Dig ancient ruins? Get up to Chaiya! — by Levi

Savi and I hopped on our motorbike a while back and zoomed on up to Chaiya to see some temple ruins. It’s not hard to get to: Go north over the Don Nok bridge and hang a right on the 4112 when you reach it in Ban Nong Si. Follow that road to Chaiya. It’s not immediately obvious where these ruins might be, so let me tell you: when you get into town continue through it. Pass a set of railroad tracks and a temple shrouded in forest and turn right immediately after that temple to start back south on the road which gives access to Wat Long and Wat Kaew. If you come to a giant temple complex with a pointy golden stupa, you’ve gone too far toward highway 41.

Both Wat Long and Wat Kaew, representative examples along with Wat Suan Mok of Srivijaya empire architecture, will be on the left-hand (east) side of this road.

There is no fee for entrance and you should be surprised if there are any other tourists (or even people) in the vicinity. Pretty cool stuff. When we were there a dog had had her pups inside one of the ruined rooms of Wat Kaew, behind a headless stone Buddha.

Link to pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9889654@N03/sets/72157631030650990/

Ciao 2.0? — by Blake

This post serves two purposes. For one, it’s a follow-up to one of my previous blogs, Suratburger. It’s also my critique of the “new” Ciao Italia on Talad Kaset. Well, it’s not really new as in a new location or another restaurant, but because it’s under new management. Emiliano, the old owner, sold it in order to take his wife to Italy so she could get medical care that was not possible in Thailand. Since it’s come under this new management I’ve heard from a couple of people that it has gone downhill a bit, but I thought I’d see for myself.

Last Sunday, Britt and I battled the rain all the way to Talad Kaset to grab some Ciao for the first time in a long time. To make a long story short, I thought that overall… everything was better. The old owners were very nice, but let’s be honest service was not the fastest. This was always my biggest problem with Ciao (maybe my only problem). Not anymore. This time I got my burger and Britt got her pasta in just a few minutes. The Thai lady that served us was nice and thanked us on our way out.

As for the food? It was really freakin’ good. I’d never ordered the burger there before. I’m glad I did. I spent an extra 60 baht and got cheese (real mozzarella cheese) and bacon on it to do it right. Go big or go home and that’s exactly what this thing was… big. Well, the patty could have been a little bigger but the best part of the burger was the bread. It came on a giant freshly baked roll. To be honest I’d of been happy just eating the roll with the cheese on it (gooood cheese and a lot of it)… the burger and bacon was like a bonus! So anyway, to follow up with my post about where to find the best burger in Surat, I now have a new favorite (though I still need to try Peter’s recommendation– the burger at the Wang-Thai Hotel).

The best part of the experience was finding out that Ciao Italia is still a great escape for a western food fix. Neither the service nor the food have taken a hit with the new management. It seems like Emiliano trained the new owners well– and I’m glad!

CHECK OUT MY OWN BAD ASS BLOG AT:  http://blakesworld211.blogspot.com/

There are Snakes on the Mother F*ck'n Patio — by Laura

Life is always full of surprises in Thailand.  Over here at the Big House we have water outages, periodic swarms of bugs, the occasional smell storm of festering garbage from across the street, and now we can now add snakes falling from the sky.

The other weekend Joe and I were sitting on the patio eating breakfast and Skyping with his parents when we saw a mouse-rat fall about 9 feet from the gutter at the top of the chain link fence.  This was a surprise and I felt slightly bad for the mouse-rat that had landed near our trashcan full of beer bottles.  Joe took his computer over to show Tom and Claudia the mouse and as he was walking back from the mouse viewing party two more mice fell from the gutter followed by a 4 foot long solid green snake.

As the snake coiled on the trash can and plopped to the ground I screamed and ran in the house.  Even Joe set down his computer an momentarily joined me in the house.  Seconds later after the mini panic subsided we peeked out the door and saw the uninvited guest making its getaway toward the gate.  I grabbed my camera and snapped two photos of the slithering creature before it vanished under the gate back into the jungle.

Goodbye and good luck.

In lieu of the recent snake spotting at home I scoured the internet to discover what type of snake we had living in our backyard jungle.  Unsuccessful at identifying it from Bing and Google images, I emailed a photo of it to info@thailandsnakes.com.  Within 12 hours I got a response from Vern L. in the Thailandsnakes.com office saying:

“Hi Laura,

Golden Tree Snake, aka: Flying Snake.

Not dangerous to humans. Great climbers. Love eating geckos.”

There you have it, it was a Flying Snake on the mother f*ck’n patio.  If you ever need help identifying a snake in these parts, check out ThailandSnakes.com.

And remember: often it’s those unexpected moments in life that make for the most interesting stories.


They got me good! — by Blake

I swear every time I assign a project or homework there’s always a student (or group) that finds a way to make me part of their work.  Usually it’s to make fun of me in some way.  It’s all in good fun and I don’t mind.  In fact , I think it’s hilarious and I have a small pile of humorous Blake-infused assignments in my desk.  I was recently rooting through the drawer looking for something and I found this old gem…

It’s from an assignment about describing people in which I had the students make “WANTED” posters.  This group of girls thought it would be funny to take a picture of me on their phone and use it for the poster.  If you can’t read the text in the picture it says:


Mr. Blake

Wanted for Crimes against humanity, civil rights violations, considered to be very dangerous due to his stupidity

If seen kill him with extreme predigest

REWARD 10,000,000 baht

-He has blue eyes, he has beautiful smile, he is short

I gave them an A+  !  Ha

check out MY OWN BAD ASS BLOG at:  http://blakesworld211.blogspot.com/

Things I thought I couldn't find in Surat … but I DID! — by Joe

This post isn’t for things like peanut butter and nutella. (mmmm, delicious combo)

But for things from home that I was mentally prepared to not have access to for my stint in Surat Thani.

#1: Pick Up Basketball

My stereotype was that Thai people were generally short and wouldn’t be into basketball. I was wrong on both counts.

You see what happens when you ASSUME!! … your assumptions are often proved wrong

or something about butts or donkeys??


Daniel invited me to play ball at the stadium and there was a big crowd of people playing and watching, they even have volunteer refs, a nice new court with lights (sponsored by a cell phone company) and plenty of good players to challenge you.

I play basketball for fun and exercise and I’m not super competitive and Thai people are down with that.  You run a lot and if you play any defense, the volunteer ref will most likely call a foul on you. You get used to it and it’s a pretty good time. Bring your electrolyte drink from 7-11 because you get really sweaty. In summary, I can recommend pick up b-ball in Surat wholeheartedly.

#2 Pick Up Casual Poker

Tuesday nights, Tigger’s garden gazebo

No Limit Texas Hold Em, 100 baht buy in, If those things mean anything to you then you’re in luck

good level of play, excellent group of people, nice ceramic chips that are fun to play with and make noises.

It’s a good excuse for me to break out of the Super circle of friends and do something with my weeknights.

Ask myself, Evan or Levi for more information.

Stuff Thai People Like #6: White Skin — by Blake

What do Thai people and Michael Jackson have in common?

They both wish the could have whiter skin!  (55555!)

Okay, so that was a ridiculously bad joke but it’s so true.  In America (or the western world in general) most of us want to darken our skin a bit or at least be tan.  Being pale is looked at as unattractive and sickly whereas having color pronounces your features and is desired.  The opposite is true in Thailand (and most of Asia).  Presumedly because in Thailand, if you have dark skin it implies that you are lower class and work outside.  If you have lighter skin it means that you’re  well-off and can stay inside and out of the sun all day.  Shopping for toiletries in Thailand can be difficult for westerners because of this.  In addition to the regular whitening creams, EVERYTHING has bleaching agents.  Face wash, soap, shaving cream, sun block, and even deodorant!  It’s not just a weird cultural difference, it’s a bit obsessive.  Well, the Chinese have taken it a step further.  Allow me to introduce the facekini…

Girl, you so Asian!”

Nope, those aren’t Mexican lucha libre wrestlers… they’re just Chinese beach goers.  This ridiculous addition to their already incredibly ridiculous swimming attire provides complete protection from the sun.  It covers the entire face except for small eye/nose/ear holes.

PLEAAASE read this article or this one if you want to see or know more of this humorous wonder.


Ouch that stings — What to do if you are stung by a jelly fish — by Laura

This post was prompted by something that Joe and I witnessed while on Haad Yuan, Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party.

It was the day of the party and we had just arrived back “resort”, Barcelona, to eat lunch when we saw a guy writhing in pain on a chair surrounded by Thai guys.  The European guy was screaming, moaning, and clenching his body with all his strength.  I asked what was going on and one of the Thai guys said “jellyfish” and then made a gesture with his hand indicating that it was not very big.   We continued to watch out of curiosity as the Thai guys applied cooked vegetation (from the surrounding rocks) to the guys legs, stomach and hands.  After about 30 minutes he started to feel relief and the Thais instructed him not to wash himself for an hour while the natural remedy continued to work.

The guy who had been stung was swimming near the rocks on the west end of the beach and he hadn’t seen the jellyfish.  Most of the time I don’t think you see it until it is too late.  Jellyfish are beautiful when seen at the aquarium and from a distance, but if you get stung by one (and there aren’t any Thais who know a natural remedy around) you should know what steps to take.

NOTE: THERE ARE BOX JELLYFISH IN THAILAND.  They have been found in both the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.  These are in the top 5 most deadly animals on the planet.  

Here is a photo of a box jellyfish.

Small but deadly.


Recommended treatment for a box jellyfish is to pour vinegar on the stings for 30 seconds as soon as possible after the sting to stop the flow of venom and stingers moving throughout the body.  In Australia there are vinegar stations set up on beaches around the country specifically for box jellyfish and other jellyfish stings.  Please check out http://thaiboxjellyfish.blogspot.com/ and http://thailandboxjellyfish.wordpress.com/tag/thailand-box-jellyfish/ for more information on the box jelly fish around Thailand.

This is what to do if you are stung by almost any other jellyfish: 

Rinse the tentacles off. Rinse away the tentacles using hot water if possible (see step 5 for how hot). If heated water isn’t available, use salt water rather than fresh. Fresh water may worsen the stinging pain.

Peel off the tentacles. Remove any remaining tentacles with a gloved hand, stick, shell or tweezers. Be careful not to get the tentacles on yourself or on clothing. Jellyfish tentacles can still sting even after they’ve been ripped from the body of the jellyfish. If you use bare hands to pluck tentacles off, you’ll most likely get stung on the fingers. That’s also why it’s so important to remove them. If you don’t the victim will keep getting stung until all the nematocysts are used up.

Watch for anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can result in:



shortness of breath


tightening of the throat

flushed skin



shortness of breath


tightening of the throat

flushed skin



Anaphylaxis can also cause a drop in blood pressure known as anaphylactic shock.

Immerse the stung area in hot water. How hot is hot? There isn’t much evidence that water under 102 degrees is going to help, and a lot of evidence that water over 122 degrees is extremely effective. Since it’s unlikely you’ll have a thermometer to accurately gauge the temperature of water in a shower or a hot bath, the general rule is to have the victim either shower or immerse the sting in the hottest water he or she can stand. Work up to the heat and be careful not to scald (burn) the victim.

Ibuprofen and acetaminophen will help relieve pain. Ice or heat may also help. Mild itching may be helped with diphenhydramine.


http://www.about.com, Atkinson, P.R.T., et al.”Is hot water immersion an effective treatment for marine envenomation?.”Emerg Med Journal. 2006 July; 23(7): 503:508

Big House Book Review #2 – The Sword of Truth — by Joe

Big House Book Review #2

Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth Series, Books 1-5

#1 Wizard’s First Rule

#2 Stone of Tears

#3 Blood of the Fold

#4 Temple of the Winds

#5 Soul of the Fire

I’ve read the first 5 of 13 novels in this series and I’m pretty sure I’ll finish them all before my time in Thailand is done.  That seemed a bit ridiculous a short couple months ago but these fat and fun books fly by.  In my first few weeks in Surat Thani, I heard Michael and Ryan talking about a series of fantasy books that spawned a television show called Legend of the Seeker. I was fresh off finishing Season 2 of the Game of Thrones HBO masterpiece and wanted some new fantasy literature in my life.  Their combined review was that the action scenes in these books were really riveting and mind blowing but the love story was a bit meh.  From a few conversations, I could tell I was on the same nerd wavelength as my new co-workers so their excitement about these books was contagious.

After my move to the Big House, of the 100 plus books sitting around, Wizard’s First Rule stood out to me more than any of others, I think I started it the first week I lived there; I had no idea how hooked I would get.  I spent most of my free time devouring the story of Richard Cypher saving the world and falling in love with the Mother Confessor. Standard fantasy plotlines but in a brand new world with it’s own magic and fascinating characters. From Dragons and Dominatrix inspired Mord-Sith to ferocious winged Gars that hunt with blood flies, I was on board.

The action scenes were indeed captivating and I often would force myself to slow down and really savor the images that Mr. Goodkind was conjuring up.  He also has a gift for re-upping the stakes every book just after you think Richard can finally chill out and make sweet, sweet love to Kahlan, another crazy scenario is thrown at them. I often laughed out loud but had to read more.  There is always another part of the world we don’t know anything about and a new type of magic that needs to be introduced.

If you like Game of Thrones and you are waiting for Winds of Winter to come out, you will certainly have time to dive into the Sword of Truth series. The first 3 books are at the Big House thanks to Smell E. Day’s parents who shipped them from America. I also have the mobi files for kindle owners.

As soon as Laura finishes The Beach, it’s my turn for the Kindle and Faith of the Fallen is next on my reading list. Time for me and my buddy Terry to spend some more quality time together.

Big House Book Review #1 – Eat, Pray, Love — by Joe

Big House Book Review #1

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love

I was a might bit skeptical about this book before I started it; middle-aged ladies love it and they made a movie starring Julia Roberts.  However, it wasn’t my turn for the kindle so I had to find a big house book for our weekend trip to Koh Phangnan. Plus, she goes to Italy and Bali; a place I love and a place I wanted to know more about. Also, if a book sells as many copies as this one did, it at least has to be readable and compelling (Twilight is a notable exception to this rule.)

I had one false start when I read about her crying about her divorce and I put it down for a week or two but there was nothing on the shelf that was feeling right to me at the moment so I gave it another shot and it was a great read.  I connected with her on her desire to speak Italian just because it sounds beautiful.  I also agreed that ordering food in Italian in Italy is very satisfying.  I am still proud of the time I ordered il meglio cosa da bere con tiramisu in Venice and it was indeed the best thing to drink with my tiramisu.

I learned quite a bit about meditation and Yoga in reading about her spiritual journey and what it meant for her.  As a comparative religion major, I could really sense how her understanding of God fit into my own and it was a great way to learn about other spiritual and religious practices in a very non-academic context.  I appreciated that she didn’t really draw out her love story in Bali and focused so much on the locals that she met there. I found Balinese culture and the methods of the two healers she spent her days with quite interesting.

Her prose, dialogue, characterization, style, and sense of humor really work together well and I heartily recommend this book.  It’s available to be checked out from the Big House library.

Big House Book Reviews Introduction — by Joe

An exploration of Joe’s compulsion in blog format

When I was packing to come here, the main struggle I had was how many books to bring? Packing as a married couple is a communal effort and we had to keep our luggage under a certain poundage to avoid charges. I had a Kindle but most of the books I wanted to read and reread I had in paperback and not in the mobi format. Plus, only one kindle for two people was going to create some sharing scenarios I wanted to avoid. I almost never leave the house without something to read. It’s one of my top compulsions along with fear of dehydration especially when traveling in a foreign land.  After much stress and hand wringing, I cut my pile of books in half and started downloading books for the kindle, easier and more affordable than I thought. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge COUGHHH torrent COUGHHH)  I started by trying to only download books I had paid money for but then my Lord of The Rings collection was packaged with about 600-1000 other book files and I was suddenly rich in dubiously acquired mobi files.

However, relying on these kindle files alone was still providing me with a low level amount of stress.  When I left for Thailand I remained a Kindle skeptic and wasn’t sure how much I’d like reading on it; after a solid 28 years of reading paperbacks, I felt pretty confident in my enjoyment of those.  Also, Laura really preferred the Kindle and is able to read faster on it, which is really great for her, so I needed something to consume while she read “our” Kindle.  I had a sweet stash of New York Times Magazines and Wired Magazines plus about 12 paperbacks that I had packed so I knew I had some time to find a more long-term solution.  My new co-worker Michael had written a book and that was great for one four-hour late train in Chumphon but I still had my head on a swivel, open to new book stash sources.

Then came the glorious day when I first visited the other houses that my Super co-workers lived in. In both the Big House and Blake and Brittney’s shipping container in the jungle was a massive collection of English paperbacks. Not just any books, but books collected by like-minded young people who want to live and teach in Thailand, a pretty awesome sub-group of people. The percentage of these books I wanted to read was staggeringly high. It was Christmas come early for my compulsive book hoarding self and the odds of me running out of books I wanted to read was now approaching zero like in one of those exponential graphs of y= 1/x.

This potential series of blog entries is inspired by the eclectic and delightful library of books that resides at the Big House both under the toaster and kettle and at the top of the stairs to the 3rd floor.

If you coming to teach for Super and you like to read, fear not, our collection of books, both analog and digital is strong to quite strong. Plus, there is a lot of reading time.

Stay tuned for my review of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.