Adding Insult to {Bloody} Injury
January 16, 2010

“riding a scooter shouldn’t be THAT hard…” – me 10 minutes before crashing into a fence
After parting ways with the International Party Crew to get my diving lesson on, I caught the first boat the Koh Tao. The sky was spotless and clear, which was great for sailing. The thing about island weather is that situations can change with the quickness. One minute it can be clear as day and the next it feels like a monsoon is hitting. However, even bad weather only lasts about 15 minutes until the sky is bright and blue again. It’s annoying yet a little refreshing at the same time.

Koh Tao means turtle island and it’s called that because the shape of the island looks like a turtle. If we’re naming things based on how they look, I would actually call the island Kidney Island, or KFC Popcorn Chicken Island. It became one of my favorites out of all the places in Thailand. Koh Phangan has the party game on wrap but the nice thing about Koh Tao is that there are less bros, chavs, and bogans migrating around yelling the latest meathead slogan or singing (often off-tune) the latest Black Eyed Peas club anthem. There’s definitely a time and a place for that, don’t get me wrong. Koh Tao offers a quiet escape from all that.
There are dive resorts scattered all over Koh Tao. When people want a good deal on getting certified to dive, they know to come here. It’s the cheapest place in the world; you can’t go wrong when the cost is ฿3,000 ($90USD) for the course including administrative fees, equipment rental, and accommodation. So me and my new travel buddy turned dive buddy Emma picked a resort, checked in, paid, and began our training.
Flash forward to the third day of training. On my second dive my ears hurt more than usual but after I was able to equalize under water, the rest of the dive was great. After the dive we resurfaced and chilled in the ocean waiting for everyone to come up and regroup. I was just floating in the water when I look over at one of the students. He was a thick dude with a thick beard, viking like. If you put a viking cap on him and braided his hair, he’d look just like the Minnesota Vikings logo. Anyway I mention his beard because upon this particular ascent to surface, his beard was drenched in blood. The blood was coming from his nose. This is fairly common I learned later, since water pressure does strange things to the body and everyone reacts differently the first couple times diving. It looked pretty gruesome and I immediately thought to myself “dude, this guy is gonna DIE!”. As soon as I was thinking this, one of the dive instructors looked right at me and pointed to his right ear. So I touched my ear and then looked at my right hand. It was bloody. Then I thought man… I’m gonna die. I mean it didn’t hurt or anything. If the instructor didn’t point it out, the bleeding would have stopped and I wouldn’t have even known. But it’s a good thing he pointed it out to me. Back on the diving boat I rinsed out my ear so I wouldn’t get an ear infection.
Back on the island I got some pad see ew and headed to the island doctor. This doctor was straight up napping in the waiting area when I stepped in. Island life is way chill. After looking inside my ear he brought out a chart representing the various stages of ‘ear squeeze’. Apparently lots of people get ear squeeze when they dive because the chart he was using was raggedy and it looked like he circled “stage 3” for many patients before. He said I was stage 2 which was pretty mild ear squeeze but nothing serious. The whole experience cost ฿1,000 ($30USD) and that’s with three types of medicine included. Healthcare is so cheap everywhere else in the world. Get with it America! And also, I didn’t have to wait long either. I pretty much had to wake the doctor up and he was ready to go. I figured something serious could have happened, since my ear was was in such sharp pain while on the dive decent. So even though medically I was fine, for two weeks it felt like my head was hollow. I could hear myself chewing food and there was an echo when I talked.
I’m really glad I made the effort and finished the course, despite a bleeding ear. Now I can dive anywhere in the world down to 18 meters. Anyway, here is the prize for the 4 days of hard work (notice crazy scuba warrior mug).

To celebrate, there was word of a Muy Thai fight held at the island’s only thai boxing training camp. So after some celebratory beers with the diving crew, we all walked together up to the stadium to see some dudes knock each other out. One of the dudes fighting was actually working at the resort I was staying. So I had to come and support my dude, even though he ended up getting laid out. Even though I expected some barbaric shit at the fight, I wasn’t expecting what happened at the very first fight. Two 9 year-old kids walked into the ring with gloves on ready to take each others heads off. I’m sure full contact clobbering isn’t good for children skulls, but some part of me actually enjoyed it. Kids don’t have enough power to knock each other out senseless, so the rounds were just about two kids wailing on each other for awhile. Their Muy Thai was obviously not developed and so after awhile it just looked like a schoolyard brawl. I took some footage. (Warning: if you object to child violence, please don’t watch):

Of course there were some real fights that were very exciting. Real dudes. Real blood. Real knockouts. Chea!

After a dope time swimming with tropical fishies in deep water and witnessing dudes get knocked out unconscious, it was time to return to my party roots on Koh Phangan. With some rest and entertainment under my belt, I took the boat back to Koh Phangan to thoroughly prepare myself for what is notorious known as the Full Moon Party.

Back on Koh Phangan I set myself up with a motorbike so I could get around on the island. The island is four times bigger than Koh Tao. Two things I love most about the island is Haad Rin side with its beaches and the food market on the pier side. These two things are at opposite ends of the island, so the motorbike comes in handy. The cost? ฿250 baht ($7.56USD) per day. I followed Egill on his bike back to Haad Rin side where we were all staying. Things were going good y’all until I reached the first intersection. I was thinking “you’re doing good neezy, but don’t you remember you’ve never ridden one of these before?”. Right when I was thinking that I realized I was going too fast into a turn. To compensate, I hit the brakes as hard as I could. But instead of the rear brakes I gripped the emergency front brakes, which is what you’re not supposed to do. To the surprise of the fence it got clobbered by me and my bike. So now in addition to bad hearing from the bloody ear canal, I now had a sprained right wrist. A couple thai dudes hanging out at the intersection laughed their asses off once they found out I was okay. And that was the insult to bloody injury.

The bike was bruised worse than my ego, to be honest. I broke the front plastic fender and bent the alignment of out wack. After hearing stories of motorbike rental shops charging a fortune for a small accident, I was kinda worried what I would be obscenely charged. Nevertheless, I decided to worry about it after the Full Moon Party, since it still worked okay and I could still ride it around the island until the return date (two weeks later).

Life’s about getting back on the horse (motorbike?!?) y’all. In the two weeks I rode everyday up and down the steep hills of the island. And I didn’t crash once. I actually started to love to ride. The open expanse, the sun hitting your skin, the wind fighting as you slice through it. Riding around the island gave me a sense of total freedom that I’ll always remember. Towards the end of my island stay, I befriended a weed smoking motorbike dealer. He offered to bend the alignment back so when I returned the bike I wouldn’t get charged for bending the choke. Saving money is something I’m for. So with the help of two other stoners, two cement blocks, and a curbside he saved me hundreds of dollars in fines. I’m not sure whether being stoned was a part of their helpfulness, but I was very appreciative of their help.