Friday, December 15, 2006

I am sitting in the Bangkok airport waiting for my departure to Taipei. After an incredible trip I am ready to go home. Please keep checking my blog for the next couple of weeks as I have many pics and videos I plan to post from my trip. I had to skip over a lot in order to keep the blog updated.

I am looking forward to seeing everybody when I get home. Please don't be mad if I didn't bring you anything... because unless your name starts with an L and ends in indsay I probably didn't. Thank you for understanding.

(btw- the first post on this blog has my itinerary if you are interested in tracking my flight progress Mom)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Friday was the 4th time I have flown into Bangkok's Airport, Suvarnabhumi (BKK). The airport opened on September 28, 2006, just a few days before I arrived on October 2nd. Suvarnabhumi (pronounced suwanapoom) is home to the tallest air traffic control tower in the world and it is the world's 2nd largest airport terminal behind Hong Kong.

Above: Courtyard and terminal building (photo from

Thai Airways Boeing 747-400.
The dive trip was great but I was ready to move on. On Friday, December 8, my Dad and I flew from Phuket to Bangkok. I couldn't wait to get back to the capital city for its rich culture and incredible food.

The roof of the dive boat was referred to as "Skin-cancer deck" by the head divemaster. (the clever name keeps the deck sparsely populated)

My Dad and I agreed that the 1.5 hour flight from Phuket to Bangkok was much better than the 12 hour train ride and accompanying 5 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Phuket.

Goodbye Phuket.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Similan Islands were impressive to say the least. The dive sites we visited were heavily saturated with life. Admittedly I am an abecedarian underwater photographer as I took all of the photographs in this post. (including those of myself- and with the exception of "Maverick")

Above: My Dad battles the choppy water just before a dive.

Above: One of many beautiful fishes I was unable to identify... or I have since forgotten the name.

Spotting this Sea Turtle completed a very fortunate early dive career. After 18 dives in Thailand I have seen a Whale Shark, dozens of Reef Sharks, and a Sea Turtle. (as well as a variety of smaller aquatic life and various types of coral)

My Dad waves to me at 20 meters.

I told the Dive boat to refer to me as Maverick.. it didn't catch on.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Many non-divers will tell you not to bother visiting Phuket as SE Asia is full of beautiful beaches and there is much better. However, talk to a diver and they will tell you the Similans are THE must-dive spot in Thailand. And the easiest way to get there is via Phuket.

The uninhabited Similan Islands are approximately 70 kilometers from the mainland. Therefore, the best opportunities to dive there come in the form of a live aboard dive trip. There are one day dive trips available, but the amount of travel necessary for just two dives is a bit much.

We opted for a 2 day, 1 night trip. We made 6 dives plus 1 night dive, for a total of 7 dives.

The journey begins with a 1-1.5 hour speed boat ride to the Similan Islands. The boat we were on (similar to the boat pictured above) had three 200hp outboard motors. The ride was rather loud and bumpy but well worth it.

After 1.5 hours we arrived at the live aboard boat. The 2 year old boat was quite nice, better than any of the others we saw in the area.

With 30 +/- divers on board you'd think things would get somewhat crowded and congested... surprisingly it rarely felt that way, except for just a few times after a dive when people were trying to board the boat from the choppy water.

The women who run our hotel were having a birthday bbq and they invited us to join them. I have been talking to them about how much I love Thai food and they share the same dissatisfaction I have for Phuket's poor mélange of culinary options. I think they wanted to show me they can do better... and they were successful.

They prepared bbq'd snails, snapper, perch, squid, beef, and pork steaks. Everything was fantastic and they even offered us some California wine to top things off. Oh yeah... and we saved room for dessert.

On Monday we made two dives off the coast of Phuket. We dove from a longtail boat. The above image shows my Dad making his way out to the boat.

The first dive was to visit a shipwreck. A tin mining boat wrecked just off the coast of Bang Tao Beach about 80 years ago.

The second dive was to some coral off of Bang Tao Beach.

The diving was great fun and it got me excited for our upcoming Similan Islands trip.

We went to dinner at a cliff-side restaurant with views of Patong Beach. I guess Patong is good for something.

Wandi, our hotel manager, and her two sisters have been wonderful to us. Wandi goes out of her way to help everybody who stays at Papa Crab, and we are no exception. Wandi has been managing the hotel since just after the Tsunami. This year she asked her sister and sister-in-law to leave their families in Bangkok to help her run the hotel in Phuket for the high season.

On Sunday they were heading to the beach for an afternoon off and they invited us along. We were on our way out to Kamala Beach (where we are staying) and we thought it would be nice to see a new place. They took us to Nai Thon Beach (pictured above). It's a very nice beach with very few visitors.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tsunami warning signs on Ko Phi Phi Don remind visitors of what now seems so painfully obvious.
Today we rented motorbikes and went for a ride around the island. We stopped by the yacht club where we saw some incredible boats. We ate lunch at an authentic Thai restaurant (almost impossible to find on Phuket) and we continued on a loop that would eventually take us back to Kamala Beach. (where we are currently staying)

Phuket has more similarities with Florida than it does to the rest of Thailand. Huge billboards with English advertisements line the roads. Strip malls are the building of choice when it comes to commercial development, and tourists generally come here on some sort of a packaged trip. Most of the people appear to be of retirement age, and those who aren't are either diving or they missed the memo about islands in the Gulf of Thailand being much better. The restaurants are very westernized and they lack any resemblance to the Thai restaurants in other parts of Thailand. The food is served western style and they don't even bother to put spicy fish sauce on the table.

There is no question that Phuket has some beautiful scenery. You have to share it with every banana hammock on the planet, but if you are looking for a resort vacation Phuket is a decent destination.

Phuket does have some of the best diving in the world. The nearby Similan Islands are widely considered to be among the worlds top 10 dive sites. Diving is probably the only reason one should ever come here.

Today I bumped up our airline tickets so we can get out of here sooner. We have three days of diving planned this week and we are flying to Bangkok on Friday, December 8th. I have to admit, I can't wait to get back to Thailand

I have heard that Patong Beach is a hole. Today we drove by it on our trip around the island. I stopped and took the photograph below. (if you witnessed "hell on earth" you'd probably take a picture too) I did you all a favor and I decided not to take any photos of the street... it's a real eyesore. (see if you can spot any banana hammocks)

Friday, December 01, 2006

Here is my papa in front of our Kamala Beach Guest House, Papa Crab.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

We made our way from the beautiful islands of Phi Phi to the Krabi Province in Southern Thailand. Krabi is considered to be one of the world's premier rock climbing destinations. The limestone cliffs that jet out of the tropical Andaman Sea are a breathtaking sight.

The above image is my father looking off the port side of a longtail boat we hired to take us from Ao Nang Beach to Ton Sai Beach.

As we approached Ton Sai it was quite clear as to why there aren't any roads connecting the village to mainland Thailand. The entire village is surrounded by limestone cliffs. The only way in or out is by boat.

At night the village of Ton Sai is rather busy. The lights from the bars light up the cliffs surrounding the village.

During low-tide the rocky bottom in Ton Sai is exposed. Low-tide also provides a walking path to nearby Railay Beach.

This image shows the west end of Ton Sai Beach.

Image of Ton Sai from a longtail boat.

Many of these limestone cliffs are bolted which helps make climbing routes abundant for all skill levels.

Leaving Ton Sai Beach by longtail you can see how difficult it is to take a level photograph.

As we made our way from Ton Sai to Ao Nang Beach we passed this beach resort nestled in between the cliffs.

While Ko Phi Phi Don appears to be mostly rebuilt, there are a few places on Phi Phi Don where the rebuilding effort is still going strong.

The main beach on Phi Phi Don is loaded with longtail boats offering to taxi you to other nearby beaches for a nominal fee.

Monday, November 27, 2006

On Sunday we arrived on the island of Ko Phi Phi Don, the largest of the Phi Phi Islands. The island was made famous when it was used as the primary filming location for the 2000 film, The Beach, with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Much of the islands buildings were destroyed by the December 26, 2004 tsunami that struck much of SE Asia. 700 people on the island were killed. An estimated 200,000 people died from the tsunami, with an estimated 8,000 deaths in Thailand.

Most of the buildings on the island have been rebuilt and there are few signs of the devastation that occured here. Accomodation prices are among the most expensive in Thailand as they are often fully booked on the island. We arrived just in time for the high season prices which are more than double those of the low season.

We didn't have much of a choice in where we stayed as most of the island was full. We took one of the cheaper options we found and it is quite nice. We have a small bungalow with a/c, satellite television, electronic safe, bathroom with hot water, and two twin beds. The brand new bungalows are very nice, although they are not the best value I've found in Thailand. (or anywhere close)