Published: October 18th 2008October 4th 2008
Saw wat dee ka (and krup)! puak rao koey bpai rong rian lae dton nee rao pood paa saa thai dai! (We have been going to school and now we can speak Thai!) Jarod and I are in Phuket, a big touristy island further south. Our main purpose in being here was to spend two weeks cramming Thai into our older and much slower brains. We went to a language school every weekday and also enlisted the help of a friend of Kim and Awe's here to help us as well.
It was a struggle... We learned a bit from our friends in Corpus and then some from the Rosetta Stone on the computer and have picked up a few more useful phrases, but we could speak very little with an understandable tone. We completed all four books with our awesome tutor Bee (different Bee than Koh Tao) spending about 6 hours a day studying and then 2 hours in class. We are relieved to be finished, but now have to retain what we have learned.
We rented a nice bungalow with hot shower and fridge, etc... called the Happy Inn and have rented our first motorbike. Don't worry,
we are both wearing helmets and driving slowly! Jarod has actually gotten pretty good at driving it. No way to walk around this place. The beaches are beautiful, even prettier than Koh Tao, so we are managing okay when we aren't studying.
Made it down to the huge mall in Patong to eat Pizza Hut and go out to the movies! Nice break and made us feel like we were at home. Jarod also got in to a game of beach volleyball! Played with a guy whose dad was in olympics for the sport and his brother coached the Chinese olympic team! Jarod held his own though...
Before we got here, I had my first trip to a dentist here to have a crown glued back on. Hopefully it will stay put! Dentist was very knowledgable and spoke good English supplemented with drawings of my tooth, so it was a good experience. Also had to make our first border run. We have year visas, but have to leave Thailand every 90 days to get a stamp from another country and a new 90 stamp in Thailand. Pretty much everyone has to deal with this, even long term residents.
Visa runs are big business in Ranong where we arranged all from our guest house, the Kiwi Orchid, that a friend Jai and his family run. We met him on the cultural tour we went on a few months ago and saw our pictures on the screensaver at his place. His aunts were laughing because they said they had been looking at us on the computer for so long and it was like we came to life! Jai took us to an incredible outdoor hot spring that night. It was the first hot bath I have had in 3 months. It was also great for my many mosquito bites! The next morning they took us to the pier where we boarded a longtail with a bunch of other farangs and took a 30 minute boat ride (with several passport check stops along the way) to a small island in Burma (Myanmar). There we got our Burma stamp (and a bit of cheap whiskey we had the boatman buy) and returned to Thailand for our new stamp. Burma is a poor country with a junta government and it was quite different from Thailand just thirty minutes away. It was the closest
place to Kuraburi to exit the country though.
After returning from Ranong, we headed here with Kim and Awe (and dog Leo) to enjoy some sushi and I have even had some over-priced Mexican food! Wasn't too bad though! We went snorkeling on a more secluded beach as Kim's friend is planning on doing a Reef Check transect there and we went to check it out. It was great snorkeling with a large variety of fish that I had never seen. Much more diversity than Koh Tao here.
Also last weekend, Jarod gave a presentation on behalf of Reef Check in Khao Lak congratulating the newest graduates of the Eco-tourism Training Center. A program started by an American, Reid, to prepare tsunami affected youth to work in the dive industry. He also teaches them English and computer skills during their 9 month training time. 9 became dive masters and 2 are master instructors. We had a great time and are truly impressed by Reid's program.
After graduating, we took a day off today heading to the Phuket Aquarium! Would have liked to have gotten in to dive with the giant grouper to do a little feeding show
like old times! Good exhibits and even a green sea turtle nusery with hundreds of babies! Then after noodles for lunch, we went to check out the fish up close and personal snorkeling at Hat Narn Beach again. This time we saw several file fish, a moray eel, a trumpetfish and a pair of cuttlefish! Great day! We are both very ready to start Reef Check and do some more diving.
Heading to Koh Ra soon in time for a Halloween party at the Eco-lodge.
There are more photos below