Thailand (again)

4 Dec 2000
Change hotels.

Not at all that surprisingly, Tuk knows almost nothing about Bangkok hotels, and we didn't do much better at the airport hotel desk than I usually manage on my own. The hotel was nice enough, but too far from the train and I can't stand relying on taxis, especially in Bangkok where gridlock is the status quo.

The new hotel is a touch sleazy, and in a lousy neighborhood, but only a two minute walk from the train station that connects us to all the errands we have to run.

5 Dec 2000
Errands, shopping, et al, and then dinner with Tuk's friends. Tuk wisely advertised me as speaking no Thai at all, so my 20 words were a big hit.

6 Dec 2000
We're really in Bangkok to dispatch social and logistical obligations, but we managed to find one sight on the tourist trail that neither of us had done before, the traditional Thai massage at Wat Po, Bangkok's bastion of PG rated massage.

The reason neither of us had been before is that Thai massage has a reputation for being a contortionist exercise that is seemingly far more relaxing for the giver than the receiver, but we both made it through 1/2 hour with no ligament tears and maybe even with an extra spring in our step.

7 Dec 2000
A day of catching up on my writing and another night out with the Tuk's friends from art school.

8 Dec 2000
Dinner with Tuk's family.

The same 20 words of Thai made not quite such a big hit, but for an evening so ripe with potential difficulties, we escaped relatively unscathed.

9 Dec 2000
More errands and then out with Tuk's brother to Bangkok's largest beer garden.

It's our last night in Bangkok, so despite the proximity of our 6 a.m. wakeup call Tuk showed up with a bevy of friends in tow to take the party on the road to a (straight) Pat Pong disco.

10 Dec 2000
A few more errands, including replacing my digital camera, and then we head off into the sunset on the overnight bus to Krabi.

11 Dec 2000
Arrive back in Railay.

A lot has changed, but enough is still the same that I don't feel too guilty recycling a photo. We find a place to crash and start shopping for cats.

12 Dec 2000
With the past few months of frenetic travel and diving I've put on a revolting amount of weight, and today marked the beginning of my bouldering and swimming program in hopes of shedding enough ballast to do some real climbing before we need to leave here.

13 Dec 2000
Sadly, we may need to leave here sooner than we thought. We came here hoping that I'd be able to work teaching diving, but there seems to be a major surplus of instructors, and a shortage of students, making my employment prospects pretty dim.

It's very sad for us. We both like this area, and after a crazy few months on the road we were really looking forward to settling down and doing a bit of decorating. It's frustrating to be here in a place we both think of as home-like, but not knowing whether we can work out a way to stay

14 Dec 2000
Exercise.

15 Dec 2000
Even more exercise.

16 Dec 2000
Errands and email in Krabi town.

17 Dec 2000
War council.

The dive shop situation here seems to be consolidating, and not for the better (at least from our perspective). Today we had a long talk about how long to stay here looking, and what our other options might be.

18 Dec 2000
Trying out one of those other options, we took ferry ride to near by Phi Phi island to see how things looked there.

There are close to 20 big dive shops on Phi Phi, and although none of them were looking for instructors at that moment, given the scale of the operations, opportunities would seem to be just a matter of time.

But, neither of us liked Phi Phi. It's an internationally known tourist destination, but compared to Railay it's almost urban with noise and trash everywhere. The nights are filled with thumping base from the clubs, and the days are filled with the roar of boats and motorcycles. You can't walk more than a few steps down the main path without being accosted by someone trying to sell you something.

We agreed that if we had to, we could live there, but who wants to be somewhere they don't really enjoy?

19 Dec 2000
Back to Railay from Phi Phi.

20 Dec 2000
Mull over Phi Phi and look for more work locally.

21 Dec 2000
In our best offer yet, a dive shop run by friend's of Tuk says they'll give me some of their overflow work.

22 Dec 2000
Time to settle into a wait-and-see existence. Each day I walk over to the shop and see if anything is going on for the next day, playing the eager supplicant even though the prospects are bleak. The Christmas and New Year's crowd just doesn't seem to include a lot of divers.

23 Dec 2000
More of the same.

24 Dec 2000
Christmas Eve, not generally known as a major partying holiday, but then, this is Railay and any excuse will do. The local restaurants have really done themselves out. Turkey phat-thai and other semi-traditional favorites served in beachside courtyards decked out with garlands and lights. Santa was about for the kids, although his English was somewhat limited, and one place even had huge ice sculptures. Very festive, and good fun.

In our own private celebration, Tuk and I went shopping, so to speak...

It only took a few laps around Railay to find a litter of kittens at an adoptable age. We spent a couple of hours playing with them, before picking out the one we wanted to take home.

Having the kitten, we needed a name, but first we had to decide which language he'd be raised in, my only requirement was that he be named something I could pronounce.

We finally settled on Noo (said with a rising tone), the Thai word for mouse, but also a common nickname for small children. The long-term psychosocial ramifications of this choice remain to be seen.

25 Dec 2000
Christmas Day, exchange gifts and call my parents.

My mother wanted to know if there were any cheap hotels here. I spent about $20 explaining that $10 a night is actually really expensive, for Thailand.

26 Dec 2000
My first diving work!

I had two students who were certified, but hadn't been diving in a while, so I took them through a scuba review. 500 Baht (US$12) for about four hours work. Would you like fries with that?

27 Dec 2000
After a minor Christmas setback, relaunch the exercise program. Sit-ups in the morning, bouldering and swimming in the afternoon. In the full heat of the day I do divemaster theory with Tuk before we take Noo for his sunset walk on the beach.

He has a funny habit of just following anyone who walks down the beach, so we end up meeting a lot of people as I hurry to retrieve him. The Thai people invariably pick him up and start speaking English to him, "hello little kitty, etc..."

It's great fun to walk up and say, "Kao poot Thai dai (He can speak Thai)." I'm not sure if it's my bad accent or just one non sequitur too many, but it always takes them a few minutes of blank staring to work it out and then start laughing. It is the land of smiles after all.

28 Dec 2000
More exercise. On the bouldering wall I'm getting stronger, but so far there is no shrinkage in the spare tire I acquired in the pacific.

29 Dec 2000
Another freelance diving gig, this time taking the British Ambassador to Thailand out on an introductory dive. Good fun and interesting conversation.

And more good work news, I've been scheduled to teach an advanced class starting on the 2nd.

30 Dec 2000
We took Noo into Krabi to see the veterinarian for shots and a surprise. He claims our little he is a she. Ooops. Now she is going to have gender issues as well as species issues.

31 Dec 2000
New Year's Eve.

  So this is death-- I've always wondered what it would be like.

I feel free, almost floating, conscious but incorporeal. Is this a next world already, or just the final few moments waiting for the last dregs of blood to drain through the gash in my neck?

I wonder what my last thought will be or maybe was; I wonder even more what I wanted it to be.

The boat had come roaring out of the darkness, our driver saw it and eased off the throttle, even dodged at the last second, but to no avail. The other boatman never even slowed.

He hit us nearly head on, the heavy wooden prow of his boat slamming into the spot where Tuk and I sat frozen in indecision. As he sheared down our side the bowsprit caught me behind the right ear and whipped me into the water.

Half overboard with my head underwater, I'm crushed between the boats and mull final thoughts as the propeller churns by on the end of it's long shaft.

There is peace in knowing the end has come, and sure that my head has been severed from my body I savor the moment, and wait for the mystery of death to be revealed.

But as the boat disappears into the darkness from whence it came, I realize that whatever death might be it isn't likely to be this slow and rediscovering my body I pull head from the water and flop back into the boat.

In the darkness, I can't tell how badly I'm hurt. I feel a gash on neck, but don't know how serious it is, a salty liquid fills my throat, but I'm not sure if it's blood or water.

We'd been headed to Ao Nang for a special New Year's Eve dinner, and now the driver makes for there with all due haste. On the way, another passenger produces a light and then pronounces a profane judgment on my condition. Between sobs, Tuk assures me it's not that bad, but the ashen faces of the other passengers tell a different story.

She is hurt as well, the boat hit her in the forehead and although the scrapes seem shallow, there is blood all over her face.

Like horror show extras, we barge into the nearest pharmacy demanding medical supplies. In a mirror, I can finally see that it really isn't that bad, but a doctor is definitely going to be required.

Our boatman has been chasing us with an effusive stream of apologies and now he picks up the tab for the supplies and arranges a private ride to the hospital in Krabi.

I've been warned by many people to avoid at all costs the Krabi hospital, but on New Year's Eve it's the only option. The cats scampering across the emergency room floor do little to boost my confidence, but the care is immediate and efficient.

To my dismay the cut on my neck requires stitches, and although till now the doctor and nurses have been laughing about my attempts at Thai, the mood turns icy when I start asking about cleanliness and disposable needles.

My concerns seem for naught though as they open the packages for the surgical gear in front me, and it takes just a few minutes for the doctor to put six stitches in. It's another 10 minutes for an x-ray of my shoulder so in well less than an hour and only US$15 poorer we're on our way with a handful of pills and a mostly clean bill of health.

It's still New Year's Eve, so I leave the pills for tomorrow while we quickly grab dinner and a bottle of champagne before heading back to Railay for the party. We're a bit late for the fireshow, but in plenty of time for the midnight toast.

Our farang (foreign) friends are aghast while the Thais are euphoric. How wonderful they all say, to get all our bad luck for the year out of the way in one fell swoop. Hmm, I suppose it's all just a matter of perspective.

 
 

1 Jan 2001
Start my program of antibiotics, anti-inflammatorys, and muscle relaxants. I'm full of aches and pains and it's difficult to turn my head without tugging on the stitches, but the damage to my shoulder doesn't seem structural which is very good news.

Sadly though, I can't scuba dive with stitches in my neck, so Tuk has to go into Ao Nang and cancel the first class I was ever scheduled to teach. Rats.

2 Jan 2001
Rest, recovery, and reading.

3 Jan 2001
More of the same.

There isn't really much I can do while the stitches are still in, but my shoulder feels stronger each day, so as soon as they come out I should be ready to go.

4 Jan 2001
Ahh, something I can do: teach a day of theory in the classroom. But, a different instructor gets to do the water skills tomorrow.

5 Jan 2001
Catch up on my writing.

6 Jan 2001
Boom! On a routine reboot my laptop dies. Now, instead of starting it just displays the message:

						C0000218 Registry file failure. 
						The registry can not load the hive(file):
						\systemroot\system32\config\software or its log or alternate.
						It is corrupt absent or not writable.
					    

So much for the robustness if Windows 2000. Luckily I actually know how to fix this problem, but unluckily I don't have the bootable CDROM drive the solution requires. My laptop will be relegated to paperweight status until I can get to Bangkok and borrow one.

I am currently getting about two emails a week asking what to do about this problem.

If you have not taken some form of prophylactic action like installing the recovery console, preparing an emergency repair disk, or generating boot floppies (and you probably wouldn't be reading this if you had), then you are stuffed.

Without any of the above, the only option I'm aware of is to reinstall windows. You do have a backup, don't you?

The moral of the story is that Bill Gates is the anti-Christ and we should all install Linux (which I will, the moment it supports Photoshop and Word).

7-28 Jan 2001
A laptopless existence teaching diving in Railay.

29 Jan 2001
Off to Bangkok to fix my laptop.

Unlike Sony, who were fabulously unhelpful and obstructionist when my Vaio died, IBM was more than willing to help. On no notice at all, they loaned me a CDROM drive to repair my registry, and then scavenged a part to repair my LCD display that had been acting up. Another big raspberry to Sony and kudos to IBM for their excellent support.

Warning: If you are shopping for a ultraslim laptop don't waste your money on the purple piece of trash known as the Sony Vaio. It is thoroughly unreliable and Sony does not stand behind it. There is a reason it only has a one year warranty. All machines in this class are going to be a bit delicate, shop for one with a three year warranty.

30 Jan 2001
A few more errands in Bangkok before flying to Phuket and then taking a minibus-motorbike-longtail boat back to Railay.

31 Jan 2001
Relax and get my web page caught up.


No, I'm not dead, I'm still living here in Thailand teaching diving.

Good news though, after a year of waiting the data has finally been recovered from my dead Sony Vaio Laptop. The CD, as they say, is in the mail so the Tibet write up should be here soon.

High season is over and presumably I should have time again to get caught up on my writing, except for the fact that low season is a vacation from my vacation, and so far I've been using it to get out a bit.

I'll write more on these later, but here is a general idea of what I've been up to:


5 May 2001
My two-year anniversary of life on the road. We celebrated by taking a trip to the Vertical Wreck, an LPG tanker that stands on it's end in 60m (200ft) of water, and exciting dive!

24 May 2001
My 35th Birthday, celebrated with a 20-hour bus journey from here in Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We are in KL to see ADEX, SE Asia's only diving trade show, and to apply for my one-year non-immigrant visa.

3 Jun 2001
Off to Patong on Phuket island to begin some training in one of the most rigorous forms of scuba, cave diving!

16 Jun 2001
Fly to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam. I'm on my way to Nha Trang where I will take a PADI Staff Instructor course. This course is basically a repeat of the IDC I did to gain my initial certification as a scuba instructor. The theory is that by redoing the training you'll get all the pieces you missed in the stress of preparing for the IE (instructors exam), which thankfully, I don't have to take again.


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