12.01.2013 - 31.01.2013
FIRST OF ALL, I APOLOGISE FOR BEING A BIT BEHIND THE TIMES WITH MY BLOG BUT IT WILL BE UP TO DATE VERY SOON. ALISTAIR
SATURDAY 12th-FRIDAY 17th JANUARY
I left Sai Moon this morning to go to Khon Kaen airport and fly to Bangkok and, luckily, Jasper drove me there. Luckily, because I temporarily lost the card the taxi driver gave me last time I returned to Sai Mon from Khon Kaen.
It was only a 50 minute flight to Bangkok and, as always in Thailand, the luggage claim carousel number was announced in the cabin before disembarking which is something that other airlines/airports could learn from.
My time is Bangkok was mostly spent shopping or trying to find things. I went via the Skytrain to Chatuchak Market, near Mo Chit, which normally only opens on the weekend and is a great place to find unusual or designer items. I went there on the Wednesday when there is a large flower and plant market because I wanted to try and buy a young Erythrina tree which has masses of bright red flowers at this time of year and is very spectacular. It has a number of different names including the Coral Tree and there is more information about Erythrina at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erythrina I want to try and buy the same variety that flowered so profusely at my very first school at Ban Chad in Khon Kaen province and there is a photo of this tree in my gallery.
Sadly, the none of the many outlets at the market seemed to have a Erythrina but I did spot a great substitute – a Jacaranda tree. I also spotted a section of the market specialising in bulbs and I decided to buy some to plant back at the teacher’s house at Sai Moon.
I returned to the plant market the next day with a Thai friend who helped me ensure I was buying what I thought I was buying. He is also going to look after the young Jacaranda and the bulbs until I return to Bangkok in two weeks’ time.
I also went to Klong Lod night market, near the Democracy Monument. It’s a large very busy seemingly disorganised place where you can buy everything from a power drill to a pretty dress. It was fascinating to see the wide variety of goods for sale at prices that make you blink because they are so much cheaper than elsewhere.
I also went book hunting in a number of bookshops to try and find a book titled Cooking With Poo which sounds pretty disgusting until you realise that Poo is the name of the author and she has gathered together a number of interesting Thai recipes in support of the Klong Toey Slum Charity and I thought my sister would like the book.
I was on the Skytrain platform when I spotted some interesting African themed activity going on in the square next to the Siam Paragon mall so I went down there to take a look. There were giraffes strutting around and there was a lovely waterfall and a tame gorilla...just check them out in my gallery.
One evening I went to see the new film Jack Reacher, with Tom Cruise, which is an intelligent and thoughtful thriller which will set you thinking you know what is happening when, in fact, you don’t!
Back on the Skytrain platform on my way back to the hotel I spotted some people gawping into a huge rooftop aquarium....see what you think in my gallery!!
My flight back to London departed at 00.05 on Friday 18th January and I caught a meter cab from my hotel in Silom to the airport in good time on Thursday evening. I had checked in online earlier in the day but when I checked in at the airport I didn’t notice that the seat number of the boarding pass was slightly different from the one I had reserved online. The result was that instead of an aisle seat, I now had a middle seat and on the aircraft I had a huge lady on my right who overflowed into my seat and a large guy on my left who wanted to stretch his right leg into my space.
On the plus side, dinner was very good and there is a photo of it in my gallery. It was delicious though the photo could have been much better. The midnight departure also ensured I felt tired enough to get some sleep during the flight which was fortunate.
THURSDAY 17th JANUARY – TUESDAY 31st JANUARY
We landed at Heathrow about 6am the same day and it didn’t take long to clear immigration though there was a long queue. The annoying thing about Heathrow, an airport I dislike, is that you have to walk miles to get anywhere down low-ceilinged dull corridors unlike Bangkok airport where there is a feeling of great spaciousness and corridors are cheerful.
After emerging into the public area I could not see my name on any of the cards held by the many cab drivers. I circled round again and again to no avail and I thought there had been a date/time mix up. Eventually, my driver did appear and he told me he had been waiting for me in his car in the car park....doh!!!
The journey into central London was fast despite the heavy traffic and it took only 40 minutes to get home. My days in London have been fairly hectic. I arrived with a long to-do list which has meant tube or bus rides in different directions almost every day. On top of this I had the old carpet in the hallway replaced with a very handsome bamboo floor which I purchased online from www.simplybamboo.com and I have finally bitten the bullet and ordered a washer/dryer machine. I had hoped to buy separate machines but my only suitable space was about 6cm short so I had no option. Unfortunately the mains water pipe the new machine had to be connected to was a copper one so my carefully laid plan to have it installed before I returned to Thailand misfired as such pipes are all plastic now and a special fitting was needed to link it to the copper pipe causing an unexpected delay.
However, my main objective in London was to get a new visa which will allow me to continue teaching in Thailand for another year. I had heard that the embassy were no longer issuing the kind of 12-month multiple entry visa I had last year and the year before but, in the event, everything went smoothly. The only difference was that whereas my previous visas were issued on the basis of being a volunteer the new one was issued because I am a pensioner. Either way, I was very relieved to get my visa with no hitches though it still cost me £125!!
I also spent a very nice twenty-four hours staying with my sister and brother-in-law in Wokingham over a weekend. It was great to see them again and to see my niece and her husband and their two children, Joseph and Olivia, my great niece and nephew. My sister very kindly cooked up an amazing Sunday lunch of slow roast pork with all the trimmings and a selection of amazing desserts. Yummy!! Thais don’t usually eat desserts and I miss them! I gave my sister the book I bought in Bangkok – Cooking With Poo – the title of which brought smiles all round.
On my first day in London I spent a while online ordering various things from amazon and the like including some Nike football boots for one of the Thai teachers which he is going to pay for on my return. He didn’t want to buy them in Thailand because he wasn’t certain of getting the genuine article. Luckily, I suppose, all the items I ordered online arrived safely and in good time.
I also had to return stacks of family history letters and photos that I borrowed for my 2008 book titled George Peters and His Descendants which covers my maternal family history. Some material had to be dropped off at Marble Arch and two other people very kindly came up to London to meet me and take other material off my hands. But one of those who came to London bought one of the three remaining copies of my book which was good though this did mean a trip to the post office and time spent in the inevitable queue.
There were also various maintenance jobs around the flat which kept me busy and then there was the difficult question about what to take back as gifts for the other teachers. One is expected to bring something and finally plumped for some rather nice key rings, I bought half a dozen showing Big Ben with the Union flag on the other side, and the same quantity of a different design modelled around the letters saying London on one side and the flag on the other. Hopefully they will like and use them.
At midnight on Sunday 27th January my Amazing Give-a-Dictionary Campaign finished online having just $10 short of my target of $1,900. Luckily, one of the cousins I had to return family history material to insisted on making a contribution which, happily, took the final sum raised $20 over the desired target which will all be used to buy the chosen dictionaries. If you contributed to the Campaign Fund then I would like to give you another big THANK YOU and I will be keeping you up to date with what happens next in my blog.
Tomorrow I fly back to Bangkok. It was a prey hectic two weeks in London and a freezing one to start with but it was nice to see so many people and to be able to cook one’s own food again and make a lovely cake. I am not sure what my third year at Sai Moon will be like but whatever it is like I will keep you posted here.