Thailand


23
Dec 09

Scuba

“Okay, slowly now. In. Out. In. Out…

Oh my God there’s a sea turtle! Wow…so cute! Okay relax again… You’re breathing too fast. In. Out. ..”
And the inner dialogue continues, along with the rhythmical ‘woosh’ of the regulator as I breath in and out. Darth Vader eat your heart out.

Breathing underwater is a surreal experience. So unnatural feeling at first that I have to concentrate hard not to hold my breathe. It’s worth it though for the magical sensation of floating just above the sea bed, with multicoloured coral below and expansive blue water above. The countless creatures of all colours,shapes and sizes going about their daily business around you. Some of them stare at me as I stare back. Me wondering what their strange appendages are for, and them probably wondering who this bizarre awkward creature is laden down with tubes and tank.

Learning to do something so completely new is such a refreshing experience. Like a child with the whole world to discover and explore.
It makes me hungry for more 🙂


23
Dec 09

Backlog

Sorry for the long gap everyone. We’d like to pin it on the hectic holidays…but, alas, we do not have those down here.

The reason for this post is to apologize, as I have just done, and to say that we’re going to publish a bunch of posts at once that we’ve been meaning to put up for some time.

We hope you will forgive us. Oh and Merry Christmas to everyone!


18
Dec 09

On tailors

One of the things that many male westerners do when they visit Bangkok is to get a suit made (I bet you thought I was going to say something about the prostitutes, don’t lie, it’s what you thought isn’t it). Given both the fact that I am bereft of even one good suit and the difficulty in finding anything small enough in the States, I planned to do the same.

Before we arrived I spent quite a lot of time in reading reviews on Thorn Tree (Lonely Planet’s travel forum) trying to find a tailor that was reputable and not super expensive – which is a hell of a lot harder than one would think. Upon arriving, armed with a few names and with Gina in tow I spent most of a day walking around Sukhumvit (a neighborhood in Bangkok well known for both tailors and prostitutes).

jesse&victorIn the end, I decided on Rajawongse Clothiers. The two Sikh tailors, Jesse and Victor, are as nice as they come and both have an absolutely incredible knack for remembering names. My suit, which is what this is all about right, is fantastic. If you’re ever in Bangkok and you’re looking to get a suit made, it is more than worth the slightly higher price ( I paid roughly US$ 360 for a jacket, pants and two custom shirts) and the taxi ride from Khaosan road to Sukhumvit to visit Jesse and Victor.


10
Dec 09

Serendipity

I had been nearly two years since Gina and I had climbed routes. As we jumped from the long-tail onto Ton Sai beach and looked around us at all the climbers, pulling on steep limestone less that 30 meters away, I felt like an estranged member of the family. Feelings of loss and yearning and of not belonging poured over me. That evening we half-heartedly bouldered on the beach, surrounded by chiseled sport-climbers doing routes, I felt exceedingly weak and sorry for myself. This was my world. Where had it gone? What had happened?

The next day we awoke and decided to give the bouldering another go, maybe we just needed a few days to get back into the swing of things.

“There’s the guy that looked like Frank.” Gina pointed discreetly to a guy that she had seen the day before who resembled an old friend. A guy she had discreetly stalked down the beach to get a closer look at.

“Ah ok.” I have never met Frank, wouldn’t know what he looked or looks like.

“No it’s definitely not Frank. But he does look like Filip, from Poland…”

“No…I don’t think so” I responded, not convinced.

“Here, yell Filip and look away, I’ll see if he turns around.”

“No. It’s not him.”

“Filip. FILIP. FILIP!” The yelling got progressively louder until the climber in question turned around. Perhaps just to see what all the yelling was about.

As soon as he turned, it was instantly clear to both of us that it was definitely Filip, our Polish climbing friend who we had originally met in Yosemite, near the same patch of earth that Gina and I met on. It had been four years since we’d seen Filip last, in Poland. Yet, here he was, half a world away, standing on a beach, hugging Gina and filling us in on news about our other Polish friends, Maciej and Wawa. It was wonderful to hear the polish accent again, see the familiar gestures and to have a friend to helped bridge us back into the world of climbing. A familiar face in a strange land was all it took. Railay is a magical place, plenty of fun people, so much fun climbing (yes, I’ve gotten over my [some may call it unfounded] distaste of limestone) and a wonderful, sparkling sea just over your shoulder while you’re climbing.

Two weeks and many climbs later, Gina and I are back in Bangkok with Filip and Joanna. We leave Thailand tomorrow, for Buenos Aires via a weekend in LA with Claire. Buenos Aires, LA: All of this seems more than a world away, and for now, I’m content to think of clipping bolts in the setting sun, of lowering back to the sand with pumped forearms and of taking off the harness for a quick cool off in the sea between routes.

railay189

The approach

Belay with a view

Beach bouldering

Check out all the Railay photos >


21
Nov 09

Paradise

Shai is a tall, slim and handsome young Thai man. He has one of the most open and happy faces I have met in a while with a smile that makes you feel instantly at ease. He has lived on this tiny island in the Thai gulf all of his 24 years of life. Two hours from the mainland on a wooden fishing boat. And he is perfectly content to stay put. When you live in Paradise why leave home? His life follows the rhythm of the seasons on a Thai island. His biggest joy as he puts it is fishing alone on his old wooden boat through the night hours. When I ask him where he learnt his near fluent English he tells me, ‘island school’, referring to his life in general on this island as there is no actual school.

We came across this island somewhat by fluke. Unlike so many other beaches and islands in Thailand now, this island has few people on it and very little development. Just a few simple beach hut resorts, which for the most part hide discreetly in the palm tree shade. Most of this tiny island is uninhabited. There are no roads, just a few trails through the jungle and rubber plantations. No shops, no internet. Nearly no noise other than that of the ocean and the tiny ‘ghost’ crabs that make their homes in the sand. This is exactly what we want right now.

I am sitting on the front porch of our primitive little beach hut on our quiet stretch of secluded beach. The hammock is swinging in the sea breeze. I look out at the white sand spread in front of our hut , running down to the turquoise water. Giant palm trees cast delicious shade upon us, and fallen coconuts lay strewn across the sand. That wonderfully hypnotic sound of the sea lapping on the shore. I can’t believe this is real.

I’ve never been very good at sitting still and just relaxing. But after being on the move so much, having our own little beach hut to call home feels pretty magical. Our days have fallen into a lovely slow rhythm with early morning yoga followed by a leisurely day of swimming, snorkeling, strolling on the beach, and multiple hours just lying and swinging in the hammock watching the sea or reading. Simply delicious.

This is the life, as they say…

More photos to come (when we can find some faster internet) …

Also check out the photos of Koh Chang


11
Nov 09

Moto Fiasco

The key refused to turn. Hmm, that was a problem. Okay, relax, we’ll try this again from the start. The key slid out of the lock core, closely followed by a small spring and various bits of smashed plastic. Shit, that definitely wasn’t supposed to happen.

The road had been beautiful so far (good surface, lots of curves and flanked by jungle). The bike we’d rented, a Honda Phantom, was very similar in style and engine displacement to the bike we had spent 13 days on in India, only it seemed to run slightly better, perhaps due to the more pleasant air that it was allowed to breathe here in Thailand. But here we were, on the side of this wonderful road, with this wonderful bike and we couldn’t go anywhere. The wheel-lock was jammed in the locked position, effectively blocking any movement.

The frustration had only begun to boil up when the smiling face appeared. The security guard from the Botanical Gardens had ventured over to us from his hut. We’d barely been messing with the bike for more than a minute or two. With no english, all he could do was watch and smile, but it didn’t take long for him to figure out what our problem was. He took the key and, giving it a go himself, came to the same conclusion: We were stuck. But where we’d been getting stressed about what to do, his response was to smile and laugh. This, he knew, would help us save face (a very important concept in Thai culture). And, what do you know, it worked! There was some humor in being stranded on the side of the road.

A moment or two later a pickup truck pulled into the lot next to us and its passengers, a couple, got out and came over to investigate. Again, the key was taken, the lock tried and our situation confirmed. Again, the smiles and laughs. The girl called the bike rental shop, only to find that they wouldn’t do anything to help us (and their stranded bike) get back to Chiang Mai. Some rapid Thai was exchanged between the two men and the decision was made. They motioned at the bike and then pointed to the back of the pickup truck. They wanted to put the bike the truck and take us and it to the locksmith! And after a few minutes of disbelieving apologies from us, that is precisely what happened. They called over a few more lads and, with our help, the bike was lifted straight up on to the truck and they drove us to the locksmith, fifteen or twenty kilometers away, who fixed the lock straight away and wouldn’t accept any payment in return.

If there is anywhere that you could call anything that crazy typical, it would have to be Thailand. People seem to go out of their way to help you find things, help you get what you need, or help you get yourself out of a spot of trouble – always (and most importantly) with a smile and a laugh.