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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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Avoiding Decompression…

Waking up at 6am every morning due to the glorious sun shining through my window is one of the best things ever. The boys were still asleep and I tiptoed out of the bungalow so as not to wake them…especially Willy all wrapped up in the hammock like silkworm in it’s cocoon.
Thailand (149)

Assisting the French

Today the shop had 3 French students doing their Open Water Course and their first ocean dives. In cases where we have students with a language that is not covered by the instructors at the shop we hire in a freelancer. I think being a freelance dive instructor would be a great way to have a dive career, especially if you have another skill that can be used to fill in the financial gaps between dive jobs. Shops call you in and you can either decline or accept without the pressure to take it as it is your place of employment. But again, you must either be in high demand, have another skill or be financially independent otherwise you could go through long stretches of ramen dinners.

Richie, our freelance French instructor, had me help him with his dives today. As soon as we reached Sail Rock he sent me in first to go set the float line. I had done this once before and was still mastering the strangely difficult task of getting it tight enough. If it is too loose then it could get caught up on the coral or tangle with another line, if it is too tight and waves develop it could be yanked off taking the chunk of rock with it and causing damage. Swimming out to the rock and dropping down at the appropriate spot I just hoped that I would drop down where some of the tie lines were. CORE SEA, a local non profit studying the coral and working to protect it, had set these nifty loops at certain intervals around Sail Rock. Of course there are always the days where the current forces you onto the less frequented side resulting in a difficult search for a spot to tie the line. Luckily, this was not one of those days and I managed to find a tie line and tie it up. Of course, even though I had battled to pull it as tight as I could with the surge constantly pulling it from my hands, I discovered it was still too loose. Luckily it was ok for the students to complete their skills and when we dropped down I was able to quickly retie it tighter.

I was buddied with the 3rd member of the trio and he was a dream student. Completely natural in the water and no issues what so ever. If I didn’t know better I would have thought he dove before, but he swore he this was his first time… I bet you that’s what they all say 😉 . The other 2 however, were not as dreamy. In fact just after we dropped down, less than 5 minutes after Richie had explicitly said not to touch anything, one them got my attention and pointed to his hand. I saw around 5 small puncture wounds trailing blood in what appeared to be a sea urchin inflicted wound, as if he had tried to pick one up.. on the surface we discovered that is precisely what he had tried to do. I guess he didn’t realise they are just as prickly below the surface as they are above!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

Prickly, definitely prickly!

On the up side the dive was pretty good. There were tons of large groupers everywhere and we saw 3 scorpion fish, the most I had ever seen in one dive. The students all seemed happy when they came out and enthusiastic for the next dive.

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

Scorpion Fish (courtesy of Michael Devlin DiveMaster)

As I clambered aboard, Marc told me that he needed me to dive with his group on the next one as the male half of his couple had “sucked” his air. This means that he had breathed too heavily and depleted his air much faster than expected, in fact he was down to the limit after barely 20min. With only Marc as a guide he could not send the guy to the surface alone nor could he leave the wife to dive alone. So he had been forced to return after a very short dive. Most dives last at least 40min.

Avoiding Decompression

Marc planned to drop back down within 20min, which would give me around a 40min surface interval instead of the usual hour. In these circumstances you have to keep an eye on your computer to watch your time for DCS (Decompression Sickness). Most computers will tell you how many minutes you can remain at a certain depth before the risk of DCS, and as long as you move to a shallower depth and be sure to surface before these numbers are too low then you should be fine.

I ended up having almost an hour but to be safe I dove a few meters above them and thoroughly enjoyed just hanging out…literally. 30min into the dive Marc signaled to me that the husband was down to 50bar, the minimum preferred amount of air to surface with a 3min safety stop at 5m. Acting as calm and professional as I could, this was the first time I was taking a diver back to the surface alone, I guided him back the way we had come hoping I would surface at the right spot. We hung out at the 5m mark, all the time keeping my eye on a rope I hoped to heck was our boat and not a Burmese fishing vessel on the other side of the rock. When our 5min were up we surfaced and, just as I had expected…., there was the boat (thank the heavens!)

All in all a great day and I liked the feeling of the responsibility of taking the diver to the surface and tying the float line.

Introducing the Local to the Surfers

Back home I studied my dive books and waited for Willy and Daniel my two couchsurfers to return from their escapades around the island. After a few hours I went to fill Lucy Liu bike with gas, the farthest I had gone on my bike. A full 5min away from home. When they weren’t home by 6pm and I was famished I popped down to my local and got some of my favorites.

Reclining in the hammock, reading and killing mosquitoes while periodically watching a great episode of gecko tv on my wall, they arrived, it was barely 7.30pm and they felt bad I had waited. But it was all good and I took them over where they bought me a beer and told me about their day while eating. Both of them are huge foodies and could not believe how good the food was. They planned to come back the next day, Willy with his notebook to take down how to cook all the delicious dishes.

Willy and Daniel

Willy and Daniel

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and planning our adventures for the following day. At the boys encouragement to improve my driving, I had decided to take the day off and attempt to drive all the way to Tong Sala, a full 20min. Mmmm this could prove a make it or break it moment in my bike driving career…

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Scuba Diving, Thailand, Travel

 

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