Category Archives: Thailand

The Kohs

Sawa dee Kaaa….

Koh Phi Phi, pronounced “pee pee”, presented us with a panorama of high limestone cliffs, clear aqua water and white sand beaches.   Nighttime brought out the fire shows, twirling fire staffs, kerosene flying everywhere and poi spinning.  Bringing out the primal fascination of fire, mesmerizing us with the patterns and magic of fire.  Did our first scuba dive in Thailand near Maya Bay, the place where the movie The Beach was filmed.  Unfortunately “the beach” on the movie has turned into exactly what the plot didn’t want it to, a mass of tourists and boat tours every day, all day.

POWERKICK!

Best bar in Koh Phi Phi?  The muay thai bar,  this is where customers of the bar can challenge other costumers.  Hmmm drunk tourists suited up with boxing gloves and a boxing ring, definitely creates an entertaining show!

Koh Phangnan is the most relaxed of the kohs, beaches and beach bungalows everywhere.  First night we arrived at 9pm.  By 10pm we were “crabbing” with the locals, learning the fine art of picking up a crab when only armed with our headlamp and bare hands as we awkwardly tried to battle with the pinchers.  The crabs were victorious when it came to Jordan and I.  However, the locals treated us with their catch and around midnight we were trying to suck out whatever meat we could from their tiny barbequed bodies.

Lots of Neon and buckets

The Full Moon party was an overload of fluorescent clothing and thousands of mostly “farengs” showing up for a good time. The classic drink at the full moon party?  A bucket.  It is a mixture of alcohol and mix in a sand bucket with about four straws to share with others.  Thousands of people at this beach party all tumbling down slides, playing jump rope (the rope was on fire), and burning limbo.  The amount of flip-flops and shoes left on the beach was enough to shoe all of a small country.

Koh Tao, which translates to turtle island, is Thailand’s diving mecca.  Koh Tao was where we did our two-day free diving course.  Freediving is diving on one breath of air.   After much practice in the classroom learning to breathe properly, apparently normal breathing just isn’t good enough; we headed out to try out our new skills.  First day we battled with our internal instinct to survive, pushing all the way to twelve meters.  How far can you go without asphyxiation taking over?  Makes you appreciate the ease of breathing again above the surface.  Day two most people  reached 20 metres on one breath of air, and by day three some of the divers were reaching 30 metres only after three days of training.Throughout our travels Jordan and I have now come to a new appreciation of a Canadian winter,  who knew one would miss hoodies (bunnyhugs for the Saskatchewanees) and snow.


Tonsai – A Thailand climbing mecca

First off, let me say that it’s been awhile since our last post and I apologize! We’ve probably lost the few followers we’ve had, but that’s fine – we’re writing this mostly so that when we’re old and senial we still have some recorded memories to cling to…assuming we can still work a computer!

Tonsai was one of our favorite places so far. We met tons of great people, climbing amazing karst cliffs daily, always pushing for higher grades. Our day went like this – wake up, eat, climb, chill with friends on Chicken Alley and repeat for as many days as needed. Staying in Tonsai for a month total we were just barely past the “short-timer” category. Just ask someone how long there in Tonsai for and you’ll get something like “Three months…..this year…”

 

Dum Dum is the local dog, Chicken Alley is where you eat – but if you get your BBQ from Nouy or Noi you better sit in there seats because you don’t want to start a turf war with Chicken Mama! 24 hr power does not exist…so neither does sleeping in when your fan shuts off. Hot showers are a thing of mystery and dreams. Monkeys are a thing of reality and nightmares. Reggae is a lifestyle and infections are, well….. infectious?

Quest spun fire, Zoe played the Uke, Josh stuck nails in his nose, Scott base-jumped we all tried to slackline and I learned to juggle….sounds a bit like circus school on the beach. And that’s what it was, “The Beach” minus that Decaprio fellow, and WAY more Banana shakes. Or say it with me now……DAN SPECIALS! Who is Dan? Who knows, but his shake caught on and now it’s a beach favorite…Dan if you’re reading this, thank you.

I hesitate to talk too much about Tonsai – for fear that you’ll go there. It’s not that you shouldn’t, but it’s a little piece of backpacker hangout that truly exists because it’s spread through word of mouth. It’s 90% climbers and the rest are there to hang-out, lose themselves with a book on the beach….and then eventually become a climber. It’s not a place you see too many Wheelie Suitcases.

 

 

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One breath, no tank – Free-diving in Thailand

Your body is a wonderland…did you know that?! Well, maybe not a wonderland, but definitely incredible. We took a two day Free-diving course with Apnea Total in Koh Tao just to see how far we could push ourselves.

Did you know that we only use a small portion of the oxygen in our blood stream and the urge to breath comes from a build-up of C02, not lack of oxygen?

Did you also know that when your brain tells your body it needs to breath you start to gulp or “convulse” and it’s perfectly safe to dive with convulsions…. Some people do it for three minutes or more, easily!

This is part of what we learned – as well as how to dive, on a SINGLE BREATH, no tanks, down to 20m (60 feet!)…pretty rad.

I’m not ashamed to admit I only made it to 14m and Suzie made it to 20m. The instructor tells me “Some people have a natural higher sense of self preservation than others”…. That’s the nicest way to call someone a wimp I’ve ever heard!

 

Check out the Flikr Album!

 

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Vegetarian Festival – Phuket….makes you go ewww….

YES that’s right!

Vegetarian Festival - Phuket 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We flew halfway across Thailand to see a vegetarian festival. Sounds interesting right? Well to let you know, it’s not so much about the eating of veggie food which was the main draw. The main draw was the hundreds of people shoving metal rods, bars, hooks, and even shovels (yup…) through their cheeks. Double take now….

The festival actually has a cool history. It’s rooted as being a Chinese festival and there is a large Chinese population in Thailand. Rumor mill has it that a Chinese Opera visited Thailand for a performance, after arriving they all became very sick… like coming out both ends sick. So sick and unable to travel they took to purifying their bodies by eating nothing but vegetarian food. This miraculously cured them and it’s for that reason that the Thai’s now take time out of each year for this cleansing.

For the large part, all “street meat” becomes “street tofu” and some vendors go to the trouble to make their vegetarian dishes look and taste like there’s still meat in it for those real die-hard carnivores.

Now what about this piercing thing? It’s kind if like celebrating Easter with a rabbit. If anyone answers that one I’ll do the research into the piercing, promise.

Just kidding. The Thai’s/Chinese believe that by putting yourself through pain, you are allowing the bad spirits to exit the body while letting the good spirits in. Kind of like spiritual spring cleaning.

The ceremony begins at 5am (ugh…) With everyone dressed in white. The ones who are being pierced show up a bit later in gold laced and decorated costumes resembling Aprons (to catch the blood I’m assuming). They arrive with what looks like whips, flowers or other ceremonial pieces. This makes them easy to spot in a crowd of white. The other thing that makes them easy to spot are the large scars from last years piercing, some look like mini dots from the needles, some long gashes from the swords….yes swords…

Think of it this way…Your DC shirts or Abercrombie hoodies sort of pale in comparison to their status symbols.

The piercers arrive, in a trance like state they shake their head and bodies from side to side, people crowd them to get a good view and to encourage them on. To add to the hype, in some temples drums are banged and chants are yelled. Being in the middle of this is a surreal experience.

There is no line up, and when the piercers are ready they sit. This could be anywhere in the crowd so you need to watch your back because you don’t want to bump into one of these guys! They truly are the stars of the show, their courage, strength and down right guts are something to be amazed by. The energy, adrenaline, fear and excitement in that crowd easily pulses from person to person and even watching you feel like you’re a part of something special.

Most piercers are in a world of their own entirely, and can go from somber meditation to tiger style crazy in seconds, banging on the walls, floor, other people, running like monkeys and chanting loudly. This is the Thai equivalent of a good Rugby chant.

Once sat, volunteers grab their heads to keep them stable, they sterilize the piece with alcohol and proceed to shoving it through their cheeks. Two things get you at this point.

The tool used to pierce the hole size needed for the piece they will insert.

One – the look on their faces of fear/religious Zen and

Two – the amount of force needed to push that needle through the skin…like shoving a knife through a watermelon.

Things happen in progression, first the needles, then the big boys come out with axe handles, anchors, garden sheers, you name it…. Kind of like, the last thing you grab before leaving the house that morning goes through your face. So after a number of people have been pierced, you need to always be on guard, the last thing you want to do is bump someone with a pair of scissors in their mouth!

But when it’s all said and done, these guys are proud. They stand strong for pictures and then proceed down the street in a kind of procession, stopping at businesses and houses who have shrines lined up along the street to be blessed. To have a pierced worshipper bless you or your business is a great honor.

Vegetarian Festival - Phuket 2011

The Aftermath?

Before 8am, the temple grounds look like a bad night out. Firecracker remnants cover the ground along with the ceremony’s litter. Latex gloves, half empty bottles of alcohol, Kleenex with blood stains, and blood drops cover the ground. It’s the kind of party that makes you utter “Really?…” over in your head repeatedly the next morning.

The reality is, like with all ceremonies, it is routed in deep and important history. It is important to their culture and not to be disregarded as a simple side-show. But people are people, and people have ego’s. Ten years ago it was not like it is today. The piercers are pushing their own limits more and more, what was once one needle is now 20 needles. What was once a butter knife is now a sword worthy of Brave-heart. It happens, it draws crowds, and is a status symbol. But my hat goes off to these guys (and girls…and children) their dedication to their faith is amazing.

And my hat goes off to the emergency ward at the hospital too, it’s one of the busiest times of year for them…

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Thailand – Land of Buddhas and Buckets…

Arriving to Bangkok to see one of your best buds is both a blessing and a recipe for disaster! Hitting Khao San Road (backpackers haven) we immediately went to testing the rumors of how cheap the booze really is. Even with Khao Sans inflated prices you can still get big beers for 1.50, not bad! A bucket is what it sounds like…one bucket, four straws and lots of the good stuff….

But cheap and amazing pad thai is what it’s really about! 30 Baht for a Full plate ($1).

Dancing with the locals on Khao San

Or maybe it’s the entertainment? Bboys on Khao San? Ping Pong Show?

I mean, you have to get right into the culture right?

But other than cheap clothes and cheap food, Bangkok has more to it than that. Culture lurks around each corner, and even taking a 5 minute walk around the corner led us to see a young Monks inauguration ceremony. Do they really know what there in for? But for the family this is a great honor.

The Buddha’s come in big small, skinny, tall, reclining, sitting, eating and smoking…. As we were explained, they’re all the same – so chubby Buddha from china (the one we’re most used to) is no different from Thailand’s skinny Buddha’s. What IS cool is the ceremony behind these gods. See the picture below for what I mean.

Tough right? And It’s not molasses…. Apparently you pray to these guys for luck or prosperity, and if your lucky enough to get your wish you must return to the god and place heroin in its mouth for thanks….yes heroin, or so we were told…. How badass is that?!

Ceremony is huge in Thailand. And it’s everywhere. You will often see incense burning alongside a cup of coffee, maybe some pineapple, a melon or even a cup of Yogurt. These offerings are to certain gods for protection, luck and wealth. Each day, offerings are placed outside with specific prayers, depending on the persons needs. Thais are very spiritual in nature with a strong belief in the unseen spirits. Each shrine can seem similar but may be very different in its significance. So when in Thailand, or asia for that matter, and you see a mango laying around outside a household….don’t eat it.

Young boys and their first days into becoming a Monk

Word to the wise, when you travel Bangkok, or anywhere in Thailand for that matter, do your research before you go. I hate to say scammers, but everyone is out to make an extra dollar (even the gov’t). Lucky Buddha day is EVERYDAY. If they say a temple is only open for today, they’ll say that tomorrow too. If you take a gov’t tuk tuk – great price (all over town for 20 Baht) you need to suck up your time at the “worlds greatest tailor shop” and say no thank you because I don’t think travelling the world with a new Armani is all that sensible.

But DO dive into the culture. Learn to pray at the temples, always be respectful and continue to learn as you go.

When this god grants you luck, you must return and pay homage to it. -Bangkok-

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