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Reflecting: 2011

Reflecting back on 2011 here are 99 of my top memories (in chronological order). Thanks to all that shared in the experiences!

  1. Shared life goals and dreams with great friends at the Sanctuary of Truth in Ancient Siam, Thailand
  2. Smobbed through traffic running from the police on some janky scooters in Bali, Indonesia
  3. Scuba diving in the Gili islands of Indonesia
  4. Whitewater rafting down the Telaga Waja River in Bali, Indonesia
  5. Got buzzed off Luwak coffee in the hills of Ubud, Indonesia
  6. Listened to the chanting and watched the traditional Kecak Dance at the Uluwatu Temple in Bali, Indonesia
  7. Bungee jumped a BMX bike off a platform into a pool below in Bali, Indonesia
  8. Witnessed traditional Thaipusam rituals in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  9. Smelled the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  10. Made $100,000,000,000,000 (that’s one-hundred-trillion) Zimbabwe dollars in Malaca, Malaysia
  11. Kayaked through the waters of Halong Bay, Vietnam
  12. Saw Ho-Chi-Minh’s body in Hanoi, Vietnam
  13. Nearly got run over by hundreds of scooters in the street of Hanoi, Vietnam
  14. Saw dogs heads for sale (presumably to be eaten) in Hanoi, Vietnam
  15. Got fitted for a custom tailored suit made in Hoi An, Vietnam
  16. Hiked through the MySon Relics of Hoi An, Vietnam
  17. Celebrated Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) with a spectacular fireworks show in Nha Trang, Vietnam
  18. Rode a red-eye sleeper train from Nha Trang to Saigon, Vietnam
  19. Shared beers (with dirty ice from a burlap sack) with some old Vietnamese men that didn’t speak a lick of English in the streets of Saigon, Vietnam
  20. Crawled through the underground Cu-Chi tunnels and fired an AK47 used during the Tet Offensive in Saigon, Vietnam
  21. Witness the effects of Agent Orange at the War Remnants Museum in Saigon, Vietnam
  22. Hiked through Angkor Wat during sunrise in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  23. Watched the sun fall from atop a temple in Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  24. Donated to the Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund to help them remove more active landmines from the Cambodian/Thailand border
  25. Got tickled by fish that ate the dead skin off my feet while I sipped on a glass of wine in Siem Reap, Cambodia
  26. Road a horse through the old rice fields of Siem Reap, Cambodia
  27. Toured the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida
  28. Drove my RV on the famous Daytona Beach in Daytona Beach, Florida
  29. Ate a feast at The Wilkes House in Savannah, Georgia
  30. Peered through others peoples prayers at the smallest church in America in South Newport, Georgia
  31. Took a bike ride around St. Simons Island, Georgia
  32. Boated out to the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina
  33. Went rock climbing in Charleston, South Carolina
  34. Relaxed in the shade of the giant 400-year old Angel Oak Tree outside of Charleston, South Carolina
  35. Sat on “A Bench By The Road” on Sullivan Island, South Carolina
  36. Hollered in Spivey’s Corner, the “Hollerin’ Capital of the Universe”
  37. Deciphered the original Rosetta Stone at the British Museum in London, England
  38. Straddled the international dateline in Greenwhich, England
  39. Walked through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France
  40. Climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France
  41. Listened to hymns at Notre Dame in Paris, France
  42. Road bikes and dominated baguettes & babies in Versailles, France
  43. Picnicked on the grounds of Marie Antoinette’s old Palace of Versailles in France
  44. Saw Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa at Musée du Louvre in Paris, France
  45. Avoided paying for an overpriced ticket to Moulin Rouge in Paris, France
  46. Ingested a “Mother of Pain” currywurstspezialitäten (1,000,000 on the Scoville scale) after signing a liability waiver in Leipzig, Germany
  47. Witnessed the atrocities of Hitler’s concentration camps in Auschwitz, Poland
  48. Participated in a scavenger hunt through downtown San Francisco, California
  49. Launched a new version of MFI new hobby of kiteboarding in the Outer Banks of North Carolina
  50. Retraced the path of the Wright Brothers first 4 flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
  51. Marveled at the Bodies exhibit in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  52. Witnessed an amazing 4th of July fireworks display in Savanna, Georgia
  53. Tried smoked rattlesnake meat in St. Augustine, Florida
  54. Witnessed the final launch of the Space Shuttle program (STS-135) in person in Titusville, Florida
  55. Flew my first international flight as a pilot in a Cessna 172 from Florida, USA to Freeport, Bahamas
  56. Snorkeled in the crystal clear waters from a catamaran of Icacos, Puerto Rico
  57. Whitewater rafting down the Pacuare River in Squires, Costa Rica
  58. Slept in a hammock at Rockin J’s in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
  59. Scuba diving in Bocas del Toro, Panama
  60. Took a private water taxi to Star Beach in Bocas del Toro, Panama
  61. Zip-lining through the tree canopy in Red Frog Beach, Panama
  62. Watched ocean-liners pass through the Panama Canal
  63. Performed my first “elevator jump” bungee jump into the fog above a river near La Fortuna, Costa Rica
  64. Soaking in the hot springs during a violent thunderstorm while lightening illuminated the silhouette of a volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
  65. Went on a nature walk and saw sloths, monkeys, toucans, frogs, lizards, and more in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
  66. Spent the night on a converted oil rig in the waters of Semporna Malaysia
  67. Scuba diving in one of the Top 10 diving locations in the world in Spipidan, Malaysia
  68. Followed a Xmas parade down the cobblestone streets to a soccer game in Antigua, Guatemala
  69. Disconnected and relaxed along the shore of Late Atitlan, in Santa Cruz La Laguna, Guatemala
  70. Saw the ruins of Joya de Cerén in San Salvador, El Salvador
  71. Climbed the old Myan pyramids of Tazumal where the heads from human sacrifices used to roll down in Chalchuapa, El Salvador
  72. Roamed the colorful streets of Grenada, Nicaragua
  73. Hiked up and volcano-boarded down the black ash of Volcan Cerro Negro in Leon, Nicaragua
  74. Thumbed my nose at an antiquated embargo and traveled to Cuba
  75. Navigated precarious and unmarked roads in a rental car with a bent rim to Cienfuegos, Cuba
  76. Lived with Cuban families in “casa particulars” and learned about life in communist Cuba
  77. Listened to rumba music on the steps of Casa la Musica in Trinidad, Cuba
  78. Galloped on horseback across the Cuban countryside to a waterfall up in the mountains of Trinidad, Cuba
  79. Witness firsthand as Cubans lined up in a breadline (and milk-line) for their weekly rations in Trinidad, Cuba
  80. Sampled Cuba’s infamous $7.00 CUP ($0.40 USD) street pizzas in Santa Clara, Cuba
  81. Witnessed the final resting place and monument of Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Santa Clara, Cuba
  82. Stayed in a 5-star resort and relaxed on the white sand beaches of Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba
  83. Drank an overpriced, watered-down Mojito at La Bodeguia Del Medio in La Havana Vieja, Cuba
  84. Sipped daiquiris at Floradita Restaraunte Bar, Earnest Hemmingway’s old watering hole in Havana, Cuba
  85. Marveled at the communist propaganda throughout Havana, Cuba
  86. Photographed old school cars parked outside of the Capitolo in downtown Havana, Cuba
  87. Met the famous Cuban artist Leo D’Zázaro at his studio El Ojo Del Ciclón in Havana, Cuba
  88. Strolled down El Malecón while sipping on Havana Club rum in Havana, Cuba
  89. Watched kids playing stickball with a broom and bottlecap in the streets the Centro district of Havana, Cuba
  90. Shared a Xmas eve feast — Cuban style — with my hosts in Havana, Cuba
  91. Hitched a ride in a old “Yank Tank” with a Cuban, Mexican, and Lebanese to Playa de Este, Cuba
  92. Ate a Xmas day pig roast on the Santa María del Mar beach in Havana, Cuba
  93. Toured Partagas Cigar factory and bought some Cohiba cigars from shady factory workers in Havana, Cuba
  94. Walked through Necropolis Cristóbal Colón at sundown in the Vedado area of Havana, Cuba
  95. Swam from Playa de Cerado out to a reef and then scuba dove (because Cubans aren’t allowed on boats) in Ciamito, Cuba
  96. Ate a $1.00 CUP ($0.04 USD) scoop of ice cream at the state-run Coppelia in Havana, Cuba
  97. Photographed the murals and sculptures of Salvador González Escalona on Callejon De Hamel in Havanah, Cuba
  98. Celebrated the end of the year and the start of the next on Calle del Arco in Antigua, Guatemala

Ancient Siam I Am

From the modern day megaplex formally known as Bangkok International Airport to the ancient megaplex of Ancient Siam where there are over 200 acres of ancient monuments.

Scuba Doobie Two!

With two successful dives under our weight belts, our confidence was riding high. I was starting to really get a hang of this underwater breathing thing. Like yesterday we had an 8am dock call. Today we a piled into a little dingy and took it out to the main boat anchored off shore.

And that’s when we hit a snag…

…literally. After further inspection…

…it was determined that we accidentally ran over a buoy line! And that’s not a good thing. If the rope gets caught in the propellers it can cause engine damage. So Walter and Daniel suited up to save the day.

Good thing we had scuba gear and divers on board! They dove in under the boat with knives in hand to untangle us. After several tense minutes, they emerged from the depths below…

…with quite a catch!

With that all out of the way… it was full speed ahead!

To Palong Bay & then Bida Nok for dives 3 & 4 respectively.

On our 4th dive we saw some more turtles, sea cucumbers, lion fish, puffer fish and… drum roll please…

…wait for it…

A 2 meter long zebra shark (aka leopard shark)!! It was awesome swimming with a shark! Experience of a lifetime. Quite the way to end our final dive!

After that it was back to the dive shop for our final exam where we all passed with flying colors!

You are now looking at the latest PADI open water certified scuba divers! Look out below!!

To celebrate our accomplishment we hiked to the top of the island…

…for a view of the sunset.

..and then it was off to Reggae Bar for some drinks…

…and boxing.

A highly successful 4 days on Phi Phi island! We’re gonna miss this place. Memories forever.

Scuba Doobie Doo!

We’ve seen all we needed to see at Patong beach on the island of Phuket. There’s really not much to see actually. 1-2 days max is plenty. And so having maxed out or stay, we hopped in a cab to the other side of the island to grab a ferry ride…

…to another island. The beautiful island of Phi Phi.

We came to this island with a mission. That mission, was to obtain our open water scuba diving certification. We’ll be in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef within a couple weeks and due to certain flight restrictions we won’t have a ton of time there. So we want to get the training and tests out of the way now, so we can focus on fish once we are there.

Our first day of lessons involved watching the first 2 chapters of the PADI DVD and then taking a couple of quizzes. Pretty simple stuff. The next day we watched a couple more chapters and then had some hands on practice with all of the equipment. Learning how to breathe out of the regulator, attaching our B.C.D. (buoyancy control device) to the tank, testing the tank levels, etc, etc… With a couple of practice runs on dry land, we suited up and hiked down to the beach in all of our gear for some first hand experience breathing under water — in shallow water.

Breathing under water certainly takes some getting used to! A very cool feeling once you embrace it and learn to trust your regulator, but it’s definitely a foreign feeling so it does take some time to embrace it. Once you come to the realization that that regulator is the only thing keeping you alive under water, breathing through it really becomes second nature. Funny how that works.

The next day we woke up bright and early for an 8am dive. Our gear was packed, and we headed down to the dock to board our vessel.

After a short ride out towards Bida Nai the captain of the boat killed the engines where we would make our first dive to 12 meters below sea level!

Our chief instructor Walter gave us a mission briefing on deck, and then we prepped our gear.

Same as the day before… attach the BCD to the tank, attach the regulator to the tank…

…open the air valve, test the air quality and pressure, test the regulators, test the BCD, put on the wet suit, strap on the weight belt, climb into the BCD/tank/regulator setup and then check your buddies gear after he checks yours. Finally you strap on your mask, snorkel, and fins…

…and you’re ready to go!

As a newbie, I didn’t wanna preoccupy myself with taking underwater photography (breathing was slighly more important) so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you we saw trumpet fish, lion fish, a moray eel, black diamond sea urchins, brain coral, long arm feather stars and plenty of other stuff I can’t name. After 42 minutes under water we surfaced and inflated our BCD as the boat came around to pick us up.

We survived our first dive with only minor injuries…

…from fins that were too tight.

After a lunch and some R&R back on the boat we made our way to the second dive spot of Phi Phi Lay. Again 12 meters down, for about 45 minutes. This time the visibility was much better and we spotted a plethora of mini jellyfish, clown fish, butterfly fish, and even a hawksbill turtle!

And again, we survived! Aside from the toe injury and Jay’s nausea it was a highly successful first dive! Tomorrow we get to do it all over again too! Awesome!

On Shaky Ground

Despite Thailand being a bit unstable at the moment due to the political unrest, we’ve managed to migrate from the northern part of the country, to the island of Phuket on the south western coast. Phuket was one of many regions that was swallowed up by the ocean during the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

Since then, most of the businesses have sprung back up…

…and the city is a bustling tourist destination again.

Almost too much so. The Patong beach area for example is sort of like a cross between Las Vegas, Tijuana, and Bangkok. A party town that can get you in a lot of trouble if you’re not careful.

They should almost have another set of guidelines posted…

…educating tourists on how best to avoid the prostitutes, lady boys, and knock off brand name merchandise.

At least they support Obama here! So it can’t all be bad.

Luckily we’ll be out of here in just a couple days to somewhere more remote and laid back.

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