3 dives and an ulcer...
10.9.10 88 °F
Today was our first day of advanced scuba training! Unlike the other dive days where we had an early start at 7:30 am, today we got to sleep in.
I had a delicious pancake brunch and met up with Dave and Sonia around noon. Our advanced dive curriculum consisted of five dives; a deep dive, a night dive, a navigation dive and two elective dives. We scheduled our deep dive, navigation dive, and night dive for today and our electives the following day. It was time to start our training so we climbed aboard and headed out to a place called Shark Island, how inviting.
Our deep dive was dive number one. This time we would dive down to 100 feet, deeper than we've ever gone before. Before we dove we learned about the safety hazards of deep diving. Dave explained that when you dive to such depths, it is common to feel a bit intoxicated. He said that people tend to get a euphoric feeling with poor judgment and a short attention span. To make the dive a little more interesting he told us that, once we got to our deepest depth, he was going to quiz us on multiplication tables. Great. Math isn’t my forte anyway especially under the influence of the ocean. One of the dangers that comes with this intoxicating feeling, is that it can also be a symptom of nitrogen narcosis, which is the nerve damaging result of breathing nitrogen under pressure.
We plunged in and dove down next to a reference line, making decompression stops along the way. I felt none of the intoxicated feeling I was looking forward to and I aced my underwater math class like a champ.
The risk of nitrogen narcosis permits divers from staying at deep depths for to long, so to maximize your dive you divide up your time as you slowly rise from your deepest depth. As we ascended from 100 feet we ran into a lot of different sea life we hadn't seen in the shallower dives. We saw some giant table coral spanning a few feet in diameter that were intricate and gorgeous.
There were ton of black diamond sea urchins clinging onto barrel sponges, and giant clams waiting with open jaws for their next unsuspecting prey.
The highlight of the day was a giant grouper we spotted swimming through a narrow cave. Calling them 'giant grouper' doesn't do them justice. This guy was enormous! I swear, he must have been about 150 pounds, every fishermen’s dream!
We returned to the surface, soaked up the sun and snacked on some tea and cookies (or biscuits, as our English friends called them). After snack time Dave brought us a compass and a dive computer to wear on our wrists for our navigation training. He taught us how to hold the compass, which I thought was fairly self-explanatory, but apparently I was wrong. You don’t simply wear the compass on your wrist like a watch, you have to hold it a certain way. If you wear your compass on your left arm, hold your right arm straight ahead and grasp it with your left hand to square the compass in front of you. We learned how to set the compass heading and he talked us through the dive patterns we were going to swim.
It was time to go back underwater. He took us down to the ocean floor to get started. The first task was to read our compass to find our way back to where we started. The first route we were to swim was a square. Using kick cycles to gauge our distance, we were told to swim 20 kick cycles in each direction which, if executed successfully would bring us back to where we began. It was a little harder than it sounds because the water clarity wasn't the best and since we were in an open area, absent of coral, there weren't any landmarks to help us. Nevertheless we completed our task with no sweat. Next was a triangle path, which again was executed with perfection.
We headed back to Ban's and only had an hour for a light snack before we were back on board for our night dive. This was the dive that I was most looking forward to. I couldn't wait to see what was lurking in the ocean after dark!
We cruised out to our dive spot just as the sun was setting. We threw out the anchor and watched the sun fall, lining the dark clouds with it's fiery glow. It was one of my favorite sunsets yet.
After the sun was nothing but a faint memory, it was time to submerge ourselves in a sea of darkness. Armed with the aid of an underwater flashlight we hurled ourselves into the unknown.
The dive was awesome! It took a little getting used to because I felt a bit disoriented. I would be looking at something in front of me and all of a sudden feel something below me, not realizing that I was on top of a reef.
The nocturnal sea life that we saw was amazing. Even the fish we'd seen before were captivating because they looked different without the sunlight reflecting off of them.
We saw an awesome Indian cushion starfish, which was new to me, and a crown of thorn starfish whose wild wigglers curled up into a ball after Dave picked him up for a closer look. We saw a hermit crab crawling around dragging a giant shell on his back. If the shell is their house than this crab was pimpin' a mansion because it was one of the biggest shells I’ve ever seen. We had two great finds on this dive trip that were my personal highlight.
First, was a broad club cuttlefish fish we spotted scooting across the ocean floor. I had never seen one before and at first I thought it was a squid because it was so big.
The second highlight was the three blue spotted stingrays we encountered. I've seen a lot of stingrays but never as beautiful as this. The blue spots glowed as we illuminated them with our flashlights and we watched in amazement as they hover around us in no rush to get to where they were headed.
This was one of my favorite dives because it was so exotic. All scuba diving is strikingly beautiful, but after diving day after day it was great to mix it up and see something truly different.
We were sad to end our dive, I would have stayed down there all night if I could, but it was time to head back to Ban's.
We were beat from the all day diving so, after a cleansing shower, we decided to relax, grab a bite to eat and nibble on some noodles. We moseyed down to the fishbowl bar and grill for some traditional Thai food. I ordered the pad Thai and asked them to spice it up a little. I love spicy food, but this was a big blunder. I consider myself a hot sauce connoisseur and will even plan my meals around which hot sauce I have access to, so I'm no spice sissy, but this was ridiculous. After the first bite I almost choked. With only a diet coke to wash it down, I was screwed. Diet coke is not something you use to absorb spice, if anything it makes it worse. I powered through the majority of the meal as beads of sweat poured down my face. My cheeks were tingling, my tongue was void of taste buds and I was flushed from head to toe. It was time to wave the white flag. I could picture the little Thai chef in the back laughing at the sweaty American girl chugging the diet coke, but I could take no more. I had been defeated by the pad Thai.
Lesson learned: when in Thailand, don't ask for an extra kick, because it might just knock you out.
After we paid the bill, I could feel an ulcer forming in my stomach and I was still breathing fire, I needed something else. We'd been staying at bans for about a week and every night we run into the same guy standing outside of the restaurant selling omelets and pancakes.
I walk down the strip and hear him shouting at passersby, "Omelet for you! Pancake, you want pancake?". I stood by his cart and watched him cook for a while so I could get a look at the goods. They looked good! This guy had a talent! These traditional Thai pancakes were like nothing I'd ever seen before!
I watched him make an apple and cinnamon pancake that blew my mind. First, he tossed the dough around like a pizza until it was incredibly thin. He laid it on a flat pan to cook and added sliced up apples and a generous helping of cinnamon. Last he flipped in the corners to make a square pocket and flipped it with mango butter until it cooked like a tortilla. He cut it into small squares, topped it with condensed milk, through some toothpicks on the top, and viola, the best pancake ever! He had all sorts of flavor options too; banana-strawberry, banana-blueberry, mango-papaya, they all looked delicious. I was sold. I ordered a blueberry-banana pancake and it was the best pancake I've ever had! We need to bring the Thai pancake to America, I guarantee a smash hit!
- SIDENOTE: The show I was working on at AMS Pictures in Dallas TX, entitled "Ma's Roadhouse", premieres on September 15th at 9pm! http://www.trutv.com/shows/mas-roadhouse/index.html
From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on truTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home You guys are the best!