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Why Not Become a Scuba Instructor….

Cruise Ship vs Dive Instructor

about 6 months ago, Monique, a good friend and dive instructor tossed a thought out to me, why not return to Koh Phangan Island, where I did my Divemaster, and become a dive instructor… Her husband, another good friend, was studying to be a course director and would be my instructor….

The conversation in my head went something like this:
Me – Cruise Ship hostess vs Scuba Dive Instructor…. mmmm
Rational Side – WTF you are 37, you have a good gig with the cruise ship, save and then settle at home with a real job!
ADHD Side – been there done that with the cruise ship, onto the next adventure
Rational Side – what are you thinking
ADHD Side – something new something exciting …. D I V I N G T H A I L A N D
Rational Side – well it is always good to have multiple skills, and the cruise ship is a good backup
ADHD Side – come on Rational you know what you want
Rational Side – ok the deal is we pretend to consider this for at least a month, don’t want people thinking we just jump into decisions at a moment’s notice! Also we work as a Divemaster first for a month or two before taking the Instructor Development Course (IDC) need to get your skills sharpened!
ADHD Side – Deal sold, we are off see the wizard the wonderful wizard of Thailand!!!

So there it was, I had convinced myself, at age 37, to fly to Thailand and pursue a dream I had never even let myself consider – To become a PADI Scuba Instructor
For months on the ship I dreamed of Koh Phangan and diving, it had been almost 2 years since any serious diving which made me nervous. My time there before was amazing doing my PADI divemaster, the food, the friends, the freedom of riding a motorbike/vespa and of course living in a tropical paradise.
WHAT AM I THINKING!!!!

Adventure is Out There

Finally end of contract arrived, my month and a half vacation at home ended, all packed and ready to go I set off on a jet plane. In the initial planning stages I had decided to visit my friend in Slovenia and then a couple of nights in Venice… of course this meant literally nearly flying all the way around the world just to get to Koh Phangan… but it was worth it. While in Slovenia I got a message from Neil, my soon to be amazing patient, very very patient instructor from Scuba Futures and Haad Yao Divers, informed that an IDC course would be starting on July 1st (about 5 days after my arrival). I think I nearly choked on my coffee. The email back and forth went something like this:

Me – but but but
Neil – you will do fine
Me – but but the math, the physics, the the the
Neil – you will be fine
Me – but I need to get my skills up to par I need time to remember the dive sites…
Neil – you will be fine
Me – BUT THE PHYSICS AND MATH!!!!
Neil – you will be fine, the theory can be taught, the diving will be remembered, being an instructor is about personality and, well, you have plenty of that…
Me – but will I really be fine??
Neil – yes you will be fine

Thank heavens Neil is supremely calm and patient because this course was going to be a mental and emotional roller coaster for me, with numerous giggle fits!

Island Welcome

The heat and humidity of Bangkok nearly took my breath away, I had forgotten what it was like. Of course I got the taxi that had no idea where the hostel was and then I left my favorite light jacket in the taxi and then discovered my room was on the 3rd floor and no elevator. Always a good start. But got myself sorted, lugged my bag upstairs, stood under a cold shower for about 20 minutes, found a sim card and texted Neil with my arrival. I took the 6am bus, which worked out perfectly because I couldn’t sleep and was awake by 4am, giving me time for another cold shower and final sorting then a long 8 hour bus trip and 2 hour ferry ride. The weather had been perfect and just as the ferry pulled into Koh Phangan the heavens opened and welcomed me back with a good solid drenching. Neil was their with his side car to pick me up, we briefly considered I take a taxi but finally said “screw it” I was wet already, the ride home just meant I didn’t need a shower anytime soon. We pulled up to my little bungalow and it felt like home almost immediately.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

We popped into the Crow Bar just down the road and said hi to a few old friends then Monique helped me stumble to a little place to grab some food. I took it home managed maybe 2 bites and passed out. What a welcome back!!! Tomorrow the studying would begin, bring on the physics!!!!

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Merchant of Venice… part 2

Exploring The Glass Island of Murano

We spent the morning getting lost in the allies of Venice trying to find our way to the vaporetto stop on the other side of San Marco square. Seemed easy enough but we kept hitting dead ends or canals with no bridges, all rather amusing…

Exploring and getting lost amongst the canals and tiny streets

Exploring and getting lost amongst the canals and tiny streets

Finally we made it to the vaporetto and then we were off, past cemetery island

Cemetery Island

Cemetery Island

And on to Murano famous for it’s glass:

Hello Murano Island

Hello Murano Island

Murano Glass

Murano Glass

exploring with new friends

exploring with new friends

There are beautiful works of Glass everywhere…

Even a giant glass star like ornament, with pigeons making themselves comfortable amongst the shards…

Visiting Old Friends

All too soon it was time for me to dash off as my first cruise ship, MSC Lirica, and favorite cruise director, Richard, was in port and I hoped to catch up with a few friends.

MSC Lirica

MSC Lirica

Unfortunately it happened to be the day the big bosses were onboard and so after waiting 2 hours I had to just send Richard greetings via message, hopefully next time. I did get to see a few friends I didn’t even know where there though, so that made up for it.
Erik from photo who worked with me on Fantasia

Emilie from excursions worked with me on Fantasia

View from Hostel Window

Ultimately the hostel I chose was in an even better location than I thought. Generator Hostel Venice is located across the canal from San Marco Square and also with a direct view of the main cruise ship canal to get into the city. So when I returned in the evening I looked out the window and there she was, my beloved first ship, MSC Lirica, sailing right past the window:

An Amusing Experience

The day before my exploration buddy, Tayllor, who I met in the hostel, and I headed to San Marco for adventure and in search of something to eat. Tayllor had heard good things about this cute little bar called Harry’s Bar. We weaved in and out the little streets following the GPS on her phone only to realise we had walked right past it, it was that small. Turning round we headed back until the GPS beeped, still a bit confused as to where it was or where the entrance was. Finally we found it and headed in, dinner wasn’t being served for an hour or so, so we decided to come back, it did look quite quaint…

(I did have the urge to ask to look at the menu, but pushed it aside)

Returning later (again had the urge to ask for the menu before being seated but pushed it aside, it couldn’t be that expensive) on we were shown to a tiny table squished up next to another family and handed menus. As the waiter handed us the menus he asked if we wanted a Bellini, the house special drink and famous in Venice. Sure we said….. then we opened the menu…

I honestly think my vision blurred, my breathing became rapid and shallow, I was light headed and possibly had a pain in my chest… but not a heart attack more like a price attack… The Bellini, which came in a small nondescript glass, was €23, and the cheapest thing for food was a €27 cheese sandwich!

Tayllor and I both looked at each other, quickly decided to say the hostel just called and there was a problem. The waiter had already opened a bottle of water (too afraid to even ask how much that was), we hurriedly made excuses and offered to pay for the water. This must be a common reaction as the waiter just waived us off. Tayllor nearly took the tablecloth with her as we made a mad dash for the door. Felt like we had just robbed a bank or something… too funny.

Turns out Harry’s Bar was a favorite of Hemmingway’s and their prices reflect it!

An Evening Treat

Keeping that in mind this evening I tentatively asked to see a menu at this fabulous little place near the hostel, on the island across the water from San Marco Square (apparently the square has some sort of inflation effect on prices). It was expensive but affordable and I thought “what the hell, you only live once”. Please note this attitude only works on AFFORDABLE prices.

The view made the €39 worth every penny!

A great day, a great evening and a great meal. The plan for the final morning.. wake up early and explore BEFORE the tourists arrive!

Venice Touristless

Waking up at 7am, I grabbed a quick breakfast at the hostel, moved my bags into the storage room and was on the Vaporreto before 8am. I walked around for an hour and saw maybe 20 people, the shops were closed so you could really enjoy the feel of Venice without the urge to buy. At 9am as I entered San Marco Square the bells rang and somewhere a gate must have opened because thousands of tourists arrived at the same time.

Tip: Definitely explore Venice in the early morning!!!

Here are a few of my favorite pics from a Fabulous city:

Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs

Masks

Masks

More Masks

More Masks

Goodnight Venice

Goodnight Venice

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2015 in Travel

 

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The Merchant of Venice….

All to soon it was time to say farewell to my incredible friend and go explore my next stop, Venice. Slovenia is a place I definitely hope to return someday.

Merchant of Venice

This was my very first Shakespeare we studied in school and ever since then I have been interested in Venice and the strange aura that seems to surround this unique old city, believed to date back to the year 421. Sited on a group of 118 islands in what was originally a marshy plain, the present day Venice is truly spectacular, and is one of the few places that definitely lives up to all the hype and expectations.

It was so amazing, I am just going to post some of my favorite photos:

Vaporetto's on the canal

Vaporetta’s on the canal

Stunning buildings

Stunning buildings

Gondolas

Gondolas

gates

gates

Artwork in arches

Artwork in arches

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.

.

.

More Gondolas

More Gondolas

Burger King Venetian Style

Burger King Venetian Style

Note Blue Sign - Gondolas only

Note Blue Sign – Gondolas only

Sun Setting over Venice

Sun Setting over Venice

All of this was on day 1!!!! Day 2 will include a trip to the famous Glass island, Murano and much more!

Some tips:
*When you arrive in Venice before you buy your first Vaporetto (the Venice version of a taxi) be sure to pick up a ticket that lasts for 2-5 days, depending on how long you are staying. Otherwise each time you take a vaporetto it costs 7 euros and only lasts for 1 hour.

*I stayed on the island opposite San Marco square, much cheaper and you get a great view (photos to follow).

*The first day we took the vaporetto that travels up the main canal, as good as any tour you pay for and you can do it as often as you like, all for the price of your vaporetto pass.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2015 in Travel

 

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Riding a Lipizzaner Horse

We had hoped and planned to go to Lipica and the home of the Lipizzaner horses, stunning large white horses (they are actually born black and turn white). But the weather was bad and we there on the wrong days to ride them.

However, it turned out that there was a horse rehabilitation center right by Kaja’s house, so we headed there and took a look around. I was allowed to sit on a horse as they took it round the paddock, unfortunately none of the horses are completely rideable due to past abuse and health concerns. But my beautiful mount was incredible, and it turned out to be a huge Lipizzaner, so I got to right one after all.

Here is a link to a wonderful article, written by Kaja, with some beautiful photos:

http://fotobozicek.si/2015/06/20/new-beginnings/

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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Castles, Caverns and Coastlines….. Oh My!

Castle in a Cavern

Of course go figure, I final trip was heading to the seaside and after spectacularly hot clear weather, it rained as we left the house… Murphy’s Law!

Slovenia is famous for castles and caves, you can even combine the two and visit Predjama Castle, which was built inside a cave, creating an awesome vision!
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It was built in the 13th century and moved into legend when it became the Seat of Knight Erazem Lueger in the 15th century. Erazem was a renowned robber baron, rumored to be a lot like Robin Hood. After killing the leader of the Imperial Army for offending the honor of his deceased friend, he was besieged in the castle for a year and a day. He could have held out longer except for the betrayal of servant. The only place that was impregnable was the outhouse, perched atop the castle and off to the side. At the appropriate time the servant signaled that he was… occupied…. and a single connon blast killed Erazem.

stunning castle!

stunning castle!

The caves near the castle are much more expensive and very touristy, but Predjama was perfect, so cool in fact that you didn’t even need to pay to go inside.

This is What Bilbo Felt Like

On the way to our next set of caves, Škocjan caves, the rain really started pounding down, and while turning a corner the windscreen wiper on the right side broke… we pulled over and I managed to dislodge it. Luckily Kaja’s side was clear, since she was driving.
wiper down, wiper down!!

Finally we made it to the caves and lined up for tickets. We must have waited close to 20minutes and were right at the window at 12pm, the time the next tour was starting. The guy asked us which tour we wanted and explained some things and right as we were about to pay it was like the clock in his head just tolled noon and he stopped looking at us or talking to us. All of the rest in the line were so confused. A few minutes later he looked at us as if we had just walked up to the window… we purchased tickets for the 1pm tour. At least that gave us time to eat a little snack!

The caves were phenomenal unfortunately no photos were allowed. It is a Unesco world heritage site and contains one of the worlds largest underground river systems. There was one area with an immense cavern and a lighted path that just seemed to disappear into nothingness, then a bridge to cross over a 45m / 147feet drop where I had the distinct urge to grab a stick and yell out:
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!!
(Lord of the Rings reference)

skocjan-cave
courtesty of http://www.tourismontheedge.com/

At the end we decided to grab the funicular to the top, of course it meant an immense climb first but thank the heavens for funiculars when we finally got to it. Loved every minute of this cavern adventure.

I Can See The Sea

Finally it was off to the ocean with the grey clouds following our progress. The plan had been for me to go diving the next morning, but it was looking decidedly dubious. We visited the dive center in Portoroz and then off to the tip and the town of Piran. Just beautiful, we were both knackered by this time, had been a long and eventful trip, so we just relaxed in the square and drank something. Finally we made it to the hostel in Izola and dumped our bags, the very top room with 4 flights of stairs and no elevator.

drink break.

drink break.

Panoramic of Piran

Dinner Fit for A Queen

For dinner we visited the home/restaurant of one of Kaja’s friends. He creates the most amazing dishes, all organic, all natural, and all very very unique. His home provides a unique setting up in the hills surrounding the coast and a chance to visit the garden filled with fresh herbs, fruit and honey bees.

It was 7 courses, all exquisite. Words can not begin to describe all the varieties he made. Here are a few of them…
Course 1 we shall have a cold dish of marinated zucchini over herb goat cheese with asparagus puree and herb pesto

Course 2 we shall have a cold taco style with celery root puree with marjoram and dried egg yolk shavings

This next one was amazing!!!!
Next we have a fermented ricotta with slow roasted tomatoes basil leaves and shavings of black summer truffle.

And finally baked apple with walnuts glazed in homemade honey

So if you find yourself wandering around the coastline of Slovenia, near Koper, thinking of good food, check out Domačija Butul

It’s A Small World After all

When he learnt I was moving to Thailand to do my scuba instructor course he said his friend who stayed there was also a scuba diver and worked in Thailand in winter, in summer he worked at his shop, Nemo Divers in Slovenia. We joked how funny it would be if he worked on the same island, Koh Phangan, that I was heading to.

When he arrived not only did he work on Koh Phangan during winter but he worked at Haad Yao Divers, the dive school I was going to be working with. Just crazy how small the world really is.
Boyan and me

Wind and Waves

Unfortunately in the morning the wind was too strong creating waves, so the dive had to be cancelled, oh well. We decided to wander around and just enjoy the seaside anyway. We opted to visit the local salt pans and do some birding. They were incredible and I got really excited when I spotted some herons and an oystercatcher. Bought a little bag of salt to take with me to the island, a little treat.

Salt Pans

Salt Pans

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Great Trip with a great friend

Great Trip with a great friend

A great trip even if the dive never happened.

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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Dipping into History and Looking at Planets

Štanjel

Starting off from Kaja’s, another heatwave, we set out nice and early to drive to her sister. The plan was to stop off at a surprise for me. Since we left so early we never had anything to eat, we planned to at our first stop.

Stunning does not begin to describe this little village we came to. Steeped in history Štanjel, this village was important during the iron age and was fortified in the 17th century against the ottomans. Spectacular views surround it and it has a massive population of around 340 people…

views galore

views galore

As we walked through the village we were stopped by 2 locals, one was selling woodcarvings. We looked but I had no space to take anything. The other gentleman asked if we wanted to try some wine, and or some prosciutto, both a local delicacy. All these discussions were done in Slovenia, so I politely smiled and waited for Kaja to translate. We said we would love to and he told us how to get to his house. What a lovely surprise it turned out to be, he was a true tour guide and he told us all about how his uncle had translated a famous Ukranian poets works into Slovenian, and he had a bust of both of them outside his door. He, personally, had had many important visitors to his house from the Ukraine and had even been given a medal for promoting peace between the countries. He showed us a gallery with some beautiful paintings and then up into his house where he grabbed some glasses and headed to the back and the store room for the wine and prosciutto.

wine and prosciutto.

wine and prosciutto.

He poured us each a glass of Teran, a local red wine known for it’s medicinal properties. Many years ago it used to be sold in single servings in the pharmacy as a cure against anemia. Let’s just say I was definitely NOT anemic by the time we left. He insisted on pouring me a second, Kaja got away with it since she was driving, and then refused to let us go until I had a third, Kaja finally agreed on a second. He also showed us his pride and joy, a Berkley ham slicer from 1946. He cut me a few slices of proscuitto, aged for 22mths, and only 0.2mm, 0.007inches thick. It was delicious. He told us that the other guy we had met had once bought some ham and asked to cut it on the machine, but when he arrived the ham was not good enough quality to be allowed on the slicer… he has his standards he said!
As we left he offered to pour us a bottle for 3 euros and pulled up a gallon plastic bottle filled with wine that he decanted into an empty wine bottle, it just kept getting better and better

We spent another hour or so walking around and visiting the gardens, so much history and so beautiful, and after 3 glasses of Teran wine and no food on a bloomin’ hot day… you can just imagine how I was beginning to feel.

beautiful flowers

beautiful flowers

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.

homemade jager

homemade jager

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Kaja in the gardens

Kaja in the gardens

an awesome sundial

an awesome sundial

Trust Honey, you leave payment and take honey

Trust Honey, you leave payment and take honey

Looking Through the Telescope

Due to wine intoxication and lack of food, I don’t really remember the drive to our lunch stop before heading the last bit to Kaja’s sister. We did stop and look at the highest stone bridge in Europe, the Solkan Bridge.
With an arch span of 85 metres (279 ft), it is the longest bridge in the world and the longest stone bridge among train bridges built of stone blocks. It holds the record as later construction technology used reinforced concrete to build bridges.[1] It was originally built in the time of the Secession, between 1900 and 1905, and officially opened in 1906. – Courtesy of Wikipedia
Solkan Bridge

Finally we made it Eva’s house and fell asleep after a long cold drink. Eva and her family live in this cool hippie house, with crazy colors and just feels like home, especially with Aslan the cat to greet you enthusiastically at the door.
Aslan

Then it was off to the observatory at sunset to go look at stars and planets. We saw Venus, then Jupiter with his moons and finally Saturn and his rings. Just amazing!!!
through the looking glass

Homeward Bound

In the morning we headed out nice and early and after 15 minutes of driving we turned around and headed back to pick up my boots I had very carefully placed at the door so I wouldn’t forget them… oops!

A fantastic weekend in Beautiful places and with incredible people, thanks so much to Eva and her fabulous family for sharing with us!!!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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Ljubljana.. Try Say That Fast 3x Over

Located almost in the middle of Slovenia and smack bang where all the trade route intercept, Ljubljana, (the “j” pronounced as an “i”), is the largest city in Slovenia and it’s capital. The symbol of the city is the Ljubljana Dragon shrouded in myth and legend.

The Dragon

The Dragon

As you walk into the center of the city you come across this amazing set of 3 bridges, aptly named Triple Bridge. These/This bridge connects the medieval town on one bank of the Ljubljana river to the modern city on the other side and is truly remarkable and quite beautiful.

Triple Bridge

Triple Bridge

Food Fair

The day we arrived was a food fair of sorts, where local chefs and restaurants come out and sell small tasters of what is on offer. Delicious is an understatement and only around €1 to €8. We wasted no time, me starting with dessert first, šmorn . A yummy pancake that is torn into pieces and then smothered in powdered sugar and preserves. I got berry mix on the right and apple on the left… sooooo yummy!!!

šmorn = yum yum!!

šmorn = yum yum!!

Then a couple of fried egg rolls, Kaja went for spring rolls (she is a little healthier than me). Her next dish was delicious spicy coconut red curry, cleared out the sinuses for sure, even on the sweltering hot day we were having. My main dish was a chicken tikka massala wrap from a local Indian stall.

I look down right Diabolical here

I look down right Diabolical here

We spent the next couple of hours idly wandering around and exploring. A bathroom break was a fantastic excuse for a local and very unique iceacream shop. I got something like lemon, strawberry, white chocolate with milk chocolate drizzle… yummy but not quite convinced…

delicious... I think

delicious… I think

Our True Mission In Ljubljana

Kaja and I both being avid cat lovers had already decided our real reason for coming to the city was to find the Cat Cafe – Ljubljana. And oh boy was it worth it, we must have taken 3 hours here alone, sipping our drinks very slowly and staring at the cats, which napped most of the time we were there, but did come out an socialize eventually.

Hooray, the Cat Cafe

Hooray, the Cat Cafe

Your Cat Menu

Your Cat Menu

The cats have a great walkway system throughout the cafe and outside
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The Diva

The Diva

The Maine Coon

The Maine Coon

Everyone’s favorite is… Chilli the Devon Rex

Chilli chillin' on the outdoor cat walk

Chilli chillin’ on the outdoor cat walk

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Then there is Jonas…. Jonas has a thing about bags…

From Cat Cafe Facebook site

From Cat Cafe Facebook site

And then he found my bag… and was infatuated with it…

Jonas vs my bag

Jonas vs my bag

Remembering I had my leftover Chicken Tikka Masala wrap inside I moved it out of the way and then popped into the loo to powder my nose, so to speak. I was gone maybe 4 minutes and when I came out EVERYONE turned to stare at me… us there toilet paper on my shoe?? There was Kaja holding my, now chewed on, chicken wrap and a very annoyed Jonas staring at her… lol guess when there is a will there is a way.

All in all a great day, a hot day, but a great day with the highlight being the Cat Cafe (Hrenova ulica 19, 1000 Ljubljana), which just happened to have aircon!

A few more pics from the day:

artwork

artwork

different kind of artwork

different kind of artwork

flowers

flowers

more flowers

more flowers

Slovenian sausage shop...

Slovenian sausage shop…

stunning church door

stunning church door

Beautiful!

Beautiful!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2015 in Slovenia, Travel

 

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