So Do You Believe in Karmic Retribution?

For the first time ever, I’ve had to select a rating for my blog entry tougher than “A – All Ages Allowed”.  Shocking?  Yes.  But you’ll see why in a moment…

There are those who, whatever their religious persuasion or lack thereof, hold a general belief in the concept of karmic retribution.  Whether expressed as “what goes around, comes around” or simply an understanding that those who send negative energy out into the world eventually find themselves on the receiving end of that same energy, I wish to submit the following bit of evidence for your consideration.

My friends Otto and Han were in town from Singapore last weekend and they shared this story and the accompanying pictures with me, from a vacation they recently took to Taiwan.  Many thanks to them for letting me share the pictures with you!

PARENTS: PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN’S TENDER SENSIBILITIES AND LET THEM READ NO FURTHER!

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The setting is a beach on the outskirts of Taipei.  The weather is warm, the tide is out, and families and people of all ages are catching some sun and playing on the sand bars.

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Unfortunately, though, one man – perhaps a bit of a naturist – decided to bare all.  But it wasn’t a nude beach and, to the best of my understanding, the Taiwanese aren’t the type who embrace (if you’ll excuse the pun) those who take a clothing-optional approach to beachwear.

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It turns out that the man was a bit more than a naturist.  More of an exhibitionist, really, or what you might more commonly call a pervert.  He bothered a few groups of beachgoers, not just showing his itty bits but enlarging himself, too, if you catch my drift.  This pair of ladies tried to shoo him away and then quickly gathered their things to leave the area.

(This is probably about the right time to assure you that Otto and Han were merely bystanders on the beach who happened to observe this and captured it with their zoom lens.  Neither of them is the man pictured above!)

Now, I can imagine you are wondering where the evidence of karmic retribution is.  Well, see the dog in the picture above?

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After the man bothered those two ladies, the dog ran to where the man had left his clothes sitting on a piece of driftwood.  And then peed on them.

Now, whether you think that God set his wrath upon the man in the form of dog urine, or whether you think that the nature of good and evil finally found its level, I submit that this is clear and incontrovertible evidence of karmic retribution.

What say you?

And in case you are curious…

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here is a picture of me, Tawn, Kar Wai, Han, and Otto after dinner here in Bangkok.  Many thanks again to Otto and Han, for without them, this story would never have been told for your edification.

 

Role Playing in Hua Hin

By profession, I am a trainer.  I have a wide range of background experience but people development (and managing people development) is where my heart and skill lies.  When Tawn’s boss found this out, I was invited to join part of their team for a weekend training session in Hua Hin.  Their industry is Public Relations, their training was about creating client value, and they needed someone to play the role of a prospective client for some of the training exercises. 

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Glowing lanterns (in a vaguely northern Thai style) in the early evening.

Hua Hin is a popular beach resort about a three-hour drive southwest of Krungthep (Bangkok).  It is the home of His Majesty the King’s beach palace and so is a much cleaner and more desirable place than, say, Pattaya.  In the past few years Hua Hin has also become much too popular and is now overgrown with high end hotels and fancy resorts.  In other words, it has gone upscale and lost the inexpensiveness and carefree charm that made it a fun getaway spot for locals.  Still, it retains its good weather, nice ambience, lovely beach, and tasty seafood.  So who was I to refuse an all expenses paid two night trip to a beach resort there?

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Beach, pool area, and the restored 90-year old teak house, right.

I’ll write more about the food in the coming days, but let me share some pictures of the resort.  The resort, called Baan Talay Dao (“Home of the Sea and Stars”) centers around an authentic 90-year old teak wood house in which the training was held.  It is a smaller resort, family owned and operated, and has probably been in operation for years and years.  With the sprucing up of the rest of Hua Hin, it looks like they made a lot of effort sometime in the past few years to freshen up the resort’s facade and it now has a “boutique” look and feel.

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Private villas – note the grotto with the Virgin Mary in it, which you don’t see all that often here in Thailand!

The property includes a combination of town-house style two-story buildings along with individual villas closer to the beach.  The buildings are well-maintained and the landscaping is very lush.  Inside the rooms, though, you can see the age of the facility.  Not because things aren’t well maintained – they are – but simply because of the amenities offered and the roughness of the construction.  I’ve seen this a lot in these boutique resorts in Thailand and that is why the price is $50-150 less a night than, say, the Intercontinental, the Sheraton, or the Marriott.

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The townhouse section of the resort faces a reflecting fish pond and some beautiful trees.

There is a full-service restaurant downstairs from the teak house and you can either sit in the shade underneath or out in the open air overlooking the beach.  Their breakfast buffet is pretty impressive for a small resort and the dinner I ate the first night – a curried seafood dish called hor mok talay – was one of the best things I’ve eaten this month. 

Hua Hin is on the western side of the Gulf of Thailand hidden against a ridge of mountains on the narrow isthmus that is shared between Thailand and Myanmar.  The benefit of this ridge of mountains is that the frightening storm clouds that blow over them tend not to drop their rain on Hua Hin, instead continuing up the Gulf and gathering more force before dropping their rain closer to Krungthep.  This made for some very pleasant (and pleasantly breezy) late afternoons and early evenings as I enjoyed the relatively cool temperatures and watched the clouds, excpecting them to let fat drops of rain fall on me in response.  Thankfully, this didn’t happen.

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The path to the beach.

The two days of training were pleasant.  I had met most of Tawn’s colleagues on several occassions before (he wasn’t at the training, though) and so it was a pleasure to spend more time with them.  Not only did I learn a lot about the PR industry, which was fascinating, but I discovered that as a group they are the biggest foodies (sea-foodies, to be precise) I’ve met in Thailand, which is why I’ll write about the food in a later entry.

 

Stroll Along Mai Khao Beach

The final chapter about Phuket…

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Jason was busy tanning, Kahlua on the Rocks in hand, and Tawn was napping after his yoga, so Stuart, Piyawat and I decided to go for a stroll on the beach.  The condo we rented is on Mai Khao Beach.  “Mai Khao” means “white trees”, a reference to the strands of birch trees located in this area.  North of the airport by less than a kilometer in a straight line, this section of the island has little development in comparison to the busier cities on the south and west sides.

Our guard dogs, Sing and Yuri, ran under the fence to join us.  I was initially concerned that they would run away and get lost but they were very well behaved, never straying too far and always racing back when we called.

Here’s a two-minute video highlighting the stroll:

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It took about ten minutes to walk the kilometer or so south towards the airport.  The runway ends just next to the beach and you can get quite a view of departing airplanes.  Being an aviation enthusiast, I had to stop and watch a few THAI Airways Boeing 777s depart.

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The airport is unique because it is located in an isthmus-like stretch of the north end of the island, wedged between two hills.  You can see the control tower (white) on the hill to the left of the runway.  The back entrance to the airport is by the narrow road that runs to the left of the taxiway.  I can’t exaggerate how close this road is to the taxiway.  When the jumbo jets taxi by, you feel like you need to duck lest their wingtips slice off the roof of your car.  The terminal and ramp area are parallel to the beach at the far end of the picture.

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Also at the end of the runway is a small creek which runs into the sea.  It is fed by runoff from the airport grounds.  Here we have a father and son fishing for dinner in this creek.  I can only imagine what sort of petroleum residue there is in that water.

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We encountered another fisherman on the way back.  This man was fishing in the sea and landed an interesting fish as we walked up.  It was long with a needlelike nose and small teeth.  The color was translucent green on top and he was wriggling around like crazy.

 

Sunday afternoon there was no rush to leave as our flight wasn’t until after 7 pm.  We all piled into the car and drove ten minutes up the road to the Sala Resort, one of the high-end resorts located on the north end of the island.  I think I’ve figured out the best was to enjoy resorts: just go visit them and have a drink.  You get all the attentive service and ambience without having to pay the exorbitant nightly rates.

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The design of the resort is, I understand, by the same person who designed Alila Cha-Am.  (See this entry from September 2008 about our stay at that beautiful resort on the Gulf of Thailand.)  This means that it is largely modern in design, although Sala has more contemporary touches such as this vaguely Chinoiserie style screen at the entrance.  Notice that some of the octagons rotate.  Neat touch.

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Guest registration, which looks more like an open-air bar.

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The path from registration towards the beach.  Notice the “white trees” – birches.  All the guest rooms are individual pavilions (that’s where the name “sala” comes from, “pavilion” in Thai) hidden behind walls and gates on both sides of this path.

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Heading through a wall of mist on our way to the spa to check our their offerings and prices.

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Tawn chilling out in the lounge outside the spa.  There’s just a little bit of water circulating amongst the stones and another quiet waterfall trickling down the black wall in the back.

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The pool area near the beach.  Surrounded on two sides by outdoor dining patios, we positioned ourselves on the large white sofa at the far end of the pool for some drinks and snacks.  I didn’t realize it at first, but there is actually a seating area on top of the roof with reflecting pools, benches and tables.

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Here’s the view of the pools taken from the top of the roof, directly above the white sofa at the far end of the previous picture.  The wide lawn was very different from most beach resorts and with the pine trees, it reminded me more of a mountain retreat rather than a beach side resort.

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Kobfa and Tawn in one of the many love seat swings on the property.

Okay, that’s it for Phuket for this trip.  Hope you enjoyed!

 

Trip to the Black Pearl Phuket

A weekend on the beach in Phuket.  What a nice way to get away.  Our good fortune was that Tawn’s cousin Fon won a voucher for a free three-day, two-night stay at the Black Pearl, a three-unit condo on Mai Khao Beach in Phuket.  Since the condo is not particularly young child friendly – unsafe edges everywhere – Fon generously gave the voucher to us.

After a few scheduling hiccups, we coordinated with Ben, Jason and Kobfa to join us for a weekend getaway at this beautiful property.

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This is only the second time I’ve been to Phuket.  Previously, I didn’t hold the highest opinion of the island because on our first visit we stayed in Patong, the heavily touristy area that, despite its pretty beach, reflects all the excesses and undesirable aspects of tourism.

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The Black Pearl is located on Mai Khao (“white tree” – i.e. birch) Beach on the north tip of the island, at least a forty minute drive away from the tourist resorts of Patong and the main town of Phuket.  In fact, Black Pearl is on an isolated stretch of beach with no other development immediately around it. 

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There are three owners, friends with each other, of this three-unit condo complex.  Two units are on the main floor with master bedrooms on the back side of the top floor.  The third unit is entirely on the front part of the top floor.  Above is a picture of the outdoors dining area for our unit.  This place is gorgeous and was a lot more enjoyable than some five-star resort because it felt like home and was many times more private.

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The infinity-edge pool on the main floor, overlooking the beach.

We arrived on Friday night about 7:00 and drove down to Phuket town to meet up with Stuart and Piyawat, who moved to Phuket a half year ago.  We had an amazing dinner at an Italian restaurant.  This meal deserves its own entry which I’ll add soon.

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Saturday we lounged around the house all day.  Biscuits, bacon and eggs in the morning with lots of coffee.  Sunning, swimming, walks on the beach, listening to music and enjoying the perfect weather and cooling breezes.

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There is a caretaker family that lives on the ground floor.  They are very friendly and helpful.  You can send the maid to the market with some money and she’ll buy food and prepare all sorts of Thai food.  We went with her, selecting the food ourselves for a grand seafood feast.  Above, the maid, Tawn and Kobfa select veggies.

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Fresh (and huge) prawns.  These were ridiculously inexpensive.

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Fresh fish anyone?  We ended up buying a few red snappers from another vendor and stuffing them with herbs and grilling them in a coat of coarse salt.   

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In the kitchen, Tawn puts the finishing touches on the Tom Yum Goong (spicy shrimp soup).  The maid did most of the work and then left him to adjust the seasoning.  It was really tasty.

While the cooking was going on, we enjoyed a most amazing sunset, shown here in three pictures each taken about ten minutes apart.

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In the final picture, you can just make out the lights of shrimp boats on the horizon.

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The maid’s husband did the grilling, including these gorgeous shrimp, a few large squid, and the salt-crusted fish.  The homemade nam chim chili dipping sauce was fantastic!

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Sitting around the table before digging in to our seafood feast: Jason and Ben, Kobfa, Chris and Tawn, Piyawat and Stuart, and Noi, one of the owners of our unit.  Noi and his partner Pat came down for the weekend and stayed in the upstairs unit which is owned by a friend of theirs.  Very nice couple and they joined us for dinner and then for Sunday brunch, too.

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Noi and Pat playing with their “guard” dog Sing.  Their two dogs were former strays and both look and act very vicious when you first see them.  About ten seconds later they are your new best friends, very friendly and well-behaved.

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Sunday morning we awoke to the sound of rain.  It was overcast and drizzly until about 9:00 after which the sun broke through and we had another beautiful day.

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Jason looks on as Tawn does some yoga.  Tawn thinks he resembles an embryo in this pose.  He has one of the most flexible bodies and is able to do poses I would never be able to do no matter how much I practiced.

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Harking back to the attempt at Parmesan Biscuits a few weeks ago, I made a modified recipe that turned out much better.  I’m going to make one more attempt at it and once I’ve perfected the recipe, will share it in a sperate entry.  They biscuits had smoked salmon and arugula again.  Very tasty.

I’ll do a few more entries about some of the other things we did while in Phuket.  Needless to say, it was a relaxing weekend.  If you are planning a trip to Thailand, especially in a group of 4-6 people, I’d strongly recommend that you consider staying at the Black Pearl.  If you do contact them, please let them know that you heard about it from Tawn and Chris.