Monday 23 December 2013

Saturday 21 December 2013

Dem Photos

I dont agree with the grades!

The new boulder set is in, and I am apparently much stronger than ever before. 
I struggle to find this true since I havent really been training on boulders for a good while now.

For what it's worth, my personal grades:

  1. *Green 6b+ (6B)
  2. *Red 6c (7A)
  3. Grey 7a, tough but good. (7A)
  4. Blue 7a, could make a nice 6b+ if you stick a foot hold on the big move, it is literally the only hard bit (6C)
  5. Red and White 6c/+, the egyptian is good beta. I actually like the last move. (7A)
  6. *White 6c, Sweet problem! (6C)
  7. Red, Didnt try, but looks brutal. 8B+? (7C+)
  8. *Grey 6c/+ (7A)
  9. *Blue 6B+ first two moves are rough. Rest is easy. (6C)
* flashed, Grades on Board


I now only have two boulders to do for the rest of the month, the green 7B and the red 8B+
And the red is obscene, like crazy obscene.
I cant do 6 of the moves on it, and the 4 that I can do are pretty tough to begin have to do them to move into the crux...

Id quite like to head in tomorrow to get on the 8a again, but I'm not sure I will be able to find myself a belayer. The regular crew are heading over to Spain on monday so none of them will be climbing tomorrow. 


In other news, I made this image of Alissa's face stuck on a llama's body a while back, 

So for christmas she kindly made some Tshirts for us all to wear...

I was talking with Carly earlier this week, and I remembered an event in Thailand that I had completely forgotten about from my previous reports. In the absence of any interesting news, here it is:


I was bored senseless from 3 weeks of sitting around, and the internet in the room wasn't working for the bazillionth time on the trip. In an effort to provide some 'excitement' to my life, I decided to go to the local 'Australian' themed sports bar and pillage their WiFi for a while.

Upon arriving, I ordered my Chang beer, and settled in to watch some Cricket. I can't remember who was playing. It might have been England vs India? Who knows. Anyways. I'm sat there with my Chang, minding my own business in the busy bar, when two people come up and ask to sit on the opposite side of the table. I dont really care - head in phone, trying to find some beta on the climbing area I wanted to have a look at the next day - I nod them to sit down and carry on looking at my phone.

After a minute of them talking about their food, I cant help but look up and recommend the incredible roast dinner deal they were about to miss out on, not to mention the huge jug of beer that came with it.

They thank me, introduce themselves and we start having a conversation.

It's amazing what being unbelievably bored can do for my sociability. 

Turns out they were a couple from Manchester, who were taking advantage of their summer holiday to travel round Thailand for a few weeks. Nothing particularly special. They ask me about my trip, and I explain that I have been sitting on the same island for about 3 weeks so far and could do with some interest.

The woman practically jumps up, her boyfriend looks at her with surprise, and then a look of dawning realisation crossed his face and he just looks away. 



"why does it do that?" I ask, somewhat bemused by the crazed woman I had chanced upon.



I am unsure how to respond to this comment.

Is this a sad thing?

I dont know. She appears to be well over it, indeed she was practically screaming it at me with wild excitement spread over her face. I think I probably should have been a little afraid. 

Instead I asked for proof. I mean, I'm not going to take this sort of claim at face value. 

Not remotely abashed, she whips out her phone, loads up the video that she was carrying around with her, and hands it to me.


That was a cat shitting in a toilet.

Apparently this is a bit of a thing that people do?

Friday 13 December 2013

Craggy 8a again!

Hot shit!

Holidays started on Wednesday this week and I am psyched!

Not really sure what I am going to be doing with my time yet, few offers of time are coming in - Font, North Wales, Peak, elsewhere!

Not much going down since last week, except to say - I am certain that the 8a at Craggy will go.
Holy shit.
Really, Awesome.
Just something I drew,
The Squid of Dreams.

Made all the links on it today, climbed it in two links pretty easily, found some better beta for the top and made all the clips! Oh my gosh. So psyched!

Might even go in tomorrow just to have another go on it.

Pete wants to go to have a look at Parthian on Sunday, not sure now.
I love projects!

Monday 9 December 2013

Hot Shit! Two posts in a month!

Am I going soft?


Just back on it, accidentally opened the page and figured I might as well write about it.

I'm going to intersperse this post with some photos from the weekend in the Peak.

For the first time ever tonight, I got on a Craggy 8a, and not only that - I did all the moves!
Not all in one go, but still!
Hoooooooly crap.

I typed that and realised what that really means to me.

It might even be only a year ago now, but I remember coming into Craggy and seeing Scott, Seb and Graeme all working on the Lead wall, training in weight vests, and generally trying all the really hard stuff (anything 7a and above). I was still pretty much only bouldering at the time (what with being a giant wimp about failing on the ropes) but watching them try all that hard shit was super inspirational at the time.

I remember Scott trying an 8a on the wall, and telling me to give it a go, and at the time I thought he was taking the piss.

Maybe he was.

Looking up at it, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. I couldnt even do the moves, let alone doing more than one at a time with clips in between! Well whatever, today I climbed on one, and not only that - I did all the moves at the end of the session.

Was I wrong before about how hard they were? I mean, the one today felt easy...
Has the training just skyrocketed my grade from 7a to around 8a?
Who knows...

Anyways, I am well psyched to get back on it!

Big Thanks to Carly for the belay shizzle - looks like Brean on Wednesday!
First 8a on the table?

Saturday 30 November 2013

So many things to tell you...

But how to make you see?
The actions of my past?
You'd turn away from me.

I've been holding holds and climbing
But what? I'll tell you soon.
continue reading onwards follower.
Are you singing this in tuneeeeee?

See, that's why you tune in. It might have taken 2 months, but when I get my arse into gear - you get gold like that.

So basically, I cant really remember what I have been up to. I mean, it has almost been 70 days since I last wrote on here and a bunch of stuff happened.

In vague order of chronological order:

  1. Injury
  2. Font
  3. Brean
  4. Training
  5. Blokfest

1. Injury

So basically, I have spent the last few months being a little bit injured in a lot of places.
The first place is the long standing shoulder injury that is now mostly better.
The second is my right foot big toe, I hurt this waaaay back at the end of summer and it hasn't really sorted itself out. It's not a big issue when I am climbing, but it kinda hurts when I take my shoe off.
The third is my back. I spoke to Rupert at TCA about it, and he thought it might just be some strain. Not sure how I managed that, but it has been trundling onwards for a fair while now. Again, doesn't stop me climbing, but I wish it would just sod off.

2. Font

Despite these injuries, I decided to head out to font in the October half term with a group of peeps from TCA. I had hoped that given the late time of year, we might be blessed with cold temps, superb friction and perfect crushing conditions. Unfortunately this was not the case. Instead, we had warm weather and damp conditions.
C'est la vie!
No matter, I had a great time stomping round the forest climbing 6a's and b's. Toward the end of the trip we had a beautiful day in Franchard. After a damp start in the morning, the sun decided to show its face and we were blessed with some incredible light in the afternoon. I so inspired, I even decided to have another go on Angle Ben's, El Poussah and El Pousif! <--- at="" did="" exclamation="" i="" least="" make="" mark="" might="" nbsp="" of="" one="" p="" that="" them...="" think="" understand="" you="">No.
I did none of them.
But I reached a new high point on them all! Hoorah!
Psyched to return and give them another shot in even better conditions now. Who knows when that will be though...

3. Brean

Brean, oh Brean!
Sea of aquamarine
was ever a place
as lovely as Brean?

Yeah, probably.
The last time we went, the telephone wire in the campsite had fallen down and was lying in the middle of the road prompting a call to the local police and skirting round it warily. The queue of traffic behind us was held up by a van that could quite decide whether it would be able to squeeze through. When we finally arrived at the crag, it was completely empty. Great!
Unfortunately about 30 minutes after we arrived it was then became massively overcrowded around storm warning causing a terrible bottleneck for Pete, who looked good to crush Brean Topping.
Fortunately I didnt really have any aims, and decided to give Tide Rising another shot. Graham stuck the clips in, and tried to work out some beta before retiring to the ground to try and warm up again.
I had done the route a few weeks before with Pete, so I went up again to warm up, and tried to remember the beta so that I could share it with Graham. Eventually, I worked out the incredible beta I had chanced upon for the top moves and, after giving it all a good brush, I descended to the ground.

I could bore you with the specifics of the ascent, but suffice it to say I did it second attempt and moved onto Bullworker, the last remaining 'honest' (non linkup) 7c I have left on the crag. Again, I could bore you with details, but I am well up for returning to fire this one off at some point. It didnt feel too hard after I worked out the moves, it will once again be a matter of stamina, but I think I can win this one if I climb efficiently enough.

4. Training

Carly from TCA has recently moved back to the South East(ish) and is psyched for training, so we are climbing together on Monday/Wednesday with Joe and Robin to try and build back up some stamina for route climbing. Everything seems to be going quite well. I'm not sure what I think of 4x4 routing. The problem I'm having, is that easy indoor routes have a tendency to cause flappers, and I am really not psyched for them. Flappers suck. So I think I may start running some harder laps with downclimbing inbetween. It all just seems a lot more relevant. And it works for Pete, so by god I will make it work for me.

I climbed on wednesday this week, and despite feeling like I wanted to murder everyone and everything in the centre when I arrived, I actually ended up having a really good session on the white 7c on the comp wall. Indeed, after I had my first burn, I thought it might be possible to do it in two halves by the end of the session. Imagine my surprise then, when I did it next attempt! Apparently, only 4 people have done this route now.

  1. Mark Croxall (setter and wad)
  2. Pete (Polish crusher)
  3. Graham (who climbed the 8a!)
  4. and myself!
I wont lie, it wasn't easy, I went full on Sharma scream for the last move, and skipped the clip before it just to be able to keep moving. Nevertheless, I have done my first Craggy 7c! I claim that as one of my best ascents of all time, and probably one of the hardest. Very pleased.

5. Blokfest

I'm going tomorrow in about 8 hours, so wish me luck!

I'll come back and write some stuff and add some photos in a bit.


Monday 23 September 2013

U25 Fives Nationals

This weekend I competed in the U25 Fives nationals, held in Eton.

My last two forays into national events in the past couple of years have been fairly successful; winning the U25 A-Plate in 2011, and reaching the semi-finals of the main competition in 2012. Sadly, I was not able to build on these results in 2013.

I did take a couple of nice pictures though,
I favoured black and white for a lot of this just seemed right (the rest of the set can be found here:

A.Joyce & J.O'Neill

The day started earlyish so I could pick up my partner and make our way to Eton for the 10am start. This year I was going to play with one of the kids from the school; a nice guy called Harvey Jackson, who is also my captain of fives for the year. 
Harvey has never played in an 'adult' competition before, and certainly never against the quality of opposition that we came up against over the course of the day. As such, our first game was probably a bit of a rude awakening. Despite some solid play against the first seeds (Joyce & O'Neill) we were duly dismantled 0-15 in a clinical display of fives acumen. A few inches makes the difference in fives, and if every one of your shots is that far off the mark, it is easily punished by a class opponent.

Chasing back to retrieve a great passing shot.
We won our next game, against two brothers from Cambridge, without too much hassle and moved on to the last one in our group stage. Annoyingly, this one was a match we should have won, and could have moved us into second place in the group to go forth into the main competition. However, a number of misplaced cuts and volleys at 8-6 up saw us slump to a disappointing 8-15 loss within only a few exchanges of serve.

Laurie killed a man
Nevertheless, we finished the group in 3rd place and dropped into the Plate A competition...
I knew we were in with a chance, since we were playing all right. Maybe not a winning standard, but hopefully a position in the finals at least.

Sadly it was not to be. Our form from the previous game followed us and, despite once again being up at the start, we failed to convert against some youngsters from Westway in another game we coulda, shoulda, woulda won.
As an aside - I had to laugh when I shook hands with their team at the start of the game, and found that we had a Noah, Harvey and Archibald on court...What other sport in the world could do that?!

Having gone 1-3 so far on the day, we dropped once again and took part in the 'Plate-B' final... or as I prefer to call it, the Losers Losers plate.

Our final game was to be a best of 3 matches, against a couple of kids from Ipswich school. Apparently they were the U15 national champs 2 years ago, and could have posed some difficulty given our roll of losses already.
I say 'could have' because they clearly couldn't be arsed to take part in the game. As games go, this one will stick in the memory as the first time I have had to turn around halfway through and ask my opposition if they actually wanted to play. Fives is a game of sportsmanship, and I have to say, I find it incredibly disrespectful to mope and generally dick around on court when you are in the final (even if it is for a consolation plate).

We ended up destroying them in two games, 12-3, 12-8 but it really wasn't much fun. Ever remember playing a board game with someone that doesn't want to play? Yeah.

I know it is probably poor show to rag on two kids too much; but I'm going to anyway, because that was possibly the least enjoyable game of competitive fives that I have ever played. I can only hope they sort out that attitude for future games.

Balls to the wall, or not at all!

Laurie went on to the final after winning in his Semi but we had left by this point so I have no pictures of the remaining games.

I understand that, after winning the first game 12-8, he went on to lose the next two 12-4, 12-5.

Overall, I would say that the result we gained was probably a good reflection on the amount of practice we have had as a pair.
Factors that I think contributed to our abject failure were:

  1. We hadn't played together before the tournament.
  2. Neither of us has played a competitive fixture in roughly 8 months.
  3. Harvey has never played anyone of this standard.
  4. My shoulder is still healing, and my foot is still strained.
  5. Harvey played a full game of rugby the day before the tournament.
  6. The Eton courts are pretty dissimilar to the Cranleigh ones.
Ah well, I'm sure that if we play again later in the season then we will fare better, but I don't think I can feel too hard done by for what happened yesterday.

In terms of positives to take from the day - My left shoulder (the injured one) doesn't hurt any more than usual today, and I'm pretty psyched for a session at craggy tomorrow.

Woop Woop!

Saturday 7 September 2013

Favourite Pic from Font

I have Hallie to thank for this great picture. One of my favourite Fontaineproblems! Hallie is the whitest arab you will ever meet, and manages her own blog over here - which contains some of her artwork, photography and clothing modifications. A distinct feeling of inadequacy was the driving force behind my blog redesign!

I did some post processing on it. Obviously. But I cant tell which I prefer, the original has a lovely quality to it (it was taken on film) that I feel is a little lacking in the edit. 
It's just a colour curves edit, slight vignette and a tiny desaturation...a 'fashionable' style right now apparently...Certainly not as vibrant.

And the 'Original' original had a girl sitting on the rock that I felt needed to be removed

Sunday 1 September 2013

A short edit on Marie Rose

I took some video of Joe on this climb and then spent a long time on After Effects learning how to make the initial effects. I know the box isn't perfect on his arm, but I'm still really pleased with how it came out overall. Psyched to go back once my shoulder is better and do a full edit with a similar style overall.

Maybe in October.

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Thailand Video

Here it is, sorry for the delay:

Koh Tao Bouldering from Ace Eebie on Vimeo.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Thailand Part 2

This is the second part of my Thailand Story. 
The first part may be found here.

Sorry for the delay, I had to go to font - you know how it is.

Back to the story!

We stopped before the break with our two handsome protagonists about to head off to Koh Samui. Given our previously demonstrated ability to navigate Thailand successfully, you might think that we wouldn't stop getting into trouble just because we were in a pressurized cabin for an hour or two... But our self endangering highjinks were over for a while.

Naturally, being organised and stuff, we had managed to bag a room in a hotel on Koh Samui, in a hotel called P. Chaweng - pretty close to the airport. So with our bags in tow, we got a *real* taxi and motored on to our first accommodation. 
For the first time since we had started the trip, it seemed as though we were succeeding in following some sort of a plan! 
Indeed, when we got into the hotel, our hostess even booked us a taxi and arranged a wakeup call for our trip to the port in the morning. Champion! Time to venture out into the night.

Jamie, looking pensively across the sea

We checked out a couple of places to begin, some practically ghost towns, some charging 40 quid for a meal, and one with a cute Thai girl outside that charged just over a pound for a cocktail. Guess which one we chose? 

Settling in upstairs, we ordered some food and the first of many cocktails. 

I hadn't eaten much Thai food before this trip, and on the plane (after giving up on trying to bear the American voice over on 'how its made') I watched a program about 'Pad Thai' - a peasants dish based around beansprouts and rice noodles, often with some meat included in the form of chicken, pork or beef. I figured that there was no time like the present to get started with the culinary investigation, so I ordered the Chicken variation. 

Oh. My. Dear. Sweet. Noodly. Jesus. 
This dish is delicious, I could literally eat it every meal for a week without getting bored. 

Once our first incredibly strong cocktails were done, we ordered more and settled in for the evening's entertainment - A Thai guy was strumming out some pleasant chords on a nice acoustic steel string guitar, and had attached a harmonica to his front. But what really sold the deal was his singing. I want to be fair to the guy, because his English is way better than my Thai, but holy crap. I have never heard such garbled versions of the lyrics to famous songs. And yes... I have heard myself sing. 

Sadly I didn't record his version of 'Blowing in the Wind' that conformed to every asian accent stereotype, but I did manage to get a few minutes of this version of 'imagine' instead.

Eventually we got tired and headed off to bed, in a nicely Air Conditioned room with soft sheets and a hot shower. Thailand was luxury!

The next morning we woke up early to catch our boat to Tao with a group of equally tired looking young people from around the globe. Despite giving the impression of being a disorganised scruffian, I was already 95% packed from the night before. But Jamie had decided for whatever reason to open his bag and spread various bits of his crap all over the room. One of these was his 'bum-bag' (containing passport, money, cards etc.) and another was his tablet and kindle. 

So early'o'clock comes round and we get our call to leave the room. 

Jamie hops up to pack his stuff. But where is it!? Its not there. He runs around, checking shelves, checking the shower, checking under beds, checking the catches on the windows. Clearly getting stressed about the absence of pretty much everything that he absolutely shouldn't have lost, he is certain that we have been broken into. Naturally, I was supportive and stood there smirking about the stupidity of the situation... Minutes left to get into the taxi and I'm the organised one...

Has he checked his bag? Of course he has, what a stupid question... 
Would he like to check it again? 

Uurgh, fine... 

Oh, there it is...Lets go.

We dash out to the taxi and, after an uneventful ride, make it to the port on time to catch our boat.

How I felt watching Jamie panic

The boat ride itself was pretty straight forward, but I took a few nice pics on the way that I ended up being quite pleased with.

Some chaps with a stick

The Entrance to the Koh Tao ferry port - framed nicely by chaos.
2 hours later, we docked in a very busy Koh Tao and tried to find the taxi that was due to pick us up from among the horde of touts. Some of whom straight up lied about being sent to get us...I'm not sure how that scam is supposed to work, but no doubt it would have involved a stabbing. 

We were doing our diving with a company called Big Blue, who were offering 12 dives for about £160 as well as complimentary accommodation on any day we dived. Of course, we decided to stay in one of their rooms. However, P. Chaweng this was not. 
Cold showers, a single room fan, thin sheets and stiff beds, not to mention the toilets that wouldnt flush toilet paper (you had to put it in a bin in the but the best thing of all was the nightlife. Our nights were spent sweating, no sheets on, waiting for the fan to rotate and bless us with 5 seconds of respite from the sweltering heat. It would be manageable if we could get to sleep, and just forget about it. But our room backed onto the road down Big Blue and a local bar seemed to think it was appropriate to play their music at full volume until 3am every night. Fuckers.

You can call me a pampered, over privileged twat if you want, but this was the same price as our palace back in Samui. And I have a couple of standards I like to maintain. 

1 - I like to be able to sleep.
2 - I like to flush my faeces away, instead of storing them in a bin in the corner.

Call me crazy! - We eventually moved to a different hotel where it was possible to fall asleep. We still had to act as shit curators though.

So anyway, after finally getting some sleep we got started with the whole diving thing.

Now, I knew before going that there was a decent chance I would get bored with the whole thing after the novelty wore off. Sure, being under the sea would be an interesting change but I wasn't sure whether the lack of a 'challenge' would be a bit of a turn off after a while.

The first few dives were a laugh, learning how to deal with the buoyancy and maximise air efficiency. Trying to spot fishes while not getting lost from the group. But none of it was terribly taxing. I described it as bird watching underwater.
Birds are cool and whatever, sparrows, wrens, chickens. But its always the rarer things that are more interesting - a deer, a red squirrel, a turtle.

A sexy Nudibrank
And we saw some interesting stuff - a Hawksbill turtle, a seasnake, some Moray eels, a Jenkins stingray and most importantly some nudibrank.

Ultimately though, it was all a bit passive. Indeed, the times that I had the most fun were when I was doing stuff I 'wasnt supposed to be doing' - like cave swimthroughs, swimming away from the group, flips and shit. Truth told, I was pretty glad that there was climbing on the island to break up the cycle of diving, sunbathing, eating, sunbathing, sleeping, eating, diving.

When I eventually started to black out underwater on the 9th and 10th dives of the trip, I was quite happy to call an end to the whole thing and remain on land for a while. I'll leave diving to the bird watchers.

So onto the climbing!

What to say?

The Thailand that most climbers will be familiar with is the image of soaring limestone cliffs and sea stacks that litter the coast of the western mainland near Railay, Tonsai and Krabi. Koh Tao however, is actually primarily formed from granite, and a sharp crystalline one at that.

Every day that I went out, I earned some sort of flapper, cut, or other bodily injury from the rock. And I still have a scabbed up ankle almost 3 weeks on from the day that the initial injury occurred - healing doesnt happen very fast when you keep swimming in the sea apparently.

My new computer background

My first problem was actually in finding the rock. The island itself is only 5 miles long by 2 across, so in theory everything is in walking distance. But an absence of pad, or partner meant that I wanted to try and recce each area before shelling out for rental (£6 a day for a beaten up pad). Two of the better looking areas were 'The Secret Garden' and 'the Frontyard/Backyard boulders'. 
Despite both of these areas being around 10-30 minutes away from our front door, the first time I went looking for both of them, I ended up being out of the house for a good 3/4 hours trying to make sense of a map that refused to be made sense of.

Indeed, if I hadnt accidentally met a guy who had chalk on his hands while walking *right by* the Secret Garden, then I dont think I would have ever found it...Maybe I suck at reading maps...but I maintain that the instructions COULD have been clearer. I spent the rest of the afternoon climbing with 'Raphael' but he was leaving for Tonsai the next morning, so I was once again going to be scraping the barrel for partners. 

Can you spot the Secret Garden? It's in there somewhere. No. Really. That is literally where it is.

The second time that I went out (after meeting Raphael) I was climbing alone 
(on what was to become my project for the trip) when a Blonde Norwegian and a stacked Canadian rocked up and said hi. I had just ripped a bleeding flapper in my finger, so I decided to hang around with them and take some pictures for the rest of the afternoon.


Anne had climbed before, but Teo was a complete novice. So I had some fun teaching him how to climb his first outdoor boulders. Seeing his face as he started to get the whole idea was great, and when he first topped out on a boulder he had claimed that he couldn't do - he was beaming.

High up on Car Jack, 6b+

Anne seems to be a social butterfly, and somehow managed to convince a tonne of random people on the beach to come climbing with her (reducing the individual cost of taxis and rental - cunning). In the following week we popped up to 'Mek's Mountain', where I did a couple of leads and topropes. Onsighting a 6b+ and 6c before failing on a valiant attempt to complete an incorrect sequence on a 7a.

Throughout all this climbing activity I was still diving, sunbathing and generally resting up between climbing days.
I cant recommend taking 2 hour long swims every day as a particularly good way to grow strong skin.

Despite this, I still managed another couple of days out on the rock to try my project.

I dont think it is even all that hard, maybe only around 7B. I'd like to claim it is harder, but factors like the blazing heat, the mosquitoes, the soft skin, the shoulder injury, the fact that I only had myself to work the sequence with. and the general lack of fitness I have nurtured by not climbing for a month may have conspired to make it feel harder than it is...

Sadly the only footage of the link move (from the heelhook to the high right hand) became corrupted on my card, so it isnt a complete ascent on my video (which I am having some issues uploading recently)

Still, I reckon that it has come out alright overall. I'll stick it up here when I get it online.

I think this blog has gone on long enough now, if you read this far then you've hit almost 2k words, so I'm going to wrap it up it a paragraph or two.

We left a few days after I completed my project and it couldnt have come soon enough. I think both of us were starting to go up the walls with the tedium of existence on a small beach, on a tiny island.

My advice for anyone else planning on making the trip out:

  1.  Bring mozzie spray out. While not a big problem by the sea, the mozzies on the island interior make projecting utterly hellish.
  2.  Consider staying on one of the other beaches away from Sairee, Raphael said that the one he was staying at was much more chilled out.
  3.  Dont expect anyone to speak English, but smile nicely at the people you deal with most often. They'll remember and treat you better.
  4.  The food from the street vendors is just as tasty as in the restaurants, cheaper but you get less meat.
  5.  Bring plenty of chalk - climbing is sweaty business out there.

I think I'm done with the Thailand section of this post now.

In other news:
I went to Font this weekend, there will be a post about it soon enough.
I got a steroid injection in my shoulder today, I have to sit out for a week but hopefully it'll sort things out by the second week of term..
Work starts next week again. Can't wait...Still, it'll give me something to do instead of sitting around bemoaning my injuries.




One more thing from Thailand!

On the way back home, we met a guy who had been shanked in the arm by a Tuktuk driver! I think he tried to drunkenly dodge a fare or something, but whatever - I think the point stands that those guys are crazy. I'm definitely not being paranoid.

Thursday 22 August 2013

My 200th Blog!

Here. We. Go!

So for the last month I have been diving, climbing, sunbathing, eating, drinking and rehabing in Thailand.

Koh Tao to be specific.

The trip was a bit of an unplanned adventure, I didnt even know we were going to Koh Tao until the evening before we left (I thought we were staying on Koh Samui - an island about 60km south of where we were staying)

For those that (like me) know sod all about the area, Koh Tao is a tiny island in the gulf of Thailand that is famed for its extensive diving potential in the surrounding waters.

But before we got there, we had to navigate Bangkok...

Given that we had a 10 hour swap over between flights in Bangkok we thought it might be a laugh to motor round and check out as many of the tourist sights as possible before getting back to the airport.

Unfortunately, we had no idea what they were, where they were, and how to get there.
The Thai staff at the airport were pretty useless on that front as well - I was pretty amazed actually, I really thought they would have a better command of English. Lesson leant...

Anyway, I had brought a book at home that very briefly mentioned a few places in the city, and after finding a cash machine we negotiated a lift to one of them...the Golden Mount...

Sounds good doesnt it...

Opulence on a hill, a buddhist temple of repute perhaps, somewhere with a bit more going for it than a slightly weathered shelter for some flaking buddahs and a giftshop with a view over a smoggy city?

As you can see, Bangkok is littered with temples that peek like islands rising above a mishmash sea of newer development. The islands are beautiful when you can see them, which is why I have highlighted them in this photo, but when you cant, they fade into a background of brown and grey.

After we came down from the Golden Mount we tried to find our bearings so we could get to the Grand Palace, and Wat Pho. Unfortunately, with a poor map and no bearings to work from (the road signs are written in squiggle) we completely failed to make any meaningful progress towards the targets.

While we were standing looking a bit lost, a kind thai guy came over and helped us out. Pointed us which way we needed to go, and in very garbled English suggested he could hail us a Tuktuk to take us there for about 40 Baht. Now, at first I thought he meant to walk us there, probably take us down a back alley and shank me for my camera and passport. So when he got us a Tuktuk, I was quite happy with the arrangement. Especially when it would cost less than a pound to go to both things that we wanted to see.

Our Tuktuk Driver
Once we got into the Tuktuk we were informed that there was some deal going on with the tourism board that would help the driver pay for his fuel if he went on a tour of a few of the other sites as well. Hell, sounded good to me - More bang for my buck, and 40 baht was only about 80p anyway. We didnt really understand what he was saying though. Something about a fat Buddah, a golden Buddah, a tailor and then the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Soudned fair enough, so we got in and started to move. After a while we found out his name was Mai Lee or something along those lines. Naturally, he became MaiLee Cyrus and we made our first friend of the trip.

MaiLee first took us to see a big standing Buddah. No one was around except for a guy selling birds, an old woman selling fruit and a dodgy looking guy with face tattoos sitting menacingly outside the gate...

Trying to ignore this guy, we walked inside the outer wall of the temple and looked awkwardly around waiting for someone to tell us what we were and werent allowed to do. No one seemed to care about us being there, so I cracked out my camera and took a couple of photos.

Big Buddah was neat, no one had shouted at us and we hadnt been stabbed. I felt like we were doing alright. To top it off, when we returned to where we left our MaiLee, he was still sitting there waiting for us!
We got back in his Tuktuk and got a lift to the next exciting place.
Hell. The golden mount could get stuffed, being driving round Bangkok by a guy who didnt seem to care about 'traffic laws' was a laugh. Open sides, wind blowing through my hair, experiencing the city at ground level, this was more like it.

MaiLee was trying to tell us where we were going next, some temple with a Buddah in it. Apparently there was something good about this one, but I couldn't work out what he was going on about. But whatever...for 40 baht it had to be worth a look, no?

When we got there, a slightly chubby Thai guy with hardly any teeth came up to us smiling profusely. He spoke English! Magical! The first chance to actually have a conversation. He told us that he had been working in this temple for 10 years, a mini tour guide, cleaner, and general upkeep manager. He told us that we had been lucky today - the temple was open to foreigners to look around. We took off our shoes and walked in (I was still a bit nervy about having my shoes stolen at this point). We didnt get his name, but I'm going to assume it was LinSae Lhoan. LinSae told us that the Buddah in the back of his 5x10m temple was SOLID GOLD. Hot shit, that is impressive.

There was some history about how it had been carried down from some place further north or something...but to be honest, I had stopped listening to him... A SOLID GOLD Buddah, hidden carefully behind a glass case, a couple of iron bars on the door and guarded carefully by a slightly sweaty toothless old man...Sure thing...Cool story bro.

MaiLee was still waiting for us on our return. Time to go to check out the Grand Palace! Woop Woop!

or not...

MaiLee wanted to take us to a tailor first, apparently he needed to go there to get some stamp or something for the fuel. Whatever, we had hours to kill, and I had heard about how good the Thai tailors were, it might be fun to window shop for a bit. Now... for those of you who have read this far, you probably see where this whole thing is going, and believe me when I say that it is painfully obvious in hindsight just how dim we were being. But I still think we were coming out on top of this exchange. I mean. 80p for our own personal chauffeur around Bangkok for 3 hours? Winning

We could have looked like this guy!
MaiLee took us away from the temple and drove for a while, eventually starting to take some smaller streets,
dirtier, fewer white people, more fruit sellers and some odd looks. Eventually we arrived at the tailor's. A grubby little store, nice inside I guess, but the setting could be improved. Still, it was baking outside and the store had AC so we went in and a greasy looking guy wearing a tshirt handed us some catalogues.
We leafed through looking at various suited men for a while. Great! Those guys certainly looked like they enjoyed wearing suits. Fortunately I work in a chemistry lab, so handmade tailored suits are not really at the top of my list of stuff to buy. However, Jamie showed a slight interest in them and the guy HOOKED ON.

Talk about a hard sell.

Jamie eventually feigned poverty and the guy stormed off to sulk back at the desk with his three other mates. Who gave us some dodgy looks as we walked back past them.

Now, I'm not saying my actions stopped us being stabbed and left for dead in the backroom of a seedy tailor shop in Bangkok. But I think they probably did. Seeing the situation, and feeling my mortality, I bit the bullet... and I now own 3 'silk' ties of varying colours.

When we got back to MaiLee, he seemed to think that we would like to go and see some more of his friends in another tailors. Now, at this point I can say that I am glad that Jamie was there, because I would have probably just gone along with it with a laissez faire smile on my face. However, Jamie had stopped liking MaiLee somewhere around the time he threw us into a high pressure selling situation. And MaiLee learnt this in no uncertain terms. We soon found ourselves travelling post haste towards the Grand Palace and Wat Pho with a sulking Tuktuk driver.

Upon arrival MaiLee informed us that both the Grand Palace and Wat Pho were both closed for the day (...wut?) and that we had best find something else to do.
MaiLee - you betrayed us. I am disappointed in you. Jamie somewhat irrationally paid him DOUBLE the agreed fee and we made a move to find an internet cafe so that we could book a hotel for the evening.

I'd like to say that once we were walking again, my impression of Bangkok was improved. But if anything it was reduced. The place is dirty, crawling with street sellers and crowded. After MaiLee's little game, I was also left assuming that anyone talking to us was almost certainly trying to make a quick buck at our expense.

Ah well.

Here's a calming picture of a boat:

Now, you might have thought that we would learn our lesson from all this. And only use things that we knew to be trustworthy for the rest of the holiday. You might have thought...

After finally sorting ourselves a hotel, it was time to get back to the airport, and that required a taxi. I dont know shit about how to get a taxi in London, let alone Bangkok, so we did what any sensible white tourist would do. And walked out to the street and asked the first vaguely Thai looking person we met to point us to a reputable driver.

He motioned across the street to a line of nice yellow and green cars, each with the word TAXI written on top of them and then helped us cross the road. What a kind guy. Wait. Wait a second. Why are we going this way. What is this? This isnt a taxi. This is some pimped out orange monstrosity with a rear exhaust larger than my head. Jamie...Jamie...what are you doing? Why are you getting into this clearly unlicensed taxi? Oh god, I'm getting in too. This is it. We are going to be driven down a back alley and stabbed. Damn, we had done so well!

We started driving. Me - desperately looking at my map, trying to get any idea whether we are even going the right direction. I look up and spot his taxi license on the front window. Unfortunately the guy in the picture looked nothing like the guy driving our car. Great.

Eventually , however, we started to see some signs with a plane on them and I began to chill out. When we actually arrived at the airport I considered it nothing less than divine intervention. Perhaps all those temples we visited paid off.

Finally we boarded the plane to Koh Samui and fell straight to sleep. Which is where I will leave this story for now.


- A Beautiful rendition of Browin in da wiiind by a live musician,
- A brief rundown of diving in Koh Tao,
- A damning review of the accomodation we suffered,
- Some pictures of a Norwegian girl, her Canadian friend and probably some more boats,
- and if I can get the video to upload, then a video of some of the bouldering on the island

Adieu mes amis!