Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I've just returned from Koh Tao, a tiny island in Thailand famous for being a diver's paradise. I've been wanting to accomplish being a certified diver for some time now and I'm glad to inform that I've completed my SSI Open water certification at Phoenix Divers this Christmas. 

Here's my review on Koh Tao island as well as my experience on doing my SSI Open Water course with Phoenix Divers.


Why Koh Tao
Everyone I've met while backpacking Southeast Asia enthusiastically gushes 
   " Dive certification? You HAVE to go to Koh Tao! "

Curiousity piqued, I looked up this tiny 15km/sq island and was mesmerized by the white sandy beaches and aquamarine blue waters. I spent 6 days on Koh Tao and could have stayed longer.

Getting to Koh Tao
Honestly if I had known how long and how much effort it would take to get there, I may have written it off altogether. 

Step 1
Flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Surat Thani International Airport (2hrs)

Step 2
Bus from Surat Thani International Airport to Don Sak pier (1.5hrs)

Step 3
Speedboat / ferry from Don Sak pier to Koh Tao (3.5hrs by speedboat, 6-7hrs by ferry)

I flew in to Surat Thani airport from KLIA, then took a bus to the pier. On the day I flew in, the weather was very bad so there were no speedboats or ferries going to Koh Tao. I opted instead to head to Koh Samui (rather than the party island of Koh Phangan) first and stayed there for a night before catching a speedboat to Koh Tao the next day.

My impression of Koh Tao 
Bars, cafes, restaurants, surf and souvenir shops line the main stretch of Sairee beach. Every other building is a dive centre. Scooters can be rented for 150bht for 24hours. Accommodation is plentiful with backpacker hostels, guesthouses, bungalows, and villas catering to every budget. I stayed free of charge for the first 4 nights at AC Resort as part of my dive package, then stayed at Nat Resort for 300bht per night for a private room (fan) with double bed and shared bath for the remaining time.

I only stayed on Sairee while I was there. I had planned on getting a scooter and exploring more of the island, but bad weather prevented me from doing so. 

Why I chose Phoenix Divers
Being the thrifty backpacker that I am, I wanted to do things cheaply as possible. I googled
   " Koh Tao diving free accommodation " 

Phoenix was one of the first results which surfaced.

For 8500bht / 1015MYR, your package entails
  • SSI Open Water course - all theory materials provided (they loan you the studybook and also provide a diver's logbook for free)
  • 2 pool dives and 4 open water dives in the ocean (refreshments provided on the boat as well ; pineapple and watermelon slices, biscuits, coffee and tea, drinking water)
  • Equipment rental (wetsuit, an oxygen tank for every dive, BC vest, fins, and dive mask)
  • Accommodation (your choice of 4 nights in an air-conditioned dorm / 4 nights in a single fan room)
  • Breakfast (4 days of breakfast with a 100bht coupon for every morning)

Accommodation and FnB
I'm guessing that Phoenix actually has some sort of arrangement with AC Resort and AC Cafe (the resort and cafe next door to the dive center) to throw in breakfast and accommodation together with the your course. Real value for money if you ask me!

Accommodation review: Room was clean, cool, and spacious. It was a huge 16-bed dorm with air-conditioning, but while I was there I never saw more than 5 beds occupied at a time (on my last night, I was the only occupant). Shared showers and only cold water available - which was alright for what you're paying but it would have been great to have a hot shower especially it tends to get really cool in the later months of the year. 

Front entrance of AC Resort

My dorm

On site pool for new divers to practise before going to open water

Breakfast review: " You can't expect much for free. " I always say. However, AC Cafe definitely surpassed my expectations. For 100bht, you could choose anything from their menu from toast with butter and jam (40bht), ham and cheese omelettes (80bht), muesli with milk (50bht), coffee shakes (50bht), Pad Thai (80bht for the best Pad Thai I've had in my life!), fried rice (50bht plain, but price goes up with chicken, seafood, or pork)

Muesli with yogurt and fruit by the beach

I'll say again that for the price I paid, I probably wouldn't even have complained if I'd had to bail water out the boat from a leak (kidding). 

However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that Phoenix never cut any corners and delivered solid value for money. 

There were no hidden costs, instructors (mine was Alex) were friendly, knowledgeable, and professional, equipment was all in good order. Would definitely go back and highly recommend them to anyone looking to do some fun dives or a dive course on Koh Tao (they also provide Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver, Divemaster, Wreck Diving, and more).

What else is there to do on Koh Tao?
Diving, paddleboarding, snorkelling, sunbathing, swimming are the main activities to do on the island. However if you want to do something non-water related you can go exploring on a scooter and there is also a a CrossFit gym (I walked past late at night and they were closed) and rock climbing wall.

Lots of people take a 10 minute boat (250-300bht for a return trip) to the nearby Koh Nangyuan for its gorgeous beaches and incredible lookout point. I did this on my last day there was was definitely glad!


Koh Tao was awesome and I'm looking forward to heading there again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Ever since it started trending, it's been a feeding frenzy among teenagers and young adults. The rapid rate of unexpected engagement is rather intriguing if not alarming.

In case you still haven't gotten a clue, I'm talking about

A lot of people are madly in love with the idea of entrepreneurism, but not what it takes to become one. 

Is being an entrepreneur as sexy as it's made out to be? Just like pornography, entrepreneurship has been glammed up to an unrecognizable degree from what it's truly like in real life. 

All around me are people launching their own startups in the hopes of becoming the next Uber or AirBnB. Nevertheless, behind the hyped up grandeur and fancy facade, there's a lot of yucky nitty gritty lurking behind the scenes.

What do you really need to become an entrepreneur and what's really in it for you at the end of the day? Here's serving you a healthy juicy dose of harsh reality before you strip and expose your naked self to the world of entrepreneurship.


Business Model
I know of someone who quit their stable job to become an entrepreneur because they were sick of working for someone else. They enjoyed shopping and were into fashion, so they decided to start a business based on that. They went sourcing for apparel at cheaper prices directly from factories in manufacturing countries. The idea was to get the goods at warehouse rates, then sell the clothes on their blogshop at marked up prices.

It's been a few years down the road and the person is still stuck in the hamster wheel cycle of simply buying cheaper and selling higher. While they are working a whole lot harder, they aren't making much more than when they used to be a hired staff - definitely not what they had hoped for when making the decision to become their own boss. Besides that - while they used be assured a monthly income, they now have to worry about the uncertainty of whether they will have sufficient business come in to cover them for the month. Sometimes, it isn't enough.

What makes your businesses valuable and different? Are you providing easy cut-and-paste products and services which can be easily copied by someone else - thus rendering you forgettable, or are you coming up with valuable ideas and long term processes which can evolve to suit trends and opportunities that may emerge? 

So you came up with this great idea and you want to quit your job to become an entrepreneur. Firstly, do you have enough funds to support your cost of living (pay the rent, car installments, petrol, food, phone bill, insurance, miscellaneous, etc) while you get your business off the ground?

Secondly, do you have the capital to invest into getting your business off the ground? I know of another person who decided to become an entrepreneur in the FnB scene. 

These are just some of the things they had to put up cash before they even opened for business:

  • Machines and cutleries (coffee makers, freezers, stoves, cash register, plates, bowls, glasses, etc) 
  • Raw materials (butter, flour, oil, sugar, milk, coffee, pasta, etc)
  • Furniture and fittings (lights, electrical sockets, renovations, chairs, tables, deco, etc)
  • Rental (Rm5000 upwards not including utilities for a medium sized shoplot in a residential part of PJ)
  • Staff salaries for 3 - 6 months

Most people I speak with express that ideally, one would need enough money to cover their cost of living as well as business operating costs for one year.

Which leads us to the next part of the question. If you don't have that money, how are you going to get funding?

Click on this post written by my friend Jon Tse, Co-Founder and Head of Digital at Zookal :

How Students Can Raise Millions in Capital - Without Networks or Experience

(Zookal started off in Sydney as a textbook rental company, which expanded to provide other student-centric services such as virtual tutoring, internships, and more. They expanded to Singapore last year and are currently making waves in the tertiary education scene down south.)

Time off
A huge moth's flare which people usually associate with being their own boss is that they get to work on their own time. This true, but also not. 

I know two people who started their own video production company fresh out of graduation. They had worked freelance for film production companies and they felt they understood the industry well, it was something they were passionate about and good at - they decided to band together and give it a shot. 

They do everything from client servicing, concept and planning, talent sourcing, filming and editing. They are amazing at what they do, but due to it being just the two of them - they haven't had time off in forever. They don't even take off on sick days because of the backlog it would cause.

Keen on giving them a shot? Tell the boys at Grenos Film I sent you their way.

When a business is your own and you have your heart and soul in it - you never want to take time off. You will work during weekends. You will work on public holidays. You will work past midnight. Even one day away causes you to be jittery and anxious. You want to be there to address every unhappy customer, every hole in the system. Until you get to a point where you have built your team, trained them well, and are able to trust their discernment to make decisions and ability to take action on your behalf - keep on dreaming about your next holiday.

Experience & Network
Several people say things like how they want to jump right into it upon leaving high school or uni because they 'don't want to get bogged down or distracted from their entrepreneurship goals by working for / with someone else', but you need to know there's value in working for and with others.

I know a different person who decided to launch their own media production startup right out of graduation with no industry experience or contacts. They went at it for about a year, but it never gained traction. 

What happened? 

From my perspective, these were the underlying issues.

   1. Not understanding the competitors nor their allies
Who are our competitors? What are they doing? How can we be better than them? How can we be different? What other businesses improve our value? How do they improve our value? Can we reach and collaborate with them?

   2. Not understanding the market and accurately identifying their customers.
Who are our customers? Where do they hang out? Who do they hang out with? What are they eating, reading, drinking, and watching? What do they dislike? What do they like? What problems do they face in their daily lives and work? What can we do to help them?

I know another bunch of guys who started a fitness coaching facility recently. All of them had a wealth of experience and contacts from their time working in the fitness and corporate industry. It took them years of planning before they took off and they a are relatively young startup, but they were able to leverage off their network and solve business obstacles based on situation they encountered in their previous jobs.

If you're keen on joining their team or are looking for guidance in strength and conditioning, tell the Honey Badgers I sent them your way.

Finally, the last big question to ask yourself - what is the ultimate goal? What do you really want to achieve?

   A big fat bank account and an easy life? 


   Providing a solution to a problem and making a positive impact?

If you answered the former, you are in no position to become an entrepreneur. There are ways to have more money that are less demanding - work part time, save more, sell off clothes on Carousell, become an Uber driver, buy some stocks, etc. 

I have tremendous respect for those who have chosen this path, but I observe that many have poor planning and were unaware of what they were getting themselves into. 

Embracing entrepreneurship is facing down a bucking rearing wild stallion, shaking with uncontainable fear, gripping your knuckles white yet jumping on not knowing if you will be able to tame the beast or get thrown off and trampled to death.

Being an entrepreneur is no walk in the park. It is not knowing if you'll end up bust and in debt, yet being willing to give up your stable job to give it a shot. It is having a big idea, having the right people, and being adaptable and able to build processes to suit a growing and evolving audience. 

And if you don't have that - you may want to hold off writing that resignation letter to your boss.