Slightly less manic

Boy, I guess I shouldn’t post stuff when I’m sleep-deprived, low blood-sugared, hot, and overstimulated.

So yeah, the diving was fantastic. Seth, my AOW instructor, was low-key, professional, but not blinded by some of PADI’s nonsense (those of you who are certified know what I mean). I also met Tom, the staff videographer. He just got certified (as a divemaster, as I recall) last year, and now he’s experimenting with a career as an underwater videographer. He eventually wants to “stop taking pictures of tourists,” as he puts it, and do more serious (and better-paid) work for Nat’l Geographic and the like.

So tempting.

As for my travel plans, I finally sorted out my flight home: I’m coming back June 12. I forget what time my flight lands, but (for those keeping track) it’s the same as the original flight – only the date changed. So the rest of my itin looks like this:

April 29-May 20: Myanmar
May 20-25: Siem Reap, Cambodia
May 25-June 11: Bali/Gili Islands, Indonesia
June 12: It’s looking like a few hops – Bali/Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok/Seoul/JFK. I’m trying to figure out something more sane!

Changing topics, today I spent the day running errands in Bangkok. I really disliked the city the first time I came (with DrC in ’98) and then when I arrived on this trip. But as I’ve spent time here it’s started to grow on me. I still wouldn’t want to live here, but it’s an intriguing place. Every kind of person and place is piled on top of each other, New York-style. Many people are on the make, but most are just going about their business. I think there’s a logic being applied here that I haven’t yet clued into. Bangkok seems to prefer chaos and complexity over simplicity. For example, public transport: there are like 15 different kinds of buses (all offering different conditions and following different rules), at least 3 different kinds of riverboat transport, plus taxis, tuk-tuks, saangtaws (hough fewer than in Chiang Mai), a metro, *and* the Skytrain. Getting around is a bewildering mess, but once you get used to it the chaos blends into the rest of the crowded, oppressive city.

Anyway…those are some random thoughts. I need to go grab a bite and a beer, pack, and get to sleep. We’re leaving for the airport at effing 4 am.

I think I’ll be able to log on from Burma. We’ll see!

One night in Bangkok

I know, I know. You’re thinking: “You just *had* to pull out the ‘One Night in Bangkok‘ thing, right?” Well sorry. I just got back up north, having spent the last 5 nights either sleeping in a coffin-like bunk on a dive boat or on a bus during a 12-hour overnight trip back north from Khao Lak. And when I finally checked into the dingy but cheap Rainbow Guesthouse and went to a nearby cafe for the first proper coffee in a WEEK, a leaky ceiling dripped into my mug. So PARDON ME for being sleepy and under-caffeinated.

I’d be cranky as hell except for the fact that I just went on 15 dives in 4 days. Everything is at it should be. The diving in the Andaman Sea was exactly as advertised: varied dive sites, varied aquatic life, and great people. I really wish I had an underwater housing for my camera so I could have taken some pics. A bunch of others did take photos, though, so I’m hoping to get a few. Stay tuned. But in the meantime: wow. Three different Manta rays (all at the same site on Koh Bon – two in one dive!), a couple of leopard sharks, a sea horse, a sea snake, and tons of moray eels, lionfish, angel fish, parrot fish, etc etc etc. (YOU Google ’em!) The variety was crazy. And in the middle of all this nutty diving I managed to finish my advanced open water course, too. Next PADI certification on my list: Rescue Diver.

The fantastic folks at Similan Diving Safari ran a perfect trip: it was tight and serious when it needed to be (safety, protecting the reef, etc.) but laid back and fun all other times. And only a little Bob Marley.

The food, cooked by these tiny Thai women in the tiny onboard kitchen, was amazing. The Thai “boat boys” did everything: from filling our air tanks to helping us on with our fins to mincing meat for the kitchen staff to attaching us to moorning lines. Everyone was always smiling and goofing around and having a good time. One noteworthy feature that I imagine keeps the Thai staff happy: The owner of the shop lets the Thais provide soda and beer for purchase, and they get 100% of the profits. You can imagine that most other shops would keep beer – a surefire profit center where divers are concerned – to themselves. Just one reason I felt good diving with them, and would absolutely do so again.

There were 21 customers, but enough dive guides so that the maximum # in a group was 4 customers/guide. Customers and staff were from the US, Canada, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Scotland, England, and one Australia/Singapore/various mix. I met an English woman who lives in Siem Reap, which is one of my destinations. So I’ll have a local connection when I get there. Yeah.

Another great tip I got from a few of the expat dive crew is to NOT go diving in Koh Tao. they say it’s tailored more for newbie divers, and that it’s crowded. So they’ve convinced me to go to Bali or the Gili Islands in Indonesia instead. Heh heh. Thank goodness for Air Asia, the low-cost airline. It won’t cost me any more money to go to Bali as it would to get to Koh Tao. Amazing! Plus, one more stamp in the old passport. (Thank god for the new pages I got put in.)

So anyway, during my one day in Bangkok before I head off for Burma tomorrow, I have to
1. finalize my flight home (gah)
2. buy a rain-cover for my bag (I forgot about rainy season in Burma)
3. upload all my pics and then back them up
4. buy more dollars (don’t ask – it’s too depressing)
5. investigate flghts to/from Bali

Lots to do.