Monday, October 29, 2012

Mom, Can We Get a Dog?

If you're curious about the types of adorable dogs in Thailand, here's a sampling:

the dog that faceplants into sand

the dog that hangs out at Wicked Diving

the dog that lives at our bungalows

the dog that loves attention

the dog that yips every time we walk by and tries to nip our heels
the pig-dog that always looks askance at me

the dog with freakishy large ears

the puppies that need a home! 

the puppy that rolls around in a plastic crate

salty sea puppies
Obsessed? Maybe...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Wicked (Awesome) Diving Staff Trip

Wicked Diving does an annual staff trip before the tourist season starts on November 1st, and we were able to join them. We did 5 really fun dives - meaning we could take photos, explore, and not have to worry about having clients/inexperienced divers around.  The food on the boat is amazing, the cabins were comfortable, and the weather was perfection. We had calm seas, light breezes, and beautiful sunsets. What more could we want?  Here are some highlights from each dive:

1. Boonsung Wreck, ~1 hour north of Khao Lak by boat. The boat was a dredger that sank in the 1970s and was split apart in the 2004 tsunami, creating a huge wreck site with a number of segments in the general area.  This was my first wreck dive and it was AMAZING!! There were points where I couldn't see more than 5 feet in front of me because there were too many fish. Seriously... this was an incredible first fun dive in Thailand.

This is a relatively small school of fish... you can imagine how busy  it was around the wreck!


Beautiful superstructures are still intact

Honeycomb morays - only visible in the local sites around Khao Lak
2. Night dive at Boonsung wreck. No photos from this, but it was just as beautiful at night as during the day :)

3. Seachart Wreck - this was my first dive to 30+ meters (95+ feet) in depth. The boat sank in the early 2000s carrying a huge load of mature teak wood, so there are still giant logs spilling around the wreck. There weren't quite as many schools of little fish, but there were lots of bigger fish around.

Sea cucumber with beautiful oral tentacles

Sea feathers - these look like giant mopheads slowly moving around the wreck. They are amazing, but  at night they look like tarantulas. It's a little creepy, but cool.

Here's a sampling of what the boat looked like - Dani is at ~95ft, and the boat still goes further down! Great visibility and lighting even at that depth.
4. Secret Reef, ~30 minutes south of Khao Lak.

Corals :D

Nudibranchs getting really friendly

Scorpionfish (my own photo this time)
me, Ana (my instructor right now), and Ploy (who works in the shop and is amazing and helped me pick out some pretty dresses at the tourist shop)
5. Muck Dive - aka a normal dive in Monterey. These dives are usually in places with poor visibility, but usually have a lot of life. That being said, Monterey is MUCH prettier and vibrant than most muck dives in Southeast Asia, but you can see some pretty amazing things on muck dives:

Teeny nudibranch (this pic is kinda blurry, sorry...)


OMG A JELLYFISH... wait no... :(

Octopus coming out of its hole :)
Bottom line: I LOVE DIVING. These are from the 2-night, 3-day liveaboard trip with the staff. The DMTs (Divemasters in Training, me + the 3 guys) are going to help with a reef cleanup on Oct 30-31 and I am so stoked. Then we're on a 6-day liveaboard trip to work on our divemaster skills with clients.  Time is flying by...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First Dives

I finally went diving in the ocean in Thailand! AND IT WAS AWESOME! The water was 82 degrees. Wow. We were at a sandy site so the visibility was only about 30 feet (still good by Monterey standards...) but there were little fish everywhere and it was beautiful. I'll be on a liveaboard trip for the next 3 days to do some wreck diving, with the afternoon free on October 27, and then I'm back on a liveaboard trip for 6 more days. I'll upload when I get the chance!

Here's a sample of the things we saw on the last 4 dives, taken from google image searches. I couldn't use my camera while on the dives because we had Open Water students, but I should be able to take photos for the next few dives.

Blackspotted pufferfish:  
Camouflaged scorpionfish:

Varicose warty sea slug:
Honeyomb moray eels:

And here are some photo from the dives - the battery didn't last long enough to take many pics sadly, so stay tuned for more photos from the next few days of diving:

Liveaboards at the doc
Scorpionfish were all over the place

This cuttlefish was the highlight of our dive!! THEY ARE SO COOL!

When in Thailand... :)
Hopefully I'll have some awesome wreck diving photos to show when I'm back from the liveaboard trip!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Memories Bar

Today the DMTs (Divemasters in Training) had the morning off, so a bunch of us decided to go to Memories Bar in Bangnam about 20 km from Khao Lak.  There was a cabana, surfing, music, and volleyball - what more could we want??

On the way to the beach, we drove along an incredible muddy and pitted road. Oh, there were also elephants.
This was unexpected... and AWESOME.
Surfboard rentals were 100 baht ($3.50 in U.S.) per hour because we're "locals," and the water was actually too warm for me - I wished it were a few degrees cooler. Beautiful sandy beaches and ideal waves for easy surfing! Technically, Memories Bar doesn't open until Oct 25th, but one of our Thai friends knows the owner and they let us hang out and rent boards :)

Well I didn't realize I have such terrible posture, but hey look at my surfboard!

Me and Tuk stood up! Tuk was a little wobbly though...

The gang settles into our bungalow

Model shot
This afternoon, we helped a family of 4 with their Open Water Course. The parents are American and they're living in Bangkok right now with their two daughters age 13 and 11, both of whom are super hardcore swimmers and are getting certified. The 11 year old is teeny but super adventurous, and I think both girls are loving scuba already.

I don't have many exciting photos because we mostly sat at the bottom of the pool and taught them basic scuba skills like how to clear a mask, how to inflate/deflate the BCD, retrieve and clear regulators, but tomorrow is my first dive in the Thailand tropical ocean! SO EXCITED! It will still be a dive with the open water family so nothing too intense - but it'll be my first tropical dive since Australia. I can't wait!

The dark shapes are the Open Water class + instructors. I had to check my gear  - turns out I had a leaky O-ring :(
See I'm diving! I know it seems like I'm just eating and hanging out, but there's actually a lot of work involved in this class too. Promise. It's just really fun work.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Even when I'm not underwater, I'm under water...

Here's a quick video of our daily 3pm thunderstorm (though this one is especially intense, I don't usually have a river running outside my bungalow...):

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby. - Langston Hughes

Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet. - Roger Miller


And because these quotes made me smile:

If you think it's going to rain, it will. - Clint Eastwood

We gonna stay together baby through the monsoon and no matter the weather honey me and you will bloom yeah. - WillIAm 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Getting Acquainted

The dive season starts on Monday, so we've had a very busy few days preparing to assist with Open Water Courses and Divemastering.  It's great having a bungalow to call home base, and I have space to hang my things outside so they dry (mostly, since there's a thunderstorm of truly epic proportions at 3pm sharp every day). 
I live in the right half of the bungalow with a queen bed, porch, bathroom, sink, fridge, and FAN. It's very nice!

The pool is quite small but there are only 4 of us taking the class, so we have plenty of space to practice our skills.  Right now we're learning how to demonstrate, which is SO much harder than just being able to do them in cases of emergency. I truly believe that teaching is the best way to learn and I think my diving has hugely improved in the last 2 days of pool sessions.  ~4 hours each day in chlorine is exhausting though. John and I are both working on the SSI skills (I'll do PADI as well) so we are trained by Anna, an amazing and fiesty woman from Barcelona. She and her husband have been instructors for years and have made a living traveling from exotic location to exotic location - awesome role models, and great to work with!

Me and my dive trainer Anna.
Of course, all work and no play wouldn't be any fun. I think diving is the best way to combine work and play, but there is also a vibrant dive community in addition to learning skills and taking tourists on dive boats.  Tuk and Ploy, two of the staff at Wicked Diving, are native Thai who know the area and took us around to some of the best bars and restaurants. It's awesome having their experience because otherwise we would have no idea where to go! 

Eating at our favorite street food stand, Orchids. AMAZING food!! 

Fruity drinks at the Monkey Bar, a local hot spot for divers

Thai funk band at the Happy Snapper, which has live music daily. The band & singers played songs ranging from "Price Tag" by Jessie J to  Sublime and Bob Marley. They are so talented!
We also had a big welcome dinner for all the staff at Wicked Diving - here's the photo :) there are 8 instructors and 4 of us taking the Divemaster Training class, plus Aldo (standing up) who coordinates the shop and Ploy who helps with international bookings. It's a very fun, welcoming, and exciting group of people with INCREDIBLE life stories. For example, Danny is the other Barcelonean dive instructor and he used to be a business formal, professional lawyer. Now he's living the dream! The instructors are all experienced and come from all over, so it's going to be an AMAZING experience learning from them. I can't believe it's already been a week!

The Wicked Diving team

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Field trip to the Decompression Chamber

Don't worry, I didn't have to USE the decompression chamber. We had a tour of the center and learned about the process of removing excess nitrogen from the bloodstream to avoid tissue damage, which was very interesting since I've only read about the facilities. The decompression chamber in Phuket has a large submarine-like interior so you can be comfortable (ish) while undergoing treatment. Hopefully I'll never have to experience it first hand, especially since it costs 753 Euro per treatment hour (minimum 5 hours, up to 9 hours), but that's what dive insurance is for! Tomorrow we start with pool sessions, and we begin assistant-teaching Open Water Diver certification classes in 2 days. I'm so excited!!

Located adjacent to the Phuket International Hospital

This is what I'll look like if I ever need to be recompressed

The control panel for O2, normal air, etc...

Regulator Servicing station in Phuket
Random photo of the day: Donut Pizza?? BUT WHY??