I got the flights, hotel and everything sorted myself on the internet, it wasn’t overly difficult now I had an idea of what I was doing. In fact, the two legs of the journey were booked at the same time using Thai Airways.  Booking to Khon Kaen has subsequently become difficult again because recently Thai Air have dropped the domestic leg in favour of Thai Smile airline; a separate entity although for a while part of Thai Air.  Confused?  So am I.

The complications of this trip involved what we wanted to do, including:

A lot of things had gone on in the 3 months January to March.  I’d had to forward a lot of paperwork to Graham so we could apply for a visa for Tad to come to England. Because of the restrictions we were applying for a visitor visa, the easiest to get.

In England I’d discovered two local couples both of whom were way ahead on the visa application journey; unknown to me one of the ladies was from Khon Kaen and knew Tad and the family for many years.  We had arranged to meet up for the April celebrations “songkran” water festival in Khon Kaen.

I was trying to put things in place for when/if Tad made it the the UK and familiar people with whom she could talk was one of them.                     BELOW: LONDON


ABOVE: The domestic plane to Khon Kaen and the gate B5 in Bangkok

BELOW: All Seasons Hotel, literally just around the corner from the family home

So, after arriving and getting the first hire car from the airport and settling in to this hotel, which I booked via “BOOKING.COM” website.  It was a good job I did, as you will discover later.  I’d asked Tad to pop in and make sure we had a ground floor room because there was no lift. It was a fairly recent build too, so this glaring omission was strange but nothing too shocking.  E ven the front area was fraught with steps, 3 then a gap then one more.  A night mare when you return drunk!  

Later we went to the family house and chilled out.

I had arranged for mobile wifi this time around. I’d got an all-inclusive package with TEP mobile devices and for 200 for a month of unlimited use, it was a lot cheaper than roaming.  I’m with 02 and I got stung during the December visit, and it cost me 200 for a few days use of my phone Internet.

Using a dongle meant I could use my tablet and phone with no worrying about the bill.

The next evening we went to the local temple where there was also a display for the upcoming Songkran celebrations.

During the evening the family went to one of my two favourite restaurants and had a great meal.

If it’s not obvious, the Thai culture experience is fairly straightforward and easy to understand: If in doubt about the bill then you pay it - but you pay in any case especially if you are a foreigner and a guest.

We then went to the local evening market and had a wander round the various stalls and displays.

ABOVE: lighting the incense sticks and candles for the offering.

RIGHT: placing the garland offering

ABOVE: the display in light for Songkran

RIGHT: walking to the Temple shop to buy incense and candles

This trip I did take my walker however it mostly stayed in the hotel room and I walked mostly using my stick

The evening was finished with a snack and a drink.  The next day Tad, me, Wiyada, and Angee with the 3 children headed to the central plaza mall.  A very interesting display of dinosaurs were on show and some of them were animated.  I don't recall why we went but food was probably on the itinerary!

Our next task was to go to Bangkok to do the visa application. Luckily, the appointment was exactly when we wanted it, but as it was early AM we had to go down the night before and stay over.  Again the planning was done mostly before I arrived although there was nearly a ruckus with Graham who took umbrance when I said about the limited time opportunities available for us to go due to the schedule.  Anyway suffice to say he got the appointment for when I wanted.  At the last minute everyone suggested “not driving” due to the chaos of Songkran on the roads.  It was a good 8-10 hours driving there and the same back. Weighing up the options I decided to book the airfare deal and off we went.

It was interesting because we went from Khon Kaen to the other Bangkok airport, which used to be the main one until they got uppity about expansion and went and built a whole new airport so bypassing them altogether.  It was like Luton compared to Heathrow, dealing with the shorter, more domestic trips.

We got a taxi to the hotel although the driver clearly found it hard to navigate Bangkok streets - I’m sure we went a long route!

It was hammering down!  I had chosen a hotel near to the British Embassy in my confusion about where we needed to go; in fact the visa centre was not nearby and we’d need a taxi to get there!

The hotel reception were quite good and spoke English, ordering the taxi for me. We went towards the building (on the map a short distance) and it was a long journey some how but as we approached the rain came down.  In a moment the roads were 3 foot deep and almost impassible.  The taxi dropped us at an alternative building because he wouldn’t go any further.  Tad had to try and flag another to go the short distance to the real building.  Eventually, we arrived!

I am going to outline very briefly what happened. I don’t have photos because it was a rule that no photographic equipment was allowed so I didn’t take my camera.

Tad checked in and was directed to the lifts to go to the 23rd floor… I was unceremoniously told to go sit in the waiting area (after they saw my stick) because there wasn’t enough room up there.  Yet, we were told by Graham both of us could go in to the application interview.  We were warned about how they do things to make your application fail, such as this separation tactic.

I left it a few minutes and went up (snuck up). There was plenty of space. I suggested to the guard that I should go in with my wife who had popped out to do some photocopying. Luckily I’d given her some money before she went in. I was ordered to go sit and wait.  I did feel very angry as I watched several couples come up and go in together!

Anyway, after a while she came out. Graham had warned us also that the visa people could phone Tad and start asking questions such as:

Where are you going in England and what is the town? Who are (names of) your husbands parents?  How long are you staying? What family members will you meet?

REMEMBER THIS IS A TOURIST VISA: IF she said she was visiting me and my family to get to know us all for the entire period of a visa (e.g. 6 months) it would likely fail. So she had to tell them 10-14 days for a holiday, but also remember to say it on the phone.

NOTE:  We think they phoned on the Thursday (2 days after applying) but unfortunately it cut out when she answered the call.  They never rang back or left a message.  We immediately wrote a list of answers, just in case.

MOTHER’S NAME, FATHER’S NAME, OTHER FAMILY NAMES, TOWN, HOW FAR FROM LONDON, NAME OF THE STREET, HOUSE LAYOUT etc.   The nephew translated this into Thai and English for her to keep in her handbag.

THURSDAY 9th - the stag and hen party was held jointly at the nightclub. Wow, what a night!  Watch this brief photo montage of the evening!

SATURDAY 11th was an early start with a visit for Tad’s hair and makeup at the wedding centre.  We had ordered a full package (it was 16,000 baht) for the pre-wedding photo shoot and clothes hire plus hair and makeup for the day itself.  My wedding outfit was semi-traditional off the peg, lucky to fit, clothes!

At around 7am we were visited by 5 monks who did the first part of the ceremony in the house.  Our task was to fill their canteens and then provide them with a feast. One of the monks spoke English and asked me “why did I want to marry her?”

After that, around 11am, the Mayor / legal marriage agent, did the second part of the ceremony, which followed a procession up the road - supposedly my family and friends behind me but in that respect I had Graham and Mee, with everyone else including neighbours.

Again, a feast followed for the guests.  It died down about 1pm, when people dispersed until the evening started.   The road was shut off and a small stage was built but they did not like the look so it was replaced by a huge stage.  The entertainment was always karaoke first (a big thing in Thailand) and disco second. I also discovered they had laid on caterers for a “Asian” spread of food for the 200 plus guests, who started arriving at 6pm.

The 12th was TAD’s birthday so even more celebrating went on despite a full day yesterday!

First off, we went to the grave of a brother who had died young.  The parents tidied up the grave area then we all laid incense sticks and had a moment of quiet together.

Then we went to the local temple, the very large one near the lake.

We’d been here many times before and the place is very lovely. It’s spire is visible from all over the area, each part of the spire being a floor that is accessed by a narrowing spiral stair case.

The wishes we gave were for good and health and happiness.

The next event on our calendar was the trip down to Chantaburi. After a lot of searching I had selected this beach resort because it was fairly close, but off the tourist trap (as per phuket or pattaya which did not really do it for me).  I’d sorted the air travel, a second hire car and accommodation for myself, Tad and the nephew named Dew. He was the son of Tad’s younger brother, Nat.

So, off we went to the airport - going down 1 hour to the alternative Bangkok airport of Don Meung. It had a familiarity to it, of late. From there we picked up the hire car (same company and same car make and model, just a bit of a dog in the performance department).  

Using the TOMTOM map of Thailand, I successfully navigated my way through Bangkok down to the site, some 5-6 hours drive.  It was partly dual carriageway, until very close to the beach town when the single road slowed us down.

The room turned out to be extremely small with the bathroom poorly designed to be down 4 steep steps at the back.  The bed was on the floor, and I’d ordered a put-you-up bed for the boy, which literally was a small padded duvet and blanket next to the bed.

It did not impress, so we planned to go the reception the next day to see about changing location. The ones nearer to the beach (still a walk away) were nicer and appeared more what we had envisioned.

Anyway, that was the worse night of my life; I think the food we had on the journey down at a service station, was off.  I had sickness, diarrhoea, and spent the majority of the night going in and out the bathroom toilet sometimes not making it back to the bed before going again.

Me, sick as a dog… didn’t get much sleep and spent most of it in the bathroom with the mosquitoes!

Had the worst of it subside by morning, but went to the pharmacy anyway and got some medicine for the symptoms and to prevent further episodes!

So, next day we went and asked to move.  They were okay about it, and we ended up in a very nice chalet just opposite the reception area.  During the days we were there, we tried a variety of the restaurants and cafes along the main road.  It was apparent by the absence, this was not a foreigner tourist area, as we saw very few. It was a place for Thais, although to be fair mostly the hotels were closed; being an off peak season.  I expected this would be thriving in the summer season.

Our main day trip was to the water park aquarium about 1 hour drive away. Again, Tom Tom became invaluable, guiding us there with very few problems.

The pricing was interesting - Adult Thai,  Child Thai, and  me (foreigner) all different costs and blatant in your face ripping off the tourist!

The main part of the visit was the dolphin show.   The best part of the show was the lady commentator whose mix of Thai and English was great, but it was the comic observation that made it hilarious…

From our chalet it was a fair old walk and crossed a mini-lake on a rickety wooden bridge and a small park next to the closed hotel and bar. The beach was just beyond this place,  deserted except for us.

There we spent most afternoons - walking up the beach for a spot of lunch and a drink.  But mostly, just resting under a tree and going into the water whose temperature was that of bath water!

The aquarium and water park was packed with people watching the show.  It was a fair old drive, especially when you take a scenic route!

My last few days were spent doing the last few things, such as one more trip to the zoo and waterpark for the children to swim.

One last temple, on the main road which we often passed but never stopped. The unique feature were the elephant theme, with every size elephant adorning every spare space.

Unique and very interesting!

As a gift I’d purchased the trampoline from the superstore, but haggled them for an extra 90 baht discount.  The Thai’s don’t often do this, but I don’t accept the first price even if it is “discounted” in a sale…

And for the parents a new washing machine, seeing as they did all my washing in an old dilapidated thing, that made strange noises.

With a lot of luck the visa came through for us, a few days before I left.

We had to scrabble around trying to find a flight for Tad.  It was a long shot, but surprisingly the travel agent got the exact same flight and the seat next to me for both legs.

I was thankful for this because the visa date was backdated so we had already lost 2-3 weeks of the 6 months.  I knew that Tad was worried about the customs and passport control in the UK, but luckily she came through with me and there were no problems.

The guy tried to ask her how long she was staying, despite it saying on the immigration form, and I had to intervene telling him she didn’t understand much english!

And there we were, 16 hours or so later, in the UK together after an eventful month.

BELOW: Tad in Manchester United football club ground, one of our many trips around the UK