August 30, 2003 - Singapore

'Repair will not be economical'

I did not waste much time since I'm here. Basically I dropped the camera and housing yesterday at the Olympus Repair Center and I pressured them for a quick report. I had the conclusion this morning: 'repair will not be economical' and as for the housing they don't have spare parts so it is not repairable. I will fax the conclusion to DEPP (insurance) and hope that it will not take too long if they accept to replace it as I don't want to waste too much time (and money) in Singapore.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2003 - Singapore

Singapore

I just arrived at Singapore a few hours ago after a quiet train journey. It is really worth it compared to the bus as you can lay down and sleep well at least. I cleared off the immigration quickly and crashed into 7th Storey Hostel where I'm staying into a 4-bed dorm for S$17.

 
Posted by stephane at 04:57 AM | Comments (54)

August 28, 2003 - Malaysia

Off to Singapore

I just left around 11:40AM this morning from the Perhentians (Long Beach more exactly). I just did some snorkeling in the morning to take some more pictures underwater and managed to bump into another turtle. Later on, after packing and drying my gear, I took a fast boat to Kuala Besut (30RM) then a taxi to Kota Bahru shared with other travellers (28RM). I bought my train ticket to Singapore (48.5RM 2nd class sleeper upper bed) and I'm waiting around as it leaves at 7:50PM. I found an internet shop not far from the station and surprisingly it is extremely fast and cheap (2.5RM / hour) so I'm trying to keep up to date. I just have to deal with kids and adults fighting to get their speakers as loud as they can when playing Counter Strike, FIFA Soccer or just playing music. All this topped with screams all over the place.

 
Posted by stephane at 09:54 AM | Comments (3)

August 27, 2003 - Malaysia

Temple Of the Sea - Part II

I went back to Temple of the Sea. I could not leave without trying it again to take pictures with the camera and luck was with me as I had a flawless dive. I was diving with Frank, another french that just bought a Sony DSCP-10 in Singapore and who was in the Perhentians for vacations and a cool divemaster named James, he is a slow diver so all was good for us. Franck and I were very happy to dive with him. Conditions were slightly worse than last time but still it was awesome.

 
Posted by stephane at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2003 - Malaysia

More about the Perhentian

I first heard of this place when hanging out with people in Capetown. A Capetonian diver/backpacker told me about this place as a must-dive spot. Well he was not wrong, dives are simply amazing here if you're lucky enough to dive in a good visibility (conditions are very changing).

 
Posted by stephane at 04:30 PM | Comments (2)

Mullet Deep & Twin Rocks

I did Mullet Deep in the morning with a visibility ranging barely from 2 to 15m and with 2 different thermoclines (basically we were freezing at the bottom). I managed to spot a giant eagle ray passing by over us despite the crappy visibility. In the early afternoon I went back to Twin Rocks. The first time I did it it was in about the same condition as Mullet Deep with a visibility well below 5m. Today however was simply amazing. Of course we were attacked by those nasty titan triggerfishes hanging around. In the late afternoon I went snorkeling in front of the beach and bumped into a green turtle that was kind enough to allow me to touch her belly and take loads of pictures. She did not seem to bother too much.

 
Posted by stephane at 04:22 PM | Comments (2)

August 25, 2003 - Malaysia

Temple Of The Sea

It was one of the best dive I have ever done, if not the best. We saw loads of fish all over the place (bamboo sharks, moray eels, giant moray, stingrays, triggerfish, parrotfish, anemonefish, scorpionfish, trevally, nudibranchs, and the usual suspects), good visibility, amazing soft corals. Simply stunning. Of course the camera was not working .

 
Posted by stephane at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003 - Malaysia

Squirrel

Pretty miserable camera day as well. It seems to eat batteries like popcorn, I have the power icon appearing after about 10 minutes and the camera shuts itself down. This is the normal behavior but it might be due to a current leak or a contact problem. Hard to say. I have the increasing feeling to crash the camera with a hammer to solve problems for good. I managed to take a few pictures however, and you will also see the squirrel hanging around Coral Sky Diver. He is very attracted by cakes and is usually there when people are back from the dives.

 
Posted by stephane at 01:53 PM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2003 - Malaysia

Mistery Reef

Loads of problems with the camera today. It's shutting down intermittently and I need to remove the batteries and play on/off game a few time to reactivate it. Contact problems probably, it's okay to do this on land but removing the batteries underwater is more challenging . I just have to accept it. The first dive at Mistery Reef was however very nice. Flat bottom around 24m, so bottom time is barely 30 minutes before deco. There are loads of critters however, it's very promising.

 
Posted by stephane at 01:43 PM | Comments (0)

August 22, 2003 - Malaysia

Perhentian

I just arrived in the Perhentian Islands around Long Beach. I took the night train from Chumphon to Songai Golok where I met Anya, a cool aussie girl that was going to the Perhentian as well. The trip was quite cool and managed to sleep well, so no regret at all. We teamed up in Kota Baru to share a taxi with 2 other people to Kuala Besut (RM24) and then took the slow ferry to the Perhentian Islands (RM40 2-way). I'm staying in a room in Rock Garden (basically a shithole) for 15RM. Internet here is expensive RM4/min so don't expect load of news before I'm in Singapore at the end of the month. FYI US$1 = RM3.8

 
Posted by stephane at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2003 - Thailand

US Visa

I suppose that is the price to pay when sending terrorists and when your governement does not back up the US politic in the middle-east, nonetheless I just learned that French now do need a visa issued after a private interview with US embassy staff. The process can take up to 8 weeks. Simply awesome. It concerns only old passport models prior to 2001 (mine is dating from August 2000) and of course they only issue the new model in France because of 'technical issues'.

 
Posted by stephane at 05:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2003 - Thailand

By The Way

Just a few words to express a big thank you to family and friends that have to deal with all my problems back home in France (paper stuff, IRS, bank, post office, ...) and that are solving it efficiently in a timely manner. This is more than I could do myself if I was there. So thanks again.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

Off to the Perhentian Islands

Just booked everything for tomorrow. I'm off to the Perenthian Islands in Malaysia. I should take the ferry back to Chumphon, then take the night train to Sungai Golok and find my way through buses and taxi to Kuala Besut via Kota Bahru, then the ferry, etc... I got the ferry + train ticket at B1084 at Tim Travel in Sairee Beach. It looks like it is barely the same price if you take the night ferry to Surat Thani followed by buses to the Malaysian border, so rather than travelling with pigs and bad weather with a tiring bus ride, I chose a more relaxed way.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2003 - Thailand

Shark !!

Aah this is the first shark I'm seeing clearly at Chumphon. I was diving with my cool english buddy Jim and we got an excellent dive spotting the major attractions of Chumphon: Shark and.... the yellow boxfish. Murphy's law was in action...I had fog in the housing and could not take a nice picture of this boxfish. This is the 2nd time I see it in Chumphon and 3rd time since I'm diving. The first time was in Aliwal Shoal, near Cathedral, it was a baby one that was as small as a thumb nail !

 
Posted by stephane at 11:57 AM | Comments (5)

Where Are you From ?

This is kind of a common question when meeting people. However it looks like I have a keen ability to fool people (yeah, I'm used to it for a long time). I hardly met many people that could guess I was French. Most of the time they think I'm German as it looks like I have a slight German accent in some sentences (French do think I'm english though until I speak French, 'ah, tu parles francais ?' ...). I do keep a slight French accent by my inability to pronounce most of starting 'h' and people start noticing it once they know I'm French. Today is a first however, my english buddy for the last 3 days told me he thought I was South African as it looks like I got an accent from South Africa. Now, that's interesting.

 
Posted by stephane at 07:29 AM | Comments (1)

August 18, 2003 - Thailand

Geek Story

I went to an internet cafe in Koh Tao with my laptop. Next to me there's the owner unmounting a desktop computer. After a few minutes he comes to see me with the computer power supply unscrewed.

 
Posted by stephane at 02:12 PM | Comments (0)

Disaster

This is not the name of a dive site but rather what looks like a diving day where the camera does not work. 2 pictures.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:34 AM | Comments (9)

August 17, 2003 - Thailand

Chumphon Pinnacle

Chumphon is one of the major dive site in Koh Tao and there is virtually good visibility guarantee (30m+), so this is no big news that we are often diving here. Major attractions are sharks (if you're lucky), the pinnacles are covered of anemones and thus there are plenty of Pink Anemonefish, and you find the usual suspects around here.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 16, 2003 - Thailand

Diving the New Way

Been there, done that. I woke up a bit early this morning as we left at 7AM and we were the first boat on SouthWest Pinnacle (appart from the liveaboards) . Excellent dives with those guys from New Way. Excellent spirit aboard as well, this was so much nicer than Ban's, really !. I highly recommend it. On the bad side this @#$& camera is working erratically and I have huge problems making it work correctly (well switching it on at least) as corrosion is affecting the batteries compartment. It did not work for the first dive. The broken zoom mechanism does not help as well.

 
Posted by stephane at 10:55 AM | Comments (3)

August 15, 2003 - Thailand

New Way

I finally decided to change from diving center and go with New Way starting from tomorrow. Ban's Diving Resort is really doing mass production of divers and fun divers suffers a lot from it.

 
Posted by stephane at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2003 - Thailand

Koh Tao


After the flood disaster from yesterday, I cleaned up everything and did another attempt as the camera is still miraculously working. I also tried to fix the zoom mechanism on the housing but I encounter a real problem as the screw that fixes it to the housing is an hexagonal one that is between 1.5 and 2mm so it is absolutely non-standard and could not find any wrench for it . Anyway, it did well for the 2 dives in the morning albeit shallow one (max 20m), I'm wondering what it will be around 30m as there is another bar of pressure.

 
Posted by stephane at 12:48 PM | Comments (3)

August 13, 2003 - Thailand

Arrrrgh ! Water !

I've been diving Chumphon again this morning with a loadcrap of people as you can see in the pictures (how come I'm not the only one ? ). At about 28m deep, surprise ! I see water in the housing ! S*** !!!! I managed to come up at the end of the dive with a relatively safe camera though I'm not sure how long it will work. Salt water and electronic usually don't mix well... I had 4 packs of silicat gel inside to work against air humidity here, the 4 packs absorbed a lot of water but I had the content of about 4 tea spoons when I opened the housing. This is no good.

 
Posted by stephane at 09:18 AM | Comments (2)

August 12, 2003 - Thailand

Chumphon Pinnacle

Second day diving with Ban's. Generally I can say this was a good day. Even though we were surrounded by divers all over the place, we managed at least to see something. I have been diving with Alberic and his friends. Alberic is a CSNE living in Bangkok and should leave by september for doing his round-the-world trip as well. Thanks to him we had a cool slow dive.

 
Posted by stephane at 03:00 PM | Comments (4)

August 11, 2003 - Thailand

Charter Diving Experience

I have been diving Koh Tao this morning. I went to SouthWest Pinnacle and guess what ? There were 57 people on the boat ! FIFTY-SEVEN divers ! When we arrived on the site there were about 6-7 boats as well. There were probably 200 divers diving the same site. I have never seen so many people underwater, this was just like Bangkok traffic at its peak. Simply unbelievable !

 
Posted by stephane at 10:35 AM | Comments (3)

August 10, 2003 - Thailand

Koh Tao

I managed to make it to Koh Tao a few hours ago. It was not a very long bus ride and was confortable relatively speaking. We left Bangkok at around 8PM, stopped on the road for 1 hour at midnight and arrived at the pier at 4AM. We then waited...and waited to board the ferry at around 7AM and we arrived in Koh Tao about 3 hours later.

 
Posted by stephane at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2003 - Thailand

Koh Tao, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan & Co

No need to spend more time than necessary in Bangkok, I need some sun and water to chill out. I'm leaving tonight to Koh Tao,a famous island in the east coast, south of the Gulf Of Thailand. I should leave by bus at 8PM from Bangkok, arrive at 5AM at the pier, take a ferry and put my feet on the island by 7:30AM.

 
Posted by stephane at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

Bangkok again ... via VIP bus, yay !

I left Chiang Mai yesterday evening around 7PM as expected. And yes ! The bus was a good one ! It was full of Thai people. At first I had a nice young looking woman sitting next to me, she looked like a bit surexcited as she kept moving all the time, I was wondering what the trip would be ! She was quickly replaced by a guy from Thai News as she took the wrong seat. Bad pick, This one was worse. Despite being half my size, he was taking twice the room and obviouslly did not care much. After all I'm a farang (foreigner), why would he care ? Add to this that he was clearing his throat and nose loudly every 10 seconds and you get the idea.

 
Posted by stephane at 06:16 AM | Comments (2)

August 08, 2003 - Thailand

Tuk-Tuk day

I started wandering around the city early today as I was already in the streets by 7:30AM. I found a nice place where to get some solid breakfast as I expected a long day. After some trial & error I found one. It was expensive (B100) but the american breaksfast was looking good. On the menu at least. I was not disappointed, it was really way above average and well presented. I then went to the post office to send a parcel to Europe.

 
Posted by stephane at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2003 - Thailand

Chiang Mai artists

Apparently, the Northern side of Thailand is well known for its teak woodcarvers. I can say for sure that their art is absolutely breathtaking ! So are their prices, this is absolutely out of reach for me right now. Most of it range in the B9000-B25000 ($200-$600). I however did some business with drawing/painting artists in the night bazaar. I went to a Kodak shop, ask them to print one of my digital picture from a few months ago (4x6" format) and gave it as a model. The drawing of the picture was executed in less than 12 hours and the quality is absolutely awesome. I had tears in my eyes when I saw the result.

 
Posted by stephane at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

Thailand on a shoestring

A few words about Thailand on the financial side. As you probably noticed, this is a hell of a tourist spot. No surprise here unless you have been living in a cave for the last 50 years. The most difficult thing is to pay attention about scams (been there, done that, you will obviouslly get caught once and even more). If you want to buy, clothes, bags, etc.. be prepared for some tough bargaining.

 
Posted by stephane at 12:01 PM | Comments (1)

Life in Chiang Mai

I did not do much lately, but one thing is sure, Chiang Mai is much better than Bangkok, life is sweeter here, less stressful and more importantly less traffic. Being the biggest second city of Thailand, it is no small village though and it is poised to become a real tourist hub with the future expansion of the airport as a truely international one (source: Bangkok Post). Thailand being such a touristy destination, you cannot walk 10 meters without bumping into a shop showing all it can do for you in the surroundings and beyond. Tuk-tuk drivers are also quite pushy here, but no as stupid as their colleagues in Bangkok.

 
Posted by stephane at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2003 - Thailand

Bangkok - Chiang Mai

VIP bus, inclinable seats first-class type, foods, drinks, air-con. That sounds appealing when doing a 12h bus ride between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The pictures are also there to give you an idea of how pleasant this night trip might be. For B550 compared to B300 for the simple air-con bus, well such luxury is affordable. And this is booked directly from the guesthouse that has been nice all week. So all is well, really, risks are at a minimum...in theory. I however start to have some doubts when a grand-ma is picking me up at the guesthouse and bring me to a dual-business shop, it does both a travel agency and ... a barber shop. An alarm bell is ringing in my mind as I switch to DEFCON3: 'scam ! scam ! scam !'. After all, a travel agency and a barber work in the same business, they do shave the client like a sheep.

 
Posted by stephane at 03:31 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2003 - Thailand

Server Switch

It seems that the switch to the new server is now effective (maybe). Though your mileage may vary depending on how your ISP updated your DNS cache. For example, in one cybercafe, I'm directed to the old one while I'm directed to the new one in another cafe. If you are reading this, you have the latest articles and pictures from Hong-Kong and the Philippines.

 
Posted by stephane at 04:33 AM | Comments (2)

August 04, 2003 - Thailand

Grand Palace

Wat Phra Kaeo is the holiest site in the country and host the image of the Emerald Buddha. It is located inside the Grand Palace. From my point of view, there is no interest in this site appart from that the ticket (B200) also gives you a right to enter the Vinamnek Mansion (otherwise B100). The Grand Palace, is huge and absolutely packed with tourists, it makes your tour absolutely miserable and you are better off spending time in less touristy areas.

 
Posted by stephane at 07:10 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2003 - Thailand

Wat Po

Wat Po is Bangkok's oldest temple (mmm....it looks like to me I have been reading that already somewhere) and is most famous for housing the enormous statue of a reclining Buddha. Howver the main purpose of my visit was the traditional Thai massage.

 
Posted by stephane at 03:15 PM | Comments (2)

Royal Barges Museum

I started lazily my day around 11AM and had lunch in the streets near Khao San (at B15 a Pad Thai with one egg it is no budget killer). While eating, I got asked by 2 tuk-tuk drivers where I wanted to go. Well for now I'm eating but as I need to lose some time, what about talking to some hawkers.

 
Posted by stephane at 02:24 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2003 - Thailand

Jim Thompson's House

As again frustrating taxi experience. ' Jim Thompson's House please'..ok this one does not work..'Thompson ?' ...nothing... 'aaah JaymeThoomson house ?' YES !! Oops ok he seems to know the name but not the place..great..I open the map and show him...ok he obviously cannot read english so I show him the Thai for the streets nearby.. and I realize that he obviously must have some eyes problem and need some corrective lenses. Presbyopia has set in. He puts the map 80cm from his eyes to read... that's more than enough to have the Thai characters looking like a single point in the map...

 
Posted by stephane at 01:41 PM | Comments (1)

Chatuchak Weekend Market

I did not want to bother with a tuk-tuk (and the woman at the guesthouse told me that it was too far for a tuk-tuk anyway) so I took a taxi to the Chatuchak Weekend Market (B70). First step, trying to make the taxi driver understand where I want to go. I give a try to 'weekend market' as trying to speak thai is a frustrating experience due to the tones. These words don't even produce a small light in the eyes of my driver...ok I give a try to 'chatuchak market'. My driver smiles big time: 'aaaaaaah sunday market ?!" mmm well it's also on saturday but go for it...

 
Posted by stephane at 01:15 PM | Comments (0)

Want to Speak Thai ?

Most Thais who deal with tourists speak some english, but off the beaten track (which might be your taxi next door ) be prepared for the worse, Philippines is heaven in comparison. Even when they speak some english words I do have some extreme problems with most asian accents and even understanding the guide in Vimanmek Mansion was not especially easy and I had to focus hard. However don't expect to master Thai this will sound even worse.

 
Posted by stephane at 08:17 AM

August 01, 2003 - Thailand

It could have been worse

I'm still having lots of problems with the server. Murphy's law was in action yesterday as support told me that the backup hdd also failed in the morning meaning all data were destroyed. Luckily they have been able to past over it and the migration to CPanel7 is now effective. I lost all pictures that I uploaded while in the Philippines and some articles but Fabrice was normally able to download them yesterday evening with the whole site (300MB) so he should be able to upload them soon. Email addresses @bearaway.org are still not working so this is somewhat still blackout on this side. For the record, I found this morning a fast (128K) and cheap (B30/h) internet access in Bangkok at Pitak Travel in Chakraphong Road just next to the Bang Lamphu canal.

 
Posted by stephane at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)