Wrapping up the dive trip and packing for the cycling trip in Vietnam. Lots to do… more thoughts later… Here our are favorite pics from the last 6 dives.
The highlight dive of the day was the Mandarin Fish dive. They come out at dusk, and they’re shy creatures. Too much light or movement, and they jump back into the shadows. They’re pretty small, and we even saw a pair mating. (No picture as the elph wouldn’t focus on time.)
I’ve made the highlight reel public here, so you can see photos that we’re uploading every day. It’s interesting to see the progression. What was a good photo the first day wouldn’t make it to the highlight reel now.
Our days are basically dive, eat and sleep. Repeat. Somewhere post-dives or pre-breakfast, we edit the pictures that we’ve taken during the dive. It’s 4 boat dives a day (or 3 when we go to Apo Island), so we’ve done 11 dives in 3 days. I’m seeing so much stuff each dive that I’m pushing through the fatigue. I’m dealing with both the camera and the buoyancy control a bit better, so a couple of the pictures in the highlight reel are mine this time.
The folks at Altantis Dumaguete are super nice and helpful. The food is amazing – lunches and dinners are always 3 courses with a main course selection of a local dish, a couple of meat dishes and a vegetarian option. Most people (including Pete) are not hungry, but I wake up starving. Even though I try to move as little as possible on the dive, I’m pretty sure you burn a few extra calories diving/struggling to keep warm.
Scratch what I said yesterday about the walls of coral: Apo Island, a 40 minute boat ride from Dumaguete, has amazing walls of healthy hard and soft coral. Great for wide angle shots – unfortunately, we didn’t bring the wide angle on the boat trip. We go again in 2 days, so we’ll be sure to bring it then.
I tried to use the strobe today – there’s a bit more at play now that there’s a strobe that you point and all sorts of configurations needed on strobe/camera to make sure the picture isn’t over or under exposed. Pete and I are also having buoyancy control issues, which makes taking good shots really difficult. All of today’s pictures are courtesy of Pete.
The diving in the Philippines is amazing. It’s not like diving in the Caribbean where you have walls and walls of vibrant coral. It’s more about spotting the creatures you never get to see elsewhere. We’re seeing (and diving) so much, we’re having trouble keeping track after our dives.
We’re having underwater camera troubles, so we’re not going to have as many pictures as usual. The older elph’s battery won’t hold a charge, plus the flash isn’t working. Since the strobe mounting bracket is configured for this elph and not the newer elph, the strobe was out of commission too. Good news is that we were able to find someone with a dive tool — next time, we’re bringing all our dive tools.
Diving itself isn’t as easy for me:
- There’s no dock, so it’s a bit of a challenge to get onto the boat.
- It also took me some time to get used to a weight belt, rented BCD. Weight belt kept sliding down my hips which dragged my feet down.
- I hate my 5 mm wetsuit – it’s ripping the skin off my knuckles when I pull it on. It’s the only wetsuit I brought, and I can’t use the rental suits since I’m still cold in a 5 mm. Poor Pete, I was pretty miserable imagining pulling on the wetsuit another 20 times. I finally figured out that I should just keep the thing on all day.
They’re feeding us 3 massive meals a day, but I’m still starving after dives and in the middle of the night. I miss my constant snacks throughout the day.
At the hole in the wall restaurants we had breakfast and dinner at, we shared our table with total strangers. The menus were in Chinese. For breakfast, we ordered what everyone else ordered (macaroni noodle soup with ham and eggs with toast), and for dinner, the place (behind me and to the right in the picture above) had a few English menus.
We finally did our walking tour through Central and went up Victoria Peak. The view from the peak was breathtaking, and we did our best to capture it in pictures. We’re still learning to use our camera.
We leave Hong Kong in a few hours, and I’ll miss the order and cosmopolitan nature of the place. On to a week of diving in the Philippines!
After a 6 hour layover in LAX, we headed out for a 14.5 hour trek in the back of a 747. (We lucked out and got one of the few doubles on the plane — there was no one next to us, and Pete was able to stretch out in the window + some seat). Tons of movies/shows, but I tried to sleep most of the way. I discovered that there was a 7-up series for America, USSR and South Africa. Really interesting since the USSR one includes their lives during and after communism and since the South Africa one starts at the end of apartheid.
Unfortunately, the Garmin couldn’t get signal, so there will be no true Google Earth video of the flights. We’ll do our best to capture most of the Vietnam cycling trip on the Garmin.
We spent most of yesterday eating and recovering from the flight. Dim sum, noodle shops and bakeries. I may try to get in a swim so I can eat even more when I’m here (while the gym is really nice, I can’t stand the hamstermill).
2 hours, 46 minutes
Useful resources for travel:
- Seatguru: shows you the configuration of the plane by carrier and which seats are good, bad or awful.
- Flyertalk: gives you the scoop on different frequent flyer programs. I went to Asia for work a few times this year and managed to get Platinum status on American on my last trip. One platinum perk is the use of the Admiral’s Club when you’re flying internationally with the One World Alliance. This will be really useful given some of our long layovers on this trip.
This crazy idea of quitting my job and taking time to do the things I’ve always wanted to do probably started when Matt and Amber told us of doing the same except they were literally traveling around the world for 9 months. At that time, it was more of an admiration for what they were going to do and not really a distinct possibility for me. Months flew by, and I was exhausted from working with folks in three regions across the world. Somewhere in there, one of my training buddies said she was going to take 3 weeks to tour around Vietnam. So, I slowly lost the will to work and gained this desire to see more of the world. Now here I am, starting the first leg of the journey towards ‘the motherland.’
I don’t know what to expect. A lot of the other Vietnamese kids have gone with their families to visit family. I am going without my family, like any other tourist, except I speak the language. Well, ‘speak’ is relative. I understand Vietnamese, and I have a decent vocabulary thanks to all the dubbed kung-fu soap operas I watched with my grandmother when I was growing up. I have a Northern accent made worse with an American accent, and I’m afraid that when I get to Saigon, no one will understand my Vietnamese.
Well, at least I finally get to resolve the question of whether or not I look Vietnamese.
And we’re packed! The lists have been double-checked, and we’ve stuffed everything into 5 bags. That’s a lot of bags for a month-long trek to Asia, but we’ve managed to pick our two hobbies that require the most gear: scuba diving and cycling. On one hand, I’m happy that we managed to keep ourselves to 5 bags. There was a lot of debate as to how much clothes to bring (we cut it down to the bare minimum) and what scuba gear to bring (in the end, we cut out the bulky and heavy BCDs). On the other hand, I’m not looking forward to lugging these bags through Asia. Most of the bulk is the scuba gear: regulators, 5 mm wetsuits (we get cold with repetitive dives), masks, fins, and underwater camera housings. There’s also some of my cycling stuff I couldn’t do without: bike seat, helmet, pedals, shoes and nutrition.