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My Life in Thailand – Part One

Memories from 2013 until now

Valentine’s Day is also the anniversary of our village wedding (five years ago) and that got me thinking about the time I have spent in Thailand since first meeting my (now) wife Gaun in 2012. With an afternoon to spare I thought I would share some of my journey over the last few years through the photographs taken during that period. 

Before we get going just a comment about the quality of the early photos. Because we are going back to a time before I had a decent camera and editing software the photos won’t be as professional as I hope they present in more recent times. Some of them are from Gaun’s camera. They still tell the story though and that’s the main purpose of photos isn’t it.

That story will take us from Phuket, where I started my time in Thailand, to Isan as a tourist, then Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and back to Isan, this time as a resident.

The photos I will share are more the ones that make me smile from the memories rather than a travel book of carefully selected images. We have had an incredibly varied and busy six years and it would be impossible to cover even the highlights, so I am just going to work through the photos and see what jumps out at me with a story to tell.

2012 – A Holiday

I hadn’t planned on going back this far but I came across a few photos I liked and I know that many readers will relate to aspects of this part of my tale because I have heard so many variations of the same story, so here goes. It gets a little personal but I won’t get heavy duty on the detail so we should be OK.

In 2012 my wife of the time and I decided to separate with her returning to family in Wales while I remained in Australia. It was an amicable arrangement as far as these thing go but it was the end of an eleven year era so still a stressful period to work through. She decided to leave in October and as I didn’t want to be around for that I booked a ten day holiday. Usually I went to Bali, because it was close, cheap and I enjoyed the change in culture. However, having been there five times already I wanted to go somewhere different so Thailand it was and, as is usually the case with westerners especially first timers to Thailand, I chose one of the coastal holiday locations, Phuket in my case.

I had money in those days or at least a credit card I could afford, so I booked a luxury three bedroom pool villa that cost more than my current monthly budget 🙂

A slight overkill isn’t it, but it was very nice. It was located in Nai Harn towards the tip of Phuket island, a quieter, more family orientated area and I chose it as the bar scene of Patong just isn’t my thing.

I did what many of us do in this situation – bought a muscle top (no tatts) and went on lots of tours. 

I have never had a problem driving anywhere so rented a car to match my clothes 🙂 A newly single man on holiday in Phuket – what else do you do? Not recommended for the wet season I have to say.

Away from the development and mass tourists this is a beautiful area.

James Bond Island of course. We all follow Trip Advisor Top Ten don’t we. We had a fast boat (not the one in the previous photo) so got there early before the crowds. I believe it can be a disaster later in the day.

Do you remember your early days in Thailand? Everything is SO new, different and interesting. One way to keep the dog cool.

Sunset at Rawai.

One of the unexpected pleasures of the trip was meeting a lady called Gaun, who was working at a small resort just off the main street through Nai Harn.

I had heard about Thai girls and the potential traps for male tourists so when Gaun shown no interest in my money, always asked me if I was hungry every time I meet her and was happy to show me some of the non-top ten local sights when she had time off I was impressed. She was a heap of fun to be with. She had no Facebook account, Twitter or email (and even now still only uses her phone to make/receive calls and take photos of flowers) so when I left I had to ask her for a contact number! 

I had such a good time on this holiday and in retrospect a lot of it was due to the fact that Phuket was so vibrant, new and in some ways challenging. It made a real impression on me unlike previous places I had visited. Goodbye more Bali holidays and hello Thailand. 

For some unknown reason Gaun knitted scarfs as a hobby and I got two to take back to Australia! 

My time in Thailand was in stark contrast to returning home to an empty house, a future I couldn’t envisage and a job I hated with a passion. On a weekend escape trip to Sydney to see my brother and sister-in-law they suggested (probably over a glass or three of wine) that I could look at selling up and take 12 months off work to reassess life and decide where to from here. They thought that as I enjoyed Thailand so much maybe I spend some of the 12 months there to research it as a possible longer term early retirement destination if I liked it over a longer term, rather than just repeat what wasn’t working in Australia.

That sounded like a plan and luckily I had a very understanding boss and for once working for a huge government department was a benefit as most private enterprises businesses would never consider giving an employee 12 months off and guarantee their job on return. Maybe my team was pleased to get a break from me!

It took me five months to get the house ready to market, sell it as well as dump the incredible excess of stuff we all seem to collect over time.

Doing all those jobs that have been on the list for ages.

Can’t even give away so much. 

The hardest part of selling up to head overseas for an extended time was handing my much beloved dog Tess to friends and saying goodbye to my house extension I called The Folly, which I had obsessively built myself (except electrical) over the course of a couple of years on weekends. For regular readers who see me doing not much in Thailand, I didn’t always have a Gaun in my life 🙂 All my own creation, design and physical sweat below:

2013 – Exploring Thailand

On the 12th of June 2013 late at night I was back in Phuket. I was totally wrecked from the challenges of winding up my life in Australia and this was the start of a recovery holiday period before spending time exploring inland. I have never been a beach person so the attractions of a coastal location didn’t do it for me. Also Phuket is great for a holiday but expensive and a tourist fantasyland – not the ‘real’ Thailand (for me).

I rented another pool villa again in the Nai Harn area but at a much lower cost. I was on leave without pay so everything was being paid for from a non-renewable source!

I had kept in touch with Gaun in a very casual way after I returned to Australia and had arranged to meet up again the next evening after work. I enjoyed her company (and food) the previous year and at the back of my mind I had the idea of finding a Thai person to help me cope with especially language post-Phuket when I wanted to see more of Thailand. Would she be the one? I won’t tell you yet otherwise that would give the ending away 🙂

My best memories of this six week period (apart from Gaun) were the friends who made the effort to come over and make sure I was OK. A good mate Phillip was my first visitor, and has since come back a further five times to see us, my brother Richard and sister-in-law Sam and my now ex-stepdaughter Sarah, who wanted to spend her 30th birthday with me.  

Me, Phillip and an unidentifed stranger.

One of the pleasures in life is meeting people you care about at the airport arrivals. Richard and Sam.

Richard and Sam. Best mates as well as family – how unusual. A new best mate in the making on the left.

Laughter. A world of difference from Canberra.

Sarah’s 30th birthday pre-dinner drinks with Gaun and Sam.

Good times.

Gaun and Sam. They got along from day one.

One of my favourite photos of the time. Monkey meets Red Bull!

Gaun not looking at the view but checking out a potential fish dinner. 

What is the attraction of Thai ladies I wonder? At the Big Buddha in Phuket (I know – Trip Advisor Top Ten!)

Isan July/August 2013

With my holiday period coming to an end I asked Gaun if she would join me for a while when I left Phuket and travelled first to Isan and then to a house I had rented in Chiang Rai. I was very happy when, after talking it over with her best friend, she came back with a ‘yes”. 

 It is only in more recent times that Gaun has shared her thinking around that decision. I had obviously thought that she was attracted to this handsome, rich, fun-to-be-with farang – the dream of all Thai ladies 🙂 Not so. Gaun wanted to experience her first ever airplane flight and we were going to be flying to Isan!!!!!! What a blow to my ego. I am still recovering. 

Mission accomplished. 

We flew (oh joy Gaun) to Udon Thani and rented a car there to visit the family and see a bit of Isan. I can remember arriving in Udon early evening and then spending the next two hours trying to find the b*****y motel in the dark and rain! It was the first of many experiences of trying to match an internet map with reality.

Gaun ended up phoning a niece, who works in Udon, and she came to rescue us on her motorbike. We spent the next day in Udon and then drove the 80 km to a resort outside Si Bun Ruang close to the family home where we would spend the next week.

Not quite what I was expecting.

Getting into the Isan swing or should that be the Isan slide?

Meeting Yuan and Lud the first time at the farm (of course).

Gaun, me and Lud. 

Showing the locals how it’s done. Planting rice on the family farm.

I don’t need to do this anymore because they’ve now got the hang of it since I taught them the first time.

This is the ‘driveway’ to the farmhouse as it was in 2013. For the many of you who have vsited us and seen the farm it has changed somewhat since then. Yuan and Gaun.

Yuan has an easier and more attractive route these days to bring her vegetables to the farmhouse.

A very much younger Peng with mum.

My first family outing. The new face on the right is Puk, a niece. Six of us in a Mazda 2!

The family house at the time. Little did I know that the upstairs room on the left was to be our bedroom for five months when we built our house in 2014/15. 

My first taste of the lovely good luck ceremony of tying white string onto wrists on our last evening before flying to Chiang Mai and then driving to Chiang Rai.

I have rambled on longer than I thought, so have renamed this post ‘Part One’ and you can look forward to the next instalment soon. I am enjoying tripping down memory lane and hope you have too.

Next time we will have a look at our time in Chiang Rai and Mai. Who knows how many parts this will have 🙂

Cheers.

A taste of the next post. Chiang Rai tea.