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

Bungalow Wildlife

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

Beautiful Butterflies by Day

Beautiful Butterflies by Day


Magnificent Moths by Night

Magnificent Moths by Night


A Daily Visitor

A Daily Visitor


A Bird of Paradise

A Bird of Paradise

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

Not So Welcome A Visitor

Not So Welcome A Visitor

Lantern Festival

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

My Float

My Float


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

Marc and Linda


Releasing my Float

Releasing my Float


John Helping me with my Lantern

John Helping me with my Lantern

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

Watching all my future hopes rising

Watching all my future hopes rising

Couchsurfers Cont…

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

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

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

All you can eat Greek night with Selina and Chris

All you can eat Greek night with Selina and Chris

 

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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

Thailand - poppy day

 
 

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Farewells and PADI Medicals

Farewells

Waking up this morning my couchsurfer Stephanie and I had a day planned of adventure and island discovery. That is until she opened her email and realised her ticket left a day earlier than she had assumed.
As Ricardo likes to say: Assumption id the mother of all F—ups. So it was a mad dash to get her ticketed and set to get to Bangkok today. She went to the ferry terminal in Tong Sala, a 15minute scooter ride, to get her ticket then returned to pack.

I had popped over to 7-11 to grab some milk for breakfast and as I puttered home and into my garden I realised my neighbor, Cesar, had followed me the entire way much amused at my driving technique, or lack there of. He had brought over a bunch of yummy things and we all had a farewell breakfast with yoghurt (coconut my favorite) and fruit and muesli and gotchi berries (which Steph tried to convince Cesar the value of without much success).

After everything was cleared up and bellies were full it was time for farewell. Stephanie had been a great first time surfer in my little bungalow and it made me feel confident to host again.

Driving Fears

With no more plans for the day I went and studied at the dive shop until Urs and the rest of the crew returned. Carol and I decided to go to Tong Sala so that she could run some errands and I could go to the doc for my dive physical. Urs and I planned to meet for dinner.

Since my driving skills were still in the developing stage I was anything but confident in driving my own bike to Tong Sala, so I rode behind Carol. Now, Carol is a very good driver and has driven for years in her home country of Switzerland, not to mention during her year in Thailand. But she also tends to talk with her hands and swear at random dogs or drivers as she whizzes past them, and, in truth, it is more the other drivers on the road I am nervous about. However, since the little wipeout I realised just how nervous I was behind someone. On most corners I nearly broke one of her ribs holding on so tight and on one rather tight one I started moving my foot out in preparation of a slide…. mmm I think it’s time to get confident on Lucy Liu, my purple steed!

Since we had time we also stopped off at the animal shelter, Phangan Animal Clinic (PAC). I had bought a glucometer for them to check one of the dogs levels in case it had diabetes and had been hoping to drop it off for 2 weeks now. Carol was a bit nervous of dogs so we didn’t stay long as there was a pack of about 7 that roamed the center.

Once in Tong Sala we realised we still had plenty of time and with the heat we decided to find an air-conditioned icecream shop for coffee. I was thrilled to see they had Milo icecream. I must say that I have a wee bit of an addiction to any and all Milo products, it’s just so dang yummy and a comfort food/drink from childhood. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a malted chocolate powder full of great nutrients.

We also got to wander around some of the stores and look at some curios. It’s amazing how cheap they all seem when you are visiting, I mean 150 baht ($5) for a pair of comfy cotton pants is a steal. But as an almost local that computes to at least 2 dinners…

PADI Medicals

One item on the required list for my DiveMaster was to get a physical ticking all the boxes and making sure we are fit to dive. I have had to do this medical a few times for some of the other classes. We went to Dr. Wororoot (or something like that), apparently a diver himself and a no fuss guy when it comes to going through the list. He asked me why I was there, how many dives and what shop I was at and signed me off. I asked him to check my ear because it had been giving me issues and he glanced and said “Might have been and infection before but all clear now”. Ummm gee thanks, well that was quick and dirty. Paid my fee of around $10 and headed out. When I commented on how quick it was the others explained that he does so many of these he can spot any issues pretty quickly and being a diver he is aware of what to look for and ask about. Sounds good to me!

Both Carol and I needed to pick up a few things from Tesco, the local bigger grocery store on the island. Of course this made driving home, at night, a little more nerve wracking… Finally getting home and dumping all my stuff I felt exhausted, I flopped down in my hammock and promptly remembered the dinner date with Urs. Made it just in time and we went and had burgers at 2 Brothers. It felt like a very long day!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Fearsome Foursome Reunion 0.5

Missing Parties

Well most visitors to the island come for the legendary and infamous Full Moon Parties, most of the locals prefer the more low key, chilled out day after party called The Backyard. I was really excited to go to this, mainly so I could stand with a drink in my hand and watch the Full Moon revelers attempting to walk upright off the beach… Unfortunately my mystery illness meant I would spend the day in my hammock, which in itself is never a bad thing, but the party had sounded fun. At least it comes around every month.

My couchsurfer, Stephanie (France), went with my neighbor, Cesar (Brazil), to meet up with my instructor Ricardo (Chile), it’s a regular old United Nations Party just with better music and more booze.

After a few hours napping and killing mozzies (mosquitoes) in the hammock I decided to attempt to save money and do my laundry by hand. I grabbed my bucket that is kept filled with water to flush the loo, and my little packet of Tide Wash Powder. I scrubbed and soaked and squeezed and sweated and finally got it all hung out. I stood back to appreciate my work and immediately decided paying the whopping $1.50 to $3 to have it done was well worth it. Not only did it come back extra clean on the same day, it was also folded and dry… this batch of laundry would end up taking 3 days to get almost dry, got to love living in a humid climate.

Reunions

For those of you who remember my adventures on Seaventures Dive Rig in Borneo you would remember the crazy Swiss member of our Fearsome Foursome group that all dove together. Urs, hearing I was training to be a divemaster on Koh Phangan, decided to make that spot his stop during a SE Asia trip.

So after exhausting myself with laundry, I decided to go find him, he had messaged me saying he was staying at Malibu Resort which was right round the corner, literally. After wandering around the property for a bit I found him at the restaurant overlooking a rather stunning and well raked beach. We caught up on each other’s adventures over the last year and had a drink. Since he had already eaten dinner I decided to pop over to a local place for their Pineapple Burger and fries, highly recommended by Ricardo. We planned to meet at the shop where I would get Urs all set to dive in the morning. Before I left he handed me over a bag… while still in Bangkok he had asked if he could bring me something and, due to the lack of any kind of semi decent chocolate, asked for a large bar. Inside the bag was heaven in it’s purest form!!!!

Heaven Does Exist in Paradise...and it's in my freezer!

Heaven Does Exist in Paradise…and it’s in my freezer!

A Rainstorm Be A Coming

At 2 Brother’s Restaurant I was the only customer as it was still quite early. I ordered my burger and fries and enjoyed my snickers and coconut milkshake while watching an insane looking cloud head my way.

Snickers and Coconut shake on the beach

Snickers and Coconut shake on the beach

Storm Rolling In

Storm Rolling In

As I watched this ominous gigantic apparition of a cloud roll over the mountain towards Chaloklum town, I opted to take my food to go and enjoy it in my hammock at home. Making it just in time, so I thought, I reclined in my hammock and began to dig in. Unfortunately I discovered as hungry as I was I just couldn’t eat this delicious looking meal in front of me. So with a cup of tea I sat and waited to watch my favorite nature show, the arrival of a storm… unfortunately it seems as if someone gave the wrong preview as it barely dribbled, but it was still intense watching the mammoth cloud move overhead.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Thailand, Travel

 

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A New Bungalow to Call Home!

So Much To See

The night before I had packed my bags so that I could move immediately after the dive. Waking up at 6.18am, always about 10min before my alarm, I made it to the shop by 7.10am. Amazing how easy it is for me to wake up early here…never seems to work this way as home.

The boat was fairly full but it was a good group and we all sat upstairs and chatted about different adventures and so on. On the way there was a large, rather chewed up, what we assume was a shark carcass, floating in the water… A little unnerving if I may say so.

The dive was phenomenal as usual. Whale shark right at the beginning coming really close, and circling the rock meant we got to see it at least 3 more times. We also saw a rather intimidating bull shark that did a little detour near us. But at least they appear “friendly” here.

I was diving with Gem, Thai instructor, and she was really working with me to cut my weights down. Usually I dive with lots of weight in cold water because of the wetsuit, and it’s just a habit I have got into. I started with 6.4kg and cut it down to 3.2kg. But Gem wanted me to try cut it down more. I attempted 2.4kg but near the end of the dive with an empty, and now more buoyant tank, Gem had to give me another weight to keep me stable during our 3min at 5m safety stop. So I think I will stick to 3.2kg for now. Plus being a little heavy and allowing me the safety net of always having some air in my BCD to release and stay down, makes me feel more comfortable.

Ear Issues and Whales

I had been having issues with my left ear not being able to equalize it completely. It hadn’t started hurting but there was a definite threat that it might. SO I decided to skip the 2nd dive, I had already seen so much and it was such a nice day anyway. As I was relaxing on the top deck I spotted a minke whale surfacing not to far away. I yelled out “Whale!!” and everyone who was at the surface said, “whale shark? Where?”.
My reply, “no, a whale whale, as in a whale.”
Theirs, “a whale shark or a whale?”
Me, “A whale!! I think it’s a Minke whale, surfacing just over there”.

All rather amusing. I felt very happy that at least I had seen something cool and didn’t have to feel bad about missing the 2nd dive. As everyone came out of the water, I excitedly said, “I saw a Minke Whale surface nearby”. Their reply, “We saw a 9m whale shark, it looked like a submarine!”. Well that deflated my enthusiasm, dang it and I thought the 6m one was huge.

My New Home Away From Home

Making it back to the shop and cleaning all the equipment, it was time to make a quick change and move to my new place. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to get settled in. Located just 1min by motorbike from the shop it was in a quieter part of town and also had a lot more room, wifi, a kitchen and hot water.

PeeOng Bungalows #2

PeeOng Bungalows #2

My Porch

My Porch

My Main Room

My Main Room

My Bathroom

My Bathroom

My home away from home, now all I need is a cat… oh wait please meet the bungalow cats that share their time among all of the bungalows in my “neighborhood”.

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Please Meet Felix and Zed

Ahhh that's better!

Ahhh that’s better!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Diving, diving, diving…

Have been in Thailand for a week now and am loving it. Love the sounds of the birds and insects (except the mosquitoes) all day and all night, the frogs pretty much put on a rock concert after the sun goes down. I forgot how much I missed that living in Oregon.

I usually get to the shop around 7am and start helping get gear set up and sorted. I asked one of the instructors, Andy from Germany with years and years of experience in almost all realms of diving, what he suspected was wrong with my camera. He reckons it might be the moisture as anything electronic doesn’t survive long in the humidity. His suggestion was to buy a bag of rice and stick it inside, try and suck out the moisture and see if there is an improvement.

However, another friend in Australia who does underwater photography fears that it might have been the pressure in the airplane when I checked the camera in my bag, and the sensor might be shot. Mmmmmmm, what to do. Just have to wait and see.

Kittens

When I arrived Momma cat had a litter of 4 kittens about a week old and now they are almost qualifying as real cats. Momma has brought them down from her hiding place and they are super cute, endless entertainment as you watch them learn and grow.

Ginger and Spot

Ginger and Spot

Shy girl peeping from behind.

Shy girl peeping from behind.

Momma Cat, note her left eye it is blue and brown.

Momma Cat, note her left eye it is blue and brown.

Diving With Gem

Gem is a Thai instructor at the shop and I got to dive with her and a student doing his open water course. Gem insisted that I cut my weights down and by the 2nd dive I had gone from 6.4 to 3.2Kg. I realised that diving in cold water you tend to control your bouyancy with your BCD (the jacket that inflates) vs your breathing like you do in warm water. It is a whole new set of skills to learn.

She also has impeccable hand signals, very clear and precise, will have to try pick up some tips from her in that regard.

As we were going down the float line we saw a whale shark, incredible as always! Later nearer the end of the dive we heard a very excited diver making noises, and turned to see another whale shark in the distance. It’s almost as awe inspiring to see them at a distance as it is to see them up close.

On the second dive I literally looked a whale shark in the eye, time seemed to slow and I felt captivated by what ever intelligence there was in there. The spell was broken when I was kind of muscled out of the way by another diver trying to follow it. Seeing whale sharks tends to make certain folks oblivious to everyone else. Unfortunately our student was low on air and we had to surface so we weren’t able to follow him.

Coconuts and Monkeys

Back at the shop I got a fright when coconuts started dropping from the trees. John said that the monkey was up there picking the ripe ones. I was about to tell him it’s not nice to say something like that just because a guy can climb a coconut palm, when I looked up…

monkey picking coconuts

monkey picking coconuts

The trainer

The trainer

Apparently, monkeys are trained to climb up and pick ripe coconuts which are then taken away and sold or used. It certainly is a great way of preventing more coconut related injuries, they are really quite hazardous to your health unless mixed with alcohol…

Driving…kind of

Managed to putt-a-putt to the 7-11 about a minute down the road for everyone else, about 3min for me. Am starting to get the hang of the bike and might even have some freedom at some point. Woohoo!

After packing my bags I went for a shower and nearly had a heart attack as I discovered I had a shower mate, who seemed to want to hang out and watch.

Shower mate, about 30cm/1ft long

Shower mate, about 30cm/1ft long

and soooo handsome!

and soooo handsome!

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Whale Shark Ahead!!!

Boat Dives

My 2nd day out on the boat. Glorious sunny weather, getting a nice tan but must be careful not to have it be a burn. Today I was diving with Dive Master Marc, he had a scuba tune up student. A tune up is when a diver has been away from diving for a certain amount of time and needs a refresher course.

Marc is one of those divers who must have been born in the water, ridiculously comfortable in it and will often just jump in before the boat has stopped moving. He is also a bit like a bear in the sense that lifting tanks that take all my strength are like a feather for him, 2 at a time no worries! However, I do have to be careful as I got hit in the head a couple of times by his fins…As far as our customer went, he did really well, except for a minor panic attack when his mask filled with water.

On our second dive I saw something that is considered one of, if not the, Holy Grail of diving, a whale shark. It was beautiful, magnificent and fabulous all at the same time. About 5m/16.4ft long. We had heard they were there after the first dive, so went looking for them on the second. We went out to one of the pinnacles where it had been and hung around looking at tons and tons of fish. Whale sharks eat plankton and the water was thick with it, perfect conditions. But no luck, so we turned around and headed back, just as the whale shark was heading towards us. Blew my mind, but our customer was low on air so we had to head to the surface… incredible, just incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Michael Devlin – fellow dive master

And He Shall Be Named: Alex Whaleshark

One of the recently certified dive masters on our boat couldn’t help himself and touched the whale shark. I was on the surface when a whole stream of divers heading back to their boat started yelling at him. Later in the video you can see the exact moment he touched it, as everyone started yelling underwater. He literally got shunned by the community. Here is the video: Don’t Touch The Whale Shark

There is a reason for this. One of the golden rules of diving is DO NOT TOUCH ANYTHING! Take only pictures leave only bubbles… If every diver started touching and riding the whale sharks they may stop coming and on a more serious note, the oils in our hands could cause a skin infection when it comes in contact with them. However, I do understand why, the shark is so amazing that you almost can’t stop yourself wanting to touch it.

All in all a superb day of diving, despite getting a tad sunburnt and smacking my shin on the boat steps twice while trying to get out.

Dinner was at 2 Brothers Restaurant and their famous 2 brothers Pad Thai and snickers/coconut shake. Yummy and soo much. The pad thai had seafood in it, which I am not a huge fan of, but the rest was yummy.

Catch Up Day

Next day was a no work day, so spent it catching up with things. Diary, blog, tried to study my dive master books. Did some training on my bike, Lucy Liu, and Gem (Thai dive instructor and owner of the bike) got me a lower seat and gave me some tips. Seriously, my legs are so dang short.

Later that evening I went with Carol to Tong Sala, the main town, sitting behind her on her bike. We went to the scuba shop and I picked up a dry bag to carry my stuff on the boat.

Back at home it was an exciting afternoon of cleaning and packing away and sorting stuff to move to my new bungalow. Carol had introduced me to green curry ramen so had that for lunch and cornflakes for dinner.

Later I chatted with Ricardo’s girlfriend, Sara, she said it looked like Ricardo had dengue fever, also known as break bone fever, cause that’s what it feels like. I was leaning towards it being the infection from his bug bite on his toe that had hit the bloodstream, but either way he was very sick. Koh Phangan is a hot spot for Dengue and Chaloklum is the hot spot of the hot spot, so break out your mozzy (mosquito) repellent when you get here.

All is well, and enjoying the island so far.. unfortunately discovered the 2nd hand camera I bought for my underwater housing has issues and the screen is blank. What a bugger….

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Thailand, Travel

 

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