For something completely different, this afternoon I continued doing what I started this morning: more fun climbing! We were a group of four this afternoon (plus Let as our instructor): Martina, a crazy Korean guy and his wife, and myself; and instead of the "1-2-3" wall, this time we headed over to the "Diamond Cave" cliffs, up on the northern side of Railay East bay. The climbing continued to be extremely fun, and to pose few real technical challenges. It also, however, continued to be utterly exhausting — by the time we were done for the day, I was wasted.
With the dive course now finished, it's time to get out of Sairee, and to start exploring a bit more of Ko Tao. To kick off the exploration, today Adam and I rented a quad bike, and took it for a spin. A quad bike costs a fair bit more than a regular scooter motorbike to rent — but it's a much safer option, if you plan to tackle the shockingly poor-quality dirt roads that criss-cross most of the island. Short of running them off the road, quad bikes are extremely difficult to crash or to damage — whereas you can easily (and people regularly do) damage a scooter on a poor road, in which case you'll likely be facing a hefty repair bill. As I was still very much recovering from last night, Adam did most of the driving.
We were a bit hot and worn-out from our wicked motorbike ride; so this afternoon, Marie, Claire and myself cooled off by taking a dip in the Pai public pool. The pool is located up on the eastern hillside overlooking the Pai valley, and it's run by a kind old Thai couple. We met a few other people at the pool, and we splashed around for a bit; but mostly, we just ended up relaxing in the large deck chairs, enjoying the gorgeous view (and the divine sunset), sipping fresh juice, and playing cards. Life sure is strenuous here in Thailand... I don't know how much more of this I can handle :P.
I've been in Bangkok for one (jetlagged and sleepless) night; and if there's one thing I've already noticed to death, it's this: the air pollution here is horrendous. This is one seriously polluted city: you can see it, smell it and even taste it 24/7. Mexico City is peanuts compared to this place. Bangkok's sky is permanently marred by a greyish haze: this becomes particularly foul and unmissable around dusk, when the sky's colour turns a disturbingly nuclear-ish shade of purple against the hot Thai sunset. The constant heat in the city doesn't exactly help, either — what with the smog, the dryness and the sweltering temperatures, water and air-con is the only way to live around here.
After a short gelato break, this afternoon I continued cycling up past the port town of Milazzo, to the Capo di Milazzo itself. Capo di Milazzo is a long, thin, steeply-rising cape, that sticks out into the sea from the north coast of Sicily. Getting to the tip of the cape proved harder than expected — I didn't realise how high-up the cliffs at the tip are, so it was uphill all the way — but once I made it, I was well-rewarded for my efforts. The views from the tip are stunning: as well as the gorgeous cape itself, you can also see the resort coast curving back into Sicily behind you, and the sea and the Isole Eolie in front of you. Lovely spot, especially with the sun waning at the end of the day.
After lunch with our host families, those of us from the morning's boat ride that were staying on Amantaní went on a hike to the top of the island, to observe the spectacular views afforded from the climb, and to watch the sun set over the top of the world. Lake Titicaca is closer to the sky than any other lake in the world, so it's quite a sight to behold.