The Adventure Below

October 31, 2006 — Sa Wat Dema

The adventure below continues…

I extended my stay on Phi Phi by a couple of days in order to squeeze a few more dives in. The things I have seen will amaze you. Last night, I went on a night dive off of Phi Phi Lei, descending into pitch blackness. It felt like I was 300 feet deep where no light can penetrate and in some movie with strange creatures fluttering beneath me. Hunting baracuda surrounded us. There were hundreds of them, and if you shine your light on the smaller fish in front of them, they thank you for the help as they gobble them up. We also saw this nearly flourscent squid squirting past. But the best part was when we settled on the bottom and turned off the lights –definitely an experience in itself -but when you move around in the darkness, the sea lights up around you as the photoluminescent plankton make erie yellow-green following the trails of your waving arms. It was absolutely amazing.

Today I did three more dives, including an excessively deep dive (30 Meters) and a wreck dive, which was one of the coolest things ever. We descended on the wreck of a ship called the King Cruiser, in what I heard was the best visibility and lowest currents my instructor had ever seen at the site. The boat is a huge catamaran-style passanger ship that sank in 1997. Barnacles were everywhere as we swam through the doorways and over its decks. Huge lionfish, grouper, and scorpion fish hid in its darkness. There was even bubbles coming from inside the ship like in the movies. It really appealed to my archaeology background – I would love to do some cave diving or work on an underwater archaeological project in the future. The best part was actually this one freakin’ monster-of-the-deep baracuda we saw that was the size of a shark (we’re talking 3 meters long and as wide around a basketball hoop). My divemaster had seriously never seen one so big. There was even a whole school of smaller fish following around this giant just to pick up the scraps.

The deep dive was really cool as well because we went over the various affects depth can have on you. My instructor brought an egg down to 30 meters then delicately cracked it open. The white part dissapeared, but because of the pressure, the yoke floated around without breaking. We pushed it back and forth and it would not break until he smeared it on my head. It was pretty amazing. He also took out a red coke can and because all of the colors of light had not penetrated except the deepest blues, the can looked dark purple! My instructor also asked me a serious of supposedly easy questions on the boat then slightly different ones at depth to show how much longer it takes to do things. Well, I’ll say that the difference in time in how long it took me to answer 4 questions was 7 seconds up top and 49 seconds below, though I made some ridiculous mistakes in both places. Through a combination of geographical stupidity, an inability to read his handwriting on a waterproof slate, and general slowness, some of my answers included the following: (sorry to any of my teachers reading this!): Capital of Australia? = Sidney (though it is actually Cambria), 8 x 7? = 42, and What do cows drink? = vegimite (I have no idea where that one came from!) Perhaps I was suffering from nitrogen narcosis, a harmless condition that makes you a bit drunk at depths, or perhaps just hanging around too many Australians. Who knows-

After all of these dives, I now have certifications in night, wreck, and deep diving, and am only two dives away from my Advanced Open Water Diver certification.

Quick Thai fact – On the Thai islands, the fast food consists of the ubiqutous “pancakes” which are buttery fried dough covered in fruit or better yet, chocolate nutella. They are as delicious as they sound (especially when you consider they cost 50 cents and incorporate at least a stick of butter). They also make fruit shakes everywhere – one tip: although they may sound plain, the simple Banana shakes are the best.

Tonight is Halloween and it looks like the island is gearing up for a dousy. This will also be the first night in a few that I don’t need to get up early to dive tomorrow – so I am looking forward to some ridiclousness. The last time I went out later than about 12 was the day before yesterday (which is actually quite a long break off from excessive partying in Thailand!). I agreed to go for a few celebratory beers with the 40-year-old Norwegian carpenter who took the Open Water Diver course with me. If you recall, his lack of good english made the class a bit of a pain in the but, but we had come so far together, I couldn’t say no. Well, we started going beer for beer at about 5:00. Let me just tell you from personal experience, do not try to go beer for beer with a 40-year-old Norwegian carpenter – you will not keep up, you will pass out in your bungalow by 7:30, you will wake up totally disoriented at 1:30, and you will attempt to go back out until 5:30 am though with only moderate intelligibility.

Another Thai fact – I saw a bit of Muay Thai boxing at a bar here called the Reggae bar. It is actually a huge tourist bar where you will be given two free buckets if you agree to fight. I haven’t partaken yet, but I did see one real match between two thais and I must say, this is perhaps the most brutally violent sport I have ever seen. Imagine two tiny guys literally kicking each other in the head repeatedly so hard that every time they connect, the other immediately falls head first to floor. In a three round match, I think both fighters were knocked down about 10 times each and they actually threw each other out of the ring alltogether twice. Ridiculous.

And another Thai fact-
It seems like the national sport of the thai islands is firedancing -basically winging around flaming poi sticks or these chains with flaming balls on the end in intricate patterns. The guys that do it are usually real badasses (they get covered in gasoline and tend to burn themselves often). Although, on Phi Phi, it seems everyone does it. There are little 10-year-old kids literally playing with fire –I personally used to get in trouble for playing with matches! Yesterday night, there was actually a big competiton to see who the best on the island was as a preliminary to a contest throughout Thailand. The ultimate winner will get 100,000 baht ($2500), quite a sum. The best guy could spin a pole in both hands, in opposite directions, at blinding speeds.

On a bit of another note- I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank the country of Sweden. Not only is it a land of great gummi fishes and lingonberry pankakes, Sweden also produces and exports some of the most gorgeous women ever to grace this earth. With the amount of blondness that they let loose on the world, it is truly a wonder that the surrounding nations of Europe, as well as basically all human civilization, are able to survive and flourish without distraction. I guess while I am at it, I should extend a secondary thanks to the great nations of Norway, Isreal, Denmark, Spain, Thailand, France, Switzerland, England (particulary in the Brighton region and Nottingham University, wherever that is), Ireland, Canada, and Australia. I have definitely adopted a much stronger view towards the importance of international relations while on this trip.

Finally, thanks to everyone who sent me stories of the halloween events at home. I think double-J’s costume was by far the best, incorporating the high level of both creativity and sleeze that we have come to love him for. And Simon, I have told various people here about the mythical LTATI experience, including some Thais and a Karen tribesman, and it must be a relatively universal phenomenon because everyone seems to understand. There is a Thai saying that seems applicable here - if you ask a Thai how something is or how a new location will be, they will usually just respond with “Same Same” (as in it is the same all over), if they want to be long-winded, they say “ Same Same, but Different”. I find that seems to explain a lot.

Off to Railey tomorrow to do some rock climbing before heading back to the craziness of Khao San Road in Bangkok!


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