A Travellerspoint blog

Day 29

Birthdayboy?

semi-overcast 24 °C

Day 29 - July 12.: My birtday actually - "happy birthday to me" :) I was so focused on the final exam that day that I didn't remember it until M. tried to find cake on the breakfast menu. Well, to tell the truth I didn't even get it then because I thought "why on earth would she want cake for breakfast" ;) She actually had to spell it out before I got it.

Apparently, taking the exam on my birthday proved lucky since I scored 100% on the test - the first in 2-3 months according to Katie. Yay for me!

That afternoon we did our first dive. Actually it were the first five closed water dives all wrapped into one session. We did it in the shallow water on a small beach instead of in a pool as they do many other places. The advantage were a myriad of small fish to look at the whole time. The nibbler fish (or cleaner fish... I can't remember the name) made me jump the first time. It pinched me quite good on the lower leg when it tried to remove a birth mark. Being able to stay under water and breathe is quite magical I must say :)

We learned basic skills like emptying the mask and correcting our buoyancy amongst others. Getting out of the water and into the boat is quite interresting actually. When you first start out with all the equipment on the boat it doesn't feel that heavy, but after a dive, where you feel almost weightless, it is really heavy to go back up again.

When we got back to the boat we had to strip out of the scuba gear and the wetsuit and go for a 200 meter swim and thread water for 10 minutes after that. After over two and a half hours in the water already we were tired enough, but better to get it done with :) By then it had started to rain so it was actually warmer in the water than it was on the boat.

Finally we had our first evening off. It was really great to be able to just relax and enjoy being on this fantastic island :)

Posted by atle 11:19 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 28

Koh Tao: Back to school

sunny 27 °C

Day 28 - July 11.: The second day were also dedicated to videos, knowledge quizzes and then, more reading in the evening. We also learned to use "The Table" which lets you calculate how long you can stay under water after repetitive dives without risking nitrogen sickness (the bends).

Posted by atle 11:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 27

Koh Tao

sunny 25 °C

Day 27 - July 10.: The bus ride was really not what I call comfortable. The seats were way to small and there was no room for the legs. In addition we sat right next to the toilet and the smell was quite bad. At least we got blankets. Smelly ones, but still.

We arrived at Champon harbour at 6 a clock in the morning after I finally managed to find a comfortable (somewhat) position to sleepe in. Since the boat was departing at 7 we could just about go aboard immediately. The sea was calm and the boat ride was not bad at all. I actually think we got more sleepe there than on the bus ;)

At the diving centre we go got our books as well as keys to the bungalow which was situated right next to the beach. Another plus is that it was only two minutes walk from the diving centre. We also had a restaurant right across the road and a small departement store just around the corner. Nothing to complain about there :)

We were afraid that having no ac, only a fan, would be a problem, but the temperature was very pleasant so that didn't pose a problem at all.

First on the list, after breakfast and reading the first chapter of the book, was a short walk on the beach. At last! Blue sky, sun, ocean and white sand underfoot :)

We met with our instructor Katie after lunch. Since we were the only two people taking the PADI Open Water cource at that time we had Katie all to ourselves. The rest of the afternoon was spent watching instruction videos (with some pretty stupid scetches intermingled) and to work on theory and knowledge quizzes.

When we got back to the bungalow we had to use the rest of the evening reading the next chapter in the book. Doing the PADI O.W. cource in just 3 days (4 days in our case, but the first and last day was just half days) is doable, but there is a lot of reading if you haven't prepared in advance.

Posted by atle 10:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 26

Bankgok continued

semi-overcast 33 °C

Day 26 - July 9.: We spent most of the morning by the pool on the roof of the hotel. The light haze made the sun just about bearable and with the occational dip it was quite pleasant up there.

Later we took a walk to see if we could locate the Planet Scuba diving shop. That was easer than we feared and it didn't take us many minutes. All the maps of Bangkok I have seen has not been very accurate to say the least. Street adresses are also totally useless since they don't follow any system and you woun't neccesarily find number 14 next to number 15. The city very much show signs of "organic growth" in that aspect. Because of this; the "adress" we got was "across the road from Gullivers bar". Pretty ambiguous!

At the divers shop we got our bus and boat tickets to Kho Tao confirmed as well as the final departure time. The package we chose included tranportation as well as accomondation in addition to the PADI course for under 22.000 baht. That's pretty cheap!

On the way to the divers shop we were approached by this extremely polite and nice guy who told us all sorts of touristy stuff about Bangkok, what we ought to see and do while staying there. He told us that this day was a very special day and that for only 10 baht a Tuk-Tuk would drive us around the city for a whole hour.

When we asked him why it was so cheap he told us it was because the goverment (tourist department or something like that) would give drivers of tourists a gas coupon. We were a bit sceptical to the whole consept at first. After all the books say "don't ride in a Tuk-Tuk". The problem is; they don't say why ;)

Anyway, this guy didn't try to sell us anything or drag us into a waiting Tuk-Tuk so we didn't think much more about it. As we continued to walk along the street a Tuk-Tuk pulled up to us and wanted to take us for a drive. When looking back it is easy to see that this was a friend or associate of the other guy, but since we were looking for the shop we didn't need transportation and we said we would go later.

After the divers shop we were approached by another driver and he too confirmed the 10 baht price. Here we had 3 people saying the same so we figured it had to be true and we went along with him.

He told us he would take us for a sightseeing of the city and stop at different temples and shops for us to see. We however had to promise to go into one tailors shop because that was were he got his gas card.

That's the catch with Tuk-Tuk rides. Unknowingly the tourist(s) take part in a scam where the drivers cheat shops for comission when they take people there that don't intend to buy anything in the first place.

We did the normal tour, visiting a couple of temples before he took us to the suit factory. He told us to go inside and have a look. If we wanted to buy anything that was fine - if not, that was fine too. The only thing was; we had to stay there for at least 10 to 15 minutes before he would get his gas coupon.

When we got inside there wasn't much too look at besides fabrick and it took the salesman only a minute to see that this was only another Tuk-Tuk scam. The driver didn't like that very much when we came out and told him what had happened inside. We didn't put enough effort into it he told us, while we said we didn't want to buy anything in the first place so why should we.

The driver told us we had to go to another shop now since he didn't get anything out of the first shop and we reluctantly agreed. Fortunately they had a bit more to look at when we came to the next shop. They fitted custom-made motorcycle suits for one. Not that I have the license yet, but I might be getting one (when I have that 40-year crisis or something)s o there wasn't any problem spending 15-20 minutes sizing up one of these. In the end I ended up with a price of just 32.000 baht for an entire outfit (jacket and pants), that's around NOK 5.500. Not bad eh?

Back out on the street the driver was finally happy and we could continue on our trip. After the next temple he started to nag us about going to another shop, but since the deal was one shop we didn't go for that. Wanting to intimidate us into going he got quite worked up and even started to sverve from side to side in the street. We told him again that we would not go to any more shops and that he could drive us back or just drop us off right there in at the curbe. That did the trick and not long after we were back where he picked us up.

So the lesson is: feel free to go on a Tuk-Tuk ride, but be aware of the game and it's rules. Agree on the exact route and how many shops before you go. If not; you can always pay normal fares instead, but a meetered taxi would probably be cheaper. Still, one trip is an experience you should try if you get the chanse.

After dinner we had a lot of time to spend since the bus didn't leave until 8pm. We spent most of the time walking the streets as there are no lack of things to look at or, preferably, buy. After window-shopping for a while we went in at this tatoo-/piercing studio where M. wanted to check the price on a bellybutton piercing. It was really cheap and half an hour later it was done.

The studio was excellent in every way, it was clean and they followed proper procedures with gloves, sterile needles and even face masks. There was one thing though. The chair where the "patient" (or maybe some would call it victim) sit was right in front of the window facing the street. There was no curtain or blinds so a small crowd of tourists, backpackers and local people quickly gathered outside. Some with very pained expressions on their faces and several who shielded their eyes when the needle went through ;)

Posted by atle 11:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Day 25

Arriving in Bangkok

sunny 32 °C

Day 25 - July 8.: The flight with Emirates was pleasant enough and we arrived in Bangkok around 1:30 in the morning.

We then had to figure out where to go and ended up buying some fairly expensive drinks to break up the large notes from the ATM. Since we had to take a taxi we figured it would be wise to have smaller change and not rely on the taxi driver.

That's one thing about arriving late at night or early in the morning I don't like. You can't use public transportation like bus or train and you have to use (often) over prized taxis.

It went well even though we managed to do pretty much everything we weren't supposed to do regarding the taxis. The taxi booths inside the arrival hall are way too expensive compared to those outside so we went tried our luck there. That part was ok.

We ended up using a yellow and green taxi which according to Lonely Planet is a big no-no. The taxi-driver didn't turn on his meeter either (which is pretty important), but fortunately we got a fixed price of 350 baht and he didn't try to make us pay more either.

As the highest consentration of hostels are in Ram Bhuttri Road we went there. Better chanse of getting a room without a reservation anyway.

Getting there proved to be a bit more exciting than we had thought though. First of all the taxi driver wasn't quite sure where the hotel we wanted to go to were so we had to drive around a bit to look for it. The streets were tightly packed with tourists, back-packers and local people. The taxi must have passed to close or touched one guy because all of a sudden he went totally ballistic on the car. He started screaming, hitting and kicking the car while the driver tried to get away.

We managed to get away, but the poor taxi driver became a bit paranoid after that and kept saying that the krazy guy were still following us (even though he were not). He didn't want to drive into that street again and I don't blame him for that. That left us to use our own feet and we had to walk past the crazy guy again who thankfully stood with the back to us.

After asking around a bit we found the way to the hotel, Rambhuttri Village Inn. Unfortunately they didn't have any rooms aviable so we had to try a couple of other places before we got a room at "My House". A twin bed room for only 250 baht is pretty cheap and at three a clock in the morning you aren't too picky about the standard. Not that the standard was that low there, but it did smell of urine in the hallway. Half an hour later we were fast asleepe.

We had to get up at half past nine in the morning to go back to Rambhuttri Village Inn to check if they had any rooms available for the next night - which they did. At 700 baht per night it was a lot more expensive but it was worth it. The rooms was much larger and cleaner and they have a pool on the roof!

We then explored the rest of Ram Bhuttri Road as well as Khao San Road. The latter made famous in the book and later the movie "The Beach". Mere words cannot describe this street, it's something you have to experience for yourselfe!

I finally got myselfe a haircut (which didn't turn out too bad) and M. got her legs waxed. Or they tried at least since it didn't go too well. They used hot wax but apparently the heater didn't have a thermostat so the wax became way too hot.

The remedy was to cool it before applying, something the waxing lady did by blowing on it until it was just right. The problem was that she cooled the wax less and less as the session went on and M. got a few light burns as a result. Nothing too bad thoug, but not too pretty too look at either.

There are a lot of good restaurants in Ram Bhuttri Road so we had no problem finding a place to eat dinner. It was more of a question of where we wanted to go more.

Posted by atle 11:13 Archived in Thailand Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 27) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 »