Monday, November 29, 2010

My reply to a comment from a guest

Sorry you felt the trip was over-rated and high price.  We pay our taxes and national park fees and are the only sea canoeing company that does.  There goes about B500 per booking more than many other companies right there.  

You also refer to “similar" boat trips to the caves, yet you comment on their noise and high volume.  If you sincerely think our quality and commitment is similar, I am astounded!  

We joke within the company that in fact we have NO competition.

The other companies are just glorified High Volume, Low Quality James Bond Tours who stop at a couple of caves to muck them up and destroy my original experience.  They are the same 2-stroke speedboats who have destroyed Phi-Phi, Maya Bay and Monkey Beach with unenvironmental mass tourism.  

They laugh at me for being so poor while they rape the environment to buy a mansion and a Mercedes.  Since 1983 our mottos are “We Put You In Your Own Documentary” and “Natural History By Sea Kayak Since 1983.”  We have to charge money to stay in business and maintain quality, but our real purpose is to turn our guests into knowledgeable environmental warriors.  

I also want to point out that our guide team is the only professionals in the bay, and paid accordingly.  While other companies pay B100-200/day, they often take kids out of school to avoid the minimum wage, and cannot teach sea kayaking, caving or natural history because they are neither kayaker nor naturalists, we train our staff to be professionals, then pay them accordingly.  (In 21 years I have never seen another owner or manager in the bay.) Our starting pay for English speaking guides is B500 plus benefits on up to B1,200 for lead guides.  I often put three lead guides on the boat just to guarantee top quality.

While the other companies buy cheap Chinese river kayaks, I custom design our caving kayaks and have them made from the world's strongest inflatable boat fabric in Oregon, USA.  

Doing sea kayaking right is expensive, and as you pointed out, we are the only one who does so.  If I were a hardnosed businessman I would charge B5-6,000 to make a real profit by catering to small groups from high-end hotels only.  However, I want to spread our environmental ethic to families and general tourists.  

I also point out that in the past 21 years I have collected 8,531 trash bags of marine rubbish from Phang nga bay, much of it with the logos our copy-cats.  I hope you noticed we use only glass bottles, and our Thai traditional coffee was not instant.  It all adds up.

All that considered I think we do a good job of just staying in business - but at the same time I am highly concerned that you were disappointed with your experience.  My apologies.  Perhaps for you, a James Bond trip would have been better. 

Again, I’m sorry that you were not over the moon with your experience, and I apologize.  If you have any feedback, I am all ears.  Especially on ways we can maintain quality yet save money.  I’m tired of being poor, and my backers have never received a dividend on their investment.

Now, if only I can find a motorbike taxi to take me home to my modest cabin in the jungle!

I look forward to your response.  My email is 

Again, my apologies.

See you on the water, Ling Yai (Thai for 'Big Monkey') AKA John Caveman Gray

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Leagalize Pot

I worked in cancer epidemiology research in the early 80's.  Facts do not lie - the three most dangerous things you can put in your body are tobacco, red meat and alcohol.  I actually diagnosed a friend with colon cancer who died at 42.  His diet was steak and Johhnie Walker.  

My best friend was the New Picasso.  Everything he touched turned into art, and he produced the first ever UCLA Film School Final Project in Animation.  When he was killed by a shit-faced drunk driver, we all were denied his future talents.  

More than 30,000 people a year die from drunk driving.  Since the bootlegger Mafia bastards vilified pot in the early 30's, more than 1,000,000 people have died on America's roads thanks to drunk driving.  In forty years I’ve NEVER heard of a pot-driving fatality.  

How many crimes, wife battering, child abuse and Darwin-Award style accidents have killed or brutalized people thanks to Alcohol Junkies and pushers?  

I just won an EU award and ended up in Amsterdam.  I spent an evening in a legal "coffee shop".  There were no fights, no loud sloppy drunks (read Southern Right-Wing Congressmen), no red Neck jerks - but there were lots of smiles and really great music.  I asked the last time there was a fight, or a police call - the manager looked at me like I'm crazy.

Read a medical manual.  When a heroin addict kicks the habit, they suffer a week of hell, but survive.  When an alcoholic kicks the habit, they have a 50-50 chance of living.

At 65, I just paddled the 28K Na Pali Coast solo in my kayak - on a rough day.  Show me an alcoholic half my age who can accomplish the same.

Oh, I forgot, my grandfather died at 64 of beer-drinking.  When he went into the hospital they couldn't find a vein that could accept an IV.

Distillers are the worst of humanity, the ultimate drug pushers, murders and basic criminals.  They used their prohibition money to legalize their filth, and they will now try to deny freedom of choice in the land of the free.  

Maybe, just maybe I will see pot legalized in my lifetime.  I just took my "65" physical and my doc says I only have another 30 or 40 years left - unless I break my neck in a rugby game!  

Distillers are as black-hearted, murderous and irresponsible as Mexican Drug kingpins or Tobacco company execs.  Never shake their hand, but feel free to spit in their face.- as you remind them of the more than 1 million Americans alone who have died as a result of drunk driving.

See you on the water, Ling Yai (Thai for 'Big Monkey') AKA John Caveman Gray

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 1, 2010


Used with permission requested
Salmon is not what it used to be. You could easily say that about all or any wild fish (especially after reading Paul Greenberg’s excellent Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food) but wild salmon, which used to be a highly plentiful wild fish, in both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, is now largely a farmed fish. From a conservationist perspective this is exceedingly bad, and from a consumer perspective this is unfavorable. Well things are about to get weird with our current farmed salmon stocks as the Food and Drug Administration just announced a 60-day period of consultation and public meetings over whether to permit a genetically modified (GM) strain of salmon to be sold for human consumption, even though it has been called a “frankenfish” by critics. The odds are (taking a good look at the power of the GM lobby) that this GM salmon will make it past critics and those skeptical at the FDA in less than a year, to find a home on American dinner tables nationwide.

Farmed salmon is a widely consumed and hugely popular form of seafood nationwide, and worldwide. Some estimates gauge that more than 30% of all seafood purchases in the United States are in the form of farmed salmon, and with this development, farmed salmon would have a new, somewhat tarnished, designate; as the first genetically modified animal bred for human consumption. According to an article in the New York Times from June, ” The salmon’s approval would help open a path for companies and academic scientists developing other genetically engineered animals, like cattle resistant to mad cow disease or pigs that could supply healthier bacon.”

The AquAdvantage salmon – a modified North Atlantic salmon (which ironically is almost entirely fished out of existence) – has been created by AquaBounty Technologies in Boston, Massachusetts, and has been created/modified, not to develop a greater flavor or nutritional profile, but simply because this salmon grows at twice the speed of similar fish, cutting costs for farmers and greatly increasing production. According to information released by the company (and gleaned from the Guardian UK) the genetic modification involves taking a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon and joining it with a control DNA sequence (called a promoter) from an ocean pout – an eel-like creature from a different family of marine organisms. The salmon, which normally feed only during the spring and summer months, would (thanks to this genetic upgrade) be literally switched “on” by the added pout gene, which will trigger them to feed year round. The result is, not necessarily a fatter fish, but one that grows larger and faster – considerably shortening the time to market. Translation: this development is only to benefit producers, not consumers.

Surprisingly, one of the opponents to this GM product is the International Salmon Farmers Association, which is concerned about the reaction of consumers and that it will undermine the popularity of salmon, which commands high prices in the US. Considering that the FDA still remains on the fence, as whether or not they will require the fish to be labeled “Genetically Modified,” it is fair to say that some cautious consumers may be ultimately turned off by the idea of consuming this dubbed “frankenfish.” 

While the FDA has established an advisory committee of veterinarians to consider the evidence and public views on the subject of this GM seafood, and consumers have a year or so to make a stink, this will likely be a messy fight over dinner. No doubt, if this fish gets ultimately rejected this time around (this particular crossbred salmon has been 15 years in the making) it will be tinkered and tooled with and again offered up to the FDA (and the American public) for their approval a few years down the line.

This is indisputably a difficult issue, and one that has a high emotional range. Consumers, ecologists, and health professionals remain highly skeptical when it comes to genetically modified anything, and for good reason – we simply don’t know how this particular trifling with nature will impact us, as consumers, as well as the surrounding natural world. 

Will GM fish make consumers sick down the line? 
Will the GM fish infect or impact other wild fish stocks? 
Will this open a Pandora’s box of biological exploitation and a general sullying of our natural food systems? 

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon App├ętit among other publications.

See you on the water, 
 Ling Yai (Thai for 'Big Monkey') AKA John Caveman Gray

Bookmark and Share