Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fishing, Snorkeling, Buckets, Elephants and ATVs

Thursday night we were picked up at our resort and taken to the Pier for the fishing tour.  It turned out that only the two of us were going, which was a nice bonus as it was more relaxing and we wouldn't have to deal with crossing our fishing lines, etc.  

We had about 4.5 hours out there - at first there were lots of "nibbles" - we were fishing with squid (calamari), looking to catch Barracuda.  Despite all the nibbles, sadly, the current picked up and the water was just too strong.  Jeff did manage to catch 3 small fish (2 of which were "cupa"), and I caught...uh...a rock.  Yep - I was reelin' that line in, imagining finally seeing a barracuda on the hook...but nope.  A rock.  

The night was uneventful after that as we had an early morning the next day (Friday).  We checked outat 6:30am, and took our bags/etc down to a meeting spot for our snorkeling day tour.  A minivan picked us up, and took us from Haad Rin to Thong Sala - extremely hilly, lots of bends, and poor road quality.  This drive is probably one of the more dangerous drives around in the world, at least by volume (not particularly high).  There are tons of motorcycles and mopeds, driven by both locals and inexperienced tourists; plus the driving "skills" employed by the locals!  Is there a bend approaching - pass anyways!  Should you stay in your lane, or wander into the oncoming lane?  Of course!  Are you part of a tailgating competition - how close can you get to the bumper (or motorcycle) in front of you?!  Definitely!  

Fortunately our drive was generally uneventful as it was so early in the morning.  I should mention that most of the islands are closed until 10am it seems.  Anyways, we boarded our boat and made our way to Koh Tao to pick up some more people.  The boat itself was pretty big - Seatran Discovery.  Our first snorkeling spot was Nangyuan Island - absolutely beautiful.  There is a sand bar connecting two small islands, it is a common photo shot!  The snorkeling was great - it was right from the beach.  Not deep at all, but fish everywhere.  What was interesting was just how strong the current was in even shallow waters; at one point I saw Jeff moving quickly without swimming..:)  

We re-boarded, had lunch, and then made our way to another spot for snorkeling, this time right on Koh Tao.  We jumped right from the boat, into probably 20-30 feet deep water.  Jeff was the first to jump off the top of the boat, which drew some cheers..:)  We learned a tip on how to tempt the fish - you touch your fingers on top of the water quickly, which attracts the fish up.  At a few points, it seemed like there were hundreds of fish around me!  While that might seem like an exaggeration, honestly it probably isn't!...at a few points I swam away just to get a break from all of them!!  

During the snorkeling trip we had discovered that this boat actually heads all the way back to Koh Samui, so we thought we might as well just stay on it and perhaps head over to Chaweng Beach for our last two nights.  This worked out quite well, though the boat ride seemed to take forever.  Once in Chaweng, we found a resort via one of our books called Lucky Mothers Resort.  It was great - there were bungalows for as little as 400 Baht, but we took a 3rd floor room in the main new building which was pretty sweet.  Up next - a nice Aloe Vera massage on the beach to heal our tender sunburns..:)

We found out that there was a Muay Thai event that night, so off we went!  We walked it, but soon found ourselves in what appeared to be a strange area of the city.  There were hardly any lights, and people peering out from the darkness.  After probably an hour of walking, we finally managed to find the stadium, which was also in the dark!  It turned out that there was a massive power outage for hours for blocks!!  This explained our interesting walk..  We booked 1st row seats, then went over to a bar around the corner to have a beer in the dark while we wait.  Of course, there were working girls everywhere again - something you just get used to in Thailand.

We headed into the stadium, which was fairly small, and very dark as there was still no power.  There were a few candles around, but that was about it.  We selected a seat right at ringside, and began the long wait.  Many people left - especially after the first hour of waiting.  Then we noticed some running around and "thumbs up's" - and finally the power came on!  They immediately started the fights - the first was a couple of kids, which was a little odd.  The rest all seemed like 20+, and put on some great fights!  During the announcements and in-between rounds there was hardcore heavy dance music, and during the actual fights there was traditional music played live.  Before every fight, both fighters perform the Wai Khru ceremony - essentially demonstrating respect to their trainers. 

After the event, we basically went back and went to sleep.  The next day we idly wandered around, looking at the various shops.  We were used to the attention-gaining tactics put on by the vendors at this point.  One of the most common was by the very aggressive Suit vendors - they would walk up to you (dressed well), put out their hand, and say "where you from?" in good english.  This was an attempt to get your engaged, then they would try to get you into their shop to buy a suit, shirts, etc.  I can't count how many times I've been asked "Where you from?"!!!!

Saturday night we had another Aloe Vera massage (!!), had dinner, then decided to stick around for the big beach party.  It started off quiet, but by after midnight it was much busier.  We had met a bunch of other people by this point - some ex-pats, etc.  Buckets were passed around (I stuck to good ol' gin & tonic), music got louder, and fun was had all around..:)  

The next morning was another tour - elephant riding, ATVs, and a waterfall visit - which was fun, especially with no sleep!  (I mean no sleep - I didn't go to bed)  We then made our way to the airport for an afternoon flight out of Koh Samui (outdoor airport - weird!) to Bangkok.  

One tip - you must be careful with Bangkok airport taxis.  They will go as far to claim that they are hotel taxis (including photos/etc) - but they are not.  They'll rip you off, and there are plenty of stories about how they don't take you to your destination (and suddenly "forget" english), instead taking you to an overpriced shopping area where they get a commission from the vendors.  A taxi claiming his was for our hotel said the price would be 1100 THB - we took a government metered taxi which was 150 THB!  Crazy.

Next day began my crazy week of flying - Bangkok to Singapore to London where I stayed overnight, then to Toronto.  Next day I flew out to Hartford, and returned to Toronto on Thursday.  Let's just say I've had enough of flying for a bit..:)  What was hilarious was how many meals I ended up having because I was flying west - I think one day I had 6-7 full meals!