Southeast Asia

Category

Oh, such luck

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never always get what you wish for. Translated into diving terms: I didn’t see a damn Mola Sunfish in sight. But at least a manta ray or 2 graced us with its presence at Manta Point in Nusa Penida. Crystal Bay was supposed to be dive stop 2, but the extremely choppy sea meant that the captain of the speed boat took us to S.D Point instead where I actually had my first drift dive experience over a coral plateau. 7 kg heavier with a 5 mm wet suit in colder waters, I felt like a complete beginner struggling with buoyancy in the...

Bali Redux

“I’d sooner be eaten by a shark than be rescued by her.” So says a person who’s actually related to me when asked to volunteer as my unresponsive dive ‘victim’. As much as I’m able to ignore that particular lack of confidence in my rescuing skills, I’ve found the PADI rescue diver course with Joe’s Gone Diving to be the most challenging that I’ve ever done in my very…short diving experience these past few years. But everyone speaks highly of it (most shop owners/instructors I’ve met say the same thing) and someone had even gone so far as to say that it should be a necessity for all divers – at...

Phuket and its surrounds

The slow boat to Phi Phi – a good 48 kilometres away from Phuket’s Chalong Bay – was close to the equivalent of a slow ride to hell. Nothing to do with the weather really, but I slowly went out of my mind trying to find things to do on the boat, other than pace the narrow corridors like a convict. Denis was the only other recognisable person on the boat; the others came from yet another dive company and we soon found ourselves talking to Katie of San Diego, another lone diver who seemed content to sit in a corner of the slow boat to hell. Denis spoke fondly of...

Mass Dive

“I love pink,” Andy declares as he parades around the boat in a bright pink towel, then drops it conveniently in front of most of the people in the boat waiting to take their turn at the step-off platform as he points to Denis, my Nitrox instructor for the day. A mild-mannered French Canadian, Denis is built like a wrestler and strangely apologetic for the coarse things that slip out sometimes. But he is overshadowed by Andy (most people are anyway), who struts around like a peacock with an extra long tail. Yobbish, full of showmanship and bravado, bluntly hilarious and attention deficit, Andy—the owner of Andy Scuba Diving—makes himself the life...

Facing fears

On a recent abseiling course, there was a moment of awkwardness when we were all asked to introduce ourselves and why we wanted to learn how to abseil. When it came to my turn, I couldn’t even plead insanity, only that I was interested in adventure and that I was tentatively taking baby steps to wade into doing things that I’d only recently begun to crave. Then people started talking, and it amazed me how many of them actually signed up to abseil to conquer their fear of heights. In essence, it was to do the very thing they were afraid of, in a controlled environment where there was a...

The Cu Chi Stronghold

Scratch lightly beneath the slick veneer of modernity here and the old way of life that clings to the dusty side streets in the form of weathered women still wearing the Non La (the leaf hat) and hawking her wares emerges. Yet as much as Saigon powers towards the future, being in the heart of District 1 can be a harrowing time and a last-minute booking on Viator to the Cu Chi tunnels made sure that we had a day away from the madness here. As far as it typically goes with many of my travel plans, the day was off to an inauspicious start when a sweating and harried-looking Les Rives Experience representative arrived at the hotel a...

Food, glorious food

It’s hard to get over what Ho Chi Minh is really today; I use its old name as much as as I do its ‘modern’ one and maybe that encapsulates what this place is really about. Crossing the road is the experience that I’d go as far as to say metaphorises Ho Chi Minh – hesitate and get caught in an interminable flow of traffic that will not stop; go slowly but surely forward and you’ll get to your destination much sooner than you think. The obsession with Vietnamese food continued well into the third day and searching out Cục Gạch Quán was an inspired decision, which, to my horror, proved that we...

The Saigon Miracle

The heat is on in Saigon. After a confusing and unintelligible one-sided conversation with a taxi driver who stopped abruptly at the side of the road to exchange vehicles with another taxi driver, we made it (relatively safely) to the hotel. But I think the true miracle lies in not merely observing the chaotic traffic but walking in it. In a city of 10 million people and 7 motorbikes, crossing the road and coming out alive seemed to be a miracle each time. A short day and a half later, I’m truly thankful – as 2014 comes to a close and as far as ‘self-reflection’ is supposed to go – for limbs...

Manta Point

Along with 2 partying Aussie women, a Belgian who sounds vaguely Russian, a Swede who sounds too much like American TV and an unnamed European who loves Taiwan and Hong Kong, I made a quick trip down Sanur’s Jln Kesumasari and then we were trudging down the beach at low tide to get to the speed boat aptly named ‘Halloween’ given the time of the year. An hour later, we found ourselves at Nusa Penida’s Manta Point under the care of Ethel and Imam and gearing up awkwardly in the cramped space of a speedboat. And then it was a backward-roll and straight into bloody cold waters. “Great idea. Diving in...

Sanur Beach walk

I’m bad with free days on vacation. Without something planned on the agenda, I’m as lost as a pigeon without feed. Waking up late is a side luxury when I’ve been getting up at the arse crack of dawn the past few days and wandering down to the hotel’s bakery, I decided that the 4km-length of the Sanur beach walk might do some good. Under the scorching heat, I lasted merely a kilometre or so before hailing a taxi back to languish in the pool for a bit, while wondering how people manage to do this all day. But here, in Sanur, there are things to do still: shopkeepers to...