Down day in BKK

Day 55, Tuesday, 28 Feb 2012, Bangkok

Woke up feeling a wee bit jaded but not too bad, the worse thing was it was hot last night so I did not sleep in the sleeping bag liner and am now covered in itchy mosquito bites, thank goodness for tea tree oil or I would have removed a fair chunk of skin from my foot, it was that itchy.

Today was planned to be a down day so we didn’t do much in the morning.  I was talking to someone over breakfast about the sunrises and sunsets over Angkor Wat and she has convinced me to not send my tri-pod back to New Zealand, I would be kicking myself over and over if I did. I did package up a few things I no longer use to send back and will get them in the post tomorrow.

Late morning we caught the train back to Siam Square so I could have the mandatory jaded McDonalds and do some basic shopping. After numerous failed attempts I finally tracked down some more zip lock bags, yes ! it has been a mission i can tell you. They are not as good as the trusty Glad Bags but at least I can get my phone and mp3 player in one so they don’t get damaged in any sudden downpours. Also picked up a whole bunch of other bits and pieces on my list, so shopping all done – except a new umbrella, haven’t found one yet, bloody Cebu airport! We had a walk around the square and I photographed a few of the sculptures.

Awesome, a special place for the indy kids to hang !

I just loved this piece of art on the wall outside the gallery.

This guy was really good, he got some great sounds out of these buckets.

After the mall and Siam Square it was back to the hostel and booking accomodation for Siem Reap in a couple of days and flights in and out Myanmar – just hoping those visa applications are approved! The smoothie  cart near the hostel.

After getting flights booked and some basic plans made we went and checked out another of the food stalls up the road from the hostel, think this may have been the best food in bangkok so far. A very tasty yellow curry.

The music bit…

Yesterday I said I would do a bit on The Subliminals, however last night over a few plastics (in lieu of glass) of cheap whisky I found the below link (actually i was looking for illegal downloads of a couple of NZ bands – though I do own the originals, honest!).

Jay Reatard RIP (1980 – 2010). Jay did a show at the Kings Arms in Jan 2009, which I photographed for the cheeseontoast website. It was a great show, two awesome bands.  I really enjoyed Jay’s slice of poppy punky music, some of his songs reminded me of the best bits from the Mint chicks (oooo, must mention them soon) . Jay’s untimely end was a real loss to the music scene. Jay @ Kings arms hotel in 2009.

I didn’t know this track existed till tonight.  This is a Toy Love song, Chris Knox was the vocalist (and well deserving of an entire blog post), I think this track may have even preceded Toy Love and may be an Enemy song, whatever it is a stone cold NZ classic punk track.

Toy Love –so good ! and as much as they hated it, the album was awesome.

Holy shitballs, Youtube is great! here is The Enemy on Radio with pictures (the best NZ music show ever) and I was right – it was an Enemy track.

A day at the embassy

Day 54, Monday 27 Feb 2012, Bangkok

Grrrrr, lousy sleep again, so tired again today, I really wish I could just go to sleep any where and any time and sleep till I wake up or the morning – whatever is more important at the time. It is so frustrating.

Today was Myanmar visa day, so Mike and I set off soon after 8.30 to the Myanmar embassy, it is conveniently located close to the Surasak Skytrain station which is the station before Saphan Taksin, where we caught the boat yesterday, in fact the skytrain almost goes over the top of the embassy. (subtle hints for anyone thinking of a Myanmar visa)

In rush hour being a monk would be a good thing, as long as you were first on.

 The embassy opens at 9.00 and we arrived at 9.15, there was already a big queue waiting to get in.

The word on the street was to go up to a small shop just up the road to buy the visa form for a few cents so it can be filled in on the street while waiting. The shop will also photocopy the front page of your passport and take the required two passport photos (and sell you a pen) if you need all that stuff. It was a nice little business for them, and handy for tourists, so good for us travellers to support those who show initiative – and don’t try to rip us off…

It took about thirty minutes to get to the door of the visa section, luckily we were in the shade as it was hot already. Mike getting excited about getting into the air con !

Once inside we queued for another thirty minutes or so, just to get a number so we could sit and wait some more…. after almost another hour our number was called, we handed over the passport and the money and left, two hours after we arrived. Passport pick up was between 3.30 and 4.30. it was now 11.30 so Mike and I decided to catch the boat again and head up to the infamous Khao San Rd to check it out.  KSR is not infamous for its girly bars it is primarily famous as the backpacker hub of Bangkok, but for the beer guzzling, party all night type of backpacker, not the forty somethings interested in temples and stone heads type, hence we are not staying there.

This monk was obviously second on the train this morning!

KSR is a couple of streets away from the river and we stopped for lunch at one of the big backpacker cafes, I had a very nice chicken cashew and banana/coconut shake. We started to see the first signs of KSR habitués here, a few dreadlocked and tattooed teenagers drinking large bottles of cheap Anchor beer for lunch. It is definitely a more bogan area than the hostel we are staying at– and I imagine a hell of a lot noisier at night, though the day time liveliness is good. We only had an hour so it was a quick walk around.

Loved these phone boxes.

While waiting for the boat I had a wee walk around and found Phra Sumain Fort, built in the late 1700’s. As part of the defence of Bangkok –  a moat was built around the city, with fourteen forts at strategic points. Only two forts now remain – unfortunately you cannot go into them.

While reading some ones blog on applying for Myanmar visas this morning I found a reference to Bangkok’s ghost towers. Apparently there are (were) a number of unfinished and therefore deserted towers scattered around the city, they have collectively been called ghost towers and are popular with a certain type of photographer. We passed one today….

We got back to the Myanmar embassy just after 3.00 to join the (not so) happy throng waiting to collect their visas, it was stinking hot so we all gathered on the shady side of the road, away from the visa section door. At about twenty past a couple of people started to gather near the door and then there was a sudden rush to queue in the sun, luckily they opened the doors a few minutes early!

And here the story turns – well, not bad, more – frustrating.

After five minutes of queuing I got to the counter and handed over our ticket to collect our freshly visa stamped passports, and….. was advised that ours would be ready on Wednesday as we had paid for a three day turn around and not a one day…. F**K. There was not one single sign or notice of any kind inside the embassy advising on visa turnaround times or how much the visa cost, when I handed in the forms was I was told 1820 baht so that is what I handed over… Oh well, back to the hostel and hope we can get two more nights (we could). We had planned on another day in Bangkok as I want to do some shopping for travel things, insect repellent for instance and I also want to post some stuff back to New Zealand, all the clothes are clean mum – honest. Guess we get another day of sightseeing – yay more temples!

We headed back to the hostel and I managed to find a cardboard box at the local hardware store, I have tried a few places lately, so I can package up things to post – going to send the tri-pod back as it is getting heavy to lug around and I am not using it enough , along with some clothes and all the tickets and brochures and crap I have collected over the last few weeks (most of which I am sure I will toss when I finally get home !).

After a wee lie down we wandered up to the supermarket where I bought a bottle of whisky – no need to rush out of bed tomorrow and a packet of Pringles.  Though I did stop and get some satay chicken and salad for dinner on the way back to the hostel.

Another night in, blogging, emailing and drinking cheap scotch!

The music bit.

Loves Ugly Children were a Christchurch band from the late eighties to mid nineties, they released two or three great EP’s (I have two and may be missing one) and a couple of great albums and remain one of my favourite NZ bands.  Flying Nun records are apparently about to release a compilation CD, which I will look fwd to getting.  Their sound moved around a bit, but underneath the noisy/punky/thrashy sound was some great pop song writing. Simon McLaren has to be one of NZ’s best un-heralded musos, he was in The Subliminals as well, which I will do tomorrow I think. I will also confess to a wee crush on the bass player Fluff back in the day….

Sights, sites, pets and food

Day 53, Sunday 26 Feb 2012, Bangkok

Not my finest blog post, certainly not a post the day deserves, I really enjoyed the temple and the palace visits, but have run out of blogging steam tonight. Will let the pictures tell some of the story – so warning – lots of images in this post…

As I sat down to type this post and entered the date I realised that today is my second month anniversary of travelling – well done ME !  Five weeks ago I wasn’t sure I would make two months, but in a reasonable groove with it all now.

I had a good sleep last night for a change so up at a reasonable time, a quick breakfast and then out the door by eight for a day of playing tourist and visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, two of the key sights in Bangkok.

We took a couple of trains to the Chao Phraya river where we waited a while to get a ferry bus up river.  The river boat was pretty full with tourists though it was a good ride upstream. Saw Wat Arun out the side of the boat which I will aim to see another day. Today was supposed to be 33 degrees and sunny, so two sights today was going to be plenty.

Wat Arun

We got off the boat near Wat Pho, and were fortunate to get there early enough to miss the worst of the tourists, though the same cannot be said for the Grand Palace later in the morning…

I loved Wat Pho, if it wasn’t so hot and there wasn’t so many people I could have spent the day there wandering (and wondering) around looking at all the stone statues, the buddhas, the stuppas and the buildings, it was just very cool.

It is the largest temple in Bangkok and its key feature is the temple of the reclining Buddha, the Buddha is 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf and was spectacular.

As you would expect there were many Buddhas!

More on Wat Pho –

After a couple of hours at Wat Pho and suffering an increasing number of tourists, we took a walk up the road through a solid line of hawker stalls to the Grand Palace.  Mike is easy to spot with the bright yellow dive bag !

The palace has a strict dress code of no shorts or open toed shoes, so it was long pants and shoes for the day. It is rigorously enforced.

The Grand Palace was started in 1782 and was the home of the Thai King and the centre of government for 150 years. The detail work, both here and at Wat Pho was extraodinary.

It was really crowded here and I kind of gave up trying to get shots without hoards of people in them.

One of the key sights of the palace is Wat Phra Kaew, the temple of the emerald Buddha. The Buddha is carved from a solid block of jade and was made in the 15th century. The temple is the most sacred Buddhist site in Thailand. I am wondering if the hitting yourself on the head with a bit of wet fruit is a tourist thing…Painting the walls of the temple.

The walls of the ordination hall are covered in panels detailing Buddhist history, the murals are quite ornate.

I was trying to get a photo of this soldier and finally gave up waiting for this group of kids who individually getting a photo taken, so I shot them too.How’s my blue bandana 🙂

Mike decided to head back to the hostel and I wanted to return to the market from yesterday to see if I could pick up some more t-shirts and see the pet section as Mike heard about it last night and heard stories of snakes and baby crocodiles. We parted at the train station and I jacked into some headphones and gave my ear drums a blast of punk rock for a while. The market was more crowded than yesterday morning and a lot hotter inside as well, I was already pretty warm after the sweltering morning so it was a rather sticky hour spent wandering around the mass of stalls. SadIy I didn’t get any more t-shirts, only found a couple I liked today and nothing was in my size !  I did find the pet area, no crocs, but I did find some small snakes, and some piglets.  There were a lot of “no photo” signs, round the snakes so I grabbed a hasty and pretty bad shot.

After a couple of hours chillin in the hostel and getting a whole load of washing done and shooting a sunset, Mike and I went out for a meal at the local hawker stalls just up the road from the hostel.


Making my Pad Thai..

The hostel street from the Skytrain bridge.

Auckland band Kitsch have been around since the mid nineties and still gig now and then, a great pop-punk band, they deserve way more recognition than they ever got. This song 11 11 is off the great 2002 release “love songs for romantic punks”

Gallery – things tourists wear.

Seen at Bangkok Grand Palace

Two camers – each !!!  WTF are they the paparazzi ? was there something on I missed ? No – just photogs with too much cash, note one is Nikon the other is Canon.

Ok, I am sorry, I know I am no fashionista and photographing people purely to mock them is wrong, but come on guys, no-one should not wear hippy pants, yes it was friggin hot today, but you look stupid!

The worlds biggest market

Day 52, Saturday 25 Feb 2012, Bangkok

As seems to be the tradition lately I had a lousy sleep, if I  slept at all.  Up earlyish for an explore of the hostel and to see if they had free breakfast at or at least coffee –  they do.  The hostel is nice, roof garden, good views and a nice little shrine out the front. We are on the 4th floor, under the roof garden and there seems to be a good number of, mainly young, people here. It was a good choice I think, hard to choose hostels on the internet.

After breakfast I got the wireless log in and checked my email and had a message from an old friend Trudi.  I travelled Europe in a Volkswagon Kombi van in 1987 with Trudi, two of her sisters and my then wife, Deana. Trudi is Australian and is working for their immigration service out of Colombo in Sri Lanka and has come to Bangkok for the weekend with her daughter Bella. We made a plan to meet for a meal later in the day, it will be great to catch up as I have only seen Trudi a couple of times in the past twenty five years.

The plan was to go and see some of the key sites this morning and then head to one of the big malls for some aircon, lunch and for me to get a few things, zip lock bags, new board shorts, t-shirt and more USB drives being top of the list. However the hostel manager told us to go checkout Chatuchack, supposedly the worlds biggest market, which is only open on the weekends and a convenient ride away on the Skytrain – so we did…

The market is huge ! 9000 booths selling a mix of clothes, shoes, bags, shoes souvenirs, fake watches, jewellery, household items and general tat. I loved it and could have spent a day there perusing and shopping. The t-shirts were amazing, the best range I have ever seen of t-shirts that I would buy for ME to wear, I may go back tomorrow and buy a load to post to NZ, at about $5 a shirt you cannot go wrong. I did buy some new O’Neil brand boardies ($10) a t-shirt ($5) and a pair of shorts with zip pockets ($6), that I wore tonight and may be a bit small, damnit – i think it was all the beer 🙂

Not one of the shirts I would wear, but i did like it.

We walked around for a while and then stopped at a food stall for, what was an awesome, chicken noodle and cold drink lunch.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the market, especially after the Philippines, was it was entirely smoke free, even outside ! Bangkok – you are awesome.

We then caught the Skytrain to the MBK mall which was on the way back to the hostel, this mall is again huge with over 2500 shops!

But similar stuff to the market, though I did pick up another dry weight t-shirt for a couple of bucks and will send some other less useful clothes back to NZ tomorrow – though mum,  I will wash them all first time ! I sent mum a package from Miri in Malaysia with some not quite so clean articles in and it just arrived the other day, I think mum had to wait a couple of days to build the courage to open it.

On the subject of packages, earlier this week I also received an email from the shipping company in Auckland advising that the box of stuff I delivered to them before Christmas to ship to the UK (my good camera, laptop and winter clothes) finally left on Feb 24th!

 Outside the mall there was a group of what appeared to be uni students, doing something, not entirely sure what, there was a small march and some “singing” and dancing and some dressing up, I dont think all the girls were girls 🙂

After the mall we went back to the hostel and I did the usual catching up with blogs and emails and talking to friends. I also gaffer taped over the video record button on my camera as I keep accidentally pressing it and recording hours of video of the inside of the lens cap – and flattening the battery. I finally found a use for the small amount of gaffer tape I brought with me! Some bits around the hostel.The neighbours.

I caught up with Trudi and Bella at Asok station, couple of stops up the line from where I am staying, we had dinner in one of the local food places and it was the hottest noodles I have had – had to have a couple of Singha’s to wash it down. Great to catch up with Trudi and I am tempted to go to Colombo on the way over to Europe. I will see what flight options there are.

The view from Asok station.

After dinner I had a beer on the hostel roof with Mike and then called it a night.

A good first day in Bangkok, clean, easy to get around and reasonably hassle free – it was much better than I expected.

Auckland band Muckhole were around in the late nineties but I only saw them once. It is a big call but I think they are my favourite ever Auckland punk band, I mean I loved the Spelling Mistakes and the Scavengers, The Warners and a string of other bands, but these guys were cool and their records were well made and sounded great. Muckhole – Cool guy

Umbrellas are deadly weapons.

Day 51, Friday 24 Feb 2012, Cebu – Bangkok

Last day in the Philippines today, shame to have spent it in Cebu, I would much rather have my final taste of the place on one of the dive islands – but it is too risky to rely on getting from anywhere to the airport in time for the flight to Manila and then on to Bangkok. I have mostly enjoyed the Philippines, I have done some great things here and met some good people. The poverty in parts did get me, but that was possibly more because I was on my own and it was more in my face. I will have to get used to it as it is no better than in many other places I am going to visit soon.

I had breakfast with Mike in the hotel and we booked some accommodation in Bangkok,  hoping they get the message in time as we probably wont arrive there until close to 2.00 AM and most places lock up at midnight – well the quieter ones that I am attracted to anyway.

After breakfast I spent some fruitless time on the slow internet in my room trying to do some emails as I have a big backlog to reply too – sorry 🙂 and doing my weekly data backups to usb drives etc.

The hotel was covered in icons, awesome.I checked out at 12.00 and spent a couple of hours in the hotel cafe using the internet and planning a loose route for the next month before Mike  I caught a cab to Cebu airport for the first of the days two flights, firstly to Manila and then on to Bangkok in Thailand.  The blind boys of Cebu were playing in the airport, they got all my change.

Airport check in went OK but as we were going through security to the departure lounge and had our bags x-rayed and we were told we were not allowed to take umbrellas on the plane. I said “What ! my umbrella is 6 inches long” I was told it was Cebu airport policy. I got my umbrella out and threw it on the desk and got told off for being grumpy, I said that this was my 10th flight in 2 months and I had never had an issue with my umbrella – I walked off and had a coffee… Very annoying ! My mum bought me that travelling umbrella and it was really useful in those sudden downpours.

Loved the guitar centre in Cebu airport, Auckland – you are missing out by not having one !

The flight to Manila was pretty smooth and we landed on time, just on sunset.

One of the key features of Cebu Pacific Air is the ‘fun’ time in the middle of the flight, where the crew host a group activity, often this is some people – either the crew or volunteers, singing a song until someone guesses the title. It was amusing, and on this flight we had a woman who could actually sing !

We had a three hour wait at Manila airport so occupied a corner couch in an Italian cafe and used their, mostly hopeless but free, wifi. Just before the flight to Bangkok I managed to knock an almost full glass of red wine over my shorts, ran round in a panic trying to find a new pair in the airport shops, but nothing really fitted or appealed – I need a new pair of boardies as mine now have a hole in them. By the time I had found there was nothing to buy the wine had dried and wasn’t too obvious so I just rolled with it. The flight was delayed anyway…

Not a bad flight, a bit bumpy and a bit squashed for three or so hours. I couldn’t sleep even though it was 1:30 am when we arrived in Bangkok. Immigration was all straightforward, though long queues but our bags were there so we grabbed a cab and headed for our hostel – HI Sukhumvit, and hoped they stayed up to let us in !

Sukhumvit is a road in Bangkok, that has an area named after it, our hostel is on one of the many small side streets, and our cabbie really had no idea… The main drag was very busy, traffic jam at 2.00 am ! you first hit the street at the western end and for me it was an OMG moment – and not in a good way. We passed girly bars, street bars and scores of older men with young Thai girls at the street bars. It was all my Bangkok nightmares come true, and I was really thinking if this is what Bangkok is like I am gone tomorrow! Fortunately, that is only one end of the street and a few kms down the road (after a miss turn or two) we found our nice YHA hostel in a very quiet residential street, and they let us in at 2.30 am as well….

We had a three person room booked as there was no two’s left but it is still cost effective has aircon and the wifi works ! it also proved to be very quiet too !

Ah, bed – but little sleep.

Time to step away from post rock today, had a wee bit of a noisefest session late this afternoon when Mike went out for some food as I was meeting an old friend for dinner. I am writing this post tomorrow, is that confusing ?

God bows to math are an Auckland noise rock band (named after a song from the brilliant old school punk/alt rock American band The Minutemen). They release their first album at the end of 2011 and it is pretty damn good – if you like noisy guitars and yelling – which I do…  Slow decline

Diving over – back to semi-reality

Day 50, Thursday 23 Feb 2012, Malapascua and back to Cebu

Last morning in Malapascua, shame to leave as it is a nice place, could have done with a few more English speakers for it to have been great. I was surprised at how little I spent considering I stayed in  a resort, did seven dives and my advanced open water certificate. After a final breakfast I packed up my stuff and went down to the beach to find a boat back to Maya.

I didn’t have to work too hard on the boat and was soon being made offers for a ride, but was only interested in a shared boat at under one tenth of the price of a private boat.  I got on board one and spent a good thirty minutes waiting for more passengers as they only leave when close to full. Three Poles arrived and we were chatting away when 2 (I think, they were defiantly tourists) Filipino’s arrived with two motorcycles… This was going to get interesting…..

These guys are obviously used to moving large and heavy objects off the bangka boats as both bikes made it on board with no dramas.

Had a good ride back over to Maya and when we arrived the tide was out so we call had to move to a large dingy to get to the wharf (of course for a few more pesos). I was really interested as to how they were going to move the bikes….

But again no dramas!

The Polish trio and I agreed to share a private car back to Cebu, significantly quicker than the bus and with the four of us it was only a couple of dollars more and we got dropped at our hotels. They have pretty much convinced me to visit them in Warsaw in June when the football European Cup is on, so I am likely to take them up on the offer, if I have any money left by the time I get to Europe. I have pretty much been convinced to go dive the Red Sea on the way over as well…

The road to Cebu

Back to the Mayflower Inn again, different room with lousy internet this time. Caught up with Canadian Mike, who I met on Malapascua, at the hotel and we are going to travel together for a few days and see how it goes, we are on the same flights from here tomorrow afternoon to Manila and then Bangkok. It will be great to travel with someone again!

We spent a couple of hours discussing travel options and trying to find some last minute accommodation in Bangkok for 4 days. We arrive at midnight Friday so will stay the weekend and then try and get Myanmar visas on Monday morning. Plan from there is to go to Angkor Wat for 5-6 days and then on to Myanmar for 2-3 weeks.

Had dinner at a local bar, food was OK but it was thick with cigarette smoke and just too unpleasant to stay in. So back to the hotel and a night in front of the TV and my first shave in nine days – that took some time !

If you have been reading my blog for the last couple of days you will have read that I am a big fan of instrumental post-rock music, today’s post will be the last post rock one for a while, don’t want to over  do it 🙂

Sora Shima were (I am calling them split up, though an album is coming) are from Hamilton, New Zealand and I have seen them quite a few times, and photographed them more than any other recent band. This track “tornado versus trailer park” is probably my favourite post rock track and this video was shot at the last gig I attended at the Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland, a great venue but lousy for photographers. I was standing next to the videographer and those early flashes were me, though I hate using flash at gigs!

Wall dives and sunsets

Day 58, Wednesday 22 Feb 2012, Malapascua

I will start this post with a minutes silence to remember the earthquake in Christchurch a year ago today. I have a few good friends there and thankfully none were amongst those that died or were injured. Though, all my friends were impacted by the event in a real way, through loss of job, damage to property or serious injury to a close friend. Christchurch – today our thoughts are with you.

It was nice to not have such an early start today, considering the large rum I had just before bed and the very early start I had lousy sleep last night, really hoping this is not a return to normal as I have been enjoying some good sleep.

Breakfast at a leisurely 7.30 and then meandered up to the diver shop for the 8.45 dive briefing, I have not worn shoes or sandals or even jandals for three days it has been great to just be barefoot on the sand!  There were thirteen of us on the boat but my group was a dive instructor, a trainee instructor and one other diver (he had 12 years diving) which really put me in the junior diver position – as well as the oldest diver… That I was the junior became quite obvious as the day went on!

Kids on their way to school as the dive boat is loaded – it must be so much better than walking to Green Bay Primary!

The first dive was about an hour and a half away by boat and from yesterday I learnt to bring some entertainment and secure myself a decent spot on the boat – so once on board I plugged my ears into some sounds and lay down for some faux sleeping.

The dive site at Nunez Shoal is an underwater atoll with a shear wall drop to 220 metres. The current was quite strong as we dropped into the water but the visibility was amazing. We cruised across the atoll and the lead dive master gave the sign to drop as we hit the wall drop and stared into big blue. If you have never gazed into the blue depths off the edge of a reef and looked down into the blue fading into black (I am sure there is a song title there somewhere) you will not understand how awesome it is !

We dropped down the wall to the maximum allowable depth of thirty metres and then just let the current move us along the wall for a while. There was not a HUGE amount of life on the reef, though plenty of things to look at, with some great coral, and lots of things below in the dark…. We slowly drifted up towards the top of the atoll and spotted a good array of nudi branches, moral eels and all the usual tropical fish suspects and all too soon it was over as my tank ran low. Being a noobie to the diving, and deep diving especially I suck air a lot faster than the pro’s, the instructor used half as much air as me, as we talked about the dive he commented on the amount of effort I put into fighting the current ! He also uses the same rig everyday – and for renters it takes a while to get used to even the smallest change in gear.

It was a good dive, stunning visibility  – wished I had the same on the shark dive yesterday!

From Nunez Shoal we motored over to Calangaman Island where we stopped for lunch – and a few photies.

A new definition of outside

The dive on Calangaman was similar to Nunez shoals in that we dropped onto a flat bed around 8-10 metres and then over the edge and down a wall to around 30 metres, though there was far less current on this dive.

This dive was pretty crap ! Someone used my rig from the last dive so I ended up with a tank with less air than I would have liked, given I suck more than others, this was not good. I started with 190bar rather than 220 that was in MY tank. I have also been using a fairly crap weight belt for the past three days and when I hit the water from our “giant stride” entry, the belt came off,  I managed to grab it but a 2kg weight came off and, well dropped like a 2kg weight. I got another couple of weights from the boat and guides but they were placed in the pockets of my BCD (buoyancy compensator) and I was out of whack for the whole dive, I really struggled to get buoyancy sorted and was up and down all over the show, which resulted in fast air consumption and a rough dive. This was a shame as the wall was amazing! Again – great visibility, even at 30 metres, we saw a huge tuna and swam in the biggest school of fish I have ever been in as well as the most beautiful soft coral forest. It  was such a shame to cut it short and surface 😦

The weather really packed in on the hour and a half ride back to Malapascua, with a massive downpour of rain – though no wind ! so the sea was flat calm and the rain drops on the surface looked fabulous – and not captured here at all.  it goes to show how fast the weather can change, from baking sun shine to heavy rain in an hour.

Soon after the rain stopped we were blessed with a visit by the local dolphin pod ! fantastic, we were all whooping and cheering as the dolphins frolicked –  slightly out of useful camera range !

The once deserted deck became popular again.

Finally getting back to the island for sunset.

All up my seven dives and advanced open water cert cost me about $480 NZD ! I loved diving here, and the sleeping shark was my personal highlight even though the thresher shark dive is the big one and the reason I came here in the first place.

After a good dinner in the resort and a couple of very cheap – and alcoholic cocktails I went back to my room to blog.

Tonight’s musical treat is from the last of the big three post rock bands, Texans – Explosions in the sky. I had the privilege of seeing them live just before I left New Zealand, and was blown away by their show.  I have listened to these guys for a while now and have used them for photographic inspiration a number of times, in fact a few of my old images – back when I bothered to name them, used titles stolen from EITS songs, as they have the most wonderful song titles. I guess being lyric-less the title of the song helps to invoke the image you want the music to portray.

I have been a big post rock fan for a while now, probably the genre I listen to most these days.  Oh, how tastes change, all those years of listening to punk rock and fuzzy pop and sneering at the idea of ten minute instrumental tracks, and here I am relishing a new fifteen minute opus…

Not my favourite track of theirs, but the most appropriate – six days at the bottom of the ocean

Sharks !!!

Day 57, Tuesday 21 Feb 2012, Malapascua

Today was 2102 2012 – If I had been home in New Zealand, this would have been a photography day, one of those cool dates that need to be documented somehow. But anyway, I did something way better!

Up at 4.00 AM, coffee, stagger about and then walk to the dive shop along the dark sand hoping that stingy, bitey “things” were not under my shoeless feet !

This morning was the deep dive that is one of the two compulsory dives for the advanced open water certificate I started yesterday (the other is the navigation dive). Co-incidentally the most famous dive at Malapascua, and the main reason people come here is at Monad Shoal, where you get to see thresher sharks and this is a deep dive so perfect for training.

The boat ride to Monad takes about an hour and a half and we got to watch the sunrise on the way out, I took a couple of photos but they were crap. The thresher sharks live way down in the deep and the reef off of Monad is one of the places they call home. Early in the morning they rise up to the shallows to be cleaned by cleaner wrasse, a small fish that, well cleans !  Contrary to David Attenborough’s (apparent) opinion thresher sharks also jump out of the water to clean themselves and I was fortunate to witness this twice, albeit at a distance, but seeing a shark (especially a thresher with its massive tail) jump is pretty cool!

The dive itself was tough, there was a strong current and this was my first time to 30 metres and I did get a bit of mask squeeze, though I was able to release it by loosening the strap – I found out later how to do it properly by blowing through the nose, which is pretty damn obvious. We also had to do a few of the exercises for the PADI deep dive certification. however, the reason we were here was to see sharks and we were not disappointed!

Visibility was a bit crap but we clearly saw 5-6 threshers, 1 quite closely and a couple did a circuit around our spot on the bottom. It was very cool, they are magnificent creatures, with the massive tail. All too soon our time was up and we headed for the surface. I could have stayed a lot longer !

After the thresher dive it was back to the main island for a couple of hours where I grabbed breakfast and a couple of provisions and was back to the shop for 8.45 (yes it was still early) and we headed out for the second dive of the day at the wreck of the Dona Marylin. A wreck dive was also part of my course and something I was very keen to do. The Marylin went down in a typhoon twenty or so years ago with the loss of about thirty lives, so is not the most popular dives amongst the local dive masters. Again visibility was pretty low at five or so metres, but the dive was great, we did not go into the vessel –  that requires a whole bunch of training – which I can really understand, but enjoyed the dive immensely – there is a lot to see on a wreck, so many recognisable things, like chains and wheels all covered in shells and small corals.

After lunch we dived Gato Island. Again crap visibility, unusual apparently for the site. As part of this dive I did the navigation test, along with a Finnish guy who was more unco in the water than me ! Me, looking rather feral and in need of a shave!

Gato Island –  it has a cave you can dive through, but need more experience to do it.

This reef dive has a number of white tip reef sharks and we saw the first almost as soon as we hit the water, for some reason I was completely at ease with the concept of diving with sharks, these are totally different to the threshers, who were only visiting the shoals for a clean, the reef sharks live (and feed) on the reef. But completely ignore us, we are way too big to eat.

Jules, our dive master was trying to get us to look into a cave when she had to back out as divers were coming the other way, as I backed out I put my hand on a  large sea urchin and got a couple of splinters in my fingers, not poisonous (I hope, and yes I checked) but painful at the time! We negotiated our way around to the other side of the cave and Jules beckoned me in and there was a 2.5 metre reef shark lying asleep on the bottom of the cave, with a smaller shark next to him. We stayed and watched, me in complete awe, for a couple of minutes – it was just AMAZING. Highlight of the day ! all the other sights, the navigation test, the moral eels, the lion fish  – everything paled into comparison to the site of a shark sleeping – stunning !

After the dive and the boat back to Malapascua, I had a great pizza dinner on the beach with the Canuks, Mike and Matt, a couple of beers and went to bed – a happy man ! Thresher Sharks and a sleeping reef shark, who could want more from a day.

Sharks – one more fear conquered !

I also talked to an English couple at the bar who have dived for years and everywhere and they said Mozambique is THE place to go…

Staying on the post rock theme, Scotland’s Mogwai are another of the big guns and one of the older groups, forming in 1995 and still gigging.  The majority of their tracks are instrumental, though they do some great vocal tracks, including a stunningly good cover of Guns and Roses, “don’t you cry” – only on a John Peel session and 1 of my top 10 songs of all time. I have a few Mogwai albums and their sound varies between each, some I like and some I don’t. Unusually, I really like the last album from 2011, “Hardcore will never die, but you will”. This is possibly also my most favourite album title of all time and I had a sticker of it on my last car.  (Though I will say punk band Chaotic Discords 1986 album “goat f**king virgin killers from hell” is pretty awesome as well.)

This track “I know you are, but what am I?”  is from the  2003 album “ Happy songs for happy people”