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Sunday, 1 February 2015

What's Changed?

I was apprehensive about the journey back to Thailand and Thamuang village.  Just over a year ago, when I was taken ill and hospitalised, I had already checked in with KLM 'on-line' for my post Christmas flight to Thailand.  What followed then was a series of events amounting to a long story over a short period of time.  For the three weeks I was supposed to be in Thailand with Khamma, I spent my time in three different Manchester hospitals.  Instead of me going to Thailand, Khamma came to England for five months to nurse me back to health.  I will always be indebted to her loving care and attention.  Despite the circumstances, or because of them, we grew closer than ever. 
I worked hard, encouraged by Khamma, and regained weight, some kind of fitness and desire to do all the rights - just as before.  No change there then!
Last week was like a re-enactment of the events from twelve months ago.  Flash backs to events involving ambulances, hospital wards and worst of all; operations.  I was repeating pre-flight preparations; packing, check in, going through the 'to do' list.  A repeat of the same actions hoping for a different result. 
I didn't sleep at all on the ten hour flight from Amsterdam and arrived in Ubon Ratchathani exhausted exactly seventeen hours from leaving Manchester.  No dramas, no suspicious pains or missed heart beats.  What exactly should I be worried about?
The first changes?  Khamma was there to greet me with a smile as wide as the Asian continent.  It's great to be with her again.  For the first time she arrives at the airport in her new car.  She learnt to drive last year and passed he test first time.  We then bought a car, which will make a huge difference to our time together.
The second change?
During October last year, the passenger hall at Ubon airport was gutted by fire.  Passengers are diverted into a temporary facility.  In Thai terms, this counts as a recent fire, and a new passenger hall will eventually be built.
Other changes? Apart from the new car (a Honda City), Khamma project managed a car port, a re-furbished Thai kitchen and the installation of air-con in the bed room.
All these changes upgraded Owerhouse from five star to fire star deluxe!
I had arrived, needed a rest but ready for a break - at last.



 

Twelve months on

It's now a little over  twelve months since my heart by-pass operation.  Slowly I am looking towards the future rather than looking backwards to the past.  It's no use saying 'and what might have been', because what might have been, in this case, was an abrupt end.  An end like an unfinished symphony.  An end of without warning.  An end too soon.
It's a long story, but it only lasted a short time.  One minute there is no problem and I am enjoying the pleasurable things in the little world I have made for myself.  Then literally in the next minute everything is turned upside and shaken up in a maelstrom of uncertainty leaving me with a clich├ęd notion of a life changing experience, an experience that is not welcome.
Might sound dramatic, but from running a five kilometre road race to ending up in A&E and not allowed to move for 48 hours, then being told I have a 90% blockage in one artery and significant blockages in two others, which cannot be treated through medication, cannot be dealt with by stents and only by-pass surgery will give me any chance of avoiding a serious heart attack.  Gulp.  Well how dramatic does it have to be?
I was totally (totally) unprepared for this.  I had no idea there was a problem until I experienced an unusual heart rhythm.
In the end I had five arteries by-passed.  I have heard of three and four, but five!  Why me?  My doctors say I was lucky.  I don't feel all that re-assured, but I should be.
The plumbing around my heart is presumably healed satisfactorily.  I have not had any internal pain or scary moments when 'things don't feel right'.  The healing of my chest wounds has taken some time and I still get the occasional twinge from unhealed nerve endings. 
The real problem is inside my head.
Doctors can check the plumbing, people can associate with the pain of opening up the chest and sticking it back together with a staple gun, but only the individual can feel the psychological pain.  The nagging doubt, the need for re-assurance, the craving for an injection of confidence to make the monkey climb down from my back.
Physically I am jogging, cycling and enjoying exercise about four times a week, but I am in a constant battle with my mind.  My internal control centre is monitoring every heart beat, checking for unusual pain, observing heart rate, training zones and fitness.  All the time wondering if, when and where I will have another 'silent heart attack'.
My emotions are very close to surface.  For reasons I cannot explain I become overwhelmed when I talk about the operation.  I cannot let go of the trauma, because trauma it is.  I don't think it is like the post traumatic stress disorder of fighting in a war, but it is post traumatic stress and it is silent, hidden and lies in wait to catch me off guard.  It needs to come out so I can move on with a greater confidence and assurance.  It needs to come out so I don't have emotional moments when talking with people who have genuine concern.  It needs to come out so I can forgive the handful of friends who have not found their own strength to offer support when I need it most.
I have touched the cornerstone of my life and realised it could have been over much too soon. 
I need to move on.
I am in Thailand for the first time in sixteen months.  Life in Asia and Thamuang goes on.  My Life Goes On - same same!
 

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A visit to Ubon Ratchathani general hospital

Having driven many hundreds of kilometres, we arrived in Ubon Ratchathani. En route, Khamma learned that one of her many cousins had been admitted to the general hospital for a serious operation on his stomach.  We decided to call in to wish him well and hopefully raise his spirits.
This was my first visit to a Thai general public hospital, the equivalent of the UK National Health Service.  I have heard many stories about being a patient in a Thai general hospital and how families can stay for the duration to look after them and tend to their needs.  In the UK this is usually the job of the medical staff and members of the family are confined to certain hours in which to visit.
Thailand has a private medical service, which is excellent and apparently cheaper than the UK.  In fact in Bangkok there is a thriving 'medical tourist' industry for all sorts of operations from nose jobs to surgical operations and procedures.
A few months ago, a Farang friend from the next village was knocked off his motorbike and very close to being killed.  He ended up in Ubon's general hospital. Late in the evening his friend arrived, took one look at his injuries, discharged him and took him to the private hospital.  In the end my friend's leg was rebuilt and he made a good recovery.  It was expensive but because the private hospital had more resources, he had a much better outcome than the one he would have had in the general hospital.
When we arrived at Ubon general hospital we entered reception, which was a large hall with many rows of chairs fixed together and to the floor.  There was a notional waiting system, but, once called ("eventually" according to Khamma) patients are transferred to the next hall to wait for attention.  In this hall some people were already on beds; some with drips, some in pain, some sleeping, some just staring into space, all of them sick.
At the end of the hall was a corridor leading to the wards.  Medical staff milled about; some looking intent on their work, some eating lunch, some just sitting.
The corridors were busy with the hussle and bussle of medical staff and members of the public. Everyone was scurrying off somewhere but I looked around and took it all in.
One patient (I could not tell if it was male, female, young or old or even alive or dead!) was being man handled into the back of a pick up truck.  The family piled in as well and off it went.
There was building construction site in the middle of the hospital and in a small space next to the rubble and cement mixers was a family eating lunch!  The canteen was only 20 metres away, but, to be honest it did not look very inviting especially as I was standing in a corridor that passed the open windows of the kitchen where the cooking smells mingled with those of the hospital.
By now I was feeling like a rabbit in the headlights (probably looking like one as well!).  We entered the lift, and my senses were brought back to temporary normality.  Arriving at the ward we saw patients lying in their beds next to the lift door.  As we passed by I felt sorrowful eyes fix on me as a foreigner and a distraction to their discomfort.  We walked along the corridor to the ward entrance.  There were no outside windows, just an open space to let the outside air circulate through, although it was as earring 35degrees plus.  The view from here was the building site and canteen.
Inside the ward were at least twenty beds with all manner of sick people.  I thought if I were in here, it would be difficult to get better.
We found Khamma's cousin by the lift.  We had missed him first time around.  He seemed OK.  His wife was there to look after him and his sister was asleep on a chair.  They keep him company between his sleeps and give him drinks, which is vital in the heat.  The nursing staff are busy elsewhere.  The space between each bed was about 18 inches, and not enough to create some privacy.  The visitor to the patient in the next bed was almost sitting on Khammas cousin's bed.
This was certainly an interesting experience into a Thai hospital.
On my return to England there was great debate about the state of several failing NHS hospitals including one in Greater Manchester, not far from where I live.  It did make me think that if I was ever taken ill, I would prefer to be in England, whichever hospital was the nearest.
Little did I know that experience was nearer than I thought!


Sunday, 22 September 2013

Driving Like 'An Idiot Abroad'

Overall we travelled over 5,000 kilometres, but I couldn't get used to driving Thailand style.  At times I felt like I was whinging a la Karl Pilkington on the excellent TV series 'An Idiot Abroad', but I did feel I was in an unreal situation and I had definitely applied my Englishness to the situation.
Top Ten Whinges and bum clenching moments:

  1. Driving on a super wide road with two lanes in each direction and a generous 'hard shoulder' for motorbikes.  The road markings are clear with a wide hatched area marking the centre of the road.  I am in the inside lane, a motorbike coming towards me on the hard shoulder, one car overtaking on the outside lane and a car overtaking that one travelling on the wrong side of the road, with a car coming head on towards it.  Emergency braking keeping in the inside lane to allow cars to avoid head on smash.
  2. Travelling in the inside lane and a truck turning in to the lane from a side road.  Thai traffic law allows you turn left if there is no oncoming traffic, but clearly this truck had another interpretation.  Rapid emergency braking in a straight line to avoid collision.
  3. Tailgating on bendy roads.
  4. Lane weaving - overtaking, undertaking, overtaking, undertaking.
  5. Driving on a wide dual carriage which is narrowing into one lane.  Pick up truck coming in opposite direction cannot wait for the road to widen, pulls over into my narrowing lanes to overtake another car.  Rapid avoidance to avoid head on collision.
  6. Double lines in the middle of the road indicating a bend and (usually) do not overtake or drift over the lines, because of danger of cars approaching in the opposite direction.  Thai drivers ignore this in a game of 'death wish', usually with me having to taking avoiding action.
  7. In general the roads are in good condition, but there are areas of road churning up by overloaded trucks and pot holes, sometimes deep and wide, lying in wait to test the suspension and shock absorbers to their limits.
  8. Urban motorbikers weaving between cars in heavy traffic.  Great on UTube; hairy moments for an idiot abroad.
  9. Rural motorbikers riding without tail lights at night.
  10. Endless police check points for no apparent reason.
Having said that, there are some great points:
  1. Parking is free everywhere
  2. Petrol is about 37 bhat per litre; which is £0.75 per litre.  (UK is £1.35 per litre)
  3. Petrol attendants to fill up the tank
  4. Can turn left on a red traffic light IF the road is clear.
  5. There is a lack of road rage because Thai people are non aggressive and the windows in every car are heavily tinted so you cannot see what gestures are coming your way, and the air conditioning keeps people cool
But best of all was the sat nav in my Nokia Lumia 825.  This simple easy to use app saved us from getting lost several times.


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Thai Drums

It was not long after building 'Owerrrouse' that Khamma introduced me to the village band.  Not the ageing rockers of England style, nor the brass band of Diggle, but the Thamuang Glong Neiow - the traditional Issan village drum band.  Most villages have a band and I am reliably if not impartially advised that Thamuang is pretty good.  See these previous posts

http://lifeinasiaandthamuang.blogspot.com/2009/04/drumming-up-funds-for-temple-and.html

http://lifeinasiaandthamuang.blogspot.com/2011/07/ubon-ratchathani-candle-festival-16.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X3MHo4RJTaA

Since then, back in England, I have started to master the bodhran (Irish drum) and I aspire to become more proficient, but that's another story.  The point is, my interest in drumming has increased and I don't need an excuse to tap out a rhythm on a steering wheel or dinner table - its an age thing really and latent desire to be a pop star.  Anyway on browsing through the tourist literature at Ayutthaya, Khamma came across a village renowned internationally for the quality of its Thai drums.  Using my sat nav, I found it was only 30 minutes away and there was no excuse for missing an opportunity.  The village is called Ban Bang Phae and a quick Google found other encouraging references that made it inevitable we would call in on our way home.

The lady in the sat nav guided us straight there without a problem.  Ban Bang Phae is a linear village and on a quick drive through, we could see at least 10 shops selling a all sizes of drums and even at 9am there was a lot of drum making activity.

We settled on a shop where the owner was pleased and proud to take us on a guided tour of his 'factory'. In Thailand there is always a sense that nothing is thrown away, there is a permanent temporariness over old bits of machinery, wood, old paint tins etc.  I am all for re-cycling, but if it can't be utilised within six months, there is an argument it cannot be used at all.  In Thailand where there are bits of stuff lying around, there is hope it has a use for something unknown; eventually!  Such is the scene in our friends drum factory - old lathes, bits of wood, nails and skins all lying around in a mess.  But out of the mess rises a beauty.  A lot of drums from this factory are made to order - especially for Japan and the USA.




The drum base is cut on a lathe from local soft wood.  It is dried in a kiln for several days. The construction of the kiln is typical of Thai ingenuity.  The pictures show a fire and on close inspection you can see a chimney which directs the heat into the kiln.












The kiln is similar to old container found on a container ship and it can hold a lot of drum.











The drum skin is cured cowhide, buffalo or even sheepskin.  Some drums have the retained the hair, some have it removed.  It is left to dry in the sun and when ready a template is used to cut the skin to the exact size required for the particular drum.








The skin is placed on the drum and stretched with the use of tension pulleys.










Whilst the skin is settling on the drum the exact markings to locate the nails or tacks is scribed onto the skin. At the appropriate time the tacks are hammered home, and in effect take over the tension of the skin from the tension pulleys.

It takes about three months to make a drum, and yes I could not resist adding to my collection.

Workshop

Store room
Store room

Important order for Japanese drumming ensemble

Motif














Ayyuthaya or is it Ayutthaya?

Whichever it is spelt it is one of the must see places for the serious visitor to Thailand.  Whilst there are many beautiful beaches, national parks and temples to visit, there is also a deep cultural heritage about which the Thais are justifiably very proud.
The city is about 80 kms north of Bangkok and was once the capital of the Thai kingdom, and an important trading centre.  Most of the once gleaming temples and palaces are now brooding ruins, but in places there is a sense of atmosphere and the excellent museums provide the bigger picture.
Ayutthaya (Pronounced Ah-yut-hi-ya) is an island with UNESCO World Heritage status and sits at the confluence of the rivers Pasak, Lopburi and Chao Phraya.
The quick history:
1351 Founded and based on trade with India and China
By 1550 it had flourished at the expense of the declining Khmer empire
1685 population 1 million
1600's forty nationalities set up trading posts
1767 the Burmese army captured the city
Left in ruins and a new capital city was created on Ratanakosin Island in Bangkok.

Neither Khamma nor I had any idea how much time we might need to explore the city.  We thought a day would be enough, but two is probably better.  There are many temples and they are well spaced out, so walking is ambitious, especially in the searing heat.  Bicycles, motor bikes, or cars are more practical.
We visited Wat Phra Maharat, Wat Ratburana, Wat Na Phra Mane, the visitor centre and the museum.  We missed out on the Royal Palace and several other temples.

We enjoyed a street meal at the night market - eat all you can for 100 bhat! See picture below.

Buddha's head entwined in the roots of bodhi tree - Wat Phre Maharat

Many buddha heads missing

Wat Ratburana

Wat Na Phra Mane

Buddha in National museum

The biggest mobile rotating BBQ 

Prachaup Khiri Khan to Ayyuthaya

A few weeks ago, back in England, I was contemplating the road atlas of Thailand and planning the route from Phuket to Thamuang.  It is a long way; the best part of 1,500 kilometres, and to make it manageable and enjoyable I decided to definitely break the journey at Ayyuthaya.  Khamma and I often said we would like to visit the ancient city of Siam.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage city and has very strong connections with Thai culture and history.  We had already enjoyed a stopover at PKK, and a day's break in Ayyuthaya seemed perfect.
Looking at the map, the journey seemed straightforward enough; route 4 north as far as road 35 east to road 9 north to Ayyuthaya.  We set off from Prachuap at a reasonable 9am and estimated our arrival at around 4pm.  I set the sat nav, not that I particularly thought we would need it (ha ha), but because we had it and had grown confident in the way it guided us around.  In any case, on a serious note, we were going to flirt on the outskirts of Bangkok and after the last experience of driving there I thought we needed all the help on offer.
Time moved on and after a short stop at the Floating Market in Hua Hin (not recommended) we found route 35 and moved closer to Bangkok.  At this point the simplicity of the map was overwhelmed by the reality of the Bangkok traffic.  The intersections are plain enough on paper, but the problem of getting the car into the correct lane and therefore the right direction, is another matter entirely.  Five and six lane roadways converging into huge junctions.  The signs for route 9 are clear enough and ever so close, but it was a battle to get there.  The sat nav lady was speaking directions in such a clear calm but insistent voice I thought she was talking to me from the meditation room in the nearby temple.  I was frantically looking how best to cut across six lanes of a moving mass of traffic with bicycles, motorbikes, motorbikes with sidecars, trucks, lorries, transporters, tankers, articulated lorries from China, Malaya, Laos and Cambodia and cars of every shape and size and some were even roadworthy!  Every one of us wanted to go in a different direction and began weaving in and out in the automotive equivalent of musical chairs, the music stopping when a red light appeared, and even then some cheated and carried on.  Remarkably no one crashed, on this occasion, no one got hurt and as far as I could tell, I was the only one worried by it all, followed by Khamma (maybe at my driving rather than the frenzy around us - I don't know and I didn't ask).
The road appeared endless, and at one time it passed underneath the construction of the extension to the Bangkok urban train.  But, in due course the mayhem started to subside and we could relax as the signs started to appear for Ayyuthaya.  We arrived unshaken, but a little stirred, at 4pm.
Another experience and thankfully one we survived.  At least the car hire company will be pleased.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Prachuap Khiri Khan

With an exotic sounding name of Prachuap Khiri Khan and almost half way between Bangkok and Phuket, this seaside resort was the ideal location to break our journey.  Note that Prachuap Khri Khan is a sun rise town on the east coast and facing the Gulf of Thailand.
We easily found a reasonable hotel with a sea view and stretched our legs along the prom joining the lucky people of PKK in the evening sun and heat.  Sea food is the only choice and there are endless restaurants competing for custom.  We could have spent more time here, and doubtless will in thhe times to come, but meanwhile it is worth a noting a photo or two and if ever you find yourself in this neck of the Thailand woods; just do it and spend a couple of days here!
Sun rise - stunning views from the balcony 

Early morning view from the beach
Stillness and amazing cloud formations

Phuket's quieter places

We soon realised that Phuket should not be judged by what we saw sprawled out each side of road 402. August is the 'off peak' season and the number of visitors is low, which makes the shops empty, the hotels and restaurants are only a quarter full, but the weather is not bad and it does not stop you from doing what you would have done if you were there in the 'peak' season.
We stayed for 5 nights in Surin, which is on the west of the island about 15 minutes drive north of Patong and the next bay along from Kamala Bay.  The sea is not exactly rough this time of year, but it does give a few exciting moments as waves crash on the steep beach.  The under current is a potential danger to watch out for.




A more remote beach can be found at Nai Thon. This is so laid back it hardly wakes up at all.  Beach restaurants serve fantastic southern Thai dishes laced with coconut and fruit smoothies.  The beach was endless and the surf crashing down.  The enthusiastic life guards seemed to be in constant training, which was very re-assuring.







Nai Thon is on the west of the island, making it a sunset location - and they never fail to please.  I can never quite decide if I am a sunset or sunrise person, but I do appreciate a good sunset after a great day out.  The sun drops quickly in the last hour and it reminds that wherever you are in the world and you watch the sun set, it is the same sun, but it is the surroundings and the company that make it complete.








On another day we spent a lazy afternoon at Nai Harn beach, which is very close the iconic picture of Phuket taken at the view point from Promthep, the most southerly part of the island.










Karon beach is a popular tanning spot for Patong's sun worshippers.  Apart from driving through Patong on a couple occasions, we did not venture into its flesh pot.  This was like Blackpool in its hay day and Benidorm at its worst.  Great for a stag do.
Karon beach did not disappoint when the sun sank slow into the horizon. 

This is living pal!
After five nights at Surin beach we made a move 2 kilometres round the headland to Bangtao beach and the excellent Blue Garden hotel.
The owner is an amiable Frenchman called Eric Seigneurin and the staff are delightful.  The rooms are simple and placed around the pool with an open bar with spacious table settings.
We liked this place so much we extended our stay. www.bluegarden-phuket.com



There are lots of restaurants in Bangtao, the beach is fantastic and stretches for about two miles end to end. 


I was so inspired I got up early one morning to jog along the beach.  Soft sand made it hard going but it was well worth the effort.  






Bangtao is on the sunset side of the island, so we enjoyed further magnificent light shows and endless peace, solitude and quiteness.


It was difficult to leave this place, but eventually we pulled ourselves away to make the long journey north to Ayutthaya, via Prachuap Khiri Khan.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Driving south to Phuket

After leaving the Bangkok maelstrom we started to move south onto relatively calmer highways.  I say calmer, but to me I still felt out of my depth.  I had a natural urge to defend what I thought was my vehicular space and to make it difficult for the mad drivers who tried to undertake and cut in front, or overtake when an overloaded lorry was hurtling towards us at a closing speed of a 100 miles an hour.  It is of course my imported, and ill founded road sense that is the problem.  I gradually realised that by acting differently I was the issue; therefore if I behaved like other drivers, that is behave badly, I will blend in, not be a problem and hence forth enjoy the experience instead of trying to fight it. To some extent this strategy works, and it does at least while away the miles.
Our first night's stop was at the holiday resort of Hua Hin.  It is a well liked resort for thousands of Bangkok's citizens who make their holiday homes here or come away for the weekend or day trip.  It lives up to its reputation and is a very pleasing place, with fresh sea air overlooking the Gulf of Thailand - it is a sun rise location.  August is the start of the low season in Thailand due to the monsoon.  This was apparent in relatively few tourists frequenting an over-abundance of bars, restaurants and hotel amenities.
Next day, after an early start, we had a long drive to Ranong.  Following the Route 4 for tens of miles, there is suddenly a choice of route to Phuket at a town called Chumphon; the road divides by going due west to the Andaman coast (sun set country) or continues south towards Surat Thani (sun rise country).  They meet up again at the the Sarasin bridge linking Phuket island to the mainland.  Ranong is officially the wettest town in Thailand with annual rainfall in excess of 650cm, which is 255 inches in old money!  It is a border town with Myanmar (Burma) and is very close to the Andaman Sea.  At this point Thailand is a very narrow strip of land only 27 miles from coast to coast.  This is what my geography teacher described as an 'isthmus'.
Three interesting things about Ranong:
  1. The Japanese landed here on 8 December 1941 (the day before Pearl Harbour) and thus started the Pacific War.
  2. It is a site for a proposed canal linking the Andaman sea with the Gulf of Thailand - but whether this will take place is another story.
  3. The isthmus marks the boundary between two sections of the central cordillera, the mountain chain which runs from Tibet through all of the Malay peninsula. (I just find a link with Tibet from so far south in Thailand is fascinating).
The mountain road from Chumphon was bendy and up and down hill.  Heavy violent showers stopped suddenly with dazzling outbreaks of sunshine.  The road is not fast and in parts is being re-built but it is scenic and made a change from the flat road leading out of Hua Hin.
We found a hotel called the Tinidee, which in Thai means 'a nice place'.  We were offered the last room of the 138 bedrooms.  The rest were occupied by Thai army officers and a university trip. 



Next day we set off on the final leg to Phuket.  The road runs very close to the Andaman coast and was the scene of devastation in the 2004 Tsunami.  Along the way we stopped at a village and wandered down to the beach. With video scenes etched in the memory of the tsunami wave breaking over land, it did not take any imagination to visualise the terror and destruction it must have created. It is almost 10 years since the disaster but the frequent road signs warning of the danger and showing the escape routes are reminders of what happened, and could happen again.

The road to Phuket gradually became busier probably because it isn't all that wide, there are more resorts and villages, and it was the weekend. Add to this that we had been on the road for three days and becoming tired of driving; we were very keen to find a nice hotel and relax for a few days.
Enter Phuket.  There was some excitement as we crossed the Sarasin bridge and passed through the token checkpoint manned by less than enthusiastic policemen.  But excitement soon changed as we drove down the 402.  I thought we had burst into a time bubble and playing in a virtual reality X Box computer game.  The main culprits are the van drivers - hell bent on driving from A to B as if they chasing Lewis Hamilton on a Sunday afternoon in Monza.  I suppose what surprised me most was the high visibility commercialisation (is that a word?)  Given that the road sign-age is very similar to that found in the USA, plus the huge advertising hoardings vying for attention to visit this place and that place, I was, for a moment at least, thinking I was in Las Vegas.
We were trying to get to Surin and missed the turning (American signage to blame? My excuse) and ended up in down town Patong.  The road is steep and very twisty with hairpins not dis-similar to Alp d'Huez (yes really).  It was here I cut my teeth as a driver in Thailand.  It was like a boy becoming a man. With 95% of the traffic straining to take an advantage to go as fast as possible on the wrong side of the line which I would consider safe, I decided you cannot dictate how to drive, you just have to join them.  Khamma thought she was on a roller coaster, I was tired and pushing my luck, but after an exciting (Khamma said scarry) five or ten minutes, we made it and found the road to Surin.
Exhausted, crabby and bad tempered we eventually found a hotel in Surin Bay.
After a shower and settling in we had a lovely meal overlooking the beach, and Phuket's charm began its magic.