The train ride was about 5 hours. It was pretty comfortable and I didn’t mind so much but I always tend to mind the fact that the travel time alone takes away from the actual venturing into places/activities within your destination.
I had a glass of red with my double chocolate flavoured protein bar. Yep, that was dinner. It was actually pretty good.
I’ve been to Montréal a couple times before but it’s been years. I had forgotten how much cooler their subways are. Bonaventure, at night, could pass for sections of Batman’s cave. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had filmed neo-noir types of works here.
Besides jumping twice for mistaken stops and then missing my actual stop (nice), it was a pretty quick night as I had arrived around 22:30 and, thanks to Covid, everything was closed. So I met up with my friend, headed to his place, chilled, and called it a night.
We had some delicious salmon bagel with cream cheese for breakfast the next day… yummm 😋
After which, we headed over to Mount Royal, which is supposedly where the name “Montréal” came from.
“You ready to slowly die?” my friend asked as we approached the stairs.
“Why is it crazy long?” I asked in reply.
“Doesn’t look like it.”
“Oh, that’s just the beginning. There’s more up there when we get in.”
Yeah, no kidding.
I still wanna hike mountains at some point (I haven’t as an adult) but it’s good I got a taste of the kind of physical strain it might entail.
The view from the top was beautiful and breathtaking… literally.
It’s a small mountain in the middle of the city which is pretty awesome but my cardio: not so much.
My friend, on the other hand, was still very physically calm and stable when we got there.
On our way to grab some lunch and catch o̶u̶r̶ my breath, we passed by some quaint streets and an art studio. We intentionally stopped by to see some metalwork sculptures (Glen Le Mesurier, a fairly well-known local artist). I would’ve taken more photos of his pieces, which were all over the neighbourhood but everytime we were around the installations, it was either overcast or nighttime and there weren’t any proper streetlights around it; it just wasn’t enough light for me to work with.
We discovered that the entire building was essentially an open artspace (a bunch of studios, various types of media).
We’ve no control over when or where inspiration hits. Sometimes it happens when we’re exploring nature and sometimes it happens when nature calls.
We walked around downtown that evening… and if you know Gelene at all, then you would know that street art is one her priorities when she explores urban spaces because, as far as she’s concerned, a city isn’t a city without willful and orchestrated grime.
Fuckin’ love it.
(*in case you’re interested, there’s a great read that touches on its history, evolution/revolution across the globe along with its symbiotic role with society and industrialism, “Street Art: The Graffiti Revolution” by Cedar Lewisohn)
many thanks again for taking me around 🙂 I had a blast!
We also checked out core downtown where the museum and university are… but of course everything was closed. Duh.
It was still nice though.
We were going to check out Old Montréal (I’m after the architecture… yeah, Europe is mos def on my list) but our heinies started getting real cold ’cause the temperature took a sudden dip so we decided to do it in the morning instead. Exploring isn’t really fun, educational, nor productive when you’re uncomfortable ’cause then your thoughts and consciousness start to veer towards how cold you are vs just taking it in because you’re chillin’ (all puns intended).
I’ve never been to Europe but apparently, Old Montréal has a good grasp of the vibe.
I do remember being around this area some years back when I visited last. There were some skateboarders in the middle of town. It was a cool juxtaposition (old and, arguably, stern & formal-looking buildings vs post-modern graffiti skateboarding kids). They weren’t around this time but try to picture it.
Very few places allowed customers to use their toilets even if you purchase something so I ended up eating ice cream in the cold weather so I can use a facility. Inspiration didn’t hit that time when nature called but I enjoyed my dessert.
After this, we headed to The Biosphere, which was closed (surprise!) but the make looked interesting so I wanted to check it out.
We headed back to my friend’s place to grab some lunch and get ready for me to leave.
I got that dreadful feeling… you know when you travel and you get sad towards the end because it’s ending but, also, you know that it’s time to leave and that it’s the right thing to do (sometimes, I really hate being a grown-up)?
…like, it’s time to go. All things in due time, fortunately and unfortunately.
I was only there for a weekend with only 1 full day (Saturday) so I didn’t really anticipate going through that usual sensation… goes to show how much of a great time I had, I suppose. 🙂
My friend and I bid farewell to each other as I headed to the trains. By then, the dreadful feeling had already gone and was replaced by excitement of the idea of traveling, even though I was technically headed home. I looked forward to the 5 hour ride. I brought my tablet with me so I actually managed to be productive for a good part of it.
Conclusion: While global travel plans may currently be on hold for most of us, we don’t have to stop entirely. I’ve always meant to explore more of Canada but it’s not priority because I live here.
It’s much like how I originally intended to go to the Philippines on my last trip (February) but ended up in different places due to Covid19.
Sometimes we get taken off our anticipated paths to discover wonders in our journeys that can be of all sorts of value – either towards our end destinations or towards the wealth in our lives (the kind that can’t be bought nor sold) – that we otherwise wouldn’t have come across… like I have during this lovely weekend in Montréal.
I intended on going to the Philippines.
Everyone thought I was crazy due to Covid19 things.
It hadn’t hit the rest of the world at that point (February 2020) and I was all, “It’ll be fine.”
I ended up in Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Thailand.
It wasn’t “fine” as planned but I had an amazing time nonetheless.
For more of the story of how it went down: read on.
If you don’t care and are only after the photos: scroll on.
This is Part 1 of the trip. I was going to make it into one entry but I have so much media and stories that I’d really like to share. There’s only so much vacation time and finances that I can budget so I normally wouldn’t have intended to go to these places… but as life would have it, sometimes we get taken off the path that we plan for ourselves to discover other wonders we otherwise wouldn’t have come across.
I let my Filipino passport expire a long time ago since I wasn’t using it. Also, you’re OK to go with a Canadian passport if you’re only going to be there for 30 days or less so I didn’t bother. I did read that the Philippines has gotten strict with letting travelers in due to Covid19. They were only letting people in who had Filipino passports, Filipino permanent resident cards, or returning Filipinos. By the time I’ve read it, there wasn’t enough time for me to go and get a passport so I grabbed a copy of my birth certificate.
Right. That didn’t pan out as I got stalled in Hong Kong. They kept telling me to go back home but I wasn’t giving up. I had arrived there on a Friday and the Filipino embassy, as I had found out, was closed during Fridays and Saturdays. I decided to stay with the hopes of being able to get a 24-hour rush passport. I booked lodging until Monday though. I thought, well, I might as well explore HK. It was already late once I figured everything out so I just went out for a walk around the blocks of where I stayed.
It was quite a struggle upon the incident. I essentially argued with airport staff, asking if there was someone I could speak to. There were several of us. One of which was an American I vented with. He eventually left and decided to go home. I was shocked; he told me that he had booked his entire 3 weeks stay, booked a good chunk of activities, told his friends and family etc. I couldn’t believe he was going to give up just like that. “Well, what are you gonna do?” he asked me.
I turned to the airport staff, who I had been bargaining with for hours, “Can I stay here?”
“Oh you want to stay here now?”, he replied.
“Yeah. Can I stay here with my papers?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
I turned to the American, “I’m staying here and figuring it out.”
The American raised his hands, “OK. Good luck with that. The way I see it, there are no other options for me.”
“All the best.” I said, as he left.
“Do you have family here?” asked the staff member.
“Do you have friends? A place to stay?”
“No, but I’ll find something.”
As soon as I got to the hostel, I was already pessimistic about ending up in the Philippines but I haven’t heard nor read anything official so I held off on research. I dealt with things, literally, by the day and sometimes by the hour or even minute.
I immediately booked a couple of tours for the weekend; two of which were being taken around by a photographer in Hong Kong. We had a day session and night session + I walked around on my own.
Everything was taken with my smartphone (Huawei P20 Pro)
Hong Kong Bay
Hong Kong Cityscape
Geometric Building in HK
Air Raid Shelter in HK
Old prison house in HK
From right to left to right (old school to new school ways of reading Cantonese)
Interesting cultural/visual juxtaposition
Old barber shops on side streets
Abacus (learning new, old ways to count)
Man Mo Temple
Man Mo temple
Man Mo Temple
Man Mo Temple
A tree in Man Mo Temple
Hong Kong Museum of Art… which was closed when I was there, thanks to Covid19
HK Street Art
HK Street Art
HK Street Art
HK Street Art
HK Street Art
HK Street Art… all the way from North America
HK Street Art
HK Street Art
a really cool tunnel as an alternative to a crosswalk
a village market
aperture and exposure fun
Invader Street Art
Good Gold Building
At the end of my first full day, my friend in the Philippines delivers me the news: they’re quarantining everyone who comes from China, including Hong Kong, for two weeks at the Manila airport. It was a bummer but, truth be told, even at the Hong Kong airport when the lady directed me to claim my luggage, I started laughing. There was a feeling of disappointment and defeat but a sense of adventure and excitement crept in, “Haha. This is happening. Okaaaaaaay, Gelene. Let’s see what you come up with.”
I mean this is what backpackers do, right? Not sure if they do prior research before entering the places they’re going to but I’m guessing it’s a different headspace when you’re set out to backpack vs being yanked into it.
I started researching that night. I was not backing out. I was most adamant about ending up in the water. There were plenty of things I wanted to do and I wasn’t giving up scuba diving.
I reached out to a colleague in hopes that I could find a place to go that wasn’t back home to Toronto. Before my trip, he talked about one of his friends who was teaching somewhere in mainland China and had gotten stuck in Asia. Apparently, that friend was trying to fly home, but he kept getting stalled at different places. So, I messaged my colleague about him, asked where he ended up going before flying home. “Thailand,” he replied, then wished me goodluck.
I immediately looked it up.
“Thailand?!? OMG I can get in the water right away! I am gonna dive.my.fricking.ass.off. Yesssss.” I thought.
I had to take into account my papers for entry on top of the whole quarantining-people-from-Hong-Kong thing. After hours of online research and phone calls with real people mixed with confusing auto voice recordings that sounded like they had just hit puberty, I managed to book a flight for the next day.
I opted for one of the finest beach destinations in Thailand – the island of Phuket.
I looked up several spots and decided on Kata Beach. I read and heard that it was one of the more quiet places compared to the very popular Pa Tong, which – albeit gorgeous – was way too busy for me. I wasn’t really looking to party all that much. The two things I’m after when traveling are diving and arts & culture things. Besides those, I didn’t really have much else in mind.
I booked a private room at a hostel, with a laid back vibe and was super clean with friendly staff. It was awesome.
“Get in the water! Get in the water! Get in the water!” yelled the voices inside my head.
I looked for a dive shop right away. I went with one across the block. It’s been so long since I went diving so I needed a refresher. They had two options: I either do the refresher on a boat (+ 2 ocean dives) or do it in a pool (+ 2 beach dives).
I opted for the former since it seemed like a better deal. Oh boy, was I wrong.
There was just too much going on for just one divemaster to handle in a group within a bustling environment in the middle of the ocean. From being on a busy boat (with a number of other divers/divemasters and boat staff prepping and moving on about) to resolving in having to skim through the material too quickly due to extraneous responsibilities including coaching a couple who were taking a part of their Open Water Course with us. It made both delivering and reabsorbing all the info very challenging.
What made it trickier was that I got all this gear that I didn’t get a chance to test prior. I can only plan dives with the dive watch that activates once you’re 4 ft under. Up until now, I’m still figuring out how to find the dive time on the logs. Based on the manuals and my research, I don’t think there is one. I really want to be wrong about this though (I got a Cressi Leonardo: if you think you may have helpful input, I’d appreciate it if you comment or contact me).
For a camera: I was going to get a GoPro, but its housing is only good for about 20 meters (60-ish ft.) so I got another one with a housing that’s supposed to be OK up to 40 metres (130-ish ft.)… haha. More on that on Part 3 (hint: at about 25m [85ft.] Mother Nature went, “Hold my beer” and succeeded)
So there I was, diving a little weird, in shitty underwater visibility with all this equipment I was testing while doing so (they all worked and I was quite amused) with an unexpected current we had to swim against.
I actually managed to do all the dives pretty decently… but I wasn’t happy with how I rolled so I booked myself another refresher at the pool.
Looking down on these waters feels similar to looking up at the sky except you get to go into it
Note that I’m an Advanced Diver with 70+ dives (although 50+ are *poof* since I lost my logbook – this is a small number in comparison to many people I’ve met but still quite a number for folk who are just starting and/or have never gone diving), and I have gone diving in underground caves (more difficult than ocean diving) – but:
1. My buoyancy still needs work. I tend to fluctuate around 1 ft (a little over when it gets to shallow waters) which is not bad for ocean diving but for specialized instances like cave dives or weird rock/coral formations, which you have to maneuver through and around, it can get tricky. Overall, it’s not bad but it can be better.
2. I needed proper coaching with jumping off a boat. I fucked it up royally, before, by jumping the wrong way. Equipment can get damaged or lost, plus it can be painful with stuff hitting your body.
3. Freakouts can still happen – understandably so. We’re, by biological default, not made to reside underwater. It didn’t happen to me during this trip but it did on beginners and a couple of Advanced Divers I went with. It could happen to anyone.
It was still kinda cool though ’cause we went diving in a spot with a purposely sunken ship plus crates for marine life preservation.
I took a day off from diving before the second (pool) refresher. I decided to check out Phuket Town. I went to Trickeye Museum, which I loved (counter-culture and 2D/3D illusionary brilliance) and checked out a couple of temples.
Songthaews driver. I rode shotgun
I wanted to climb but I got told off
Just needs a cushion and you’re good to go
I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and when I left, someone told me that it’s offensive to go to a temple with women’s shoulders showing… Sorry yo
Place of worship
Quite morbid but they’re already counter-culturing so I guess this isn’t really much of a shock
I love Klimt and I loved this
I met a bunch of new people when I got back to the hostel.
I brought a bottle of wine, a quarter cheesecake, and some local Thai chips to share.
Yeah, that got people chatting. #foodIsLife
– I met several students originally from Europe (Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, France, Russia) who were studying all over Asia (some in Bangkok, some in Hong Kong, some in mainland China). Some of them planned a vacation here, but got stuck and were all, “OK, I guess my vacation is extended then.” Others never meant to be there, and were actually trying to return to their homeland but, you guessed it: got stuck there and were all, “This kinda sucks, but I might as well chill. Whatevs.”
– I met several expats too. Some were working in Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, on vacation. None of these folks were stuck there from my recollection.
– I met this woman who’s originally from mainland China but lives in San Francisco and works in tech. Though she didn’t go to China during this trip, she was turned away from a connecting flight to San Fran due to her Chinese passport (this was happening a lot: Chinese passports equals denied entry even if they haven’t even been to China recently)
– I met a lot of English teachers who were fresh off university in North America (a trending thing… even when I was in college a couple of my friends did this, mostly Korea-bound). One of them was from Mississauga, not far from my own adapted home (Toronto, Canada). We chatted about what we do/did for a living, which school we attended, and such.
This British dude (who worked in CRM things out in the UK) and I were telling him, “Yeah, just chill out before the grind begins.”
“It never ends. It’s not a matter of beginning. It never ends,” added the Brit. He then went on about diving as he was in the midst of the Open Water course.
“What got you into it?” I asked.
“Mostly curiosity and I’m really keen on finding Nemo.” (Don’t grow up, kids)
I didn’t take photos around the area nor the people, unfortunately. I was very dive-centric off the bat.
I loved the divemaster that trained me in the pool. Some Eastern European man who didn’t hesitate to (nicely but firmly without being patronizing) call me out on areas of improvement.
My buoyancy improved, my air intake improved, I remembered everything I need to know about the gear (which to connect, where what goes, went through a couple of different setup BCD’s etc.) and he even taught me how to pack up neatly afterwards.
Amazing. I can’t say enough good things.
To the divemaster, if you’re reading this, I’ve said it in person and I’ll say it again: you’re awesome. Thank you. 🙏🏽
When we collaborate, it tends to take a while to establish a good, functional rapport.
Even with personal relationships, it can be like that. Conflict isn’t necessarily always bad when you’re aiming for the same thing and/or you’re sincerely trying to understand each other. The chemistry can just get all funky because you’re introducing unfamiliar elements (connected external factors, subjective perspectives, personality traits, etc) to one another.
A friend once said that up until we can run through walls or fly like an eagle or sing like Seal, then there’s always going to be room for self-expansion. We’re all learning and growing in Life regardless of age, creed, gender, ethnicity, etc.
It’s pretty unreal when you come across people that you instantly click with (world population: 7.8 billion – the chances of this happening is, one could argue, a miracle)
“Don’t forget to look around when you’re underwater. Don’t just look down! You’re there to explore! What’s the matter? You don’t like me?!?”
“Eh,” I replied with a so-so hand gesture.
He smiled, “Keep practicing your buoyancy and fix the way you bite your regulator. Do it like this.” (he demos it)
No miscommunications. No misconstrusions. No bullshit.
It was amazing. I loved it.
I finally managed to learn how to jump off properly! 😊
As I got out of the pool, that’s when I realized that even when we’re on vacation: we work. Everything in life takes work. We have to deal with people even as a client or customer. We have to have our papers in order, we have a schedule, etc (even if we’re backpacking: we have to make the flights we book). We have a responsibility to fulfill in those transactions(s), besides paying up. As a client, we hold accountability too. Contracts, much like professional or personal relationships, go both ways unless like in some cases, our part is to do nothing. In the case of the latter: try to chill. Why use force when we’re at liberty to conserve our energy for better things that may require it later on?
But don’t wait too long. That’s why I needed a second refresher here: I haven’t gone diving in over 5 years. Ok, apart from a quick refresher in Mexico last year… but I was thoroughly disappointed with visibility that I didn’t even bother continuing. Apparently, I just came at the wrong time. The Yucatan Cenotes are all around amazing but beach dives are supposedly great during November for the Sea of Cortez. I was there during May as I wanted to check out Cinco de Mayo. I still wanna check out Dia de Muertos, which would’ve been perfect as it’s in November but Coronavirus is having a field day over there so that’s not happening this year.
I had lost my logbook from a long time ago like I mentioned, so I was essentially starting from zero (0). #fail. But I downloaded a couple apps that were super helpful:
1. Dive Plus – I didn’t use the full scope of this app. I was mostly just using it to color correct underwater shots and videos but you can log your dives and such. I don’t find the UX (User Experience) very intuitive for the latter but it’s great for color correction.
2. Dive Log Pro – It’s kinda funny when you go to a shop and you show your smudged logbook and they ask you, “So where have you gone diving? With who? What’s the dive time? Duration? Depth?”
And you’re like, “I don’t know. I’m sure the details are there somewhere. Sorry yo, turns out the ocean is wet.”
Being a digital native, I kept wanting to back my stuff up. I was very (and still am), 😱 “Fuck paper!” when I started using these. Plus, to me, divelogs are just another thing I have to pack up and worry about. Having said that, I’m sure some people do better with paper because… we’re all different. I personally hate it but if that’s your thing and you function better that way, then you should stick to it.
If, however, you’re looking to switch: I hope this helps.
Anyway, this app is super awesome. The UX is straightforward and the UI is clean. You can back up with an excel file or pdf. If you’ve got the same instructor and/or dive shop for several dives, you can just use the signature (touch screen, saved as images) and stamp from the initial dive. You can log marine life spotted: lionfish, eel, mermaid etc.
Dive Log Pro List
Dive Log Pro PDF
I think I saw Ariel’s sister
I’m PADI certified myself but I got a taste of the SDI curriculum during this trip (these are the different certifications for divers, by the way, for you non-divers who are reading this). From what I gather, it’s a bit like Mac (SDI) vs PC (PADI).
You can find a good chunk of SDI material digitally. Also, it’s so much more simplified and clean (layout-wise with their material. This is important: when people read things, we have to keep in mind the line of sight and where our eyes are going as it affects how we process the information. It’s a design thing.*If you’re interested look up “Art vs Design”)
If I knew then what I know now, I would probably go for SDI. The licensing is interchangeable though so you’re good to go either way. I met someone who did his Open Water with PADI then onto SDI for the Advanced course. He had no issues with it. Also, you can take bits of it now separately from what I gather. I met a couple who did their reading online, did a dive in Bali, and during my refresher they were doing their second dive in Phuket. Great deal if you’re a backpacker and/or hopping around.
After I was finally good with how I rolled, I booked a weekend, overnight liveaboard headed for Similan Islands and Koh Bon as recommended. I was initially just gonna go for a day trip, but it was going to be about half a day’s worth of traveling to the dive spots (van/bus ride + ferry to the liveaboard + several more hours to the spots) – not leaving much time in the day to dive.
Overnight liveaboard it is.
Part 3a: Similan Islands and Koh Bon, Day 1, coming soon.
Lotsa photos on this but here’s the gist of how my tours went… (Banteay Samre: getting down is actually worse because the stairs were so steep, you had to do it sideways and/or, essentially, climb down).
There was some sort of fee for visitors who are non-Cambodian that was only payable by cash. I hate carrying cash (yeah, I know it’s useful but it’s so gross). I don’t speak Khmer nor did I do any sort of research about Riel (Cambodian currency) before I got there (because things were booked on the fly) so I had to g̶u̶e̶s̶s̶ withdraw by pressing buttons that looked right (numbers are written the same way).
I didn’t encounter any issues, which was nice.
The airport offered different options for rides.
I figure I can ride a van or a cab at home and the motorbike didn’t have any room for my stuff so I opted for a Tuk-tuk.
It was super cool.
When I got off, the driver offered to be my ride for the temples.
My very own Tuk-tuk? Yes, please.
“4 o’clock, OK?” he said. “4 in the morning?” I confirmed.
“Yes. We go there early so you can watch sunrise.”
“4 o’clock!” he insisted.
“Yeah, yeah don’t worry I’ll be up.”
I was starving by the time I got to my room. There was a restaurant at the place I stayed in but I wanted to check things out.
I ended up ordering some food from a street vendor right by the market (about a 5-minute walk from where I stayed)
I walked in the market a bit. Here are some photos in the afternoon and evening.
local Khmer art
sat and ate here
I got up around 3:30am the next day. I had some coffee and mixed nuts for breakfast (nothing was open yet).
The Tuk-tuk arrived at 4am as promised. It was still dark, early, and quiet. All I could hear on the road was the sound of the Tuk-tuk’s engine and I felt the breeze on my skin. Pardon the cliché but I love mornings: it’s a brand new day.
There were a lot of tourists at the temples, which shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise. What I did was a pretty tourist-y but I was still super stoked nonetheless. I couldn’t believe I was there, watching the sunrise over a 160-hectare, 12th century-old, largest religious monument in the world.
I love BBC-legit places that look Photoshopped.
me trying to look cute right before a heat stroke
I didn’t ask her to pose. She was just there and I was like, “Well that’s a perfect shot for like an ad for a lotion or shampoo or something?”
ancient twerking. dunno what kinda music tho
I eventually got a guide book about the temples because I kept wishing that I knew some of the stories and history that went on. Once I left Cambodia though, I wasn’t too keen on reading it anymore. Theoretical studies are so much more interesting when paired with experiential and immersive learning. I find that when it’s just purely academics, it gets boring really fast. It just becomes about the marks (not a bad thing if you’re in school – it’s a good factor, among many, to base decisions from and give ourselves some economic mobility much like how the world needs metrics. We’re living in a world of industrialism after all. Even indigenous people have some form of barter and system).
Super old school, elaborate emojis that were programmed with chisels and hammers. I don’t think they implemented a diversity clause though. It’s all just Asians.
On that note, I’m not going to bore you with theoretical details but I hope you enjoy these photos in as much as I loved p̶l̶a̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶h̶i̶d̶e̶ ̶n̶ ̶s̶e̶e̶k̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶G̶o̶d̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶G̶o̶d̶d̶e̶s̶s̶e̶s̶ taking them.
Tag. You’re it.
It was challenging, at first, trying to find my way around these places as they were like mazes. I kept referring to the maps but then right around Ta Keo (the 3rd one I visited), I started getting used to it. I was using Western cardinal directions (North/East/South/West). I had a conversation with a local Cambodian which was rather difficult but doable with a translator (their official second language is French). Apparently, in Khmer, they have Northeast/south and Southeast/west as separate main directions on its own vs the Western one.
Everything was taken with my smartphone (Huawei P20 Pro).
these two wouldn’t stop flirting
twerk? what’s that?!? can you do THIS?
This was NOT an easy climb.
Khmer cardinal directions, apparently
it’s pretty but this guy kinda ruined my shot. he wouldn’t leave. prick.
(Gelene’s personal favourite. She doesn’t know why though)
We popped by this place below. I forget what it’s called but I loved it.
This pretty much sums up the make of my dream home: just add some more barriers for privacy plus security things or something + an orthopedic mattress + running water + flush toilets. The hammocks stay.
I checked out Angkor Dynasty Theatrical Show (no photos, unfortunately – wasn’t allowed but highly recommended. It was amazing) on my first night. I finished all the tours that I wrote/photographed about within 2 full days.
Angkor Grand Theatre
There was other stuff to do, some of which I checked out real quick, but it didn’t really spark my interest. By the end of the second day, I was bored.
Flashback to when I got back from the liveaboard: Business for the dive shop I got the liveaboard package with was suffering due to the pandemic. I talked to the owner about lead generations and such and brought up the company I work for (marketing-based software startup). The owner said he’d give it some thought but I contacted our team right away to give them a heads up, just in case. That’s when I found out that one of my peers used to be a divemaster, based in one of the smaller islands around Phuket. Phi Phi was in my list of potentials as I didn’t want to stay in Phuket because I’ve been there but someone told me that it was closed (later found out that this was inaccurate info – it was just the area where “The Beach” was shot that was closed).
My friend’s recommendation was perfect.
I had two more days before the flight back to Phuket but all I wanted to do was get back in the water so I cut Siem Reap short and booked one back for the next day. It was a last-minute decision and there weren’t any options for flight times. The schedule sucked (transport connections to my destination – 1 connecting flight, van ride, ferry – were not synced at all) but I went for it anyway.
I packed my stuff and looked up the trans connections to the island before going to bed.
There was an 8-hour layover in Bangkok between my connecting flight to Phuket (Siem Reap -> Bangkok -> Phuket). The only available tickets were ones where I had to go to a different airport in Bangkok than the one I had arrived in (Don Mueang -> Suvarnabhumi). Quite a hassle, but it’s good that I had an ample amount of leeway for error: “What does that say? Is that my bus? Or will this one be taking me somewhere else? Don’t get lost, Gelene.”
The bus ride to the other airport was cool. It would’ve been cooler to check out Bangkok but I was pressed for time and I was way too tired to make any more stops. I just wanted to get in the water and lie on a hammock for hours somewhere, nowhere.
When I arrived at the airport, I had about 6 more hours before the connecting flight. It was in the wee hours of the morning so I was looking for a place to sleep. I found one of those sleep capsule things and booked it for several hours. It was surprisingly very comfortable.
I fell asleep in no time.
I got up a little later than I had intended so I rushed to the flight, which I didn’t miss. When I arrived in Phuket, I still had about 3 hours before the departure of the ferry that would take us to the islands, so I ate a proper breakfast at the airport. I was exhausted so I just booked an airport cab.
I took my sweet time with everything and still had over an hour wait at the pier. I changed to a swimsuit, shorts, and sandals right away. The airport and plane ride may have been cold but it was super hot out.
I didn’t know that the ferry was to stop by Koh Phi Phi. It was gorgeous but as soon as I got off the ferry, the busyness and commercialization of the island felt like a slap in the face. Phi Phi was very pretty but way too crowded for me. I enjoyed my lunch there though. I got some fresh coconut water with a couple shots of rum.
I got back on the ferry and a couple hours later, we finally arrive.
Koh Lanta was niiiiiiiceee.
I loved the vibe right away. It was quiet, chill, and low-key.
My preferred transport of choice was Tuk-tuks because I really like those, apparently. It’s just a cool cultural thing for me, I think. Like the Philippines has tricycles and Thailand has Tuk-tuks.
Hello Kitty… yep, this was the one. Go hard Asian or go home. Bonus points for pink
Funky Fish was awesome. The bungalows had its own hammock… SOLD! Bonus points for random graffiti/art on the side of the bungalows and view of the sunset from the bar. 💯 👌
I searched for a dive shop right away but they told me that they were hooking me up with one the next day. So I decided to get comfy in the new room. I unpacked my bag, had a lizard jump out of it, shrieked, calmed down, organized my stuff, and headed out.
I walked around the area a bit and that evening, for dinner, I got a can of Chang and drank it with Pad Thai. I’m not much of a beer drinker these days but I thought that beer was pretty yummy.
on the hammock where I spent many hours staring at the trees sway, enjoying the gentle breeze and the sounds of nature being all poetic and shit
I woke up around 4:30ish in the morning the next day (that’s just my norm now, unfortunately. I can’t seem to sleep in anymore). I went outside and heard the Athan (Islam call to prayer – Thailand is predominantly Buddhist but Koh Lanta was predominantly Muslim). I went back to my room, thinking it was my phone. I have the Athan on one of my alarms. I got a couple of Muslim friends who introduced me to it. It’s just a nice, peaceful, wakeup vibe for me. I love listening to it when I’m in chill/pensive mode, “Hmm I guess I forgot to turn off the alarm on my phone?” I checked my phone. It wasn’t even on, “Wtf? Where is that coming from?” I went outside again to check. That’s when I realized that it was the real thing. Hah! It was amazing! I couldn’t believe it! It was beautiful. It really was. 💕
I stayed on the hammock and just listened to it until sunrise. Then I ate breakfast and met up with a freelance divemaster (I don’t actually know how this industry works but I gather you can be employed full-time or part-time or you can freelance much like many other industries?)
We got acquainted and hung out at the beach. “Yeah my first bed here was so hard. My back was not happy.” I told him “Oh yeah, no. It’s like that everywhere here,” he added, “I got excited when I got in my room, jumped in my bed and ended up with a big bruise on my head.” he added (I couldn’t stop laughing 🤣) “So what equipment do you have?” he asked. “Nothing. I don’t really dive enough to warrant much investments there.” “Yeah, but you have a mask, right?” “No.” “WTF? I keep telling people, ‘Get a mask. It will make all the difference. Get. A. Mask!'” “Yeah but I don’t even know how to pick one.” “Suck it on your face! Man, wtf? That’s the first thing we tell you!” “That’s what everyone says. I did that but they all feel the same to me. It doesn’t make any sense!” “How often do you have to clear your mask?” (Water tends to get in and you have to slightly push it back at an angle and blow it out) “I don’t know, like, every 10-ish minutes, probably?” “That’s a lot. Trust me on this one. I’ll hook you up tomorrow.”
We couldn’t book any dives that day because we have to notify the shops at a certain time the day before (not the day of) so I just chilled and checked out the market.
My inner hippie was very amused. I didn’t end up getting anything though ’cause half of what I packed was for people I was to see in the Philippines so I was essentially lugging it around. I was tempted to chuck it but it wasn’t mine to get rid of.
We went to shop that sold masks. I rented three masks for me to try on three dives and if I ended up buying one, they were to deduct the rental fee, which was nice of them.
It’s always good to test equipment before going live so, whenever you can, I suggest to take that opportunity… unlike what I did with my sports cam and divewatch… 🤔 (I didn’t have time though yo #DontJudgeMe) Oh, man. He was right. Using a mask that fit right made all the difference. I didn’t even notice it until I had to clear for the first time, “Woah! I haven’t cleared ’til now! Whaaaaatttt!?!? This is awesome!!!” It was one of those micromasks that I’ve never used, nor even heard of, before. Fucking brilliant. I went diving with him for a couple days. There were a few things that stood out to me in those times. I don’t remember their exact order, but I’ll share with you some of the notable moments
There was one time where he had briefed myself and a couple others on some of the types of fish we may see, and so on. There were 2 other people with me. There was this Brit who’s been living there for 10 years doing Reiki/Yoga/Alternative Healing things and then there was his son.
When the divemaster was done, he said, “Alright, cool. Got it?” “Sure?” I replied. “No, don’t worry I’ll point it out. You’ll see this fish camouflaged. I’ll point it out.” The Brit was more familiar with the fish. “I’ll point it out with him,” he told me. “Yeah, but like honestly if I don’t spot it within seconds, I’m probably just gonna shrug and ‘whatever’, do my own thing or look at other stuff,” I said “That’s cool. It’s my job though [to know the fish], and as long as you stick with the group…” said the divemaster. “Of course,” I replied. As a recreational diver, it’s good to know these things too, but with more leniency for me than for him on that account. That said, even if he didn’t know everything, I wouldn’t have taken it against him. If it’s your job, you should know more than the average folk but no one has answers to everything and no one has 100% perfect scope (hah! I wish!).
The Brit showed me a fresh wound right before we jumped. “I got it when I was biking here,” he said as he uncovered it from the bandage. It was something about the pedal and chain going lose and his knee hitting some parts. “That looks naaassssttyy,” I said. “It’ll be fine.” “Ocean disinfectant?” “That’s what I’m hoping.” (Disclaimer: not always a good idea, depending on how clean the water is, you might get infections… our spot was clean though so I think he was good)
We went diving on a site with a shipwreck. I assumed it was purposely sunken like a lot of them (haven’t gone to real WWII ones like the ones in Palawan) but apparently, it wasn’t. It supposedly sank some 10 years ago because of some accident.
History coolness factor that you can explore underwater: lame AF.
General coolness factor: still pretty fucking cool in my books.
Check out these fishies who weren’t shy at all.
They kept surrounding us. When I swam towards them, they would either break up a bit then surround me again or they would just slightly swim away together then come closer. I loved it. I avoid touching stuff though. Being able to do this is a privilege. We’re just visitors: much like the stuff I was supposed to give away to folks I was gonna see in the Philippines that weren’t mine to chuck, marine life isn’t ours to fuck with either. Please be mindful when you’re down there. Also, things are gross and slimy anyway like sea cucumbers… *shudder* #NeverAgain Yuck.
Then there was a time when I had to cancel a dive for the first time, ever.
It was just me and the divemaster at that time.
Once we jumped in, I looked down. It seemed dark. I put my mask on and looked down again for a better assessment. It was still dark, “We’re going here? I can’t see shit!”
“Yeah, I know. But let’s go down there and check,” the divemaster said. Sometimes shallow waters have bad visibility but then you go a little deeper and it’s much better. That was not the case there. I forget which spot it was but there was a wall of corals. We separated from the other groups and checked out another side.
Up until then, I’ve never known what 1-2 metres (3-6 ft) of visibility was like. We were about 26 metres deep and I kept thinking, “Give it a few more minutes…” About 15 minutes in, I was just getting creeped out. “No, no. I don’t wanna cancel! No! It might get better! It might get better!” Canceling the dive crossed my mind several times before I finally called it. I was pretty bummed out, As soon as I signaled to cancel, he asked if I was OK. I signaled that I was fine but the visibility was bad (point to my eyes + point to surroundings + “so-so” hand gesture, then “cancel” signal, then “ascend” signal). I noticed he kept checking my equipment and looking at my entire setup while constantly asking me if I was OK while ascending. He was pretty worried. If I were the divemaster I’d be worried too. I feel like there should be a specific hand gesture for, “This visibility sucks. Let’s get outta here” just to be clear that you’re fine type thing and divemaster isn’t fucking freaking out, “Holy shit is she out of air? Is her BCD OK? What’s going on?!?” Poor thing.
I don’t think I can ever be a divemaster. It’s such a crazy responsibility. Imagine losing someone underwater? I can see myself taking the courses for fun but I feel like I’d only take my friends and family because if I lose them it’s just my friends and family like who cares, whatever.
I sulked on the boat for a bit when we got back. I hated canceling. But like some 8-year old once said, “Sometimes you just need to take a nap and get over it.” So I napped, got over it, and ate a banana. Great advice.
There was another time when I was in the water and I had seen some things I wanted to take a shot of, but my camera was running low on battery. I didn’t mind so much because I wasn’t that fixated on them. I kept trying to turn it on though and I was able to sneak a shot here and there (out of juice but not completely squeezed so I was able to still push a little).
When we were about to ascend, the divemaster shakes my leg, pretty strongly. I got a bit concerned because of the force he used so I quickly look at him. He points to a dark area. I signal, “What?” Three other divers were looking towards it. Another diver and I look at each other. I signal, “Big fish?” He replies with a nod. We both looked at the dark area again. Nothing. “Meh. My camera’s out anyway and I’m getting bored. Whatever. I’m ready to go.” I thought. Just when we were about to ascend, lo and behold, this guy shows up.
video courtesy of fellow diver (the one who nodded at me)
I pressed all sorts of buttons on my camera but it was dead. The divemaster kept signaling to look at the fish and not be too caught up in trying to capture it. He was right but I couldn’t help myself. I was thoroughly irritated.
Even when we got back on the boat, I was still pretty salty. “Yeah but you just swam with a whale shark! Cheer up!” the divemaster told me. I just napped. #ProblemSolving #SolutionsForEverydayLiving
When we got back on the island, I asked the diveshop where they were headed for the next day. They only mentioned spots I’ve already been to, so I passed. I called several others when I got back in my room, about where they were headed for the next couple of days. I was hoping it would be somewhere new but it was the same thing there. I decided to cut Koh Lanta a couple days short and booked a ferry back to Phuket.
I thought it was a good idea too ’cause flying back home from Koh Lanta within a span of 18 hours would’ve been ridiculously stressful and exhausting (ride to pier + ferry + ride to airport + fly to Hong Kong + fly to Toronto, where I live). I figured it would be better to take it easy and divvy the transfers.
On the way back, I met this woman from Mississauga (Toronto suburb). On the ferry ride, we had an interesting conversation filled with social insight.
Part 6: Wrap Up, coming up for more diving, lessons learned, and possibly some more insight.
…pseudonym of Gyula Halász (1899 – 1984, Romanian/French) was a street artist, photographer, sculptor, writer, and filmmaker.
courtesy of lemonde.fr
courtesy of unionstreet.fr
courtesy of theredlist.com
courtesy of artnews.org
courtesy of wikiart.org
“Many viewers of Brassaï’s work found it easier to accept his photographs of graffiti as art than to accept the graffiti itself. In this sense, his work encouraged audiences to look at graffiti on the street in a new light: as framing devices for the world, as a parallel voice of the city, and as a modern primitive art that is all around us if we just care to look…”
– Street Art, Cedar Lewisohn
courtesy of imaging-resource.com
courtesy of imaging-resource.com
courtesy of imaging-resource.com
courtesy of americansuburbx.com
courtesy of americansuburbx.com
courtesy of transversealchemy.com
courtesy of transversealchemy.com
courtesy of transversealchemy.com
courtesy of transversealchemy.com
courtesy of curiator.com
I found a series by him called “Transmutations” that I love, love, love. These days you can probably render a similar/the same kind of effect with Photoshop or Illustrator or AfterEffects, but they didn’t have that back then so they were using photographic glass plates. Very manual, analog type way of doing things. Most avant-garde artists these days still do the analog thing and combine it with digital stuff to enhance their works.
“In 1934, directly inspired by his collaboration with Pablo Picasso who he had been working with for two years, Brassaï decided to experiment with the technique of engraving onto glass photographic plates. He worked on thirty or so negatives of female nudes dated from 1931 to 1935, printing around 150 proofs covering the various states of the photographs at different moments in the process of altering the original material.” – museoreinasofia.es