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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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Learning to Ride…Uphill!

Phaeng Waterfalls

Well today was the day I was going to drive out of Chaloklum town and down the highway to the main city of Tong Sala. This is only about a 15min drive, turns out it was 23min for me, but that is about 12min longer than I driven thus far. But before the drive, a good breakfast was needed, and the boys had discovered the French bakery, and the cute Thai girl there. So for 100baht ($3.50 US) we got a croissant (chocolate filled for me), a large roll (both freshly baked), a salad, an omelette and a coffee. Once we were all done, we each mounted our steeds, placed our cheesy looking helmets on our heads and headed off with me in the lead at a scary 40km/hr (25miles/hr).

Road to Tong Sala

Road to Tong Sala

I had never actually got the speedometer passed that number yet. They felt it was better that I set the pace, which I did, gripping the handle bars of Lucy Liu, my little purple scooter, so hard that when we did stop I had to peel my fingers off. But I reached 50km/hr at one point, which I was awfully proud of. When I told the others at the shop of course they nearly snorted their tea in laughter. Oh well, at least I was proud of the speed (and so was my mum). The boys were great and stayed behind me, occasionally zipping past to get me used to being overtaken over and over again.

Just before the road takes a sharp turn to the right and into Tong Sala there is a dirt road that leads to the left. Somewhere off this dirt road is a set of waterfalls that we hoped to explore. It took some finding but eventually we came across the entrance. The amusing thing was that every time we stopped to ask directions the locals knew what we wanted before we asked and would point us on our way. The little park was quite impressive, there was an environmental center, and an office for the parks and wildlife people, some cafes and places to get drinks. The best was this one sign though…
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Heading along the little path that was very well maintained we went in search of the waterfalls. It was monsoon season so we expected to see something impressive. Of course, the last rain had been over a week ago resulting in something more along the lines of a watertrickle than a waterfall. But it was still beautiful to explore.

Willy and I looking for the waterfall

Willy and I looking for the waterfall


Daniel and I

Daniel and I

I decided to try come back after the monsoon season had actually produced some rain to see the full force of the waterfalls as the photos on the sign boards showed.

Boat Races

When we reached Tong Sala it was super busy due to the week long boat races, apparently a pretty big yearly event. The boys wanted to get their ferry and train tickets sorted for Bangkok first so we headed to the ferry terminal, where they quite promptly started flirting with the lovely Thai girl behind the counter. Don’t get me wrong, this was all in fun and it was a total hoot as they both acted the part of flirting and she acted right along giggling. Tom Donnelly, an Irish Expat / transport volunteer, who had lived in the islands for over 10yrs came over to help, with the tickets…not the flirting. Although he did tell them what time her shift ended and when she needed to take the ferry back to Koh Tao. Boys, they are all the same no matter what their age.

The boys had wanted a ferry and train, but Tom recommended the ferry and VIP bus, as it was cheaper and he felt much more comfortable. The boys were thrilled at the price of 650baht ($22US). Not too bad really for a 2.5hr ferry ride, followed by a 10hr bus ride with reclining seats.

Then it was time for the boat races, we walked to a tented area and found some seats that we could drag to the front and enjoy a great view. In truth it was all rather confusing as everything was in Thai and you only knew a race was on when everyone started yelling and clapping and dancing. There were numerous groups of Thai’s all in seriously impressive Hawaiin style shirts in amazing array of colors, apparently they were the boat teams and their supporters. There was also food where ever you looked and drinks…lots of drinks!

Willy and Daniel enjoying the races.

Willy and Daniel enjoying the races.

Daniel had a mighty fine camera and I hijacked it to take some pics.
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The kids piled in...

The kids piled in…


... and the kids piled out

… and the kids piled out

Now I think I need to get one, absolutely love it, as soon as I win the lottery. After taking a few I turned around to see the boys had been adopted by a group of Thai mamas, I should restate that, a group of very inebriated and happy Thai mamas. They had given them a bowl of papaya salad, usually so hot that it would melt your insides on the way in…and out, and were handing them something to drink in a bamboo type container. Returning, I was immediately adopted into the group and handed the bamboo container. Ummmmmm… why the hell not! It was surprisingly good and as soon as I had recovered from what felt like a mule kick, I indicated as much. This was met with great enthusiasm and I wasn’t allowed to return it until I had another swig. Thankfully they took it back after that cause I think one more and I would have started seeing double. It was a homemade liquor that had a punch 10x that of vodka but with a pleasantly mild honey taste that lingered.
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Throughout the morning and early afternoon we lingered watching the races and enjoying the atmosphere, constantly trying to time the appropriate enthusiastic reactions with that of the people around us. Not easy I can tell you, as we had no idea what was going on. One minute a race would start, took us forever to even figure out where they were racing, and there would be music and fireworks and everyone would go running out and clap and sing and dance… but the next race there might only be one or two mama’s running and clapping down at the shore. Rather amusing, I guess some teams just draw a bigger crowd. Sometimes the crowd would go wild and no matter how we looked we could see no race, we had to assume that it must be warm up practice for the crowd to get them in the mood. All through the day our newly adopted Thai Mama’s kept insisting we eat, that it was free, just go help ourselves. But trying to be polite Westerners we declined…until we got hungry. It turned out it was almost impolite to decline the food, they were so thrilled to see us eat. I was trying to spoon soup like stuff over some rice on my plate when a boy came up holding a bowl, I filled it assuming it was for him. Then he gave it to me with the look of “bloody idiot westerner doesn’t she know soup goes in a bowl not a plate”. Oh dear. But he was also the dishwasher, or collector as he came up to us a little later and picked up all the plates, this time with the look every younger child who is made to do the menial clean up for parents.

The very spicy papaya salad

The very spicy papaya salad

By the end of the morning, the boys had been told to return in one year and they would be part of the Mama’s team, I, on the other hand, was just background apparently. It was an absolutely brilliant morning but we had big plans to find an out of the way beach the boys had heard about, and a road that many had warned us about.

Cute pup watching the races

Cute pup watching the races

The Road To Tong Nai Pan

Feeling ridiculously proud of myself for having driven the almost straight highway from Chaloklum to Tong Sala, we headed off towards Baan Tai, a little up the East coast from Tong Sala. We enjoyed the ride and stopped at a few different spots to see what was around.

We also stopped off at Phangan Divers, as I recognized some of the instructors sitting in the front. They were very bemused that I had managed to drive this far, as it appears my driving abilities were a bit of giggle to most everyone. But it was good to see them and see where the store was. Back on the road, we headed off looking for a road that led off to the left…into the jungle. Finally finding it, Willy consulted his iphone to see where we were and where we were going. I must admit that feature is one that I would love to have, and does make the iphone seem tempting.

To begin with all seemed dandy, the road was relatively well paved and only had minor curves that I was able to pretty much walk the bike around. But then it started to go up, at first this was ok, I mean I can handle uphill right? However, at some point, most likely the point of no return, I realised that it was so steep that stopping might result in me flipping backwards and rolling back down. I leaned forward in a terrified attempt to balance the bike (don’t think I was in any danger of flipping but gravity sure tried to convince me). Putting all effort, gritting my teeth and gripping the handles so hard that I lost feeling in my fingers, I started…relax isn’t the right word…let’s just say go with it. With painful clarity I remember seeing that the road not only began a rather enthusiastic set of curves that would put Marilyn Monroe to shame, but it also started to disintegrate on my side causing me to have to try and swerve..ish to the center of a blind corner all the while praying that no one was speeding downhill. Cause I am pretty certain this road was great fun for everyone on the island, and created the opportunity to drive like a demon, except me and my barely 1 month of riding experience.

Me and Willy

Me and Willy


Note the gradient

Note the gradient

After what felt like hours going up this slope the boys pulled into a little cafe and waited for me. I think it was barely 10min we had been driving, but I am going with hours. Taking a swig of water, me not so secretly wishing it was a different clear liquid, Willy consulted the iphone app. We were half way! Up the hill, but barely a quarter way to the beach. They gave em the option to turn back and tried to sound encouraging saying they could return tomorrow and I shouldn’t feel any pressure, all the while giving me those big kitty eyes that Puss in Boots pulls off in Shrek. As much as my fear of this drive was on the verge of spilling over, I decided the only way to conquer a fear is to ride uphill some more. 1min down the road I pulled off and said “I am riding with Willy”. In front of us the, already 70% gradient road seemed to take a 25% increase and disappear into a sharp right. Yup, am parking right here! Luckily there was a lady in a shack nearby and she said I could leave the bike there.

Willy was an excellent driver and very considerate the whole way, making sure that I was completely comfortable as I crushed at least 2 ribs, possibly more. Round the corner of the bend the paved road disappeared and became something I would more likely refer to as thin islands of soil between rain runoff channels. However, it soon became a challenge to hit all the holes and go “ahhhhhhhhhh”, which resulted in Willy and I breaking into hysterical laughter at the fact that we sounded like we were driving over a cattle grate or something due ot the vibration. We passed some stunning landscapes, the interior of the island was lush with jungle. Unfortunately, sections of it was lush with date palms and deforestation, that was not so stunning.
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Out of nowhere we came across a section of gorgeously paved road, as smooth as a baby’s bottom (at least as far as asphalt goes), and trust me after being able to giggle at the how the vibration made us sound the past 20min, this was heaven. In the middle of this seemingly random piece of road there was an all mighty round about, that split in 3 directions. Better than many I had seen in developed countries. Not sure whether to go left or right we stopped for directions and were directed right. At the same time we saw another couple on a bike looking about as lost as us. We yelled out and they said they were looking for the beach. So following us, we now had an international convoy in search of the beach. If this had involved crossing a body of water, or if Di Caprio walked past, I might have felt like I was in a movie or something.

The road continued and just as suddenly as it appeared it promptly disappeared. Literally stopped and turned back into the channel riddled dirt road from before. How very odd! We continued until we reached what appeared to be a cliff, in my opinion. In truth it was the road but instead of going uphill at an 85% grade, it went down instead, and so did much of the recent rain taking the road with it. Willy, the ever present optimist, was game. Daniel, being of sounder mind, reminded him that they had tried something similar before, and going down was one thing, but essentially having to carry the bike back up was another. The Spanish contigent and I sided with Daniel. So back on the bikes we headed off to try the last of the 3 roads that split off from the ginormous round about statue. Again the road continued for a ways and then, it too, stopped and became dirt. I honestly think that road could be an argument for aliens, I mean who else would have plopped a perfectly good road in the absolute middle of no where???

The Beach, I See The Beach

After an agonizing, yet strangely amusing, 1hr+ journey, we saw the beach…and it was glorious to behold. Mainly because I knew I could get off this bike and get feeling back into my butt cheeks and knees.

In truth I had to hand it to both Daniel and Willy, Tong Nai Pan was worth it. It is probably one of the few beaches that does actually look like it’s postcard photo. The bay was calm and water warm, the sand was white and the sun was bright. Willy and Daniel attempted some snorkeling and then, to the bemusement of the Spaniards and I, started acting out some play or show or something. I love those 2, always good for a laugh.

Unfortunately, it was already 4pm and with the sun going down at about 6pm, we couldn’t spend too long, unless we planned to spend the night. Looking at the prices of the drinks… there was no way in heck that we could afford a bungalow, and sleeping on the beach in this ritzy neighborhood might be frowned upon. Taking some time to just enjoy the view and the beauty we finally mounted our steeds and headed back.
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The Ride Down

Driving back to where we had left my bike, was actually enjoyable and I don’t think I did any more damage to Willy’s ribs. Maybe a few finger shaped bruises but nothing too serious. Getting my bike and thanking the lady profusely we headed back.

Now the one good thing about going up is that gravity prevents you from going too fast. However, going down means gravity has the opposite effect. So riding my brakes all the way and losing feeling in my fingers once again, I attempted to slowly inch my way down. Even with the brake almost full on, I was still going about 40km/hr. Heaven knows how fast I would have gone if the brake had failed. The boys of course zoomed past, having the time of their life. Even stopping to chat with a mahut and his elephant.
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At some point the road appeared to level, and I was thinking, thank god I made it and I did it without too much trouble. Then I turned the curve and saw that I was only half way. Eventually though, with much self encouragement, and focus, I made it to the end, and without stopping continued towards home. I could not believe I had done that, and I also do not believe I could have done it without Willy and Daniel. Without your encouragement, I don’t think I ever would have got over my fear, and never would have discovered Tong Nai Pan. However, next time, I am taking the canoe!

Dinner Trends

Finally arriving home just as night was falling we went and had dinner at the local again. The boys absolutely loved their food, we also got a beer to celebrate the crazy adventure that the day had brought. For desert we rode to the other side of town, 2min away, and I introduced them to deep fried banana balls in chocolate sauce.
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A trend was started!

 
 

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The Floating Bar…Need I Say More

Farewell

Urs was set to leave today so we met at his place for breakfast. Love friends with extra tickets for a full on brekky!!! As I was about to jump on the bike I noticed that rain was threatening but figured I had time to get round the corner. The heavens literally opened as I pulled up and I just made it to his porch before the cats and dogs started falling. We were just about to make a run for it when I realised, in my haste, I had parked the bike under a coconut palm, as I don’t believe my $80 a month rental covered coconut damage I moved it while Urs ran for the cover of the restaurant. As we sat down he made the a rather brilliant statement, “I should have worn my dirty clothes now I have nothing clean or try”, well maybe not that brilliant. Of course, working against us but with Murphy’s Law, the clouds parted and the sun started shining a full 10 minutes after sitting down. Go figure! After another splendid breakfast we said cheers and hoped to meet again, perhaps with the rest of the Borneo Fearsome Foursome, at some other fantastic dive location.

Skill Frustrations

Heading to the dive shop I marveled at just how much it had rained in such a short time. Today I was going to be joining Carol and her instructor, Andy, in the pool to go over the 24 skills we were required to learn at demonstration quality. These included:
-Preparing gear
-Buddy Check
-Giant Stride Entry
-Clearing Mask
-Regulator Recovery
and many more. These may seem easy, especially since they are skills we do on almost every dive. However, right there is the conundrum, they are skills that have become second nature to us and therefore we do not have to think when we do them. Add thinking into the mix, slow it down to demonstration quality and instantly your brain goes blank… I swear you could do a scientific study on this event. Andy wanted us just to do the skills as if he was the student, but for some reason I couldn’t wrap my head around it. My crowning moment was when I did the regulator/snorkel exchange at the surface… with my head out of the water, which is bloody useless really. We only got half way through before we were all rather frustrated.

Another Farewell, But This Time With a Floating Bar

I felt the frustration for most of the afternoon and it was only a good friend to chat to and some AMAZING food at my little local Thai place that I started feeling more myself. Ricardo’s girlfriend, Sara, was returning to Spain so we planned a huge farewell. This involved whiskey and coke, beer and snacks at Alessandra’s house. During the frustrated time period I had texted Ricardo in reply to his, “we are getting whiskey and coke” with “I could use a shot of whiskey straight, it’s one of those days!”. Ricardo, ever eager to make me happy and ensure that my divemaster training be a learning experience, waited a couple of whiskey and cokes into the evening before pouring me a shot straight. He then announced that I would Swear Allegiance to the Whale Sharks, which promptly sent me into a giggle and snorting fit, making my pledge rather garbled, I managed to stop just long enough to down the shot… Ahhh good friends, they never fail you when you need them!

We had, while still fully in control of our capacities (ie sober), called a taxi to pick us up and take us to Baan Tai and the legendary Floating Bar. What a night it was. Lots of dancing and laughing and amusement at drunk folks, I was able to get all my frustrations out and just let my hair down, in a matter of speaking. The best moment of the night was when some particularly good music came on and all of us were jumping up and down yelling “Let’s sink the F*$#ing bar”, this caused the whole bar to move ever so slightly… all in good fun. We also decided the motto of the bar should be “It’s not you it’s just the bar”.

We made it out there at 4am but had to stop at the Food Factory to pick up the required fries, burgers and coke that every early morning partiers need to sustain them on the ride home. I crawled into bed at 5am and got to watch the sunrise as I fell asleep.

Day After

I woke up briefly at 7.30am and considered going on the dive boat. This always happens you wake up still drunk, feeling fantastic and then do something that makes returning to bed exceptionally difficult. Luckily I was not that drunk, as I had essentially stopped drinking by 11pm the night before. A hangover is not my favorite part of a party. The main reason I considered going on the boat was because one of the other DiveMaster Trainees had reached his 100th dive. And in true diver style, this meant it had to be taken in the buff, except for the scuba equipment of course. For a boy this is fine, heck you guys find any excuse to take it all and wiggle what you can. Girls however, tend to have a few more areas that need coverage, but I guess we also don’t have something that dangles in the water. I was around dive number 75 and it was looking like there was a high possibility of reaching 100 before leaving.

While I decided not to make it on the boat, I did send a good luck message (to which Michael replied “don’t worry there won’t be anything to see, I am hung like a chipmunk”. An unwanted phrase that is now burned into my memory for infinity), and got to see the rather amusing pics after.

Got to love the tan lines!

Got to love the tan lines!


100th 2
Please note that I asked specific permission to use these pics, which was freely given and even encouraged!

I managed to get up around 9am and do some writing and cleaning and last until bed called at 2pm. Managed to rise for dinner, chicken lemongrass salad at the place opposite 7-11 and then home and sleep by 7pm. What a night that was!

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2013 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Diving Mae Haad!

Dinner Plans

My first night Ricardo had organised for everyone to go to a Thai BBQ, I was very excited and he assured me no worries. Unfortunately when the message came through that it was dinner time it also turned out that no one was around to give me a ride, so I would have to take a taxi. I figured no problem and low cost maybe a couple of dollars. After wandering around the little town for a while I finally found a taxi and he said 300baht ($10) to go there. I thought that was crazy and I was very confused about where this place was, I didn’t know the island and assumed it was close by, also it only cost 150baht to come from Tong Sala, the port town.. Ricardo had also sent a text which included the words “139baht Baan Tai BBQ”. At first glance I thought he was telling me how much the taxi would cost.

Feeling rather jetlagged, emotional and down right confused as I realized that I didn’t know where I was in relation to my bungalow. Finally I just decided to go for it as I didn’t have any other option. It turned out that Baan tai was past the port town and so more expensive, add to that being the only passenger and after 8pm…

But eventually, crying it out on the way there in the back of the taxi, which is really a pickup with an open canopy type thing, I made it. It was great to meet everyone and figure out this new thing of Thai BBQ. Must admit think I prefer the Korean one. Thai BBQ is sort of mix between Swiss Fondue and Korean BBQ. You go and collect all the food you want, from a variety of veggies and meat (most of which I didn’t recognize). Then you sit round a hot pot with a dome in the center. You add things to the hot pot part to boil it and make a soup, then BBQ things on the hot dome.

Unfortunately you are sharing the hot pot with other people, which also means the “soup” has a variety of tastes that might not be appreciated by all involved. The BBQ dome was small and so meat kept sliding into the “soup” and had to be fished out continuously. Ultimately, they had delicious coconut icecream made on site. Definitely an interesting experience.

One of the guys who was finishing up his divemaster was able to give me a ride home, saving me the taxi fare. Home and cold shower and sleep.

First Dive

The last time I had gone diving was in Borneo, the same time I met my instructor Ricardo. We decided to try a beach dive at a local area called Mae Haad (Mae Beach). We geared up and climbed aboard the dive truck.

On a beautiful sandy beach we got sorted and then headed in. I knew the water was going to be crazy warm, 28C/82F, so opted to dive in just my swimsuit. Sara, Ricardo’s girlfriend, joined us. She was working on her thesis with a local research group called CORE SEA, and was here for 3months or so.

The dive was fantastic with some amazing things to see, including my first ever seahorse. It took me a second to recognize the sign Ricardo was using but then figured the universal symbol for giddy up.

Giddy Up Partner


Courtesy of Instructor Ricardo

We also saw something straight out of the SciFi movies called a fireworm.
The bearded fireworm is a slow creature, and is not considered a threat to humans unless touched by a careless swimmer. The bristles, when flared, can penetrate human skin, injecting a powerful neurotoxin and producing intense irritation and a painful burning sensation around the area of contact. The sting can also lead to nausea and dizziness. This sensation lasts up to a few hours, but a painful tingling can continue to be felt around the area of contact. In a case of accidental contact, application and removal of adhesive tape will help remove the spines; applying alcohol to the area will also help alleviate the pain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Fireworm


Courtesy of Instructor Ricardo

The visibility was pretty decent, but then for the most part, if I can see my buddy I think the vis is good. Diving on the West coast of the States is not the best for vis.

Getting It All Over On The First Dive

Normally I am pretty good with dives even after a long break inbetween, but this dive had almost everything basic go wrong that could go wrong.
– My mask fogged constantly
– My mask leaked constantly (realized it’s the mask I use when diving with a hood in cold water and that seals any leaks)
– I became positively bouyant all of a sudden and started floating to the surface (Ricardo managed to ground me)
– At the surface my tank slipped out of my BCD
– As Ricardo was fixing my tank I got the mother of all cramps in my left calf muscle….

Other than that it was a fantastic dive!

Payments

Initially when planning this whole idea, Ricardo had hoped to sort out an internship, aka slave labor, to lower my costs. 2 Australians had just finished this when I was arriving. Unfortunately, due to unforseen issues during their intership, management had decided to nix the entire idea. Which meant I had to pay for the course. Luckily having my own gear meant the price was lowered a bit. Total cost was 32 000 baht/$1066. I think thats doable for 3 mths of training and diving. Just means less partying, which is fine with me.

My First Motorbike/Scooter Lesson

Once all equipment was cleaned and sorted and payment was out of the way, Ricardo attempted my first bike lesson. Gem, our Thai dive instructor, rented bikes and had brought one over for me. A brand spanking new one, that looked very impressive. I sat on it and barely scraped the ground with my toes. In fact it felt like I was trying to ride a clydesdale horse as the seat was so wide.

A Side Note for those of you who know me, you know that a bicycle is not my strong point. I know the basics, can go, it’s just the start stop and balance (all fairly important aspects) that I am not so good with. I had a bike as a kid and at 16 I was still convinced that my folks had given me a bike without brakes. Then my mom told me they were back pedal brakes, obviously I wasn’t very coordinated as a kid. So now add a motor and see what my nerves do.

Ricardo explained, front wheel brake (don’t touch it), back wheel brake and accelerator. It was an automatic so at least I didn’t have to think about gears. I started it up and went a little forward. Then a little forward again. I really didn’t like this feet not connecting with ground part.

Finally, Ricardo said “come on try a longer run”. I revved the accelerator and promptly crashed into the grass. I popped up as everyone started running towards me. “I’m ok, is the bike ok, tell me the brand spanking new bike is ok”… Well that just shot the nerves. It was unanimously decided I needed a smaller bike. “With a basket please”. This statement lent to much eye rolling and all the boys going “Girls! They don’t care what its like as long as its pink or has a basket”.

Alex, the divemaster candidate who had given me a ride from the BBQ was all too happy to trade out his purple bike with basket for the brand new manly hulk of a machine.

My Wheels, I Have Named Her LUCY LIU!

Left Lucy Liu, my purple wheels, at the shop and walked home, for a nice quiet evening.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Thailand, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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