Saturday, March 31, 2012

Open Water

Open Water - check.
Advanced Open Water - check.
Enriched Air Diver - check.
Rescue Diver - check.
Dive Master - CHA-CHECK!

After eighty or ninety dives, many hours in the pool, long afternoons on the boat, too many early morning zombie walks to the dive shop, and more than a few nights out, the Dive Master program at Crystal Divers on Koh Tao has been completed.  It took just about four weeks (6 counting sick days and a visa run) and there were only a handful of days that were so arduous I want to forget about them for eternity.

A brief outline of the requirements to achieve such a "prestigious" (their words) title :
  • Water skills - float, swims, tows, swap gear, etc
  • Diver Rescue - Still a personal favourite, though I hope I never have to perform on an actual victim.  This is the process where you bring someone who is not responding up to the surface from depth.  Diagnose their condition, provide rescue breaths while you tow them to the boat and then carry them up the ladder to administer first response care.  In reality you'll probably just watch them die but in a perfect scenario they regain consciousness.  In a medium happy world, the patient is handed over EMS and recovers in their care.
  • Literacy - yes, the capacity to read and comprehend
  • Demonstrate Skills - We all know I have a copious amount of skills to demonstrate but this pertains to those required for open water courses.
  • Map a Dive Site - go underwater with a slate, pencil, and compass to draw what you see
  • Show Patience - This includes demonstrating the ability to be treated like a child even though you have lived on your own for years and managed to navigate the globe 
  • Lead a Dive - In a nutshell, get a bunch of schmucks together, tell them what you are about to do, proceed to do it safely, return and then talk about all the fun you had.

I'm glad to have done it and I'm glad that it's done.  As equipped as I am to complete a very high level of dive activity I still only consider it a springboard to other opportunities.  So here's to the future, Cheers!

don't kick the coral. Thanks to Heather for the underwater pictures. Hello Turkey.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

View from the Top

she said:

What do you do on an island full of scuba divers when you only sort of want to go diving?

When the island is Koh Tao, Thailand, there are a few options.

You can snorkel, you can swim. You can sit on the beach with or without a book and slowly get browner (or redder). There are many places to sit on decks with ocean views and sip icy drinks through straws.  There's some Yoga to be found and an interesting place to try out trapeze. You can scooter around on sometimes paved roads and hike up hills to lookout points.

View from the bottom. View from the top.

OR. You can climb.

Koh Tao is home to 50+ varying level routes of volcanic granite – a hard, high friction, and often sharp surface – with options for several kinds of climbing including:

Bouldering - Climbing without ropes, often to work on technique.
Top-roping - A rope going through anchors at the top of the climb is then attached to you so that someone at the bottom can belay (bring in the slack as you climb and act as your safety should you fall).
Sport Climbing - You clip your rope to bolts that have been pre-placed/drilled into the rock as you climb upward, again with someone to belay at the bottom.
Traditional - Similar to sport climbing except using removable equipment instead of permanent bolts.

Bolts for setting up anchors. Rope set up for a top-roping.

Belay device and some other climbing essentials.

The land is privately owned and you pay a land fee to, or take classes with, the wonderful people of Good Time Adventures. A few weeks, a few knots, and a few falls are all it takes to turn land dwellers into monkeys on the island of sea-creatures.

Please get stronger dear fingers. Thank You to Mike, Tim, and especially Luke for the great instruction, and Carla for your help with pictures. Hello rocks.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Two Towers

they said:

Time for a SE Asia visa run? How about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Home to an international airport, an easy to use transportation system, many many food choices, and plenty to keep a person occupied for a couple of hours or a couple of days.

Top 5 Things to Keep a Person Occupied:

1) Petronas Twin Towers
Get there by LRT: Take the Kelana Jaya line to the KLCC stop. Follow exit signs until you are back in the great outdoors and look skyward...
Costs 50 Malaysian Ringget per person for tickets up to the double decker Skybridge, two walkways that connect the towers on Level 42 and 41. But get there early in the day (ticket sales open at 8:30 am) or buy tickets in advance as no more will be sold once the maximum daily head count is reached. Closed Mondays.

he said:
"Man, what a view.  You can see for ages.  Absolutely breath taking!"  Were all things I probably would have said.  That's right, WOULD HAVE, if we'd been able to get to the Skybridge.  As mentioned there is a daily headcount and days of operation don't include Monday. So, in the two days and three nights we had in KL we could not experience this landmark because of other people (who I hate) and the days of the week (for which my fondness is also waning).  I told myself it would probably be more impressive to see the Petronas Towers from another tower.  Onward to the next closest and considerably less popular thing!

2) Menara Kuala Lumpur (KL Tower)
Another place to view the city from above.
Getting there: Unless you take a cab or one of the many tours that stop here this one involves some walking. The nearest LRT stops are Dang Wangi on Kelana Jawa line, or the Bukit Nanas or Raja Chulan stops on the KL Sentral Titiwangsa line. Make your way on foot to the park entrance on Jalan P Ramlee where you can walk up the steps or catch a free shuttle bus from the carpark entrance.
A Basic package ticket costs 45 Malaysian Ringget per person and includes a trip to the observation deck, audio tour, entry into Forest in the City, and a choice of Formula 1 Racing Simulator, a pony ride, or entry to the Animal Zone.

he said:
They saw me coming. Turns out the Petronas towers are positioned in such a way that you only get to see their profile, thereby only one, from the KL Tower.  I was less than amused.

What we did get was a very nice panoramic view of the city and it inspired us to check out some other sites. We also got to play on an F1 simulator as part of our ticket.  She won the race, but I managed to wreck most of the other competitors.  In our own ways we both won.

3) Chinatown Markets
Get there by LRT: Take the Kelana Jawa line to Pasir Seni Station then follow the foot traffic down Jalan Hang Jebat or Jalan Hang Lekir until you found your way to the rows upon rows of stalls.

she said:
All the things that a Chinatown usually offers plus a little bit extra. We picked the right night and got to watch a dance troupe show off their skills and costumes. They would pull people into the group and teach them the steps, something I'd have been keen to try if it were possible to get through the considerable crowd surrounding them.

he said:
Chinatown is Chinatown is Chinatown.  Actually our hostel was located here and it was the second we've had in a Chinatown.  I like it because you can depend on a few quality staples including, tea, rice, char siu, fireworks, bootleg goods, I could press the stereotype but I think you get the picture.

Above: Produce stands, steam cookers, and food on sticks.
Below: Dancers giving the crowd a show.

4) Bukit Bintang
Get there by LRT: Take the Titiwangsa line to the Bukit Bintang stop.

he said:
This is where money goes to be spent.  Needless to say our visit was short.

she said:
Night Lights, high end shops, people watching, and good eats for all kinds of price ranges if you're willing to walk down a side street. We went with a full on Indian feast for around 40 Malaysian Ringget for 2 people.

Above: Corner of Bukit Bintang and Jalan Sultan Ismail, LRT coming into the Bukit Bintang stop.
Below: Pavilion Crystal Fountain, along Bintang Walk, view of the KL tower at night.

5) Batu Caves
Get there by LRT: Take the Sentul Port Klang Line to the Batu Caves stop.

she said:
An impressive day of spelunking. This time in caves that house several Hindu temples and make up the biggest Hindu shrine outside of India, and includes a 140ft/42.7m high statue of the Lord Murugan (the tallest in the world).

Above: 50ft/15m tall statue of Hanuman, tallest ever statue of Lord Marugan, 272 steps up to Cathedral Cave.
Below: Cave monkeys, Cathedral/Temple Cave.

Please can all visa runs be this good? Thank You to the folks at Reggae Guest House for upgrading us to a private room when the dorms were double booked. Hello Thailand for another 30 days.