Archive | May, 2009

Who is mad?

30 May

Who is mad? Are the normal people mad or are the mad people mad?

Ahhhhh my good friends, the beauty of travelling, the mind is free to wander and try and solve the world’s mysteries. This is what I love about travelling, the chance to step back from the real world and take time to yourself and think about this wonderful ride of life we are on and the crazy world within which we reside.

What has fuelled the fire of this post? I have just finished reading ‘Veronika decides to die’ by Paulo Coelho the well known Brazilian philosopher/author.

The book is set in a Slovenian mental institution and the main character is Veronika. She is a young attractive girl that tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. She was then put in a mental institution where she finds out she only has 5 days to live due to a heart problem. Then the book shows how she regains her love for life and will to live. Sorry, I hope this doesn’t give it away too much if you wanting to read it.

But to me the underlying theme of the book was, who is mad? Are the “mad” people in the hospital mad because they do and say what they want, or are the people in the “real” world that conform to the societal pressures and live life the way it is “supposedly” meant to be lived the mad ones?

Here’s a little excerpt from the book, where the doctor is talking to Veronika about reality and uses his tie as an example:

Veronika asks, ‘What is reality?’

Dr Igor replies, ‘It’s whatever the majority deems it to be. It’s not necessarily the best or the most logical, but it’s the one that has become adapted to the desires of society as a whole. You see this thing I’ve got round my neck?’

‘You mean your tie?’

‘Exactly. Your answer is the logical, coherent answer an absolutely normal person would give: it’s a tie! A madman, however, would say that what I have round my neck is a ridiculous, useless bit of coloured cloth tied in a very complicated way, and which makes it harder to get air into your lungs and difficult to turn your neck. I have to be careful when I’m anywhere near a fan, or I could be strangled by this bit of cloth.

‘If a mad person were to ask me what this tie is for, I would have to say, absolutely nothing. It’s not even purely decorative, since nowadays it’s become a symbol of slavery, power, aloofness. The only really useful function a tie serves is the sense of relief when you get home and take it off; you feel as if you’ve freed yourself from something, though quite what you don’t know.

‘But does that sense of relief justify the existence of ties? No. Nevertheless, if I were to ask a madman and a normal person what this is, the sane person would say: a tie. It doesn’t matter who’s correct, what matters is who’s rights.’

‘So just because I gave the right name to a bit of coloured cloth you conclude that I’m not mad.’

Koh Phangan photos

27 May

Hi guys,

click here to view my photo album from our 5 day trip to Koh Phangan the other week.

Cooking up a storm

26 May

It’s great to be back on the backpacking mission as I get to do all the things I wanted to do but didn’t get around to doing when settled down in KohTao. One of those things was a Thai cooking course.

We went to ‘The best Thai cookery school’, how could you not go there with a name like that. It started off with a trip to the market where our energetic smiling teacher Perm talked us through the finer points of choosing ingredients.

Then it was back to the classroom where we cooked up curries, stir fries, spring rolls etc. Then we sat down to the feast we had created.

Our teacher Perm made the day, he was one of those cute bubbly people that if you could, you would shrink him, take him home put him in a jar and place it on your coffee table for hours of entertainment. Also note that in the photo below I’m missing side burns as they were burnt off in the above flaming photo.

Leaving the island reality

24 May

After calling Koh Tao home for 2 months it was time to move on. The Catalyst for this being our visa’s were expiring and wanting to travel with friends Jeff and Ji.

Was I sad leaving the island? Well no, I had a great time, met some awesome people. But the beauty of finishing one chapter is that another chapter starts. If I was going back to settle down and find a new job, hell yeah I would be sad leaving Koh Tao, but the reality is that I’m going to Argentina. So the sadness of leaving is replaced with the excitement of Argentina and catching up with friends and family in New Zealand.

The first problem I came across leaving the island bubble was my bare feet. For 2 months I had worn bare feet, walking in the street, playing soccer, riding motorbikes, standing at the urinal. I started wearing bare feet after my jandals (thanks Crystal for reminding me of not forgetting my kiwi roots, so I will say jandals not flip flops) were lost to the Koh Tao jandal thieving epidemic. This epidemic would of started with one tourist misplacing their jandals and taking someone else’s, then that person took someone else’s, and so on. Now it’s an epidemic. Mandy and I lost 4 pairs to the epidemic in 2 months, that why I refused to get anymore. Bare feet became second nature to me.

After walking into a 5 star resort in Burma whilst on a visa run and walking the streets of Bangkok I felt a little out of place with my bare feet. Not only the looks I got, but when I saw that even the Bangkok homeless wore jandals, I knew I had to invest in a pair. I reached into my backpacker pocket and forked out the $2 for the cheapest pair I could find. A snow camouflage pair, perfect, I will also be able to wear them in the Argentinean snow.

After a day in Bangkok we met up with Jeff and Ji. Then it was onto another overnight train, but this one was more enjoyable than the night before. This was due to Jeff bringing along a bottle of wine and the train staff making regular stops by our seats with buckets of ice cold beer. They really are an entrepreneurial bunch.

At 6 in the morning we arrived in Chaing Mai, the capital city of Northern Thailand. We plan to spend the following 10 days up here, renting a jeep and exploring the mountain towns and the green jungle scenery. I will try and get some posts up of what we get up to.

Living the high life in Koh Phangan

21 May

Not only were we driving around in a flash truck, but we were also living in luxury. We set up base at Highlife bungalows at Haad Yao beach. Usually I would be refused entry into a resort like this, but it was low season. So for 3 days, I lived the high life for only $16 (AUD) a night.

Unfortunately the service received was that of what you would expect from caged monkeys that have been repetitively poked with sticks their entire lives. But the company and setting well made up for it. Check out the photos below of our resort and Haad Yao.

Relaxing in the resort pool – not bad aye.


OK, I had to put one more photo of the pool in.


Fun in the sun on Haad Yao


Frolicking in the warm shallow waters of Haad Yao

Exploring Koh Phangan in the beast

19 May

The past week you haven’t heard from me as I have been exploring neighbouring island Koh Phangan with friends from Perth, Codie, Puks, Jeff and Ji. And I also apologise for not replying to emails and comments as right now I’m tying up loose ends as we leave Koh Tao tomorrow for some travel in Thailand. But enough of that, on with the post.

The first day on the island Jeff and I did a mission into the pier area to hire one of the little 4×4 jeeps that the tourists rent to see the island. But instead of coming back to the crew with a rusted out small jeep with dodgy suspension, we pulled up in the beast. The beast was a pimped out 4×4 Toyota Hilux. We had a bit of a laugh, where else in the world can two guys hire a 4×4, looking scruffy, wearing no shirt, barefeet and boardies, and not even showing a drivers licence. I reckon we could of turned up with syringes hanging out of our arms and ‘I can’t drive’ tattooed on our foreheads and it still would have been OK. The best part was that it only cost us $120AUD for 3 days, gold!

With the 6 of us packed in the beast, we spent 3 whole days bumping our way over the rutted out dirt tracks exploring the remote beaches and waterfalls. There’s nothing like having the freedom of going where you want. Check out a few of the photos below.

Crossing a Koh Phangan styled bridge (or is that just two lamp posts that have fallen over)


Jeff making the most of the beast’s air conditioning by riding in the back.


Cooling off in the “earthy” waters of one of the waterfalls


Stopping at a random off road for a hot cup of chai around the camp fire – Just what you want when you’re sweating in the humidity of the jungle!


Lunch break at Thaan Sadet beach

Whale shark

11 May

I was beginning to think that whale sharks were a myth, like the lochness monster and Australia’s drop bears. Ive had many times when the whale shark has been spotted at dive sites the same time I have been there.


The most frustrating being the other day when I was leading divers at Sail Rock, a well known whale shark dive site between Koh Tao and K0h Phangnam.I heard this continuous tapping on someones dive tank. This is what the instructors and dive masters do in the big dive schools when they have large groups to try and get attention. It personally annoys the hell out of me, as there is nothing more annoying when you’re in the peaceful underwater surroundings and there’s a tapping sound. Its like when you’re trying to get to sleep and there’s a mosquito buzzing around your room.


Anyway, whilst leading my divers, there was a continuous tapping sound, I’m thinking to myself, “my god I hate that sound, I wish they would shut up”. It just so happens that when I get back on the boat, one of the other dive masters comes up to me and says, “Hap, did you see the whale shark?”, “no”, “I was tapping on my tank, you were diving with your group below me, all you had to do was look up and you would of seen it!”  Talk about frustrating. That will teach me for being a grumpy old barstard, but I still hate that tapping sound!


Anyway, that’s all in the past, as the very next day I had the privilege of diving with this gentle giant of the ocean, not just once, but twice. I didn’t think I would be that blown away by it, but it was definitely a special diving moment. Although it was only a baby whale shark, measuring 4 metres it was still amazing to see it moving through the crystal clear waters so effortlessly.


Despite being named after a shark, they are not dangerous. Whale sharks feed on plankton and are the largest known fish, growing to lengths of 12 – 20 metres depending on what source you believe.

So now I can cross the whale shark off my list, only the Manta Ray and Lochness monster to go.