Archive for the 'Thailand' Category

Body movin, equestrian events, and stupid old gravity.

The Wandering Nerd March 6th, 2008

So it’s time to move on. I’m headed to Bangkok overnight and ideally I’ll have no horror stories to share with you regarding the trip. The days of beach life draw to a close. I’m up to 21 dives now total, with 2 night dives. The best dive was the last, it was on of the night dives and we found two Seahorses. They were trying there best to sleep and we rock up shining lights in there eyes and getting all up in their grill. Maybe I’m just anthropomorphizing here, but I’m pretty sure they sighed and rolled their eyes at each other before just slowly drifting under a rope and ignoring us.


Gonna’ be strange getting back to a city, but I’m kinda’ looking forward to it. No more all night raves, laying on a beach, or snorkeling granted, but hot water would be a treat, as would beds without sand in. More photos should be showing up as well, went to a show here on Koh Tao but the camera flash I have didn’t have the range so Ben and Kari - some wacky Portlanders I met - took all the photos and some video that I’ll get, hopefully in the near future.

In humor news, I have a cracked rib.

ralphie_the_gopher.jpg

Okay, I’ll admit, I do a lot of vaguely dangerous things. Jumping off of things, generally very high things, actively getting into a fight with Swedes, generally very large Swedes, etc., etc. Now, does anyone wanna’ take a stab at how I have injured myself this time? Fighting lions? Hang gliding? Wearing an Obama in ‘08 shirt through Alabama? NO! I was standing on a bench - minding my own business - and it rolled out from under me. Luckily I was able to stop my fall by deftly placing a rib on the backrest before further stopping my motion by placing my opposite shoulder firmly on the ground. I think there were some sort of sand gophers that dug a hole under the bench. Stupid ‘ol sand gophers.

Time to fetch a ferry kids, more on the way soonish.


we don’t know what you want
but we got it in the trunk
we sell these beats by the pound
-butterfingers

I’m just going to hang on to this rail, remember to breathe, and don’t sleep now in the fire

The Wandering Nerd March 2nd, 2008

There are only a few moments throughout this self imposed geas that I would classify in the ‘definitely would not like to do again’ group. The boat trip from Koh Phangnan up to Koh Tao, however, jumps up and down as an example. It was miserable and I was even lucky enough to have a piece of the boat with a roof. Take 5 to 6 hundred hungover twitching nauseous party goers and cram them onto a boat that should probably only hold 300. Now mix in a half a dozen touts walking around - or in some cases climbing over - all these poor reprobates, trying to sell diving courses or accommodation. It must take a special kind of deluded soul to prey upon individuals in such a state.

Those of us who had been up all night were in no mood for crisps and Oreos, we craved strong drink. Some dirty bastards bought up all of the beer that they were selling on the ferry and commenced to continue the party while the rest of us were relegated to huddling in stairwell, and that was only the lucky ones. The really unlucky few - and by few I’m talking around 100 people - were stuck out on the the deck in the wind and drizzling rain.

The trip proved to be a gumption trap of the first order. Two hours of draining travel after such a night of elation kinda’ dilutes the whole thing a bit. Still and all, it was a hell of a night and I highly recommend you make it to a full moon party once in your life. Let me know, I’ll come with and I know where all the stuff is now. You get to pay though.

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I’ve been busy lately getting my dive on. I’m now all PADI Advanced Open Water Certified. I’d been on the fence about getting it, having completed it though I see the advantage of the course. Plus I can now dive down to 30m (100ft), do underwater navigation, do basic search and recovery and - the best part - do night dives. Diving at night changes the whole experience. There’s a serenity from diving in any event, but at night when you can’t see the surface above, you have no frame of reference to depth beyond your gauges. The torches only cut so far through the water and you notice the crackling in your ears from all the surrounding plankton so much more. It becomes an otherworldly experience. The urchins that you watch for in the day, sneak up on you in the gloom. Rock formations loom out of the darkness, towering over you. Stingrays and nocturnal fishes go about their routine ignoring your intrusion. The only way you can tell honestly which way is up is to note the directions the bubbles travel as they spill from the regulator. It’s disorienting and peaceful all at the same time. I’m glad I got the cert, now I’m good for whatever dives come my way. I’m looking into an underwater cave exploration specialty next I think.

It wasn’t all swine and roses though. The first time back in the water we headed to Chumporn, which is notable from the surface only by the number of dive boats that moor all around the two marker buoys that are anchored there. The surface had some rough waves probably an amplitude of about 2m at worst. When we exited the boat, the dive leaders regulator failed and we swam around to the ladder so it could get swapped out. By the time we began heading away from the boat towards the buoy to descend the boat we were moored to had left throwing our line off and the whole ship had drifted away from the buoy. So it was a nasty surface swim back to the location of the buoys. Our boat had started back up and was circling back around looking for another parking spot as it were, and with 12 other boats all crammed together it was a trick. One of the other dive boats fired up it’s prop and started leading as we were swimming past. Close enough that I got pushed away by the prop blast.

Remember that part about me being - to all intents and purposes - terrified of drowning? Yeah, well that flared up good and proper and it was all I could do to keep from settling into a good solid blind panic. I signaled to the instructor for an emergency, filled the BCD to the max, hearing the lovely whistling that is the emergency purge valve, i.e. it keeps it from popping like a balloon. A part of me - one of them that wasn’t trying to clamber over all the rest in a desperate attempt to stay on the surface - pointed out that maybe the BCD had a leak and that’s what I was hearing. I’m keeping an eye on that part, more malice than survival instinct that one.

Olga - the instructor - made it back over and asked if everything was okay and through gritted teeth I was able to tell her, “Not okay with this. Not comfortable, not good.” See look how good I’ve gotten at communicating. :/

“It’s okay, no problems, just put your regulator in and relax.” Then she hauled my twitching, panting carcass back to boat. I burned through a quarter of the air in my tank just on the surface as I got hauled back. Not exactly one of my proudest moments, but so it goes. I chilled for a while on the boat, and by the next dive site, I was calm again, geared back up and had one of the more enjoyable dives every. Damn you Chumporn.

Back on land isn’t much safer sometimes. The Thais really seem to enjoy coming up with new and exciting ways for Farangs - foreigners - to hurt themselves. From simple things like renting them scooters on an island that has more mud ruts than roads, to doing fun things like, fire jump rope, or fire limbo stick, or - my personal favorite, a fire hoop that you can jump through. For entertainment purposes it can’t be beat to sit back and watch some drunk miss the landing and come in for a belly down landing using their face as a braking device. Just what I needed after feeling I’d made a fool of my self, settling to let the professionals have a go and show me how it’s really done. I ended up the night playfully bantering with three irish girls, before making it back shortly before dawn, and no before you look there aren’t many photos. Rain and sand have claimed one camera already, you’re lucky you got shots from the FMP. Travel your own world. ;p

Oh and today, I dove Chumporn again, just to show it.


maybe everything that falls down
eventually rises
-the mountain goats

A slight change, ice bears, don’t mention the war, and echos of futures past

The Wandering Nerd February 26th, 2008

I must admit to really beginning to enjoy the beach side lifestyle. After Phang Nga I was itching to get back to someplace where I could walk out of a bungalow in the morning and hop in the ocean for a swim. Though like most things I look forward to with relish, the path by which I arrive was…painful. The trip to Koh Phangan was hellish, and only a pale warm up for a later trip involving too much caffeine, not enough space and an entirely too lean mixture in my BAC. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

We’ve picked up a German lad for our merry band, Jakob, and set off. The bus from Phang Nga is late, and upon arrival full - despite numbered and confirmed seating - requiring us to catch a later one which dumped us off late to the ferry port. Luckily on one of our frequent stops along the way we’re able to book some accommodation for the island. It’s important to not that the island we’re heading to is the location of the infamous Full Moon Party, but again I’m jumping ahead. Regardless, the point is that the island’s accommodation fills up quickly. We get lucky and find a place for later that night, intending on sussing out where to move from there.

Being late to the ferry port isn’t an issue as the ferry is running and hour and a half late. There are hundreds of other backpacker, travelers, and party go-ers waiting as well. The mood is jovial, everyone anticipating the party to come. As the ferry pulls in to dock a heavy drizzle moves in as well, dampening all our gear, as well as our spirits.

Traveling, the actual action of moving from one location to another, is the main killer when wandering as I am. There’s an invigorating aspect of course, but constantly realigning your bearings as to process or protocol of the given country takes it’s toll. I just want to get there and be done with it, not perpetually checking that I’m at the right gate, desk, or office. I can spot it easily in others, as their aggravation rises I do a quick internal test to see where I am. Is this irritation rational? What are the practical solutions? If none, let it go.

I begin to laugh out loud, in the middle of all of these rain soaked travelers. Laughing at the rain, laughing at the strangeness of it. Some Scandinavian girls with tans so deep as to belie their nationality look at me strangely. I smile back and still grinning look up, to feel the rain on my face.

“At least it’s not a cold rain, and by tomorrow we’ll all be on a warm beach anyway.” I say to no one in particular, save perhaps the rain.

A few laughs from people around me and the mood comes back as we board.

Jakob has made this run before, and knows where to go on the ferry. We drop our gear and feel more than the mass of luggage lift. We’ve stopped for the time being, now it’s back to traveling without moving.

It’s 2230 by the time the ferry makes it to the island, 4 and a half hours late. The resort we were lucky enough to book along the way is close to the ferry port, and after a quick taxi ride - TAXI! TAXI! - we arrive at the Sea Gate resort. The nerd in me approves - it’s a HDD thing.

There’s a pre-pre-pre-full moon party going on in Haad Rin, it starts around 0100, but we all bag out. The traveling is over and none of us are in the spirit for diving right in, just few drinks in “Papa’s” bar - I don’t think there actually is a ‘papa’ per se, a clever ruse, but a great bar in the resort. Bar may be a bit of a stretch. It’s a picnic table beside an elevated sideless bungalow with benches along the perimeter. The smallness actually works well. It’s so intimate we talk to everyone there and all get a real feeling of connection with the other guests. A good crew, a good beginning.

The whole island is essentially a settlement for the ongoing party on Haad Rin - think some sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy party planet just without the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters, though from some shady vendors I bet you could find something that would have the same effect.

We meet a few more travelers and head down for the pre-pre-full moon party. After getting our groove on for a few hours we head back for the taxi stand - TAXI! TAXI!

Taxis - TAXI! TAXI! - in Thailand are converted from light duty pickups to have two benches in the back with a canopy and, if you’re lucky, handrails. Speed limits are enforced only by the physical terrain, a little four banger loaded down with drunk tourists makes a real effort to get up a 45-50 degree grades over some of the mountains. Passing laws are unknown, resulting in an interesting and continual game of Chicken amongst the drivers. Also, anytime you say…ahem…the ‘T-word’…the Thais yell it back at you twice. They also yell it at you as you’re walking down the street, into a store, out of a store, onto a boat, off of a boat, etc. I’ve even had a guy yell it at me as I was getting out of another taxi - TAXI! TAXI! They also seem oblivious to the fact that if I walk past a number of others before theirs, that I probably don’t want to get into theirs. As if they expect someone to think, “Holy shit! I do need a taxi! Why didn’t I get in one of the others?!? Silly me! Lucky this one guy reminded me!”

There are a lot of Swedes here, fortunately no more have hit me in the face - a Brit did though, so all is still right with the world. One of the aforementioned swedes was well drunk in the taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - we climbed into. So far gone that he just looked blankly at everyone who asked him where we should drop him off. Maps get pulled out and he points to the middle of the sea, and mumbles.

The rest of the taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - is full of English/Irish couples and the male halves are getting belligerent with the guy, as if that’s going to help. The driver is at a loss, and I’m tired of hearing, “throw the *$@#! out, let’s go!” The poor guy finally mumbles a name that the driver knows and we get underway. The taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - stops at a 7/11 for a few of us to pick up some water and the drunk Swede clambers over everyone being the first one out and refuses to get back in when we’re ready to go. I didn’t mind so much when he was in and we were trying to help him, but when the dude hops out and won’t get back in, not much else to do, he’s an adult. It’ll be a learning experience for him. I do not envy him the morning he’s in for.

Here’s where I should begin telling you about the Full Moon Party. I’d heard about it back when I was in Nashville, getting ready to set off. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. Turns out I get to wait a bit longer. The full moon is actually on the 21st, which is also a Bhuddist holiday. This means you can’t sell alcohol or have loud music on that day/night. Which is strange as part of the custom is to have a shot of Thai Whisky…and we spent the night hanging out at one of the cooler bars I’ve seen drinking - beer out of styrofoam coffee cups and listening to really loud music. *shrug* when in Thailand… Jumunti in Thong Sala has free pool, free wifi, a jacuzzi, hammocks, couches, PS2s, quite possibly the best Penang curry I’ve had in Thailand and a cinema. When I start my bar, I’m going to steal a bunch of their ideas. Good artists imitate, great artists steal.

So the 22nd was going to be the full moon. This I knew and we’d planned for. Turns out that they had surprise elections for some senate position and for that, wait for it, you aren’t allowed to serve booze or have loud music…

Not to be fooled again, a few of us head back to Haad Rin thinking it would be another ‘blind-eye’ scenario. Apparently politics are more important than religion here - as it should be - and there were no mad big parties. We were forced to sit on the beach under the stars with a warm breeze blowing in from the ocean, listening to the waves softly lapping at the shore, some drinks and play drinking games - swobble, swobble, wobble. It truly is a hard knock life sometimes. I’m still not sure how the hell the idea of body paint got inducted into the whole drinking game, but there you go.

The gallery to date:



The 24th became the new date of the Full Moon Party and we decided to stay on the extra couple of days to go. We’d come too far to let another two arduous days in paradise deter our spirits. We would soldier on. I felt that I had a duty to you, dear reader, to provide total coverage. And if the freaks, geeks, weirdos, ravers, potheads and drunkards were going to be gathering on an island for a full on bacchanalia, I felt the Brois, not to mention the Den of Slack should be represented. Certain standards must apply, man!

We start early, having a barbecue at the resort, all you can eat seafood, satay, some damn fine grub. Grilled squid tastes a lot like someone fried an egg and stuffed it skewered it, oh, and don’t try to eat that center cartilage bit. It’s ickly, write that down.

There were some pre-game drinks. I’m going easy, I’m more of the solitary or small circle drinking type. The amount I drink is inversely proportional to the number of people I’m going to be around. With the anticipated numbers for the FMP, I have a beer and leave it at that. The body paint is back out and I somehow get nominated to do a number of paintings. Paint something interesting down one cute girl’s arm, and then all of a sudden everyone of them wants you to paint them up…it’s tough here. Pile into a taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - with some really ass Canadians - probably the first Canadians that I would class like that, but when you’re being an ass, you’re not stuck in any nationality. We do our best to ignore them, knowing when we get to the FMP we can lose them easily in the mass party.

The party. It’s anywhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people on one beach, with numerous bars pumping out music from 120-200 BPM, sand castle type buckets full of booze, beer bottles strewn like fallen leaves along the beach. It’s lasers, fireworks, light shows, fire shows and show offs. It’s fueled by the music, the caffeine, diet pills, amphetamines and various others that I couldn’t begin to name. It’s madness. It’s insanity. It’s glorious.

Cam, Dan, Zia and I lose everyone from our taxi - TAXI! TAXI! - within 2 minutes of arriving and wander off on our own. I think we were all just overwhelmed by the sheer size of it all. The crush of the people, the music, the whole vibe is a strange euphoric celebration. I can see why people stay here all the time, it truly is escapism. We walk up and down the beach, explorers who have finally reached the goal we have been moving towards and now unsure where to begin.

Then we find the fire:


I didn’t come here to watch some nutty hippy swing some fire about, I’m here to get my groove on! We head to Paradise Bungalow, home of the original FMP, I know that cause the sign says so:


They have places on the beach where you can go take a nap with security guards and everything. Party til 4 or so, take a nap and get back up for the sunrise, or after party, or after-after party. Yes, there is an after-after party. We saw the fliers. The whole of the beach is like this, people crowded up to stacks of speakers loud enough to knock you down, flailing about to the music. Some with noticeable skill, some just feeling it and tossing appendages about - I think I fall into that category - and then the drunk guys who stagger blindly about until they run into a dancing female.

I want to take a moment to discuss this strange beast. I would call them drunk jock frat boys, I think the the Aussies call them ‘Bogans,’ Brits call them ‘Chavs’, but their Latin name is Sillious Jackholias. Generally nocturnal, as a species they have developed an unusual method of attempting to attract female members of the Homo Sapiens. Which can only be described as the ‘fish net’ or ’shotgun’ method. Generally the Sillious Jackholias shares many of the same physical characteristics as the Homo Sapiens though a somewhat more pronounced forehead and limited communication skills have been noted among many observed cases. This similarity allows them to pass unnoticed among the average human gathering. Circling and mingling amongst a tribe of Homo Sapiens during any sort of musical festival, they search out their prey. By vaguely attempting to mimic the actions and movements of the humans they choose a target and then their inherent attraction method begins. Despite the dullness they tend to exhibit they manage to deftly maneuver behind their target and actually detach their spine from their hips! This allows the top half of their body to sway independently, but requires their hands to be near or below their own hips to offset the body mass and keep the center of gravity. With the detachment and balance point reached they are able to slowly twist their torso back in a swaying motion. This, in turn, also helps provide balance. Stability achieved, the pelvic girdle begins rocking backwards and forwards with rotation perpendicular to the ground. The thighs and lower legs and ankles must bend in a dogleg fashion and the whole body begins moving forward lest it collapse under it’s own ridiculousness. It should be noted that the beasts cranium has essentially negligible impact on the psychomotive portion of the animal, all reasoning and cognitive centers have been relocated laterally in the body. The ‘facial structure’ functions merely as a plumage display and is usually slackened and soulless when the creature is engaged in this ritual. All of the above happens very quickly, within a few seconds of target selection Needing to continually advance eventually leads the animal into physical contact with the unsuspecting human. The human, has but a few moments to react before the next phase begins. Generally the female will move quickly away seeking solace among others of her tribe, and the Sillious Jackholias will move on to selecting an new target. Especially thick ones will sometimes attempt to continue their ritual, this is usually indicative of a mild form of alcohol poisoning. Mild poisoning for the S.J. being enough to hospitalize your average human.

Strategically, the S.J. will continue this pattern throughout the evening. Through the sheer volume of attempts, and as the tribe of human females continue ingesting liquids, the slower and weaker members of the herd begin falling behind and the S.J. can often find a willing participant to continue the tactical portion of the ritual. Having found such a potential partner, and continuing from the point of the unwilling human moving away, the forward movement of the creature is halted. With their fragile balance upset the beast must entwine the balancing arms around the waist of the female. As the sensory and nerve response system of the S.J. is so depressingly slow - sometimes taking up to minutes to register sensory input - the pelvic girdle continues its forward rotation, or ‘thrusting’. The upper torso must maintain a grip on the female to prevent collapse. Continual adjustments must be made, as the motions of the female threaten the stability of the creature. The S.J. uses a method known as ‘groping’ to keep its fragile balance. At this point, certain embedded social defense systems in the human can resurface and she will break away, moving back to her tribe. Failing all rational thought, social constructs, or if the female is just out for ‘having a go’ the ritual is completed and the S.J. is able to move on to mimicking normal Homo Sapien mating rituals. Thus, the circle of life, or at least a strange bastardization of it. Class dismissed.

Around 0200 the rain starts, soft cool drizzle that is greeted with a cheer down the whole of the beach. Sure it’s not really the full moon, that was a few nights ago. You can’t even see the moon due to the cloud cover, but that’s not important, that’s not what these people are here for, that’s not what Cam, or Dan are her for, that’s not even what I’m here for. I suspect my reasons are very different than the masses and quite different from my traveling companions, but the outcome is indistinguishable. We experience and revel in it. It’s 0300 and we’re all dancing in the rain like no one is watching.

The rain stops and hours slip by. We’ve moved down the beach to some faster music, more frenetic and chaotic. We’ve ran into others from our resort but they’ve all moved off again chasing their own goals. I have no goals now just existing in the moment.

Only on a break in the music do I look east, out over the water and see the sky beginning to lighten. As if to punctuate the coming dawn, the remaining clouds open up and a rain begins in earnest. Not the light drizzle of hours ago, but a purposeful rain. Some people begin running for cover but we look at each other grinning like fools, some of us - me - more sober than others - Cam/Dan - and laugh at the rain, the night, the dawn, the trip and dance our silly fool heads off.

By about 0630 the rain has stopped and there is enough light for a few more shots of the detritus - both material and human - left on the beach.


The party hasn’t stopped by any means, but we’ve a ferry to catch, and one must keep moving.



there’s so much drama in the lbc
kinda’ hard being snoop dogg
-snoop dogg

A few days late, but this post is dedicated to:

Hunter S. Thompson
July 18, 1937 – February 20, 2005

I can’t think of a better place to be for that kind of memorial.

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