Thursday, September 9, 2010

Permission Granted!

September in Thailand is a very important time for me. It's the month I go to Immigration to renew my Non Immigrant-O (Retirement) Visa.

This Visa allows me to stay in in the Kingdom of Thailand year round without having to exit the country. The requirements for obtaining a Retirement Visa are pretty straight forward.

Today, I submited my paperwork and have been granted permission to reside in Thailand until Dec 2011.

I've been in Thailand since June 2006 and couldn't imagine living anywhere else.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A GREAT Time to Visit Thailand

Despite what you may have heard in the news, now is a great time to visit Thailand.

It is low season (May - Sep) and hotel rates are inexpensive. You can find great rooms for as low as 500 Baht a night ($16 USD)in resort areas such as Jomtien Beach & Pattaya.

Many airlines are offering lower fares to encourage the return of tourists.

Additionally, the Government has exempted all fees for Tourist Visas until March 31, 2011.

The eastern seaboard of Thailand was never affected by the political unrest that befell Bangkok.

So book a flight and enjoy amazing Thailand!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dave Carroll is my Hero!

Having been a travelling musician for the better part of 30 years I've seen my fair share of abuse levied on my Banjo by uncaring airline employees.

I try to hand carry my Banjo whenever possible but that is sole at the whim of what ever airline employee is standing in front of me at the time. No rhyme or reason...

A couple years ago folk musician Dave Carroll had his guitar destroyed by United Airlines. After going through the standard claim procedures (and being denied) he decided to do what musicians do best...sing!

And sing he did. On Youtube. To over 8 MILLION HITS!!!



Dave YOU are my hero!!

Happy Birthday Vince Eager

June 4th will be my good friend Vince Eager's 70th birthday.

Vince was a pioneer of 50's Pop / Rock in the UK along with Billy Fury, Marty Wilde, Adam Faith etc.


I wrote an extensive blog about him in Feb 2009 here

Vince does a monthly radio show in England and tonight (June 3rd) he will be doing a very special show. Here's his note to me about it.

I've decided on a little self indulgence on my radio show this week which is on Thursday 3rd June. As it's my 70th birthday on Friday I'm gonna play the sound track to my life, well, the highlights! Hope you can join me at 9.00pm (UK time) on http://mixstream.net/stream/652/listen.ram.


I will be up at 3am Thailand time to catch it for sure. If you can't get it, here are a couple vintage Vince tracks from Youtube..






Wishing you a VERY Happy Birthday my friend!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Troubling Times in Thailand

For those of you who follow International News, undoubtedly you are aware of the ongoing political problems besetting the Kingdom of Thailand.

As a long term resident, I am saddened by the events but I must say I am not especially worried about my own personal safety. Not yet, at least.

The confrontations (so far) have been limited to Bangkok and to a lesser extent Chiang Mai.

Here is Pattaya, life goes on pretty much as normal.

There are decidedly fewer tourists in town than usual but otherwise you'd never know there was a problem (unless you watch the news).

My hope is that cooler heads will prevail and Thailand will again become the welcoming travel destination it has been for many years.

In the meantime, I go about my daily life and I'm thankful to wake up every morning in the land of smiles.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Downloading My Second Childhood

As my 56th Birthday rapidly approaches, I find myself drifting back to memories of my my youth. Having been born in 1954, I am of a generation who doesn't remember a time when there wasn't Television.

Today, with 500 channels of News, Entertainment, Music , Sports and Information at my fingertips, I find myself longing for a simpler time when there was only three choices and the world was (almost always) in Black & While.

Fortunately, the Internet can help me relive my youth.

http://www.archive.org/browse.php?field=subject&mediatype=movies&collection=classic_tv


By clicking on the above link, you'll be taken to Archive.Org, a video repository of Classic TV that is now in the public Domain. You'll find Ozzie & Harriet, Richard Diamond, My Little Margie, Our Miss Brooks, The Lucy Show, Roy Rogers, Pinky Lee, Bonanza,Howdy Doody, Life Of Riley, I Married Joan, Space Patrol, Studio One, Thriller, This Is Your Life, Medic, Dragnet and the list goes on and on...

You can watch them online or download them to your computer for later viewing.


But, because Man cannot live by TV alone, there is also a Feature Film Vault as well containing 100's of films. I especially enjoy the Sci-Fi from the 1950's that were a staple of my youth. Sure, they were low budget and quite often corny but who could resist The Giant Gila Monster, The Brain From Planet Arous or Earth Vs Flying Saucers!


http://www.archive.org/browse.php?field=subject&mediatype=movies&collection=feature_films

So far I have about 100 Gig of Old TV & Movies. Using 512K MPEG4, That's about 500 Hours of viewing!

For the story behind the story, I heartily recommend the blog, Masters of My Public Domain written by my brother Mike Coston.

Now excuse me but Annie Oakley is coming on....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seven Days In March

Once again, Thailand holds it's breath as political divisions brings the country to the brink.

The "Red Shirts" have vowed a million man march in Bangkok starting this weekend to bring down the current government in 7 days.

Police have been mobilized and the ISA (Internal Security Act) has been invoked to give special powers to the government in times of crisis.

Many foreign governments have issued travel warnings to their citizens to avoid areas where demonstrations are likely.

So far, there are no outward signs of government preparation in my area (Jomtien Beach) and life goes on as normal.

As a foreigner living in Thailand, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on which side should prevail. That is a decision for Thais only.

As an American, I wouldn't want someone from Thailand (or any other country) telling me how America should run their government either!

Regardless of how this turns out, my prayers are with Thailand. I truly love this country and it's people and regard Thailand as my home.

Let's hope cooler heads prevail and Thailand returns to being "the Land Of Smiles"

A Lightweight Road Warrior solution

Yesterday, I went out and bought a new Samsung N150 Netbook. At only 11,500 baht (approx $350), it was the cheapest portable computer I could find.

My computing needs are twofold. At home, I need the power and fexibilty a desktop computer supplies.

On the road, I need mainly email ability and basic computer functions in a small, lightweight footprint. Of course, it’s nice to be able to listen to music, watch movies and play a few games too.

For a road machine, the Samsung fit’s the bill for me. My travel requires constant internet access with my agents, extended battery life for trans-national flights and a machine that is light on the shoulder.

An ample 220 gig HD, I gig of ram onboard, built in webcam, Wifi & bluetooth enabled, screen resolution of up to 1152x864 , Windows 7 installed, an eight hour + battery life and all under 3lbs in weight!

It has three USB ports, video out, mic input, audio output , Wired LAN port, and a multi-card slot and utilizes the Atom Intel processor.

Sure, the keyboard is a little cramped and it’s not the speediest machine on the market but it certainly does the job.

Flying the Friendly Skies of Vietnam Airlines

I flew back to Bangkok from Saigon last Friday.

It was my first flight on Vietnam Airlines and I must say I was quite impressed!

First off all, the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is clean, modern and easily traversed. From Check-in to immigration to my Gate took less than 15 minutes.

Boarding the plane, it was obviously fairly new and had been pre-cooled before boarding

The flight from Saigon to Bangkok clocks in at about 1 hour & 5 minutes. Basically, once you are at altitude, you start your descent.

With such a short flight time, I expected only minimal service.

WRONG!!

First, pillow & blankets were distributed to those who requested them (no charge, unlike in the USA). Then, as soon as we cleared 10,000 feet, food carts emerged and everyone was served a hot meal (braised beef, rice, veggies and a fruit plate). Wine & Beer was offered (free) with the service and as we descended hot coffee & tea was offered.

All this in economy on a short hop flight!

Somehow, I don’t see this kind of service ever returning to the western carriers.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A GREAT Cruise for me!!

I'll be flying to Singapore later this week to do an 8 day cruise contract sailing to Ho Chi Mihn City. It's a last minute booking and I'm thankful for the work.

Just got my Cruise Itinerary and had to laugh!

2/25/2010 Fly To Singapore and join ship
2/26/2010 Day at sea
2/27/2010 Koh Samui (Thailand) 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
2/28/2010 Bangkok (Laem Chebang) Arrive 10:00 AM
3/1/2010 Bangkok (Laem Chebang) Overnight
3/2/2010 Bangkok (Laem Chebang) Depart 6:00 PM
3/3/2010 Koh Samui (Thailand) 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM
3/4/2010 Day At Sea
3/5/2010 Ho Chi Minh City Arrive & Fly to Bangkok Arrive 6:10 PM

I fly to Singapore and have one day at sea followed by 5 days in Thailand (2 days in Koh Samui and 3 days in Laem Chebang - the port is 20 minutes from my house so I can actually go home!)! One final day at sea and then I fly home!

Of course this all depends on what happens following the Supreme Court decision on Friday! If things go haywire, they may have to change the itinerary for passenger safety. I sincerely hope things stay calm.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Trying Times in Thailand

If you are an Ex-Pat living in Thailand, or the friend or relative of one, you may have read some alarming headlines lately regarding the ongoing turmoil in the Land of Smiles.

Foreign operators urged to switch tour groups to non-Bangkok destinations.

Thailand braces for explosive verdict.

Iraq, India And Colombia Top Maplecroft Terrorism List - Thailand Emerges As Extreme Risk Nation.


On February 26th, the Supreme Court of Thailand will render judgement on the currently frozen 2.2 billion USD bank accounts of ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin supporters (known as Red Shirts), have have vowed to demonstrate after the verdict (widely expected to go against them).

Embassies have issued travel warnings and the government has deployed thousands of troops and assigned guards to Supreme Court judges due to fears of a violent backlash if the tycoon's funds are seized on Friday.

The Thai government has announced it will cede control of security to the army and even declare an emergency if necessary, but says it hopes to control the situation.

So, we wait....

No one knows for sure how the court will rule ..or how the affected parties will react.

On a personal level, I feel no direct concern for my safety. I will take the usual precautions one should during a contentious time in any country. I will avoid crowds (especially in the "hot spots" around Bangkok), I will make sure I have plenty of food, water, batteries, cash etc at home in the event some businesses close and I'll keep a close eye on the local Thai media for any signs of escalation.

Other than that, it's life as usual here in Jomtien Beach.

Unfortunately, Thailand is now in the top 10 of the Maplecroft Terrorism List (#9). The index measures not only the risks of an attack, but also the chances of mass casualties occurring.

The top listing is as follows...

Iraq (1) Afghanistan (2) Pakistan (3) Somalia (4)Lebanon (5) India (6) Algeria (7) Colombia (8) and Thailand (9).

The figures however, here are a little misleading. The majority of the unrest in Thailand occurs in the very southern region (hundreds of miles away from BKK) along the border with Malaysia and doesn't affect the the tourist destinations of Bangkok, Chiang Mai & Pattaya at all.

I've spent considerable time in India (5) and Columbia (8) and believe me, I feel 1000 times safer in Thailand than I ever did there and even safer than in the United States (46).

Thailand is a beautiful, welcoming country that deserves a much better reputation than it currently holds. This current crisis will pass, and hopefully without incident.

Thailand has been my home since 2006 and I have no desire to live anywhere else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Saint's Go Marchin In!



It was a thing of beauty..

SAINTS WIN SUPERBOWL

Initial reports it may have been the most watched Television program in American history. I watched here in Thailand at 6:30 am with friends.

Even up by 14 points and less than two minutes to play, I held my breath until it was over.


Like all New Orleanians (OK, I only lived there 21 years so it's honorary at best), I shed tears of joy for the city that has waited 42 years for this moment.

Especially after Hurricane Katrina.

I still remember my first return to the city following the disaster. Katrina struck August 29th, 2005 and we were first allowed back into the city (dusk curfew still in effect) on October 19th.



Driving into the city, the first thing you really see that feels like "home" was the Superdome. Of course, just six weeks earlier it had been the refuge of last resort for thousands of people trapped by the storm.

As you drove past it, you could see the ravages inflicted on the building by the storm and it's aftermath.

Those scars are now beginning to heal.....

Bless You Boys!!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

To a Long, Long Life....

As you get older one tends to get interested in longevity. There's an Interesting website that tracks whether famous people are still alive or whether they have passed away called DEAD OR ALIVE.

Although it is always sad to see who has passed, to me more interesting is who is still among us. I'm pleased to say a couple of those on this list are friends of mine.

Dolores Hope - 100
Luise Rainer - 100
Gloria Stuart - 99
Mitch Miller - 98
Art Linkletter - 97
Tony Martin - 96
Kevin McCarthy - 95
Irwin Corey - 95
Jack LaLanne - 95
Norman Lloyd - 95
Norman Wisdom 95
Harry Morgan - 94
Frank Cady - 94
Eli Wallach - 94
Barbara Billingsley - 94
Olivia de Havilland - 93
June Havoc - 93
Sherwood Schwartz - 93
Ernest Borgnine - 93
Kirk Douglas - 92
Zsa Zsa Gabor - 92
Vera Lynn - 92
Celeste Holm - 92
George Gaynes - 92
Phyllis Diller - 92
Herbert Lom - 92
June Foray - 92
Joan Fontaine - 92
John Forsythe - 92
Don Pardo - 91
Marjorie Lord - 91
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. - 91
Betty Garrett - 90
Louis Jourdan - 90
Al Molinaro - 90
Dino De Laurentiis - 90
Sid Melton - 89
Maureen O'Hara - 89
Mickey Rooney - 89
Jayne Meadows - 89
Nanette Fabray - 89
Noel Neill - 89
Carol Channing - 89
Hugh Downs - 88
Abe Vigoda - 88
Barbara Hale - 88
Jane Russell - 88
Nancy Reagan - 88
Esther Williams - 88
Monty Hall - 88
Deanna Durbin - 88
Betty White - 88
Patrick Macnee - 87
Kathryn Grayson - 87
Carl Reiner - 87
Marty Allen - 87
Turhan Bey - 87
Michael Ansara - 87
Jack Klugman - 87
Bill Macy - 87
Eleanor Parker - 87
William Schallert - 87
Blake Edwards - 87
Norman Lear - 87
Sid Caesar - 87
Jackie Cooper - 87
Janis Paige - 87
Fyvush Finkel - 87
Larry Storch - 87
Jean Stapleton - 87
Conrad Bain - 87