Friday, 30 January 2009

Woooo Hooooo

Guess what....we get the keys to our new house today!!! I am so excited.....I can't wait!! We officially move in tomorrow and we've arranged for all our stuff to arrive on Tuesday so it's really going to feel like home quite quickly!!

Finally, after over a month living out of a suitcase, we can unpack....

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There has been a meme going round which I have been tagged for....it's the one where you open your forth photo album and then post the fourth picture in it so I leave you with this photograph of Thai's celebrating Songkran.

The Thai New Year, also known as Songkran, is celebrated every year from the 13th to the 15th of April and is the time when Thai people return home to visit family and to pay respect to the elders around the neighbourhood. Songkran is a time for cleaning and renewal and water is very heavily associated with it. Originally pouring a small amount of water on other people's hands was done as a sign of respect but now the most obvious celebration of Songkran is the throwing of water - people actually roam the streets with bowls of water, water pistols or even a garden hose, and drench each other and everyone else...it's bonkers...the entire city turns into one big waterfight!!

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Since we will be moving house tomorrow I'm not sure when I'll be able to blog next....it doesn't have internet access at the moment but we will be getting it up and running....please bare with me :-)

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Booze and Books

I had forgotten just how much I loved boozy weekends with the lovely Tomato and attending cultural events like the book launch of DJ Kirkby's fab biography 'From Zaftig to Aspie' (I know it's fab cause I've already started it!!) and her partner Christopher I King's exciting thriller 'Motorbikes, ducks and crispy sweet apples' (Click on the names to visit their blogs and the titles to buy the books)

God it was nice to see Tom...and nice to know that we're not going to have to wait another year for a get together!!. We had so much fun....he introduced us to a couple of really nice oldy worldy pubs, we had a nosey round Croydon's food market (I was thrilled....there is an Asian supermarket there which sells Pomello which means I can make Moon's Pomello Salad.....I'm sure I can bribe Tom to bring one up with him....the promise of a few glasses of wine will probably do it!!), we tried a new wine bar and had Champagne (well, we'd not seen Tom in a while and it would have been rude not to!!), we had yummy food and even had a few games of pool (Chris and Tom....not me!!). Lots of laughing was done and it was a shame that Chris had to head back to Swindon on Sunday (2nd week in work he couldn't really ask for a day off!!) but I stayed on with Tom so that the two of us could travel to Portsmouth on Monday to attend the book launch.

After a stupidly late night (and a rather large amount of wine!!) Tom and I arrived in Portsmouth feeling slightly jaded and absolutely ravenous!! We checked into our hotel, had some lunch and then decided to do some exploring. I've never been to Portsmouth before and I was very impressed with what I saw.....both Tom and I thoroughly enjoyed our meander along the sea front (even if I could no longer feel my hands or my nose)...the views were stunning!! By the time we got back to the hotel I really did look windswept and interesting (ok, perhaps not interesting but definately windswept!!)




The launch was absolutely fantastic!! DJ was exactly how I thought she would be....a truly beautiful woman both inside and out!! She gave me a wonderful warm welcome when I walked in the door (I know that was not easy for you DJ and that made it very special for me). I had done a wee drawing for her based on things she has written about on her blog and I have to say that I was very relieved (and thrilled) that she liked it (It's so nerve wracking giving a drawing as a present!!). It was also wonderful meeting so many other bloggers in person *waves hi* and I now even have some news ones to add to my blog roll!!

Chris (a.k.a. Chopper) was the first to face us and he did a very funny introduction to his novel (Seriously, he should do stand up comedy!!) then read us an excerpt from 'Motorbikes, ducks and sweet crispy apples'....I was completely hooked!! The part he read involved the escape from a murder scene and I felt myself holding my breath along with his character as he made his way to the car, eased it out the drive and attempted to leave the scene without making a sound. It's going to be a page turner!! Then DJ gave us an amazing insight into what life is like living with Aspergers and the struggle she has everyday....she expressed herself wonderfully!! I was captivated by her reading...she has the amazing ability to catapult you into a time and a place so vivid that you feel as if you were there. This is a book not to be missed!!

And, as if all that was not enough, we were privileged to witness the one off performance of 'Shrek Rap' which was written by Blogger Casdok and performed by Daren Callow. It is a wonderful piece of writing and a recording has been made which you can view here.

The following day after checking out of our hotel Tom and I decided to go and visit Spinnaker Tower (we figured that it would be a shame not to see some of the sights whilst we were there). Spinnaker Tower is an amazing building comprising of three viewing platforms that look out over the sea. It was a cold but clear day and we could see for miles...the views were stunning!! Neither of us were very happy about walking over the glass floor (aparently the largest in Europe) but we both thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Portsmouth!!

Friday, 23 January 2009

We've got the house!!

Woooo hoooooo!!!!!I'm so excited!!! The landlord has accepted the offer we made (which is great cause it is less than he was asking for) and, all going well with all the checks and stuff (we're a bit worried about our references. Chris got paid in Thailand so has not had salary cheques going into his UK account for two and a half years), hopefully.....we should be moving in on the 31st!!

You've all been asking for more details so here goes (you've been warned!!)

The front door actually takes you straight into the kitchen so the main entrance way is through the back door. (There is a public right of way so you walk past everyone elses back doors to get to ours). When you first walk in there is a decent sized room that has a wood burning stove in a beautiful brick fireplace and a lovely terracotta coloured tiled floor. The previous people used this as their living room but we've decided that we will use it as a dining room if we didn't then we wouldn't have one and it makes sense as it's right next to the kitchen!! You can see from the photo's what the kitchen is like....I love the wide bit at the window but it will be a bit odd watching people walk past as we're doing the dishes!!

From the ground floor you go upstairs (which are between the dining room and kitchen) and there is a little landing. Go up one step to the left and that takes you into a stunning wooden floored room with a large window that looks out over the garden....it also has a gorgeous wrought iron fireplace which we think is a working fire (this is not the actual one but it looks similar). This was originally a bedroom but we're going to turn it into the living room...the light in there is fab and we want to make the best use of all the rooms (We had one bedroom in Bangkok that we hardly ever went into). Back onto the landing....one step up to the right and your onto another wee landing which has stairs going up to the next level on the left and on the right there is a good sized brand new bathroom which looks very fresh - all blue and white.

Up the next lot of stairs (blimey, I'm getting tired just writing about all those stairs!!) and there are two good sized bedrooms. The biggest one we're going to use as our bedroom (no surprises there!!) and the other one we're going to turn into a study/drawing room and guest bedroom. (It has a very funky wee window in the left hand corner of the room)

So there you have it....grand plans....god, I hope it all works out!!!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

House Hunting (Gas vs Electric)

OMG I cooked on an electric hob for the first time in about 6 years on Monday night.....and managed to weld my bolognese sauce to the bottom of the pot!! (Thankfully it tasted fine but I needed a hammer and chisel to get the bloody stuff off the botton of the pan...I'm not kidding...it took about ten minutes to clean!!). Pfft....the heat on the 3 setting was too low and the 4 setting was too high.....so it was with feeling that I said to Graham, our relocation consultant, that I really wanted somewhere with a gas cooker!!

He came and picked us up at 9.30am and gave us the list of properties that he was going to show us.....18 in total....I could feel Chris losing the will to live before we had even started!! The first town we visited was Faringdon...it's a beautiful little town (Ha, it even had a shop called Emporium although it was nothing like Emporium in Bangkok...it was a wee place that sold car parts!!). We saw three places - the first one was orange (what is it about orange...when I was apartment hunting in Bangkok a scary majority of them were orange...and not in a good way!!), the second was small but beautifully formed (tall and skinny but completely impracticle for Chris's 6ft 3 height....he would have spent most of his time concussed...actually that might not have been so bad....hmm....) and the third was nothing to write home about. By the end of viewing the three houses Graham had got the measure of us and was already slagging me off about my cooking!! (every property we saw that had an electric cooker he made cheeky comments about workmen blaming the tools and needing to practice my cooking!!)

The second town we visited was Marlborough. It's a stunning market town, lots of shops, restuarants and pubs and we saw two properties there (I'm not going to bore you by talking about all 18!!) that we quite liked. One was a modern style cottage (the tenant was a single man and you could so tell....ping pong table in the living room, practically no furniture and shirts hanging from every curtain rail) and the other was an older cottage (also home to a single man....who had filled every nook and cranny with stuff....bolts, tools, a two handled electric car polisher (I didn't even know you could buy such a thing!!)...it was in need of a good clean and de-clutter).

The thrid place we visited was the town of Malmesbury and we both fell in love with the place!! It's a reasonably sized town but has a really nice village feel - it has stunning views, an old abbey, is only a 20 minute drive from Swindon and it had lots of really nice eateries, good pubs, fresh fish van, local butchers...everything you could want really!! We saw two houses there that we both really liked....one was very very quirky but not really practicle (the master bedroom was up incredibly steep stairs and Chris would have been able to wave to the neighbours when using the toilet...for all concerned that would not be good!!) and the second one was quirky but not overly so. Three bedrooms spread over three floors with lovely views over the garden (and it even had a garden shed so somewhere for Tom to stay when he comes to visit...hehehehe).

The fourth, and last area, we visited was Cirencester. It's a beautiful place but a lot bigger than the other three and I think it suffered for that. We only liked one of the houses we were shown and it was one of those places that already had someone's personality stamped on it and we both felt that we would always feel like we were living in someone elses house so we decided against it.

Graham dropped us off in Old Town and recomended a great pub called The Roaring Donkey!! It wasn't open when we arrived so we poped round the corner to this lovely little tapas bar and had a glass of wine (Chris had earned it!!) while we discussed all the properties that we had seen. We decided to make an offer (we're going to rent....don't know the areas well enough to buy) on the second place we had seen in Malmesbury. I am so excited....Graham is going to speak to the landlord.

Keep your fingers crossed!!!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

The End


Well, it's been a hell of a two and a half years!! We've had an absolute ball and met some life long friends along the way but nothing stays the same forever so.......

It is now time to announce the winners (Yes, I did say winners - they both made the same suggestion on different blogs) to the 'Name the new blog' competition

and the winners are

Drrruuummm roll please

Spiral Skies and Sue Guiney

with their suggestion of

Not Only In Thailand


Ladies, please go to my website and select the picture you would like

a big THANK YOU
to everyone who entered the competition

Please pop over to the new blog so I don't look like Billy no Mates :-)

The last few days

It's not easy trying to cram everything you want to do into the last few days and I didn't manage to do half the stuff I wanted to!! (I didn't have time to do my last minute handbag shopping (I know.....I was horrified too but JJ said that she will do that for me) which was probably a good thing as I don't think we could have fitted one more thing into our suitcases!! What we did manage to do was to have a very boozy farewell get together!!

We decided to have it in The Bull's Head as it's close to the Skytrain so easy to get to and Louise sent out an invitation on our behalf a few days before it. I was thrilled (was going to say over the moon but I don't think she would have been happy if I'd jumped over her!!) when sixteen people came back to me to say that they were going to come along!! I was organised (for me anyway) and went in the day before and told Billy, who manages the place, to reserve a table.

We were good and actually managed to arrive before anyone else but after about 10 minutes (and much gaffawing from Louise when I told her I'd booked for 16 people) it was clear that the table was not going to anywhere near enough!! We actually took over the next floor up and Billy ended up having to open another bar for us.......there were about 60 people....I couldn't believe it!!! I was doing really well (not red faced and snottery at all) till Louise gave a speech and presented us both with a big card signed by everyone along with John Lewis vouchers and a gorgeous necklace (for me not Chris) chosen by JJ......after that I struggled!!! (To be honest....I sneaked off to the toilet and had a good cry).

The following day we met up with Moon and her sister Mai for lunch. We went to Crepes and Co and had a lovely time hearing all about her new job. She's working for Sven one of Chris's old colleagues and is aparently causing much hilarity because she can't pronounce his name and is now calling him Seven!! She also told us that his two boys (7 & 9) have discovered that she is really jumpy and are constantly thinking up new ways to scare her (I can't tell you how pleased I am that she's happy....it would have made leaving ten times worse if she'd not been settled....saying goodbye was hard enough!!)

We had a lovely night at Louise and Gordon's for our last night in Thailand. It was absolutely perfect....good food, good wine and good company. Louise had prepared an Indian feast (I've got the recipes) and we had a lovely chilled evening....although in hindsight staying up till 1.30am when you've got to be up at 5am was probably not the wisest thing in the world to do but hey.....

In the morning their driver picked us up and took us to the airport which was a godsend!! We were very very concerned about the weight of our luggage so I decided to distract the check in guy by pointing out the torn ligaments in my ankle. It was just as well I did....both cases were over 30 kilos and I don't even want to think about how heavy our hand luggage was!! Anyway, we got away with it and all too soon we were sitting on the plane watching Bangkok get smaller and smaller then finally vanish beneath the clouds.

Monday, 19 January 2009

My nose is froze :-(

A new dawn, a new day, a new life.....

After spending a stupid amount of time travelling (it was something hideous like 17 hours) we arrived in Manchester to be greeted with the statement 'The temperature outside is 2 degrees" from the pilot. OMG.....2 degrees.......and I was still wearing flipflops because of my stupid ankle....blue toes is not a look that I think will catch on!!!

Our lovely friend Oneila (Neils) met us at the airport and we had a fantastic evening with her. We dumped the bags (I put socks on!!) and headed out to what used to be our old local....The Metropolitan in West Didsbury. Ohhh it was so nice - the place was heaving and after a few drinks we went to Reserve (Fab wine shop owned by our friend Kate) and bought a bottle (or two) of wine and then got a take away from our favourite curry place. It was just what the doctor ordered!!!

The following day we collected our hire car and drove straight up to Scotland. Sadie (Chris's Mum) was our first port of call and we had a lovley afternoon catching up with her and Chris's Aunt Dot (who managed to scare the living daylights out of me by creeping up behind me and shouting 'Boo' whilst I was in Asda hunting for a pair of proper shoes....Asda, I then discovered, don't sell shoes....*sigh*). Then we headed over to my Mum's. The rest of the week was pretty much spent flitting between various family members.

I would also like to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Derek and Anna who are now the proud parents of a very healthy 9 pounds 11 ounces (Ouch!!) baby boy!! (My Gran is now a great Granmother and she is over the moon about it!!)

Oh, and we've been sleeping.....a lot!! Party people were definately NOT in the house.....we were lucky if we managed to last past 8.30pm!! (It's definately harder to deal with Jet Lag in winter than it is in the summer!!!)

Anyhoo, we travelled down to sunny Swindon on Saturday and are currenly staying in a serviced house. When we arrived the guy that runs the place had put the lights on, turned the heating on and had even bought us some bread, milk, tea and coffee which really made us feel welcome. The house is nice...three bedroom, dining area, decent kitchen and we even have a bit of garden.

Chris started his new job today and tomorrow we will go out with our relocation people to view properties. I'm quite excited about it....I love looking at houses!!! (Me?? Nosey?? Never!!!). We'll be looking at houses in the market towns of Marlborough, Cirencester, Faringdon, Malmesbury and in the Old Town section of Swindon. Hopefully by tomorrow we will have somewhere to live :-)

Friday, 9 January 2009

Kanchanaburi & Sangkhlaburi

We had a lovely few days away...not sure if they were particularly relaxing (We did a lot of travelling) but they were fab!!

We got the train from Bangkok Noi up to Kanchanaburi on Sunday.....I do love taking the train (You can read about the first time we took the train here) and arrived just in time to get checked in at our hotel and to have a beer whilst watching the sun set. It was stunning.... blue/purple mountains silouetted against a red and gold sky with the Bridge over the River Kwai outlined in black....what a view!!! Whilst we were sitting there we got chatting about what there is to see in the area and what we might do the following day (we're not the 'sit by the pool all day' type) and as we flicked through the guide book we realised that, besides a couple of waterfalls (we couldn't go there because the torn ligaments in my ankle have STILL not healed), we had seen everying that was recommended. So we had a look at what there was to visit slightly further away and came across a page about a small town called Sangkhlaburi which we had actually talked about visiting before. It's off the beaten track so not something we would do when back here on a holiday so we decided 'what the hell'. The following morning we were up bright and early and headed over to Kanchanaburi bus station were we discovered that we could jump on a mini bus up to Sangkhlaburi for the grand total of 175 baht (£3.30). I am so glad we did...it was an amazing place!!

When travellers dream of Thailand, they picture verdant jungles, sparkling temples and the exotic charm of its rural villages.....Sangkhlaburi is home to all this. It's only about 25km from the Burmese border and is really quiet secluded...but boy is it worth a visit (the views as we drove along were stunning). There are two really fasinating things about the place.....the first is that it is home to the largest handmade wooden bridge in the world built by the Mon people in the area (The Mon, like The Karen Hilltribe, are an ethnic group originally from Burma who have been displaced due to years of fighting and unrest. They were one of the earliest peoples to reside in Southeast Asia and were responsible for the spread of Theravada buddhism in present day Burma and Thailand) and the second is that the original town has been completely submerged in water.

We stayed in a basic but lovely little guest house called The Burmese Inn which had a fantastic view over the reservoir and the Bridge. We checked in, booked a boat tour of the reservoir just before sunset and headed off to have a look at the bridge. Just look at this.....isn't it absolutely beautiful!!! I have never seen anything like it and I was just blown away that the entire thing was built by hand with no help from engineers or anything (actually when you looked at it from a certain angle it did make me think of the game Kerplunk but I tried to put that out my mind when we were walking over it!!). Having had a meander across the bridge we then got on our wee boat and went for a trip over the water and again, I have never seen anything like it!! As we neared the middle of the reservoir we saw the top of a temple sticking out the water!! You know I said that the original village was suberged well, depending on the season and the water level, you can still see some of the original buildings. It was amazing scooting across the water and watching as the top spire of the temple came into view and we got some fab photo's of the buildings with their reflections....eerie but beautiful!!












The following day we got up early to make sure that we had enough time to visit the Mon village across the bridge before travelling back to Kanchanaburi. I'm not a morning person (I know you are all gasping in disbelief!!) but was very glad we made the effort as we were in time to catch the early morning mist over the bridge.....if I thought the place was magical before it was nothing compaired to seeing it shrouded in soft grey mist!! We crossed over the bridge and then got a motorcycle taxi to take us to the two Mon temples on the island. Chris was slightly gutted as he thought he had successfully managed to avoid ever having to go on one...hehehe....no luck!!! The first temple was very like the Thai ones although they were doing some restoration work to one part of it and we managed to get this lovely shot....illustrates Thai Health and Safety rather beautifully!!! The second temple was stunning....a real mixture of Thai, Burmese and Indian influences and made me think of egyptian pyramids.....Chris got this stunning shot of one of the small Buddhas (I think we will get it blown up and framed once we're back in the UK...I love it!!). All too soon it was time for us to head back to Kanchanaburi where we spent the night and then it was back to Bangkok. A lot of travelling in just a few days but completely worth it!!