Friday, 28 December 2007

Still in Pattaya

I really hadn't expected to like this place. Yes it is brash, yes in parts it is noisy and yes in parts it is very sleazy. But it is clean, the beach is quiet, the sea is warm and reasonably clean and the people are all so friendly. I played golf yesterday and really enjoyed that. It probably helps that we are staying is a wonderful place, the Rabbit Resort .

But certainly this is a place that is growing on me. I can understand why some of our friends stay here for weeks and a few have moved here permanently. And I am grateful to two of them for hosting a party a couple of days ago which we thoroughly enjoyed.

But today we move on to Bangkok which I expect to be very noisy, very busy but probably fascinating in its own way.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007


I don't suppose that 'laid back' is a term normally used for Pattaya, but compared to Patong it is.

Our hotel, the Rabbit Resort, is fantastic and right on the beach. And the beach is great - warm clear water.

This evening we had an excellent Christmas dinner in Boystown in Pattaya - turkey and all the trimmings. It was strange to be eating this on Christmas Day overlooking the clubs of Boystown.

Tomorrow we meet friends for a lunchtime party on the beach.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Taking the train

We drove back to Chaing Mai via a different, and beautidul, route. Gave back the car and boarded the overnight train.

The journey was not withour problems. For a few hours all the lights failed and getting an engineer to fix this meant that the train arrived 2 hours late into Bangkok. But we managed some sleep and, as ever, I found the train journey to be fascinating.

We were met at the station and are now in Pattaya.

Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Mekong River

I cannot really believe that we are sitting having lunch on the banks of the mighty Mekong River. But here we are and it is such a magical place.

The driving was fine. We stopped off in Chiang Rai and then went onwards to the Golden Triangle and our hotel close to Chiang Saen.

Today we went for a leisurely drive along the road to Chiang Khong and back via the road which skirts the Mekong.

And we did a boat trip on the Mekong. The scenery is wonderful, tall mountains, the mighty river and trees everywhere.

It is amazing to think that I am here in the very north of Thailand overlooking the countries of Laos and Burma. I am very lucky.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Chiang Mai

We are now up in the north in Chiang Mai. Today we did an elephant trek followed by gentle rafting down the local river. All amongst the heavily wooded hillside so typical of the scenery here. I really like Chiang Mai - much more relaxed, no hassle from street vendors and plenty to explore.

I was visiting a local Wat when one of the young monks approached me and asked me to help him with his English pronunciation. I had an enjoyable few minutes doing that and he then allowed me to visit the Wat.

We pick up the car tomorrow and drive northward.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Koh Samui

We have of course only scratched the surface, but nonetheless Koh Samui is much more beautiful and much less frenetic than Patong. The beaches are wonderful - white sand blending into shallow, warm, blue water. Yes it is true that all beaches we have seen are fringed by hotels. And these hotels have commandeered a large part of the beach space for their sunbeds. So those who are not staying at beachfront hotels, and particularly the locals, are finding their available space severely restricted. But the hotels are not high-rise and the trees and greenery hide most of the hotel anyway. So lying on a sunbed at the beach is close to idyllic.

It has rained for a time every day, and very heavily. But in short bursts, so we can put up with it.

I am sorry our stay here is so short. We are heading for dinner at the Library this evening, we might catch an hour by the beach tomorrow, then we head north.

Monday, 17 December 2007


It is strange, and not a little frightening, when we are lying on the beach at Patong, or having breakfast in the ground-floor cafe, that one day only three years ago, the sea rose from the ocean and charged ashore here wreaking havoc and killing many many people.

Reconstruction is complete and life is back to normal. Sure there are now Tsunami evacuation routes and thankfully there is an offshore warning system, but otherwise there is no trace of that dreadful day.

Today we did hotel inspections for the travel business. An exhausting but very useful day. Now I am tired and suffering a bit from the heat.

Patong has been an interesting place, frenetic, full of street hassle and available sex of all types yet safe enough and still with a superb beach. Sleazy and raucous certainly, but endearing nonetheless.

Tomorrow we head for Koh Samui.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


We are in Patong in Phuket. It is even bigger and brasher than I had expected. Like Blackpool on an even bigger scale with added sun and even more sleaze.

Yes it is a fun place and I am relaxing into it.

The Thai government have decreed that no alcohol can be served for 3 days this weekend and next weekend, bizarrely because of the forthcoming election. Apparently it is to stop voters being bribed with beer. So in all the bars in Patong, and there are a lot, everyone is drinking orange juice or Coke.

Yesterday we did an all-gay boat trip to one of the outlying deserted islands. Interesting dynamic! And a beautiful beach. Good way to start the holiday.

Rest day today. We will relax on Patong Beach. I am just about over the jet lag. And becoming laid back and less stressed. A good start, I think.

Thursday, 13 December 2007


We head to Heathrow in about an hour for the flight to Thailand for a three week trip - part holiday and part research for the travel business. I hope I'll have a chance to report from Thailand on this blog.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Christmas message

Every year I do a round-robin letter at Christmas to insert with certain Christmas cards. It is a good round up of last year, so I am repeating it here.

2007 – time passes ever faster

I started the year as the Finance guy at the Association for Geographic Information I was working 3 days a week and was happy in the knowledge that I was bringing some financial discipline to an organisation which had not exactly shone in that department in the past. I was also happy in the knowledge that my lack of knowledge about Geography did not really matter in my work.
Then in March my boss resigned. I had been banging on about the need to reduce overheads, so I piped up and said that we shouldn’t replace her. ‘ So who will do her work?’ came the retort. I opened my mouth and found the words ‘I will’ coming out.
So here I am, now working 4 days a week, still doing the finances but also, as Chief Operating Officer, having to get involved in discussions about the world of Geography. So I’ve been in Edinburgh discussing the ‘One Scotland One Geography’ initiative, in obscure parts of Wales (Llandrindod Wells) discussing Geography in the Principality, in Glasgow discussing Geography in Education, going to UK Geoforum meetings, discussing the UK response to the European INSPIRE initiative, arguing for the retention of a UK geospatial metadata service and, strangest of all, being a judge for the best paper at our annual conference in Stratford upon Avon. It’s all a bit weird.
It’s been a steep learning curve, but has given me a whole new interest and I’m really enjoying it. It is certainly true that redundancy from the Festival Hall a couple of years ago has led to a positive change, workwise.

The blogs
The diary is dead – long live the diary. But this time it is called a blog. Everyone has a blog, don’t they. So I have two. One is a general blog – and one follows my learning curve in the world of geography
Both started with much enthusiasm and a large number of blog entries in January. Both have rather slowed down and had much fewer entries later in the year. But both are just about still in operation.

The golf and tennis trundle on. My home golf course, after years as a building site, reopened in July now called ‘The Shire London’ Designed by Sevvy Ballesteros it is a really tough test of golf, lots of water, no flat bits, bunkers everywhere and some thick rough. But it is fun to play.
In June I came first in a corporate golf day at the Buckinghamshire to which I was invited by one of our clients.
In July I took myself off to Antwerp to represent the UK at Eurogames 2007. And I was really chuffed to win the bronze medal for the UK. It was a really fun weekend – 3000 competitors, opening and closing ceremony in the Grote Markt in the centre of Antwerp, and loads of parties.
Antwerp is a lovely city.
I arrived in Antwerp without any golf shoes. So we went to a huge sports shop and I ended up buying a tennis racket, as well as the shoes. When I returned to the UK, suddenly I was playing tennis better than I had done for years. I had thought I was useless at tennis – now I find that the racket I was using was useless. The first bit is still generally true of course, but we did reach the semi-final of the men’s doubles (veterans!) in the club tournament.

Not so much jet-setting this year. Indeed the year was notable for the trips I turned down – invitations to Iceland, the Caribbean and New Orleans were all declined. Well I do have to work 4 days a week now. But there were still some fascinating trips this year.
Malaga, where we have the apartment, was of course a regular destination – 7 visits during the year. I still love the city.
In late June we drove all the way up to the Orkney Isles. My first visit. I loved Orkney - the amazing story behind the Italian Church, the almost unbelievable fact that Scara Brae was a thriving village before the Pyramids were built and the stunning scenery on the island of Hoy. We were there during the St Magnus Festival which was an added bonus.
I made a number of trips to Keith to see my parents, but as usual these only lasted a couple of days each time so I was unable to visit friends in the North of Scotland. Sorry.

Amro Holidays
The travel business is still doing well, I help out where I can, which I admit is not much, doing the accounts, checking copy on newsletters, and helping out on our stall at Brighton Pride. But it is Andrew who works very hard at making the travel business more successful. And we have 2 members of staff now. And it led to a meeting with Dolly Parton. (too long a story)
As I mentioned, I had to turn down some research trips, but we are heading for a Christmas trip to Thailand. We don’t like to sell a destination of which we have no personal knowledge and neither of us has been to Thailand. So we are going to remedy that. I am particularly looking forward to visiting Chaing Rai and the Mekong River in the North of the country. And I hope to spend some time relaxing on the beaches of Phuket and Koh Samui.

Family and friends
It was great to see some people in 2007 that I hadn’t seen in years. I need to try to catch up with the others in 2008.
My sister is still living and working in Totnes. My Dad is reasonably well. I played 13 holes of golf with him recently at Keith and he played really well for a 91 year-old. But Mum had a stroke recently and is in hospital in Elgin. It is too early to know the eventual prognosis, but certainly we will all have to adapt to a changed situation. It happened just a week before the whole family were due to meet up in Malaga, as we had done in the past two years. I guess I can be thankful it didn’t happen in Malaga.
Sadly Andrew’s Dad died during the year, but we’d made his last years as comfortable as we could. He bravely endured the pain of illness and always had a twinkle in his eye. He was very kind to me and always pleased to see me.
Andrew and I have been together for over 10 years now and he has remained a tower of strength for me during the year.

Getting older
I can no longer leap out of bed. I hobble to the bathroom – and usually have to visit it during the night. I have a pain in my knee when I play tennis and a pain in my shoulder when I play golf. I’ve been to a few functions where I was the oldest there. I needed stronger spectacles this year. Bits of my teeth are crumbling. Running to catch a bus is a fond memory.
Yes, I guess I am getting older. The mind doesn’t get older, but the body certainly does.
However, recently I was at a quiz night in a church hall and realised that I was the youngest person there. So thank God, literally, for the Church of England – the only remaining place where nearly everyone is older than I.

Well that’s it for another year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.


My Mum has had a severe stroke. She is in hospital in Elgin and will be there for some weeks. My Dad, at 91, therefore has to travel 20 miles each way by bus to see here which is quite a strain on him. I've been up three times in the past three weeks, but feel so helpless.

And now we are due to be going to Thailand. I was going to cancel, but then Andrew would have to go on his own which is hardly fair. And since my Mum is hopefully stable, I have decided to go. But all the time I will be thinking of home.