Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back to Thailand for some Wooosaaaa-a

Even if you can't be bothered reading this post, coz it's a longen, can I suggest to just have a scroll through and click on some of the photos.

We've been back a month now from our trip and the headaches, sore eyes and stiff joints are starting to return. When I begin to feel as though I never went on a holiday I close my eyes, think of a few of the places we went to, take a deep breath and feel much better. **sigh**

So, I thought I would bring you some images of a few of the most beautiful places in Thailand.
Here's one to start with; Phi Phi Leh Cove.

I hope that random photo was nice enough to have you continue to scroll.

When looking at these photos you also need to remember that the water is 30 degrees celcius and the air temp is around 35 degrees. It's just perfect.

The reaction to some of our photos from the trip have been "I had no idea Thailand was so beautiful" and when you explain the names of the places you see them nodding but really not having any idea of where you are talking about. By looking at these pics and seeing the names, hopefully it might inspire you to spend some time in this beautiful place and actually understand what we were talking about.

Before we start - The Tsunami of 2004
As a side note, all of the places I will be mentioning were devastated in the 2004 tsunami. What I love about Thai people is they don't ask for pity. The tsunami is never mentioned to get you to purchase something (except for one company which will have their own blog entry due to their immoral business dealings - and they aren't even Thai!) and all that they ask from you is to return to their country.

It isn't until you are standing on the islands and still see remnants of the tsunami around that it really hits you, and how incredibly frightening it must have been. Hubby and I stood on the beach at Tonsai Bay, looked around and both said "Where would you run?".

Here is Tonsai Bay now.An 8 metre wave hit from both sides of the island. See what we mean by "Where would you run?" If you were on the beach on the left, you run and you'd end up at the beach on the right. Up the limestone cliffs is your best bet.

Now that I have managed to completely depress you, let's get back to the islands as they are now. Before I do that I think it is about time for another map.

Please use the map if you begin to get a little disorientated.

The Phi Phi Islands are around a 45 minute speed boat trip from either Krabi (South West direction) or Phuket (South East direction).
Refer to my first post on Thailand to work out where Krabi and Phuket are.
Refer to my first post on Thailand to work out where Thailand is.

On our list of places to visit on our day trip were:
- Viking Cave
- Koh Phi Phi Leh Cove
- Loh Sa Mah Bay
- Maya Bay
- Monkey Bay
- Tonsai Bay (Koh Phi Phi Island)
- Hin Klang Reef
- Bamboo Island

Have all of that memorised?
By the way, Koh (or Ko) in Thai means island. Just in case you are wondering why everything seems to have Koh in its name.

First stop. Viking Cave.


The Geography Lesson
Firstly, people live in this cave.
Viking Cave is located on the east side of the northern peninsula of Koh Phi Phi Leh.
I can assure you that Viking Cave is Viking free, but the cave has numerous cave paintings of vessels, resembling Viking longboats. There are paintings of elephants and also of various boats: European, Arab and Chinese sailing ships, baroques, motorboats, and steamships. It has been proposed that the paintings were drawn by pirates, who paused in the cave on their travels. Although, I would like to know which group of travellers (aside from time travellers) were using motorboats during the days of pirates.
The cave is revered by the local people. They come here to collect the swift's nests, used to make Bird's Nest Soup (and I thought it was a figurative "Bird's Nest" in the soup all this time). A birds nest company has the concession for the cave, and they must be asked if you want to visit the cave.
Next!

Stop Two. Phi Phi Leh Cove.
We have SO many amazing photos from this Cove. So instead here's a little bit of footage.
The water goes from extremely shallow (and we were there during high tide) and then it just drops away to around 30 feet deep. The quiet, the warmth, the peace. Ah, the serenity.

video

Having used up about a 1/3 of our memory card on Phi Phi Leh Cove we headed off to do some snorkelling.

Stop Three. Loh Sa Mah Bay
A great little snorkelling location, although I would have loved to get some scuba gear on here. In my excitement to be underwater sometimes I forget I'm snorkelling and not scuba diving, this means a very quick learning curve and lots of choking and coughing.
We visited the Phi Phi Islands during monsoon season. This means that the water isn't as clear or calm as it is during the calmer months. Hard to imagine?


We have the Olympus Waterproof and Shockproof Camera so here's a shot of some of the residents of Loh Sa Mah Bay.


Unfortunately it was Day 1 of us having this camera so it was set to underwater mode for the entire day. But still, we can't complain, it was great having the durable camera. And may I add, freaked out some of the people on our tour when I dived off the front of the boat camera in hand. One of those priceless moments.

Stop Four. Maya Bay
You have to go to Maya Bay to fathom Maya Bay.
It is most famous for being the setting of Hollywood movie "The Beach".
I'll let the photos do the talking. This is the warmest, softest (sounds bizarre I know) water I have ever swam in.
And here's some footage taken by Hubby of me in my new Happy Place.

video

A little story about our time at Ma
ya Bay.
We woke up on our last day in Krabi to some overcast, potentially stormy weather. We wanted to get to the islands before we headed off to Phuket but we had also heard that it was a bit of a disappointment on an overcast day.

After our usual breakfast feast we headed into Ao Nang and at the last minute decided to not care about the weather and head out on the tour. We managed to get onto a speed boat tour for 950 BAHT each. That's about $30 AU.

The tour organisers raced to pick us up in town to make it to the boat before it headed off.
Apparently during that time we had missed some vital information.

While at Maya Bay there were around 8 other boats. Another identical to ours. We were watching a boat that looked like ours, even took a photo of it.


See, isn't it pretty?
So as the tourists started to clear out we were thankful that we finally got some room to swim. Then "our" boat started to board. Hmmm, the crew aren't looking familiar.
We see another boat steaming into Maya Bay. Yep, it was our boat realising that we'd been left behind.
Not. Happy. Jan. would be the best way to describe the mood of the tour operator.
Wow did we get a serving. Well, as much of a serving as you can receive from a Thai. He was just worried and completely polite about it all.

So apparently the important information we missed was:
1. The number of your boat is Number 99. Remember Number 99. Everyone repeat, Number 99. We were watching Number 11.
2. Get back to the boat at 2pm. OK everyone, 2pm. Everybody repeat, 2pm. We didn't have a watch and didn't know we had to back at 2pm.

So for the remainder of the day were we good little tourists and practically hung off the anchor.

And check out the little guy we found attached to Hubby's back. Is it just me or is he smiling?
"Haw, haw, did I scare you, you tourist?". I don't know why the crab has a French accent, he just does.
One quick stop at Monkey Bay before grabbing some lunch at Koh Phi Phi.
We didn't get out at Monkey Bay, but it was another lovely spot.
It's called Monkey Bay for obvious reasons. There are lots of monkeys. Just in case it wasn't that obvious.

Stop Six. Lunch at Tonsei Bay.
As I mentioned before this island was wiped out in the tsunami. When you look at before and after photos you can see how much of it is still to be rebuilt.
They put on a huge buffet spread which was sensational and then we sat on the beach right next to our boat, Number 99. Yes, Number 99. Let's repeat that, Number 99.
It. Was. Hot.
The camera was flashing low on batteries at this point so we started to ration our photos.

Tonsai Bay was the first place we had come across where you had to hire the sunchairs, so we opted to just sit in the water.

Here's the friendly tsunami warning to run for dem hills.


Stop Seven. Hin Klang Reef.
The boat stopped in the middle of the ocean and the tour operator said to jump off the boat. Surely he couldn't still be that angry at us?
Turns out there is a reef in between two islands.
The reef was great, but what was starting to become more interesting was the very, very, very, very dark storm clouds heading our way.


Stop Eight. Bamboo Island.
Before we were allowed to disembark, the tour operator made a point of saying to us, "Now, you forget to come back, we not come back for you. There is camp site here, so we not come back. Ok?" I don't think he meant it in a threatening tone, he seemed more concerned that he almost lost two tourists, and wasn't going to let us forget it.

Wow. This would be the most beautiful island I have ever been to. Hubby and I had our wedding photos taken on Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday Islands. It is touted as one of the most photographed beaches in the world. We both agreed, sorry Whitehaven, Bamboo Island kicks your sandy little butt.
There was only one problem with Bamboo Island, it was so bright that the camera couldn't handle it on occasions. Just photos of bright white! Lucky for the impending storm...


Now, about that storm.
If there is one thing I have learnt in my travels, it's always to watch the locals.
If the locals don't look worried, you don't need to be worried.
We were watching the tour guides sitting under a tree having a joke and a laugh (probably about the Aussies that got left behind at Maya Bay) so we went about admiring the beautiful island.

The storm clouds were now around us.
Thunder...
Lightning...
Check the locals...
They still seemed ok.
More thunder...
More lightning...
Check the locals, oh oh, they look worried.

"Everyone to the boat NOW!!!"
And that is when our camera ran out of batteries.
This was the last photo we took.


The tour guide started racing around the beach asking everyone to get onto the boat.
Oh how we would have loved to have photos of everyone getting soaked.
Due to four tourists who could not be found we sat on the boat, which really was wearing us for protection from the storm, and got drenched.
Everyone on the boat was laughing as there was nothing else you could do.
Once the worst part of the storm passed we headed back to Krabi, got dropped off at our resort, gave the boat crew a nice tip for coming back for us and headed straight to the beach bar to reflect on the new places we had just visited.

All I can say is I'm so glad we decided to not care about the weather and took the trip.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What's eating the McDonald's Cup?

Having a blog entry on this subject does make me think that I need to take up a cause; world peace, famine, save the whales. Don't get me wrong, I'm a supporter of helping all of those causes, but there's some issues we need to overcome that are out of my hands before it can happen.

Peace - going to be tough until at least one God appears or the LHC proves a lack thereof.

Famine/Malaria/HIV/Third World Poverty - end those and then what do we do with the extra billion odd people on the planet? We struggle to have enough resources for the ones we already have. We need to work out how we can sustain the extra people first without further detriment to the planet.

Save the Whales - How hard can it be to just not kill them anymore? **coughJapancough** Anyone that has read Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy would also feel the same way about dolphins. In addition, included in this list should be seals, polar bears, grizzly bears, orangutans, panda bears, giant squids (yes you heard me, giant squids), tigers, lions, sharks, crocodiles, elephants, cheetahs - you know what, just leave the wild animals and their habitat alone. We have a lot to learn from them.

See section on Famine/Malaria/HIV/Third World Poverty which means you can't support both. Solve Famine/Malaria/HIV/Third World Poverty = bad news for the animals. Where else are you going to put the extra people, their houses, the power plants to run them, the crops to feed them? Wipe out more habitat. It's a lose/lose situation.

So I sponsor WSPA in the hope that I can at least help to stop stupid humans from being unbelievably cruel to animals. It was the only plight that didn't send my head into a spin.

This started as an entry about McDonald's. "Hypocrite, you eat McDonalds!!" I hear a few of you/or no one say after mentioning to be good to animals and not damage the planet further.

So what is eating the McDonald's cup?

This may be localised to Australia, but has anyone else noticed that if you leave a McDonald's cup with Coke around for an extended period of time, such as overnight, that the bottom gets eaten out and next thing you know you are using half a box of tissues trying to suck up the coke from the cup holder in your car?

I worked at McDonald's as a youngen for 5 years. On occassions I saw many a Macca's cup sit around for quite some time with no obvious leakage or eating away at the waxy coating. So it had me thinking, has the quality of the cup decreased or has the Coke become more deadly?

Previously Coke was more notoriously known for being able to eat through teeth, a T-bone steak, coins, just to name a few but it seems that Mythbusters put a stop to those old wives tales.

Now that it is eating through my McDonald's cup perhaps this needs to be re-opened for debate. And did Mythbusters think to test the K-Way version of Coke? If the mix of Coke syrup to Soda Water is not correct, does it then posses cup eating properties?

Maybe I should write into them and ask?

There are some other factors that may require some looking into:
1. Does a constant temperature vs a fluctuating temperature in the car effect the composition of the cup material?
2. Does this happen with Fanta?
3. Does the volume of liquid remaining in the cup have a direct correlation to the time it takes to reach that weakness point?
4. I only buy a Small size, but is the same happening for Medium and Large?

I need to start thinking about more important things.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kaboom or Cooool?

I've been watching with interest the latest happenings at CERN.
Call it a selfish interest, as I would like to know if I should start living it up over the next week or so before we either get sucked into a black hole or the fabric of the universe is torn apart.
You know, those little everyday things you worry about.

I was extremely surprised when the experiments at CERN were brought up over a Father's Day lunch yesterday, this was starting to make the everyday headlines. Like all conversations when my family get around the table, the debate began..

"There's only a small chance anything will go wrong" was the argument from the others at the table.
My argument: "And the world is full of people who have been proven wrong. Sometimes repeatedly. Have you been watching Bush's Presidency?".

Others: "Mathematically speaking they are saying if they do succeed the black hole will exist for the tiniest amount of time"
My argument: "What if someone forgot to carry the one?!!"

Others: "The test is being conducted 100m underground"
My argument: "A few BILLION kilometres past Pluto I think is a more suitable location to be testing this. I hear the Pegasus Galaxy is lovely at this time of year."

So while I played Devil's Advocate over the dining table, I'm actually sitting on the fence with this one.

It fascinates me so I want to see this succeed. At the same time, I've read enough Sci Fi books to know that things like this can go wrong and we don't really have the tested and proven mathematics yet to fully understand the consequences. And let's face it, it's a pretty harsh learning curve.
Computer: "I'm sorry, but your formula was incomplete or not compatible. Report this error to Microsoft?".
Scientist: "Ah, crap"
World: "Kaboom!"

If they do succeed and manage to recreate the few moments after the big bang, there will be much rejoicing and high-fiving (along with the subsequent eye injuries) amongst the scientific community, but what will the impact be on religion?

As time goes by and science continues to make new discoveries, the foundation of some religions is being chipped away at gradually. I have no religious roots so I'm not going through any deep philosophical turmoil, but I can see how some will.

If the big bang is proven and can be recreated, does this mean that evolution needs to be accepted as fact? So, no Adam and Eve? What happens if people start to doubt the concept of heaven and hell? No consequences of actions? Will this experiment cause there to be a new interpretation of the texts such as what is occurring with Pope Benedict now accepting the possibility of life on other planets?

I'm a karma person so I always believe in consequences of actions no matter what dimension this device may send me to, but for those who believe a higher being is watching their every move in order to make a judgement as to which direction to send them come their day, this will be interesting.

Anyway, enough of the serious stuff.

I stumbled across some amazing photos of the LHC coming together over the last couple of years (thanks to boston.com), but to be honest, some of them haven't been filling me with confidence.

You plan on recreating the start of the universe and this is the biggest fire truck you can find?!

I keep reading how everything associated with the LHC is about being exact. If that is the case, can someone please get this man a welding mask that has some eyeholes in it.

Hypothetically speaking... Do you think everyone gets standy-uppy hair when they get close to this thing?

Click on this image to see the true scale of the facility.

So no matter what the outcome, this is going to be interesting...