very popular in England. Whilst most that I have eaten in offer good food, not many offer truly authentic cuisine.

The first Thai food that I ever tasted was in a pub called the Wrestlers in Cambridge. The manager is married to a Thai and his wife did the cooking. Subsequent trips to Thailand proved that she was cooking authentic dishes. Take a look at their website.

Once Thai food became popular, new Thai restaurants tended to Westernise their menus. The biggest joke of a Thai restaurant that I ever visited was in Letchworth, Indian owned and with no pork on the menu! I don't see that place advertised now so don't confuse it with Jimmy's Thai Garden in Gernon Road, Letchworth which, I'm told, is good.

My wife, an expert Thai chef with her own restaurant, recommends two Thai restaurants in England that we recently visited whilst over there. One is Sang Thai in Dorking High Street, run by ten Thais and with no drippy English waitresses. The food was excellent, the service good, staff friendly and they kindly fitted us in without a reservation on a Saturday evening when all of the tables were booked for later. See some other reviews. The eat-as-much-as-you-can Chinese restaurant next door is worth a Sunday lunch time visit too.

The other place is a lunch time Thai cafe in London. It's open for office workers from Monday to Friday but we were lucky to catch the owner there on a Sunday afternoon doing his veg. prep. for Monday. The menu is limited but authentic - and very cheap. Thai House is at 36 Strutton Ground, a road off Victoria Street between Parliament Square and Victoria Station. Don't confuse it with the expensive London restaurants of the same name.

Sang Thai Dorking

Eva Air

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Eva Air has been popular with travellers between Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and London Heathrow for several years now. Their low fares and new planes attracted business away from the likes of Thai Airways with its aging fleet and increasing fares. My only complaint was the uncomfortable seats that have me bracing my feet on the seat legs in front of me and easing my behind off the cushion to relieve the aching that came not long after take off.

I flew Eva Air last month and was disappointed. The fare was cheap after discarding offers from airlines that I won't even consider. Something has changed and I think that it can be summed up as lack of customer care on board. These are the things that I noticed:

1. Never a word from the Captain on the outward journey to his passengers until I commented on that to the Cabin Director. I was told that it wasn't deemed necessary because I could find flight information on my personal interactive screen. On the return journey we heard nothing at all from him.

2. Most passengers know that a meal is served about two hours before landing and more than a few like to freshen up in the toilets before it arrives. I waited outside one for about fifteen minutes and then walked up the plane to wait outside another. Watching the first one, I saw a stewardess emerge, freshened up and in a change of uniform. Then another came out of the second toilet. I was third in the queue and returned to the first, only to be beaten to it by yet another stewardess. It was thirty minutes before I got into a toilet. Them first and passengers last!

3. The cabin crew were generally inattentive and unfriendly. They forgot drinks orders, poured tea when coffee was requested. Don't have the tea, it's awful. They asked which meal I wanted and served the alternative. There was no second run of the drinks trolley - just an offer of more tea and coffee. And boy you had to be quick to respond otherwise the pots were way up the aisle.

4. The planes are already showing their age or lack of care in that minor faults are not corrected in the cabin. On the return flight, my reading light was blinding the lady across the aisle and I had to lean out of my seat to catch the beam on my book.

5. On both flights there was rubbish still stuffed in my seat pocket.

I don't expect perfection and, individually, these are not major problems but, together, they suggest that Eva Air doesn't care about its passengers once they are on board. I'll be looking for alternatives the next time I make this journey.



UK Economy

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English: Eastern view from High Street in Dork...

East from Dorking High Street. Image via Wikipedia

Listening to news broadcasts and the opinions of expats. in Thailand, one might draw the conclusion that the UK is on its knees and may never recover. The published economy statistics tend to support this view, or, at least, the analyses of these have done that. More recently, some experts have taken a slightly more optimistic view.

I've just returned home after a couple of weeks in the Midlands and South of England and have found the picture on the ground, so to speak, mixed but different from what I expected. Around London, the streets, tube trains, tour buses and river boats were busy with tourists, despite cold, biting winds. A few retail businesses were closed down but I'm not sure that there were more than one might expect in normal circumstances. During a recession, luxury businesses tend to suffer more than, say, food shops, but the number of coffee shops and restaurants was surprisingly high and most were very busy. There was no sign of an economic downturn on the streets. A friend who lives in Surrey said that there was no recession there and, despite the closure of a few businesses in Dorking's antique shop street and a few other empty premises, I have to agree.

The picture in the Midlands is not quite so rosy but still there was nothing to suggest that the area was an economic wasteland. The roads were busy with cars dodging between the many speed cameras that must have cost the taxpayers a fortune to install. Shops were thriving. Only restaurants were quiet but that may have been due to the winter weather.

Derbyshire, a walkers' and tourists' mecca, was also quiet during weekdays and hotels had plenty of vacancies. Yet again, one might expect that during the winter. I did notice quite a few closed down businesses and the country clothing shops, rather excessive in number. were offering big discounts.

The most noticeable chnage was in Hitchin where the market has lost traders, quite a few shops have closed down and restaurants were short of customers. The coffee shops were thriving and numerous.

My general impression is that England is carrying on much as usual, at least at the retail end. I understand that the job market is poor but I still saw little evidence of this. Perhaps price inflation is outstripping wage inflation but people still had their mortgaged homes, cars and home comforts.

Anyone over there who feels that their world has collapsed should sample some of the permanent living conditions of country people in Thailand. They may just find that their view of the Western materialistic world experiences some adjustment.


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Pak Thong Chai Silk Festival 2011

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Pak Thong Chai, Korat, Thailand, will begin it's seven day annual silk festival on 9 December. In addition to opportunities to buy locally made silk fabric and goods, there will be furniture and other craftwork and many other items on sale. One of the main attractions for me is always the displays of old silk and farming machinery and tools. Here's taste of the festival from a previous year.

This year, Top Cafe will provide a special food menu for visitors and beer by the jug and tower. Call in and enjoy the best food on offer in town in a quiet corner away from the main hustle and bustle.
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Thai Dating, Singles and Personals

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  • Thailand's Orchids
  • Phi Mai Festival 2009
  • Hua Hin, Thailand
  • Pak Thong Chai Hand Made Silk
  • Yamo (Suranaree) Festival, Pak Thong Chai, Korat - 2009
  • Visa Run - Vientiane, Laos
  • Koh Chang, Thailand
  • Rooks Korat Club & Golf, Korat
  • Raya Grand Hotel, Korat
  • Chay Ka Restaurant, Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok
  • Carabao Concert in Korat - October 2008
  • Korat Cat
  • Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) Airport

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