My first night Ricardo had organised for everyone to go to a Thai BBQ, I was very excited and he assured me no worries. Unfortunately when the message came through that it was dinner time it also turned out that no one was around to give me a ride, so I would have to take a taxi. I figured no problem and low cost maybe a couple of dollars. After wandering around the little town for a while I finally found a taxi and he said 300baht ($10) to go there. I thought that was crazy and I was very confused about where this place was, I didn’t know the island and assumed it was close by, also it only cost 150baht to come from Tong Sala, the port town.. Ricardo had also sent a text which included the words “139baht Baan Tai BBQ”. At first glance I thought he was telling me how much the taxi would cost.
Feeling rather jetlagged, emotional and down right confused as I realized that I didn’t know where I was in relation to my bungalow. Finally I just decided to go for it as I didn’t have any other option. It turned out that Baan tai was past the port town and so more expensive, add to that being the only passenger and after 8pm…
But eventually, crying it out on the way there in the back of the taxi, which is really a pickup with an open canopy type thing, I made it. It was great to meet everyone and figure out this new thing of Thai BBQ. Must admit think I prefer the Korean one. Thai BBQ is sort of mix between Swiss Fondue and Korean BBQ. You go and collect all the food you want, from a variety of veggies and meat (most of which I didn’t recognize). Then you sit round a hot pot with a dome in the center. You add things to the hot pot part to boil it and make a soup, then BBQ things on the hot dome.
Unfortunately you are sharing the hot pot with other people, which also means the “soup” has a variety of tastes that might not be appreciated by all involved. The BBQ dome was small and so meat kept sliding into the “soup” and had to be fished out continuously. Ultimately, they had delicious coconut icecream made on site. Definitely an interesting experience.
One of the guys who was finishing up his divemaster was able to give me a ride home, saving me the taxi fare. Home and cold shower and sleep.
The last time I had gone diving was in Borneo, the same time I met my instructor Ricardo. We decided to try a beach dive at a local area called Mae Haad (Mae Beach). We geared up and climbed aboard the dive truck.
On a beautiful sandy beach we got sorted and then headed in. I knew the water was going to be crazy warm, 28C/82F, so opted to dive in just my swimsuit. Sara, Ricardo’s girlfriend, joined us. She was working on her thesis with a local research group called CORE SEA, and was here for 3months or so.
The dive was fantastic with some amazing things to see, including my first ever seahorse. It took me a second to recognize the sign Ricardo was using but then figured the universal symbol for giddy up.
Courtesy of Instructor Ricardo
We also saw something straight out of the SciFi movies called a fireworm.
The bearded fireworm is a slow creature, and is not considered a threat to humans unless touched by a careless swimmer. The bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. This sensation lasts up to a few hours, but a painful tingling can continue to be felt around the area of contact. In a case of accidental contact, application and removal of adhesive tape will help remove the spines; applying alcohol to the area will also help alleviate the pain. Courtesy of Wikipedia
Courtesy of Instructor Ricardo
The visibility was pretty decent, but then for the most part, if I can see my buddy I think the vis is good. Diving on the West coast of the States is not the best for vis.
Getting It All Over On The First Dive
Normally I am pretty good with dives even after a long break inbetween, but this dive had almost everything basic go wrong that could go wrong.
– My mask fogged constantly
– My mask leaked constantly (realized it’s the mask I use when diving with a hood in cold water and that seals any leaks)
– I became positively bouyant all of a sudden and started floating to the surface (Ricardo managed to ground me)
– At the surface my tank slipped out of my BCD
– As Ricardo was fixing my tank I got the mother of all cramps in my left calf muscle….
Other than that it was a fantastic dive!
Initially when planning this whole idea, Ricardo had hoped to sort out an internship, aka slave labor, to lower my costs. 2 Australians had just finished this when I was arriving. Unfortunately, due to unforseen issues during their intership, management had decided to nix the entire idea. Which meant I had to pay for the course. Luckily having my own gear meant the price was lowered a bit. Total cost was 32 000 baht/$1066. I think thats doable for 3 mths of training and diving. Just means less partying, which is fine with me.
My First Motorbike/Scooter Lesson
Once all equipment was cleaned and sorted and payment was out of the way, Ricardo attempted my first bike lesson. Gem, our Thai dive instructor, rented bikes and had brought one over for me. A brand spanking new one, that looked very impressive. I sat on it and barely scraped the ground with my toes. In fact it felt like I was trying to ride a clydesdale horse as the seat was so wide.
A Side Note for those of you who know me, you know that a bicycle is not my strong point. I know the basics, can go, it’s just the start stop and balance (all fairly important aspects) that I am not so good with. I had a bike as a kid and at 16 I was still convinced that my folks had given me a bike without brakes. Then my mom told me they were back pedal brakes, obviously I wasn’t very coordinated as a kid. So now add a motor and see what my nerves do.
Ricardo explained, front wheel brake (don’t touch it), back wheel brake and accelerator. It was an automatic so at least I didn’t have to think about gears. I started it up and went a little forward. Then a little forward again. I really didn’t like this feet not connecting with ground part.
Finally, Ricardo said “come on try a longer run”. I revved the accelerator and promptly crashed into the grass. I popped up as everyone started running towards me. “I’m ok, is the bike ok, tell me the brand spanking new bike is ok”… Well that just shot the nerves. It was unanimously decided I needed a smaller bike. “With a basket please”. This statement lent to much eye rolling and all the boys going “Girls! They don’t care what its like as long as its pink or has a basket”.
Alex, the divemaster candidate who had given me a ride from the BBQ was all too happy to trade out his purple bike with basket for the brand new manly hulk of a machine.
Left Lucy Liu, my purple wheels, at the shop and walked home, for a nice quiet evening.