Posts Tagged ‘Thailand’

First diving course, lunch in Thailand, visitor from Norway

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I am currently sitting on a bus on the way to the airport in Kota Bharu. I’ve spent most of the day in buses, going to Thailand for lunch, and then back into Malaysia with another 90 day visa period. My cousin Gaute is arriving soon, and together we will race to Kuala Besut to see if we can make it in time for the last boat to the Perhentians!
In the last few days, I’ve been teaching my first courses, an Open Water course, an Emergency First Responder course, and started a Rescue course. My OW students were two sweet and laidback Danish girls, maybe even a little too laidback, as the course took 5 days to complete instead of 3 and a half… ๐Ÿ˜›
I am currently carrying too much cash for comfort, as I have withdrawn cash from six different cards, to bring back to people on the island. Fingers crossed that I don’t get mugged before I’ve handed off the cash, 7500 RM is a lot of money!
I’ve worked long days and had little sleep for a bit too long now, so today was a nice change, a dry day spent snoozing on various buses. When I say dry, I mean that only in the sense that I haven’t been diving, though, ‘cuz on the boat to Kuala Besut this morning I got so soaked with sea spray that I might as well have been… I dried off soon enough, of course, in this heat that’s just a matter of minutes, but I’ve spent the rest of the day caked with sea salt. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Now I am really psyched to recieve my first visitor from the old country, can’t wait to finally show somebody from home how I live!

(Aargh, why is this bus half an hour late, at this rate we won’t make it in time for the last boat!)

Uncle Travelling Gjerulf to become uncle again!

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

The days roll by here in the Perhentians, and the FIFA World Championship is on. For about a week I’ve been coughing and coughing to empty my lungs of the stubborn phlegm that just won’t go away.ย  was really cold one night, and the resulting chest cold is as stubborn as is to be expected in a tropical climate.

Most of my days are spent sitting around the shop, or out chatting to people to see if I can recruit some divers.ย  It’s quiet here, so I’m not diving quite as much as I’d like to. I guess it’s a combination of the economic recession going on the third year, people’s irrational fear that all of South East Asia is unsafe due to the unrest in Thailand, and perhaps some apprehension about buying expensive air tickets to Asia and then getting stuck in an airport due to volcanic ash from Iceland…ย  Now that the volcano has calmed down, I have high hopes for July and August, the high season here in the Perhentians!

This is an interesting place for watching international football, because there are almost always someone that has someย  connection to one of both of the countries playing. As you probably know, I’m not exactly a big football fan, to put it mildly, but I have actually watched a couple of games, and that says a lot about the mood surrounding the matches! It also makes for some rather bizarre experiences, like one night in the beginning of the group play when I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, and saw two grown men and a lifesize inflatable kangaroo in Australian supporter get-up in front of the TV in the lounge…

In more important news, the oldest of my little sisters is pregnant with her second, and I will get a niece in November!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Congratulations to Jenny and Tom!

I am also really looking forward to my first visitor from home, my cousin Gaute, who I’ll go to meet after my visa run to Thailand on 6 July!

Divemaster Trainee Gone Native

Monday, July 13th, 2009

On Wednesday I went for my first two dives here at the Perhentians. The first dive was a wreck dive, an old freighter they call the Sugar Wreck. It lies on it’s side at around 19 meters, so that the shallowest side of it is on about seven meters. When we arrived at the divesite, I looked over the side of the boat, and I could see all the way to the bottom! The divemaster and instructor that was with us said that it was the best visibility they’d ever seen on that divesite, 20-25 meters. We went down at the stern, made our way up to the prow, and entered one of the cargo bays. We swam through to the aft cargo bay, and returned along the deck. The dive finished off along the upper hull, before we surfaced again at the stern. The whole wreck was covered in soft corals, and we saw bamboo sharks, great barracudas, squids, giant blowfish, scorpion fish, and lots of other cool critters. The second divesite they call by the codename of T3, and it consists of a jumble of massive boulders with lots of swim-throughs. I saw nudibranches there for the first time in my life, and they are perhaps the fanciest things I’ve seen so far, little brightly coloured slugs with a knobbly surface. Google it!

Thursday I decided to go exploring the island, and I headed out after a late breakfast. I went north, up to a couple of windmills, and found out there was also a solar power plant. Where the electricity goes is beyond me, though, because everyone is running diesel generators for power… I continued down the other side, to a small beach that would’ve been nice if it weren’t for the fact that it was obviously used as a docking point when the powerplant was built, and has not been properly restored. At the northernmost beach on the island I found no other people, however, and lay there relaxing with my book for a while. I continued exploring, but by then my feet were sore from wearing shoes, so I carried my shoes in my hands the rest of the day. I haven’t worn shoes for so longย  that it hurts really fast…

On Friday, Helena arrived from Koh Phi Phi when I had finished my late breakfast. That day we celebrated Richard’s birthday, he’s one of the guys who works here. I tasted the local rum, Orang-Utan, which goes by the fitting nick name Monkey Piss.

Yesterday Helena and I went over to Coral Bay, and continued north along the shore to go snorkeling. The sea was rather choppy, and there was so much sand suspended in the water that visibility was less than two meters. We gave up after a couple of minutes, and spent the day on land instead.

This morning Helena went diving, and I went to tell Sonny, the owner, that I’ve decided to stay. I checked the balance on my account first, to verify that the money the tax collector’s office owed me for last year had arrived and I could afford the course. I am now officially a Divemaster Trainee! I calculated that If I don’t get a job I probably have to go back to Norway in about three months, close enough to be called exactly one year from the time I left. I hope to be able to stretch the money, though, so I can get to Australia and get work before I run too low on funds. If I manage to get a job here in the Perhentians after I finish my divemaster, I can pretty much stay until my student loan downpayments have eaten up my budget, before I head out, but I won’t make enough to cover the downpayments as well, for that I need a proper job in a richer country.

My beach towel disappeared from the balcony the other day, so yesterday I bought a Sarung to replace it. The Sarung is the local traditional outfit for men, basically a big piece of cloth with the short ends sewn together so it forms a big tube, which is wrapped tightly around the body under the arms and rolled down to the waist so it fits kind of like a skirt. I wore it today, and got appreciative nods and comments from Malaysian men wearing the same garment. When I got over to Coral Bay to speak to Sonny, she exclaimed before I had time to say anything, “Jerry’s staying! He’s gone native on us already!”

Perhentian Islands in Malaysia

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

July 6
When I woke up yesterday morning, it felt as if I was in the middle of an earthquake… When the next flash and boom came a few seconds later, I realized it had been a clap of thunder, but it had been so loud it rattled the doors and windows in my room! The rain came shortly after, and lasted until late afternoon, so I spent the day doing some reading, and when I’d finished Anna Karenina I went to a bookshop and sold it, and bought The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Eon. I don’t often read sci-fi, but Eon is pretty cool. It’s written in ’86, and set in 2010, so the setting is a bit odd. ๐Ÿ™‚ The Soviet Union is still going strong, and so is East Germany, and the much dreaded nuclear war that we were all afraid of in the late eighties had happened in 93!

In the afternoon Helena came over from Tim’s, and told me he was finally starting his tattoo. We had dinner, and then headed over to watch Tim having pain inflicted on his shoulder blades with a foot long stick of bamboo. ๐Ÿ˜‰ On our way there we met a couple of Swedes from Piteรฅ, that we’d been talking to a few days ago, and agreed to meet up with them at the Reggae Bar after we’d been to offer Tim some moral support. We spent the night partly at the Reggae, and partly at the tattoo parlour, until I had to head to bed. I was getting up at seven thirty, so I needed my beauty sleep. ๐Ÿ˜›

This morning Helena woke me up at seven twenty, I packed, and we had breakfast at Garlic, where I’ve had the greater part of my breakfasts on the Island. She followed me to the boat, and we said bye and see you later. I’m going to write her an email once I get onto the Perhentians, and tell her where I’m at, so she can come meet me in a few days.

The Piteรฅ guys were also on the same boat, but they were headed to Koh Samui, and then Koh Pha Ngan for the full moon party. I got in a minibus in Krabi, and was taken to Had Yai, where I changed into an older minibus with less leg room and without aircon, but I was happy, because they weren’t playing insanely loud concert videos with Thai music… ๐Ÿ˜ฎย  I got to Sungai Golok on the border around seven thirty, left Thailand and entered Malaysia very easily. As I came out of the immigration office, I spotted three people just entering, and fingers crossed, I was hoping they were going to Kuala Besut as well. It turned out they, Dean, Rachel and Nathan, had in fact also come from Phi Phi today, and were also headed to Pulau Perhentian, so we’re now sharing a taxi. It’s a 110km taxi ride, but with four people in the taxi, it’s cheaper than the bus, at 25 Ringit per person, or about 40 NOK. I am now at GMT +8 instead of GMT +7, so it’s getting kinda late. I’m guessing we’ll be in Kuala Besut around 11pm, so I hope there are open guesthouses! The first boat to Perhentians leaves at 8am tomorrow morning, and I don’t want to spend the night on the pier… ๐Ÿ˜› It’s also been rainingย  all afternoon and evening, so it’s very wet, but it’s also a bit cooler and refreshing. I definately won’t need any aircon. The last few nights I’ve actually woken up early in the morning and I’ve had to turn off the fan! I suspect I will have to get heated blankets and hot water bottles for my bed when I eventually return to Norway…

July 7
We arrived at 11pm like I thought, and when we’d checked into a guest house, had dinner and gone to bed, it was half past midnight. I got up before 7 to take the first boat out to the Perhentians, and had a gorgeous trip out on a little speedboat, with the sun just up over the islands. Dean turned out to have taken his DM licence on the Perhentians a year ago, and I think I want to use the same outfit. ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s on Long Beach on the smaller Perhentian, and it’s called Sunlight. I’m staying at the Moonlight Chalets, which cooperates with the Sunlight Divers. I spoke to the owner of Sunlight today, at the Coral Bay, opposite side of the island from Long Beach, and she said I just had to tell her when I was ready to start. I’m spending some time with the instructors and divemasters here, and I’m going to do a couple of fun dives tomorrow, and if nothing extreme happens to put me off the course or the people, I’ll be spending at least the next six weeks here on the Perhentians! ๐Ÿ˜€ I also might work here after.

PS: My foot is healing nicely.

Boat trip to The Beach

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

For those who were wondering;I still don’t have a tattoo. I came to the conclusion that I want to try it in Henna or something before I do the real thing, to find out whether it looks the way I want on me. ๐Ÿ™‚

On Sunday night we went to watch Farang kicking the shit out of each other Muay Thai style at the Reggae bar, and while I was sitting there, craning my neck to see the fights, my neck and shoulders started hurting. It just got worse, so I took a relatively early night, and headed out to get a massage first thing Monday morning. I was looking for a place where I could get a cheap head-neck-shoulder massage in a calm environment, so when I found a nice, quiet place with relaxing music, I asked what I’d have to pay for that kind of massage. The woman kept saying “Full Body Massage 600 Baht,” so I thought she didn’t understand me, but when the masseur came out, they quickly conferred with each other, and told me I could get it for 300. The guy started massaging my back and neck, and then reached under my belly and massaged my stomach. He said “mhm, aha” and declared that he knew why my shoulders hurt; I had gas… It might have been a trick to make me pay more, but it was true that I was a little upset in the stomach, so I decided to trust him. I had a long, painful and uncomfortable massage where he mostly was standing on me massaging with his feet, and at the end he gave me lukewarm water and a herbal laxative. It worked after a couple of hours, and the pain has not returned. ๐Ÿ™‚ Money well spent!
I headed out to a beach bar called Sunflower, where they were supposed to have WiFi, but they didn’t, so I instead spent a few hours editing my underwater photos from my first two dives. Resetting the white balance made them look a lot more like what it actually looks like under water! That night I danced on the beach until the wee hours of the morning, and slept like a baby for a long time.

On Tuesday Helena and I rented a kayak, and headed toward Monkey Beach. We saw it, but saw no monkeys, so we crossed the bay to the south, and stopped for snorkling on a small beach where we met some other kayakers. Then we headed further south, and found a big, deserted beach where we went looking for coconuts to have for lunch. It seemed to be regularly searched, though, cause we found no ripe nuts on the ground. We headed back, and got in a half hour too late, right as the sun set. After dinner, we stopped in at a bar where they were showing Iron Man. It was nice to just sit and watch a movie, it’s been a long time…

Wednesday we rented a kayak again, and this time brought the camera. We went out to the same small beach for snorkling, and stayed there until the sun went behind a pinnacle, and headed back to the bay. We stopped for sunset on a rocky outcrop in the bay, and got some nice pictures. As we were taking the kayak back in the water, I slipped and cut my right foot right under the ankle on a rock, and it was bleeding a lot. By the time we got back, the bottom of the kayak was full of blood and water, and I was making bloody tracks all the way to our room. When I was cleaning out the wound, I saw that it was about six centimetres long, pretty deep, and I could see my pulse in there… it had gone straight through all the skin, about half a centimeter, and then started skinning me up the foot a little less than a centimeter. I didn’t want to go get it stitched up, although I probably should have. Instead I bought some strips specially made for closing deep cuts, pulled the edges together, and Helena put the strips on. I closed it in with a lot of gauze and medical tape, and headed out to dinner, and then bought tickets for a sigtseeing boat trip the next day. When I came back it had bled through all the gauze and run down my foot, so I was again making blood tracks along the island… I figured there should be no more walking for me that evening, so I changed the bandage and applied more iodine gel, and we watched American Dad and Mythbusters on my laptop.

On Thursday the longtail-boat-trip started at eleven, and we went out to Monkey Beach. I’d brought the camera, so we were filming along the way. There were loads of monkeys, drinking water out of bottles, coke out of glasses and beer out of cans, and eating the bananas and bread people brought them. I must say I don’t feel quite comfortable with feeding wild animals like that, and giving them beer and coca cola is just plain wrong!

On the way to our next stop, Phi Leh Bay, we went past the so-called Viking Cave, which is off limits because they collect birds’ nests there for bird’s nest soup… We swam in Phi Leh Bay, and my bandage fell off my foot… the strips stayed on though, so the woundย  didn’t open up. I took the chance of snorkling in the next bay as well, and then we stopped for an hour on The Beach, officially named Ma Ya Beach, but famous for the twenty seconds it featured in the movie “The Beach”…
Lunch was taken on The Beach, and then we stopped for snorkling on Shark Point, before we headed north to Bamboo Island. Both that Island and Phi Phi Leh, where Ma Ya Beach is, are part of the Phi Phi Marine National Park, but the park entry fee was covered by our boat ticket, so we could walk around. On the way back to Phi Phi Don, we stopped for more snorkling, and then on the tip of the island for sunset. The waves were large-ish, so it was difficult to take pictures and film, but I managed to get some good sunset shots. I now have WAY too many sunset pictures… ๐Ÿ˜‰

Yesterday we spent chilling out, and I was planning to not get my foot wet, but I had to give in and head to the beach, so I put a sock on my foot, and we waded out to a raft tied a little off the beach. We stayed there sleeping, reading and writing for a long time, and after dinner we took the camera around to get some good pictures of things we want to remember from the island, like Song who makes the best Pad Thai I’ve ever had, and Muzh who makes killer fruit shakes. ๐Ÿ™‚ We were planning to take pictures of us fighting with a cute little three-year-old who lives next to Adventure Club diving… He is always around, always trying to fight Muay Thai with us, but not that night, so we’ll have to try again. He has the best hair cut ever, shaved head except from a circle in the back, where he has a whip! Aksel, a German diving instructer who Helena took her courses with, has taught him something that the thai ladies around don’t much like; if the kid is playing with a girl or woman, Aksel says “Num!” to the kid, and the cute little boy grabs a handful of boob! -I suspect num means breast in Thai- ๐Ÿ˜€
We had a lot of fun telling the kid NUM! when Helena was fighting with him. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Helena is almost as tall as I am, so the kid was standing on the tips of his toes trying to reach, but I suspect with the thai women he’s even more of a nuisance, since many of them are almost a head shorter than her…

We also booked a dive trip last night, and this morning we got up early and went for two dives. The diving is still fantastic, and it was Helena’s first fun dives, so she was really eager. ๐Ÿ™‚ On the second dive we again saw two Leopard sharks lounging on the bottom. They are magnificent creatures!

Tomorrow I am planning to book a ticket to Malaysia, and head off to Pulau Perhentian someday soon. Helena is staying a few days longer, because she’s really hit it off with Tim the German, and then she’s planning to come join me in Perhentian for some more diving. Fingers crossed that I can find a place where they need a divemaster, so I can get a job once I’m done with my course.

Beach bum

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Since Tuesday I’ve mostly just been hanging around relaxing on the beaches, and watching Muai Thai and fireshows in the evenings. I spent some time with Cecilie and Simone and their friend Emilie, until they all went home yesterday.

On Tuesday I went looking for a beach where it might be possible to camp out for the night. It took me an hour and a half to get there, but I found an easier way back, so the return was only fortyfive minutes. On Wednesday Helena and I went back and spent the day there, snorkeling and snoozing on the beach, but it turned out not to be good for camping, since the water comes all the way up to the jungle on high tide. We didn’t pack any lunch, and there are no places to buy food, but there were coconuts lying around, so we cracked a couple, drank the milk and lunched on fresh coconut. ๐Ÿ™‚ When we got back, we just had enough time to pick up a camera and head up to a viewpoint overlooking the main village. I got some nice sunset photos, and we stayed until it was dark and got pictures of Phi Phi Don village by night as well. It was rather special to sit there at seven, because at seven pm sharp, the beach bars started playing loud music, and at the same time the evening prayer started at the mosque, with the call to prayer resounding from the minaret!

On Thursday we went to the Adventure Club, the dive centre we’re using here, and booked a night dive. Helena decided to do the Advanced Open Water, so the night dive could be part of her course. ๐Ÿ™‚ The dive was on Friday evening, and it started out with skill training for Helena. She was going to take out a compass course, swim out ten strokes, and then turn around and come back. I was her buddy, so I swam with her, but she didn’t get it right when we were going back, so in the end we had to go back up to find the instructor again! ๐Ÿ™‚ We then had a pretty long swim before we found anything interesting, and the visibility was rather bad, so it wasn’t the best dive I’ve ever had, but night dives are pretty cool anyway. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We’ve found a little shack that serves the best Pad Thai any of us have ever had, so we’ve been going there almost every day… Yesterday we were celebrating Helena’s AOW certification, and we ended up sitting around in a tattoo shop with a German guy Helena’s been hanging out with, called Tim, a couple of other westerners, and a bunch of really nice Thai guys. I was looking a bit at the main tattoo guy’s work, and the patterns he was familiar with, and I am considering finally getting the celtic cross that I’ve been thinking about for years. I might head over there tonight to see if he can design one that I like. He only tattoos with bamboo, which is what I’m after, seeing as bamboo tattoos don’t scab, and I can keep being in the sun and the water. We’re also looking to go sailing, but we both agree that we’d like to be on a boat where there ISN’T as much free beer as you can drink, and it’s not easy to find…

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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 areย  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! ๐Ÿ˜€ I rented an underwater camera for the day, and I don’t regret it in the least, even though it cost quite a bit. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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. ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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. ๐Ÿ˜›

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… ๐Ÿ™‚ 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 ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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 intoย  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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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…