Thailand

30th Nov

I have been soooo lazy in the last few days. It is just too humid to move and I just don’t feel like doing anything. My transfer to the airport is in two hours anyway. I am looking forward to seeing family in Sydney and being in a less humid climate!

— WARNING: RANT ON FOX NEWS FOLLOWS—:

I have been watching lots of news on the TV to catch up with the world. I am getting into Fox News but you need to question every word they say (or imply). For example “Is Global Warming A Hoax?“. It really annoys me when non-experts like Jim Inhofe can state that the scientific consesus is a fraud and there is no expert there to rebut his claims (and the presenters did not press him on evidence). Perhaps it is an inconvient truth that much of his campaign donations from the energy (oil) industry. And don’t even get my started on Fox News’s medical science coverage!

— END OF RANT —

The situation in Fiji seems to be getting more unstable.

29th Nov

I noticed the Foreign Office has advised against all travel to Fiji. Hopefully things calm down before January or I will have to change my plans. I might spend time in New Zealand or another Pacific location instead.

I personally find outside the Dive Centre and Hotel a bit of a culture shock. This is amplified by the signs being mostly in Thai – which I don’t understand. The area seems pretty seedy with quick access to very seedy. Getting around its interesting with unsafe looking mopeds and rip off taxis. However the food is excellent.

28th Nov

I have returned from the live aboard trip to the Similan Islands on Marco Polo. I have not been able to do updates while I was away. We were even outside of mobile phone converage for the entire time. Incidentally my email is again having problems – urgent message use SMS text.

The passangers and staff on the trip were mostly Germans – all except one Czech, one Portuguese and myself. The rest of the group were friendly and often used English when I was around so I could follow their conversations. We were all experienced divers with at least 50 dives each. I think this is the first time on a live aboard when I was the most experienced passenger. The staff (boat and diving) were very helpful. They translated the briefings into English. One of the instructors looked very similar to Eddie Izzard and I could not help thinking of that every time I saw him. I would say this was the best liveaboard trip I have had (on the other had the other two were disasterous). I would strongly recommend Sea Bees Diving especially if you speak German or you were part of a large group. Everything was very well organised (German efficiency?).

The diving in the Similan Islands was excellent. Water temperature was 29C visibility 30-40 metres except when there were upwellings that lasted for a few minutes (25C, 5 metres visibility). The types and abundance of fish and turtle life was impressive – comparible to or better than Marsa Alam. The coral life I would say was not so good. The underwater terrain was rocky with steep and interesting formations. The currents were moderate to strong but apparently this is a seasonal variable. We were out of the manta and whale shark season and we did not see any this time. My only annoyance with the diving is we were swimming into currents more than 50% of the time. Typically we plan to dive with currents to save effort (and therfore air).

I did see and photograph many other interesting species. I have good photos of sea horses, turtles, ghost pipefish, porcelain crabs and others. I am looking forward to viewing them on a computer. If I can, I will put some on this page in the next week or so.

I found and read The Laughing Policeman book by Sjöwall and Wahlöö on the boat. I am currently lacking books and I will buy some new ones when I can.

I am back in the Palm Garden Resort where several other passengers are also staying. I am currently enjoying doing nothing much – sleep, TV, reading Australia guide books. Tomorrow I might go into Phuket town.

20th Nov

Not much news at the moment. I have been diving daily around Phuket. I have a few problems with my diving equipment but replacement parts were found by Sea Bees. Their boats are excellent for diving and very organised.

I am going to pack tonight as I am going on the liveaboard tomorrow for 6 days. I doubt I will have an opportunity to do web site updates for that time.

17th Nov

I was diving with See Bees today. They have a large dive boat so it is easy to assemble the kit. Most of the people on the boat are Germans along with various others. The visibility was not particularly great today at about 10 metres. I hear the visibility varies considerably depending on the weather conditions. The water is very walm at 29C to 30C. We saw several leopard sharks, moray eels, shrimps. I have several photos that are promising and I am looking forward to seeing them on the computer.

I found the movie channel on the hotel TV and saw the end of Indiana Jones (Crusade), end of Labyrinth and 99% of Lord of War.

16th Nov

I am just getting my bearings in Phuket. The area seems to me like a small Egyptian town but surrounded by jungle, everyone drives scooters and its very humid. I have booked into Sea-Bees diving for day trips on 17th to 19th. The hotel, Palm Garden Resort, is quite fancy by my standards with a pool, mini bar, laundary (thankfully) and restaurant. All the signs in the town are in an alphabet I don’t even recognise (Malay? Update: Actually just Thia alphabet) so its harder to understand many things. I suppose it’s a benifit (for me) of colonialism that the British imposed English signage in South Africa and Singapore (and Austrialia and America I imagine).

The hotel computer I am using now is running the Apple Mac operating system. It is also configured for German I think. Since I have never used a Mac and I don’t speak German, it’s quite hard to use. That is probably an unfortunate first impression of the system.

My plan today is just to sit around the hotel. I feel too hot to move almost! I have a few books to read that I purchased in Singapore.

Singapore

14th Nov

I just got back from Sentosa Island and I was not particularly impressed. I used the cable car to get to Mt Faber and then to Sentosa. Both were really commercial in an annoying way. It was like being trapped in a hotel and you can’t find the exit. There was a large amount of building work on Sentosa so hopefully things improve. The best part was seeing the Central Business District over the container port.

I finished reading Pawn of Prophecy which was an easy read, predictable in some ways (but not entirely luckily). That probably reflects it was published over twenty years ago. I will get the sequel when I can.

I have almost finished Introducing Nietzsche by Laurence Gane. He had some amazing ideas. One thing I think I disagree with is altruism is always contrary to noble ethics but I will have to read more than I summary of his work to see. I thought: what is the source of altruism in Darwinism – and it turns out to be beneficial in the long run. Update: I found that Nietzsche had already thought of that and agrees with what I said. In Ecce Homo he wrote “Expressed morally: love of one’s neighbour, living for others and other things can be the defensive measure for the preservation of the sternest selfishness.”

The retail sector in Singapore is huge. I have seen so many shops my head hurts. I suppose it is better than having one large shop that sells everything! Large general shops don’t specialise and you can’t get any obscure items (I think this when shopping in the UK).

My next update is likely to be from Phuket, Thiland. Fortunately, I don’t have much packing to do this time. Hopefully I will be able to locate an internet cafe. I am looking forward to warm water diving.

13th Nov

I have been busy and my legs are worn out from going places around Singapore. Thing I saw yesterday included: Fullerton Hotel, Merlion statue (or at least one of them), Esplanade Theatre, Dalhouse Obelisk, Lim Bo Seng Memorial, Cenotaph, Tan Kin Seng Fountain, Civilian War Memorial, City Hall (there was a cool free modern art exibition), the old Supreme Court building, the new Supreme court building that looks like a UFO, Raffles Hotel, various Raffles statues, etc.

Today I saw: Siong Lim Temple, Zoological Gardens (featuring white tigers and manatees), Kranji War Memorial and Sim Lim Square (a 6 floor mall filled with electronics shops).

I also remembered other major differences to the UK: high humidity, heavy showers.

My last full day is tomorrow. I plan to go to Sentosa Island and around that area.

12th Nov

Now I am looking around Singapore. It’s quite a different culture. It has a feeling from the film/novel Starship Troopers in attiude. The streets are very clean, there are signs banning this and that, posters encouraging joining the military, very efficient public transport, seeing police occasionally, funny count down signs when crossing the road saying how long you have left, food courts, death penalty for drugs, lots of high rise housing and offices, UK style power sockets, expensive alchohol.

I spent the first day looking around the Botanical Gardens and the National Orchid Garden. There were loads of locals(?) that were doing photography. It started to get overcast so I headed back feeling jet lagged. I was caught in the rain. I dozed from 2pm until 6pm – it was still raining. The hotel is fine and rather basic.

Today I was walking around the Colonial District which is filled with other tourists. For some reason, I can’t get to my email at this internet cafe so I am a bit out of the loop for a day or two.

South Africa

9th Nov

I was in the city doing tourist things today. I went to the main museum in Cape Town and had a long wander ’round. They had an excellent underwater section on whales, sharks and rays. I also went to the Green Square Market and Company’s Garden Park.

I hoped to be able to go to the top of Table Mountain but the cable car was closed because of poor visibility. I instead drove to Signal Hill which has a wide view of the area.

I have started packing for my flight tomorrow morning. My next update should be from Singapore.

8th Nov

I was planning to dive today but I found I forgot my booties when I got to the harbour. That was annoying but I found other uses for the day. I went to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. There was a strong wind and the sand was being picked up and thrown at speed at my skin and eyes. When I was near the water this was less of a problem and I had a look at them.

I drove down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. They are within a national park and have loads of spectacular views. I walked up to the disused lighthouse at Cape Point and saw more southern right whales in False Bay.

I am now back at the B&B. The neighbourhood strikes me as really European with the types of houses and gardens. There are lots of horses and riding schools. On most of the houses there are signs saying “Armed Response” which is kind of alarming. The area is a semi rural “small town” suburb of Cape Town. On the other hand just next to the dive centre’s industrial estate is a township residental area.

Tomorrow, I plan to go into the city itself and ride the cable car up to Table Mountain – assuming the wind has not forced them to close.

7th Nov

Where to begin? I have been busy since my last update.

3rd: The queues at heathrow where really bad due to security wanting to screen for liquids. We heard that the liquids restriction was going to be lifted on Monday anyway. I wonder why they bother keeping to screen when someone plotting could just wait until Monday? I wanted in line for the security screening for 70 minutes. The flight was straight forward and I slept for about 4 hours.

4th: The queues for emmigration at Cape Town where again long (another 60 minutes). I was met by the Goose Green lodge people and transferred in no time to the southern suburbs. I am staying at a nice B+B. The owners are helpful and keep offering me lifts around the neighbourhood to save walking. I talked to the dive centre Scuba Shack about diving Sunday.

5th: First dives in South Africa done. I saw some small catsharks (up to 40cm). I tested my camera underwater without any problems.

6th: I did the great white shark trip with White Shark Projects. On the 2 hour drive from Cape Town, we stopped by at Hermanus to see a few southern right whales in the bay.

The boat trip was 15 to get to Shark Alley. We saw two or three great white sharks in the day. I got some good surface photos of them coming near the boat. They did not try hard to get the bait and we did not see the mouth out of the water (most photos of great white sharks seem to have this feature). Two groups went in the cage before my group to have a closer look. They were simply doing a cage free dive (breath holding) and not my perferred way of scuba. On the other hand they spent most of the time floating on the surface waiting. When it was out turn, we got in the cage for 50 minutes and saw nothing. But I have seen bigger sharks before anyway and I can imaging what I missed! 🙂

7th: I was diving near Camps Bay, north of Hout Bay. It is much colder than in False bay. I think today was my coldest ever wet suit dive (12C). We were forced into that by the wind direction and the chop in False Bay. On the first dive, a seal came over and was circling us for about 10 minutes. I took a few acceptable shots but he was moving so fast it was hard to aim the camera.

I was using my hire car today for the first time. The public transport system in Cape Town apparently sucks and taxis are expensive.

The plan for tomorrow is two boat dives in Hout Bay. Hopefully we will finish by 4 ish so I can drive down to the Cape of Good Hope. Everywhere around Cape Town is surrounded by spectacular mountains, its worth seeing that just by itself.

I am monitoring the Fiji situation since my route is going through there at the moment.

United Kingdom

3rd Nov

1PM: I am just about to depart on the next phase of my trip. I just got my scuba regulators back from being serviced – “that was too close”. I will try to update this site at least once a week but I am not sure how accessible the Internet will be on my travels. Check the trip overview to see what country I am supposed to be in. Next stop: Cape Town.

1st Nov

It’s freezing at the moment in the UK. I have done no packing yet. mm better start tomorrow or now.