Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Meeting People

Well today was more interesting than normal. I got bored sitting around the house so at around 10:30 in the morning I logged on to the internet and looked for a good movie to go see. I found one showing at 11:15 so I headed out and arrived at the theater in plenty of time. Actually I arrived at 11:13, but I know that the movies here show a half hour of previews, advertisements and a mandatory tribute to the king before each show so I had plenty of time.

I went to the box office to buy my ticket and was informed that the 11:15 showing had been cancelled today. The next showing was at 1:45 so I walked over to the MBK mall to have lunch and kill some time "people watching." MBK is one of the more interesting malls in Bangkok because it has a huge mix of small shops and almost everything you can think of is somewhere in the mall. It is also on the less expensive end of the shopping spectrum in Bangkok so it attracts all sorts of people from Thais to farang looking for good deals.

After lunch, I walked one of the six or so floors, not moving fast, just poking around and seeing what there was to see. After an hour or so, I decided to take a seat in one of the common areas to rest a bit and still be able to see the humanity flow past. After five minutes or so, a pretty, young Thai girl sat down next to me and ate meatballs on a stick, dipping each bite in a plastic bag of hot sauce for extra flavor. When she sat down, I turned and nodded. She smiled and nodded back. At that time, I didn’t notice the tattoo on the upper part of her breast, visible thanks to her low cut tee shirt. Do you see where this is going? I did not.

She finished her lunch and after a few more minutes she got my attention by saying “Hello.” I turned and greeted her and she continued with her thought. She said “You go home with me?” I only know that she said that because in what was likely a fairly surprised tone of voice I said “Excuse me?” And she repeated herself “You go home with me?” with a big smile.

I thanked my new friend but declined her very hospitable offer. I guess I must have looked homeless or something. Such a generous young lady.

A little while passed, and my potential new roommate got my attention again with her tried and true method of saying “Hello” and once again I turned, not sure exactly what to expect next. She said “Hello” again followed immediately by “Goodbye” with that same friendly smile on her face before rising and walking down the mall in search of her next friend. Who says it is hard to meet people in a strange land?

I watched her a bit as she walked away toward the escalator and as she turned to go down a floor, she looked up with the biggest smile yet and waved goodbye. Yup, some of these Thai folks sure are friendly.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Wreck of the Suddahadib (The Hardeep)

We took a little two dive day trip to Sattahip today. Sattahip is on the Gulf of Thailand South and East of Pattaya, which is South and East of Bangkok. It takes about three hours to drive to the pier and than another hour aboard the Marlin to reach the dive site.

The Gulf of Thailand was more calm than I have seen it so far. That should translate into good diving with no current and excellent Vis(ability) but it didn't. When we reached the site, another dive boat was already tied up to the permanent bouy so we had to enter the water on the fly. Our boat drove by the bouy and we just jumped. Sort of like Marines do I guess.

Once in the water, the current took us and took us hard. We fought to reach the bouy, which had an anchor line we could follow down to the wreck. By the time I reached the bouy, and began to "down climb" the anchor line into a zero visability green soup, I knew the bottom was 26 meters (85 ft) down and I could see no reason to continue this dive. Diving in poor vis is bad enough, but add a multi-knot current to it and it just seems like work. I called my dive (that means I returned to the boat) without ever going below 15 feet in depth.

My team (4 other intrepid divers) made it varying distances into the void and stayed down between 5 and 15 minutes. Not a great dive by any standard. When were all back aboard the Marlin, we headed to a calmer spot, protected by an island and featuring a small, but interesting reef (there are no un-interesting reefs.)

I "entered" and enjoyed a pleasant and easy dive with some fellow beginners and re-surfaced having had a wonderful, and not exciting dive. Not-exciting is a good thing for a dive since "exciting" usually means something went wrong and maybe you sort of .... drowned. (just kidding Mom)

When I surface and re-boarded the Marlin, my dive instructor SaN, asked me how the dive went as he always does, and I reported favorably. He then told me that he and "The Team" were going to dive the wreck again and he thought I should come. I readily agreed knowing that I could always call my dive again if I didn't like the way things were going, and I fully expected to call my dive because I could see a rip in the surface waters near the nearby wreck.

We motored over to the wreck site and bailed off of the security of the Marlin once again. I swam over toward the bouy having to look up every few seconds because the current was still strong and was taking me North back to Sattahip just about as fast as I could swim South toward the bouy.

I reached the bouy and emptied my Bouyancy Contol Device to begin my descent. I down-climbed the anchor line hand over hand for 10 meters (33 feet) in a current that had to be 3 - 4 knots. If you think that is slow.... think again. Hanging on to the anchor line I figured I now know what a flag in a stiff breeze feels like.

But at about 35 feet, the Vis started clearing up and the current diminished. At 60 feet I could see the bottom (at 85 ft) and the wreck was in full view. It was a massive feature rising from the sandy bottom in rusted steel beams and corroded metal plates.

We tucked into the "shadow" of the wreck and began to probe "foreward" toward the bow. As we reached the bow SaN poked his head out from the protection of the old ship and immediatly signaled that we should turn and go toward the stern. The current was still strong, even on the bottom, but the wreck was shielding us from it.

We turned and headed aft along the 90 degree listed deck of the wreck. About a third of the way aft, a large opening in the deck made itself too inviting to resist and we all entered the bowels of the ship. Divers call this an "overhead environment" because if something happens and you need to surface quickly, you must first reach an exit or else you will just hit your head on the overhead. I have never entered an overhead before, and I didn't expect to enjoy it. I am a BIG guy at 6'5 and 210 lbs and small spaces in places where there is no air to breath do not appeal to me. But I went in and I must say it was WAY cool. I really enjoyed it, but honestly it was not crowded and the 65 years beneath the waves had rusted away the deck (hull) enough that there was plenty of light so it was not at all what I expected. Hmmmm I wonder what cave diving might be like?

We fiddled and piddled until I was nearly out of air in my tank. At that point I headed back toward the bouy anchor line and began to up-climb the line toward the surface, once again flapping in the current like a cartoon character.

We all had such a good dive, but only after we were able to descend beyond the first 33 feet of turbulent, turbid waters and into the relative calm afforded by the protection of the old wreck. I am so glad I gave this dive site a second effort. Hmmm I wonder if there is a life lesson in that?

If you want to see more about the Hardeep (Suddahidib), go here.

One of our team had a camera, and he may send me pics of me around the Hardeep. If so I will update this post to include at least one. Til then....


Friday, August 17, 2007

Brenda Working

jumpcut movie:Brenda WorkingAnyone who knows Brenda, knows that she works too hard. But from time to time, she can surprise you with a team building outing to a world class resort or...... a bowling alley. Click on the pic here, and then click the arrow that looks like a "play button" on your VCR. Be sure to watch until her ball hits the pins.... You may be here awhile.



Monday, August 13, 2007

Practice Dive - 11 Aug 2007

Some new friends took me to Pattaya for a quick training session in the milky green waters just off the mainland. Pattaya is not great diving, but it is close, only a couple of hours drive, and it is reasonably predictable. Sort of like McDonalds, you are not going to have a great meal there but you can count on it being acceptable most of the time.

My training is yielding benefits. I am more and more comfortable in the water so I am more relaxed. I am breathing better and using less air, although I have a long way to go before I am proficient at air usage.

I am also controlling my bouyancy better and I think I am about ready to drop a couple of pounds off my kit. I have been diving with a 6 lb backplate (the thing my tanks strap to) and a 6 lb lead weight on the tank adaptor, and another 2 lb weight on the upper tank strap for a total of 14 lbs of weight on the kit. All this weight is necessary to overcome the bouyancy of my wetsuit and my body, but also to compensate for poor breathing practices that I have been trying to eliminate. I think I have just about conquered the worst part of my breathing. We'll see next trip when I try to reduce my weight to 12 lb.

The highlight of this trip was the scooter ride. One of the group has two Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPV or Scooter.) He broke them out and let us all try them. Some fun. Unfortunatly, the visability was very poor Saturday so this pic is not of our trip, but is of the owner of the DPVs. Jim, the owner also has a website that has some dive video of his trips if you want to see some of the stuff we see on our dives go to Jim's Web Site


Monday, August 06, 2007

Diving - Koh Tao: August 2007

What a great dive trip! Koh Tao is pretty isolated in the Gulf of Thailand but the island and it's surrounds has over 25 named dive sites and we were lucky enough to hit one of the best on an exceptional day.

Chumporn Pinacle is a site that has a beautiful reef starting at about 15 meters and having a vertical drop off to 40 meters. All along the vertical drop are different species of sea life. And patrolling the outskirts for careless animals (and/or divers) on the day we were there were some ominous gliding shadows that were clearly identifiable as Bull Sharks. I felt pretty secure because the sharks generally stayed below 30 meters, and usually at least 15 meters away from the reef. Our dive group was 20 divers and there were also three other dive boats at the site the day we were there, so I was counting on being only one of maybe 60 potential meals for these guys too. As it turned out, we all returned to the boat with our fingers and toes in tact and having seen some amazing coral, anemones, a turtle and fish of all types. Such a good trip.

All in all we made 7 dives in two days at sites that went to 40 meters, and a few places that only went to 10 - 20 meters. We had one night dive but the site was apparently not a night spot because we didn't see much activity. Most of us on that dive were doing some sort of certification that required a night dive using only a compass to swim away from the instructor and back to her without getting lost. Most of us made it!

I don't have an underwater enclosure for my camera, but I am lucky enough to have friends who take pictures and let me have copies. My "above the surface" pics can be found at if you would like to look around. The two exceptional pics shown here were taken by Kuhn Nat, a professional underwater photographer who generously let me have these pics just because I liked them so much.

Can't wait for the next trip.