Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chiang Mai to Krabi and Stuck in KL

Chiang Mai

The remaining days in Chiang Mai ended up with rain and gloomy skies. That was fine for the spa day but I was suspicious about the day we had set aside for the zip line adventure through the jungle. Feeling a need to relax a bit more, I decided to sleep in, read, hang out with the resident Tri Gong dog named money (who I found out is pregnant!) and was glad for the break. When Susannah, Katie and Ellen returned (and returned early at that) they were soaked to the bone remarking that it would have been more fun if it would have stopped raining.


From Chiang Mai we flew down to Krabi in the south. This area is known for beaches, boat rides, kayaking and slightly less developed than Phuket but in reality, it had everything we could have wanted and much we didn't want. It looked oddly familiar, a lot similar Indonesia but much more developed than Banjarmasin. The waterfront was lined with small shops selling everything from cheap souvenirs to floaty things you can bring in the water and restaurants boasting menus of western and Thai food. And of course it wouldn't be a complete tourist destination without the obligatory Starbucks and McDonalds. A big surprise was the amount of custom tailor shops where from their stoops and bordering sidewalks every evening we'd hear "Hello Madam, would you like some beautiful clothes?"


It was the off season, so there were more vendors out than tourists. It's the trade off, not much competition for beach space nor crowded activities, but it also means the vendors were like hungry tigers pouncing on all who walked by. We went out on one of the big snorkel dive boats, being low season, I had the dive master all to myself and the entry off the big boat deck was not a big stressful crowded even with divers bumping off one another. My unexpected stress during my dive was entirely unrelated.

I was very excited to dive, neither nervous nor anxious beforehand. However, within minutes of going down I felt a well of panic, something I hadn't felt since I received my certification years ago. I felt claustrophobic, my throat went dry from the air and although there were no problems with my regulator, I started to feel like I couldn't breathe very well. I told my guide, Punch who was amazing, that I wanted to go up, so we did and I started feeling better as soon as my head was out of the water. We gave it a second try after at minute and again I was fine at first but the panic crept in. We weren't even more than 14 meters deep! This first dive before lunch, I don't think we were down more than 25 minutes total. Again, Punch was fantastic, making sure I was okay and letting me try to figure out why I was feeling so panicked and claustrophobic. I thought maybe it was because I was using their gauges because my computer was on the fritz, or maybe I didn't drink enough water beforehand and was just a little dehydrated, also the visibility was low and everything was so blue, maybe that was disorienting. But it wasn't until the second dive that I figured out the crux of the problem, a problem opposite of many divers: water temperature.

The water was 30 Celsius. Although I wore only my spandex skin, no wet suit, I overheated as soon as I submerged. I always run warm in the water. In Monterey where my dive buddies need to return due to getting too cold to fast, I'm happy as a seal. I like the warm water diving too, but rarely need to wear a wet suit. At Phi Phi, it was just that degree too much for my body to feel comfortable. I was able to stay down the full hour on the second dive. It helped that there were thermo clines we swam through that refreshed me, and that there was an AMAZING sea turtle that swam right by us that the boat's videographer caught on film. But the feeling of warm water fully covering me felt unbearable at times that I had to stop Punch during the swim so that I could just breathe slowly to cool down.

My last full day in Krabi was spent with the ladies kayaking along the big cliffs of the area and through a mangrove swamp. Maquaq monkeys came out to stare at us and fell in love with a couple from Wales partly because they spotted a bag of "crisps" in the kayak. One monkey jumped on the front of the boat and rode with them for a while, staring intently, waiting for another round of food to appear.

Delayed 6 Hours in KL

As I hammer out these notes of my last week in Thailand, I'm sitting in the Kuala Lumpur Airport waiting for my delayed flight back to Indonesia to announce that it will be boarding… hopefully sometime today. I had higher expectations of the KL airport. The whole experience has been like being in a barn; in fact it looks like a barn. Its expansive, harried and not much rhyme or reason to the shuttling of debarking passengers through the process of going through customs (even for transiting passengers like myself) to claiming baggage, to checking in again, leaving the country through immigration (yes I have a Malaysia stamp in my passport now) AND then to heading towards the gates. Passengers zig zagged and cris crossed through the terminal, all of us travelers with dazed, annoyed looks on our faces as our transitioning from one point to the next lacked intuition to the point of prompting frustrated travelers to stop in their tracks directly in front of others, unaware that over stacked luggage carts were careening directly towards them from just feet away.

Finally in Bali

After a 6 hour delay where the flight scheduled after my own left 3 hours before I did, I made it to Ubud, by 1 AM. It was quite the experience. Tired parents let their children run amok, Air Asia didn't have enough meals for everyone to purchase and didn't think to offer anything for free, not even a bottle of water. In the vein of trying to stay positive and hopeful in my final days in Indonesia, I am closing this post. Home is just a short few days away and I've still plenty of interesting tales to share.

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