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Category Archives: Scuba Diving

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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The Next Adventure Begins…With a Few Vexing Moments!!!

The Ultimate Adventure

A few months ago a great friend invited me to return to Koh Phangan island in Thailand and work for him at Haad Yao Divers, where he just became manager. It seemed insane to tell people “yes I am 37 and moving across the world to Thailand to pursue my love of scuba diving”, but here I am sitting in the airport about to follow a childhood dream. At the same time another friend invited me to visit her in Slovenia, so combining the travel has me heading most of the way around the world and to some great adventures.

Seeking Flights

For some reason if I am helping another with choosing and organizing flights and travel plans I have no problem, I know what I am doing and can rationalize the choices. However, the minute it comes to myself I turn into a bundle of nerves and second guessing. Luckily, thanks to a good friend, fellow traveler and writer (Price of Travel), who is always there to listen to my crazy ravings and uncertain choices, I was able to finally make a choice.

I usually shop for flights through Kayak.com and after much looking and comparing I came across a great looking route at the decent price of $697 all booked through a budget airline called Condor, the cheapest by over $100 that I had found. Living in Eugene, Oregon I always hope to fly out of that airport, but all these flights were ridiculously expensive and so I opted for a route out of Portland, Oregon (2 hr drive from home). The flight was in late afternoon which allowed a bit of a sleep in (as much as the cats allowed) and time to visit with a friend on the way up. From Portland I fly to Seattle (on Alaska Air), on to the Dreaded Frankfurt airport, FRA* (on Condor) and finally to Slovenia (on Adria Air).

An important side note, I always book through one airline to ensure my bags get checked all the way through even if some of the flights include smaller affiliated airlines it has never been a problem…

*For those of you who have never been to Frankfurt airport, it is enormous, takes forever to get anywhere between flights, in fact they actually have guys in golf carts picking travelers up and taking them to their gate.

The Day Arrives!

Arriving with 3 hrs to spare at Portland airport, PDX, I went to get a cart for my luggage turning around mid stride when I saw it now cost $5 to take one… when did that price hit the roof?? Dad helped me drag my bags over to the curbside checkin where we all said farewell. As my turn to check my bags arrived I asked about connecting internationally, turns out I had to go inside, so turned around and dragged my bags towards the counter. The reason for dragging was because my backpack straps were zipped up, but with my dive gear and my daypack and my camera…. oi vey!

First Vexing Moment

At the check in counter I hand over my passport and my panama book, (this is the seaman’s or mariners book for people who work on ships, often allowing folks to take extra luggage or weight). The start of my vexing moments began right then and there as the conversation went something like this:
Lady: Well which passport do you want to use?
Me: Oh the US, the other one is my Panama book
Lady: Well I DON’T know what that is, you have to pay $85 for the second bag.
Me: The Panama book is for people who work at sea and usually we are allowed an extra bag.
Lady: Well I DON’T know what that is
(Obviously the end of that discussion!)
Me: ok, here is my credit card.
Lady: And I can only check your bag to Frankfurt, there you will have to collect it and go through customs
(Never have I ever had to take my luggage through customs on a connecting European flight)
Me: I have never had to go through customs and I only have 2 hrs in Frankfurt
Lady: Well you have to, I can’t do anything, do you want to see the computer???
Me: It’s ok, it’s just new, have never had to do that.
Other Lady: Maybe it’s a code share thing with Adria, maybe we should check the bags to Seattle and then Condor can check them through
(First Lady gives Other Lady dirty look)
Other Lady: or not
Lady: so $85 and you have to collect your bags and I can’t give you a boarding pass or seat assignment for anything other than our Alaska flight!
Me: ummm, ok

So unbelievably rude and unhelpful and ultimately the person who f*&$ed it up for the rest of the route. Headed to security feeling the start of that stressful sensation in the back of my neck and trying very hard not to let it creep too far.

Second Vexing Moment

Arrive in Seattle without any problems and get lost trying to find my way to the international terminal, finally make it though and find my gate, an hour before flight. Go to the counter to get my boarding pass and ask about luggage conversation went like this:

Me: hi good day, please I need a seat as far forward as possible, an aisle seat, I have to get my bags in Frankfurt and transfer them to the next plane because of customs.
(The very sweet lady was possibly Chinese, so please read her part with that accent).
Lady: oh you no go through customs, you no probelm
Me: Yes I have to, Alaska refused to check my bags through to Slovenia I need to collect them and I am not sure why, because I booked my entire flight through Condor.
Lady: no no you no go through customs, no problem you go straight to your airplane
Me: (Handing over the papers trying hard not to respond in the same accent) See Alaska did not check my bags through
Lady: ahhh yes you go through customs, no problem you have 2 hour
Me: I only have an hour and 40min and Frankfurt is huge
Lady: ahh you no problem here I give you aisle seat, no problem
Me: ok, but if I miss…
Lady: you no problem!
Me: yes ok , but IF I miss my fli…
Lady: no no problem, you have more than 2 hour
(Apparently in her mind my time is increasing)
Me: (Just breathe) But. IF. I. MISS. MY. FLIGHT. WILL. CONDOR. SORT. IT. OUT??
Lady: you no problem all good, have good flight, next….

Vexing was an understatement. Feeling irrationally irritated, or rather rationally irritated, I called a friend to vent and after a discussion decided to talk to another agent. Her response was confusion over why Alaska refused to check my bag and her thought was that most likely there was a code share issue between Alaska and my final flight on Adria. She assured my I should be fine and if there was any problem Condor would take care of it. I felt a lot calmer after that, although annoyed that these issues were just because Alaska and Adria air can’t play well with each other. Why did I book a budget airline????? Why????

When Things Go Right

As I waited to get onboard I chatted with some of the other passengers and discovered why we had a short delay, turns out there was a plane change and this was a different design so some people had to change seats. I told them my vex and joked that maybe the “seat upfront” I asked would be right at the back… Apparently that is not something you joke about because I had the last row (the one that doesn’t recline) on my side of the plane. There was one more row for the passengers in the middle to be fair, so it wasn’t right at the back. Also my seat mate apparently had the same problem, she was continuing on Austria air and Alaska refused to check her bags, but she had 5hrs so wasn’t worried, however, she did mention they might make us pay for the second bag. Oi Vey!!!!

I immediately found a flight attendant who was very sweet and very helpful, she was also confused about the bag situation, but promised to see if any seats further up were open and assured me that 2 hours should be enough time. I hoped she was right. Just before take off she brought me a list of seats up in row 11, 15 and 16 that had an open aisle seat, also the row (2 seats) in front of me were open. I opted for the row to hopefully get some sleep.

From here things kept getting better. The guy across from me was super cool and we chatted a bit. He was from a small hickville (his words) town in Washington state and this was the first time he had ever travelled internationally. He recently became a history teacher and he figured he may as well explore a bit well he had nothing holding him down. I warned him that it is easy to become addicted to travel… Then he asked the most precious question that made him stand out like a sore thumb as a newby traveler:
Guy: so Kathy, do I just stay on this airplane for my connection to Venice or do I get off?
Me: (first looking at him blankly, then reminding myself that occasionally you do stay on a flight well others disembark, rarely but occasionally) Usually you get off and have to go to another gate, but if you show me your flight info I can double check.
He was just so sweet, so bright eyed and bushy tailed at the thought of adventure…. oh dear I fear too much travel might be making me jaded…

Just after take off I popped into the loo and heard an announcement that was music to my ears. Since Condor is a budget airline you have to pay for any extras such as a 2nd bag, movies, food etc… Well the announcement stated that movies would be free due to the inconvenience of a plane change. Woohoo!!!! The guy across me didn’t have ear phones so I loaned him my other pair. I must admit that the entertainment system was great, the screen was unscratched and a decent size, the touch screen responded well and didn’t require the

The happiness didn’t stop there, since I had been so stressed and annoyed in Seattle I had failed in my plan to buy some food to eat on the plane, so I asked the cost and choice. The flight attendant informed me that the food, too, was free!!! Woohoo!!! Although after attempting to eat the food I was very glad I didn’t end up paying for it!

I was able to manipulate myself into some form of comfortable position for a bit of sleep, but not much. Near the end of the flight the guy across from me said “Kathy, I feel like a zombie”, shame he had managed no sleep, my reply was “welcome to the wonderful world of international travel!”.
With around 30mins to go, my amazing flight attendant said I could move to 16C, aisle seat to be closer to the front if it made me feel better. Heck yeah it did! That’s also when I discovered 16 was the last row of business class, which meant I could have been sitting there all along… Oh well I had fun chatting with the guy.

And The Good Times Are Over!!!

Things seemed to be going pretty smoothly, which is never a good sign, I got off the flight quickly, I made it to immigration and the info desk man suggested I go through the Crew side to save time if they would let me , they did! I got to the luggage carousel and the info desk man there said no problem as Adria air was right above me and gate B03 was close by after security. My bags were one of the first out and I walked up into the check in area feeling almost relieved, like this might actually be all ok…

Info desk man up in check in sent me to Lufthansa since Adria was part of Lufthansa.
Lufthansa sent me to the bag check since I already had my boarding pass.
Got my bags on the belt when the guys there realised I didn’t have the bag tag and sent me to a counter.
The guy there said no problem, then paused… again never a good sign.
The F*&^$ng Alaska lady had only marked my paid bag through as far as Frankfurt in the system, which meant I had to pay another 50 euros to check it.
He suggested I take it to Condor, since all the flights were booked through them, and they should check it through no problem… (That phrase again)
I walked all the way to Condor, only 5minutes but felt like hours.
The Condor people just looked at me and said NO, since Adria isn’t Condor, almost as if I was stupid for even considering it.
I walked back to Lufthansa, now getting very very frustrated and verge of tears.
The guy who helped me had left already and the other guys were confused why I was back. They sent me to the other check in desks.
There the guys tried to make me wait in line, but no I had 50min till my flight left and they finally figured out that I needed a check in desk NOW!!
Finally they took me to a desk, with 45min to go.

The lady at the counter looked at me in tears trying to blubber my way through all the tragedy that was happening on this flight and just said calmly. “OK let me do the bags then we look ok, now you have both arms, both legs, you are beautiful so stop this crying!”
Turns out she is married to a South African and lives in Germany but she is from Spain. A wonderful person who really helped calm me down. But, this didn’t mean things were getting better as I had to go upstairs to pay the 50 euros since it was Adria air not Lufthansa… oh joy joy, but she assured me calmly that is was ok as the gate was just after security and security was just there. I joked that it must be something about Frankfurt airport as I ALWAYS have issues when I fly through, she agreed and said the staff feel the same way.

At the counter upstairs, with 40min to go, the machine had a problem, of course it did. But finally it went through and I headed downstairs towards what I hoped would be my flight. I got through security which was right there as the wonderful lady had said, and got to the gate as they started calling for boarding, even had time for a quick pee.

And It Is All Good Again

I boarded the bus that would take us to the airplane and realised I had not let Kaja, my friend I was visiting, know that I had made it. A lovely young woman let me use her phone to text and then I breathed a very long sigh of relief and contemplated the size of the glass of wine I was going to need after this. The bus ride turned out to be a runway tour of Frankfurt, a good 10min drive, all of joking that we were actually driving to Slovenia. There is something strange about driving to your plane and having to stop for the other planes to cross your path. But we got there, and I had another great seat mate. She and I chatted most of the way and when we parted she kissed me on the cheek and promised to stay in contact.

And then it was over and there was Kaja, she had got my message. I admit I did let out a rather loud squeak of joy and relief. Never before have I experienced a trip where everything that could go wrong did and yet so much went right!!! Not sure if I will ever book with Condor again though as the whole point was to book with one airline and avoid just this rather vexing experience.

For now…. Slovenia awaits!!!

 

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Goodbye, Farewell MSC Fantasia

Another Chapter Closed

After 7 months working as an English Social Hostess on MSC Fantasia I am finally heading home and on to the next adventure, after some well deserved RnR, especially after another bought of bronchitis and what turned out to be a fractured ankle that I continued to work on for the last 2 months.

Misconceptions…

When people ask what I do and I reply “I work on a cruise ship”, they always assume this means that I sit around the pool with a cocktail, especially when I was working in the Caribbean. However, it is nothing like that, sure my job as a Social Hostess or Language Ambassador as I prefer to be called, is a lot less strenuous compared to the bar staff or the housekeepers or the laundry, but it is still on duty 7 days a week for 7 months or more. It always surprises guests when they ask me, “what are your off days?” and I say, “the day after I get home.”

It’s Been a Great 7 months

Once again I loved working in the Mediterranean, so many different cultures, so much history and the most amazing food! I had the option to work in the French Caribbean, which I would have loved if there was a guarantee to get some scuba diving in… since that was highly unlikely, I opted for history and food instead.
Our ports of Call included:

ITALY
Venice – I have now been there over 15 times and only ever seen the cruise port, I hear it is quite beautiful!

Bari – Not much to see in Bari itself except a cool fort and shopping.

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Fort of Bari


However, just outside there is a beautiful cave system that is definitely worth a visit.
Caves of Castellana

Caves of Castellana

Civitevecchia (Port of Rome) – my favorite part of this port was my pizza place, Baffoni’s!! Cafe Latte, wifi, followed by a pizza and cola.

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini

My favorite Vesuvio pizza, spice salami and zucchini


My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

My second favorite Buffalo mozzarella and small tomatoes

Genoa – Turn around port always crazy busy, but just sometimes I got to slip away to a tiny local place down a narrow alley with the best ravioli bolognese ever!

CROATIA
Dubrovnik – One of my all time favorite cities, absolutely beautiful. I hope to return and explore all of the Dalmation coast someday.

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View from the city Walls

GREECE
Piraeus (Port of Athens) – the port is really far from town, but on most visits, at least before I injured my foot, we would walk 20 minutes to a little street cafe for the best gyro in town.

Katakolon – A teeny tiny community that is the gateway to the ancient ruins of Olympia. I loved this tiny 2 street town, with amazing food and fantastically friendly people from my guy at the restaurant where I ordered chicken souvlaki, to the coffee guy with the amazing desserts to the shop guy who insisted on always throwing a bag of chips or a drink into all the crew members shopping bags.

mmm Greek Food!

mmm Greek Food!


Dessert and coffee

Dessert and coffee

Heraklion (Island of Crete) – Home of the myth of the Minotaur and another favorite stop, unfortunately the town was a fair distance from the port. My favorite memory was eating an amazing strawberry spinach salad with a good friend!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!

Mmmm Spinach Strawberry salad!!!


Great Friends!!!

Great Friends!!!

Rhodes – In my top 3! History, friendly folks and great food, also lots and lots of cats!!!

my favorite Tomcat

my favorite Tomcat


Street of Knights

Street of Knights

Corfu – Another stop where the town was a fair distance from port, but beautiful all the same.
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Santorini – Built on the edges of a volcanic caldera in the middle of the med, this is the picture postcard stop of Greece!

Santorini is famous for it's white buildings and blue domes

Santorini is famous for it’s white buildings and blue domes

MALTA
Valletta – Top 3!! Original home of the Knights Hospitaller and Templar and a port I could wander around in endlessly, just be sure to take the 1€ elevator vs walking up crucifix hill.

THE ELEVATOR!!!

THE ELEVATOR!!!


Inside St. John's Church

Inside St. John’s Church


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TURKEY
Marmaris – Part of my top 5! Loved this port from my first contract and only got one stop this time! However, my favorite food place was still there along with my favorite jewelry store.

Mixed plate

Mixed plate

Izmir – The area near the port was mainly shopping, although I did find amazing coconut macaroons at a hole in the wall bakery. An hour away you will find the house of the Virgin Mary in a stunningly peaceful valley and the Ruins of Ephesus, some of the most incredible ruins I have ever seen… did I mention there are lots of cats!

Mary's House

Mary’s House


Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary

Leave a prayer for the Virgin Mary


Kitty of Ephesus

Kitty of Ephesus


Library of Ephesus

Library of Ephesus

SPAIN
Malaga – Churro and Chocolate is all I have to say…

No Words!!!!

No Words!!!!

Barcelona – Gaudi and the inside of the Sagrada Familia!! Absolutely incredible.

Beauty!

Beauty!

Tenerife – Loro Parque, the worlds largest parrot park with numerous other animals and even an Orca show! (I am not a fan of keeping these creatures in captivity, the only, slightly, saving grace is that the park focuses on research and education and some of the orcas were not wild born).

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet


Orca Show

Orca Show

MOROCCO
Casablanca – The whole reason I opted for this route vs the French Caribbean and, even though I had no idea what to expect, it was unfortunately the biggest disappointment. The port was at least a 20 minute walk from the city through a disgusting agricultural and industrial port, with only… fairly intense taxi drivers as a transport option. Luckily, the city itself, although dirty, had friendly people, great coffee and amazing food. However, other than the mosque and the old market there wasn’t much to see and safety was a concern.

Coffee opposite the old market

Coffee opposite the old market


Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market

Carpets and Paintings in the Old Market


The Mosque from the Cornish Road

The Mosque from the Cornish Road


Tajines cooking

Tajines cooking


Delicious!

Delicious!

If you go to Morocco and the port of Casablanca I recommend the tour to Marrakesh, this is the Morocco we all imagine.

PORTUGAL
Funchal – Top 3!!! Absolutely loved this port, despite the long walk from the port, and would love to visit it again, from the vegetation to the climate to the food everything was great… except maybe that they speak Portuguese (a language that confuses me endlessly as it sounds similar to Spanish and yet I understand nothing).

Eira Do Serrado  reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa

Eira Do Serrado reminded me of the Drakensburg Mountains of South Africa


Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop... love the lady in the background - she is obviously on diet!

Always had coffee and a pastel de nata at my fav coffee shop… love the lady in the background – she is obviously on diet!


Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Great artwork on the Sea wall as you walk to town

Not bad for 7 months if you ask me!

Friendships!!

Of course the true reward from these last 7 months were the friends I made from all over the globe!!

Olessia from the Ukraine - my favorite bartender and confident

Olessia from the Ukraine – my favorite bartender


Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy

Chiara from Italy, Tour escort and awesome gelato buddy


Saneliswe and Sandile, my "paisano" bar staff from South Africa

Saneliswe and Sandile, my “paisano” bar staff from South Africa


Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy

Angela from Germany, German Hostess and international cuisine tasting buddy


Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!

Tamsin and Hayley from UK, Dancer and singer, my video and pizza buds!


Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend

Ivana from Macedonia, Photographer and my crazy happy friend


Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great  team

Dayan from Spain and Jessica from Italy, GRM and Concierge, we made a great team


Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio

Gleison from Brazil and Martina from Italy, Portuguese Host and Events coordinator, we were the Funchal Ship Visit trio


Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano

Carmen from South Africa, Tour Escort and another amazing Paisano


Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies

Celine and Loes from the Netherlands, tour escorts and my favorite Dutchies


And so many more I would be here forever uploading pics. Thanks to all my amazing friends and I hope to see you again soon on new adventures!!!

New Adventures

Now I am off to do something completely different and, logically thinking, completely off the wall. I am moving to Koh Phangan, Thailand to pursue my passion of scuba diving!!! Yup at 37.75 years of age, I am doing something most people would think is completely insane… but I am sure going to have fun doing it!!!

 

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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!
chaloklum - cat (s)

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

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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.
Beach puppies (10)
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.
bungalow dogs (2)

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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Simone’ The Italian….

Day 1 – meeting

Still having some tummy issues, I skipped diving and opted to study at the dive shop. Just before mid-morning a young man arrived via our truck and announced that he was Simone’ from Italy and here to do his open water. He then asked if he could order some breakfast (please note we were not a resort and did not prepare breakfast unless you were on the boat). Seeing the instructors face I quickly jumped in that I could take him to the French bakery down the road for an excellent bite to eat as soon as he had finished his paperwork. He seemed satisfied with that.

Breakfast was phenomenal as usual, although I just had some coffee, and Simone’ turned out to be not quite as stuck up as he first appeared. We had a good chat about life on the island and he insisted on paying for my coffee.

During our conversation I had told him of all the great food places Chaloklum had to offer and about the Omega Bar that was only open on a Wednesday. Just before he headed off to watch his required 3+ hours of PADI instructional videos we exchanged numbers in case he decided to come back this evening to meet for dinner. He seemed like a decent bloke and was acting more relaxed as he got a hang of everything he had to do for the course.

I had to head home and sleep and try to recover from whatever was making me feel icky but told him I planned to go to the Omega Bar to see some friends around 8pm. At 10pm he sent me a sweet text apologizing as he had fallen asleep after returning home from day 1 of class and wouldn’t make it but he hoped to see me on the boat the next day.

Day 2 – dinner 1

Unfortunately I could not go on the boat as I had promised to assist in surgery at the local animal shelter, Phangan Animal Clinic (PAC). PAC is a not for profit that works to spay/neuter and vaccinate island dogs and cats and find homes for as many strays as possible. They have are pretty much solely responsible for preventing rabies creeping into the animal population on the island, providing free vaccines to all strays and low coast vaccines to all animals with owners.
More details on PAC coming soon.

Vet Natasha and Thai nurse asst Lot.

Vet Natasha and Thai nurse asst Lot.

After a long day I returned home exhausted but feeling great. I had even realised I was singing Zip-ee-dee-do-da on the drive back. Volunteering always makes one feel fantastic.

Simone’ sent me a message to meet for dinner at the dive shop around 8pm. When he got there I listed off all the different places we could go to, and after nay-saying most of them he finally settled for Cafe-de-Beach, located on the 7-11 side of Chaloklum just across the road from the beach, providing a stunning view. We chatted about life and jobs and future thoughts. Turns out he works as a steward on yachts during the summer and as a massage therapist in the Alps during winter. But he was getting tired of the constant moving. we definitely had more than one thing in common.

We went for a walk on the beach and it was a stunning night. There seemed to be some sparks but neither of us tried anything. It was nice to just walk with a guy and chat. After my last experience with a guy I was in no hurry. Plus it was fin leaving at the end of the evening with a never know where this could lead feeling.

Day 3 – dinner 2

I was diving with Gem and her DSD today and so was on the boat for Simone’s second and final day of diving and his open water course. He spent most of the time talking with Carol, the divemaster trainee helping his instructor, about his course and I was busy with helping Gem and her guest. But at the end of the dive we planned to meet at the shop again at 8pm for dinner.

This time he seemed even more picky than before. I took him to all the different places including the brilliant Italian restaurant, but he felt, being Italian, he would have eaten better elsewhere. He seemed to miss the point that this was an Italian place on a beach in Thailand with phenomenal food, at least in my humble opinion. Nope, he was craving seafood, giant prawns to be exact! Unfortunately the place I took him too didn’t have prawns that were giant enough for him. The lady was very insistent and he was very indecisive, not a good combination. But rather bemusing to watch as a spectator. Finally he relented as there was no other place offering prawns of this size (please note they were at least 15cm/7inches long. I had some chicken as I have never been a huge seafood fan.

We chatted more about life and he got very caring pushing me to talk about my ex-fiance and the pain he had put me through. I tried to avoid it but in the end it was good to talk it out. If he hadn’t been Italian I would have thought him a zen buddhist, apparently he did have a guru he followed, so maybe that was his alter ego.

This very serious conversation got cut short when I got a panicked call from my neighbor that our bungalow row cat had was trying to pull out his stitches. At the birthday party the other day we had seen him arrive with a bandage round his middle and if I hadn’t know he was a boy I would have thought someone had taken him to be spayed. As it turned out he had been attacked by a dog and the Russian lady who had just moved into Bungalow 1 had rushed him to the vet in Baan Tai and paid to have him stitched up.

So putting a quick pause on dinner, I quickly drove home and went to check on the cat. By now a few people new I was a vet nurse and so would call on me to check their animals. He had indeed tried to rip out his stitches, not to mention that the wrap used was causing irritation as it was stuck directly onto the skin and fur. I called and left a message for PAC, but said we would just have to watch him and take him in on Monday. I promised to return in the morning and check on him.

Back at dinner the intense conversation continued, this time him telling me about his past relationships. His occasional quirks, the Italian half of his personality I assumed, where he was rather demanding and rude to the waitress or very final with plans and things to do, seemed bemusing and not in the least irritating… That would change all too soon when we planned to spend the next day exploring the island and going to the evening Saturday market in Tong sala…

Day 4- Run Away!!!

Simone’ came over to use the wifi and then we headed for breakfast. I had had a couchsurfer from the States show up the morning I met Simon’s 4 days ago, he was doing an Advanced course at the shop. At breakfast I just had a coffee and a croissant, Simone’ had the full breakfast. Since he had paid for part of dinner the night before, and not wanting to assume that that was just being a gentleman, I paid for breakfast, not even a thankyou. It was just apparently expected. Then it was decision time.

Simone had previously wanted to go snorkeling and sit on the beach, but there were some dark clouds so now he wasn’t sure. He kept telling me to just pick where we should go, but every suggestion I gave he shot down, would give his own suggestion and then shoot that one down too. It was starting to get irritating. Finally we decided to try find a place to have a massage, my shoulder had been killing me anyway. The first place was closed and the second place had no one in sight. So plan B, or by now it was more like plan W, was to head off to Tong Sala and explore. I told him I had to fill with gas first. Pulling into the station which was right on the road we had to drive he whined about why I was filling it up now, since I had less than half a tank I would rather be prepared (I was a Girl Guide/Scout afterall). Off we went, Simone’s true Italian driving side came out and he kept speeding past me then falling behind me, speeding past and falling behind, occasionally he would try ride side by side usually on blind corners that involved a truck in the opposite direction over taking someone and nearly killing on of us.

I eventually had to stop and ask to please not ride side by side. I was just barely off my training wheels with the bike and it was nerve racking enough to have someone pass me, let alone ride right next to me with the real threat of being mowed over by a truck passing in the other direction. He seemed a little huffy at the fact that I wasn’t driving at top speed and oblivious to the fact that not all of us had been driving motorbikes almost all our lives.

He had wanted to check out scuba gear, so I took him to the Scuba shop run by the wife of his instructor. He hummed and hahed and asked tons of questions then walked out without buying anything. Realising I was getting decidedly hungry I suggested we grab some lunch, as I had only had a croissant. He agreed, but not to lunch, “yes let’s go get a SNACK!”… It wasn’t even worth the argument. We went to the area reserved for the night market, a place reputedly filled with food of every conceivable description each night. even though it was only about 1pm there were already a few stands open. I saw about 3 different things I wanted but he steered me away obviously with something in mind. Finally HE decided on pork salad and that we should share one. WTF!!!

Now I know what you are all thinking, I am a strong independent woman who isn’t afraid to speak my mind… so why wasn’t I. To tell you the truth it just wasn’t worth it and I was still too polite to just say cheers you are driving me crazy. So instead I shared my half a pork salad that was quite tasty. Our next mission was to find a beach, he had an idea of where one was and went on a mission to find it. I just followed. When we finally came across the little resort it was rather beautiful, just past the pier of the Tong Sala. Of course, then I had to listen to him complain about where he was staying and how it was rubbish and he had been duped into it by a guy in Bangkok. I asked why he hadn’t just moved out to somewhere else, but countered with having paid for a full week, I offered that perhaps he could have got some of it reimbursed, he countered with NO WAY THEY WOULDN”T DO THAT! My reply, “Did you ask?” and left it at that. I have never understood people who complain about something and just assume it is set in stone! You never know unless you ask.
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I was not in the mood to be social and walked down the beach to take some pictures. Finally I went in search of some pineapple juice, Simone’ asked me to get him some too. I had to go to the next resort to get it and it cost a fortune (well at least by my standards living on a Thai island). He showed up mere seconds after I paid. He asked how much and walked off, no thank (again) and no offer to pay me back. This was seriously getting annoying, I was starting to hatch an escape plan.

Since it was 4pm I said that I was going to check out the market and then head home as I had to dive the next day and wanted to be home before it got dark. He seemed to fall for the excuse and joined me, stopping at his resort to drop off his bag. I must say I thought the resort was rather nice, numerous cute tiny cabins with a bar, hammocks and relaxing area right on the beach.

We were lucky to find parking right by the market as set up had just started. But then he realised he had forgotten his key, so he rushed back to his place to look for it. I said decided to just explore the market on my own. It was wonderful, so many sites and sounds and foods and goods and smiling faces everywhere. Definitely the highlight of my day if not my week.
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I walked the entire market up and then down, and returned to wait as I had not heard from him yet. Finally I got a call saying he was on the far side and to meet him in the middle. I had already eaten something but he insisted on getting a meat skewer for me, so kind, it was rather delicious. At the next vendor he ordered a chicken and asked what i wanted, I said I was ok, but he insisted again, so I said I would get the pork. He handed it to me and as I took a bite said, I paid my 20 baht you also have to pay. What the heck, he insists and offers and then makes me pay after I had said no! I definitely preferred his Buddhist alter ego from the days before. The best thing I tasted was an instant freeze ice pop thingy that was insanely sweet, but oh so good and made me feel like a kid.
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At the end of the market I finally saw my exit and looked sad but said I had to go, diving and all that you know. He promised to call me later as I walked (as slowly as I could force myself to) away. I must have chuckled all the way home, in between fuming at the sheer irritation, thank heavens nothing other than hanging out had happened.

Thinking all was said and done, I got a call just as my couchsurfer, Glenn and I had wobbled into the Italian Restaurant. I say wobbled because I was attempting to drive both of us on my bike… I am not very good at this. The call was from Simone’ saying he was on his way to join us…Oh Joy!

The two of them leapt into a conversation of existentialism and gurus, and the universe. When aliens entered the conversation and I had spent the last 20min being completely ignored I bid them good night and escaped home. Aliens must have been a hot topic as Glenn only returned to the hammock well after midnight.

After all the insanity of the past few days, this question is what comes to mind. What the hell are Caucasian Flavors???
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Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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Hula Hoops, Dive Burps and a Frog’s Leg…

Friends and Hula Hoops

Ari and James returned to Chaloklum to look into doing the DSD, Discover Scuba Diving, course. James was concerned that wounds inflicted during an accident involving falling off a roof and sliding down between 2 buildings might limit his chances or risk the attraction of a shark or two. Luckily the wounds had healed enough not to cause an issue. When asked how it happened he had absolutely no idea, we decided it must have been due to a stray monkey flinging coconuts and nothing to do with alcohol…

James in the banana hammock...

James in the banana hammock…

Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse. The monsoon had arrived, and I know I had said this before, but, at least for this week, it looked like it was back. After some discussion where we feared the weather might be horrific the following day, they both decided against doing the course. We joked that that meant the weather would be glorious…which of course it was.

We decided to grab some drinks and wait for Cucina Italiana to open for some hand made pasta. Ari and James started with wine and I opted for a variety of pineapple drinks (non alcoholic as I was still feeling under the weather). Then we discovered the hula hoops…

Ari was a natural!

Ari was a natural!

I surprised myself

I surprised myself

James realised how his lack of hips made it nigh impossible

James realised how his lack of hips made it nigh impossible

Dinner was delicious and then it was time to say farewell. I truly wanted to stay longer but I felt horrendous and had to dive in the morning. I wished this mystery illness that only inflicted me at night would disappear, more water that’s what I needed.

I am not sure when or even if I will ever see these two fabulous souls again, I hope we stay in touch and will miss them on all future adventures. Here’s to the next reunion guys, love ya tons!!

Dive Burps???

On days we go to Sail Rock we do two dives. The first one usually goes without incident and then we surface for an hour lunch. However, on the second dive I have discovered that, for some obscure reason, I often burp, and lunch doesn’t taste so good the second time around. I had even started perfecting the preventative actions required for if the second serving of lunch attempted to become more than a burp. When I did my first course it was drilled into us never to throw up into the regulator, it would be a B*#@h to clean. therefore I was ready and prepared:
~Create a seal with my tongue
~Remove regulator
~And feed the fish.
So far I hadn’t needed to use these skills, but you never knew when they may come in handy.

On this day I was helping Gem with her DSD. I practiced the float line and again made it too loose, but was definitely improving. As we descended on DIVE 1, I realised I was feeling a premature burp coming on. I didn’t even have anything other than some tea for breakfast. For the entire duration of BOTH dives it was like I was breathing burping gas. At one point Gem got hiccups, so here I was burping every few seconds and then she would hiccup. It was almost too funny to explain. As we neared the end of the 2nd dive, my skills were called into action as an almighty burp had me feeding the fishes, but only a little and no one saw, except a group of rabbit fish and a butterfly fish…

The final burp seemed to have knocked most of it out of me and just as well, as Gem had me practice the frog kick (meant to be for upper level divers to create a more stream line energy efficient kick). I had to practice by circling the DSD who was hanging onto the float line for our 3min safety stop at 5m. I would do a lap and look at Gem, who would shake her head. I would repeat the lap with the same result. After 3mins I had only succeeded in doing it correctly for half a lap. More practice was needed.

French Birthday, Frogs Beware!

One of my French neighbors, Philippe, was having a birthday party and had invited me and the rest of the French Quarter (of the 7 houses in the row, 4 were French). I stopped by 7-11 and picked up some drinks and wrapped up my last ferrero roche choc for him. There must have been close to 20 people and the food provided was phenomenal. I could not believe all the options and varieties, from Thai, to Western to French… very French. I had noticed a decided lack of frog sounds that night and when the plate of steaming garlic frog legs was put in front of me, I realised why…then threw up a little in my mouth. I have never had the desire or thought to eat a frog’s leg, I am not sure why as I know they are perfectly good forms of protein… but they LOOK like frog legs, I have the same feeling if the foot is still on the chicken leg… But we all know about peer pressure!
IMG_6312

It was great party and if it hadn’t been for my gurgling stomach and headache (hopefully not from the previous food item) I would have stayed much longer:

Pile o' crabs

Pile o’ crabs

Michael, he is French too

Michael, he is French too

Francky, he is French too

Francky, he is French too

Cesar (Brazil) and the birthday boy Philippe

Cesar (Brazil) and the birthday boy Philippe

French Parties and Frog's Legs will do this to a person!

French Parties and Frog’s Legs will do this to a person!

 
 

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