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Living the Expat Life?

So how do you know if you would actually enjoy staying in one place for an extended period of time? Well . . . You stay in one place for an extended period of time. Tom’s version of “THE DREAM” (as in “Livin’ the Dream”): I wake up to the sunshine wafting through the gauzy curtains of our bedroom. I roll out of bed, pull on my shorts and head to the coffee maker. With my cup of coffee in my hand, still bleary-eyed with sleep, I step off the deck onto the warm sand just feet away from the surf. Excellent scuba diving would be nearby. *Aside* I think this part of the dream has shifted and changed a bit in the last few years. We now only drink decaf coffee and have a personal relationship with our Keurig Coffee Maker back in the US. (It misses us. We miss it!) I think any “dream” now would require the immediacy of a Keurig for that first cup of coffee . . . and second . . .and third. My version of “THE DREAM”: I hear the rhythm of the waves as I drift off to sleep and when I open my eyes in the morning. My view from my home includes waves below me, the blue sky above me and the horizon before me. As I go about my day’s chores the sound of the waves sooth and inspire me. So . . . We decided to get as close as we could to “THE DREAM” for a month to see if the reality measured up. First we discovered that even in Asia “THE DREAM” can be very expensive. *Aside* We noticed right away that we have Champaign taste on a beer budget even if we are not drinking either Champaign or beer. After an extensive search on Air B&B and Booking .com all along the coast of Phuket, we settled on three options: *Aside* OH MY GOSH! This is just like House Hunters International except we didn’t see them in person before we made our choice. Maybe we should have . . . Option number one: a luxury condo with a Jacuzzi that stretched the budget just a little too much at over $2000 a month. *Aside* I almost had Tom at Jacuzzi though. Option number two: a third floor walk-up apartment with a sea view. Though affordable it seemed somewhat drab. *Aside* Not too hot on that “walk-up” part either. Option number three: a semi open two bedroom beach house with a sea view, 65 feet from the shore. The owner says there are restaurants nearby, some accessible via foot and others via taxi. One month will cost $1633. *Aside*With that build-up, you know we booked number three, right? Our address is Soi Ao-Yon Khaokhad, Tambon Wichit, Chang Wat Phuket 83000 Thailand. We try to locate the address on the map and kind of succeed but can’t find any street views of the property. Then . . . Our first inkling that there might be a small problem came when the owner asked if he could arrange pick up from the airport for us. We said “No, we’re already in Phuket, we’ll just get a taxi from Patong Beach, after all we have the address.” Well, said Daragh (the owner) it’s a little hard to find since there are actually no numbers on the houses. Oh . . . Well then I guess you had better book transport for us. 800Baht - about $23.00. Not bad - it’s fine and then no struggle on our part to find the place the first time. We were picked up promptly as arranged and delivered to our house. But . . . No one was at the beach house to greet us or give us keys. Luckily the driver knew which house

was ours and helped us get our luggage down the walk and up onto the patio. *Aside* Usually with an Air B&B rental the host or owner (or someone) meets you, gives you keys, answers any questions you may have and generally gets you situated. In this instance we didn’t even know which house is ours and once that was figured out, there are no keys. Luckily we have Thailand Sim cards in our phones so we easily contacted Daragh via email and on Air B&B. As we wait for his reply, sticker shock starts to set in. The walk up to the house is kind of muddy and unappealing. We seated ourselves at the outdoor table in the outdoor kitchen. From the description and the pictures I didn’t realize the kitchen was outside. *Aside* I mean in the picture there’s a window in the kitchen. I equate windows with inside spaces. Silly me.

There is a nice sized refrigerator and a washing machine at the back of the house, but the comfy loungers that were also pictured are nowhere in sight. However . . . While we waited for Daragh to answer us, we noticed we can hear the waves from our patio. We can look out and see the blue water. We calmed and relaxed and weren’t so upset by the time Daragh responded, apologizing, to tell us where to find the keys. The housekeeper was supposed to meet us. Miscommunication. It’s okay. It’s all good. We can hear the waves . . . and at least the keys weren’t in someone’s pocket so now we can let ourselves into the house.

*Aside* On re-reading the reviews it seems that this may have happened before. Maybe Daragh should just tell his guests where to find the keys in advance? According to Daragh’s Air B&B profile he has lived in Thailand with his wife for 10 years. He owns the house we are staying in (“Sandy Toes”) and the house next door, closer to the beach (“Salty Kisses”). *Aside* I hoped to meet Daragh and get some information about how he came to choose and buy his properties and his experiences in Thailand, but it seems as though we will not be meeting him. Now . . . We took possession of our lodgings. We stowed our luggage indoors. *Aside* At least the bedrooms are inside and air conditioned although the bathroom is as ususal open to outside for ventilation. This was not unexpected.

Now it’s time for some lunch. There is a restaurant right in front of us: The Brasserie Yacht Club. But they are closed today.

We walked to the stand by the beach. Here you can get a massage, water, a fruity shake, rent a beach chair or a kayak, but no food.

We decide to head up to the main road to try The Bandara Beach Resort Hotel we passed on the

way to our street. We walk out turning to face the road that brought us to our beach house only to behold a steep (seemingly) vertical incline. We put our internal engines in low gear and put our heads down to trudge up and out. *Aside* I know . . . It doesn’t look that steep in the picture, but try walking it . . . when you’re really hungry. Thank goodness the second half of the road up leveled out a bit.

On our way to the hotel we found a lunch stand with super cheap Thai food, but we’d already made our buying decision for now. The hotel was good but not awesome: Chicken Green Curry for me and Pad Thai for Tom. For the price we probably won’t eat here again.

On our way out of the hotel we discover there is a shuttle that goes to Central Festival Mall on Mondays and Fridays where there is a big supermarket. We need to do a food run but priced a taxi at 1000Baht for a round trip (about $28). We can catch the shuttle (yes, even though we are not a guest at the hotel, says the manager) for 600Baht ($17) which makes it more affordable. It’s Tuesday. The shuttle goes on Friday. We’ll make our list and come back later to book the shuttle.

For our evening meal we head to the Book Store/Restaurant, the other direction from our beach house. We order Fresh Spring Rolls and a Prawn Salad to share. Both were amazing. *Aside* The spring rolls were so enticing I forgot to take a picture! We had Black Rice Pudding for dessert. We will definitely be back here again! We return to our house for a walk on the beach. Walking back toward the beach house we enjoy our first Ao-Yon sunset, albeit behind the hills.

After we mention to Daragh the absence of the loungers he arranged to have a couple dropped off to us with brand-spanky new cushions.

*Aside* The loungers are not brand-spanky new, but who cares. Now we can sit back and relax completely while we listen to the waves. I think I need a nap . . . . maybe a massage on the beach and then a nap.

Next day we ate late breakfast at the Book Store/Restaurant.

Then we ate early dinner at the stand we passed on the way to the hotel: Sweet and Sour Chicken with Rice for me and Pad Thai for Tom. Price tag? 230 Baht - about $6.60 for both meals with two bottles of water. It was delicious and I had leftovers! Who wants to cook when food this cheap and this good is available? *Aside* If you didn’t know the answer to that question is “NOT ME!” then you probably don’t really know “ME!”

But we do want some snacks and some basics because if it’s pouring rain we may not want to brave the hill that is our way up and out, so we book our seats on the shuttle. What? . . . We arrive slightly before 2:00 on Friday for the shuttle with our empty backpacks on our backs to carry our groceries home. The manager (to whom we spoke initially) said we were not actually allowed to use the shuttle since we are not guests of the hotel. It’s okay this time, but we can’t use it again. “It’s a service to the guests only.” *Aside* This is totally weird because I was completely clear that “No” we were not guests of the hotel. Also I want to point out it is a “service” they charge for and if there are spare seats on the shuttle why not sell those, but since they are going to let us go there is no point in arguing.

We have lunch at Central Festival at Zen Restaurant before attacking our shopping list. We each order our preferred version of Tempura and Sashimi: Tom ordered the Tempura Set with miso soup, rice, kimchee, and a tiny bowl of glazed salmon adding a bowl of sashimi tuna, salmon and yellowtail; I went “purist” with the Tempura without extras and a bowl of tuna and salmon. It was fabulous! So delicious.

Fully fortified we checked off our grocery list, rejoined the shuttle and walked the last stretch home. Our late lunch means we have some of the cookies we bought at Central Festival with some tea for me and coffee for Tom as an evening snack. No need for dinner!

So . . . As I write this I’m sitting I our open kitchen listening to the waves in the back ground, pausing occasionally to look up and out over the beautiful blue sea toward the little lighthouse on the horizon. If this is what the expat lifestyle beachside looks like, I think I can live it. At least for awhile. Maybe a month . . . What about you Tom? He says “Yes!” BTW: We do have a spare bedroom with bunk beds if anyone wants to join us. We’ll be here until February 23rd. We can arrange pickup for you from the airport so you can find us!!

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