Monthly Archives: November 2013

ISLES OF THAI

P1060228“Alright,” Captain Francois said as we left the harbour of Chalong in Phuket, “let’s hoist the sails.”

The sun was setting behind us, splaying it’s raw beauty of orange and yellow as it set behind the Big Buddha on top of the hill, 6 K’s outside of Chalong. We had just received the reconstructed lever that directs the engine to push us forward, backwards or just idle softly. It needed testing and so a trip to the outer islands of Thailand’s west coast, picturesque scenes taken from travel magazines, was called for.

We were sailing dead on into a threatening cloud that seemed to dare us to come closer. The captain double-dared and the rain hit us on an angle. But as we reached the protective bay of Koh Yao, where only two fishing villages (of Muslim faith) resided, the rain subsided. We dropped anchor in 8 meters of water and as the stars came out I helped Kira in the galley prepare a rice dish of mango, chilli, coriander, garlic with tuna cakes washed down with a couple of beers.P1070435

Now this was sailing. Tropicbird didn’t have a fridge so there was no point in having alcohol. This boat, the illustrious San Miguel, a dreamy 47-foot sloop with a crew of 3, my addition making it 4, had all the spoils that proper sailing come with.

After dinner we watched the lightening show, nothing short of Pink Floyd’s Pulse concert. It reminded me of Darwin in the wet season, sitting on the beach watching earth-shattering clouds rupture with flashes and strobes of lightening in every direction and ear-drum piercing thunder.

The perfect weather to bring out the guitar and provide some tunes on the quiet waters of the bay.

The next morning, with the dinghy providing some motor issues and the shore being to far too row, we sailed out to Koh Hong, an island surrounded by towering rock-faces and jungle vegetation with an inlet of water a meter deep, surrounded by mangroves and with the residing tide, a sandbar enticed a blue-grey water bird with yellow feet to land on it and fish for whatever it eats.

P1060332

Walking around under the rocks while boatloads of tourists chugged in, looked around and chugged out. We headed back to the beach side and as Francois and Kira checked out the beach, the water called to me and I swam out in knee-deep water to the underwater cliff edge and snorkeled down 4-meters, avoiding the 18-meter drop to the blue depths below. I floated about as curious fish came up and checked out the human jelly fish invading their territory. I also avoided the dinghy sized jelly fish that were pulsating about.

 

I rejoined the captain and Kira and we headed back out to the boat. As we passed the ridge I pointed out where I snorkeled. Francois dived in as Kira and I continued to paddle to San Miguel. I raised the anchor, which is like trying to lift a granite rock the size of a small Fiat, and we headed over to Krabi, the southern point of the mainland of Thailand.

We anchored in 6 meters of water as the sun set and we paddled the 20-minute pass over calm waters, passing a small catamaran. As we beached and tied the dinghy we heard a heavily accented South African voice call out to us.

“What the hell are you guys doing here?”

We turned around to greet South African Francois, a fellow sailor we had met at Phuket’s Cruising Yacht Association and had confirmed the story of Rodriguez and the Search for Sugarman.

“Come on,” he slapped Francois on the shoulder. “Let’s get you a beer.”P1060337

He was working on the catamaran, sailing groups of tourists that chartered the boat for such an expedition.

We sat at the bar on the beach and watched another storm roll in before the heavens cracked open and flooded every possible space made for walking. It was as though the skies looked down and said, ‘Hmm, footpaths. Challenge accepted.’

 

So we sat and drank for the next two-hours, meeting an Aussie couple living in Singapore, the crew of South African Francois’ boat before we headed out to a reggae bar and partied with the staff (because there was no one else) and the owner’s adorable little kid that danced with us.

I found a stick that the staff had twirled and applied my skills to it. But I learned that twirling while drunk isn’t the best idea. Especially when the stick is over a meter long and made out of very hard, unbreakable material that really leaves a mark.

Right on the left side of the left brow, under the eyebrow.

As the rain stopped and the party died out, we headed back to the beach, emptied the dinghy of water and paddled back to San Miguel for a good night’s sleep.

The next day we paddled back to the beach on the far side to snorkel (which was like swimming through a poorly recreated marine park that was left in the hands of a 57-year-old retired councilman).P1060375

Back on the beach I watched as a couple of tourists with ropes and climbing apparel crossed my path. I followed them into the brush and came out behind them at the entrance to a huge cavern. I left them to their climbing wall and explored the cavern, lined with stalactites coloured in green with a grey dusty ground covering the floor of it.

I clambered over the boulders and looked out at the green jungle vegetation, spread out like a carpet from the 60s across the beach.

I headed back and watched as boat load after boat load of tourists were dropped off at the beach. I walked down and crossed paths with Francois.

“You should go check out the dicks,” he said as he continued on to check out the cavern I had just exited.

“Check the what?” I turned back as he kept walking.

I wasn’t sure if I had heard ‘dicks’ or ‘decks’. I made my way to the end of the beach, passing exclusive looking resorts, the kind that made a ‘happy-to-sleep-on-the-beach’ nomadic adventurer like myself become repulsed by what man has done to nature for our own 60-second pleasures.

At the rockwall I saw Kira standing before a Hindu-shaped temple – surrounded by penises of all shapes, sizes and made from every material known to man – wood, metal, cloth and plastic.

“What the…” I stood in awe.

All through Indonesia I had seen in every souvenir shop bottle openers, flip flops, everything you could think of, in the shape of a penis without finding out why.

“It’s a sacrifice the fishermen make to this goddess,” explained Kira, reading from the sign. “The cave represents a sacred womb which is why they give phallic offerings.”

That and maybe because every island in Thailand is phallic which might explain the highly lucrative (and legal) sexual trade in the land of a thousand smiles.

We returned to the dinghy, making our way through the throng of tourists that were crowding the beach, pushed it into the water and paddled back to San Miguel. We got her ship-shaped, raised the anchor and headed back to Phuket.

Next stop, Sri Lanka, Chagos Archipelagos and the east coast of Africa.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Conservation, Sailing, Thailand, The Indian Ocean | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

RAW FOOD FOR THOUGHT

P1060027“Whenever you cook vegetables, you lose 80% of the nutrients that our body needs,” Boris explains during his 4-hour raw food workshop at the Vikasa Yoga Retreat on the coconut-treed island of Koh Samui, Thailand.

Working off the bike had its benefits. I was staying across the road from the retreat and while recording the voice overs for Kosta’s yoga videos and partaking in the daily yoga classes, Boris Lauser, master raw food chef (and the man who compiled the menu at Vikasa), was at the retreat conducting a raw food workshop.

And I’m not talking about blood-dripping steaks. Raw foods refer to vegetables, fruits and nuts that aren’t cooked. And if the need to steam or cook them arises, then it should be done at no more than 42 degrees so you don’t loose the nutrients that our body needs.

The benefits of a raw food diet are too numerous to list but the top ones (besides the nutritional value that your body gets) are that it’ll make you look younger, feel more productive, less tired throughout the day, does wonders for your skin tone and keeps you regular – on time every time – like an atomic clock.

We watched hungrily as he explained and demonstrated how to make a coconut and avocado mousse, blending it up in the mixer.

“We’ll let it sit in the fridge and have it for dessert,” he put the tray away and went on to explain a little information regarding tomatoes. “They contain lycopene which can only be accessed by breaking up the tomato in a blender,” he said. “Lycopene has been scientifically proven to fight cancer.”

Noted.

He went on to demonstrate how to make Chinese dumpling fillings and wrap it in rice paper. We wrapped our own and went on to make rice paper spring rolls filled with Julian-peeled cucumber and carrot wrapped in a lettuce leaf with an added dressing of almond paste.

Next he demonstrated how to make pasta from zucchini and carrots.

“You can cut them into thin strips so that they look like pasta,” he explained while putting a zucchini through the motions. “Drain the water that will come out of it, add the sauce and voila, pasta.”

And it tasted damn good too.P1060054

I had been living on the raw food diet since arriving at Vikasa. Every now and then the menu would have the added seafood or chicken but there was no red meat. And, I gotta say, I’ve never felt more alive (and been more regular) without eating red meat. I’ve always tried to implement a salad in every meal I have. Usually, I’ll dice up an onion, tomatoes and cucumber, dress it with olive oil, a dash of salt and grounded black pepper. I do love a good steak every now and then. I can live without chicken and with fish… well it depends on the fish.

After sampling our dumplings and spring rolls, we topped off the workshop with a serving of the previously-made coconut and avocado mousse sprinkled with shredded coconut and cinnamon.

I had to sit down and savoir the moment.

Although based in Berlin of his native Germany, Boris conducts raw food retreats and workshops in Bali and other exotic locations around the world like Koh Samui in Thailand. His website, balive.org, contains recipes and more information regarding when and where his workshops are conducted.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Conservation, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RACKETS

“Don’t ride through Thong Sala,” suggested my couch surfing host. “The people from the bike shop are looking for you.”

Ah, nothing like being a marked man to complete your travels. And by who? A bunch of wannabe street thugs who have watched one Guy Ritchi film too many?

And for what? For crashing a scooter which – unhappy as I was about the situation – I was going to pay for the damages. Only they decided that extorting an exurbanite amount of money is the way to make a living on Koh Phangan.

They wanted 15,000 Baht  ($500 AUD) for damages worth not more than 3,000 Baht ($100 AUD) – five at the most. And since they only suspected that it was a falang riding the bike at the time of the accident, they ‘heavily’ discounted from the 22,000 ($740 AUD) that they would have demanded.

“How much to fix this?” I asked at a shop on the north side of the island, well away from the south-west side where Thong Sala and the above mentioned bike shop were located.

The owner looked the bike over and saw the name of the shop it came from on the side mirror – Sandee.

“No touch this bike. People no good. Too scared,” he said.

What? “You can’t even give me a price?” I asked. “I just want to know how much the damage is really worth. Please?” I pleaded.

“No. Bad people. You go now,” he shooed me off.

I rode further up the road and stopped in at another bike repair shop.

“How much to fix this?” I asked the owner who stepped out with a smile.

His smile dropped and his face turned into a sheet of white fear as he saw the name of the shop it came from on the side mirror – Sandee.

“No touch this bike. Bad people. You go now,” he shooed me off.

It was the same for the next three shops I visited.

Waiting around for the phone to ring for some gigs wasn’t going to pay off the bike in time for my boat ride to Africa from Phuket. I needed cash and I needed it fast. But it wasn’t going to happen on Koh Phangan where it rained almost every day for the two weeks I was there.

After some emails and messages to the good people I had met on Koh Samui, a job came through at Vikasa Yoga Retreat. After explaining my situation they happily agreed to help me out and cover the entire 15,000 Baht bill in exchange for some online work and doing the voice overs for 18 yoga videos (I had taken part in a voiceover course back home and was offered a two-year contract but going nomadic became priority and I left it behind. It paid off now).

They also generously provided accommodation, two incredibly delicious and healthy meals a day and yoga classes with the students studying to be yoga teachers through the yoga teaching program on offer.

It was good to be back on Samui. The energy on this island is the best I have experienced since Alor, Indonesia.

And it stopped raining. It was sunny with blue skies daily. My injuries sustained from the crash were healing nicely but still kept me out of the water. I was hoping that by the time I hit Phuket, I’d be able to go in. Phuket had the only surf in Thailand and I was hoping there’d be time (and waves) to go in – if I could find a surfboard.

I began my voice recordings in the evenings, after 23:00, as it was too noisy to do it any time before that. My recording studio was a microphone filter and the voice memo app on my iPhone in the retreat’s office.

The morning after my first session of five recordings I received an email from the skipper of the San Miguel, the sailing yacht I’m too meet in Phuket to join as crew to Africa. They had arrived earlier than expected and asked me to arrive before the 10th of November – the original meeting date.

So I pumped out the final 13 recordings over two nights. Not an easy process. I sat with Kosta (founder of Vikasa) to get the script down. Then I had to time it to the video, rehearse it, then record it. Each video averaged 4-7 minutes. The ‘Warm Up’ video was the longest at 15 minutes.

Luckily, being the one-take wonder that I am (when it comes to entertainment), I accomplished 15 videos in one-take with only 3 that had to be recorded in two takes.

My host from Koh Phangan arrived to collect the money and I asked her to pass on a message to the bike shop:

“Tell them they are assholes and that Karma will get them big time for this.”

Karma and I are pretty tight. And although she can be a real bitch sometimes, she’s only a bitch to those that deserve it.

And this fuckin’ shop deserved it.

If you’re ever in Koh Phangan, don’t rent a scooter from a bike shop in Thong Sala called ‘Sandee’.

Lesson learnt.

Huge thanks to all the staff at Vikasa Yoga Retreat, Koh Samui and too Kosta Miachin, Vadim Gur and Betti Maul. Much love. Om Shanti.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Asia, Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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