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Island Life in Photos

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

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

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Thai Fishing Boat in Chaloklum Bay

Thai Fishing Boat in Chaloklum Bay

Full Moon as Seen From my Hammock

Full Moon as Seen From my Hammock

Creative Coconut Palm

Creative Coconut Palm

Sunset Near my Bungalow

Sunset Near my Bungalow

Boat near Thong Sala Beach

Boat near Thong Sala Beach

Local fishing at Chaloklum Beach

Local fishing at Chaloklum Beach

Crab!

Crab!

My breakfast spot on non diving days

My breakfast spot on non diving days

Lotus Dive Center Kitties

Lotus Dive Center Kitties

Island Life is Tough!!!

Island Life is Tough!!!

Our little kitties almost all grown up!

Our little kitties almost all grown up!

Lotus Dive Center

Lotus Dive Center

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

You can understand my fear of falling coconuts!!

You can understand my fear of falling coconuts!!

One of the roads after heavy rain

One of the roads after heavy rain

Sunset over Koh Mah beach from viewpoint

Sunset over Koh Mah beach from viewpoint

Keeping a look out

Keeping a look out

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

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Phaeng Noi Waterfall

Roots

Roots

Elephant feed delivery

Elephant feed delivery

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

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

Great spot to learn archery and have a beer…

The owners and cooks of my favorite dinner spot

The owners and cooks of my favorite dinner spot

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

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

Panorama from the pier

Panorama from the pier

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

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

See you all again in January 2014!!!

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Island Life… visa runs and final scuba days

Koh Samui Visa Run

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

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

Early Morning Ferry Ride

Early Morning Ferry Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Days of Diving

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
 

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Island Life cont….

Beach puppies

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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.
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They had grown to be even cuter and it appeared well looked over. While I played with them, and decided on my favorite, the owner came out and proudly looked on. She was feeding them well and truly seemed to care. However, it did cross my mind that if the mum dog could produce this many pups at one time Chaloklum may soon be overrun. I just hoped she might consider spaying her soon. I let PAC know so that they could look into it.

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

Favorite that I think I would have named BEAR

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

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

I hope they will all find homes this year!

Bungalow Dogs

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

Blackie and Brownie

Blackie and Brownie

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

Popcorn

For days I had a craving for popcorn, but all I had been able to find were packets of microwave popcorn. There were 2 problems with this, 1 – they little packets were a bit expensive and 2 – I didn’t have a microwave. Many conversations were had over drinks about how to use microwave popcorn without a microwave, but, even if it worked, it didn’t lower the price any. Most folks were certain I could find unpopped popcorn kernels at one of the stores in Tong Sala. But up until yesterday, when the boys had taken me on my mammmoth driving adventure, I had not been able to drive that far.

Luckily 2 days before one of my French neighbors was heading there for a shopping trip and offered to look for some for me. I found it on my doorstep when the boys and I returned from our adventures. Woohoo, it was like a bag of gold and I couldn’t wait to pop some up. I decided to experiment the next day when the boys were off exploring and I had the day off to study.

That day, we all went for our usual breakfast at the French bakery so the boys could drool at the bakery girl. 2 of my French neighbors were there and were also drooling over the girl, leaving the boys muttering under their breath. Ahhh yes all rather bemusing for me to watch while having a cappucino. After, the guys headed off and I started studying, after an hour or so I decided it was time for….POPCORN!! I found a pot, that was reasonably stable on my little burner, poured in some oil and got it going.
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Then I added the popcorn and waited expectantly. The first pop was like music to my ears and I enthusiastically shook the pot. Placing it back down at a slight angle however, proved to be an almost fatal mistake. The unpredictable flames of my little burner lapped around the side of the pot and into the oil setting it alight. Luckily I kept my wits about me, barely, and covered it. The flames went out and in true popcorn addict style, I simply turned the flames down and kept a popping. I didn’t mind the occasional black piece of charcoal 🙂
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The popcorn was delicious, although my salt was strange. I realised a little later that it was actually a shaker of msg type stuff that looked like salt, oops! But hey you do what you can and I was just thrilled to have my little snack back, perfect while reclining in a hammock and studying my Divemaster book.

Final Dinner

The boys returned in time for dinner and we went to have their last smorgesboard of yummy Thai food at our local. They were positively depressed at having to leave the island, and the food (I think more so for the food). They kept hatching plans to pack the old couple up and take them back to Austria along with Bakery girl.
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Even Bobby the restaurant dog was sad to see them go.

Even Bobby the restaurant dog was sad to see them go.

We ended the evening with a double dose of Banana Balls in Chocolate Sauce. Yummy!!!

Farewells

In the morning Willy and Daniel got all packed up and we headed out for their final breakfast at the French Bakery. It was almost sad watching them watching Bakery girl… Poor chaps!

Then it was off to Tong Sala. I wanted to try and drive there by myself but that meant I had to take one of the bags. I got as far as the gas station and decided I just felt too unsteady, so handed bag and bike over to Daniel and took the smaller bag and got on behind Willy. One last ride together. We made it to Tong Sala and they returned their bike and retrieved their passports, leaving it with the shop is required for rental. We found the ferry and after a sad farewell and promises to stay in touch I bid them farewell. I was really sad to see them go, 2 of the best couchsurfers I have had.

What adventures we had!!

Looney Farm Reunion

For those of you who have followed my blog you would remember my fun times on what was dubbed the Looney Farm. That was almost a year and a half ago, amazing how time flies. Ari and James, my two fellow inmates at the farm, and I had stayed in touch and ironically enough, realised a reunion was imminent on Koh Phangan. What are the chances!! It was so good to see them and we immediately fell back into our looney ways. First stop was introducing them to Banana Balls in Chocolate sauce, a must for any of my visitors.
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Poppy Day

John, the divemaster from England, was having a Poppy Day/Remembrance Day at the Gemini Bar that evening and we all decided to go. Anyone who grew up in a Commonwealth country is familiar with Poppy Day. It is the day of Remembrance for all the soldiers who died while fighting for freedom in all wars that have or are going on. Donations for veterans are given in exchange for a paper Poppy flower, and time is taken to reflect. John had seen his time in the service and lost more than one friend, making this ceremony very touching and more than one tear fall. I shall never understand war, but I shall never forget the brave men and women who have fought in them!

John leading Poppy Day Ceremony

John leading Poppy Day Ceremony

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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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