A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: emichele

8.25.10: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Fish Food and Free Kabobs..


Our first morning to wake up on the island of Koh Phi Phi was pleasant as ever! We wandered over to the P. P. Family Restaurant and woke up with a refreshing iced coffee and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. It was a beautiful day!
The placement of our hotel was peaceful because it was located on a stretch of beach that was pretty secluded from the main town area. We didn’t have to fight through crowds or listen to drunken college students stumbling home from the bars. The negative was that there was not much to do besides lay out and swim.
IMG_2657.jpg IMG_2894.jpg
We decided that we wanted to head into town and explore today. Our only options were to hire a long tail boat for a hefty fee or to trek into the unknown, down the beach and through the jungle, until we found town. If you know us, you know that we opted for the latter. Saving money and a free adventure, what more could you want?! Since the tide wasn’t at its peak we opted for the beach route. It took us about 25 minutes of slipping on algae covered rocks and dodging carnivals of crabs before we actually arrived in town panting like dogs.
We shopped around a while and grabbed some souvenirs before we headed into the Beach Bar Restaurant for lunch and refreshments. After I was sufficiently stuffed full of balsamic tuna salad, we started walking again.
We came to a place which, at first glance, looked like a gold fish store with large tanks full of tiny fish swimming around. Then I noticed a man sitting next to the tank, dangling his feet inside. This, obviously, stopped me in my tracks and I looked at the sign which read, “Doctor Fish Clean and Massage”.
The woman working saw my eyes popping out at the sight of these little fish feasting on this mans calluses and gave me a thorough explanation. She told me that these little fish were like comb fishes, so they only consume dead areas of the skin, leaving you with a fresh, healthy pedicure. I had to try it!
She dunked my feet into a tub of water and washed all the sand off before the fish feeding began. I carefully submerged my feet in the tank and was overcome with the weirdest feeling! I could feel their little mouths sucking at my skin and it tickled like nothing I've ever felt before!
I couldn’t stop giggling as passers by eyed me like some science experiment. After a while I got used to it and I was absorbed in watching the guppies gobble at my cuticles.
As Max watched me calm down, he decided that he was up for it as well.
He climbed in too and the munched on our bunion buffet like it was the last supper.
Fifteen minutes later our pedicure was over and our feet were silky smooth and good as new!
As darkness fell we did some bar hopping and eventually ended up following the tsunami evacuation route to a bar called “Stones Bar”. They had great music, fire spinners, and floor seating on the sand.
We enjoyed a few drinks and a couple rounds of Gin Rummy and set off to play some pool at an Irish Pub we’d spotted earlier. They had a great special where, if you bought a drink you could have as much free chicken kabobs as your heart desired. They had a grill set up outside the pub and we ordered a plate to take up to the pool tables.
We shot a few games, made some friends, and wolfed down our free kabobs. Our tummies were full, our heads were buzzed, and our feet were clean, it was time to go home.

It was bordering on morning time and we contemplated whether we should take a boat back (whose prices were even more inflated since it was night time) or if we should be soldiers and trudge through the jungle. Jungle it is!
Armed with headlamps and flip-flops we navigated our way through the thicket. We could not return the same way we’d come because the tide was so high it had engulfed our previous pathway. We pushed back the trees, stammering over debris, listening to the crickets chirp, until be finally reached our abode.

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Posted by emichele 20:45 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand island phi party tropical full moon ko Comments (0)

8.24.10: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Boat, Bus, Boat.. Koh Phi Phi!


We woke up at the crack of dawn today to embark on a long day of travel. Our destination was the island of Koh Phi Phi and we had an array of transportation methods to get us there. First we took a from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani where we boarded a bus to chauffeur us to Kerabi and finally we floated on a ferry to the island of Koh Phi Phi.
We arrived at the Phi Phi boat docks in the late afternoon where a surplus of wooden long tail boats waited to take us to our hotel. We tried to haggle with the overabundance of boat drivers but they were all stuck on the same price. I quickly learned that bargaining was not in their vocabulary.
We tossed our bags on board and hoisted ourselves up a rickety metal ladder into the boat. It was a short 5 minute boat ride along the coast to a stretch of beach called Long Beach.
We unloaded our stuff and checked in to our next temporary home; Blue Sky Resort.
We got a great deal on a little beach bungalow, a 50% discount, because we agreed to allow them to shut off our air-conditioning from noon to 5pm each day. The things you’ll do to save a buck.
This is one of the first hotels that we’ve stayed in that did not have a restaurant attached to it, so we decided to roam the boardwalk to see what was out there. Luckily right next door to us was a big resort which had internet, wifi, a restaurant and spa; perfect. We could save money and stay in our budget bungalow and head next door to the big fancy resort for all the amenities! What moochers we are!
We sat down at P.P. Family Restaurant and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the ocean, only a few feet away. We ordered some traditional Thai cuisine and indulged in a delectable dragon fruit smoothie!
We walked up and down the Long Beach strip getting price quotes on boat trips, fishing, and scuba diving, which were all pretty expensive. We watched a nice sunset at the Buddha Bar, the only bar within walking distance of our hotel.
As we were racking our first game of pool we met Lupe. A 20 something nurse from Los Angeles. None of her friends could afford to go with her but that didn’t stop her from venturing out into the world by herself.
We grabbed a drink talked for a while and were surprised how much we had in common. As the night fell we lounged on the beach outside of the Buddha Bar, chatting with our new friend and watched fire-spinners entertain us with their flame dances before calling it a night.

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Posted by emichele 09:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach vacation thailand island summer tropical asia koh_phi_phi Comments (0)

8.23.10: Koh Phangan, Thailand

Monopoly, Massaman, and Muay Thai....


Today was a lackluster day I spent lazing around the hotel. It was overcast all morning so we decided to hang around and explore the game wall. For the past two and a half months, we have worn ourselves out with Gin Rummy, a game I’ve mastered over the years of battling my grandpa for victory. We’ve been through 3 decks of cards and they have been a lifesaver in times of mind-numbing monotony.

Now we had a wall of games in front of us and could finally give the cards a rest. We ordered some banana-coconut milkshakes and decided to throw some bones. Dominos entertained us for a while, but when the clouds were still not letting up, we turned our sights to Monopoly. I unpacked the board and noticed that the typical ‘Boardwalk’ and ‘Park Place’ were missing and instead I was staring at ‘Piccadilly’ and ‘Oxford Street’; it was the British version.
It had been eons since the last time I’d past ‘Go’ and I even had to refer to the rule book before I shelled out the cash. Never in my life have I finished a game of Monopoly, eventually my attention span will deplete and I will surrender before I die of boredom. I don’t know how we did it but, after two more smoothies and a lot of real-estate developments, we finally finished the game. I lost.

By now the sun was gleaming off the water and the clouds had depleted, so I hopped in for a quick swim before lunch. I soaked up the sun and air dried on my way back to the lounge where I enjoyed a delicious peanut massaman and spicy prawn crackers.

One thing that was a must-do for our island itinerary was to see a traditional Muay Tai fight. Muay Tai is possibly the most brutal form of martial arts practiced today. It is known as the “Art of Eight Limbs” because it uses 8 points of contact mixing the use of punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes.

The pool bar we’d been in the night before had a large poster advertising a Muay Tai match for tonight and our eyes lit up. We’d made friends with the owner of Hotel Harmony, a nice English man in his 40’s, who told us he could get us tickets. It turned out that he was good friends with the announcer and ended up scoring us V.I.P seats directly behind the judges!
We got to Haad Rin Boxing Stadium and met up with the announcer who showed us to our seats. Just as promised, we were right behind the judges in the best seats in the house.
With a few minutes before the bell rang we headed to the snack bar for some goodies. This snack bar was unlike the typical hotdog, popcorn, soda snack bars of the U.S. This concession stand had homemade egg rolls, coconut battered chicken, shrimp kabobs, and more. We grabbed some beer and a few egg rolls to enjoy before the match. They were delicious! They were smothered in a sweet chili dipping sauce and each bite was messier than the last. I am a firm believer that, the messier the food, the more delicious, and in this case, it was definitely true!

I heard the ding. I smelled the sweat. It was time for the true meaning of ‘Rumble in the Jungle’. The lights danced as the announcer introduced the first fighters. They marched out from the back as the crowd cheered in anticipation. They were rough, they were tough, they were… eleven? Yes, apparently they were starting the match with some pre-teen entertainment before the big boys came out.
They entered the ring and began their pre-fight ritual, a must for any traditional Muay Tai fighter. Wearing only his shorts and a traditional headband known as a Mongkon, he starts in the center of the ring to bow to each of the four sides of the ring, paying his respects to the audience, before returning to his corner.
Then the fighter places his hand atop the ring rope and walks counter-clockwise around the ring, symbolically closing off the ring for him and his opponent.
When the ritual was all over, the battle began. These kids were vicious! They were punching and kicking like their life depended on it. I know some people whose parents didn’t let them play pop-Warner football because it was too dangerous and here are these toothpick ten-year-olds beating the crap out of each other while everyone cheers them on. The icing on the cake was the announcers commentary, this one really jumped out at me, he said, “Despite their age, they intend to hurt each other and that’s what really counts!”.

I guess the Thaïs have replaced coddling their children with all out violence. Somehow I don’t think this would fly in America.

The 2nd fight was, what seemed at first, like an unfair pairing between a 14 year old and a 17 year old. I was proven wrong when the 14 year old dominated with Hulk-like strength to put the 17 year old to shame. Imagine going back to high school the next day after being whooped on by a 14 year old kid. Tough break.

They brought out the men in fight number three where two Thai’s went head to head only to have the man in blue knocked out in round 2. Short but sweet.. knockouts are always entertaining.

The fourth fight got international, pairing New Zealand in red vs. the Czech Republic in blue. I had my money on the Czech beast who came out sporting a Che Guevara tattoo on his calf, “Fighter” tattooed across his stomach and a Mike Tysonesque tattoo on his face. You don’t mess with a guy with a tattoo on his face. Only psychos sport face tattoos, no good can come of it.
This guy looked like he would rip off your head and eat it for breakfast, saving your limbs for a mid-afternoon snack. He was easily 40 lbs. heavier than the New Zealander who I pitied from the start. Had I been carrying cash on me, I would have thrown down a pretty penny on blue. Thank God I didn’t though, because his Mike Tyson wannabe didn’t come through as expected. Instead of biting the guys ear off to spare himself of defeat, he decided that a knock out was more graceful and went down after only 40 seconds. It was brilliant.
The 5th fight was a snore fest, a perfect excuse for more egg rolls.

As the 6th fight began, the scent of Tiger Balm was breezing through the stands making my eyes water.
A Frenchmen and a Thai entered the ring ready to brutalize each other for victory. Immediately I bet on the Thai. It just seems to me that maybe history has shown us that the French are not the best fighters. This guy looked like he had no reason to be in the ring. All he wanted was some Cabernet and Brie. The fight ended leaving me feel sheepish once again. The Frenchie conquered the Thai.
Maybe brie is to the French as spinach is to Popeye. That’s the only logical explanation I could come up with.

The last fight of the night concluded with a sweet knock-out from one Thai to another; a perfect ending to a perfect night!

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Posted by emichele 09:58 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches thailand island tropical asia koh_phagnan Comments (0)

8.22.10: Koh Phangan, Thailand

Thai Massage and Whiskey Buckets...

sunny 89 °F

After a delicious breakfast and my typical caffeine kick-start, I decided to take advantage of my private beach. I threw on my new bathing suit and waded into the teal tide. I swam like a seal somersaulting myself under the warm water. I was in heaven. I enjoyed my day rotating between tanning and swimming until my golden brown skin was pruning.
We decided that we would venture out of our secluded beach and roll into town to check out what else Koh Phangan had to offer. We hailed an unbelievably expensive taxi to take us to Haad Rin.
We were greeted by a huge sign warning us of their intolerance of drugs, drunkards, and all other shenanigans. What a welcome.

We walked around town for a while, scoping out surf shop sales and tattoo parlors, when we came to a beauty salon. They were advertising a special for Thai massage; 70 minutes for 250 baht (less that $10). Keeping up with my exotic massage critiques, I had to give it a shot. I had heard several reviews on the Thai technique from people staying at our hotel and 3 out of 4 of them described it as agonizing pain. I’m no Swedish massage sissy, I welcome the pain, and normally, my biggest complaint is that the therapist was too gentle. I was looking forward to this Thai “torture”.

We walked to the back of the salon and through a sliding glass door to a room with two soft mats laying adjacent to each other on the floor. We were told to keep our clothes on but remove our shoes.

The massage was great and not painful at all (for my standards). Unlike American massages, Thai massages is done over loose clothing using no oils or lotions. Instead of fluid movements or kneading the skin, a Thai massage involves a lot of trigger point pressure and intense stretching.

She stretched me into all sorts of contorted shapes and applied deep pressure while I was pretzled. It was just what I was hoping for.

We walked out feeling loose and lethargic and decided to find a bar to inject some pep into our slinky strides. The first bar we saw with a pool table was called “Up To You Bar” and since it was up to me, I decided to give it a go.

I ordered a Mai Tai and racked the balls while I waited. When my drink finally arrived half way through our 2nd game, I was a little taken aback by the color. It was green.
Mai Tai’s are usually a pink shade and this was way off. I slurped a small sip and was pleasantly surprised; it was not bad. After a few losses I concluded that the billiard gods were just not on my side so I threw in the towel.

It was past dinner time and we still hadn’t eaten so we headed down to the boardwalk in search of substance. We could hear the beach crowd before we even set foot on the sand. Speakers were bumpin’, drinks were flowin’, and the party was just getting started.
We walked from bar to bar waiting to stop until we approved the music selection.
We walked past a long row of wooden booths all advertising buckets of alcohol using trashy slogans and eye-catching profanity. I quickly learned that this is how you consume alcohol when you are on a Thai island, out of a bucket.
We finally came to a bar that wasn’t blasting House music and walked inside. They had a special on whiskey buckets and hookahs and they were still serving food, perfect. In a small pail that brings back memories of sand castle cities on San Diego Bay, sat a small bottle of whiskey and a can of Coke. They filled our bucket with the entire bottle of liquor, coke, ice, and a plethora of straws. We picked out some Strawberry sheesha and ordered a hookah to our table.
We sat a few feet away from the tumbling tide and watched fire spinners dazzle us with acrobatic flames.
We ordered some spicy glass noodles and smoked sheesha while we waited. The food hit the spot and the bucket of whiskey washed it down with perfection!
I skipped through the rave and down the beach with my bucket in tow feeling like a delinquent toddler until we reached the hotel and it was time for siesta.

Posted by emichele 10:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

8.20.10: Koh Phangan, Thailand

Hotel Harmony

After a delicious pancake breakfast we packed up our bags and hailed a cab to take us to the boat docks. It was time to say “good bye” to beautiful Koh Tao and “hello” to the island of Koh Phangan.

We arrived at the docks ready for an easy boat ride and were shocked to see the station overrun with uncoordinated passengers with oversized luggage.
It was a mad house. With no idea where to go or which of the three long lines I needed to be in, I weaved my way to the front to ask. When I asked which line was for Koh Phagnan, the woman working besides the ticket counter gave me my boarding passes and bag stamps, I had, unknowingly, gotten away with cutting in front of the 50 people sweating behind me to do that very same thing. ‘Oops’ and ‘Score’ at the same time.
We waited in the sardine can for about 20 minutes before we baby-stepped our way on board. It was an easy 90 minute ride and I entertained myself with “America’s Funniest Home Video’s” which was playing on a TV screen inside the boat.

We had a hotel in mind but had not made hotel arrangements yet because we had been tipped off that it would be cheaper to wait until we’d arrived. As we cruised down the narrow island roads to a barren area whose hotels were few and far between, we began doubting our decision.

Our driver dropped us off at the top of a hill where we could see no hotel in sight. “Where is Hotel Harmony”, I asked, scared to find out the real answer. He pointed down the hill to a dirt path, which seemed to have no ending. We started to walk. We walked for about five minutes down and around this curvy path as I crossed my fingers and hoped for success. I didn’t want to have to walk back up this mess.
We finally approached the hotel whose rooms were sectioned off in individual duplexes and looked more like little cottages than a hotel. We were greeted by a friendly man who ensured us that there were rooms available and offered to let us have our pick.
We ended up in a discrete duplex bungalow that looked right out into the ocean. 10 feet were all that stood between our front door and the rushing tide. It was wonderful. We sat our bags down and decided to roam around the residence and grab some refreshments.
We strolled along a small pathway sprouting tropical trees on each side, and headed into the lounge area.
The patio area was sheltered under green vines twisting in and out of bamboo sticks to make a relaxing roof top with the ocean only a stones throw away.
We followed the sound of Bob Marley inside the lounge area where there was an abundance of floor seating, tables and chairs, a big screen TV, an internet area and a wall full of books and games. I scoped out the menu and ordered a delicious Pina Colada and cheersed to another beautiful island.

Posted by emichele 15:40 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

8.19.10: Last Day in Koh Tao, Thailand

BBQ Buffets...

sunny 95 °F

Signing up for the dive courses with Ban’s was great for many reasons. One of them is that, every day that we were in the program our room was paid for. Usually this is just a standard bungalow with no a/c and no TV, but lucky for us, their bungalows were all booked. We got upgraded to a fabulous air-conditioned room which would have cost us twice the price of the bungalow, for free. It was awesome.
Unfortunately we were done with our dive training and as of today, if we wanted to stay, we’d have to pay.

Ban’s was a little pricey so we decided to walk around and check prices on other resorts. We traipsed up and down the beach with no luck. Everything was either full or our of our price range. We decided to stay on the island for one more night and we booked a ferry to the island of Koh Phi Phi for the next day.
I had a lethargic day laying on the beach, reading, and making seashell necklaces.

After the sun cooled down we decided to venture out of the Ban’s area and go explore the town. Dave told us of a great Korean BBQ place in town so we grabbed a cab and headed to the town of Mae Haad. We walked around forever and could find no BBQ place. We were sweaty, sticky and starving and were desperate for a glass of water and place to eat. We decided that the next fairly edible place we stumbled upon would be our dinner. Like a gift from the heavens, as sign appeared with the word’s “Buffet Barbecue”. Yes!
We walked in to inspect cuisine and make sure it wasn’t some bootleg operation. We were elated with the array of goodies sitting before us. This was no ordinary buffet. This was a dream. Not only did they have platters of every kind of sushi imaginable, they also had a salad and pasta station that was to die for.
The best part was the troughs with raw meat that you could pile high and cook at a small grill that adorned your table.
In addition to the grill, we had a steamer on our table to cook shrimp and an assortment of sauces to dip or grill with.
I piled my plate full and had a great time grilling meat and peeling shrimp until I was good and full.
We were stuffed. We rolled ourselves back to Ban’s and enjoyed a few drinks at the bar before calling it a night.

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!


Posted by emichele 11:49 Archived in Thailand Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches Comments (0)

8.18.10: Koh Tao, Thailand

Underwater attack...

91 °F

Today we scheduled our dive in the afternoon so we could sleep in. Unfortunately, I had no such luck and woke with the roosters at 6am. I went down to the pool and swam some laps which geared me up for a nice mid-morning nap.
I woke up again just in time for some breakfast. This time I wanted to try something a little different. I ordered a shakshuka, which had been offered on several menus around the world, but I had never given it a try. A Shakshuka is a middle eastern dish with fried eggs, cooked in a tomato sauce with peppers and onions. It was delivered on a sizzling hot plate and looked like two poached eggs simmering in some spaghetti sauce. It was delicious. I piled it on some wheat toast and was ready for the day!
Our last two dives were our elective dives. We were misled into believing that we were given the option between a long list of dives that included wreck and cave dives and underwater photography and videography dives. What was not mentioned was that there were no wrecks to be explored, no caves in the area, and the underwater photo/video training would require an extra payment. Bummer. Instead we opted for a multi-level dive course and a fish I.D. course.
I snacked on some tea and pineapple slices as we boated out into the water. The first dive was our multi-level dive. Since people can only stay at low depths for so long, a multilevel dive a technique for extending your bottom time beyond the no decompression limit of the deepest depth you dive. To do this you ascend to shallower levels throughout your dive so your body absorbs nitrogen slower than if you spend your whole dive at the deepest depth.
Along with our 5 pound PADI books, we received dive tables when we signed up for the course. Part of the multi-level dive was to learn how to use these tables to calculate how much time is allotted for each depth of dive. Dave also passed around a handheld dive computer so we could do our calculations in a much quicker, mathless manner.

Since we had no problems with our prior navigation dive, Dave decided to throw us a curve ball; we were going to lead this dive. We would be in charge of monitoring our oxygen levels as well as our teams oxygen levels. We would have to guide the group back to the boat, which means putting to use our navigation skills and surveying the area as we swim. We would also have to keep track of our depth time to make sure we were ascending at the correct time to the correct depth. No sweat.

We came up with a navigation plan and dove in.

Everything was going according to plan until something went terribly wrong. Isn’t that always how it happens.

I’ll start with a short story to foreshadow the upcoming tragedy…

As we were taking this PADI course, we were warned about a lot of the dangers of diving. Among them were the threat of the ocean life. We were cautioned about sharks, jellyfish, triggerfish, and other dangerous aquatic species.

I didn’t think much of it until I was swimming off the shore line in front of Ban’s. The tide was low and it was pretty shallow, so I swam out until I could still stand with my head poking out of the water. All of a sudden I felt a few quick nips on my foot. Something was biting me. It didn’t hurt at all, it just really freaked me out. It turned out to be a triggerfish which is one of the most aggressive fish in the area. They are very protective of their nests and are not above a preemptive attack.

Back to present day:
We were swimming around having a jolly good time, pointing out fish to one another, when Max pointed out a extra large trigger fish swimming away from us. I floated underwater and watched it swim away before I turned back to Max. All of a sudden I felt a hard blow to the side of my head. It felt like I had been struck with a fast-pitch baseball. Next thing I know, my mask is off and I am blind, exposed and completely disoriented. It took a second for the pain to rush me as I flailed around grabbing for my mask. When I found it and tried to put it on my head, I realized that it was broken. I had a full blown panic attack. I could not open my eyes to sea anything, my nose was exposed, leaving me feeling like I was about to drown and I had no idea what was going on. I thrashed around trying to get someone’s attention, but my buddy (aka, Max) was not paying attention. My chest was beating out of control and I was sucking the air out of my tank like a Hoover. Finally I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was Dave. He grabbed my hand and put his mask in it. I struggled to get it on and clear the water out but it finally made it on my face. I could see but I was still hyperventilating. I gave the signal that I wanted to ascend. Using hand signals he talked me through it and calmed me down. I found out afterwards that I had, once again, been attacked by a titan triggerfish who literally bit the mask off of my head. That was a thick durable rubber mask and the bastard bit it right off my head. Since we were leading the dive, Dave saw it happen from behind. He said that, as soon as I turned away the trigger fish turned and darted at me which tremendous force. I can only imagine what it would have been like had he bit my face instead of the mask.
The trauma of the ordeal made me panic and even after I had my mask back on, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I thought that I would have to go up to the surface but Dave did a great job of calming me down. After my heart stopped pounding and my breathing was controlled I finished the last 40 minutes of my dive with no problem. Dave swam along side me wearing my broken mask and let me use his the whole time. What a great teacher.

I climbed out of the boat with a nice welt on the side of my head and a great story to tell.
The dive was over and it was time to celebrate. We were advanced divers! This allows us to dive anywhere in the world and I am definitely going to keep diving. To commemorate the occasion we decided to meet us with the group for dinner. We wanted to venture away from Ban’s because we’d been eating there everyday. We walked down the boardwalk and spotted a huge trough full of fresh fish. The AC bar and grill had a barbecue deal just like Ban’s except with way more options.
I starred at the trough, juggling my options while the enormous barracuda sprawling across the table held my attention.
I had never tasted barracuda and it sounded mysterious, so I decided to give it a try. It ended up being the best fish I have ever had! It was a finger-lickin’ good way to celebrate my advanced diving certification!

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!


Posted by emichele 17:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

8.17.10: Koh Tao, Thailand

3 dives and an ulcer...

sunny 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!

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!


Posted by emichele 11:15 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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