Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our explorations of the Angkor Temples! The "Tomb Raider temple" is seen from 0:45 to 1:22.

0:04 - 0:10 East Gate of Angkor Thom
0:10 - 0:45 Angkor Wat This is THE temple people think of when they hear Angkor, it is massive beyond belief and is the best place to view the sunrise!
0:45 - 1:22 Ta Prohm Our favorite temple by far, the entire temple is completely over grown giving an interesting juxtaposition between nature and religion.
1:23 - 135 Ta Keo Because we were burning through the temples like Kleenex, our tour guide brought us here. An incridebly steep structure that reminded me of Aztec pyramids
1:35 - 1:56 Bayon My second favorite temple, Bayon had huge faces carved into the walls and pillars, a photographers dream.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Live aboard trip and Khao Sok N.P.

Time to do a little catching up. After Ko Phi Phi, Melissa and I headed up to Khao Lok where we would board our 4 day live aboard dive trip with Khao lok Scuba Adventure. We were luckyenough to catch the last Similan/Surin Island trip of the season, after which the water just gets too choppy and stormy to take boats out. The trip itself was amazing, we met lots of new people and had some amazing food, not to mention the amazing dives we were doing every day. To fit in all 14 dives over the 4 days our daily schedule was absolutely insane: Wake up, light breakfast, dive, 2nd breakfast, dive, lunch, dive, snack, night dive, dinner, bed. If we wern't diving we were eating. The actual diving was great, we saw lots of sharks, rays, slugs, turtles, barracuda, shrimp, and even finished it off with a 4 meter manta ray. Life on the boat was also spetacular, we met lots of great people, inluding the guy from the funny AT&T commercial and several others that we will be keeping in touch with. Between dives and meals we had enough time to relax around the boat to nurse our food comas. Before each dive there was a dive brief; we discussed where we were, how deep we were going, what the conditions were, and the crew always made a white board drawing of the dive site. The live aboard has been one of the biggest highlights of my trip, and some of the best diving I have ever done. The time flew by and before we knew it we were saying our good byes and on to our next adventure.

Khao Sok National Park was next on our trip. Only a couple of hours away from Khao Lok, we headed straight there after the live aboard. The national park is a massive area that is quite famous for being home to the largest flower in the world, it is also home to countless endangered species, and Cheow Lan Lake, a popular karst limestone formations. The first day Melissa and I took a boat tour of the lake which included lunch at a floating guest house, and a jungle trek which led us through a cave. While returning to shore, a massive rain storm hit causing us to spend a while hiding in a cave on the lake. The provided transportation (a pick-up truck) drove us 45 minutes back to the guest house through the rain at a good 80 kph. But because 12 of us couldn't ride in the cab, 7 had the luxury and comfort of the back where we snuggled... I mean struggled to keep off the cold. The next day, after we warmed up, we hiked to the waterfalls in the park. Sevaral hours, 15km, 6 waterfalls, and a unit of blood loss (leeches) later, we concluded our hike and spent our last night in Khao Sok National Park. The Park was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been- the mountains and wildlife were absolutely amazing leeches included.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Same same but different

Sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference

Thai people enjoy:

Driving like somebody is chasing you
Negotiating traffic in Chiang Mai or any other city for that matter, like any other major city is, ah... exciting. It is a perpetual state of aggressive and defensive driving. It does not matter if anything is in the road- tuk tuks, scooters, or cars will drive around, into oncoming traffic or into other lanes of traffic to avoid slowing down. The Thais' appreciation of small spaces is also to be considered whilst engaging in the enthusiastic sport- it is a wonder that rear view mirrors are still intact on any vehicle. While in the states, a vehicle can't fit between two lanes, a few good Thai drivers will be able to fit 3.


I know I have said this once before but 7-11's are the place to go. We have gone to 7-11 almost every day, for water, yoghurt, popsicles, breaking large bills, buying minutes for our cell phones, illegal forms of redbull, etc.


I'm pretty sure I read a statistic that stated: if stacked all the mini-bikes on top of each other they would go to the moon and back 2.3 times. I never thought I'd say this but, I can see the appeal, 140 km on 4 liters- about 90 MPG (100 baht to rent and another 70 to fill up comes to about $6). Cheap and ugly, amazing how those go hand in hand.

Being happy and smiling
Have to give them credit for this one, when in doubt Thai people smile, when angry Thai people smile, when you don't want to buy their plastic squirt guns Thai people smile. Makes me wonder if road rage in Thailand is really something like road ecstasy.


Like the farmers market but better, food is cheap and delicious, and as long as you don't mind a little arguing, nearly all prices are negotiable. You could survive indefinitely by shopping in nothing but markets. Food, clothes, electronics and power tools are all available. We have even seen some crazier things: guns, passports, and bugs (for eating) in everyday local markets.

Price fixing
Nothing puts the fire of competition out quite like a good price fix. Contrary to your business 101 prof., this can be a good thing. Some communities are so small and tightly knit that any competition would cause hostile climates and prevent the cooperation that happens between would-be competitors.

Street food
Street food is amazing! (sorry Natasha) Some of the best, and worst, food I have had came from a little cart with a hitch for their motorbike- and some times the motorbike is already attached! At the night markets, nearly every food vendor is a little stall that can collapse and be towed or pushed home. But the vendors are not limited to markets, on the contrary food carts are found everywhere, neighborhoods, 3 lane divided highways, floating down rivers, etc.

Taking off their shoes
Although I don't fully understand this rule, it is common place to remove one's shoes before entering a home, temple and the occasional store. Feet the lowest (furthest from head and ascension?) and therefore most dirty and wretched part of the body.

The King

I should have made a section that said 'Thai people LOVE!:' for this one. The king is a highly revered and just all around swell guy, and his subjects agree. They have pictures of him in their homes, businesses, cars, billboards, and clothes. The king has an advertising campaign major corporations would kill for. Monday's color is yellow, and because the king was born on a Monday people are encouraged to wear yellow every Monday to celebrate. And in the cinema, before the feature presentation, everyone must stand and sing the king's song.

Thai people do not like:

Not to be confused with a Personal Digital Assistant, Public Displays of Affection are vehemently shunned. No kissing, no hugging, no holding hands, walk on opposite sides of the street, sort of disdain for public affection. I have seen 2 Thai couples holding hands, that's it. I would be hard pressed to even point out a Thai couple. Contrary to popular belief, Thai's are a very conservative people, they cover shoulders, wear long baggy pants and shirts, and swim with their clothes on.

Touching each others heads
If feet are what step in the scum of the earth, then one's head is the opposite of that. So touching anothers head with something that of equal or greater value (your hand), is just downright disrespectful.

Seeing the bottoms of feet
Again with the feet, its a serious fixation thing over here. So pointing the bottoms of your feet toward someone (like crossing your legs) is a no-no. So is stepping over someone, or their food.

Thai's liken confrontation to inhaling water. It's not particularly beneficial to either party and in the end you lose face. I am sure there are conflicts and confrontation all the time but it is always masked by smiling faces, yes they smile when they are angry. Making any sort of commotion; yelling, waving around, too long of eye contact, is seen as majorly loosing face. So sometimes smiling is not a good thing, sometimes it's akin to yelling.

Insulting their king
A Swiss guy gets 75 years for defacing the king portrait. Do not insult the king, and certainly don't tag the kings picture, don't even step on coins or money, because the king's face is on currency and we all know how much Thai's love feet.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Scuba Trips

Melissa and I took two scuba trips while we were down south in the islands. Because we hadn't dove in about five years, we were required to take a refresher course which was done in Ko Phi Phi with Blue View Divers. Then we went on a four day live aboard trip where we went on 14 dives in the Similan and Surin Islands.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ko Phi Phi

Ok time to catch up. Since Chiang Mai, Melissa and I have been to several different places including Ko Phi Phi, the Surin and Similan Islands, Khao Sok National Park, Ranong/Burma, and currently we are sitting on a sleepy beach on Ko Chang (let's not get jealous now ;) . We scheduled transportation from Chiang Mai to Ko Phi Ph which required two night busses, (yuck!) a truck and a boat to get there. Melissa had spoken to her friend Lisa, who lives on Phi Phi, and was able to arange a place to stay for us before we arrived. Melissa and Lisa met on Ko Pha-ngan in late April. Lisa also happens to own a dive shop called Blue View Divers on the island, which was something on both mine and Melissa's and to do lists.
Ko Phi Phi is a small island in the Andaman Sea, which has no cars or trucks (or even roads for that matter), the only motor bike on the island belongs to the local Police. There is, however, a constant threat of being hit by a bicycle which plague the island sidewalks. The island is described as two islands connected by a sand bar which contains the village. After the 2004 tsunamis, which completly devastated the island, almost everything has been rebuilt to accomidate tourists, ranging from several five star resorts on the north side of the island to countless party-bars in the village for young international travellers.

The day of arrival was spent, arranging accomidations for the rest of the week, swimming in the crystal clear bath water that occupied the ocean, taking long walks on the beach, watching a beautiful sunset, you get the idea. Over the next couple days we kayaked to some of the closer bays and beaches -watch the video if you haven't already- and began to explore the island's trail system, which led us to fancy resorts with nice pools and quiet beaches visited almost exclusively by locals. The next several days were devoted to hiking through the jungle, from beach to beach looking for the perfect place to nap and read. Lisa and some of her friends who also work at the dive shop told us about some places to snorkel where we could see black-tip sharks (we saw 3) which swam in just a little after sunrise. Blue View Divers was also able to sign us up for the last live aboard trip to the Similan and Surin Islands for the season, which close during the rainy/slow season because of large waves and unsuitable boating conditions. Because it had been about 4 years since Melissa or I had dove, we were required to take a refresher course before our live aboard. The diving on Ko Phi Phi was some of the best diving on our entire trip- live aboard included. The two dives that we did were incredibly dense with with wildlife including; turtles, rays, various shrimp, lion fish, scorpion fish, nudibranches, eels, and sharks. A couple days later we did a snorkel trip, which was nice because we got to visit other, nearby islands including Ko Phi Phi Lei, -where the movie The Beach was filmed- and bamboo Island whose coral reef was less than a meter under the turquoise blue water. On the last day on Ko Phi Phi, Melissa and Lisa hiked up to the viewpoint and crashed Pi Pi Island Resort's huge pool before attending an evening yoga class put on by our friend Kira who also lives on the island. We decided to get up early and take a hike to a quiet beach before our two o'clock ferry off the island only to sacrifice our backpack and all of its contents to the ocean, camera and cell phone included :( .
However, on the whole Ko Phi Phi was a great time and we had lots of fun meeting new people and having adventures all over the island. So next time you are in Thailand don't miss Phi Phi.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


A short video of Melissa and my shenanigans kayaking around Ko phi phi

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All you can eat fish buffet

Fish Spa! This was absolutely ridiculous, it took a good 5 minutes to calm down. The fish tickled sooo much.