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Only six weeks have passed since I
returned from India and I now find myself so soon on a long plane
ride, this time bound for
Thailand. Well, it wasn't so hard to find myself because here I
am. The impending expiration of frequent flyer miles is the
reason the two trips are so close together. Before I continue
with my ramblings, I would like to give those bored with my mundane
dribble the opportunity to fast forward to something more meaningful
such as the diving.
A swift and easy check-in lead to on-time boarding but a sudden three hour delay because there were refueling problems and wing de-icing required due to the snow storm that began a few hours previously. As I write this, the mystery is whether or not I will make all of my connecting flights, and that's with my luggage filled dive gear. There were supposed to be layovers of 1 hour 10 minutes in Frankfurt, 1 hour 50 minutes in Singapore and 4 hours in Bangkok. Our pickup time for the boat in Phuket is on the day after my planned arrival. Of course I'm nervous but I'm trying not to think about it.
Instead I'd prefer to think about Hugh's dream two nights ago of me drowning at 118 feet. Well, don't worry because my Poseidon regulator that needs servicing is in my carry-on bag. And not to worry after reading Hugh's fortune from our Chinese dinner that we had just before he dropped me at the airport. The fortune read that impending problems could be avoided. The reverse side of the fortune said to learn Chinese and the word to learn was "duck". Another coincidence because I am the duck logo at the Microsoft Windows login. Can I stop worrying now?
If you haven't heard, there are new weight limitations for airline baggage. Was 70 lbs each for 2 bags, now it's 50 lbs each for 2 bags. I weighed each piece of my dive gear individually and made a list so I could resort it quickly if necessary. Regulator with octopus, gauges and hoses with din converter is 5 lbs. Small heavy stuff went into my carry on. So what did they do? Weigh my carry on. I had to move my 3 lb singles converter to another bag. Yes, it's good to know the weight of each piece of dive gear. My clothing suitcase weighed 8 kg. That is x 2.2 = 17.6 lbs. I hope I have enough clothes. The gear bag is 50 lbs. Singapore Air still has the 70 lb weight limitation but Thai Air has lowered theirs to 50 lbs. Perfect because that means I can buy 70 lbs of merchandise in Bangkok, a place I hear is a true shopping paradise.
We had our stop in Frankfurt and now I know the status of my itinerary. I will most likely miss my connecting flight from Singapore to Bangkok but I expect to be on schedule in the end because there is another flight two hours later. When I booked the trip I had a feeling about the timing and planned for a four hour stop in Bangkok before my last flight to Phuket. Now I will only have a two hour stop in Bangkok. Harry is supposed to meet me at level 3 at the Bangkok airport. In Frankfurt, I was promptly handed a new itinerary and a calling card to update friends and family with my new travel plans. When the card did not work, the Singapore Air ground staff person gave me her cell phone to call the US. I called Hugh and Mom to email Harry with my delay information. Do you know any airports in the US that hand out calling cards and cell phones to enable delayed passengers to call to another country to update their friends and family?
When we arrived in Singapore we found a small table temporarily set up at the gate with new boarding passes for many passengers. I used the time until the next flight by spending some leftover Singapore and Malaysian dollars from last year's trip, calling home and sending emails.
I arrived in Bangkok and quickly lined up at customs. Of course, I picked the wrong line. It didn't move for fifteen minutes and they finally turned the passenger back who was holding up the line. My bags were waiting for me at the baggage carousel where I loaded them onto a cart and ran off to look for Harry at the planned meeting place. I didn't find him and decided I should check in. Afterwards, I looked for him a second time and found him at the planned location. We boarded the final flight bound for Phuket.
|At the airport in Phuket I exchanged money. They give a better rate for fifties than twenties. We were greeted outside the airport by numerous men who wanted us to take their taxis. We made our way past them to the taxi stand. We got to the hotel and I had a swim and Harry took a nap. We walked around the Patong Beach town area of Phuket looking for the decadence that we'd heard about. There was one bar after another, discos, tattoo parlors and massage. It was difficult to find tourist T shirts that said Thailand or Phuket.|
There were, however, many stores selling T shirts and shorts that said
Abercrombie, Diesel, D&G. There were "Canal Street"
handbags and bikinis with the LV design. We had dinner at a
seafood restaurant where we were able to choose our fish from large
ice-covered tables. Our jet lag forced us to go to sleep just
before 11 pm. In the morning we walked the town again and had a
Thai massage. We walked into a pharmacy to find cough syrup for
Harry's cough. We asked for some with codeine. They said
he needed a prescription for codeine. They wanted to know if he
had a lot of phlegm and if it was green. Harry said to wait just one
minute an he would check and he walked outside and spit in the street
in front of the store and told them it was green. They said he
needed antibiotic. Apparently, no prescription was needed for
that - "which one would he like". He took the Zithromax which they
told him to take 2x a day for 3 days. FYI, my box of Zithromax
says to take 2 the first day and one for each of the next 5 days.
At 11:30 am our ride
came to pick us up
for a four hour drive to the dive boat which was located in Ranong.
We drove through the countryside passing beautiful mountain scenery with signs for numerous waterfalls along the way. We were pulled
over for a speeding ticket. We stopped at 7-11 where I bought
roasted watermelon seeds in a package. Roasting doesn't really
help. You can't chew them very much better than regular
ones. The drive through the countryside had water buffalo and
other animals, outdoor food stalls - a little like the towns in India
but fewer people and cleaner. Lots of school children in
uniform, fish farms and several mosques..
We arrived at the boat and removed our shoes before boarding and didn't see them again for a week. We took out our passports and three clean, crisp, (no mars allowed) bills for the Burmese customs agent who came aboard. The crew held our passports for the week. Burma is now called Myanmar.
The dive boat MV Philkade was built for private use so it's much nicer than the usual. A teak wooden deck leads into a grand salon with granite and a slick wood laminate floor and granite coffee tables. The top sundeck also has teak wood floors and a sink with running water. Don't know why but this is the only dive boat I've been on with a locking safe in the room and locking cabin door. The rooms are basic with private baths and stall shower - none of that combination toilet in the shower stuff. My room is next to the engine room and is loud at times and smells of diesel. Unlike many boats, there is unlimited juice, snacks and fruits left out all day. When one speaks to the crew, they nod but don't really know what you're saying. They hand out two towels which are changed once in the middle of the trip. One is to bring to the deck to dry off after the dive. I hope that towel finds the time to dry between each of the four dives a day. All used toilet paper must go in the trash.
We headed up the coast in the Andaman Sea
in Burma. The first dive was at High Rock. I pulled on my 3mm
wetsuit with vest, safety sausage with 20 foot line supplied by the boat,
and put on an aluminum 80 tank filled with nitrox and jumped into the 80
degree water. I switched between each dive from a 3 mm to a 5 mm
wetsuit. The air was 90 degrees.
The water was a greenish color like in the Northeast US with visibility of only about 50 feet and a thermocline. We saw many schools of fish and fishing nets laid out over the reef.
|We saw a crocodile fish, black spiny sea urchins with blue glow-in-the-dark spots and an octopus.|
The clown fish home, the sea anemone, was a deep blue
in color as opposed to the usual yellow/orange color.
The next dives in Burma (called In Through the Out Door or Shark Cave), convinced me that Burma is a fish bowl with bad visibility, which again was about 50 feet. We saw angel fish, pincushion starfish and large sea fans among the rocks and cuts. Large fish, probably travally, darted in and out of a large school of bait fish which hovered in the water like a large dark cloud.
|There were nudibranchs, large lobster and|
2 white eye moray eels sharing the same hole in a rock,
while a third poked his head into crevices looking for food. I saw a
small fish inside a zigzag clam and couldn't help but to think how mean it
would be to touch the clam so it would close up and trap the fish. I
did not do that.
At night, we visited the same site and I saw 2 cuttlefish swimming and moray eels.
to Thailand Part 2
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