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Monday, August 5, 2013

From Koh Tao, Thailand to Bangkok

Life has been good. Kristi and I have since left the Island Oasis of Koh Tao and made our way to Bangkok and since, on to Chiang Mai. The last I wrote, I was just about on day 4 of the Free Diving course that I was taking part in. 

There have been a few parties since then, but before I start, I'll toss in some photos from the first week on the island and then I'll begin where I left off. 

Our view on a sunny day. 

Christine rock climbing like a pro. 

My second favorite place to eat. $2 Chicken Fried Rice. 

Glamour shot of me and the ladies. 

Kristi enjoyed her Open Water Scuba Diving course. 

Front flip off the boat. 

Mounting concrete elephants at midnight 

Getting burnt like a dumb ass. 

Ok, so stay put for round two coming up shortly. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Swimming, Eating, Scootering, and Relaxing

Since we've been on the road, we've been a few places, all within Thailand. 

First stop out of Singapore was Krabi, Thailand International airport. It's a small airport, and it didn't take much to get through immigration with a 4 week visa stamped in our passports. Kristi and I had met a girl named Jill from Canada who lives in Singapore in the plane. She recommended Tonsai, Beach, and we figured we might as well tag along. Why not right?

Turns out my friends Christine and Skylar were also on the move, and having recently been in Bangkok, we all arranged to meet at the airpot in Krabi. With that a success, we all banded together. Now it's Alex, Kristi, Christine, Skylar, and Jill. Not a bad start if I might say so myself.  

Directly from the airport, we hopped on a shuttle bus to the port city of Ao Nang (Spelling*) and then hopped directly onto a longtail, headed for the coastal town of Tonsai. 

Tonsai (a beach more than a town) is directly adjacent to Rai Lai (another beach). Tonsai is cheap and geared towards the backpacker crowd. Rai Lai a bit more expensive and is gear toward the tourist 2-3week vacationing group. 

Kristi and I ended up renting a bungalow a little ways off the beach for 150 Thai Baht a night (30 Baht = 1 USD). For $5 a night we were sheltered, with a bug net over our beds and a fan on the ceiling. We stayed in Tonsai for a few nights, and had a great time. On the 2nd day there, we went Deep Water Solo climbing. Basically, we went rock climbing over the ocean. You can't get the next hand hold or foot hold? Jump off and swim. It was great. Somewhere, someone has a photo of me half way through a back flip from about 10 meters or so. Sweeeet. 

From Tonsai, it was simple enough to hop back on the longtail boat, and head back to Ao Nang from where we took a cheap taxi back to Krabi town to spend the night at a hostel. We found an affordable place with a nice fan, and hit the sack early so that we could wake up at 6am to catch the bus that would arrive at 6:30am the next morning. Now, it's just Christine, Kristi and I, as Jill had never planned to leave Tonsai before the end of her vacation, and Skylar only had a few days left before she had to go home. 

So, with that Christine, Kristi and I hopped on the taxi in the morning at 6:30 that took us to the Bus Depot, from which we hopped on a bus for 3 hours, that took us to the main pier in Surat-Thani. At the pier, we hopped on a boat that took us 3 hrs to Koh Samui, where we changed boats and spent another 2hrs 15min being ferried to Koh Tao. And now, we've been on Koh Tao for 4 nights. 

Right when we got off the boat in Koh Tao, we were customarily bombarded by anyone that had a room to offer or accommodation that was available. As is custom, I turned all of them one after the other. Kristi is happy to defer to my travel sense. Christine is as well traveled as I am (not to say I'm particularly well traveled.)

Then, all of a sudden, a distinctly pure English speaking voice conveniently asked us if we were looking for a place to stay. "Are you looking for accommodation?" Yes, indeed we are, what is it you have to offer? The man, later to be known as Clive, gave us his schpeal, and told us why Hin Wong Apartments were the best deal on the island, and that he would take us there for free, and bring us back for free if we didn't like it. We'll, that seemed fair, and it was. 

In the first day, we just relaxed and took it easy. Christine and Kristi get along well and so we went into town together to source out a place for Kristi to get her Open Water Scuba diving certificate. Kristi ended up at a place called Rocktopus, and Christine also did a couple of fun dives with them as she is already a Dive Master. 

With accommodation sorted out, and the first days activity, we also decided that due to our location 2.5km from town and a 150baht taxi ride per person to the shops, that it would be prudent to rent a couple of Scooters. So for the past 4 days we've been ramming from one side of the island to the other on 125cc Honda Click's. Fuel injected and quite powerful for their size, Kristi rides one solo while Christine being the smallest of the three of us rides pillion on the back of the one I ride. It has worked out well, because while Kristi had to be at her diving course early in the morning, she was able to take a scooter and scoot into town leaving me to sleep in. Then when we got hungry, Christine the scooter illiterate would hop on the back of mine and we'd go about our day in the town, meeting up with Kristi at the end of her day. 

And that's how we passed the first 3 days in Koh Tao. Ramming around the island on scooters, Kristi taking a Scuba Diving course, and drinking relatively cheap beer, or even cheaper rum while eating street meat and road side Pad Thai or Chicken Fried Rice. 

On Friday, the tables turned and Kristi was free to ram around the island while Christine and I enrolled in a free diving class (diving with no tanks). The pamphlet for the course makes some pretty legitimate claims, and we were excited to test them out. Further, a motorcycle traveling friend named George (friends with Charlie, Adam and Andy) recommended a company called Total Apnea as his brother Morgan works there. And so, we signed up. 

Day one was yesterday, and started in the morning with breathing techniques that we would then use in the water that afternoon. Their were several floating buoys with ropes attached to them with weights hanging from the bottom. For the first day, the bottom of the rope was set at 12 meters (39ft). Christine is a Dive Master and made short work of 12 meters, hitting it on her second attempt and not thinking much of it. For me, it was a bit more difficult to get in the rhythm, but on the 4th-7th attempt I made it to 12 meters underwater on a single breath. 

Christine and I were pretty stoked about it, but the next day had us more excited. The mark for day 2 was 20 meters (65ft). After another morning of breathing exercises and learning new techniques, we went for an afternoon in the water. Christine was a bit tired (hungover) from the previous night, but we both made short work of 20 meters on our first attempt (after two warm up dives). Then we practiced rescue diving at 10 meters, which was a walk in the part after having just dove 20meters. 

Today was day 3, and the goal of today was to practice our static breath holds. For this, we learned a different breathing technique and then practiced it laying on our backs on the floor. By doing this, we set bench mark for ourselves. Our instructor Camila sat next to us with her stop watch with her goal to find out when our diaphragmatic contractions start. Christine was first, and set her bench mark at 2min 45seconds a personal best. It was awesome. I went next, and set my benchmark at 2:17. I've never held my breath that long. Then, the 3rd guy in our group set a personal best as well at 3:30. It was epic. Then, we headed to the pool to do our static breath hold with our heads in the water, nose clips on. Christine was first and her 2min 58seconds. Then I was up next, and nailed it at 3min 2seconds. Then Kingsley made us both look like children playing at adult games and held his breath for 4min 30seconds. It was outstanding results. 

So, now we have to look forward to day 4, with the weight at the bottom of the rope being set at 30 meters. Day 5 has the mark set as low as 40 meters. So basically, it's going to get pretty intense! We'll see how we do! 

So far so good as far as Island life is concerned. WIth my camera card adapter not working, it means that I have no way to import the photos from my camera to the iPad I'm traveling with. So unfortunately, until I get a new adapter, photos will be lacking. Until then, here are a few photos of the view from where we are staying at Hin Wong Apartments. 

Kristi looking out over Hin Wong Bay from our balcony.

The view in the other direction during day light hours. 

And Kristi and Christine. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And the Real Adventure beings!

Or at least it steps itself up a notch!

Kristi and I are in the Singapore International Airport, 5hrs from flying to Krabi, Thailand where we embark on a 6-8 week adventure of the surrounding countries. We've got no plan of action other than to arrive, and then do whatever it is we feel like doing, all while having a good time.

We've enjoyed the past 6 months in Australia, and we'll be back, in 6-8 weeks, to continue working before road tripping around Australia.

Last week, Adam Shani rolled into Perth. I first met Adam in Bogota, Colombia. He was 2ish years into his RTW trip on his BMW HP2 Super Enduro.

This is Adam(on the right) in Bogota when I met him. He eventually made it to North America and stayed with my parents just north of Seattle while I was still in Ecuador. 

This time around, he rolled within 100kms of Charlie's house in Perth, where promptly he had a catastrophic engine breakdown (suspected broken timing chain), with 172,000 Kilometers on his bike (107k miles)

He's with us now at the Singapore Airport, as he too is flying to Thailand. However, his bike has been crated, and packed, and left with a shipping agent. It's headed to South Africa where he'll collect it in the future to repair it with a second hand motor. As for Adam, he's headed to a fellow motorcycle traveler's wedding, in Chiang Mai. That man's name is Dave, from Canada on a BMW R1200GSA. After he fulfills his role as best man in the wedding, Adam is headed home to Israel. In his own words, "This part of my trip is over!". He's been on the road for 4yrs and 4months. An excellent effort!

Now, while Adam winds down this part of his adventure, Kristi and I are just winding ours up! Kristi's preparing right now as I type!

Life is good!

Sunday, June 23, 2013



This van is Awesome. It’s dual fuel, so it runs on Gasoline and LPG as well. Gasoline is about $1.40/liter where we are, and LPG is as cheap as 66.5c/liter. It’s not a efficient per liter, but at the cost it is roughly 40% more cost efficient then running on gasoline. With the two tanks, I have about a 550 mile (900km) range before getting fuel, allowing me to skip the more costly road house fuel stations.
The previous owner installed Rhino Rack roof racks and an ARB roof top tent and awning. The tent is in like new condition though the cover is a bit weather beaten.

The Van

Frontal View.

Rear View

The awning comes out a fair way and is also in like new condition.

Plenty of sleeping room in the tent, and the folding padded mattress is in good shape and comfortable as well. The Tent/Awning combo sells for just about $2,000 when new. Score.

Clean and in great shape on the inside as well.

Only two seats in the front. Not going to cut it when on the road. This will have to change.

WHAM! A bench seat out of the back of a Mitsubishi magna station wagon. Perfect. Scored it off for $65 complete with the hardware.

Power plugs. One for the outside of the van which will be plugged into local power when at camp sites, and one for the inside which will be wired to the corresponding outside one.

100AH deep cycle batteries. Gotta wire them up to an inverter and charger for the shore power, and hopefully solar panels to follow.

A 49 liter Waeco two way (12/24volt) fridge, found on Gumtree (internet classifieds) for $450, complete with thermal cover. They sell for $1100 new. Works great.

A beer to compliment the time spent in the garage.

BREAK! Kristi’s scooter got a bit of a makeover with the addition of a “Scooter Skirt”. To keep her dry.

Covers her legs in the morning when it’s cold, and keeps her dry when it’s pouring rain. Bitchin.

Here are some of the supplies to start the hacking and screwing and drilling and cutting and all sorts of other general tomfoolery. It’s nice to have a garage to work in. Charlie is a FIFO (fly in fly out) worker at a mine and was away for 8 days. I borrowed his tools and got to work.

After a quick trip to Bunnings (Home Depot equivalent where I spent multiple hours staring at hardware and sheets and planks of wood visualizing everything), I came up with this.

Then I starting drinking one of these.

And ended up with this.

That fit in the van like this.

And was bracketed down permanently into the van like this. The seat folds completely flat to the rear also.

And in turn folds flat like this as well.

It also lifts up to allow access to the batteries and charger, inverter, wiring, and other generic things that will be stored/mounted/placed here.

Next up was a kitchen area for the rear. In go the equivalent of a couple of 2x4’s, some timber and sheet metal screws of various lengths, some chopping and sawing and drilling and screwing and bam, you get this.

Under which cleanly fits the fridge.

BREAK! Popcorn and cider time. Please note the 500ml size of the cider. Rekorderlig cider is awesome.

Meanwhile this is night two, and not the same day, so I’m no boozer by any means. The tent won’t allow the van to fit in the garage, but it will back in part way.

Measure twice and cut one. Can’t get into the fridge without pulling it out from underneath the kitchen counter, and that’s just not going to cut it.

Back to work with the jigsaw.

And there we have it.

Screw a support beam into the back of the counter for the next step.

An accordion style folding bed platform.

Kristi stepped up and joined in on the fun.

Section two went in as planned.

Then section three as well. Now it’s one 4ft by 8ft section of 3/4” plywood in four sections.

Notice the hinges? The third section folds up and over section two.

Section three and two fold up to section one and the entire bed platform folds up to form the backdrop to the kitchen and allow access to the storage area between the bench seat and the kitchen.

A view from the rear.

And a view of the sliding bolts installed to keep the fridge door in place.

Obviously there is more to come with this van, but we're nearly there. I bought two 5liter jugs of oil (the van has a 3.9l oil capacity), two oil filters, four new spark plugs, new engine coolant, windshield wiper fluid, and new wiper blades for the front and rear. We've got a second set of generic roof rack bars to install on top of the van behind the tent to which will be mounted a basket (also rhino rack brand) to hold miscellaneous gear, and a bracket to install in front of the tent to hold the spare tire which was removed from the rear (having been removed from under the vehicle to fit the LPG tank during it's conversion). Then maybe a solar panel, a water tank, a stove and a cupboard and we're pretty well set for the great Australian road trip set to start sometime in the near future. It'll take place in two stages though and should be pretty kick ass!