Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yogi yoga

Yoga has a home in Thailand and is big business in Koh Phanghan, particularly on Haad Tien and Haad Yuan where we have called home since September. The Sanctuary was our first resting place, although seriously overpriced and staffed by people more than willing to make you feel unwelcome. All of the bungalo operators cater to the new agey type with all kinds of massage, yoga, fasting, detox, and wellness services. On any morning you can find the yoga faithful out on the beach.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Thai parrot wrestling

When the stress of jungle beach life gets you down and you feel like you need a stress release muay thai lessons are a good option.  When muay thai is a bit intimadting it is good to know their are other lower impact options.

The art of the dance

Almost as interesting as the muay thai fight itself, wai khru ram muay is performed by fighters before every bout for the purpose of warding of evil spirits and bad fortune by appealing to Buddha, intimidating the opponent, and for a bit of good show. It seems there are many marks of the Thai spiritual beliefs and much focus is spent on appealing to, and appeasing, the spirits for good fortune, even in times of battle. The video at the bottom is the wai khru ram muay before Izy the Aussie’s bout at Thongsala Arena.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Muay thai

As soon as we landed in Thailand I started getting excited about catching a muay thai kickboxing fight.  As chance would have it we ended up on a beach with one of the best muay thai training camps in South East Asia… Horizon Muay Thai Camp.  Over the past few weeks we ended up befriending some of the fighters and trainers at the camp, partying with them, and yesterday finally had the opportunity to head up to a fight at Thongsala Arena with them.  The highlight for me was being able to root on the only farang (foreigner) fighting that night, Izy the Aussie from Horizon, as he took on a local in the third match.  Each fight night card includes about seven bouts of five rounds each at three minutes per round.  Winners are determined by scoring or ten count knockout very similar to boxing.  It seems there are loose weight classes and fighters are matched up based on relative experience and win history, just not as strict as boxing.  The real difference here is that boxers may only fight twenty times through their semi and professional careers.  With fights practically every night somewhere on these islands the muay thai fighters here have hundreds of notches in their belts and Izy’s opponent for the bout having marked around 400 fights.  I am told these fighters earn around 2,000Baht or $60USD per fight which is about a months wage for many Thai locals so the economics are a strong incentive to get back into the ring as often as possible.  Tonight was Izy’s second fight since he arrived in Thailand a month earlier, and would result in his second victory by knockout.  This is a major accomplishment as the locals do not like to loose to a farang and they are a scrappy bunch and tough as the rock Koh Phanghan was founded on.  The head trainer Pu’s goodbye to me as I left the beach to go crash in my bungalow at 2am that night with everyone still drinking and celebrating the Horizon win on the beach: “Be careful tonight… remember, I can kill you in your dreams”.  He may be right, he may be wrong, but I made sure to bless the spirits before I fell asleep that night.


Friday, October 23, 2009

The long tail

Thai boats of all sorts have a very distinctive shape with a long and narrow hull often with an extremely concave curvature sloping up steeply at the bow.  The smaller boats, about 8m long, are used for transport of supplies, fishing purposes, as well as the primary means of beach hoping on all of the islands here in the Gulf.  All of the land is very mountainous and road access is limited if not nonexistent so to get into town or just visit the next beach over requires a jump onto a long tail taxi.  The power for these vessels comes in the form of a massive reconditioned diesel truck engine block mounted on a simple gyroscopic cradle.  A modified 3m long truck drive shaft serves as the shaft for the rotor blade and as a rudder for the boat giving it the appearance of a wagging tail as the driver swings the entire contraption about effortlessly.  It seems Thais take great pride in dressing up their long tail with a bright and colorful paintjob and ribbons, beads, and flowers around the nose of the bow.  It is believed that Buddha sits on the bow of the boat guiding the sailor and ensuring good fortune and the dressings that grace the bow must be as appropriately dignified.  It is considered inappropriate to sit at the very bow of the boat as you would be stealing Buddha’s seat and also rude if you put your feet up on the bow as it is insulting to show the bottom of your feet to Thais.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bottle or bucket?

Koh Phanghan is infamous for its Full Moon Party every month on the night of the full moon.  Tens of thousands of people converge onto the island, probably doubling its population, to a small beach about a quarter mile long to drink and drug all night long and dance away to hard techno music in the sand.  So well known is the party that neighboring islands have borrowed on the theme to throw Blue Moon and Black Moon parties.  The cheap accommodations, eats, and booze draw the gap year, vacationing college kid, and young backpacker lots that have made the party what it is.  As for the booze it comes in two forms… beer or bucket.  The beer of choice is Chan Lager popular for its 8% alcohol content and cheap price which is usually served as a tallboy 22oz‘er.  Small stalls about 1-2m wide line the beach front with shouting and hollering Thais trying to entice you to buy their buckets over their neighbors under bright red lights signaling the danger that lies ahead.  Usually used to help build sand castles for cute little kids buckets are sold in various sizes with a much naughtier intent.  In the smaller buckets you find either a can of soda or juice, a bottle of Red Bull concentrate (100ml concentrate bottles with ingredients illegal in the US including ephedrine), a 200ml bottle of your poison of choice, and four straws.  The cheapest, most popular, and most likely option to strain your liver being SangSom, who’s label claims the substance inside to be rum while a taste tells you it is clearly a liquor in a genus unto its own.  The larger buckets just double or triple the soda, the Red Bull concentrate, and the booze and double or triple the likelihood you wake up in a tub full of ice with your kidney missing.  I am not much of a gambling man so I will just stick to my Singha Lager.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spirit house

Spirits are everywhere in Thailand and if you are Thai you would much prefer them smiling down upon you and your business than not.  So Thais set about building spirit houses on their property as a place for the spirits to reside and rest.  Often very ornate and colorful with more attention paid to their upkeep than the owners personal residence, they often sit in the front left corner of the owner’s property or place of business.  At least once a week offerings of fruit, sweets, drinks, and incense are left to entice the spirits to stay, be strong, and remain happy so they can bring good fortune and ward off the evil spirits.


Brews of Thailand

One of the best treats in life is an ice cold beer, especially in a land where it is at least 34C/95F in the shade every day.  What makes Thailand a bit different, other than the beers itself, is that you can buy beer anywhere and drink it anywhere.  Pick up a few on the way to dinner, pop one open on the street, and walk right in to the restaurant with it… no worries.  It helps add to the sense that I have been developing while in Thailand that you are home wherever you are.  Chan Lager… has as much alcohol content as it does lack of good taste.  Often served as a tallboy 22oz’er and breakfast of the frat boyish type, two of these and you are faced, three of these and your face is in the toilet.  Nearly on par with Sri Lankan beer for its righteously horrible flavor.  Singha Lager… great taste if not a tad bitter, the go to beer of choice on the islands.  Leo Lager… the best of the lot, the most expensive, and the most difficult to track down on the islands.  Bonus points to Leo for the coolest label.  7-11 prices: Chan 30b/$.85USD (tallboy 55b/$1.50USD), Singha 40b/$1.10USD (tallboy 70b/$2USD), Leo 55b/$1.50USD

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bangkok airstrip

Very clean, very colorful, very orderly, quite photo worthy.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rice burger

First the fried chicken bun, now this, why can't someone invent the bacon bun?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two wheels

Travel around less developed regions is always an interesting and with gas prices high and distances between points of interest short it seems the preference in the Gulf islands is to keep it to two wheels and for $3 a day the scooter reigns king.  The key is to find the 'dirt bike' scooter with dirt tires for those adventures getting lost in the jungle trying to find some undiscovered beach. Also important is finding a tricked out ride with some snazzy decals to help distract you from the fact that you are actually riding a scooter.  No dignity required.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scuba Steve

Unfortunately I only had the rental camera on two dives of the many over the past two weeks so I was unable to get pictures of many of the critters including octopus, blue spotted stingray, reef crabs the size of basketballs, unicorn fish, titan triggers, scorpion fish, remora eels, moray eels, and jellyfish on the order of size of a sofa couch.  Like the varieties of fish, the dives themselves were all different and all really neat, such as wreck dives, deep dives, and even better... night dives.  Nothing ensures your intestinal fortitude like diving into pitch black water in the midst of night with only the Milky Way shinning light down on you in the Gulf of Thailand.  No need for a flashlight here... in the undersea darkness your movements set off the bio-luminescent phytoplankton that appear like massive LSD induced neon trails following you through the darkness... very cool stuff.  No pics unfortunately.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Underwater in colour

Just for the fun of it, I have left some photos in color, although I much prefer B&W for underwater.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Underwater b&w

Now finished with Open Water and Advanced Diver certifications I set about obtaining an underwater camera  but was disappointed to find all that was available was an older 8MP point and shoot camera in a waterproof housing.  A problem arises since different wavelengths of light travel at significantly different speeds underwater and the slight difference surface refraction makes when you are looking at someone two feet under pool water is amplified by the time you get 50 feet.  By the time you get down 100 feet there is no more red visible in the spectrum and its actual appearance ranges from deep purple to black, which has a terrible effect on the perception of skin tone making your dive buddy look somewhat like a zombie. This leaves terrible conditions for color photography unless you have years to perfect the skill, which I do not.  In comes b&w...