Archive for March, 2013

Thailand take 2


after 18 hours of flying, my travel companion Eddie and i arrived in Phuket.  we had a few days to kill before embarking on our 5-day live-a-board in the Similan islands so we decided to explore the island.  we booked accommodations for our first night in Kamala beach and transportation from the airport ahead of time to make the post-flight procession as painless as possible.  the moment i stepped out into the early morning twilight after a well deserved rest i was immediately bombarded by two things that mentally brought me back to Thailand.  one was the ever familiar musky Thai air with that constant smell of burning… something (is that coconut?), and the other was those 12 pesky mosquitoes that love to visit your ankles at each and every dusk and dawn.  you know the ones.  they would each take turns greeting me by drawing my blood and saying “welcome to Thailand motherfucker!”

i was a little hesitant to spend a lot of time in Phuket because i assumed it was going to be expensive and pretty much void of backpackers and even though those assumptions turned out to be very spot on we still managed to make the most of it and stumble onto the many gems the island had to offer.

take just the right mixture of families, old men with their Thai companions and gaggles upon gaggles of Germans.  put them on a developed Thai island surrounded by beautiful beaches and upscale resorts and you could make your own Phuket.

we started out in Kamala beach (A.K.A. “Actually Germany”) – A quaint beach town that served as a good home base while we cruised around to visit other attractions (other beaches) and ever so slowly adjusted to local time.

we then zip down to Rawai. a gypsy fishing village on a peninsula at the south end of the island.  here you could buy fresh fish, squid and prawns at the markets on the dock and then take them to any restaurant where they would barbecue it for you.  you could also hire a longboat to near by islands and relax on near by beaches to watch a sunset.  this proved to be a very nice get away from the resort scene.

then onto Patong – a fast-paced congested slice of bangkok on the beach!  well worth a brief visit for the sheer interestingness of it.  Bangla road which runs through the center of it is quite the spectacle at night.  it’s rife with go-go bars, lady-boys and very bright lights.  We had booked our Similan live-a-board through one of the many dive shops here.

20130318_143800“Dive, Eat, Sleep, Repeat” was the motto written on the side of the “Manta Queen 2″, the boat we would call home for the next 5 days.  the first day we were transported to Khao Lak and greeted by the boat staff, the dive instructors and our 15 or so dive companions.  we then set sail for the Similan Islands and arrived by morning.  they managed to schedule 14 dives over the next 4 days (4 dives a day for 3 days and 2 dives on the last day).  many of the more experienced divers on the boat did not partake in all the dives because they knew well and good that scuba diving 4 times a day is stretching the limits of what a human body can handle.  i took the ‘ask for forgiveness later’ approach and did all 14.  our routine over the next 3 days was rigorous and unforgiving.  6am wakeup call, followed by a light breakfast, followed by dive #1, followed by actual breakfast, followed by dive #2, followed by lunch, followed dive #3, followed by “snack time”, followed by dive #4, followed by dinner, followed by passing out hard (repeat..repeat..repeat).  we did manage to do some resting in between dives to socialize, tan, enjoy the scenery and let loose some nitrogen.  our group was a pleasantly mixed bag of Europeans including a Hungarian tax accountant, a Dane with a morbid sense of humor (don’t believe i’ve ever met a Dane.. apparently there just aren’t that many of them), a flaming dutch doctor, a jolly German and a clump of French people that mostly stuck to their own.  the actual diving was some of the best i have ever experienced.  i even decided to go the extra mile and get my “Adventure diver” certification which allowed me to follow my comrades down to depths of almost 30 meters… and yes, at least for me things tend to feel a little funny at that depth.  though well worth the pain, 14 dives in 4 days did take its toll.  my ears were shot from the constant equalizing, one ended up becoming infected (perhaps i’ve written about that below), i was covered in random rashes from the various creatures that like to sting you when you spend lots of time under the sea, and i was fatigued in that special way you get when you overexert your body and mind in repetitious activities for extended periods of time.  that boat was everything i knew by the end of that trip but i managed to step onto dry land again somehow.

after our dive adventure we left Phuket as quickly as we could with out looking back.  one bus ride followed by several kilometers on foot followed by a tuktuk ride, followed by a brief nights stay in Krabi followed by 2 longboat rides brought us to Ton Sai beach (right next to Railay beach) … and finally after all this time… there they were.  real honest to god backpackers… not a gaggle of Germans in disguise… not Thai prostitutes wearing clever wigs… actual backpackers.  they had names like “Chief” and “Tyler” and were from places like “San Diego” and “England” and they would say things like “fuck yeah bro” and “that sure was some sick climbing we did earlier”.  they would hangout at the reggae bars and smoke big joints and tell you all about their recent travel experiences as well as the sick climbing they did earlier.  i hung on to every word i could.

photobeing in one of the climbing meccas of the world we did manage to get in almost a full day of climbing and i must say it was pretty sick.

on our second morning in Ton Sai i woke up with an excruciatingly piercing pain in my left ear.  i had started to notice symptoms the previous day but i just couldn’t let it get in the way of my enjoyment of paradise.  on this day however the pain was too severe to ignore and something needed to be done… but what?! (no seriously i mean it!).  after some sleuthing in pain we learned that the closest clinic was about 5km inland on Ao Nang (a couple beaches over and a 15 minute longboat ride).  once we came ashore we walked the entire 5km for dramatic effect.  after we finally found the place i was able to see the one doctor on staff right away.  he looked in my ear and told me it was blocked and needed to get “un-blocked” before he could see what was really going on in there.  this was followed by a procedure i was not quite prepared for.  into the ER i went where i was met by 3 very petite Thai nurses with giant smiles on their faces.  one positioned me on the bed while another one attached a plastic bag onto my ear and then proceeded to blast hot water into my ear.  it felt so amazing that i couldn’t help but giggle uncontrollably the entire time.  the others then started giggling along with me.  we all giggled together as we slowly removed mounds of wax from my ear.  she was so proud of the progress she was making that she kept showing me the contents of the bag every time it needed changing.  despite her best efforts she was unable to fully un-block me.  this is when the doctor came in to take matters into his own hands and when my giggles turned into screams.  he comes along and shoves the ear-doucher as deep in my ear as it could go, cranks it to eleven and shakes it violently.  after several seconds of this i finally feel my ear open up.  “look!” the doctor says as he holds up an almost marble sized object.  “it’s hard as a rock!”  i turned away, then the giggling started again.  he was then finally able to determine for himself that my ear was indeed infected. he gave me an assortment of meds and sent me on my way.  thank goodness for travel insurance!

20130325_122719we concluded our journey on the long sleepy island of Koh Lanta for some resort hopping and tree hugging.  we rented motorbikes and explored basically every inch of the island including the various off road trails that lead to the many rubber tree plantations.  we took a barefoot walk through a bat cave where our guide encouraged us to bang our fists on the stalactites and stalagmites because they made musical sounds.  we even thought it in our best interest to rent our very own manual transmission tuktuk which i nicked named “The Koh Lanta Limousine”.  it turned out to be the hardest vehicle i’ve tried to operate.  it took a consistent 50% of my upper body strength to just to keep it from veering left.  it took a running start in first gear to get it up small hills and a buddy hanging off the front end to keep the front wheel in contact with the ground.  we got about half way across the island before we got a flat tire.  not because we ran over something but because the tires were so old and warn thin that it just blew up because it was its natural time to die.  yes they charged us for the rental anyway.

of course i gave nicknames to all the motorbikes i rented:
1. “the lazy eye” – its right rear view mirror kept drooping down
2. “wussy bike” – it was very wussy
3. “pretty-in-pink” – it was very pink and very pretty
4. “koh lanta limousine” – see above
5. “short time” – we only had it a short time
6. “melt-your-face” – a very powerful, proper bike worthy of off-roading adventures

it was a sobering morning when Eddie and i parted ways.  we had a truly awesome time together over these past 3 weeks and i will miss him dearly.  by the time he boards his plane back to reality i’ll be in Bangkok letting my wounds heal while i mentally prepare for the next adventure.


Getting There

getting_therein 2008 after a brief but enlightening solo trip through Thailand, Cambodia and Lao, i decided it would be in my best interest to embark on a similar trip of much larger proportions.  one that would span multiple countries and take months if not years to complete.  over the next 5 years my idea turned onto an obsession.  in March of 2013 i finally did something about it.  after quiting my job, canceling all my bills, renting out my house and saying goodbye to everyone i know and love, i left American soil with no return strategy.