ToT log

My Internet has gone down again today. It’s a Sunday, should there be anyone doing anything at an exchange on a Sunday? I wouldn’t think so, but this is Thailand. So who knows.

It’s been out for half hour and I have reset the modem twice, to no avail.

We say Good-bye to Hua Hin

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We’ve been in Hua Hin, Thailand for the last few days, and tomorrow we head on back to Phuket – well, we’ll probably spend a night at Ranong on the way back. Suffice to say, this has been a very nice place to come and visit. Maybe even stay longer than a visit. It’s hard to say, because Kanchanaburi was also very nice.

Mybe it’s time to move on from Phuket. It’s a great holiday destination, but is it somewhere I want to live?

I’m travelling at the moment…

[iframe http://maps.google.com.au/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=205952551275593028260.0004ac44d00d68966d60e&ie=UTF8&vpsrc=6&ll=13.83808,101.206055&spn=19.117508,13.183594&z=5&output=embed 300 450]View Bangkok to Phuket in a larger map

I’ve been in Thailand on and off for sometime now, but I have been pretty fixed in location. When I have moved I have generally flown (occasional bus, and once a train) everywhere.

We’ve been in Bangkok for the last few weeks and this time, we decided that instead of flying to Phuket, we would drive. With the shelving of the “flight plan”, we hired a car and set off.

It was going to be a two day trip.

A few hours into the trip, I knew that we weren’t going straight back. We had one detour planned on the way already, but as soon as we got there, it turned into another, and another, and even another…

Unfortunately I don’t have good internet (on the road), but as soon as I do, you’ll find a few posts of the travelling variety, around Thailand. This is a beautiful country, with beautiful people. Just stay away from the tourist traps and you’ll be right :-)

The map is rough, (pretty much just the end points), but it’s a guide to where we’ve been, or at least stopped each night. Although you can see where we went on our different day trips.

Stay tuned for more posts about this, because we have done some great stuff! Things I’ve wanted to do for a very long time (such as Hellfire Pass and the Bridge on the River Kwai). I did leave out the Tiger Temple, which has been on my todo list for sometime. But I’ll talk about that later.

See y’all soon!

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 – warranty repair

ef-s18-200I have had the Canon EF-S 18-200 f/3.5-5.6 (dpreview.com review here) lens for about 2 years now, and although (as far as Canon lenses go), it gets a pretty bad rap. For general shooting in most situations, it certainly beats swapping out lenses while on the go.

Recently the zoom capability just stopped, I couldn’t zoom anything below 25MM, which incidentally meant I couldn’t lock it either. Occasionally, it wouldn’t go above 135mm either, but a shake of the lens would dislodge one fo the screws that was hampering movement and you could go all the way to 200mm. You could hear (at least) one screw moving around in there, and I suspect another that stopped the zoom retracting all the way back to 18mm.

A search of the web found a Canon Recall on this item. I’ve been in Thailand now for a few months, and this week I am in Bangkok, which happens to have a service centre. I called them up and they said, “Yep, come in and we can fix this.” Well, not in those words, but you get the picture.

Now for the uninitiated, it’s hard to convey even the simplest of concepts to Thais and trying to explain that this is a warranty issue, subject of a recall (printed below), is no easy task. I’m pretty sure the woman behind the counter finally understood where I was coming from…

But then the other day, I get a phone call from them. It will cost 963 (my heart is pounding at the moment, the lens isn’t worth that much!), but then finished her sentence off with Baht. 963฿, so about A$30. So I shouldn’t really complain.

I went and picked it up on Friday (just gone) and it’s back to normal. I know it was subject of a recall, but for $30 they’ve pulled it apart, fixed it, and probably gave it a bit of a clean, or at least a check over. Maybe, in that case, it’ll be good to go for another couple of years!

22 February 2011

To: Users of the EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS interchangeable lens for Digital SLR Cameras

Thank you for using Canon products.

We have discovered that some EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens products may have screws that come loose inside the lens and which may interfere with zoom operation of the lens. We would like to convey the details and our service policy.

We offer our sincerest apologies to customers who have been inconvenienced by this phenomenon. Canon always strives to provide the highest quality products to our customers and we spare no effort in our quality management to make sure our customers can use our products with confidence. We hope our efforts will earn your understanding.

Phenomenon
There are cases in which the zoom barrel gets stuck and stops moving during zoom operation.

Affected Product
Digital SLR camera interchangeable lens “EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS” Serial Numbers 450xxxxxxx to 631xxxxxxx

User Support
The products with this phenomenon will be inspected and repaired free-of-charge. If you own one of the affected products, please contact our customer service hotline. We appreciate your patience, and we offer our sincerest apologies to the customers using these products who have been inconvenienced by this issue. Our free repair service will start on 22 February 2011.

Oh, and one more thing, my lens must have been one of the first with this problem. The lens’ serial number began 450-000XXXXX :-)

Phuket Weather Warning

20110826-114759.jpgI’ve been living in Thailand coming up to a year in December and although in the tropics, I’ve never really seen too much rain here. About my 2nd ever trip to Thailand, I think it rained everyday, and although I’ve seen bad bouts of weather (raining for say a week or whatever), it’s always been pretty good for me.

This year, as with many countries, Thailand has seen unusually high levels of flooding. Almost no point of Thailand has been untouched. For months the northern part of Thailand (Issan, where Fah’s family is from), and Bangkok have had weather warnings, flash flooding, and rain for weeks on end.

We’ve been in Bangkok for over two weeks now and other than for an hour or two some afternoons, we’ve seen very little rain. But right now, Phuket (notably Patong) is experiencing bad flooding. And I’m in beautiful (sic) Bangkok where the weather has been fine. We are due to go home in a few days, however we may extend our stay here a little longer.

An associated article (found below) talks about Phuket’s last period of bad flooding. This was back in March. At that time I’d flown home to Australia for a few weeks and so I missed out on the bad weather.

I missed the flooding back in Australia (shortly after coming here), I’ve missed the flooding in Phuket when I returned to Australia, I’ve missed the greater flooding of Thailand (including Bangkok), when I was in Phuket, and now that I’m in Bangkok, I’ve missed it all again!

I have to say, maybe it’s time I bought a lottery ticket :-)

(featured article from the Phuket Gazette)

Food Preparation, Hygiene and Safety

20110823-093606.jpgHaving been born and raised in a western society (Australia), where food preparation and service of same have some pretty (what I would consider) rudimentary laws; I am constantly surprised by what I perceive to be inadequate in other countries, and yet the only time I have ever been sick was due to food cooked in an actual restaurant.

Over the last few years I have spent considerable time in S.E. Asia, Thailand in particular; but Singapore, Malaysia and Japan as well. Food is never kept heated above 30° (usually being the outside air temperature). And sushi NEVER kept under 20° (say in a shopping centre). I have bought sushi in an open air market from a non refrigerated cart. I have also bought chicken, pork and beef dishes from neighbouring carts where the food has been prepared and sitting for large periods of time.

I’m thinking about this today because right now I’m sitting in a large shopping complex in Bangkok with my wife and her friend. I’ve just had a red chicken and pumpkin curry that simply looked delicious in the Bain Marie and once I’d got back to the table I found it to be luke warm at best! It was delicious, but unfulfilling and so I went to a neighbouring stall and bought some roasted duck with rice.

Again, delicious but cold. Not out of a freezer or even fridge cold, but not hot either. Room temperature, which in this shopping centre environment, I would estimate is about 24°C.

And I’m amazed, continually amazed for many reasons, and not just limited to the following:

– I have never been sick from one of these stalls

– people (generally) mustn’t get sick from them either, else I would assume* they would be shut down

– I have become sick from Bain Marie stalls in Australia

Do these eastern cultures develop an immunity to food containing traces of bacteria? Immunity may be too strong a word, maybe tolerance instead. Ergo, are Australian and western laws so hard and tight that we (as a demographic) are becoming less tolerant to food prepared elsewhere in the world?

– or are Australian laws simply too tight in the face of reality?

This draws me to two possible conclusions::

1. The reality of the situation is that western practices/laws are out of line with what’s really required for safety in food preparation, (I don’t believe this), or

2. That eastern cultures have lead lined stomaches and have developed a tolerance or an immunity as described above and western cultures are becoming more susceptible in this regard (I don’t really believe this either!)

I don’t know what the reality of the situation really is but suffice to say that I have not been sick yet, and (he says whilst clutching at the wooden table and chair in front of him), I hope that this continues to be the case.

* I do follow the old adage that one should never Ass-U-Me anything, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable.

Fashion Shoot – Bang Kapi

I was fortunate enough to be sitting in Starbucks on the 3rd floor when this lingerie/fashion show just happened below me. Unfortunately, the staff of Starbucks eventually came and told me to stop taking photos…

The first one is my favourite shot. There are two prominent Thai’s in these photos. Apparently they are well known Thai actresses. I know this because my wife went CRAZY when they came out on stage!

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Getting a driver/rider license in Phuket

Getting a Thai Driver/Rider License in Phuket.

Testing ground at Phuket Transport Office
Testing ground at Phuket Transport Office

This turns out to be a two day process but both are very short. You MAY be able to pull this off in one, but I didn’t bother trying.

Day 1 – getting your proof of address for Thailand. This can be done a number of ways. You will need either: Work Permit, Statutory Declaration from your embassy, or a lease agreement.

I believe the first two are standalone, but I’m not too sure. I didn’t have either a work permit or a stat dec from the embassy, so my option is the lease agreement.

So this is how I did it.

Go to the immigration office and take with you:
– Lease and photocopy
– your passport with visa and entry stamp, and photocopies of these (and your data page)
– 1x Photo
– 300฿*

*this is arbitrary and flexible. The actual fee is free. However, the officer may ask for anything from 100-500฿. I wasn’t going to argue, but I believe if you ask for a receipt he MAY decline to take your money. I didn’t want to test this.

Once everything is checked you’ll be instructed to wait, and 10-15 minutes later you’ll get your certificate. Maybe less because I had to go and get the photo done. I was unaware that a photo was required for this.

All up, including all waiting time I was there less than hour.

Day 2 – I arrived at the Transport office, driving section spot on 8:30. The doors were being unlocked as we got off the bike. The line at the office wasn’t short and we all piled inside.

Take with you:
– passport and photocopy
– drivers license and photocopy
– intl drivers permit and photocopy
– medical certificate
– residence certificate

If you’re applying for a car and bike license, double everything up, so for two licenses you will need:

– passport and 2x photocopies
– drivers license and 2x photocopies
– intl drivers permit and 2x photocopies
– medical certificate and photocopy
– residence certificate and photocopy

In this case, you will have one set that has an original medical certificate and residence certificate, the other will be photocopies. Sign each and every photocopy including originals.

Time line:
– 0830 walked in and got in line
– 0850 documents checked plus wrote my name on a bit of paper and signed it
– 0900 watched a short video (in thai) on the reaction and depth perception tests
– 0910 listened as a thai speaker spoke to the class. This went on for about 15 minutes.

– 0925 the class commences the reaction and colour blind tests. During this test, many Thais failed and their papers were put into another pile. Once the tester got towards mine and other foreigners names, she pulled out the failures and let them have another go. Eventually I got my chance and then walked over to the colour test table. Pretty easy, but I did see two people who were obviously colour blind as they struggled and didn’t pass. I’m not sure if that meant they didn’t get a license or not. Anyway I breezed through it and she gave me my papers back – up until this point she had kept everyone’s papers. I realised this meant I was done. Everyone else had to watch a 2 hour video and do their driving/riding and written tests.

– 0955 went outside to the information desk. She gave me a ticket and within 15 seconds my number came up. The woman at the counter entered my name in the wrong order (so check it!) and charged me 160฿ (and forgot to give me my change). I then proceeded to the next set of counters where they took my photo and I gave them another 220฿. 2 minutes later I walked out with 2 licenses. That was it. I was sitting outside in the gazebo by 1001!

On the other hand, my wife went thru the same morning process but she never got her papers back after the colour blind test. Instead her day went as followed (after that point):

– 1000 watched a video (I believe this one was in thai, but half hour later another one started in English. Not confirmed)

– 1130 my wife comes out and she did her riding test. She made several mistakes on the first go around and they stopped her at the end and just made her do it again. She didn’t make so many mistakes the next go round :-).

– 1200 finished and the place closes for lunch.

– 1300 came back so she could do her written test. whilst this was going on, people outside were doing their driving test for their car license. This was pretty funny to watch. Especially the hill starts – and the test car was an automatic!!

– 1330 she was waiting in the queue to have her photo taken and get her license.

– 1340 we were on the bike going home

All-in-all, not too painful a process. If I had of been by myself, I would have been out of there in an hour an a half. It pays to be prepared, because if you’re not, you’ll have to come back the next day. I believe they only do the video screenings once a day, so if you try and do both steps in one day, and don’t make it to the transports first video, I hear you can drop off all your paperwork and come back the next day. It will only speed up the morning bit. Personally, however, the way I did it was easy enough.

Good luck!

A Hot Shower with Running Water

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Oh how I long for thee.

edit: this was written at a time when I was spending a LOT of time in country Thailand… and I mean BACK COUNTRY!!!