Philippines, The Middle

Thresher Cove Resort

Thresher Cove Resort

The morning of the 20th Mamie and I awoke to commence our dive trip in Malapascua.  At reception we found out our trip to Gatos island was cancelled that day due to weather.  We decided to dive the house reef they were going to instead and enjoyed seeing lots of different types of shrimps, a big mantis shrimp, five different seahorses, pipefish, horned filefish, flounder, lion fish, and a sea moth!!! I saw so many new things on this first dive I was already in love with what the Philippines had to offer. 

Scuba Mamie

Scuba Mamie

That afternoon we arrived back at the resort around two in the afternoon where we chilled and ate at the resorts restaurant.  Later, we went to explore the town/island.  I found that with the small and winding roads it was very easy to get lost.  However, the island is small enough that after a few wrong turns the pathways started to look a little familiar.  This island was different for me.  The interior is carved out by very small narrow mostly dirt roads, there were only motorbikes, no cars or trucks.  Everything wove around each other with no real rhyme or reason.  One moment you would be walking along a tall wall that bordered a resort and the next minute you would be looking into someones private yard or home.  Once we were on what I considered the main beach there were more resorts, restaurants and dive schools lining the beach all offering something a little different.  This was where we saw the most foreigner influence.  The menus offered Italian, Thai food or Western fare and there were almost always a few Filipino items as well.  After a fabulous pasta dinner including interesting and great cocktails we wove our way back to the resort to rest for our early morning dive.

Beautiful cocktails on the beach

Beautiful cocktails on the beach

The next morning we awoke at 4AM to go to Thresher Shoal where you can almost be guaranteed to see thresher sharks.  The dive consists of a long wall where the sharks come to “cleaning” stations in the morning.   We followed our dive guide Victor eagerly and although we weren’t able to sit along these roped areas and watch as the sharks went by we were greeted delightedly by one curious thresher coming right next to our group, and then another later on that we thought was soaring into a cleaning station but alas he kept swimming.  Even though our sitings were short-lived we were ecstatic and I managed to get a pretty good GoPro video of the first one cruising by.  

Thresher Shark!!!

Thresher Shark!!!

After our thresher dive we arrived back at the island where Mamie and I had a nice post dive breakfast.  We parted ways that day because the Gatos Island trip was back on and Mamie having seen the island diving previously, decided to rest for the afternoon.  Gatos Island was a glorious dive site filled with so many arrays of healthy corals and fish that I was constantly distracted.  I saw squids for the first time, I know this seems unfathomable but it’s true!  I saw my favorites, cuttlefish and varieties of nudibranchs.  I was most excited to see the largest banded sea snake I have ever seen.  Malapascua diving was setting a high bar for the rest of the trip.  

Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

Banded Sea Snake, not the biggest one I’ve seen, but still big!

The next morning we were off early early to get the first “ferry” and then a bus from the port to Cebu City north bus terminal then a taxi to the south bus terminal, a bus/car ferry to Dumaguete, then a bus to the middle of no where, and a tricycle taxi to finish the journey to Liquid in Dauin.

May 2017 Thailand Part I

Thailand Part I

I had to break this entry into two parts because it was overflowing with information.

After Hawaii on the spring tour, was a swing through Jackson, WY to pick up Beth on our way to Thailand.  This trip has been one of her lifelong dreams.  

After about 27 hours of travel, we spent a few days in Bangkok to adjust to the time and meet some of my divers.  When we arrived in Bangkok we headed to The Grand President Hotel.  To be in a foreign place so far away and feel like you've arrived home is the reason I frequently stay at Grand President.  When we weren’t lounging by the pool we were touring the big city.  We ate marvelous meals, went shopping for souvenirs, and leisurely boated down the river.  

My first errand generally starts with MBK Shopping Center.  I like it because it is conveniently located on the BTS light rail at the National Stadium stop.  MBK is known for its wide array of offerings and cheaper prices.  I always come here for cell phone issues and purchases, custom-made business cards, and souvenirs.  If you need or want anything you will probably find it there.  Once the errands were done we took a river tour.  

To get to this particular company we took the BTS to Saphan Thaksin stop (Thaksin Bridge) near Mandarin Oriental and Peninsula Hotel.  Then you can walk, 20 minutes, or taxi/grabcar, 10 minutes, to Jacks Bar.  We had some great spicy Thai food and a beer on the dock next to the boats.  We departed from Jack’s Bar on a low-key river tour.  We took pictures and stopped at one of the temples.  If you prefer to make more stops and view more of the temples and attractions just let them know.

Besides Jacks Bar and the great breakfast at the hotel, we enjoyed two meals in particular within walking distance of Grand President on Soi 11.  One was at Pizzeria Limoncello and the other at Oskar Bistro.  Pizzeria Limoncello offers wonderful Italian food with a decent wine selection and of course homemade limoncello.  This was the first place outside of Italy that I actually enjoyed the limoncello.  Oskar Bistro is more of a social gathering spot with great food, wine selection, and surprising craft cocktails. Well-made drinks are not always easy to find in Thailand.  I always enjoy my favorite signature cocktail, the Spicipirinha, it's a caipirinha with spicy Thai chilies.  After a few well-spent days and meals we headed south to Koh Tao.  

Considering the luggage we had and the adventure I wanted to show everyone, we took the train south overnight and then the ferry in the morning.  The train, although timeworn, is one of my favorite things to show people on a budget.  I have been on trains in other countries and this one is very old school.  It can be cheaper than flying especially with luggage but please do not “save money” and buy a 3rd class ticket.  Get a 2nd or 1st class AC sleeper ticket.  This way you will have a good night sleep on your travel south.  Like I said, the trains in operation right now are not new; do not expect a luxury sleeper.  I think they are comfortable but they are definitely showing their age.  

Koh Tao was hot as usual and had beautiful weather when we arrived.  The following day Beth enjoyed some beach time as I went diving with clients.  The highlight over the next few days of diving was seeing the Whale shark.  These animals are filter feeders and are so big and amazing to watch underwater.  The dive experiences everyone had were great and some fears were left behind.  Another water day spent around the island was snorkeling off of Aow Leuk beach.   The water here is a turquoise color.  On this particular day, visibility was good, and the corals and fish were bright and abundant.  Days of diving, eating amazing food, seeing a Whale shark, and snorkeling on beautiful reefs fulfilled everyone's desires.  After Koh Tao my group of divers travelled to the Andaman coast while Beth and I went north.  

River Tour
The King on a building
Train