Sunday, June 28, 2009

Volcano Monkey Mountain

Woke up before 2 AM this morning to hike to the top of Gulung Batur, an active volcano, to watch the sunrise. It was pretty spectacular.

Almost as if on cue, as soon as the sun rose, a pack of monkeys came to greet us. Yes, more monkeys.After the sunrise, we walked around the crater of the volcano. All around there were vents of steam, some large, some smaller.

Back to the beach tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ubud Day 1 - Monkeys and More

I arrived in Ubud this morning. Ubud is Bali's cultural center, and though just an hour down the road from noisy Kuta, it feels a world removed. It is serene and spiritual here.

After settling in, I went to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, just a short walk down the road from my homestay/guesthouse. There are a few temples here and like a gazillion monkeys. I tried to feed some of them bananas, which was fun. But then some of them got rowdy and chased after me and my bananas so I threw the bananas at the monkeys and ran. It was fun.

Later in the evening I watched the Kecak and Fire Dance. The owner of my guesthouse was performing tonight, so I went and watched his group. It is prominently featured in the movie Baraka, which you must see if you havent already. The coolest thing about the kecak is the chanting, but this computer is not cooperating with me in uploading my videos so you should google/youtube it and see for yourself.

I had mentioned briefly before the little flower boat incense things that are outside every doorstep here in Bali, one of those little touches that makes it feel so unique and magical. Well I stumbled upon a little boy making them today:
Everywhere I have traveled, there is great excitement and affection for President Obama, which reassures me that slowly but surely our standing in the world is being rebuilt. In my conversations, I often use it as a springboard to talk about America's diversity and how Obama's election signals the rise of a new generation - my generation - that is ever more multicultural and cosmopolitan. Maybe I overplay it a bit but I feel like it's my duty to share this with foreigners after the dark Bush era. In Indonesia, they are definitely more excited about Obama than anywhere else I've been - everybody here knows that he grew up in Jakarta and understands Indonesia and they have great affection for him. I found this painting in an art shop walking down the street today:

Alright that's it for now. I'm touring some temples around Ubud tomorrow and then at 2:00 AM I'm going to hike up to the top of Mt. Batur for the sunrise. Should be awesome.

Michael Jackson

So sad about his death.  He is truly a world star.  Over breakfast with CNN on everyone was gripped by the news, and saddened.  

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Surfing in Magical Bali

Had a great surf lesson today and was riding waves pretty quickly.  It's not as hard as I thought it'd be - which is not to say I'm any good but I can get up and ride the wave at least.  I'm leaving Kuta tomorrow but will probably dabble a little more with the surfboard when I come back here in 2 weeks.  It is really tiring though!  It certainly requires a lot of strength and stamina.  Now I know why all those surfer boys have such nice bodies...

I'm loving Bali.  Over dinner tonight I was chatting with Marina, one of the young girls who works at the reasturant/food stall.  She is from Jakarta and came to Bali on a whim two weeks ago to do something new.  We had a nice conversation for about an hour or so and I told her many things about America.  Her English was great and it turns out that she's a college graduate (business major) who quit her boring office job in search of something new.  I can relate to that.  I think one of the great joys of independent travel is the many conversations you have with various people.   Traveling alone, and being an Asian American, is something of a confusing oddity to the locals and tends to invite the countless interesting conversations I've had along the way.  It's these conversations that enrich the trip, making it more an immersive cultural experience rather than a mere vacation.  Last night I was talking over kreteks (Indonesian clove cigarette) with the guy working the front desk at the inn I'm staying at.  That smell brought back memories - I haven't had a kretek since college!  He kept trying to sell me one of the many prostitutes his boss has, and did seem notably less talkative once I signaled I wasn't particularly interested...

I have a pretty unreal itinerary here in Bali.  Tomorrow I'm going to Ubud for the Sacred Monkey Forest and Kecak Fire Dance and then touring some of the ancient Hindu temples.  Then hiking a volcano to watch the sunrise over lava flows, scuba diving a shipwreck encrusted in coral and packed with schools of fish, and then chillin out on the Gili Islands...

But then the trip winds down and I will be sad to go.  I saved the best for last.  Can't be sad yet though!  

alright im off.  goodnight folks.  

Kuta Beach

Made it to Kuta yesterday, the beach hub resort of Bali.  Think Santa Monica full of foreigners in Indonesia but everything is about 10 times cheaper and more charming, with little Hindu flower incense sacrifice things outside every doorstep.  It is overly commercial though, with more McDonald's than I can count, Starbucks, Hard Rock Cafe, etc.  It's a little much for my taste, actually, so I'll probably leave for quieter more splendid places in Bali tomorrow but not before I take my surf lesson today (Kuta being a world-famous surf mecca).  I've always thought it quite a tragedy that as a native Southern Californian I never learned to surf.  I'm not sure one can really learn to surf in two hours but I'll give it a try.  I'm a quick learner, though that's tempered by the fact that I'm physically clumsy.  

Bali is nice.  It is refreshing to be back in a humid sticky vibrant interesting place again after my detour into modernity (boring) in Malaysia and Singapore.  And of course, it is most refreshing to be paying dirt-cheap prices again for everything (though that seems to have the effect of making me buy more things...).  Bali seems to be the cheapest of all the places I've visited, even at marked-up tourist prices here in Kuta.  But the people are fun and nice and it has none of the roughness of other poorer places I've been to.  Even after just a day, I can see the magical appeal of this place, and that's before I've gone on to see the cultural wonders, natural beauty, and amazing diving on offer elsewhere in the island.  

After seven weeks on the go, I think it's a sign of how much I've adapted that, upon landing in Bali, I found the touts refreshingly familiar and haggling for cheap things a fun exercise, rather than a tortured hassle.  Yesterday when I was checking out some fake Ray-Bans from a vendor we broke into a laughing fit haggling with each other, all in good fun (I didn't buy them and I told him I was just looking but that apparently only made him bargain harder).  

I have more pictures but they seem to load slowly so I'll try again later.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Bali

More later

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Hello from Singapore. That's me at the base of the Singapore skyline by the merlion (half-lion, half-fish mermaid) that is Singapore's mascot. My hair is a little out of control, but I got a haircut at the mall last night so that's taken care of now.

Singapore is a rich gleaming futuristic clean little orderly metropolis and while I was skeptical of how I would feel about what some have described as its sterility, I must say that I am quite enjoying myself here. Singapore is probably the cleanest nicest little place on Earth.

There's really not much to do in Singapore besides eating and shopping, but there's enough amazingly delicious cheap food and shopping malls seemingly on every street to keep you occupied with that for quite a while. [Above, one of Singapore's many malls]
Singaporeans love their food and they have a rich tradition of street food just like the rest of Asia but having actual street vendors would ruin the orderly clean streets that the government has worked so hard to create. The solution has been to corral all the food vendors into hawker centers, which are basically food courts spread all over the city. But to call them food courts in the way that we might understand them would be a gross understatement. Each hawker center has over 50 or 60 different vendors selling all kinds of delicious food. I've been eating way too much here, but it's so delicious... [Above, a hawker center near the central business district. I was there right after the lunchtime rush but there were still a few business people hanging around, eating their food]

Today for lunch I went to Chinatown and at the hawker center, had duck rice, shanghai soup dumplings, and almond paste for lunch. I also chatted in Chinese with some of the vendor ladies for a good hour or so, including this nice Taiwanese-Singaporean woman below who runs one of the drink stalls.

Cutting up little pieces of fruit for shaved ice desserts. She was fun to talk to.

Shanghai Soup Dumplings

Hand-made noodles

Chopping up duck

Singapore is an interesting social experiment. It is, like Malaysia (with which it shares a common history), a multiethnic society but one in which the sense of Singaporean nationhood is strong. The government is notorious for being overbearing (with strict rules and fines for minor infractions and the highest per capita death penalty rate in the world!). Signs of Singapore's continuing experiment in social engineering abound everywhere. On the MRT (subway), which is probably the nicest mass transit system I've ever ridden on, they play a corny video about what to do if you see a suspected terrorist . It is so over-the-top cheesy that I burst out laughing but it seems to be common fare here. Some more pictorial examples of this "social guidance" below:

Not sure what kind of animal this is supposed to be, but as part of the "Singapore kindness movement" it is reminding you to apologize...

Amazingly, Singapore does seem to be actually litter-free...

These corny pictures are posted on the subway doors to remind you to let others out first...

Off to the Night Safari at the zoo tonight and then tomorrow flying to Bali. My 2 weeks in Bali are to be the captone of my trip and I plan to spend them learning to surf, diving some more, chilling out on the beach, and exploring Bali's magical culture.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In Singapore

More later

Malaysia Recap

[This post is a little long to make up for lack of posting this week.]

It's my last night in Malaysia. I'm off to Singapore tomorrow. I haven't posted much recently so I have a lot of little updates and thoughts pent up. I've been on the road for over 7 weeks now (out of a 10 week trip) and I can definitely sense the change in how I behave and perceive my environment. I remember on the first week of my trip I met a Canadian girl who was finishing a long trip (I think 8 months or something, don't really remember) and when I told her it was my first week she said, somewhat condescendingly, "oh you must still be taking pictures of everything!" I remember being annoyed at the time but it's true - I now take far fewer pictures than I did before, usually only bringing my camera along if I know I'm going somewhere noteworthy and even then I don't take as many shots as I used to. I try to still take enough, though, as I know a lot of you enjoy seeing the pictures and it's really the only way to see what the heck it is I'm talking about in these posts.

I've become increasingly alarmed at the fact that my trip is slowly coming to an end. I still have three and a half weeks left but I'm more than two-thirds done! I'm really not ready to leave yet so that makes me sad. Now that I've been here for a while, I've become much more sensitive to the myriad differences between vacationers who come for one or two weeks and travelers who are here for an extended period of time. At Taman Negara for part of my time there I was on a package tour with some older Europeans on vacation and I was amused (if slightly annnoyed) at how they took so many pictures, were easily tired, carried big old suitcases, and were so pampered and needed everything laid out for them by the tour guide. It's interesting to me the perspective I've gained as a seasoned backpacker (if I do say so myself).

I've changed too as the trip has gone on. I've definitely slowed my pace down a bit and I confess that in Malaysia I have spent a lot more time kind of vegging out and have begun to indulge my cravings for reminders of home. Just this week I've watched two movies at the theater (State of Play and Drag me to Hell, both very good) and tonight I had Carl's Jr at the mall. For my East Coast readers who may be unfamiliar with Carl's Jr, it's pretty awesome as far as fast food goes. I ate a lot of Carl's Jr growing up (in fact I've even met Carl Karcher! he is a conservative prick though) and I've missed it being in DC so I was stoked when I saw a Carl's at the mall tonight. I ordered my usual, a Western Bacon Cheeseburger meal with crisscut fries. Upon receiving my meal, I noticed that there was no bacon in my cheeseburger. The Western Bacon Cheeseburger. I brought my burger up to the counter to point this out and the clerk very casually and dismissively explained that they were out of bacon so they had substituted an extra slice of cheese instead. There are so many things wrong with this - first, adding an extra slice of cheese simply makes the problem worse. I certainly do not like, nor do I think most cheeseburger consumers would enjoy, two slices of (unmelted) cheese with one meat patty. A one to one meat:cheese ratio is a pretty basic rule of burger construction. Second, despite knowing that there was no bacon when I ordered my meal, they didn't bother telling me (and of course they didn't bother asking me if I wanted another slice of cheese to make up for said lack of bacon). I was not at all angry, though; rather, I was quite amused that I had once again stumbled into one of these strange and ultimately quite memorable cultural experiences. One can only imagine how absurd this would be if it happened in the US but happening here it was just funny. They had a suggestion card (just like in the US) that I was tempted to fill out but I was running late for my movie and I had the nagging suspicion that it wouldn't get the attention it required anyway...

So with those general what's-been-going-on-with-me updates out of the way, I'll try to recap the past week and then finish off with some broader thoughts on Malaysia in general.

Today I got back from Taman Negara rainforest, which was a lot of fun. I did some jungle hikes, a night walk, walked along a canopy bridge suspended above the trees, and explored a dark cave full of bats, which was definitely the highlight. I also met some cool Britons at the hostel, so that made for some good times too. It's hard to get beer at the park because most everyone is Muslim and this being a small place instead of the big city most shops don't carry beer. We ended up finding some Dutch, who had trekked out an hour to buy cases of beer to bring back, and bummed/bought half a case off of them. Good times. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking on this one:

Bat in the cave. There were hundreds just flying around so I kept snapping pictures and lucked out getting this great shot.

There were lots of bats in that cave. They would just fly around almost hitting me in the head.

Me in the cave. Don't be fooled by how bright this looks; that's only due to the camera flash. It was pitch-black and we had to use flashlights to crawl around. It was also narrow at times and the rocks were slippery with bat shit. Yum.

Me and friendly Chinese girl from Penang.

Cruisin on the river in the jungle.

There were lots of bugs around. Really big bugs.

Jungle Trekking.

Canopy Walk


I have been quite impressed by Malaysia. It differs quite a bit from the other countries that I've visited so far. For one, it's a Muslim country, so it's quite common to see women wearing the hijab and stumble upon mosques while walking around. I think the most important and visible difference is that Malaysia is a multi-racial nation, with a majority of Malays but a sizable population of Chinese and Indians. This is a consequence of the fact that Malaysia is a constructed political entity, with disparate groups lumped together by the British (most of the Indians arrived in Malaysia as migrant workers when both India and Malaysia were colonies) and united by the struggle for independence in the 1940s and 50s.

It appears to be quite racially harmonious to the outsider and at the national museum (which was quite good) there was a spirited if somewhat cheesy video about how Malaysia is a peaceful and harmonious multi-racial society. It is impossible for a visitor in my position to really scratch much beneath the surface but I do remember meeting a Malay in Vietnam who told me about how many people are bitter at the (legally codified) preferential treatment Malays receive from the government and also talked to some expats when I went out to the bars last week who noted that different groups hang out in different places and tend not to mix (there are Chinese bars, Malay bars, etc.)

The currency here is the Malaysian Ringgit (RM). For lack of better words, money seems more real here because things are priced in numbers that seem rational to the Western visitor. A cheap filling meal on the street costs anywhere between 4 and 8 RM. A movie ticket costs 12 RM. A ride on the monorail or rapid rail train costs 1.60-2.00 RM. A long-distance bus ride costs 30-35 RM. My hostel room costs 35 RM. You get my drift - at face value, these numbers make sense and are comparable to pricing in dollars, euros, or pounds. The exchange rate is 3.5 RM to $1 so everything is still a great deal and I am paying about what I was paying in dollar terms in Thailand. But in Thailand the exchange rate was 35 baht to the dollar, so numbers would become absurdly high. In Vietnam it was even worse, with the exchange rate at 17,700 dong to the dollar (I would have to withdraw 1 million dong at a time from the ATM). What happens when you are dealing with numbers like that on a daily basis is that the money begins to seem like "monopoly money" as the backpackers say. Seeing things priced in "normal" numbers has the effect of making me feel like I am in a much more modern and developed country.

I've read that the Malaysian government has the goal of making all of Malaysia a fully developed country by 2020 but KL is already there, without a doubt. KL is completely different from all of the other major Southeast Asian cities I've been to so far (Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Hanoi), mainly because it is so modern, clean and efficient. It reminds me more of Hong Kong than anything else (the obvious common factor being that both cities were designed and initially built by the British) Instead of crazy traffic jams and motorbikes everywhere, people here drive cars in an orderly manner, staying in their lanes, rarely honking (what a relief), and generally following the traffic rules. The city is crisscrossed by several rapid rail (elevated/subway) lines and a monorail line which are smooth, quick, and efficient. The lines converge in a gleaming new train station. There are tons of shopping malls ranging from family-oriented entertainment centers to upscale boutique malls, complete with every major American and western brand (from McDonalds and Krispy Kreme to Coach, Armani, Burberry, Zegna, and Prada, they have it all) and several movie theaters (with Terminator: Salvation currently playing on IMAX for only 9 RM!) And even though I am staying in the backpacker area of town, there are comparatively few of the hawkers and vendors that you normally see set up catering specifically to tourists at the other backpacker hubs in Southeast Asia. For the most part, the locals just go on with their daily lives, totally used to the presence of foreigners everywhere and not staring or trying to sell them things like everywhere else I've been.

If anything, some might complain that it's a little sterile. I met an expat last week at a bar who remarked that it's almost like living in Britain and that he misses the character and flavor that accompanied living in Thailand. And indeed I've found that there is little in the way of "charm" in this city in the exotic sense but it is still mind-blowing to see such a fully developed multi-ethnic gleaming developed city after everywhere else I've been. I guess I just wasn't quite expecting it. In fact, KL is like what I expected Singapore to be like (they say that KL is what Singapore used to be like before it became the "tomorrowland of Asia"). I'll see for myself.

Goodbye Malaysia.

If you got this far, thanks for reading!

Monday, June 15, 2009

KL Pictures; Off to the Rainforest

I'm off to Taman Negara National Park tomorrow morning for 4 days in the rainforest. Not sure if I'll have internet or not (one would think no, being in the rainforest and all, but I've been surprised by how ubiquitous the internet seems to be so I won't say no for certain).

I have lots of thoughts about Kuala Lumpur (or KL, in the same way that LA is just LA). It's a very dynamic, modern city and feels very different than anywhere else I've been on the trip so far. I will save these reflections for a later post, though, and just leave you with some pictures for now.

At the very bottom of the picture is me, at the base of the Petronas Towers (formerly the world's tallest buildings)
They have a huge mall inside that has a Toys-R-Us with a model of the Petronas Towers made of Legos

In KL the backpacker hub is in Chinatown so I have had some very delicious Chinese food. Above is roast pork and chicken with chicken rice. The chicken rice is basically rice cooked in chicken stock, which is amazingly yummy.

Brief update from Kuala Lumpur

Just checking in to make sure you all know I'm alive. I've been exploring KL a bit these past few days and it's pretty interesting. It has this ultra-modern kinda thing going.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is seeing how ordinary people live and the eccentric differences of modern life. I like to go to the mall here, even though I rarely buy anything (besides food) and I hate going to the mall in the US. You see all sorts of interesting things.

Right now I'm writing from an internet cafe inside the Berjaya Times Square Mall, which is this gi-normous 10-story mall with a theme park and roller coaster inside and an IMAX screen, among other things. They also have McDonald's, Wendy's, Baskin Robbins, Borders, several Starbucks, and Krispy Kreme. They even have Auntie Anne's pretzels and along with the usual flavors like Cinnamon Sugar they have seaweed flavor. See it's these little things that I enjoy stumbling upon.

Anyway I'm gonna go explore some more but I'll try to post more later. Haven't done much actual sightseeing yet but I plan to do that tomorrow and to write a longer post about my observations on Malaysia, which is refreshingly very different from the other countries I've visited so far (multi-racial, clean, uber-modern or at least modernizing).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Penang Pictures

Spent yesterday wandering around Penang and eating. Penang was the first British settlement in Malaysia and has a rich mix of Chinese, Indian, and Malay people with lots of delicious food.

Just got to Kuala Lumpur, where I'm off to eat and hit the town.

Amazing sunset off of Penang Hill

Fresh buttery garlic naan with curry-like dipping sauce (2 RM or $0.60)

View of Old Georgetown from the 60th floor of the KOMTAR Tower

Me in front of Sunset at Penang Hill

Claypot Chicken Rice. Yum. (3-5 RM, can't remember - that's $1-$1.50)

Friday, June 12, 2009

In Penang

I had a decent trip over here from Thailand. I expected to be bored as hell, drying up my iPod battery and getting sick of my book but I found some interesting people to talk to along the way so that really helped to pass the time. I met a girl from LA who was on her way back to the US after 9 weeks in Thailand and Laos and we wandered around Chumphon (the town the train station is in) for a few hours before parting ways. There was an interesting Thai man who talked to both of us at the train station about Our Creator and the afterlife and the meaning of life. Deep stuff. Slept well on the train and then, after being woken up to clear immigration at the Malaysia border, I found the company of a young Pakistani journalist who was all too eager to chat with me. He especially enjoyed listening to American music on my iPod. He kept listening to Cher for some reason and was rockin out...

Some thoughts on Malaysia after my first 24 hours here:
Malaysia is a very interesting place. In addition to the Malays, Chinese and Indians and have been settling here for hundreds of years, so there is a great mixture of people and food and different languages. Penang is known as the food capital of Malaysia so I am mainly here to eat. One can only eat so much, though, so I am trying to explore as much as I can before leaving, probably tomorrow, for Kuala Lumpur.

Will post pics later

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

On the Road Again

I'm leaving Koh Tao in a few hours for a 24-hour journey to Malaysia.  3-hour boat, followed by 5-hour "layover" at the train station, followed by 15-16 hour night train ride.  Also the trains typically run hours late, so the trip will probably be longer...

Anyway, I realized that I've just passed the halfway point of my trip - entering the 5th week of my 10 week trip, and it has gone by fast!  Too fast, maybe.  I've actually spent more time here in Koh Tao than in any other single place so far on my trip so I'm itching to get back on the road again.

Koh Tao has been great - I've really enjoyed scuba diving and just relaxing on the island but there is something a little bizarre to me about the place.  Up until about 10 or 15 years ago, this island was little more than a remote fishing outpost.  Then as word got out about the amazing coral just off the coast and the island's natural beauty, the place exploded on to the scene and is today the largest center of diving instruction in Southeast Asia and a firm fixture on the backpacker trail.  It remains the quietest of the three famous Gulf of Thailand islands (Koh Samui is the most commercialized, with hotels and 5-star resorts, Koh Phan Ngan is something of a backpacker party paradise, while Koh Tao remains relatively laid-back, with most people here to dive and chill out).  Yet it is still a place that to my eye is overrun by visitors.  There are certainly more foreigners than there are Thais here and this kind of experience (vacation vs. travel) begins to feel a little tiring after a while.  The foreigners I've encountered in Koh Tao, unlike in Vietnam and Cambodia, seem to be more interested in partying and more abusive of the locals (I feel terrible for the poor clerks at 7-11 who deal with drunken English partyers all night) and less polite, engaging, and interested (or interesting for that matter) than the foreigners I encountered before.  So I'm definitely eager to get back to real traveling off the backpacker trail a little bit, exploring new places, mingling with locals, and navigating my way around.  

A note on the English language - It is ubiquitous, maybe too much so.  As an English speaker I've never had any real trouble communicating so far on the trip, and it will be even easier as I move on to Malaysia and Singapore where English is an official language and universally spoken.  It's actually been a little too easy, for my taste, and I feel like I've learned nothing of the local languages because I haven't needed to.  English is also how you communicate with other travelers, be they Swiss, Spanish, French, or Japanese.  I feel a little guilty about that - they defer to the rest of us by speaking English while I know little of their languages - but when I have shared this concern with them they brush it aside, noting that when they come to travel they end up speaking English the whole way to communicate anyway so for them they are already used to it.  

Ok off to travel for a long while now.  Will be reading, listening to my iPod, staring out the window, and sleeping a lot.  24 hours of travel.  fun.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I'm a Diver Now!

Today I was certified as an Advanced Open Water Diver.  I really like scuba diving.  I've always had a thing for water - ever since I almost drowned in 1st grade and my parents put me in swim class and then on the swim team, I've felt very comfortable in the water.  Being underwater - isolated from noise and consciously controlling every breath - is a good way to clear your head. I've met tons of folks here who are on diving vacations - here in Koh Tao for several weeks and then off to Indonesia or elsewhere, just to dive.  I can see the appeal - I've logged 10 dives in the last 5 days!  

Anyway, enjoy these pictures from today's dive for now.  Have a long travel day to Malaysia starting tomorrow afternoon but will try to post a more comprehensive update before then.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Full Moon Party Recap

Still a little tired so this post will not be as comprehensive as I might've hoped but oh well.  Went to the Full Moon Party last night.  It was pretty crazy.  Basically a whole beach full of drunken partygoers with glow sticks and body paint (I had glow sticks and body paint on too - it was fun) dancing to blaring music, carts selling buckets of liquor and crappy food all up and down the beach for 1km, people juggling fire, jumping through fire hoops, trippin balls on E lying in the ocean, passed out drunkies, etc.  I didn't bring my camera (didn't want to get it stolen or lost) so no pictures, but if you want to get a sense of it do some googling and you'll find plenty.  

Don't get me wrong - it was an awesome scene so I guess I would say it was a "good party" but really I was more impressed by the drunken debauchery.   I didn't drink much at all - just a beer - my primary goal was to people-watch.  And boy did I see some crazy stuff.  

One staple of the Full Moon Party is the fire tossers, who juggle flaming torches for the crowd's amusement.  Well as the night went on, the flaming torches were shelved and the flaming limbo bar brought out.  Then after that, it progressed to the flaming hoop.  The drunkies kept jumping through the hoop of fire and while many of them managed to impressively clear the hoop, many others of them failed and got caught and got burned.  At one point two guys tried to jump into the hoop at the same time from opposite sides and crashed into each other and caught on the fire ring spending sparks everywhere. I watched it with a mix of curiousity and horror like a trainwreck - you can't really peel your eyes away from something like that. One guy in my taxi (actually pickup truck with ten people stuffed in the back) coming home had a big burn mark and exposed flesh (for lack of better words) from getting caught on the fire hoop.

By 3 or so in the morning, there were tons of people just passed out lying on the beach contorted in various positions.  I saw one guy sitting on a step slumped over with vomit (or poo, couldnt tell) on himself.  I ducked into a massage parlor for an hour for a very pleasant foot massage, and by the time I came out around 4 the streets were filling with sloppy belligerent drunks, so that was my cue to bail out of there and take the boat back to Koh Tao.  

It was pretty ridiculous, actually, but I'm glad to have gone just to have seen/experienced it.  

More diving tomorrow.  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Party Boat

Aroud 5:30 pm today I'm taking the boat over to Koh Phan Ngan for the
monthly Full Moon Party. Think massive beach rave with tens of
thousands of people dancing and getting trashed on the beach until
well after sunrise with all sorts of craziness. Dont worry I plan to
take it easy and just gawk at the festivities. Boat comes back at 8 AM

Did 3 more dives yesterday - I think I'm finally getting the hang of
it. Finished with a night dive, which was really cool. Saw tons of
stingrays and fish and slugs and barracusa and other marine life I
was put in a bit of a trance floating around 60 feet under water in
total darkness save for a few flashlights. It was awesome.

On Tuesday I finish up my dive course with a trip to Sail Rock, which
is considered one of the best sites around here. Finish on a high note.

Then off to Malaysia...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Not leaving anytime soon

After finishing my scuba course, I feel like I've only gotten a taste of it and so I've decided to stay on Koh Tao to take the Advanced course, with a break in between to go to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phan Ngan.  Not really in any rush to leave the islands, seeing as how it's all perfect here and all...

No underwater pictures yet but I'm planning on taking a photography dive as part of my advanced course so you'll have some to see after that.  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Diving, Beaches, etc.

Hello from Koh Tao, where I've just finished day 2 of scuba lessons.  I don't feel very verbose today, so I'll mainly leave you with some pictures of the scene here.  Scuba has been great - I've taken to the water quite easily and am pretty comfortable swimming already.  I'm a little hooked, to be honest, and am mulling taking the advanced course, which would give me another 5 dives here.  

Less talk, more pictures:

My home for the past few days

People hanging out on beach

My dinner, on the beach.  (Pork with Basil, $3)

Blue skies...coconut trees...beach...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Scuba day 1

Course is going well. Went in the water today for basic training.
Diving again tomorrow and the next day. More later.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Rough life (pt 2)

Sitting on a cushion on the beach right now (the waves are practically
hitting my feet) by candlelight with a cold beer waiting for my fresh
barbecued fish.

Paradise. Not sure if I'll ever go home at this rate.

It's a rough life

I have to do homework for my scuba class but I was so tired from the
long travel day that I fell asleep on the hammock outside my bungalow.
Woe is me!

Hello from Paradise

Arrived in Koh Tao this morning.  It's amazing.  Scuba lessons start in 2 hours.  More later.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye Vietnam, Hello Beach

Flew into Bangkok this morning. About to hop on a train then ferry to Koh Tao for diving and chillin on the beach. More later.