Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Randoms in Bangkok

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

It’s my last day in “Asia” and it’s raining in Bangkok – hard. The weather is changing in Koh Tao too. The wind is up, the water temperature is down. Monsoon shouldn’t arrive until November but it’s not as nice as it was two months ago. Seems like a good time to move on. Actually it seemed like a good time to move on about two seconds after arriving here last night, getting mobbed by taxi drivers and hotel touts before even getting off the bus.

Why are the Bangkok taxi drivers so useless? Around Sukhumvit Soi 38 last night I stopped two and asked to go to Khao San Road (about 11 miles and 30-60 minutes). It was raining hard last night too. “Ooooh, too far” said one, “Long way” said the other. “And you get paid for it” replied I. “No, raining, too far”. Useless muppets. Third time lucky.

Why don’t they understand maps? And why if they don’t know where somewhere is do they say they do? An extension of that Asian face-saving refusing to admit you don’t know something mentality, I guess.

It’s an internet/admin day. I don’t know how often I’ll get internet access in China or how reliable it will be. I’ll be moving around a lot and often on overnight trains. I’m couchsurfing in Beijing but I’ll make sure I have a plan B. I was supposed to be sleeping on a friend’s couch last night and that didn’t work out as planned! At least Bangkok is slightly familiar now; Beijing will be a complete unknown. I’m looking forward to it.

One of my couchsurfing hosts in Beijing is a dancer, although not a tanguera. There’s a possibility of a milonga on Tuesday night. Hurrah!

If you’re considering buying an Android smart phone don’t buy a Star A9000. The dual-SIM feature works well. Everything else about the phone is crap. Probably the result of an underpowered processor. Mine is in bits after flying across the room and hitting the wall at high speed. More collateral damage/expense associated with dive master training. Well, the alarm had just failed to go off on the first day I was supposed to be leading customers. Luckily I still got to the boat (just) in time. Not having a mobile phone is a pain. I’ll see what they’ve got in the duty free shops at Bangkok and Hong Kong airports tomorrow. Perhaps I’ll skip the dual-SIM capability this time. Does anyone have any recommendations for a good Android phone?

Diving Koh Tao

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Plan A was to go to Koh Tao with Hannah at the end of May after visiting Vietnam. However, Hannah went back to Bangkok early to do another massage course and I stayed on longer in Vietnam before deciding to revisit Cambodia. Eventually with my flight to China fast approaching I had a two night stop in Bangkok on the way to Koh Tao. I finally got to see the Grand Palace, rode the river taxi both ways, resisted the temptation to buy a new camera, watched one of the infamous ping pong shows, and had a fun day out taking photos with Stella.

I travelled from Bangkok to Koh Tao with Lomprayah. More expensive than whoever Hannah travelled with but apparently a much more comfortable and relaxing journey. With three recommendations for diving schools I ended up at Big Blue because the instructor I spoke to – Curtis – was so helpful and enthusiastic. Many of the schools on Koh Tao teach two certifying agency courses: PADI and SSI. You don’t have to buy bulky paper manuals for the SSI courses so theirs were the right choice for me.

Seventeen of us started the Open Water course the day I arrived with a couple of hours of classroom stuff – watching videos. Next morning we split into three groups with instructors for more theory. In my group there were a couple of gap year English girls – Georgie and Olivia – buddied together, two Brummies – Pete and Nick – in their mid-twenties buddied together and me buddied with Curtis the instructor. In the afternoon we were in the water for confined skills, learning how to deal with flooded masks and switching and replacing regulators. Over the next couple of days there were more theory sessions and four dives testing and teaching additional skills. The final two dives by each group on the last day were filmed and edited into DVD presentations. These were shown in the bar in the evening and provided lots of amusement. Obviously ours was the best video, Team Canada were a respectable second, and who was team three again?

I was the only one of the seventeen to sign up for the Advanced Open Water course starting the next day, although four of the others signed up for the following day. In addition I was hooked and decided to stay on and do the dive master course if at all possible. That would take several weeks and I was supposed to be flying to China on 27 July – just five days later. I had to rearrange that and all my subsequent flights, and quickly. Round the World Experts travel butler service did a fine job and by the end of the Advanced Open Water course my flights were all rearranged. So I stayed on Koh Tao and completed the Emergency First Responder (CPD points for C.ThA there I think) and Rescue Diver courses. Rescue Diver was hard work and great fun. But it did cost me my Tag Heuer watch, lost during the final dive of the course 🙁

Leaving Cambodia again

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The time finally came to say goodbye to Happy Guesthouse, Siem Reap and Cambodia. I had stayed an extra three weeks in Cambodia and it was time to scoot on down to Koh Tao for some diving before my flight to China. Even after I’d decided it was time to move on I hung around for an extra couple of days because it was just so easy to do so.

Friends came and went at Happy Guesthouse. They had some long term visitors who were working in schools or women’s refuges or orphanages and a steady turnover of travellers staying just a few nights. There were always friends to say goodbye to, and new friends to say hello to. Chinese Stella who lives in Singapore left a few days before me, headed for Bangkok. Canadians Bobbie and Tracy were going to Bangkok a few days later and I still had a day on my Angkor Wat pass so I stayed and caught the bus with them. We met Stella again at We Bangkok, a hostel recommended to us by Todd, another friend travelling the other direction a week or so earlier.

Travelling from Siem Reap to Bangkok was the usual hurry-up-and-wait bus journey. The Thai side of the border at Poi Pet is renowned for scams targeted at travellers from Thailand to Cambodia. Going from Cambodia to Thailand was a simple and scam-free procedure, although a few more signs would have been helpful. The only downer was changing from a nice comfortable air conditioned coach in Cambodia to a beat up old transit van in Thailand.

I had a really nice, laid back time in Cambodia. Except for the lack of tango I could easily go back there to live. Maybe next April I will but there’s a lot to see and do before then.