Scenes from a rainy day in Phuket...Story and visit to a location of a romantic movie viewed aboard the Viking Mekong River Cruise...



Kong encouraged kissing in front of the Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House where the movie, The Lover, was filmed in Sa Dec, Vietnam in 1992.  We had no trouble cooperating!
 As I continue to improve a little each day after spending more time resting and less time bending and walking, I'm anxious to get out to take photos.  Traveling on the bumpy road from the house in the less-than-stellar rental car is an athletic event in itself, requiring I hang on for dear life even if my stability weren't at risk.

There are numerous open air type markets and shops along the highway.  I was having a hard time in the rain taking good photos with the window open.  Thus, the rear view mirror was in the photos.
It has nothing to do with Tom's driving skills.  He's as careful as he can be driving the old car on the rough roads.  Once we reach the main highway the roads improve tremendously although seeing out the scratchy windows is its own challenge. 

We feel badly that we've yet to post many local photos hoping that today, after posting, if there's a little sunshine, we just might give it a try and make an effort to find our way to the beach to take some photos to share.

A church or temple along the highway.
In the interim, we only have a few photos from our last trip, our on a rainy day that hardly meet the standards of what we prefer to post.  Surely, our long term readers understand the dilemma and for those of our newer readers, please bear with us...better is yet to come.

Finally, I'm beginning to feel hopeful that this injury is temporary.  Given another month of recovering and I expect to be as good as I was before the occurrence around June 1st in Bali.  No words can describe how excited I am to return to my "old self" being able to do the simplest of tasks without Tom's help. 

Watch out!  There's a tire in the road!
Oh, don't get me wrong...he's been amazing, never once complaining about waiting on me; pouring my coffee, iced tea, setting my computer on my lap atop the stack of pillows I use to keep the screen at eye level and so much more.  I've appreciated every bit of assistance saying thank you each and every time. 

Not once in these past two months since the injury has he been "overly grumpy" regarding my situation.  That's not to say he doesn't do a minute or two of "overly grumpy" for some other often peculiar reason, having absolutely nothing to do with me. 

Yikes! The less-than-stellar rental car's windshield wipes don't work well.
I must admit I haven't been my usual "overly bubbly" self during these months of pain and discomfort.  Although my optimism did kick in when Tom was having angst when he was unable to find a gas station while worrying about running out of gas. 

Ms O.B. kicked in with cheerful encouragement and optimism while he fussed while driving in the rain, terrified of running out of gas and barely able to see out the windows of the less-than-stellar rental car.  Some things never change. For him, grumpiness seems to revolve around driving, traffic and transportation.

Lots of tuk tuks and motorbikes were on the highway in the rain.
Hopefully, tomorrow, we'll be back with new photos of Rawai Beach in Phuket.  We're hoping to head out shortly now that we have a sunny day.

Kong suggested we'd find a "happy room" (restroom) down this passageway between the house and the building next door.
In the interim, as we wind down the final few photos from the Vietnam and Cambodia cruise/tour, we're particularly excited to share today's story about a movie we watched during the cruise.

Interesting design in the 121 year old Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House house in Sa Dec.  See here for more details.
There was a meeting/video room in the lowest level in the Viking Mekong  where the cruise staff held meetings, cocktail parties on rainy days evenings and conducted a variety of lectures and seminars, most of which we attended.

Each room contained original furnishings.
The seating was relatively comfortable with rows of similarly heavily padded sofas and chairs grouped together.  I was able to sit for extended periods amid a bit of squirming and repositioning once I maneuvered down the steep stairway.

We were offered hot tea and a rest while inside the house.
With no elevators on the boat we had a series of three stairways, some steeper than others, to navigate during the cruise which never kept us from attending any activities on other levels such as the two levels up to the sundeck where the nightly cocktail party was held.  Our cabin was located on the same level as the dining hall and disembarking ramp which proved helpful with my injury.

View of the street and the river from inside the house.
We'd read some online reviews for this cruise/tour where a few passengers complained about the stairs aboard the ship.  During the cruise, we came to the conclusion that this cruise/tour may not be ideal for those with mobility issues which was my case due to the injury. 

Ornate ceiling and lighting fixture design.
We had no other place to be during this period and had no choice but to continue on.  Had we a permanent residence we may have decided to forego the cruise and stayed "home" to recuperate, perhaps losing the entire cruise fare.  But, that's wasn't us.  The small ship and three hotels were our "home" during that 17 day period.

Over a period of several days, Kong mentioned a movie he suggested we watch that was to be held after dinner on July 18th at 8:45 pm since the following day we'd be visiting the location in Sa Dec, Vietnam where the movie had been filmed and was the basis of the story. 

Elaborate Buddhist shrine in the house.
This concept particularly appealed to us when we usually make an attempt to watch a movie made in a country in which we're living at a particular time such as when we watched (as an example) such films as "Casablanca" while living in Morocco in 2014 and "The Descendants" while living in Kauai, Hawaii in 2015. (Please click links as included here).

Watching a highly acclaimed Academy Award nominated movie made in Vietnam was especially appealing when we'd be able to experience the actual location  where the movie was made in Sa Dec, Vietnam the following day.  Watching the movie which was inspired by a true story at the location of the house, made the tour all the more exciting. 

Bedroom in the house with some updating.  The house is used as a B &B for certain events explaining the flat screen TV.
Kong had warned the passengers that the movie, The Lover, was "racy" with explicit sex scenes.  None of that phased us a bit. We've always enjoyed a well done sexy movie and this would be no exception.

By 8:45 pm, we made our way down the steps to the meeting room on the lowest level of the ship.  After yet another big meal, I wondered if we'd be able to stay awake for the two hour movie but as it turned out, neither of us dozed for a moment during the movie. 


Artistic design on dining table.
However, the "packed house" dwindled down throughout the movie to a total of eight of us by the end. As passengers exited as the scenes became racier, we heard some grumbling over the movie being "too explicit," "too racy for public viewing" as many couples got up to leave during the viewing.  We looked at each other giggling as the room almost completed cleared out.  This made for interesting conversation the next day.

Table décor in main living room, most likely a modern day addition.
The movie, beautifully filmed in 1992, included excellent acting by its equally beautiful and exceptional Asian actors, cinematography (for which it won awards), an appealing musical score and an interesting story line.  Yes, it was racy which may have been daring for Vietnam at the time but the sexy scenes were done tastefully.

The next day, we embarked on an action packed tour as we've described in past posts with photos, a portion of the tour to Sa Dec included the tour of the historical aristocratic home for which the story, The Lover, was inspired.

A popular tourist attraction, Huynh Thuy Le Ancient House  is easily visible from the main road in Sa Dec.
Visiting the historic aristocratic house left us feeling happy we'd watched the movie in it entirety the previous evening.  Enjoy today's photos from that visit.  We'll be back with more tomorrow!

Have a restful and pleasant weekend!
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Photo from one year ago today, July 30, 2015:
Many of the restaurants in Port Douglas, Australia (Queensland) are huge and elaborate attracting the most finicky of diners and tourists.  For more details, please click here.
 

Exploring expenses in Phuket...Only a few more stories from our cruise/tour on the Viking Mekong River Cruise...


There was enough food here to last a week.  Check out the amazing total cost below!
As we live in many countries throughout the world its impossible not to imagine what it might be like to live permanently in the particular country as a retiree.  Are prices reasonable? 

Check out the size of the fish and steak portions.  Tom was craving peanuts adding a few packages to the stash.  The brats in the bottom right of the photo are gluten, grain and sugar free.
Is good health care available? How are food prices both at the markets and dining out? Are prices for housing and utilities affordable for those on a fixed income?  Fuel prices?  Vehicle ownership?  Insurance? Satellite or cable TV and Wi-Fi? Its goes on and on, the usual expenses for daily living for those who are settled in one location must bear on a daily basis.

 Using this app to convert the Thai baht (THB) $3,803.25, we discovered we'd only spent US $109.38.  We were shocked to say the least. (See the photos of everything we purchased).
For many seniors living in an assisted living facility, nursing homes and certain senior complexes, many of these expenses are factored into an often outrageous monthly rate.

Our cost of living observations begin the day we arrive in any new location and continue through the day we depart.  Unfortunately, the rent we pay for a vacation home is not necessarily a good barometer for rents one may pay as a permanent resident. 

We purchase so many items, it took several photos to include all of it.
Vacation homes often include all the above expenses except food and transportation and, may include some form of household help as is the case here in Rawai, Phuket with cleaners coming twice a week to clean and change the bedding and towels.


Free range eggs, beef and celery rounded out our purchases. 
In most locations, our first exposure to the cost of living is when we shop for groceries.  However, we aren't necessarily educated on our first foray to a grocery store when on that first occasion we usually spend as much as 50% more than when we'll shop in future weeks to replenish our food supply.

The fresh produce department is packed with locally caught treasures at reasonable prices.
That first trip includes staples such as laundry soap, sink soap, bar soap, paper products, insect repellent, cleaning supplies and other household goods we may seldom replace during the one, two or three month stay.

Looks like Sam's or Costco, doesn't it?
Its the second grocery shopping trip, usually a week after we've arrived when we've become more familiar with locally available products that we can shop, as you do, for weekly groceries getting a better perspective of what it would be like as an expat or retiree.

Row after row of frozen foods.  We don't buy much in the way of frozen foods when most contain additives.
When two days ago, we walked into Makro Food Service store, located within minutes of the vacation rental, we knew we were in the right place.  As we perused the aisles, starting with the produce department, we immediately began loading up our cart. 


Little neck clams. 
Typically, Tom pushes the trolley while I select the items.  When we've found everything on our list in the produce department, he brings all of it to the weighing station to be priced and stickered.  Its an efficient system we've mastered over these past years. 

We weren't able to determine which type of seafood this might be.
In our old lives he rarely grocery shopped with me.  When we were still eating fruit (5 years ago) he thought watermelon was US $.09 if including a page of Holiday gas station stamps.  When we started shopping together after leaving the US, he was shocked at what he thought was high prices while I was excited to see how much less groceries are in other countries.

Squid, yet to be cleaned.
Over these past almost four years, he's become familiar with some prices but not as I have with my innate fascination with food and its pricing.  As we made our way through the Costco-like aisles and with our growing grasp of the Thai baht (THB $1000 equal US $28.75) as opposed to the US dollar, I was pleasantly surprised over the prices.

(Photos from this point are those from the Mekong River cruise/tour, although the Phuket story continues on).

The sign as we approached the brick factory by sampan boat.
We tossed every item from our lengthy weekly grocery list (on an app on my phone) into the trolley after first deciding on our meals for the week based on availability and quality of a variety of protein sources.  
Upon entering the brick factory we had to walk over planks and rough terrain.  Once inside it was an easier walk.
Generally, we don't allow prices to dictate our purchases.  Only consuming one meal a day plus an evening cheese plate snack, we find we can choose almost anything that strikes our fancy and stay well within our monthly food budget.

Most of the employees in the brick factory are women.
We'd include the entire receipt from Makro but its written in the Thai language which uses special characters that aren't easily translated.  Instead, for today's purposes, we've included a photo of the total on the amount charged to our credit card when we checked out.

It was toasty inside the factory especially this close to a kiln.
When Tom placed all the loose items in the trunk of the car, I used my phone's app to calculate the total bill, shocked by how little we spent for the amount  we'd purchased.  I even went as far as counting all the items when we got "home" thinking they must have not charged us for half the items. 

Rice as shown here is used in the brick making process.  It was very dusty as we toured the facility.
The receipt was indeed accurate prompting us to take photos of the items we purchased before putting everything away to share with you today. How could we not share this? This isn't the first time we've done this, nor will it be the last. 

We couldn't imagine the hard work required of these employees in such a heavy duty and hot environment.
Are we going to experience "price shock" when we visit the US in a little over nine months?  Its entirely possible when at that point we'll have been gone for almost five years.

First the kiln is filled with the clay bricks and the kiln is sealed.  Then the fire is started to maintain the heat.  Depending on the size of the kiln, it can takes weeks for the bricks to cure.
Could a retiree or expat live comfortably in a country like Thailand?  Its too soon for us to make such an assessment but we did see many people from all over the world shopping at the market, hearing a variety of languages and dialects that indicated our presence in this village is not so unique after all.

Our guide let us enter inside a still warm kiln.
It appears the produce is pesticide free based on the insects I'm encountering when washing each item (using the bottled water only).  The steak Tom had last night definitely was grass fed (we've learned to detect the difference in grain fed as opposed to grass fed beef).  My salmon fillet was fresh and moist and couldn't have tasted better. 

Tom took this photo of the vent at the center top of the kiln.
Tonight, Tom will have freshly cooked steak again and I'll have yellow fin tuna.  Our sides will include a huge salad with homemade dressing, fresh whole sautéed portabella mushrooms, buttered green beans and hard boiled eggs, a perfect meal by our standards.  More on cost of living in Phuket as we experience more during the next month...


Neatly stacked tiles ready to be transported.
As we continue to wind down our Mekong River cruise/tour, today we're including photos (sorry that they're interspersed with Phuket photos above) from what proved to be an interesting visit to a brick making factory in Sa Dec.  Situated on the banks of the river, we arrived by sampan boat and walked up an easy ramp to the property. 

As much as a variety of brick making supplies were littered about the facility, it was very organized.
We still have a few more stories to share over the next several days.  Looking forward to continuing to see our loyal reader/friends here each day. 

Our sampan was waiting for us to finish the tour of the facility and moved the boat close to the shore so we could take off once again.
Enjoy the weekend as we roll into August...
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Photo from one year ago today, July 30, 2015:
This enormous Banyan Tree in Port Douglas, Australia reminded us of the tree across the street from our condo in Honolulu.  For more photos, please click here.
 

Finally, we got out with photos coming tomorrow..Tour of the Kampong Cham Temple in Cambodia...Great pics!




Us at the Kampong Cham Temple in Cambodia.
We hope our readers are still interested in the few remaining stories and photos we've continued to share from the Viking Mekong River cruise which ended over a week ago.
In front of the steps leading to the temple.
Each day has included a blurb on our current location in Phuket, Thailand and a second portion on tours and stories we hadn't been able to share during the cruise/tour due to a poor Wi-Fi signal.

It was one hot day.
This morning we signed up for new more sophisticated Wi-Fi service, VOOM, which is supposedly high speed being offered by Royal Caribbean on most of their ships. 

The ornate designs of temples is fascinating.
With a 33 night (back-to-back) cruise upcoming on October 31st (a mere three months from now) on RC Radiance of the Seas, we didn't want to experience more horrible Wi-Fi impeding our ability to post in real time, hoping to prevent the necessity of posting stories for events that occurred in the past as we've done over this past week.

Scary faces to ward off evil spirits.
Bear with us, we only have a few more of these "past" stories and photos and soon will be all about our current location in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand which in itself encompasses endless opportunities for both stories and photos.  Tomorrow, we'll begin posting Phuket photos.

We entered the temple for more detailed views.
Yesterday, we had a chance to begin the photo taking process when, for the first time since our arrival a week ago, we got out of the house.  The rain never stopped all day. 

The details illustrates the joy of the Cambodian people.
By 1 pm, after the rental car had been dropped off, I suggested we go out anyway.  Who knew when it would be a sunny day? Besides, we needed photos and groceries. 

Alternate views of shrines.
The older car, a stick shift with somewhat foggy windows wasn't the ideal vehicle for taking photos on a rainy day but we did our best.  However, the day didn't start out as ideally as we'd have liked.
(Photo out of context with today's other photos.  But, yesterday, we mentioned we'd post the rental car photo).  The rental car's a little rough but will serve our purposes over the next 34 days until we leave Thailand.
The address we have for this property or any variation therein, doesn't show on any map.  We had no SIM card in our phones and maps wouldn't work anyway.  The owner suggested we just get ourselves to the highway and we'd figure it out.  Had it not been raining so hard, we may have been able to do so more easily.

Pagodas and shrines within the temple.
First, we had to find a gas station, next an ATM.  Based on the weather, we decided we'd find a nearby market to get us through a few days since driving across the island to the superstore, Makro didn't make sense in the downpour.

The detail of the craftmanship is astounding.
With the fuel gauge on empty when we started off, Tom was a bit "overly grumpy" when it was impossible to look out the window when the windshield wipers didn't work well.  The only option was for me to open my window, letting in the rain and keep looking along the highway for a fuel station. 

That wasn't as easy as one may think.  Every so often, we'd spot a solitary fuel pump, stop and find it was unattended and/or didn't work.  Tom's frustration level escalated while my usual "overly bubbly" optimism kept him forging ahead.

We weren't certain if these flags were temporary or permanent to celebrate a particular holiday.
Finally, after about 20 minutes of "driving on empty" we found a traditional fuel station which accepted credit cards since we'd yet to stop at an ATM.  As we pulled out of the fuel station with a full tank, we spotted a tiny pharmacy around the corner with an ATM machine outside their door. 

These smaller buildings are residences for the monks.
I was desperate to find some type of heating pad and we needed to get the cash to pay for the rental car, TBH $9000, US $258.  Mission accomplished!  The pharmacy had a hot-cold pack which easily heats in the microwave and we were able to get the cash we needed from the ATM.

Ornate details.
Feeling hopeful after our success, we continued down the highway with hopes of taking a few photos.  Suddenly, through the foggy windows, I spotted a huge sign for a Makro store that supposedly sells beef and more products than the prior market where we shopped. 

Young monks working at the temple.
We wouldn't have to travel across the island to shop each week and could use this location only minutes from our house for our remaining days on the island.  We couldn't have been more thrilled when we entered the mini-Costco/Sam's Club type store which had every food product we could possibly use in our way of eating. 

A live monk was sitting inside the temple out of the scorching sun.
I was like a kid-in-a-candy-store.  We hadn't seen such variety since we were in Trinity Beach, Australia a year ago with the abundance at the Woolworth Market (Woolies), farmers market and grass fed meat market.  Even the great markets in New Zealand didn't have the variety we found at Makro.

We were happy we had a car.  Had a driver been waiting for us, it would definitely impeded our ability to scour through the aisles with ease finding everything on our list. 

Mausoleum on the property in varying sizes based on the deceased placement in the family.
Not unlike many superstores in the US, no bags or boxes were provided when checking out.  We could only imagine how cumbersome it could have been to load the trunk of a taxi with "loose" foods and produce.  Tomorrow, we'll share the cost of our groceries with photos.  We were shocked over the final total.

The less than stellar car will serve its purpose for the upcoming month, although we realize driving far is risky.  Then again, the bumpy roads and stick shift driving would deter me from being interested in long drives at this juncture in time.

I avoided walking this stairway when the bus drove us to the garden.
On an upcoming sunny day, we'll take off for the beach which I could see yesterday at a short distance through the fuzzy windows and pouring rain.  There won't be any lounging in the sand on a towel (or bouncing boat rides) but surely we'll be able to take photos of the exquisite scenery in this area.  Please stay tuned for updates.

Continuing on with a cruise/tour story....

On Thursday, July 14th, we embarked on a bus tour while still in Kampong Cham, Cambodia.  Kong had assured us it would be a relatively easy tour without hours of walking and trekking up steep and rough terrain.

Mom and baby monkey hoping tourists will offer them food.
As it turned out, the tour of the Kampon Cham Temple was manageable for me when we avoided the long steep stairway from the temple.  The bus driver drove a small group of us down to the garden area of the temple reachable by road as an alternative to walking the steps.

Off they went, when we had nothing to offer.
There's a fascinating story about the Kampong Cham Temple at this site which is too long to share here but may be worth reading if you're interested.  For the sake of space and time, we're winding down today's post with photos from this excellent experience and tour.

Someone on a tour which later visited the orphanage must have handed off a lollipop to this monkey.  We giggled when taking these photos.
Thanks to all of our readers for bearing with two-topics posts over this past week.  We only have a few more cruise/tour photos to share. 

This monkey figured out it would last longer if he licked it instead of chewing.
Be well.  Be happy.
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Photo from one year ago today, July 29, 2105:

Every beach along the way on our road trip to Port Douglas, Australia, had it own personality.  They may all look like sand, rock and water but we find each one to have it own unique scenery.  For more details, please click here.