Tag Archives: motorbike

Four Years with a Ninja Paleontologist

The ninja paleontologist covering one of the FIFA 2010 World Cup games in Durban, South Africa.

He looks more like a handsome journalist, right?

When I met Morgan in 2008, he had been a professional journalist for over three years: one year in radio and at the time, two years in television.  But one afternoon shortly after meeting him, he showed me a magazine article written about him in which he confessed that his childhood dream was actually to be a ninja paleontologist.

From my understanding, this is a martial arts expert who also enjoys discovering fossils.

Four years later, I am still completely in love with the grown-up version of the South African kid that once aspired to be a ninja paleontologist.  (*To read the awkward story of how we met at a Zimbabwean refugee camp, see An African Boy and an American Girl.)

Morgan and Kassie in South Africa December 2008

As detailed in the blog post linked above, it’s not the easiest thing  in the world to date cross-continentally.  Visits are few and emails and Skype are the ‘meat and potatoes’of your relationship.

Morgan and Kassie in Times Square NYC: December 2009

But over the past four years, Morgan and I have shared the most amazing experiences together.

Morgan and Kassie at uShaka Marine World in Durban: December 2010

We’ve dived with sharks on the South Coast on KwaZulu Natal.  We’ve roadtripped the entire east coast of the U.S., seeing all of the sights of New York City on a day-pass and finishing with dinner in Chinatown at 3 a.m.  We’ve border-hopped into Malaysia, rode a motorbike around most of southwest Thailand and climbed a volcano in Bali, Indonesia.

Morgan and Kassie riding our motorbike around Phuket, Thailand: July 2011

We island-hopped in Mozambique and my ninja paleontologist prepared lunch in a straw hut over fire for 80 preschool children in Vilanculos.  Most recently, he’s ‘hippo-hunted’ with me in St. Lucia after we went on a game drive through a UNESCO World Heritage site to the Indian Ocean.

Morgan and Kassie trying to spot a hippo in St. Lucia, South Africa: July 2012

Basically, I’ve gotten to travel around the world with my best friend.

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My 10 Favorite Things About Phuket

It’s official.  After living 12 months on my island in the sun, our year in Phuket came to an end Thursday when Morgan and I left on a flight to Chiang Mai.

And while I’m excited to be exploring northern Thailand, I’ve also been reminiscing about my days in Phuket.  The possibilities of what to do and where to go and what to eat on the island are endless, but here is a list of the 10 things that made my year truly unforgettable.

10.  Living in a Holiday Destination

My abuelos visited in February 2012.

Phuket is fantastic not just for the beaches and cheap massages, but also because people love to visit for those very reasons!  Over the course of our year on the island, Morgan’s parents visited (*see earlier post, Tex and Lulu Come to Thailand), Morgan’s brother and his girlfriend visited, my good friend Maddy visited (*see earlier post, Arrivals and Departures) and my Abuela and Abuelo visited (*see Mis Abuelos: 77-Year-Old Globetrotters).

9. Riding a Motorbike

The motorbike and the mustache.

To be completely honest, the thought of learning to ride a motorbike in the province with the highest road wreck mortality rate in Thailand was not appealing.  Nonetheless, I was soon won over by the same reasons people probably fall in love with motorcycles: wind whipping your hair, zipping around cars and easily maneuvering through traffic, nothing between you and the wide open road.  Maybe it’s a little less romantic on a Honda Scoopy than on a Harley Davidson, but Phuket isn’t a Harley type of town anyway.

8. Phuket Indy Market

The place to be on a Thursday night in Phuket.

Like many places in Asia, Phuket has a number of outdoor markets, some big and others small.  While Phuket’s Weekend Market is very well known for its size and variety of goods, the Phuket Indy Market is less well known, even to those who live nearby.  Nestled right in the heart of Phuket Town, the market boasts secondhand clothing, handmade crafts, leatherwork and artwork.  You can find the usual market food along the backside of the market and as you eat, you can listen to high-school age bands that come out to perform on the soi.  One of Phuket Town’s many treats.

7. Thai Holidays

Morgan and I releasing our krathong at Saphan Hin on Loi Krathong.

As proud as I am to be an American and to celebrate the generally commercialized holidays that I grew up with, I must admit that Thailand has amazing holiday celebrations.  Whether getting soaked during Songkran (*see my Videos tab), watching people slide swords through their cheeks during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival or setting your krathong on the water to release bad spirits on Loi Krathong (*see my post Loi Loi Krathong), you will be amazed by how much Buddhist culture remains on an island typically known only for its tourism.

6. Kata Hot Yoga 

The free tank top I was given for completing my 30-day challenge.

No, I’d never done hot yoga before moving to Phuket.  Yes, I too used to be one of those narrow-minded people who believed that yoga was for people who couldn’t do ‘real’ sports.  Yes, we were wrong.  (*See my posts, The 30-day Challenge and Been There, Done That, Got the T-Shirt)

5. Green Curry

One of dozens of green curries that I sampled while living in Phuket.

If this needs an explanation, then you’ve never eaten a Thai green curry.

4. Beaches

Kata Noi - my favorite beach.

As a Floridian, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of beaches.  I’ve seen beaches in Florida, North Carolina, California, Cuba, Mexico, South Africa, Thailand and Indonesia.  In my opinion, Thailand’s beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world.  If you don’t believe me, ask one of the nearly two million people that come to visit Phuket each year.

3. Phuket Town

On the corner where I buy pork skewers and sticky rice after school.

Writing this one makes my heart hurt a little bit.  Morgan and I lived in Phuket Town throughout the entire time we were in Phuket.  While most foreign teachers opt to live closer to the beach, my heart was always in Phuket Town.  The food stalls, the Sino-Portuguese architecture, the culture, the community – Phuket Town has it all.

2. My K1 Watermelon Kids

The picture truly captures the essence of my K1 class.

Simply put, these kids were what I woke up for in the morning during my year in Phuket.  To see more about them, just scan over my blog.    I’ve written blog posts about their field trips, posted videos of their performances and included anecdotes from their funniest moments in class.  I was so lucky to have them.

1. My Friends

Last dinner with friends at Sala Mexicali in Phuket.

Is any adventure really complete without good friends?

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As Told From the Streets of Phuket

Morgan and I riding on Chao Fa West Road, Phuket.

A few things you should know about riding around Phuket:

1 ) Approximately 75% of motorists here ride scooters.
2 ) A scooter that looks like it can only fit two people can actually fit five… and a baby!
3 ) Helmets are mere accessories – wear on your head or as a bracelet.
4 ) Don’t worry about stray dogs crossing the road.  FACT: They always look both ways.
5 ) Dogs also know how to ride a scooter, either sitting perfectly still at the owner’s feet or sitting on said owner’s lap with paws on the steering wheel.
6 ) Honking/hooting is just to let you know that someone is coming… and they will still be coming whether you move out of the way or not.
7 ) A one-way street?  No problem!  Motorists here often purposely drive the opposite way down a highway.
8 )People often lean forward when going up a steep hill to assist the groaning scooter motor.  (FACT: It doesn’t help, but you do it anyway.)
9 ) Motorists drive on sidewalks, side streets, boardwalks and highways.
10 ) Scooters own the road.  Period.

Morgan likes to say that we have a convertible, but I lovingly point out that our rented scooter would have to convert from something into what it is at present to be considered a convertible.  It is glorious to feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair on a hot, sunny day – but it’s pretty humbling when you arrive at work soaked because you rode your ‘convertible’ to school during monsoon season.

Still, having never rode a motorbike prior to moving to Thailand, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a rush zipping through traffic and planting your feet on the ground at a stoplight, waiting for the light to turn green alongside 40 other racers… I mean, motorbike riders.  Ready, Get Set, Go!

I’ll also admit that Morgan does the bulk of the driving.  He’s become quite a skilled driver, especially thinking back to the days in Samui where we would tentatively and jerkily pull out of the Save House parking lot onto the main road.  Now he climbs the steep hills and rides the sharp curves from Phuket Town to Kata Beach with absolute ease and a sharp eye.  I’ve upgraded from the extended shopping mall parking lot in Chalong and now ride around town, but it will be a while before I log as many scooter hours as Morgan.

The streets of Phuket are a wonder in and of themselves.  Makeshift baby seats that fit between the legs of a motorist.  Owners of a new bedroom set transporting their king-size mattress on a two-person scooter.  Baby elephants riding down the road in the back of pick-up trucks.  Food stalls that double as family transportation.  We’ve got it all!

Visit Phuket and learn the 1,509, 678 ways you can utilize a scooter.  So much more than a motorbike…

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Motorcycle Diaries from Phuket

Scooter parking at Bo Phut Friday Night Farmer's Market in Samui.

…Scooter Diaries, to be precise.

The main and cheapest form of transportation in Thailand is a scooter, so in our attempts to assimilate  (and to find the most cost-effective way to do everything), we rented a scooter in Ko Samui and have again rented another in Phuket.

But first things first:

-The Full Moon Party was insane and easily unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  Picture it: 20,000 people (the majority of which are tourists) crammed together on a strip of beach on a tiny island.  There are thousands of beach buckets full of alcohol; fiery jump ropes that those with liquid courage attempt to double-dutch with; bathing suits and neon body paint everywhere.  Morgan, Max and I arrived around 9pm and we were determined to see the night through until 7 am.  I’m sad and also grateful to say that Max was the only one who remained true to his word.  Morgan and I both underestimated the ‘power of the bucket’ and caught a speedboat home around 3 am.  The next morning we quickly packed up, checked out and hopped on a bus to catch a ferry to catch a van to Phuket.

When we arrived in Phuket, it was well past midnight.  We were dropped off at an intersection which led to dark alleys where ‘bar ladies’ awaited Morgan.  “Hey handsome man,” they called out to him.  “Come on in!”  We continued to drag our luggage further down the soggy alley in Patong until we finally arrived at it: The Golden Beach.

We checked in and the Thai girl at the counter showed us to our room, which was actually an extension of the lobby.  She opened the door to a small musty room and, with a bottle of air-freshener in hand, told us, “See?  [Spritz of air freshener]  Nice room! [Spritz of air freshener]”  She closed the door and as we looked around, exhausted from Full Moon and the 13-hour journey, I felt a bit like crying (which I later did).  Suspicious stains decorated the bedsheets, the wooden slats beneath the window exposed our bedroom contents to the same soggy alley and the best way to shower was by sitting on the toilet.  Days later, we can laugh about this and Morgan fondly refers to this experience as ‘our stay at the Golden Roach.’

We’re now staying at NaNaChart Phuket, a backpacker’s in Chalong (southern Phuket) and we’ve been here since Wednesday.  Upon checking in, we hit the ground running.  Dressed in professional shirts and slacks, we hopped on a scooter and navigated our way around southern Phuket, applying for teaching jobs at any school with an English program.  Most schools are still in holiday mode (the Thai school year starts May 3rd), but we covered a 30km radius and are now waiting to hear back.

It’s been an adventure to say the least and I can honestly say, on Morgan’s behalf, that learning to drive a scooter around a foreign town with few traffic rules and no road signs is a mission.  I’m not the best navigator either, so many of our dialogs went something like this:

Kassie: “Morgan, you missed the turn.”

Morgan: “Was that the turn?!”

Kassie: (Unable to hear due to wind) “What?”

Morgan: (Louder) “WAS THAT THE TURN?”  I WAS LOOKING FOR A SIGN.”

Kassie: (Louder) “YOU MISSED IT WHEN YOU MISSED THE TURN.  WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!”

…It’s been an exercise in teamwork in no small way.

Today we got to take a break from the rush (schools are closed on Saturdays) and we went to the beach with Will and Greta, Morgan’s family friends who are also here working.  Will and Greta have been in Phuket for a few weeks and know the area much better than we do, so we followed them to Ya Nui Beach, a quiet little cove surrounded by mountains.  The view was absolutely phenomenal.  Morgan and I apartment-hunted for the rest of the afternoon and we met back up with Will and Greta at a huge night market in Phuket Town.  Within minutes, we lost them and found them again only briefly before we left to head home.

Note to group: buy walkie-talkies for market nights.

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