Category Archives: Travel

Why I bought a Mac

Having used DOS/Windows based notebooks ever since there were notebooks I didn’t treat my next notebook purchase lightly. The year was 2013 and I decided to buy the last iteration of the MacBook 17. A refurbished one I might add.

Fast forward to November 2016.  My MacBook started to display some concerning green bands on the display and was stuck in a reboot loop.  Onto the Apple website, support etc and within minutes I’d secured myself a Genius Bar appointment.

The following Thursday saw my MacBook being diagnosed and it was determined that it was the system board.  Well, the graphics card most notably.  However, if the graphics card has to go then it entails a complete system board replacement. The Apple consultant asked me to wait while he consulted his manager. This being after he’d determined the issue by way of an error code on the screen.

While the consultant was out checking with his manager I googled the error code only to learn that the issue was a know/ documented one. The Apple consultant returned to confirm same. Not only that but that the system board ($927 AUD) would be replaced free of charge. Hmmm….. look of surprise etc

A refurbished machine, build year 2012, recognised by way of a replacement program some four years later.

That’s why you buy a Mac.

PS Replaced the HDD with a 1TB SSD two weeks ago and will now have a sensational notebook for some time to come.

The Traffic Cop

Soaking up the local culture in small village in north east Thailand is most probably best achieved during local community events. One of the more notable of these would have to be Songkran.

What historically started out as well wishing ritual and a passing on of good luck has transformed into a nationwide, three to five day water fight.

20140415-121929.jpg

20140416-071129.jpg

What is not always obvious is how this event calls on local community members to help maintain a certain order. Now, the demands placed on theses certain individuals can’t be too onerous so as to not enjoy the festivities. The local constabulary will don colorful “Songkran” shirts and infiltrate the throng of revellers.

One such individual was a definite standout though and had to juggle the functions he was prevailed upon to perform. Hmmmm…… What to do, do I squirt the passers by with my water cannon or do I direct on coming traffic?

20140416-065900.jpg

All I can report is that there were no traffic accidents and definitely a huge number of soaked locals.

Songkran Day 1

Yesterday’s trip to Thailand was predominantly uneventful. Thai Airways was sensational as always and as much as I don’t sleep on planes the time seemed to pass quite quickly.

We arrived in Bangkok 6 am and the first order of the day was to obtain a SIM card for my beloved’s iPhone. This process has been made relatively easy as True now have a SIM card shop in the arrivals terminal. This just requires the owner of said device to remember their Apple ID and password. And that’s when the fight started…….

With SIM card issues resolved all we had to do now was meet up with our enterprising niece so we could off-load the near 15KG of lanolin creams and other skin enhancing products. Do check out PotterShopDirectfromUSA on Facebook.

With the import export rites out of the way it was only now that my wife realised airport personnel had singled out her suitcase with a “Heavy” tag. She seemed to be put out by this at first. I did impress upon her though, how lucky she was that Thai Air managed to get it on the same flight as us. Containers spring to mind……. (I did see “All Is Lost” last night and in the opening scenes I did think, “Hey that’s my wife’s suitcase”) BTW good movie.

Three hours later we were on a plane bound for Khon Kaen. I guess I could say that I’m now somewhat used to, no, dare I say, some what insular to being picked up from Khon Kaen airport. The event never leaves one with a feeling of normalcy and this time I was again greeted with a somewhat memorable event.

The main mode of transport here in North East Thailand would have to be without a doubt the ubiquitous pick-up. Available in all shapes and sizes, this vehicle fills a void in every Isan household. Our’s happens to have one with troop carrier accessory.

I have to side bar the ever memorable organisational skills of my wife and sister in-law at this time as without them it would have had five people arrive in Khon Kaen all at the same time. What’s the fun in that. 😄.

So not only was there no one to meet us at the airport when my wife and I arrived, we now had to wait three hours for the rest of the family to make their appearance. The locals were more appraised of our travel times than yours truelly. Or so it would appear.

When the troop carrier arrived I had to smile as twelve people got out to welcome five more with open arms. OK, I made the last bit up. They don’t welcome you with open arms. A simple sawasdee krup/ka and a smile will do.

Welcome home Johno……..

Last days in Ban Nong Pai

The last days have become a bit of a blur. There are activities to experience interspersed with protracted periods of absolutely nothing. I don’t know how the locals do it.

One of the major events of the week was a three day eating and drinking fest at the mayors house. His son is in the process of becoming a Monk and he was also honoring the passing of his other son some four years ago.

Of course as it goes here, any excuse for a free feed and a drink. Marquees were setup along with the mandatory sound equipment of course. This is where it pays to be the mayor of course as now the street was going to be impassable for the next three days. Not that anyone minded. If one happened upon the scene and determined they couldn’t get through they simply stopped and had a drink instead.

The last night was basically the coup de gras, as now the remaining intersection was taken up with a huge stage making ready for some live entertainment. The locals refer to this extravaganza as Lum Sing. Given that Isan has somewhat of a culture all of its own along with a strong dialect they have a stage show to show off these facets. Singers, dancers and of course the bamboo instrument (Can) players were in fine form.

Yours truly arrived and was given a VIP spot along with an ice bucket full of ice and a bottle of beer. Having performed live music myself and having a background in sound engineering I soon concluded that the sound dude for this show was deaf. Just like Beethoven used to lay his head on the piano to feel the vibrations, this guy used the kick drum as his cue. Every time the drummer hit the pedal on his kick drum the woofers of the sound system threatened to launch themselves into the crowd. I could actually feel the air pressure waves passing me each time. (Must bring ear protection next time). The locals didn’t seem to mind or notice. Then I remembered, they’re all deaf as well. My brother in law cuts floor tiles with an angle grinder without ear protection.

So given that we had put in a solid two hours listening to the diverse range of music I asked a very naive question, “When does the show finish?” This was around twelve o’clock and I was told that it would continue to at least three. So with that they gave me another bottle of beer. (warm of course). How do you ask for more ice in Isan?……

Lampao Dam – Songkran

Why do so many people here have pick-ups? Rot-gra-bah in Thia. The answer to the question soon becomes apparent during Songkran. Todays journey would have us make our way to Lampao Dam near Kalasin proper.

The vehicle of choice had been out fitted with a 150ltr tub filled with water. Small bowls and buckets were soon found and they too made their way to the back of the vehicle. The younger kids all clambered into the back with me included of course and we were off. Yes, I remembered my waterproof camera.

Lampao Dam is some 35Km from Ban Nong Pai and most of it can be travelled by way of the major roads at 80 Kph. However, what’s the fun in that? Better to take the back streets through the villages and see the locals throw water at the pick-ups. Note to self: Bring wetsuit next time.

It wasn’t long before all the water in our tub had been gleefully flung at passing motor bikes, other pick-ups, pedestrians and innocent bystanders. Now what? We’re out of water. Well, Thai ingenuity kicks in (or is it the ability to make a buck?) and we stopped off at a canal. There some guy had set himself up with a pump and for ten baht you can have your tub refilled.

20120417-134436.jpg

Off we went again. By now I was soaked through and through and had a generous lather of talc on my face. The latter being additional bonus relative to the passing on of good luck. The people at the side of the road will flag down the passing vehicles and touch each of the passengers faces with talc laden hand. This can of course get very messy given that everyone is wet. Farangs get priority I found.

It was great to see though that all of the antics are very light hearted. Nobody gets narky. How could you? If you complained you’d simply get another well deserved dousing.

20120417-135617.jpg

20120417-135800.jpg

20120417-140203.jpg

We did eventually arrive at the dam. Or as I dubbed it, “Kalasin Motor Show”. With the emphasis on pick-ups. It was here that I rediscovered another interesting Thai trait. They don’t use swimwear. No, I don’t mean that they’re into nude bathing. In fact truth be known, they’re the prudiest lot out. I mean they simply swim in their clothes. You might say, but they were wet already from the trip getting there. Well I’ve seen the same thing on beaches in Phuket. No real call for a swimwear outlet here I’m afraid. Swimming lessons wouldn’t go astray though. Although that would put the inflated inner tube hire dude out of business.

20120417-141129.jpg

And more Songkran

The destination of the day’s street parade was the local temple (Wat) and this was to be the venue for the evenings festivities as well.

When we arrived that evening we came upon a circular arrangement of chairs in front of a stage. By now I have concluded that the locals could all definitely use a hearing test as the parade’s amplification gear had been supplemented with even more gear. They obviously think that “stereo” means two of everything. The music had needless to say, an overwhelming presence.

The theme for the evening was some of community dance affair. The idea being that a financial contributor facilitates the ability for others to dance. The money is of course all put to good use I’m sure. Maybe the proceeds of this evenings event were going to be utilized to bolster the ever waining water supply.

Your’s truly was duped into (I mean selected for) making the first major contribution. It was an all in extravaganza with anyone and everyone displaying their cultural dance heritage and prowess. Others were on stage banging and clanging away (almost in time) along with the music.

Of course I was not going to get off as lightly as only making a donation. No, no, and after a lot of coaxing and a shot of VSOP offered up by local wearing a pith helmet, I entered the circle. The music began to play after I was introduced in English by the local teacher (why English when no one would be able to understand it) and before I knew it I was surrounded by Thai women. Not one of them under sixty five I might add. It was about now that all of those Discovery Channel shows started playing in my head. You know, those that deal with cultural courting rituals of sorts? It was then that I remembered that it’s OK for Thai men to be cradle snatchers and it’s frowned upon for Thai women to be cougars. Phew…..

Songkran Continued

There is another tradition during the festive days of Songkran that only becomes apparent when you know what you’re looking for. It’s a game called Hi-Lo.

Hi-Lo is a dice game comprising a mat with numbers on it and a small bowl that holds three dice. A bamboo cover is placed over the bowl to conceal the dice. There are usually two people that run the game, a dice man and a banker. The dice man gives the bowl a shake and the participants then place bets according to the possible combinations indicated on the mat. Once all bets have been placed the bamboo cover is removed to reveal the dice. The banker then takes care of distributing the winnings accordingly.

It should be pointed out that gambling is illegal throughout Thailand and the locals here take that very seriously. They therefor ensure the police won’t find them when the game is being played.

As much as it would appear that each of the players has a fist full of cash they mostly only bet with twenty baht notes. In Aussie terms that’s about sixty cents.

Even though the stakes don’t appear to be very high everyone is very dedicated to the game. Starting mid morning and usually finishing well after midnight.

Having been a spectator for a couple of hours, and of course financing my wife’s want to play, it soon became apparent who makes most of the money. The facilitators of the game are the most gracious of hosts and will buy in food of all sorts and even handout the odd bit of Loa Whiskey to the guys. This is of course ensures that the participants (suckers) don’t develop a desire to go home. It should be noted though that no other alcohol is provided or consumed.

The first night my wife was up by eight hundred baht. ($25) This was very quickly given back on the following night and she ended up being in debt to me to tune of six hundred baht.

For the locals it is just bit of fun and they can get a small amount of cash as well. There were no police interventions and for all I know there might have been a local cop amongst the players.