ah phuket, lets go diving

Landing in Phuket was a bit of a culture shock for me. I knew Thailand was not going to be as developed as Singapore or Europe, but I wasn’t prepared for how different it would be. In Europe and in Singapore transit was pretty easy, there were subway stations or trains for the most part to get us where we wanted to go. For the most part it was a matter of just looking up subway lines on Google maps.

Landing in Phuket immediately felt different. When we landed at the small airport in Phuket, we had no clue how to get to our hotel. There’s no train or subway. What they did have were these minivans and taxis. We decided to go with a minivan, mainly because it was much more cheaper than the taxi, but also because it seemed like everyone else was picking the minivan as well. So we went with the minivan, and found that it wouldn’t leave until it was completely full. And then before the minivan would drop off any of its passengers at their respective hotels, it would make a stop at a tour agency to try and sell us tour packages. We had already planned out our days in Thailand, so thankfully it wasn’t too hard a sell. We really only had two full days in Thailand, the first of which was dedicated to scuba diving.

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This might be the first selfie I’ve ever posted on this site, me and my dive buddy Tim. Unfortunately for us the one time I post a selfie is the one time it’s impossible to not look like a dork. Being underwater makes for an automatic bad hair day, and having a scuba regulator in your mouth causes extreme duck face.

DCIM101GOPROMy first impression of our divemaster wasn’t too great. He introduced himself as Philippe.  He barely said anything to us in the beginning, and on the boat ride to our dive site he basically went off by himself and chain smoked. But he actually turned out to be pretty cool. He was a diver for the French navy, and had served a tour in Iraq. (I didn’t know that the French navy had any part in the Iraq war– you learn something new every day.) When our boat started to get close to the dive site, he started to get friendlier and went over the safety protocols and dive site information with us. And at the end of the trip he talked about his life as a divemaster in Phuket, which actually sounded like a pretty sweet life.

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Philippe had a little pointer with him that he would use to point out stuff to us from time to time. Unfortunately for the most part I didn’t really understand what he was pointing at. He did point at some cool stuff that I did see though, we saw a little string ray that was camouflaged in the sand, and we saw a little parasitic fish that was latched onto a larger host fish. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of that stuff, for some reason every time I pulled my GoPro camera out of my buoyancy control jacket while he was pointing I got nothing.

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This dive trip resulted in a number of firsts for me. It was my first time diving from a boat. It was a bit scary at first, taking that big first step off the back of the boat. And dropping down to the bottom was a bit scary at first too, since it was my first dive in a couple of years. When we got to the sandy bottom our divemaster had us practice regulator recovery and mask clearing, which eased my mind, and as we started swimming around the bottom I began to relax a bit. Getting back on the boat was a learning experience too. We had to hang onto the ladder and pull off our fins, meanwhile the boat is rocking back and forth and there’s a heavy tank on your back making things a bit more challenging.

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Another first for me, swimming through an obstacle.

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Being underwater all day made us crave fish for dinner. We found a little outdoor seafood restaurant that seemed fairly popular, we stopped there and ordered some fish. It turned out to be pretty awesome, it was covered with aromatics, lime, chili, garlic and cilantro and steamed to perfection.

elephant high five

Our second day in Phuket was spent doing an elephant tour. I’m not usually big on organized tours, but the high five with the elephant at the start of the tour made me think that this would be pretty awesome.

the amazing view during the ride

The tour started with an elephant ride. During the ride there was a beautiful view of the bay. I think one of the islands at the far end of the bay was where we had gone diving the day before.

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The tour wasn’t all just elephants, it was a cultural tour of Thailand. They had Thai cooking demonstrations with amazing fresh made curry powder, along with coconut oil making, rice farming, and rubber harvesting demonstrations.

water buffalo tuk tuk

They even had a water buffalo tuk-tuk to ride.

thai buffet on a junk boat

The tour ended with a buffet on a boat ride in the bay.

patong beach

After the tour we walked around a bit to work off the buffet. We explored the touristy areas of Patong (the town in Phuket we were staying in) and walked on Patong beach. There are a ton of tourists from all over the place, but it seemed like the majority of tourists were European.

My first impression of Phuket wasn’t too great, but by the end of my time there I was enjoying it. I can see myself coming back. The food is awesome and cheap, and the scenery is beautiful. There’s not too much of the shady go-go bars and massage places that I heard other parts of Thailand has, it’s definitely more family friendly, especially if you stay away from the center of Patong. And apparently the diving is pretty good, our divemaster was telling us that the Similan islands which we could reach by liveaboard boat from Phuket has some world class diving.

hat creek

My friend Joe and I have been talking about doing a fishing trip to Lassen for a couple of years now. We finally made it happen this weekend.

IMGP2620We went to Hat Creek in the Lassen National Forest.

hat creekJoe caught a pretty nice sized trout. Todd caught a pretty nice trout. Ray caught a pretty nice sized branch. I caught pictures of all of them, but not much else.

hat creek1We had our own Cinco de Mayo celebration, pretty much eating tacos of different kinds all weekend, along with fresh salsa.

IMGP2517Near our campsite was a cave called Subway Cave. It literally looks like a subway tunnel, but amazingly it’s a natural phenomenon caused by lava flows.

IMGP2556I ended up sleeping in my hammock both nights. It was cold and windy, and our campsite was pretty close to the main road, and we could hear trucks driving past all night. So it wasn’t the best conditions for sleeping. But for some reason I slept really well during the trip.

IMGP2569Sleeping in a hammock has its benefits. You can stare up at the stars while in bed.

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I’m a pretty terrible fisherman in general, but I still had a lot of fun. And I learned a lot about how to fish creeks this weekend from Joe and Todd. And it was nice and relaxing just being outdoors underneath the stars. It’s been way too long. I’m already looking forward to being outdoors again.

watery wonder world

This weekend I was in Monterey finishing up my open water scuba certifications. Apparently Monterey is the place to go for scuba lessons. There were several other classes out there even though the weather wasn’t all that great. The class I was a part of was pretty small, just me, my buddy Tim, and a guy named Jimmy. When I met Jimmy I thought, this is the biggest dude I’ve ever seen. Apparently he plays football for the Arizona Cardinals. Crazy– I’ve never met an NFL player before.

It was nice being in such a small class. Things went really smoothly and quickly, so it seemed like we had extra time to tour the ocean bottom. One of the instructors had an underwater camera so he took pictures.

Here is a picture he took from our pool dives a couple of weekends ago. It’s hard not to look like a dork wearing all that scuba equipment. Plus I felt about as graceful as a penguin– a drunken obese penguin. Seriously it’s hard to walk with all that heavy gear while wearing fins.

Here’s a picture from Monterey. I think we were at about 25 feet under here. I think I’m the one on the right in this picture. There was a bit of surge at the bottom, which rocked us back and forth, so the instructors put down a line so we can hold on while we waited to do our exercises.

In general the conditions were pretty crappy that day. When we arrived at the beach, I looked at the waves crashing in, and thought “Man… this is really going to suck.” Then when I first put my head under the water, I couldn’t see anything. Visibility was maybe ten feet max. All I could see was a rope down to the bottom, which I followed. But then when I got to the bottom things were okay and I started to get more comfortable. When we got out of the water, it started raining cats and dogs, so it was just as wet out of the water. By then I couldn’t wait to get back underwater. I guess in a way it’s good to learn in tougher conditions, that way any recreational dives would be easy and fun in comparison.

Afterwards we went to the Monterey aquarium. It was pretty crowded there, so I didn’t take much pictures. I tried to find something in the aquarium that matched what I saw when scuba diving. I guess this was the closest I could find. After we did our underwater exercises the instructor led us on a tour. We came upon an underwater field filled with anemones and starfish, which looked sort of like this.

One of the big exhibits at the aquarium is the kelp forest. I remember our instructor saying his favorite place to dive was Monterey because of the kelp forests. When we caught up with him for dinner I asked him if diving in a kelp forest was anything like the exhibit at the aquarium. He said it was pretty much exactly like the exhibit depicts. Originally I was thinking about spending a weekend in Socal somewhere to get my advanced diving certifications, but now I’m considering doing those in Monterey.

For me, everything I’d want to do around Monterey revolves around the ocean in some way. There’s a famous cypress tree out by the ocean which I wanted to take a sunset picture of. So we drove out along the 17mile scenic drive to try and find it. Unfortunately the clouds weren’t cooperating so I couldn’t get the sunset shot I wanted.

And of course a trip to the ocean side is not complete without seafood. Before we headed out of town we had some chowder. This wasn’t the best clam chowder I’ve had, it was sort of watery and bland, but they get an A for effort for making it fresh for us.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • Scuba Fusion- Bill and Daniel are awesome instructors
  • the ocean and all the wonders with in it
  • the watery wonder world of Monterey

the plunge

I have liked watches for as long as I can remember. Ever since my first job out of high school I’ve been sort of shopping for a watch, but haven’t gotten around to buying one until now. I finally made the plunge and bought one this week because of my scuba class. It’s not a requirement for the basic open water class I took this weekend, but it’s a requirement to have a watch for the advanced certifications that I’m planning on taking in the future.

Since it would be used for diving, I decided to get a somewhat decent watch– something that would be reliable and sturdy. In my mind the quintessential diving watch is the Omega Seamaster, the so called James Bond watch, of which I really like the Planet Ocean series, particularly the Planet Ocean Chrono. But I couldn’t justify spending the two thousand bucks for a Seamaster, let alone the four or five thousand plus for a new Planet Ocean Chrono. So I ended up buying a Swiss Army Dive Master watch for around a tenth of the cost.

As a side note, I believe in gender equality. Nowadays women make pretty much the same amount of money as men do. So I think it’s only fair that if a man has to buy an engagement ring that’s worth several months of his salary, he should at least get a watch that’s at least worth one months of his fiance’s salary in return. It’s only fair. (If I could get a hypothetical future fiance to agree with this, this would probably be the only way I can get my hands on a Seamaster.)

When I started shopping for my watch, I learned a lot about why watches are designed the way they are. A lot of the features on a watch are related to diving. I noticed my watch had an extension built into the clasp mechanism– I learned that this is so the watch can fit over a wetsuit. The rotating bezel that a lot of nicer watches have is for setting a time limit on a dive. They only rotate in one direction, so that if it happens to get knocked against something during a dive, it will only shorten the dive time. When planning your dive you look up your no decompression limit on the table, then rotate the bezel for the number of minutes on your dive. When the glowing minute hand starts to approach the glowing triangle, you know that it’s time to start surfacing. Pretty cool. But in truth it’s somewhat archaic. Nowadays any diver would use a diving computer which would do a much better time of tracking your depth and time remaining before you hit your no decompression limit. So in the end I was basically just using the class as an excuse to buy a watch.

The diving class was fun. I was hooked from the first breath I took underwater. This weekend’s “dives” were all in swimming pools– it was cool learning all the skills in a warm water environment. But I’m looking forward to my first ocean dive in Monterey at the end of the month. I’ll be taking the plunge, wearing my watch.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • Swiss time pieces
  • PADI certified dive instructors

epitome of stupidity

Sometimes I get some stupid ideas. This was one of them.


Luckily I have friends who can stoop to my level of stupidity.


Our original plan was to start at the bike bridge in Winters and float to the graffiti bridge at the end of Davis. But we found that the water was too slow here, so we ended up driving back to Davis.


So we started our run here at the UC Davis Riparian Trail, which apparently is a research area and endangered species habitat. The sign said no bicycles and no vehicles, but it didn’t say no tubing.



It started out pretty leisurely, albeit a little nasty because the water was pretty brown and murky. But by the end it turned into a slog through the jungle. It felt like we had crash landed in the Amazon– hard to believe that this was actually on the UC Davis campus.

In the end we survived and exited the creek underneath the highway 113/80 interchange. Well actually we’ll see if we survive. There is a good chance we caught some sort of disease or mutation. So I guess we won’t know for a week or so if we really survived…

Things I am thankful for:

  • Friends who will go along on my crazy stupid ideas
  • Portable electronic pump– seriously we would’ve passed out before even starting without this
  • The human immune system which will hopefully keep us healthy

cesar chavez day

Today was Cesar Chavez Day. Apparently it’s only celebrated in a few western states, and only in California do state offices close for the day. And since I work for a California state office I was off today. It’s a good thing I found that out ahead of time this year. Last year I actually strolled into an empty office on Cesar Chavez day and thought, “What the heck, where is everyone?!?” If I didn’t see a facebook status from one of my old coworkers about being thankful for the short work week, I probably would’ve done the same thing this year. Cesar Chavez day– it’s the forgotten holiday.

I don’t even really know how to celebrate Cesar Chavez day. I started by getting an oil change for my car. Then I did some yard work. I suppose yard work is a good way to celebrate Cesar Chavez day, since Cesar Chavez fought for the rights of Latino farm workers. Hmm maybe not. I guess a Korean american doing yard work doesn’t really have much to do with Latino farm workers. Not unless I planted some tomatoes and jalapeños in their honor.

In the afternoon I went fishing with Jim. Despite the fact that I never catch any fish, I really enjoy fishing. Partly it’s because most places we go fishing are pretty scenic. Lake Berryessa was especially nice today. The surrounding hills were all lush and green, and the weather was perfect. It’s such a relaxing environment. It would be a total stress reliever, if I had any stress to relieve.

Jim caught a bass early on, but didn’t have much luck for the rest of the day. I felt a few nibbles here and there but didn’t catch anything. At one point I left my line in the water to take a leak. When I reeled my line in afterwards, my worm was gone. Dahhh…

We ended up bringing the fish to Shanghai town restaurant in west Davis. As we got closer to Davis, the fish started to squirm more and more. It’s as if it realized that it would soon end up on a dinner plate, so it was making one last attempt to escape from its plastic bag prison. We arrived at the restaurant just in time to join the Acacia Thursday small group, who were having dinner there. So we ended up sharing the fish with them. It came out pretty tasty.

Unfortunately we probably won’t be able to have our fish cooked by Shanghai Town again. They seemed pretty annoyed, and they informed us that next time we’d have to kill it and clean it. That kind of defeats the purpose– we brought it to the restaurant because we were too lazy to clean it– cooking it is actually the easy part.

another fishing fail

On paper our plan looked perfect.  Dave and I would finally catch a fish.  Since we would be on a boat and the boat would basically be parked on top of the fish, there would be no way for us to fail.  Since we would be using the boat’s equipment, we wouldn’t be able to blame our equipment either.  They would have bait for us too.  Basically there was no way that we would go home empty handed this time.  Or so we thought.

We arrived at Fort Bragg harbor on Saturday afternoon.  As we walked to the shop, I can hear the sea lions barking.  It sounded really close.  It was.  I was literally standing 10 feet away from a sea lion.  Awesome.  Unfortunately it swam into the water before I could get a good shot of him.

I got excited as I approached the boat.  I kept thinking there’s no way we could fail this time.  I mean we’re on a freaking boat.  Anyways we checked in with the captain and made sure we would be able to go out in the morning.  Then we asked if there were any places where we could fish from shore.  We ended up going to a place called MacKerricher state park, right outside of town.  It was absolutely gorgeous out there, with beautiful tide pools to explore and an incredible beach.  I’ll definitely need to go back there again.  We fished from the rocks in a protected shoreline area.  Within about 10 minutes Jim caught a fish. Dave and I caught lots of seaweed.  But no fish.  But we weren’t worried, we definitely would catch fish on the boat.

The next morning we woke up bright and early and headed out to the boat.  When we got there we found out that the trip was cancelled.  They needed 6 people for the boat to go out.  Jim, Dave and I were 3, and apparently there was another group of 3 that cancelled at the last minute.  So no go for the boat.  Bummer.  So Dave and I went home without a fish again.  But all in all it was worth it.  Mackerricher state park was definitely worth it.  We will return and definitely catch a fish next time.

Pictures from the trip are here.  I didn’t bring a camera, so these pics were all taken on my cellphone.
http://picasaweb.google.com/mikehong81/2010061212FortBragg#