Posts Tagged ‘open water’

Climbing on Koh Phi Phi

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I am just as beat today as I thought I would be… When I got to the climbing centre yesterday, I was told that I’d have to pay more to do lead climbing, but my guide, Timi from Hungary, told me when we got up to the wall that she’d let my do it anyway. πŸ™‚ I first had to prove to her and myself that I still knew how to climb, however, and she set up the first top-rope climb. I saw before I started that it would be like walking a flight of stairs, so I climbed that one barefoot… The next one was a bit harder, so I wore climbing shoes, but still ran up it quite easily. Those two climbs convinced us that my body still remembered, even though some technique had to be refreshed. My greatest weakness is still that I rely too much on upper body strength, not using my legs enough.

I did a few leads, setting up climbs that the other climber up with us, Asaf from Israel, could climb top-rope. He had climbed a bit on indoor walls, but this was his first natural outdoor climb. The last climb i led was a 6a, and it was a bit touch-and-go on the top as to whether I’d make it, but after a couple of rests on the rope on the last bolt, I made it to the top. πŸ™‚ We rounded off the night on a tough bit, and I managed to get up a 6b+ on top rope, and was satisfied with myself. Today my fingertips are raw and my hands, arms and back ache, but I definately want to go climbing again before leaving Koh Phi Phi!

Today Helena is finishing her Open Water, and I went out to a beach that seemed suitable for camping out. πŸ™‚ It took me an hour twenty minutes to get out there, since I didn’t quite know the way, but I got back in three quarters of an hour. The snorkeling out there was decent too, and we might head out with mozzy nets and blankets to spend a night under the stars.

I am again sitting at the Ozzy bar with free WiFi, and while I was sitting here unsuspecting of anything, I was assaulted by Simone and Cecilie, the two Danish girls I stayed with in Vang Vieng! They’ve spent the time since then in Vietnam, and got to Phi Phi yesterday. We haven’t made any plans, but the island is so small that I’ve already seen them once more since then, and we’re counting on bumping into each other again in the next few days. πŸ˜‰

Scuba diving and rock climbing on Koh Phi Phi

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

On Wednesday Helena and I left Koh Tao, took the boat to Surat Thani, and then a bus to Krabi. We spent a night in Krabi, and then headed out by boat to Koh Phi Phi on Thursday. Out here we’ve kept meeting people that we’ve met before, and all agree that this island beats both Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Tao. It has neither the forced party atmosphere of Koh Pha Ngan, nor the forced diving environment of Koh Tao, although it offers both the party scene, the diving scene and more. It also seems the locals are more welcoming and friendly, making us travellers feel more relaxed and at home. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it, but the tsunami on December 26 2004 might have made it clear how dependent society out here is on continued tourism. It was a horrible disaster, and everyone here, expats and locals alike, lost family and friends when the massive wave washed over the island. Some signs are still left of the wholesale destruction left in the wake of the tsunami; a few pieces of land are still just fields of rubble, and some broken palm trees areΒ  still standing, but all in all Koh Phi Phi is just as beautiful as it used to be. The Phi Phi islands have been backdrop for both a Bond movie that I can’t remember the name of, and the movie The Beach, and it’s just as beautiful as it looks on the Silver Screen.

We booked our first dive trip the night we arrived, and on Friday, yesterday, we went out on a dive boat shared by a big diving outfit, and several of the smaller ones. We’re in the low season now, and many don’t have enough customers to warrant taking out a boat each. I had two dives to about twenty meters, while Helena spent the time snorkeling. On my first dive I saw a couple of black tipped reef sharks whizz by, but I missed the sea turtle that some other people spotted just after I got out of the water. On my second dive, I saw another couple of Black Tipped Reef Sharks, was REALLY close to two Great Barracudas, a Striped Sea Snake, and also saw a couple of Leopard Sharks. The second Leopard Shark was lying still on the bottom, and I swam up around to try and lie down next to it for a picture. While I was heading around, someone else got too close to it, and scared it up. The result was that the shark swam up, and alongside me for a few meters, and a divemaster from a different outfit got a cool picture of me swimming less than half a meter from the Leopard Shark! He’s the boyfriend of the divemaster who was my dive buddy for the dive, and he promised to email me the photo! πŸ˜€ I rented an underwater camera for the day, and I don’t regret it in the least, even though it cost quite a bit. πŸ™‚ Helena saw a handful of Blacktips during her snorkling too, and also a couple of Leopard Sharks. She was bitten by the dive bug, and is starting her Open Water course tonight. πŸ˜‰ When we’re heading out to Pulau Perhentian in Malaysia, she can then either do fun dives, or she can take her Advanced Open Water if she feels like it, and her budget allows it.

Last night we headed out to the beach after dark, and watched a really good fire show, with poi, fire sticks, fire limbo and other games. Some of the fire jugglers around here are really good, and they look like they really enjoy what they’re doing, unlike what we saw in Koh Pha Ngan and to some extent in Koh Tao.

Tomorrow Helena is headed out to do her confined water dives, and I am going rock climbing. I suspect my body will be completely beat after seven hours of climbing, seeing as I’ve hardly climbed at all since I left Italy in ’99… I’m going to start out with a few top rope climbs, and if the guide is satisfied with my skill, I’ll be lead climbing some routes after that. Here’s hoping that climbing is like biking, and my body remembers the techniques! Right now I’m sitting in an Australian bar with free WiFi and the France vs. New Zealand rugby match on TV, but once this is posted I’ll bring my book to the beach, and keep Helena company while she’s studying for her OW exam. It’s a pity I’m missing the Norwegian summer, but I’m not complaining. πŸ˜›

June 16, Snorkeling in Shark Bay on Turtle Island

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

Koh Tao, the Turtle Island, is not a place you spend a lot of time if you don’t dive or snorkle… πŸ™‚ If you do, however, you can stay here forever. Helena and I have rented scooters here as well, and driven around the island. On Sunday we headed north towards Mango Bay, but turned off the beaten path to find a way down to the only beach on the entire island that is remote enough to not have a resort yet. We wanted to see whether it was possible to go there and spend the night, but we were glad we went without supplies and everything first, because it was VERY difficult to get to, and once we finally got there, the tiny beach was full of broken glass… Not a very nice place to spend the night. It was a nice experience though, climbing through the jungle up and down the steep hills, and over rocks on the waterfront. The ride along the road was also an experience, with inclines so steep that the 125cc scooter was hardly able to pull it’s own weight up, let alone the two of us!

Yesterday we kept looking for beaches to spend a night on, but we had no more luck than the day before, even though we checked most of the beaches on the less travelled east coast. We also decided to buy some snorkling equipment, so we wouldn’t have to keep renting, but both of us had troubles with the masks we bought, as they kept leaking. We returned the masks today, and both of us got new ones that fit better.

Today we went out to Shark Bay, where we were the first evening. We snorkled around for a while, hoping to get a glimpse of a black tipped shark or a sea turtle, but it was all rather depressing. The whole bay has been a big coral reef, but now it’s basically all dead… There were some nice fishes, some colourful corals, and a quite cool car covered in corals πŸ˜‰ on the bottom, but most of the reef was just underwater wasteland.

Other than that, we’ve been spending the evenings lounging by the Eazy Bar on the beach, talking to other travellers and divers, and last night we checked out the night life in Sairee beach, which was greatly exaggerated… I’ve decided against taking my divemaster certificate here, since they no longer offer free courses in exchange for working for a couple of months. There are too few tourists and too many divemasters for that nowadays, so I’ll try in Malaysia. Helena had decided to do her Open Water, but she kicked a rock on the first night, and her big toe hurts too badly to enjoy swimming around with fins on, so she’s also postponing till Malaysia. Since we’re both headed the same way, we might stick together for a while longer, as long as we still enjoy each others’ company.

As I write this, we’re sitting on a beach front balcony that serves as a class room for dive courses earlier in the day, charging our electronic gadgets. For some reason our room, though nice, has no electical sockets, so we can’t get anything charged around there. It’s extremely windy tonight, so unless it calms down by the morning, we might get a rather bumpy boat ride to the mainland…

Shabbath Shalom in Koh Pha Ngan

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

On Tuesday Lucas left for Koh Tao, and Helena’s roommate left as well, so we’ve been sharing the room Lucas and I had in the Israeli guest house. We rented a motorbike on Tuesday afternoon, and headed out to find some waterfalls. The bike was crappy and the roads were worse, and the first gear kept slipping when the hills got too steep, so every once in a while the one that wasn’t driving had to get off the bike and walk up the hill… We still headed north to look for Than Prawes waterfall, but when we couldn’t find it, and the locals had sent us on a couple of wild goose chases, we turned back south to find some other waterfalls. We got to Thong Nang waterfall, and were rather unimpressed, but we had a little dip in a shallow pond to cool off before continuing. The next waterfall we came to was Saampan, a couple of kilometers further down the road-cum-dried-up-riverbed. Although the waterfall wasn’t impressive or spectacular in any way, it was a lot of fun! The river, which technically isn’t more than a stream this time of year, gathered up in a narrow cleft, where it plunges down intoΒ  a pool, where you can sit and let the water massage your head and back. Below a couple smaller “steps” where you can sit, is a deep pond where you can swim, and around it there are nice rocks to lie down and relax on. The whole place is surrounded by green jungle, and when the sun started to set, dragonflies were zooming around everywhere. Beautiful. On the way back we stopped at a local restaurant for dinner high up in the hillside, and lay on pillows by a low table on the balcony, watching a thunderstorm over Koh Samui, the neighbouring island to the south.
Late at night, we got a spur of the moment idea to head out and see if the pool party at Coral Bungalows was all that it was cracked up to be, and seeing as it was all that, the plans of an early night and early next morning melted away like a snowman at a pool party. πŸ˜‰

The next day we decided to hand back the ratty moped, and instead rented a scooter from a different company. It was a lot newer, a little stronger, and a lot more comfortable to drive, as it was an automatic. It took us up and down the ridiculously steep and winding road, as we headed past Saampan waterfall and out to the sea at Ao Thong Reng. To my surprise, the coast there looked a lot like the coast along southern Norway, with rounded rocks lining the sea. We found a place out of sight of everyone and everything, and after a long swim, just lay there reading and sleeping until almost sunset, and we had to return quickly, before it got too dark to see the deep gouges left by heavy rains, crisscrossing the road crossing the island. Dinner was taken at the same restaurant, watching that night’s lightning show.

On Thursday we headed all the way up north, since we’d heard of some good snorkling there. We rented masks, snorkels and fins in Baan Chaloklum, and were directed by the nice lady in the dive shop, to Haad Khom, Coral Bay. It certainly lived up to it’s name, and we spent hours floating around the clear water in the bay. We saw a couple of boats come in, some snorklers whisped around for a half hour, and then they were off again. We kept congratulating ourselves on having made the right choice, seeing as we’d paid way less money, had way more freedom than the people on the boat. The road up there was even quite good, and our trusty scooter took us there fast as the wind. πŸ™‚ We saw striped fish, bright blue fish, neon-rainbow coloured fish, leopard spotted fish, green corals, red corals, brown corals, spiky corals, soft corals, in such a great variety that I have to say it’s my best snorkling so far. On the way back, we stopped at the night market in Baan Thong Sala where we had some grilled squid on a stick, a grilled cob of corn, and an absolutely brilliant Pad Thai. We got a little basket, and filled it with the ingredients we wanted, then the chef prepared it while we waited. It was fantastically tasty!

On Friday when we got up and paid for the room, Levi, one of the guys who runs the guest house asked if we wanted to join them for the Sabbath meal that night, and we accepted. We then tried to reach Ao Haad Khuat, Bottle Beach, on the crummy roads across the island, but when we were about a kilometer away, we reached a point where the scooter was unable to cross the bumps and loose sand. We were too high up in the hillside to consider leaving the scooter there and walking the rest of the way in the oppressive heat, so we had to turn back. Instead we went to Ao Thong Nai Pan Yai, where we spent some hours in the sun and then some in hammocks in the shade. When we were ready to leave, we wanted to stop by the Saampan waterfall again, and do some filming, since I’d finally remembered to bring my camera. We also filmed a little while we were looking for the road to take us to the waterfall along the coast, but again the road was impassable unless you had a 250cc off roader or better which was exactly what our scooter wasn’t. We still went there the long way around, and when we returned to Haad Rin, and our guest house, it was almost time for dinner.

Some jewish travellers had gathered there for the Shabbath Shalom, the meal, all with their little hats on the backs of their heads, and Levi started the meal by saying a prayer, breaking the bread, and handing out pieces of bread dipped in salt. We then got a taste of wine, and then the meal started. Out came more and more dishes, different fish dishes, meat balls, chicken, salad, loads of sauces, and we ate until we couldn’t eat any more. Then there was a shot of Sambuca, a whole lot of Mazel Tov’ing, and the guests started leaving. I noticed that all the smokers went outside to smoke, even though they usually smoke inside in that restaurant, and one of the jewish guys told me it was because they didn’t want to break the rule of the Sabbath of not lighting a light, i.e. cigarette lighter, INSIDE the house, so they went outside. The guy who told me this was from Stavanger, which strengthens my view that our planet is really the size of a small town…

This morning, Saturday, we left for Kho Tao. On the boat getting here, I spoke to a lot of Scuba divers, and we are currently staying in a dive resort. Helena is considering taking her Open Water certificate here, and I have thought about doing my Dive Master here, but none of us have quite decided. Malaysia is supposed to be cheaper for diving, and one of the guys I spoke to on the boat told me that Perhentian in north east Malaysia he met a couple of girls who did their DM on an internship, without paying for it. That’s what I want to do. They say they have an internship here as well, so I’ll check into it, and find out how long I have to stay here for if they do. I also want to do some dives here to see if it’s worth staying a few months, or if I’ll get bored with the dive sites in the first couple of weeks…