Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thailand Part 3: Sailing and Fishing Phuket

Our sailboat in the background, that is the dinghy on the left

We spent the last leg of our Thai adventure on the island of Phuket where we did day trips on a sail boat and fishing boat.


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The islands around Phuket are made of limestone which makes the water a milky green color and leads to some interesting caves and rock formations. We took a sailing trip among them for a closer look that took us through some of these cases to see the hidden lagoons and stalagtite/stalagmite formations within.

One of the cave entrances on the left

The islands are lush green and feature many sheet walls that plunge straight into the ocean at sharp angles.

The beautiful islands off of Phuket

It was a relaxing day on the boat with some napping and lounging between out island hopping.

Inside one of the caves. Alas, there was no treasure.

The next day we ventured out with Wahoo Fishing Tours for some game fishing. We motored out to Racha Noi and Racha Yoi islands and trolled around for a couple hours. The fishing has highly productive as each person on the charter pulled up a striped tuna each from the game chair, including 2 double (simultaneous) hookups.

Double hookup with Amy reeling in a monster from the game chair

The gracious crew cleaned these fish for our lunch and we enjoyed the freshest sashimi and tuna steaks imaginable along with some traditional Thai rice and chicken.

Striped Tuna - Sashimi doesn't get any fresher

After lunch we went for a quick swim and then trolled around for a couple more hours on calm seas and during a gorgeous day.

Thailand Part 2: Diving the Similian Islands


The next stage in our Thai adventure took us to the Similan Islands via a liveaboard dive boat for 4 nights. We completed 13 dives over the course of the trip and saw some amazing vistas both above and below the water.


The weather was fair and the seas calm allowing for great visibility of the abundant and diverse sea life.

The areas we dove in ranged from soft and hard coral bottoms to huge granite boulders that provided many swim throughs and caves to explore.dodging the pirates by ducking through an underwater cave

The Similan Islands provide a fertile ground for the huge abundance of live. We saw many species of animals that we had never seen before such as lionfish, harlequin shrimp, nudibranch, seahorse, blue spotted-stingrays, a sea snake and many more.Lionfish or alien creature?


We found Nemo!

Chris hiding in the school of fish

Most significantly, on the second morning, we looked up after frantic pointing by our guide to see a WHALE SHARK!!!!!
WHALE SHARK - WHALE SHARK - we saw a WHALE SHARK!!!

If Amy has spoken you to about diving at any point over the last several years she will no doubt have informed you that it was her mission to see one of these. All the anticipation, hoping, and wishing could not have prepared us for this, the thing was huge, dwarfing anything else we have seen. Imagine swimming along and then seeing something the size of a small school bus come past you.
Amy at her happiest moment - that's the whale shark she's pointing at

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean (whales are bigger but they are mammals). The one we saw was between 15 and 20 feet long. It swam over us then turned around and came back twice. They are extremely rare and everyone was freaking out with excitement. When we got to the surface, there were high fives all around.One of our dive group to give you an idea of the size - he's around 6ft tall without fins

We also encountered some large manta rays on two dives, they were beautiful and graceful as they flew through the water.

Is that manta about to attack Chris?!

Of the 13 dives we completed, one of these was a night dive. This is difficult to describe as it is both terrifying and awesome at the same time. In fact, it is mostly the terror that makes it awesome. We saw some different species at night and carefully tried to avoid the poisonous critters such as the lionfish, scorpionfish, and stonefish. No casualties to report. Some excitement at the end of the dive though as the current picked up and one of our divers was swept past the mooring line of the boat. We ended up forming a human chain to save her from disappearing onto the blackness. Good times.
video

Overall, the dive trip was the highlight of our tour in Thailand and the diving was among the best we have had. I would recommend it to anyone who dives and is keen to see some breathtaking scenery.

Thailand Part 1: Bangkok

Wat Arun, across the river from our hotel

We are back safe and sound from our adventures in Thailand and we had an awesome time.

Our trip started off in the capitol of Bangkok where we arrived in the final day of the Thai New Years celebration. While this probably involves some religious and more formal aspects, the element that we noticed most was that the entire city turned into a gigantic water fight. We first noticed this in the cab from the airport while at a stop light. There were these two 7-9 year old kids on the corner with buckets of water and huge smiles on their faces. Whenever someone would drive by on a scooter, or an open taxi called a, Tuk-Tuk, the kids would douse them with the buckets.

We saw this repeated over the course of the entire drive. Many people had adjusted to this by riding around in their bathing suits.

Hooligans, spraying passersby

Additionally, there was a lot of foot traffic on the main roads and a large percentage of the pedestrians were armed with all shapes and sizes of waterguns and buckets. Everyone was involved from 5 year old kids holding guns that were bigger than they were to seniors, sitting on folding chairs, spraying passersby.

Gotcha!

All of this led to a jovial atmosphere, everyone was soaked and smiling including Amy and I.

Superior firepower

We eventually armed ourselves and returned fire but probably should have brought a firehose.


We also attended to nights of Muay Thai Fights at the major venue in Bangkok, Lumpini Stadium. The first night was adult men fighting and the quality of the fights was the highest we had seen after attending similar events in the US and Australia.

Knockout!

The second night was bouts between teenagers from 14 on up. The fights were as good as the night before and although it was odd to see kids fighting without any special protective gear this made no difference to the competitors. There were a number of knockouts both nights.


We also took some time to visit some of the major historical sites in the city, going to the Grand Palace and the temples in the surrounding complex as well as an older style temple in Wat Arun.


The craftsmanship and architecture of these sites was amazing and unlike anything we had seen before. They had an extremely high level of detail in the ornamentation of the buildings with many intricate patterns repeated over a large scale.

At the Grand Palace

At Wat Arun

FEED MEEEEE!!!!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Off to Thailand!!!


Tomorrow Amy and I depart for 10 days in Thailand. We have heard nothing but good things about the southeast asian nation and are greatly looking forward to it.


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While there we will be diving in the Similian Islands and plan on watching the national sport of Muay Thai.


We will post pictures and video when we return, woo hoo!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Summer Camping 2: Port Stephens

One Mile Beach. Beautiful.

Towards the end of summer, we decided to have another go at fishing up in the Port Stephens/Seal Rocks area after our last failed attempt. We ventured up on a Friday evening with James and Debs not far behind. The race was on.

We camped at the amazing One Mile Beach Holiday park:

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Like our last camp ground at Treachery, this had its own beach. Unlike the last camp ground, you could go into the water without worrying about being dragged out to sea.

We made the most of this, bodysurfing and swimming for hours both days. The waves were perfect, medium sized but powerful and cleanly breaking. I actually rode across the face of a wave for a short period in a barrel for the first time, this was sublime.

On saturday, after a breakfast of chocolate-bannana pancakes and bodysurfing, we ventured out on a fishing charter via Pacific Blue Charters out of Port Stevens.

Amy, fishing for all womankind

This was a large boat with a knowledgable crew of typical chauvanistic Aussie blokes running the operation. The general attitude was that we were lucky to have the opportunity for them to share their boat with us.

Once we got out to the fishing site, we got geared up. Apparently they couldn't tell Debs and Amy apart either, as they continually called both of them, "doll". Goodonya, mate.

Amy defied them by catching more fish than the other 8 people on the boat combined for a total of 6 teraglin, 1 rock cod, and 1 flathead. James, Debs, and I caught 3 other fish over the course of the day.

The teraglin was something new to us, we had never seen these fish before. They fought most similarly to jewfish, which we catch regularly in Sydney.

At one point, the crew shouted out to the rest of the boat, "whose girlfriend is that in the back corner, I bet you're not bringing her fishing again". The doll they were talking abiut was Amy.

Response, "Are you kidding, if she keeps catching fish, I am going to bring her every time!"

What victory looks like

Anyways, with more fish than we could possibly eat, we ended up giving most of it away to the hapless charter-ees that were significantly less successful than our troupe.

We ended up cooling some with dill and lemon and the rest in a curry sauce. Mmmmmmm good.

Overall, it was a great trip. The campsite was nice and had a great beach and the fishing was leagues more successful than our previous abortive attempt. We left happy and stopped for ice cream on the way home, the perfect conclusion to any trip.