On the road: Western Australia

At last I am able to sit down to type this post. It has been overdue for about 2 weeks. Back from a long hiatus, only to realise WordPress’s format has changed again?? Why can’t I move my pictures anymore? Copy and pasting can be quite a pain in the ass.

After my last trip to Australia, I could not wait to go back again. So my man and I decided to get tickets to Perth, Western Australia. And since he could not get enough of long distance driving, this trip will solely be the two of us with him as the driver. It has been too long since we had a trip just the two of us.

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Khao Lak,Similans Islands LOB, Phuket

I’ve just gotten back from a holiday, and i’m suffering from terrible withdrawal symptoms. For some unknown reason, WordPress seemed to have changed their formatting. Can’t say that I’m digging it though.

Anyway, since this was planned this trip with a bunch of divers, its no doubt we will plan this trip centered around diving! Of course, me being a shutterbug, and my other girls being photographers, brace yourself for lotsa photos! This is also gonna be a reeeaalllyy long post.

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Advance Open Water 2015

I have put off blogging for so long, much thanks to my work and school work. Assignments this term seems to be never-ending and I’m actually trying to create a website for a company that I am setting up! Furthermore, school season has started and that means tuition has started too.

Anyway, I decided to take a weekend to do my much-awaited advance open water course. My dad wanted to join (yes, my dad’s a diver too), but due to some circumstances, he needed to stay home. So I decided to go ahead with my man.

Once again, I find myself back in Tioman Island, one of the few diving places where majority of Singapore’s diving schools go to for the open water assessment. I went with the same diving school as my open water course, Blue reef Scuba. Usually, the course is about SGD$489 (which is the cheapest thus far in Singapore), but I had to pay an extra $70 as the usual budget resort at Salang Beach was full. Well, it was $70 well spent. Nothing compares to a hot shower (with rain shower head), and international buffet meals after a day out at sea. The bed was really comfy with fluffy pillows and comforters.

The first night was relatively uneventful, other than the other 2 guys who were sharing rooms with us seemed unfriendly. After much awkward prying on my end, I found out that they were doing their Open Water with another 5 of their friends. I think they were a tad unhappy that they were bunking with us and not their homies. This changed throughout the course of course and soon the boys were talking about everything under the sun.

The PADI Advance course, personally, feels a lot like just 5 leisure dives, with maybe 2 dives that tested on your skills for about 5mins; namely Peak Performance Bouyancy and Underwater Navigation . Of course, it comes with a night dive as well, which I’ll talk more about in a while

For Peak Performance Bouyancy, you learn how to hover, using only your lungs and not your fins, like those pro underwater photographers. I had a slight trouble with this, since I am naturally positively buoyant (means i float). What was impressive was that our instructor, Ali, was able to do it so effortlessly. His body was vertical, and his fins were only about 5 inches off the seabed (like a ghost). Now, divers usually inhale to rise and exhale to sink, so it doesn’t exactly make sense as how he could be motionless! I tried doing it a couple of times myself and I found myself floating to the surface.

As for Underwater Navigation, *insert long heavy sigh*. In all honesty, when I was made to use the underwater compass, I was completely clueless on how to use it, even till date, even though we were briefed. Basically, you pair up with your buddy, one to use the compass and one to count the number of kick cycles and to tap your shoulder once the number of kick cycles is done, so that you can rotate to whatever direction you should facing next. Now, using the compass requires the diver to be able to do some Math underwater, just simple addition and minus. Everyone who knows me knows that I am hopeless at Math, so what makes them think I can do Math underwater when I already struggle with it on land?! Someone should seriously invent an underwater calculator already.

Naturally, I was paired up with my man. I was, unfortunately chosen to be the one using the compass and although the whole time my posture was of me looking at the compass, my mind was blank and my eyes were looking at the corals below me. I was totally dependent on my buddy to guide me since I gave up right at the start as I didn’t know which direction to face even from the beginning, even though I was suppose to be the one guiding him! Ha! Luckily, we were just told to dive in a square, and my man told me that he just estimated, coz he knows I wasn’t doing my job, to form that square. After this dive, the instructor told us that all our kick cycles were too small, and so our square was probably only 25m X 25m. It was only a few days ago, when I was relating my experience to my bff Bernie, that I found out that if we did it properly, meaning proper, big, kick cycles, we would not have been able to estimate and guess our bearings.

Now, for the night dive, people who have read my Bali post, knows that I have already done that before. So although the other potential advance divers were excited about it, I was really reluctant. The instructors were able to see through my hesitation and assured me that we will have dive torches and not like we were diving in total darkness, but when I told them what happened in Bali, they were more astonished that I did night diving before I even got an advance certification!

We entered from the boat, so it was kinda scary, like jumping into a dark abyss. Overall, history did not repeat itself (thankfully), and to be honest, there wasn’t anything much to see. A bunch of sea urchins peppered the sea floor, and nothing else. It got so boring at one point that I didn’t bother shining my torch anywhere else but in front of me, and hopefully a wandering fish might be caught in the stream of light. The instructors did made us kneel on the seabed in a circle and use our hands to fan the water to show the ‘sparks’ underwater. Not as impressive as Bali, but everyone else was still pretty amazed. If we ever did this on land, it might be a pretty funny sight!

We ended the course the next day with one last dive at Renggis Island. Once we got off the boat, the current was so strong, everyone had to hold on to a rope while waiting for the rest to get off the boat! Once we descended, we had to kinda fight the current. It was hard man. Homegirl was struggling her ass off, and eventually got so tired, I just gave up stopped finning to rest. Thank God, my man has a lot more experience than me fighting currents (since he is a certified life guard), he held unto my hand and just dragged me which I was more than happy to allow so. After the currents, we went with the current and went drift diving! Drift diving was so much fun as you really do not need to fin at all and the water just pushes you. Its like watching an underwater movie! We sighted 3 sea turtles ( I have an obsession with them ) and almost ran into a couple of Titan Triggerfishes.

Between my own and my other advance divers’ cameras, we rounded up thousands of pictures. Most of the pictures here are taken using my Nikon AW110. As there were so many, I decided to just choose a bunch of my favourite ones to upload here.

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This is a Moray eel, if you squinted hard enough.

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More sea turtles with a fish trying to catch all the attention

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This is me, on a threadmill, for probably the first and only time.

The amount of fishes here was indescribable, it looks like King Triton’s castle

This trip was amazing, not because of the Marine life, or that I am now officially an PADI Advanced diver, but because I met so many like-minded people and made so many great friends and of course, future dive buddies. Everyone, especially the advance divers bonded extremely well, we still kept in constant contact with each other and planning more holidays and dive trips together.

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Thank you Shirong, Sam, Mike, Kate and especially Ali our instructor for making this trip such a memorable one!

I also managed to curb seasickness! I feel so proud of myself, even though there were Open Water students puking around me. Even my man was surprised at how well I held up. So here’s a few tips that I used myself:

1) For some unknown reason, I couldn’t get any sleep on the bus ride to the jetty, which is about 4-5hrs away. Furthermore, we took a night bus. So once I got on the ferry, I conked out. Sleeping really helps, maybe that’s why a lot of sea sick medicines like Dropamine, makes one drowsy. If you are unable to sleep, maybe you can try popping the pills.

2) Keep away from oily stuff during breakfast. That means, no fried bacon or grilled sausages. For this trip, even though I had a whole buffet selection (at least 30 dishes) to choose from, I stuck to plain omelettes and plain cereal with milk. Try to get more carbohydrates to get energy as you will need loads for diving. Stay away from anything acidic like Orange Juice. Your stomach will thank you later.

3) Load up on the Gingers! Not asking you to eat ginger directly, but stocking up on packaged instant ginger tea will be nice. I brought a box with me on this trip, and just made the tea in a Thermos flask before leaving the room for the day. No idea why it works, but having hot ginger tea after a dive is probably one of the most satisfying and weirdly relaxing feeling in the world! Just the smell of it will make you feel instantly better. For people who are not so keen on Ginger, I’m pretty sure pharmacies do have Ginger pills which is touted to cures for sea sickness, not sure if it works though.

There are, of course, many other ways, from looking into the horizon, to drinking Coca Cola. Not sure if these work, since looking into the horizon doesn’t really work for me, and I’m not a fan of soda (just thinking of all that gas in your tummy while its churning, not exactly comforting). But who knows, what might not work for me, might just work for you.

Signing off~

Boracay: Paradise Found 27Nov- 3rd December 2013

Please excuse my procrastination. I am being held up by school work and Team Fortress 2(whoever plays this, please comment and add me!). Here is the very much awaited Boracay post.

I remember, 2 weeks before I’m bound for Boracay,Typhoon Haiyan hit Philippines. I, like every other traveler, was worried out of my mind on what will become of my trip, since it was on the news that the typhoon did, indeed hit Boracay. I checked Tripadvisor several times, refreshing the page every 5 minutes to see updates on what the other travelers(who were already there) wrote about the situation. I also wrote several emails to the resort that I’m staying, and the staff have been really reassuring, telling me that they have not been really affected except for power outages.

I decided to just YOLO (with wit, since I bought travel insurance just in case. I don’t usually have the habit to buy travel insurance since I would rather spend those extra moolahs on the trip itself.) and go ahead with my trip.

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Goodbye 2014, 2015 is my bi**h now

One would agree, that 2014 has been terrible so far, and boy am I glad that its over. Though I have gained many, others have lost greatly. 2014 is for one, the worst year for aviation history, as well as for Malaysia. From MH370 being lost and not found till now, MH17 getting blown up over Ukraine, flooding in Taman Negara, Malaysia and now the AirAsia flight crashing at sea, killing hundreds. The Ebola outbreak has reached a death toll of thousands, followed by Typhoon Hagupit in Phillipines, leaving thousands homeless. I have to be really grateful to Singapore, for being my shelter despite all the resentment and culture dilution.

Much condolences to the families of the victims, my heart goes out to you guys.

However, the new year is coming in less than 24 hours. My company felt that it will be a good idea for all staff to do a short write up of their achievements for the year 2014 and resolutions for 2015, and for me to take on the futile task of creating a yearbook. Cliché much? Baby I know. Resolutions are mostly broken by February. However, I can’t help being sucked into the fun of creating resolutions. So here are mine. Continue reading

Measure life by countries, not by years

I have been playing with the idea of using this blog, not only for ballet and braces, but also for my travels. I am a wanderluster; 100% guilty. I am the type of girl who is willing to spend most of her paycheck on a getaway to some island and come back penniless. Although i do keep a scrap book at home, which is frankly outdated, as I’m lazy, too busy to print photos and stick’em in there, complete with fanciful cutouts from overpriced
coloured/textured paper.

This blog, will not only serve to keep me looking busy at the office, reminded of the experiences and people that I have gained and met, hopefully, it can help other readers too, who are hoping to go to one of those places that I have been as well.

Feel free to comment =)

Bali: The island of the Gods

Bali: The island of the Gods

So i’m finally back to reality, facing the sharks of the office and steadying my breath as my work email populates to the hundreds.

Bali has been both terrible and awesome for me, though more awesome than terrible. I’ve gained so much more experiences than i would ever expect. From seeing my first shark while diving to capsizing and being stuck under a boat during white water rafting. Its mind-blowing how much more i would have experienced if I stayed just a little longer.

When pops first told me that we will be going to Bali at the end of the year, my alter ego, the researcher, went on full blast mode. Researching down to the tiniest detail of how much beer would cost. I can remember how i almost got a coronary just from seeing the prices of activities, not exactly a ‘eat,pray,love’ experience.

So here it is, as I pen down my thoughts, for both memories and information, a blow by blow of how Bali has treated me and my pocket.

After an extremely tiring midnight flight, we arrived at our villa, aptly named Atmadeva Villa, which means liberated in Hindu.

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How can one not feel liberated, waking to this every morning?

Despite the many creatures that we’ve found, mostly spiders, rats, frogs and geckos, which I read somewhere, means Bali welcomes you, our stay was somewhat good.

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After we settled in, we went out for a walk around to sight see (which is mainly consisting of shopping malls) before settling in for the night.

The next day, we woke up bright and early to go diving at Tulamben. Drive there took about 2 hours, which I have to admit, would have been a sight if we were not all falling asleep. Bernie was going on about a Christianity rant that pops was putting him through.

Was amazed at how the ladies here can carry 15kg scuba tanks on their heads and one more on their shoulders with no problems at all. Salutes to them.

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Anyway, we went with Bali Scuba Masters. our dive instructor and Made, the owner of the dive centre was super friendly and professional. They made our safety their number 1 priority, which is what I was looking out for.

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So off we go, for our first dive, and personally, my first wreck dive, at the USAT Liberty wreck. This wreck is also one of the most famous sunken ship wrecks in the world. I’ll let the pictures tell you why

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This place is just filled with camwhoring fishes!

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The BF started praise and worship underwater.

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If anyone has any idea what this fish/worms are, please do tell me. I am dying to know!

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On the same day, we went for our very first night dive! I can see so many scuba nazis already shaking their heads, going tsk tsk tsk, since majority of our dive group are only open water certified. However, our guide split us into 2 groups, which is 2 diver to one DM, so we felt really safe, even though my dive torch died halfway through the dive.

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It is also here, i saw my first Napolean fish aka Humphead wrasse! The DMs were fast to point out to us, so we all manage to see it before it swam into the darkness of the wreck.

downloadimage from google images

Although there was nothing much to see in the darkness, we managed to catch a glimpse of the night life under the sea. Made, our DM, made us all kneel on the sea bed, (which brought back memories of the open water course at Tioman), then stuck his torch into the ground, and lo behold, a million stars swirling in the light of his torch! It kinda looks like the lava lamps with gold speckles in them, except waaaaaay prettier. We also started waving our hand around, and sparks just seem to fly out of our fingertips! Bernie later went to google and found out that it was the planktons trying to get attention of predators to eat whatever is startling them. On hindsight, it was not such a good idea.

2nd day dive was at Padang Bai aka Blue lagoon. It mainly consists of coral gardens, which itself, is a sight to behold!

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My very first shark!! This, if i’m not wrong, is the white tip shark which was way too majestic. It is miraculous we saw it, since i read that they are mostly nocturnal.

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Again, thanks to our wonderful DM, we managed to catch a shot at the beautiful scorpion fish.

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Bernie wanted to take a pic of him upside down, which resulted in him almost hitting the corals in the next pic.

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Giant puffer!

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Underwater selfie with the buddy.

After our underwater escapade, the next day, was yet another exciting day, and also another first! White water rafting in Bali with my favourite people turned out to be full of hilarious drama, I feel we could write a book with the experience gained! The whole journey, merrily down a class 3+ river was about 2hours long, with a distance of 16km traveled.

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To be completely honest, I fell off the raft twice, with the last the most epic, and the waterfall, oh don’t get me started on the water. We would have asked for an encore if that was even possible. So here it is, a blow-by-blow of how we unglamourously capsized, with my dear buddy Bernie thinking he got a concussion. To be completely honest, everything seems to be moving in slow motion, but yet, my mind was blank, just leaving everything up to God. Bernie claims to have seen his life flash before his eye. Talk about melodramatic . My camera, sadly, has no enough memory left to do a video of it first hand. After the bf tumbled out of the raft, everything seems to go downhill from there.

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Bernie and me were trapped under the raft for a couple of minutes, not knowing if anyone knew we were trapped underneath. I can vividly remember how it was dark, with the cool river water just splashing everywhere. I tried to keep my feet up, hoping that someone would somehow catch a sight of my leg and knew we were trapped under, just bidding our time.

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The look on his face after we got saved, the struggle is real!

The Bf somehow drifted and was saved by another group, filled with English people. Forever grateful to these nice people, maybe i should have offered them tea =p

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All in all, we did good and felt good. A few scratches on the knees and lost slippers is not going to stop me from doing it all over again.

Back at our villa, we decided to do a mini impromptu photoshoot with the gorgeous padi fields as our backdrop

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How can i ever go on a vacation without the compulsory stretch. Bernie here tries to mimic me with great difficulty. Time to work on your flexibility dude.

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And finally ending the night with tantalising and mouth-watering BBQ dinner cooked by the staff of the villa themselves.

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Some last minute advise for those who wish to visit; thanks to much research and experience:

  • Although Bali makes use of both currencies Rupiah and USD, it is advisable to bring more Rupiah, since most can be paid in Rupiah, and most things are cheaper in Rupiah
  • Although there are many cabs around, most of them don’t like to switch on their meters. From what i heard, only choose Blue bird cabs. It’ll be best to just hire a driver with a car as it is much more economical since travel between attractions can be a few hours apart
  • ALWAYS bargain at night markets, and only do so if you really have the intention to buy.
  • Bring a Sarong along if you intend to go visiting temples.
  • There is a payment of USD 35 for Visa on arrival. People who have bought or from ASEAN countries, can skip this. Spend as much as you like, but i suggest to put aside Rupiah 200,000 for the airport tax upon departure.
  • Too many zeros to count? For Singaporeans, just divide by 10,000, or just mentally cancel 4 zeros off the back and you get it in estimated SGD.

Costing of the trip (click on headers for links):

Air tickets: SGD280/pax on Jetstar

Villa: SGD68/pax for 5 nights

Diving: USD215/pax

White water rafting: SGD27.50/pax

Near-death experiences: Priceless (so cliche)

Bali; you have been great for and to me.

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