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Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Cruising We Shall Go…

Today is March 19th, 2013 and I am waiting to leave for Italy to start a 7month contract on the cruise ship MSC Lirica. Don’t worry it is not the cruise line Costa or Carnival, however there is a good chance the captain will be Italian.

The route does 11 day cruises from Genoa, Italy via Rome to Athens, Greece, on to the Ukraine, Turkey and back to Genoa. It changes course in June and misses the Ukraine returning to Turkey and adding Cyprus and Israel.

I will try my best to blog when I can but internet is not very reliable on the ship and rather expensive. But I hope you will be patient and enjoy the posts when I can.

As some of you know I initially applied because of a boy, but he broke my heart and instead of giving up, I figured I would continue the adventure on my own!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Island Life in Photos

Before I start with photos of Island Life I wish to expand on my final dives. I forgot to mention a very important piece of equipment that I grew to love and also provided many giggles for guests and fellow divers alike.
MY SOCKS!! On my first dive since I was wearing closed heel fins, my instructor suggested I wear a pair of socks to prevent chaffing on my ankles. The first pair I grabbed just happened to be Christmas socks, and I ended up wearing them through over 50 dives. They served me well.
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Island Life Pics

Here are some photos of day to day life on Koh Phangan Island. They are in no particular order, hope you enjoy a glimpse of what it was like.

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Thai Fishing Boat in Chaloklum Bay

Thai Fishing Boat in Chaloklum Bay

Full Moon as Seen From my Hammock

Full Moon as Seen From my Hammock

Creative Coconut Palm

Creative Coconut Palm

Sunset Near my Bungalow

Sunset Near my Bungalow

Boat near Thong Sala Beach

Boat near Thong Sala Beach

Local fishing at Chaloklum Beach

Local fishing at Chaloklum Beach

Crab!

Crab!

My breakfast spot on non diving days

My breakfast spot on non diving days

Lotus Dive Center Kitties

Lotus Dive Center Kitties

Island Life is Tough!!!

Island Life is Tough!!!

Our little kitties almost all grown up!

Our little kitties almost all grown up!

Lotus Dive Center

Lotus Dive Center

Chaloklum Hyena dog (1)
I nicknamed this local stray, Hyena Dog, due to his scraggly looks and general mannerisms. He was known to be quite the contortionist when wanting to get into something, he was a constant threat when driving as he refused to give way…and yet I kind of admired his spirit.

You can understand my fear of falling coconuts!!

You can understand my fear of falling coconuts!!

One of the roads after heavy rain

One of the roads after heavy rain

Sunset over Koh Mah beach from viewpoint

Sunset over Koh Mah beach from viewpoint

Keeping a look out

Keeping a look out

Glorious Icecream Selection
I discovered too late the amazing Icecream place near the main town of Thong Sala. All icecream is made from natural ingredients and it tastes divine!! There were so many choices you don’t know where to begin.

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Roots

Roots

Elephant feed delivery

Elephant feed delivery

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On the way to the gas station just out of town I had to pass the Phangan Safari and see the elephants every day. A highlight every time.

Great spot to learn archery and have a beer...

Great spot to learn archery and have a beer…

The owners and cooks of my favorite dinner spot

The owners and cooks of my favorite dinner spot

Good friends who came to say farewell, will miss them and can't wait to see them again.

Good friends who came to say farewell, will miss them and can’t wait to see them again.

Panorama from the pier

Panorama from the pier

And Finally my favorite kitty from the dive shop, Momma Cat!
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A Big Thank You

A big thank you to everyone I met on the island, to my Instructor Ricardo, to the staff at the dive shop, John, Marc, Gem, Andy, to their better halves, Thong, Linda and Steffi. To Monique and Neil and the rest of the Sail Rock crew, great fun was had by all.

See you all again in January 2014!!!

 
 

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Island Life… visa runs and final scuba days

Koh Samui Visa Run

Thailand visas are not as easy to get as other countries. Most places I have visited give you a 90 day visa upon entry. Thailand, however will only give you 30 days, unless you apply for a 60 day tourist visa at an embassy out of the country. I had got mine in Seoul, Korea, originally applying for a 90 day education visa. Unfortunately, the letter from the dive school was from my email and it needed to be an original, so I got a 60 day one instead. This meant that I would be 10 days overdue when I flew out, the fine is around 500 baht a day. In comparison I could spend about 2000 baht to get a 1 month extension at the immigration office one island away on Koh Samui. Or take the overnight bus to the border of Malaysia and get a 15 day extension with a possibility of a month. Both cost about the same, but Koh Samui took about half the time.

Taking the 7am ferry meant I was awake before 6am on the road. It was barely light and I arrived to fill up just as the gas station opened. There was little hassle getting on the ferry and it turned out I met 2 of my French neighbors also going for a visa extension.

Early Morning Ferry Ride

Early Morning Ferry Ride

A bunch of us shared a taxi and joined the large group already waiting at the office, which hadn’t even opened yet.
Koh Samui visa run (5)

As soon as the doors barely cracked and the forms were handed out a mad rush ensued. Everyone desperately trying to fill out the forms and give the cash and hand it in hoping they would be done before the last ferry. The estimated pick up time was 20min after the ferry left… this did not look good. Luckily one of the ladies told me to come back in an hour and see if things were ready.
Koh Samui visa run (4)

I popped over to a cafe and ordered some breakfast, another visa runner asked to join me and we ended up chatting about her yoga training and how we both got here. Then we explored the area a little and finally returned. We were in luck and our passports had just been put in the pile. Woohoo! Then it was a mad dash to return to the port as the ferry was due to leave in 30min.

All in all another crazy travel experience. Something I will get lots of practice with when I return.

I am not sure what this means, but I know where to go if I am ever involved in transitional crime...

I am not sure what this means, but I know where to go if I am ever involved in transitional crime…

Final Days of Diving

They say “all good things must end”, and unfortunately my time diving in the tropical waters of Thailand were rapidly coming to the end. I got to assist all the instructors and divemasters at the shop and a number of the freelance guys as well. Marc, Divemaster from Belgium, required someone to play a guest in a video a friend was shooting as a Christmas message to family back home and I got the supreme honor. It was quite awesome as I got a copy and could show it off to my friends and family. It also meant I sat and criticised my swimming techniques, but at least I know what I need to work on now.

On one dive Instructor Ricardo had me brief and lead the dive. The visibility was beyond crap, barely able to see our hands. As we swam along I would stop periodically and have to wait until all 4 divers were almost right on top of me to be sure I hadn’t lost anyone. I had been a little under the weather before the dive and had felt a bit of vertigo so only hoped I wouldn’t get turned around in the muck. As we circled one pinnacle I turned to count and as I turned back and continued round the rock, I just hoped the vertigo hadn’t thrown me off track and leading us in endless circles around the pinnacle instead of the main rock… let’s just say we can laugh about it now… oops! When low visibility and vertigo let you down! On the second dive we had a diver with issues so I ended up taking him back to the ship and Ricardo led the dive through what can only be called pea soup.

All too soon my last dive day arrived. I most likely could have dove the following day as well but after 6 days straight of diving and still packing to go I knew this would be my last, I only hoped it would be good. Boy was I not let down!! The 3 whale sharks, who had been there for 3 days were still in the area. The smallest one continued to loop from the rock to the boats and back, seemingly fascinated by all these strange sea creatures. Ricardo had a group of 6 Spaniards and our new instructor from Holland had an open water. It was decided that I would swim in the water column between the two groups and therefore be ready if anyone needed me. As it turned out one of Ricardo’s found she had issues with breathing and became a little panicked. I took her back and she seemed very upset, luckily a snorkel session with the inquisitive what shark perked her up and I suggested the she swim with me, we would take our time and only go as deep as she was comfortable.

We descended very slowly to about 6m, she held onto my arm as we swam along and I would give her the “ok” sign every so often and wait for her response of “ok” in return. After about 10min we heard the signal from Marc and he indicated that a whale shark was in the area. I realised it was the smaller one and for some reason I just knew where he was going to head towards. I slowly manuevered her towards a smaller pinnacle a little away from the main rock and we reached 9m. As we got in position the whale shark did exactly what I hoped for, he turned and swam right for us passing above our heads with just inches to spare. We could have put our hands up and touched him (but this is strictly forbidden). It was dream like and I still get chills when I think about that encounter. Afterwards it became apparent that my diver was thoroughly enjoying herself and there was no way she wanted to get out of the water. We reached the point on the rock that would be our spot to surface and spent a good 15min just looking at what we could find on the rock. I showed her fish, and anemones, and chrsitmas tree worms (her favorite). After the dive and on the way home all I heard was a torrent of Spanish interspersed with “KATHY” and “Whale Shark”… It made my day if not my entire time on the island to have a diver enjoy a dive so much. It also made me realise how much I enjoy this job and maybe just maybe this is something I could see myself doing in the future….

This wasn't our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

This wasn’t our shark, but it pretty much sums up the experience.

 
 

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Island Life cont….

Beach puppies

Beach puppies (11)
Around the beginning of December I was having breakfast at my usual spot and noticed a tourist walk on the beach and get mobbed by puppies!!! Well this needed closer investigation. So climbing down the restaurant ladder to the beach (I love being able to write that) I walked on over. Instantly I was mobbed. There were 7 puppies if I remember correctly and they were solid balls of fluff that lived under the deck of another restaurant. I had a flash back to a week before when, while having breakfast with Simone** at the French Bakery, I had heard some yelping. I discovered a few teeny tiny pups seemingly lost and not finding their mother. I picked one up and carried it out of the road just as the mum trotted up. I had not thought of them till this morning.
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They had grown to be even cuter and it appeared well looked over. While I played with them, and decided on my favorite, the owner came out and proudly looked on. She was feeding them well and truly seemed to care. However, it did cross my mind that if the mum dog could produce this many pups at one time Chaloklum may soon be overrun. I just hoped she might consider spaying her soon. I let PAC know so that they could look into it.

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

Visiting the pups became part of my morning routine, when I didn’t dive and I loved every minute of it. They would see me coming and run down the beach towards me for attention. Then again I shouldn’t feel special as they ran down the beach towards everyone, including seagulls and crabs. After a week or so I noticed my favorite had disappeared and feared the worst. Later, while chatting with Laura at PAC about them, she told me that someone had brought in a very fluffy black pup with white paw that they had found “lonely and homeless” on Chaloklum beach. It had to me my little Bear, at least she found a home, but am pretty certain the person made up the part about finding a lonesome pup wandering the beach, as they never parted company from the pack.

At my farewell dinner in mid December the pups had got older and also discovered they could climb up to Genny’s Italian restuarant and beg. One little guy was very persistent and only happy with us and preferably on a lap, namely mine.
Beach puppies

I hope they will all find homes this year!

Bungalow Dogs

There are 2 dogs that live around the bungalows, Blackie and Brownie. They come around every now and then and usually make themselves at home. We have also been told to make sure the little porch gate is closed at night as they have learnt to open the fridge that is located in the outside kitchen. Luckily I never had any issues like that.

Blackie and Brownie

Blackie and Brownie

One day while I was eating some left over pizza Blackie came over to see what was on offer for snacks. Usually I try not to give them anything as I don’t want to encourage begging too much. But on this occasion I just couldn’t finish the piece of pizza and hated to see it go to waste (it had already been in the fridge 2 days and I had no microwave to freshen it). So I grandly placed it in front of him. He looked at me and looked at the pizza… Then looked at me as if I was completely bonkers for offering him something so unappetizing. So with no other recourse I tossed it into the trash. It had barely hit the top of the pile when Blackie enthusiastically got up and grabbed it. Obviously it is more appetizing out of the garbage, after finishing it he brought Brownie over to get some (oops all gone)… got to love island dogs.
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Monsoon it be a coming

The Monsoon season in Southern Thailand does not follow the same timing as the North, often catching travelers off guard. On Koh Phangan it runs between October and December, but so far we had only had a day here and there. But finally it arrived, en force. Almost 10 days of solid rain…everything was super saturated! After that you could time the mosquito incubation period almost to the minute as wave after wave hit us in swarms.

Preparing for the rains

Preparing for the rains


The storm moving in at Sail Rock

The storm moving in at Sail Rock


Almost had to swim my bike back to the bungalow

Almost had to swim my bike back to the bungalow


the new lake aka mosquito breeding grounds!

the new lake aka mosquito breeding grounds!

 
 

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Island Life – Tales of Everyday and not so Everyday Happenings!

Bungalow Wildlife

One of the things I loved about my little bungalow was the forest like garden that brought in tons of wildlife. From birds, to reptiles to mammals. I tried my best to capture them in photos. The one I never managed to catch was the little grey squirrel that would bound past my porch around 5pm every evening. It would run along the roof, over to the coconut palm, up to the telephone line and over to another palm and off into the trees. It was a definite highlight of the day.

Beautiful Butterflies by Day

Beautiful Butterflies by Day


Magnificent Moths by Night

Magnificent Moths by Night


A Daily Visitor

A Daily Visitor


A Bird of Paradise

A Bird of Paradise

Some were not so welcome. After finding this fella in my toilet I became fanatical about checking it every time I needed to go…

Not So Welcome A Visitor

Not So Welcome A Visitor

Lantern Festival

Every November (usually) Thailand celebrates Loi Krathong. It is also commonly known as the lantern festival. Loi means “float” and Krathong refers to a usually lotus shaped container. Participants release floats with candles into the ocean (these are often intricately made of banana stalks and leaves, coconuts or bread). Polystyrene has been used in the past but since it isn’t biodegradable it is frowned on. It is a time to release your float and watch troubles of the past float away and then light a paper lantern and watch your hopes for the future float to the heavens.

My Float

My Float


(You had to add a few coins, a piece of your hair and some nail clippings to ensure your message was sent)
Marc and Linda

Marc and Linda


Releasing my Float

Releasing my Float


John Helping me with my Lantern

John Helping me with my Lantern

After all that happened in 2012, it was a festival that meant a lot more to me than it normally would have.

Watching all my future hopes rising

Watching all my future hopes rising

Couchsurfers Cont…

After my fabulous surfers Stephanie, from France and Willy and Daniel from Austria, I thought I had hit a run of fabulous people. Then I hosted an American who was coming to do his Advanced. He had contacted me to ask diving advice and had hinted at finding a host. I happily said I could host him for a couple of days. He said great I show up in the morning…ummmm ok! He called at 6am to say he was on the island!! This was not a good start. He then proceeded to take over my porch and never seemed to move from the chair there. He was trying to reach a dive shop in Malaysia to get a certificate but didn’t have a phone that worked, so I suggested he add money to his skype and use that to call. Turns out his credit card didn’t work. So I offered mine, he made the call and even when my mom was trying to message me on skype during his conversation he just kept talking and talking. He never even offered to pay me back (luckily it was only a $1.50). At one point when I got home from diving he mentioned in an off hand manner that he had tried to use my skype again but there was a password… ummm I didn’t give him permission to use my laptop… About 5 days later, after I had another surfer arrive, I made it clear that I could not host him any longer! It really does annoy me when people take couchsurfing for granted. 9 times out of 10 a surfer will offer to buy dinner, replace the milk or at the very least buy a beer. This guy did none of that and drank a bunch of my bottled water. Oi!!!!

The next surfer to come was from Chile. He was a reasonably good guy and I felt bad that I was in no mood for moochers after the previous surfer. I sort of put out ground rules, which is not something I normally do. He also wanted me to spend time with him and explore the island, but a few dinners were all I could manage as I was very busy with the end of my Divemaster course and volunteering. He stayed 3 nights and then moved on. Later I found out he had decided to stay on the island and helped Ricardo, my instructor, with his band and booking them gigs. Ricardo also roped him into being my victim… I mean patient for my rescue scenario. Let’s just say he was a wee bit bigger than me and I nearly drowned both of us trying to get him to shallow water. But the important thing is… That I didn’t! 🙂

I would have not hosted anymore after this but had already agreed to rather hippy looking couple from Ireland. They were here for the full moon party and so I only offered to host them the first night. I have seen what some full moon revelers devolve into and I didn’t want to have to deal with it. When Selina and Chris rocked up in the pouring rain I liked them immediately. It’s funny how sometimes people just click. They were laid back and relaxed and insisted I come with them to the full moon. I was actually tempted and if fate hadn’t plotted against us as far as planning I most likely would have. They ended up staying with me a few days later and recovering from the full moon, and for Chris, from food poisoning. I truly missed them when they left and hope for the full Dublin tour sometime in the future.

All you can eat Greek night with Selina and Chris

All you can eat Greek night with Selina and Chris

 

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Volunteering at PAC

With a Face Like This…

Arriving at Phangan Animal Clinic, PAC, to start volunteering I am greeted by dogs of all shapes and sizes. From Chloe the 10yr old, possibly great dane mix, to the cutest little big personality of them all, DWAYNE! With a face like this and a personality to match!
Dwayne

Dwayne is one of the many puppies and kittens on Koh Phangan looking for homes, whether on the island with a local or expat or to be shipped over seas to the UK or US. PAC is there to help treat, neuter/spay, rehome and assist with travel arrangements to anyone interested. Lucky for Dwayne it wasn’t too long of a wait till he found his forever home. But he has forever left his pawprint on me, as one of the cutest I have ever met.

Voluntourism

Voluntourism is a new “it” phrase. It is the chance to give back to a community or animal center. I have participated in a number of voluntourism projects from Ecuador to Tonga. For me I prefer ones that are either free or low cost and at least provide food and or housing. As much as I would love to do some of the projects involving more high profile creatures, I just can not afford some of the fees required for a week or two, especially in developing countries where the cost to support a volunteer is no where near the cost of the program.

A friend of mine, Tony James Slater, who made a name for himself and his antics during his time doing his Divemaster on Koh Phangan a few years back, had also volunteered at the Phangan Animal Clinic. He recommended I look into it and see if they could use my animal nursing skills.

Phangan Animal Clinic

As I mentioned in a previous post, PAC is tiny hardworking animal clinic that offers free rabies vaccines and spay/neuter to strays and at a low cost for those animals with owners. They rely on the skills of long time nurse Por and assistant nurse Lot. Laura, the live in manager, has run animal shelters in Nepal and India and has made PAC her most recent mission. They also depend heavily on volunteers from all walks of life, from vets to nurses to handymen to anyone just wanting to lend a hand. Donations of supplies and cash are always needed and they make a great option if you are looking for a great cause to fundraise for. So please glance over their wish list and see if you can help in any way.

During my time helping out, I assisted with numerous spay and neuters.

Vet from UK and nurse assistant Lot

Vet from UK and nurse assistant Lot

A rather large and disturbing looking lump that turned out to be an enlarged hernia with most of the inside being outside the stomach wall.

Hernia pup

Hernia pup

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visiting vet fixing hernia

visiting vet fixing hernia

Stitching up the bungalow cat from my row of bungalows who had been attacked by a dog and a few other exams and flea treatments. It brought back memories of volunteering in the Amazon or on Tonga and it always amazing me at what you can get done with limited medication, supplies and no ventilators.

It is not only dogs and cats, PAC also helps wildlife that is brought to them, from turtles to monkeys.

Laura, Natasha (UK vet) and Por.

Laura, Natasha (UK vet) and Por.

Appreciation Well Deserved

To Por, Lot and Laura and all the volunteers that passed through PAC while I was there, thank you so much for a great experience and thank you for all you do. I hope to return and help out again next year!!

To read about different stories go to the Cases section of the PAC website
Or you can friend them on Facebook.

 

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