So for those who were wondering wtf I’m doing here, I got paid today, as scheduled.

Call me a cynic, but I just wasn’t going to count those chickens before they hatched. Now, it seems real.

Food Again

So for now, I have some money. I spent up medium-large at the local bulk supplier to avoid buying meals each day. The good stuff like olive oil, cheese, olives, sauerkraut, kimchi, coconut cream, walnuts, mussels ( cheap as, frozen in bulk ! ). Other stuff which is very cheap at local growers’ stalls, like bok choy, mustard greens, cucumber, eggs ( 5 baht [ ~= 25c ] apeice ), tomatoes ( little ones which look like overgrown Jalapenos ).

Food here is so cheap, though, I’m not sure whether bulk buying is making a saving.

What I have realised is that the food stalls’ fare is really tasty, but usually not the best quality. The oils used are usually … crap ( seed oils like canola ), and the spicy sauces nearly always contain lots of sugar. I know because I can taste it, and it creates dramas in the gut department.

The Thais are very big on fish, pork, and chicken. I’ve been slamming them in that order, avoiding chicken. But the roadside stalls offering tasty titbits of the former two on kebab sticks are just too much to resist. Beef is way harder to come by.

Budget again

So barring getting run out of town, or the office, it looks like I’ll be here at least another month. Which I’m happy about.

One more big hurdle, and dent in the budget, though. That’s the to Savannakhet to get the Non-B Immigrant Visa.

I leave Monday night on a bus. It’s an 18-hour trip. Followed by a day in Laos, then pick up the Visa ( all going well ), then return. It’s unavoidable, a rite of passage all foreign teachers have to go through. Sigh.

Thunderballs and Lightning

It’s 3 a.m., and there’s Sound and Fury outside.

Not the kind produced by a lively party, or train wreck, or nucelar explosions, or even a Stooges concert. No, this is in a league all of it’s own. It’s a cacophony, it’s Armageddon.

Turns out it’s none of the above, just a mere … thunderstorm. Not the tame type we have in New Zealand, with a bit of rumble in the distance, and a quick flash. Those are the sparklers of the fireworks kit. These, on the other hand, are the Thunderbolts.

It’s near, and it’s nasty, and it keeps me awake for an hour or so. I’m wondering if this is a harbinger of the upcoming Monsoon season.

This morning, all is bright and warm per usual. It’s overcast, sure, but a bit of a sheen is the only clue to last night’s havoc.

That, and the fact that the school’s compulsory morning prayer assembly is held indoors, allowing some to shirk….

I’m left wondering, what happens when one of these calamities strikes during the day?

Bangkok or Bust

Let me borrow from cardboard TV Irish for a second to say “feck, but it’s dusty here.”

The Bangkok caper started unravelling when I knocked a lens out of the favourite aviatory-style sunnies I’d been chuffed I’d taken. That was less than halfway in.

This is when I discovered the dust, with the results you see below.

Bangkok is the worst, but it doesn’t get much better on the open roads from there to Chonburi and Pattaya, and on to Rayong etc. Loads of heavy trucks, and the routes are lined not with farmland and tree plantations, but with industry, which worsens the dust. Manufacturing plants, etc, and dozen of As Vague As Possible Logistics ( Thailand ), all in forbidding concrete. It could be a Mad Max movie.

So, flustered and dusted, and trying to listen to my phone for motorway turn-off details, I got myself well lost several times. On the way. I discovered that motorways ( they’re marked with big blue signs ) are not the domain of little scooters. Little scooters are not allowed on motorways. When little scooters approach motorway toll booths, rabid Thais come out of booths shrieking and waving their arms. It doesn’t help to shrug and play the stupid foreigner, they forcibly U-turn you quick-smart, never letting up with the yapping. They’re not at all amused when you do it again.

Google Maps

Once I figured out that I should have told Google Maps to avoid toll-paying roads, I quickly found my way through Bangkok to the Police Clearance Centre Headquarters. I arrived around midday, possibly why it was a cattle pen. BUT, what with the aid of some 1980s ticker-tape-style number chits, I was through there in less than an hour. I was, strangely, only one of two Caucasians there.

Even given the time of day, Bangkok seems way dustier, and hotter, than Rayong. The swarms of scooter-riders are also more aggressive, lots of people enjoying games of dodge through the traffic. More advertising, of course.

I got out of Bangkok as fast as possible, what with having to be back at work today. The escape went ok, except for a slow leak in my scooter’s front tyre, and a never-ending slow climb to Chonburi, about midway to Rayong.

So, here are the numbers, bearing in mind that Einstein here managed to get lost on the way back as well. Gas – 270 Baht ( ~= NZ $13 ), mileage – around 350 km total , time – left Rayong 7.10 a.m., return about 4.30 pm. Stopped for mid-afternoon lunch ( 3 eggs, olives, cucumber, nuts, cocoa drink ), pumping tyres, getting lost, re-fuelling ( the tank takes about 80 baht worth ), and Bangkok.

I might have made another tactical blunder. Given a choice between collecting the police clearance slip in TWO weeks, and receiving it in THREE weeks ( by post ! ), I chose collecting it.

I’m now wondering whether this is wise.

Rayong by Night


My third swim today in Rayong, and first day I didn’t break into a sweat going outside. So I thought I use the excuse to post a couple of pix showing the oceanside.

Saeng Chan Beach

These below were taken at Saeng Chan beach. On that day, a full tide, and scant wind, meant it was flat and pond-like. There are be 30-40 pairs of the groynes you see along a 3-km stretch of the oceanside, creating maybe 30 separate small swimming holes maybe 50 – 80 metres across. You can see the effect on the map above, giving the beach a ‘serrated’ or saw-like appearance.

Today, by contrast, was gusty, and the tide was out, so it was far from pond-like. Still, good for a quick wallow and a few attempted body-surfs.

I also noticed today that the beaches here are quite badly littered. As the tide washes up, there’s an ugly and obvious sprinkling of mostly plastic ( parts of bottles mainly ), and rubber. Ugh!

Getting guttural

If you’re squeamish, or prudish, or both, please skip this post, since I’ll be talking some about bodily functions.

Friends will know that I’ve been fastidious to the point of pathology about diet. It’s all part of an attempt to slow down, and maybe even wind back a little, the march of time. Not to mention repairing some damage from the, er, Prodigal Years.

It started with a stint of ( fish- and shellfish-eating ) Veganism, but then I re-discovered running as a sport, and found the two didn’t mix. It took a long time to get even close to right, but the last coupla few months I’ve been on something like a ‘primal’ diet. Things were improving.

Then I came to Thailand. The second day here, I started spraying the toilet bowl. Along with that, my Resting Heart Rate ( RHR ), shot up to the 70s from the usual 54 – 59. Clearly something was awry.

Three possible causes;

  • The stress of travel
  • The spicy food
  • Unclean water

I think it was probably a combination of mostly the last and the first. Although once the rot had set in, no doubt the middle one didn’t help.

The spraying continued from May 9 until about two days ago ( May 24 ) , when I finally passed something solid.

I told a co-teacher, an impossibly charming Italian named Edoardo, who teaches French. He smiled and gave me the Gallic Shrug – “Welcome to Thailand”. Seems it’s pretty standard.

These Thais are to blame. They regale visitors with roadside food stalls, maybe a half-dozen and more within a 100m stretch at busy times, all with delicious ( spicey ) fare. A keen gourmand ( ok, pig ) just can’t help himself. Like a cat in a sardine factory, I was probably eating too much.

When I reverted to high fat, moderate protein, low carbs, things started to come right. Lots of eggs, and very minimal spice helped. I mimed my situation to stall owners by rubbing my belly with a pained expression and saying ‘no spice’. I found stalls, and hotels, which will brew up ten or a dozen hard-boiled eggs at once for 10 baht ( ~= 45 cents ) each. Again, that took a bit of miming and a bit of Google Translate. I found a stall ( which also has a covered eating area, maybe 10 tables ), where I could hear roosters crowing out back.

I also found that – probably because of a pretty good diet before arriving – I could easily, and with good results, fast between around 7 pm, and 10 – 11 am the next day.

Then yesterday I visited Makro market .

This is a huge bulk barn, with such delectables as brie and goat feta cheese, which are impossible to find elsewhere in Rayong. I didn’t get much past the door before succumbing to a dish of battered ( spicy ) home-made fish-cakes. Delicious ( I quaffed the entire half-dozen ), but no doubt cooked with crap oil, and definitely spicy. Two hours later, back spraying.

On that subject, other favourites that are hard to find and / or expensive in Thailand – nuts, especially macadamias, brazils, and almonds. Good cocoa. Most cheese / dairy. Broccoli , brussels sprouts. Mussels. Favourites which are cheap / everywhere here – eggs, fish, mustard greens, mushrooms.

So it’s a balancing act between enjoying what Thailand has to offer ( occasional three-roadside stall dinners ), and taking good care of the gut. Why come to Thailand, and eat the same as home? But why be ill?

I’m starting to get it right.

Hurdles High & Low

Two weeks working as a teacher, and I’ve survived.

No  border probe for moral turpitude. No arrest for impersonating someone respectable.   No escape from town ahead of an angry mob of pursuing scooters. No Naked Lunch moment when all realise that I’m merely posing as a teacher. And that it’s a kind of confidence trick – as long as they ( school, students ) keep believing it, I’ll keep playing the role.

But it now dawns on me that the bar is a little higher than mere survival, and lack of incarceration. Those are the low hurdles. The goal ( to reach break-even point and better from this whole caper ) will come after clearing these hurdles;

Most importantly, I have to tiptoe through the notorious Thai Visa process. First, you need Thai police clearance. Then you need a non-B Visa. In between all of that, you need to go to a nearby country and apply from there. It’s fiendishly complex, a bureaucrat’s wet dream. Except it’s the cops and army whose whim the process seems to follow. There are entire Facebook groups devoted to working with and around this Visa issue. I was advised by someone in a position to know not to go to Thailand because of this complication.

I’m off to Bangkok Monday to get Thai police clearance. If that’s successful, there’s another trip – this time across the border – in the works to get a ‘Non-B’ working Visa. Then I’ll need a work permit. Whew.

The second hurdle is a 3-month probation period in my contract. This, apparently, is also standard, and means I’m effectively at the mercy of a student vote after three months. I assume they poll my students, and if I don’t score 80% or higher, I could be out. Nasty. I don’t yet know all the details;

  • Is it a yes / no vote, or do students grade teachers?
  • How often do teachers ‘fail’?
  • Worst case scenario and the school decides to ‘let me go’, how much notice do I get?

but I’ll find out as the end of 3 months nears.

The first two weeks have been exhausting, not least because I’ve gone from mostly unemployed to full-time. One saving grace is that week ONE involved only three teaching days, and week TWO only 4 teaching days ( holiday Monday ). Week THREE will also be only 4 teaching days. But the day off won’t be very restful, because it’s a return trip to Bangkok ( 150 km ), and I have to prepare lesson plans for that day’s five classes for the Thai teacher.

Caza V1

Here’s some more on the new digs.

It’s basically two rooms – a dining / bedroom / lounge, and a toilet / shower.

It’s 5500 baht / month, as opposed to 500 baht / day I had been paying for roughly equivalent hotel rooms. I’m on the 7th floor. See pix below.

Like those hotel rooms, it has no cooking facilities. It does have a microwave. No kitchen bench or sink though.

It’s the safe option for now. I was very tempted to go out to Mae Rampheung beach. I would have paid an extra 1000 baht / month. And I would have travelled a bout 30 minutes more to and from work each day. But I decided to concentrate on surviving at work ( which is a struggle ) first, and then think about getting  flash.


It’s pretty close to work – it takes 5 minutes on a good day to ride. Sometimes closer to 10, it depends on how well I do playing chicken in the traffic.

There are no lights on my route, and I’m not sure anyone follows road rules. On the busiest intersections at rush hours, you’ll see puffy little guys in army green whistling up a cacophony and waving their hands about – these are ‘traffic police’.  Everybody else seems more or less to follow their directions, so I do likewise.


It’s close enough to a couple of major chain stores and supermarkets. But you can do just as well, or better, food shopping at the roadside stalls. These are open when the owners feel like it, but especially the evenings. Two nights ago, I did a little tour down the ( same ) road, and had a) smoked eel , then b) sliced pork served on plate of green with a beautiful sweet sauce, and c) two  or three kebabs ( ‘peeg’, she told me ). That added up to about 100 baht. Less than NZ $5.

Crisis Over

OK, so thanks to a rock-star family member ( you know who you are ), I’m now … liquid again.

I used the money which came through Western Union to sort out an apartment for the next month, and avoid the sting of the daily 500 b. for a hotel.

Caza V1

Is home now, at least for the next month.


Ain’t it amazing how fast the wheels can fall off? And how quickly follows the body panels, the chrome, nuts and bolts, lights and indicators, and finally bits of the chassis. Leaving the poor sucker ( me ) sitting in the middle of the proverbial road in a carseat.

That’s what happened today. One simple f-up, which I wasn’t even responsible for. Can you guess? An ATM swallowed my Visa card. The machine tells me it’s working. OK. I insert the card. The ATM flashes the message ‘out of order’. The lights around the card slot flash – ‘expect some action here’. Nothing. It doesn’t return my card. Pretty soon it shuts down.

With the help of some locals, I call the number on the machine. They ask me every question they can think of, and 20 minuteps later tell me I might get my card back in 3 working days. Or not. No apology, let alone offer of compensation.

After calling my bank in NZ, the extent of the sh*t starts to dawn on me. My phone is running low on credit. I need to be able to call people. I can’t check in to any hotels with no cash. Luckily the scooter is well-stocked on gas. But I have no real food reserves.

Shoulda Shoulda

Yes, I know, I know. Beginners’ mistake, shoulda shoulda got travel insurance. But even if I had that, it’s a long weekend here, and how are the insurers going to give me cash.

I tried Western Union, but can’t for some reason can’t SEND the cash ( online ) to RECEIVE here. Maybe it’s Kiwibank, but by the time I’d discovered that, they’d closed.

An understanding worker at a local bank I have an account with ( but next to no funds ), was kind and sharp enough to call the hotel, and ask them to extend credit of sorts. I get to stay here, and pay later. So I have a roof over my head, and for now, a little food.

For now. Not sure how I’m gonna reassemble the jalopy ( see above ) tomorrow.