Saturday, March 29, 2008

a velvet renaissance

It was fun while it lasted, but a close brush with both death and the local authorities is probably indication enough that something wasn't too right last night.

Point to note: No compromise. Period.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

an introduction to eat, sleep, dive

Day 3 - The Andaman Sea (Similan Islands)

Our boat had continued the journey to the Similan Islands as we slept. In the morning when we woke, we found that the previous night's blank landscape of endless black sea had changed into one of a green tropical island surrounded by calm waters lapping at the rocky edges of where land met the sea.

After washing up and then having a few slices of toast with some Milo ('pre-breakfast' sustenance), we had our first dive briefing.

East of Eden...our first dive of the trip!

Team KL + Aussie Kyle...almost all suited up and ready to jump in!

Logging our first dive after breakfast. Very enthusiastic bunch we were as you can see!

Miko playing the good responsible teacher.

Our daily schedule was pretty much wake up, dive #1, breakfast, break, dive #2, lunch, break, dive #3, afternoon tea, break, dive #4, dinner, break for the rest of the day. Pretty much 'eat, sleep, dive' as you can see. Haha =)

While most of our time was spent at sea, there were occasions whereby we made short excursions to shore on our rubber dinghy.

This was our first island excursion...Similan Island #4 if I recall correctly. No resorts. Uninhabited by man. Absolute beauty.

Here we see three homo sapiens subjects displaying their natural instincts when returned to their original habitat.

As a child, Tarzan had always fascinated me.

Our dive liveaboard, the Manta Queen II. If you look carefully, you can actually spot two of our fellow divers (Lawrence and Jacob from Austria) jumping from the top deck of our boat into the water.

Day 4 - The Andaman Sea (Similan Islands, Koh Tachai)

Sunrise at approximately 6.30 am.

[Picture from Kyle] At the Boulder City dive site, we had our first encounter with medium-sized pelagics during the trip. A solitary leopard shark resting (sleeping?) on the sea bed.

[Picture from Kyle] Surface shot of one half of Team KL and Aussie Kyle after diving Boulder City.

Inspired by the guile of the Austrians, we decided to take 'the leap' this morning as well. This was when we discovered that jumping off the top deck is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Here, Yao is poised for a painful (ouch!) landing.

[Picture from Kyle] Second dive of the day was at Elephant Head Rock. Lots of massive underwater boulder formations which made for interesting 'swim-throughs'. A tiger cowrie is pictured here.

[Picture from Kyle] Easily the strangest-looking thing we encountered throughout the whole trip. A frogfish! Also sighted at Elephant Head Rock. Quite cute me thinks.

[Picture from Kyle] Lionfish @ Elephant Head Rock.

[Picture from Kyle] Yao and I.

Island stopover at another one of the Similan Islands.

Yao and I explored the massive rock formations by the beach while Angie and HT chilled down at the water's edge. We caught some pretty amazing views from the top.

This thumbnail of a picture doesn't do enough justice to its beauty. I'll probably post a larger one somewhere, sometime.

Another spectacular sunset while journeying north to Koh Tachai for our 2nd night dive.

We were due to travel to Richelieu Rock the following day, which is easily the most famous dive site this part of the Andaman because of the high frequency of spotting whale sharks there this time of the year. After dinner that night however, our divemasters got wind that quite a large number of liveaboards were heading towards Richelieu Rock as well and so we changed our plans a little to travel immediately from Koh Tachai to Richelieu Rock after dinner, have an early night and then be up and ready for a sunrise dive by 6.30 am the next morning.

And so we obediently went to bed early that night. With anticipation running high, I actually dreamt we saw whale sharks =p

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

two days of 'filler' activities

Last week's trip to Thailand sure was good fun while it lasted. I think enjoyed it so much that I reckon it ranks among the top 5 trips that I've ever had! Quite a lofty accolade that.

Despite the inconvenience of lugging my chunky DSLR around, I persevered and therefore managed to chronicle most of our journies over the 7 days and 6 nights that we were there. It helped that Angie also brought a camera for the trip so that I was able to at least feature in some of the photos! And a BIG PLUS for us were the underwater pictures that we conveniently *ahem* copied off our fellow dive groupie, Kyle the Aussie from Brisbane, after he had paid THB3000 to rent the camera for 3 days. Generous fellow he was ;)

Day 1 - Phuket

[Photo from Angie] Thailand welcomes Team KL (as we came to be known as on our boat later)! All smiles as we touch down...probably smiles of relief because we came SO close to missing the flight!!

Promthep Cape - the southernmost point of Phuket. A really popular location to catch the sunset. Lots of tourists and locals.

We were not disappointed =) It was cute that the crowd actually applauded as the upper curvature of the orange sphere dipped below the horizon.

We had dinner at Patong Beach. It was loud, crowded, commercialised, tacky...I wasn't too fond of the place.

We spent our first night in Phuket Backpackers - a very nice budget place downtown. Clean and pleasantly very comfortable, although a little far from the beaches.

Day 2 - Phuket / Khao Lak / The Andaman Sea and beyond

The common area in Phuket Backpackers. The only time we got to check our email/Facebook in Thailand.

We spent the day walking around Phuket town aimlessly. In doing so, I took some random shots.

[Photo from Angie] Tuk tuk!

Engaging in more 'filler' activities at the local coffee junction. How much longer 'til we jump into the water???

After an hour and a half drive from Phuket town, it is approximately 6.30 in the evening and we are in the quiet coastal town of Khao Lak, standing at the doorstep of Khao Lak Scuba Adventures. Oh, the anticipation!

After settling some preliminaries, we are finally on the boat! Tom, one of the 4 divemasters on board, gives us the opening brief.

Fireworks are let off at the bow and we are off cruising the Andaman Sea headed west. First stop - the Similan Islands!

Tomorrow is a brand new day.

Tomorrow we dive.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

a warm 'sawadee khrap' from Phuket

(think it means "near the Thai Airways office, and near the market")

I've probably said this so many times over the last 2 days that coupled together with my *ahem* exotic Thai looks, I think I could easily pass off as a local. Haha. Well, HT tells me that adopting a more nasal-sounding speech adds to my authenticity.

We've been here in Phuket for almost a day now and it's been a really relaxing holiday so far. After we checked into our accommodation at Phuket Backpackers, we raced to Promthep Cape to catch a most spectacular sunset. It's basically the southern-most tip of Phuket.

We then got our driver to take us to Patong Beach where we had some Thai food for dinner. Walked around Patong Beach a bit checking out the MANY shops lining the roadsides. Didn't buy anything though. Was contemplating a Thai massage but the places looked a tad dodgy. I don't think any of us were looking for 'boom boom'...just a simple good ol' Thai massage without the 'frills' =pWell, then it was back to the hostel to crash for the night.

We took things slow and easy this morning as well. Basically just ended up walking around Old Phuket Town, exploring a local market, having and extended brunch at a local coffee shop, and then chilling back at the hostel. Basically, all 'filler' activities before we head to Khao Lak and then to the Similan Islands later today.

A second lunch (and maybe a third!) looks to be on the cards after this =) Then, I think we'll probably just chill out at a coffee junction down the road while waiting for our driver to come.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


5 minutes into the fifteenth of March two thousand and eight. At long last, the day has come!

I'm pretty much all packed and this time, I WILL NOT forget my passport!! =D

Monday, March 10, 2008

10 percent

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index plunged upon opening today, and continued its free fall until the index was down 10%, triggering a market-wide circuit breaker that resulted in the halt of trading for an hour. It was the KLCI's biggest single-day drop in recent years.

A knee-jerk reaction? A politically-motivated action? An opportunity to pick up cheap stocks?

I'd be very cautious if I were you.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

8 March 2008

A historic day in Malaysian history.

Barisan Nasional suffers its worst loss ever and loses 2/3 majority in Parliament for the first time in its history.

Veteran BN ministers are ousted from their strongholds by relative Opposition newbies.

The Opposition coalition wrests control of 5 states including Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah and Kelantan. Kuala Lumpur falls to the hands of the Opposition as well.

A wave of change could be on the way.

Today, I feel proud to be a Malaysian.