Printable recreational dive log sheet template

Having filled up the last page of my store bought dive log, I decided it was time I started printing my own log sheets. I wanted a template that could fit in a small binder (half letter (5.5″ x 8.5″) or A5), where there was enough space on the page to log two dives and that gave me ample space for comments while providing the standard diving data fields. Unfortunately, I could not find anything that suited my needs so I decided to put together my own.

Click here to download

Dive log demo

Printable dive log sheets full page

It features the following built in fields:

  • dive number
  • dive start time
  • visibility
  • air and bottom temperature
  • site
  • location
  • depth
  • air or nitrox (EANx)
  • gas consumed
  • weight
  • time under
  • safety stop
  • boat or shore dive
  • fresh or salt water dive
  • notes
  • buddy or divemaster signature and number

The layout is compact and text has been kept to a minimum: you write the units yourself. Once it has been printed (on good paper stock and double side preferably), cut the sheets in half along the dotted line, punch holes if you want to store them in a binder and go log some dives.

For those interested in the source, here it is. Suggestions for improvements are welcome!

Conquering Greece – Day 2 : Nikiti to Florina

  • Weather: Cloudy
  • Departure: 14h00
  • Arrival: 20h30
  • Date: 01/08/15
  • Distance: 360km

Nikiti to Florina

The night had been so hot I had trouble sleeping and would wake up intermittently drenched in sweat and grasping for air. That being said, it was extremely nice of Félix to have given me a place to rest. So when morning finally came, I made my way to the dive shop, signed the paperwork got my equipment and departed again to the dive site: a shore dive in a camping site that is owned by the Bulgarian Orthodox church.

Underwater, it was nothing very different than the other dive I had done in the Mediterranean: weeds, soft corals, sponges and small fishes. Thankfully though, the other guy on my team had a good level so we decided to spice things up with a “free fall” jump from the top of a wall at 12 meters of depth down to the bottom at 30, a huge sand plain. In the course of the dive, we crossed three very apparent thermoclines and went from a top water temperature of nearly 30C to 15C at the bottom.

Packing up after diving

Packing up after diving

Out of the water, I packed my things quickly and jumped on the bike to try and make it as far as possible. Edessa was my objective. Except for the part where I cut through the mountains around Polygyros, the road was uninteresting. Boring roads have an advantage, you go fast on them. Their accessibility and efficiency makes them preferred trade routes, which has the consequence of attracting businesses who congregate on their side. However, Greece’s economical situation being what it is, lots of them have closed shop and left vacant the building they once occupied. Added to that, the government, lacking the funds to properly keep nature at bay, has let the roads become overgrown, hiding road signs and lampposts in dense green foliage. This and the fact that it was Saturday all contributed in making the outskirts of cities look as if they came straight out of a post-apocalyptic future. No one in sight, nature retaking control, old abandoned vehicles and stray dogs. I was a lone ranger traveling the country in search of redemption.

Out on the Greek open road

Out on the Greek open road

Since I was making good on time, I changed plans and pushed my day’s objective 100 km further to Florina, a city at the very north of Greece and some kilometers from the border with Macedonia. As I was going up the mountains, the view got nicer and even with a forced stop due to scattered thunderstorms, I arrived in Florina with a bit of daylight to spare. Exhausted, I settled for the first affordable hotel, dropped my things and grabbed a gyros. That day, I had only eaten two cans of coke, three slices of bread and bag of chips. Amazing how the body behaves differently when kept on adrenaline. Anyway, Florina appeared to be a nice and lively small city, with restaurants and bars full of people. Despite the grim economical outlook, the Greeks keep on living.

While sitting in the square, I got approached by another traveler looking for conversation. I had planned that night to go back to my hotel room and catch up on my writing, but instead spent hours talking with Alban (from Albania). He was studying in Germany and decided to leave for the summer and hitchhike through Europe. Along his journey he had met refugees from all the wars in the middle east going the other way trying to reach Germany. No writing was done that night.

Le Vietnam partie 4 – Hội An

La vielle ville de Hoi An

La vielle ville de Hoi An

Contrairement à l’autobus Dalat-Nah Trang, nos conducteurs avaient le service à la clientèle à coeur et bien qu’ils ne se rendaient pas jusqu’à Hoi An, ils nous ont quand même par leurs propres soins transféré dans un autre autobus qui y allait. Nous n’avions pas encore d’auberge et une fois débarqué, il est devenu évident que nous n’étions pas seuls dans cette situation. Accompagnés d’un français, Yom et d’une canadienne de l’Alberta, Jaclyn, tous deux plusieurs mois dans la région, nous avons erré un moment dans la ville pour vite nous rendre à l’évidence qu’Hoi An était tel qu’elle nous avait été décrite, belle et charmante, mais autrement un immense magasin de souvenirs doublés d’hôtels de luxe et de restaurants chers. Il devait s’y trouver des options plus aborables, alors au premier café wifi, nous nous sommes arrêtés pour vérifier ce que l’internet avais à nous offrir. Beaucoup mieux, le Sleepy Gecko, pas directement dans la ville, mais selon sa description et les critiques, l’endroit que nous cherchions. Cette contrainte écartée, nous sommes restés une bonne heure supplémentaire attablés devant nos verres vides à parler de tout et de rien.

DSC00191Yom, en raison d’un anglais fonctionnel mais pas vraiment à la hauteur de nos conversations, se contentait d’écouter, posant quelques questions de temps à autres pour raccrocher le fil, mais Jaclyn débitait et débitait des paroles. Une maîtrise faite en trois ans, une traversée du Canada sur le pouce, ceinture noire de je ne sais plus trop quel art martial et dans la moitié d’une famille de sept enfants avec pas moins d’une centaine de cousins. De l’Alberta elle venait? À tout le moins elle avait des idées intéressantes, mais vite je commençais à me douter de certaines choses par rapport à sa personne. Plus tard, nos affaires en sécurité (relative) à l’auberge et une petite session de piscine pour nous rafraîchir, nous sommes retournés en ville pour nous trouver un restaurant et ce faisant continuer à parler. Là tout se mit en place, Jaclyn ainsi que tous ses frères et soeurs, avait été éduquée à la maison pour des raisons évidemment religieuses et son bac et sa maîtrise avait été complétés à distance. Ses soeurs plus vielles étaient bien entendu toutes déjà mariées avec de la marmaille à revendre. Elle par contre se décrivait un peu comme le cygne noir de sa famille et avait choisi dans le moment de mettre son dessein (enfanter de petits chrétiens) en suspend et de prendre le sac à dos pour aller explorer le monde, décision inusitée dans son millieu où la vie est dictée par la tradition chrétienne. On ne défait pas une vie d’éducation rigoureusement religieuse, surtout pas dans ce genre de contexte, mais Jaclyn avait l’esprit auto-critique et avait visiblement beaucoup questionné l’existence et avait par conséquent des opinions intéressantes et parfois relativement avant-gardistes. Son principal défaut, fruit d’une scolarité hors d’un milieu social conventionnel, se déclinait en un constant besoin d’affirmation, comme si les interactions avec autrui devaient être une sorte de compétition. Enfance normale ou pas, les gens en manque de confiance en eux ou vantards se retouvent partout, mais dans son cas, il était d’autant plus surprenant qu’elle avait décroché une maîtrise en travail social et leadership. N’empêche qu’elle était une personne fascinante. Après le repas, la visite d’un temple et de l’investigation quant aux possibilités de plongée sous-marine dans les parages, Yom et moi nous séparèrent des deux autres; moi pour travailler, lui pour aller se fumer un “pétard”.

Un autre temple...

Un autre temple…

La soirée se passa de la même manière que la journée, sauf que là, je sorti mon whisky, duquel le propriétaire du Sleepy Gecko, un viel anglais marié à une Vietnamienne (beaucoup plus jeune) réclama plusieurs verres sous le prétexte du “corkage fee”. C’était un Ballantine’s 12 ans que j’avait acheté à l’aéroport, son préféré semblait-ils. En effet je l’appréciait moi aussi de plus en plus, même si pour ma part je préfère les Single Malts bien fumés et boisés, ceux qui donnent l’impression que l’on “chique de l’herbe” pour reprendre une expression de mon cousin. Théodore, un autre français, lui parcourant le Vietnam à moto était de la partie avec de belles histoires de réveil en camping par une bande de Viets armés de machettes désireux de lui soutirer sa moto et son matériel ainsi que de blessures de moto particulièrement hideuses. Porter des pantalons longs en moto? C’est effectivement une bonne idée. Théodore, habitué à conduire ces machines en France le savait très bien sauf que là, jouant de malchance, il portait des shorts et sur un cour trajet s’est brûlé l’intérieur du mollet sur son pot d’échappement. Deux jours plus tard, lors d’une perte de contrôle dans laquelle il était complétement habillé, la friction du tissu contre sa brûlure qui devait être au deuxième degré a arraché une bonne couche de la peau déjà très affaiblie. Ouch.

DSC00203

Le matin suivant, Jaclyn nous quitta sur le dos de la moto de Théodore. Dans l’après-midi et après avoir réservé une plongée pour le lendemain, Yom, Yves-Étienne et moi louèrent des vélos pour aller explorer les alentours d’Hoi An. De rustiques villages de pêcheurs, des rizières, le trajet vers la plage a été d’une réelle beauté. Une fois sur la côte par contre, nous avons retrouvés nos amis Russes et leurs beaux gros hôtels. Les gardes de sécurité sur place voulaient nous charger 5000 dongs par tête pour garer nos vélos, car il était interdit de les avoir avec nous sur la plage. J’ai déplacé le mien un peu plus loin, mais ces derniers me suivirent avec un cadenas, me menaçant d’une amende pour le débarrer. J’ai alors fait une scène à mes compagnons pour que nous nous déplaçions vers une longeur de plage moins développée. Eux visiblement n’étaient pas dérangés par la perspective de payer 25 cent de stationnement, mais moi par principe, je refusait.

Champs aux abords de la ville

Champs aux abords de la ville

Nous sommes alors allés un peu plus loin sur la route et après une courte reconnaissance, nous avons trouvé une section de plage déserte. Un peu plus tard, un groupe pêcheurs est arrivé et nous ont demandé de l’aide pour mettre à flot leur barque qui devait les ammener à leur bateau amarré non loin du rivage. Nous avions vu plusieurs de ces barques parfaitement ronde faites de bambou tressée depuis notre arrivée sur la côte et nous nous demandions comment les Vietnamiens s’y prenaient pour les contrôler avec une seule rame et cette fois ci, nous avons eu notre réponse: en faisant des huits. Nous avons repris la route vers Hoi An et une fois en ville, j’ai aperçu un homme à moto arborant le logo d’Easy-Riders, une compagnie pan-Vietnamienne offrant des tours de moto dans le pays. Comme nous considérions nous rendre jusqu’à notre prochaine destination de cette manière, je suis allé me renseigner auprès de l’homme pour connaître les prix et son offre a été plutôt intéressante: 90$ pour trois machines et lui comme guide jusqu’à Hué. En en discutant avec mes compagnons, je vis qu’eux aussi étaient chauds à l’idée d’une petite aventure à deux roues. Après un dîner de bouffe de rue, moi et le proprio avons mis fin à l’existence de la bouteille de whisky. Soirée tranquille, car il fallait se lever tôt le lendemain pour aller plonger.

DSC00212

Prêt a plonger

Prêt a plonger

La navette nous a ramassé Yves-Étienne et moi à l’heure prévue et bientôt, nous étions sur le bateau de la compagnie en route vers le parc aquatique. Comme mon ami devait faire une plongée de découverte, il a été rapidement pris à part par un instructeur tandis que j’ai été assigné à du matériel et ai reçu le briefing pour la première plongée. L’eau devait être à 21c, c’est à dire froide. Vu que mon ordinateur de plongée avait décidé de ne plus fonctionner par manque de batterie, je n’ai jamais eu la température exacte, mais après une courte demi-heure sous-l’eau, j’ai perdu la sensation de mes mains et avec cette dernière toute forme de dextérité. La visibilité n’était pas excellente et autour de nous, il n’y avait pas grand chose à voir si ce n’était qu’une certaine variété d’étoiles de mer et des coraux qui m’étaient inconnus. Vers la fin de la plongée, nous avons croisé le groupe de plongeurs de découverte et malgré mes tentatives d’aller saluer Yves-Étienne, ce dernier ne m’a pas aperçu, probablement trop subjugué par cette nouvelle expérience.

DSC00218Une fois de retour à bord du bateau, mon ami m’informa moi et le personnel qu’il n’allait pas faire sa deuxième plongée en raison d’une douleur persistante à une oreille. Dommage, mais ce n’est pas vraiment plus mal. Je considère toute forme de plongée une expérience passionante et celle-ci n’y faisait pas exception, mais sur mon échelle personelle, c’était un deux sur dix. Principalement par la faute de la visibilité et de la température. Vu que j’étais sorti de l’eau complètement frigorifié, j’ai fait mon possible pour me réchauffer, car l’intervalle de surface allait être court. Par chance, on m’a trouvé une combinaison de torse avec un capuchon intégré. La deuxième fois sous l’eau a été une expérience beaucoup plus plaisante, de un parce que le capuchon – même si trop grand et me causant des problèmes de flottabilité en raison des bulles qui s’y logeaient – a beaucoup aidé et parce que nous avons fait la rencontre de quelques animaux hors du commun. Notamment un poisson lion d’un type que je n’avais jamais vu, des étoiles de mer “couronne d’épines” en abondance, un poisson pierre et le dernier et non le moindre, une seiche que j’aurais adoré observer plus longtemps. Une fois revenus à la surface, le bateau nous a emmené à une plage sur l’île avoisinant où nous avons déjeuner à un restaurant de fruits de mer et où nous nous sommes ensuite prélassés quelques temps avant le retour au port.

Sur la plage

Sur la plage

La plongée fut une affaire d’une journée entière avec le repas inclus, pas mal pour 80$. En en discutant sur la bateau, Yves-Étienne était excité par l’idée d’aller en moto à Hué (Yom aussi) alors une fois à l’auberge, nous avons fait appelé Mr. Than, l’homme d’Easy-Riders pour organiser la journée du lendemain. Une fois sur place, il m’a fait savoir que le prix estimé d’hier était trop bas et a augmenté son offre à 130$, ce qui restait une très bonne

Marché de Hoi An

Marché de Hoi An

affaire compte tenu de la prestation. Le tout nous semblait en règle d’autant plus que son offre cadrait avec ce qu’il y avait sur son site web. La seule accroche était son anglais, qu’il prétendait maîtriser parfaitement, mais qu’en réalité il ne parlait presque pas. Une fois entendus sur l’heure de départ avec notre guide, nous sommes allés en ville pour un autre dîner de bouffe de rue et un petit tour au “dive bar”, débit de boissons affilié au club de plongée. Après la shisha, Yom rentra tandis qu’Yves-Étienne et moi avons migré vers un autre endroit histoire de donner une chance au nightlife d’Hoi An. Il y avait du potentiel, mais nous devions partir tôt le lendemain alors après quelques autres bières, ce fut l’heure d’aller nous coucher.

Photos: Yves-Étienne Landry

Thailand Part 1: the south

In a Thai train

In a Thai train

At the border between Thailand and Malaysia, my two travelling companions had decided to catch a train so I figured it would be best for me to do the same. Trains, as oppposed to buses which always tend to resemble each other are a mean of transpiration with a bit more personality. We boarded the 14 o’clock to Bangkok and took out seats in a car that must have been build around the 60’s with ceiling fans, refurbished seats and … no windows, just openings. At least that took care of the ambient heat, but made the voyage very noisy and windy. Something that was easily bearable at the beginning of it, but which became unsupportable after 12 hours. Alas, around two in the morning, we alighted in Surat Thani, where we checked in the only hotel around the station.

A few hours of sleep later, Georgia (from Canada) parted way with us as she had to proceed to Bangkok while Greta (from Italy) and I stuck together as we were pretty much taking the same route from then on: Koh Phangan and then Koh Tao, two very popular islands in South Thailand. After an hour or so walking around and getting confusing directions to the ferry terminal, we finally figured out that it was an hour’s bus ride outside of town. There our choices were also sort of limited and only found a way to our island by transiting through Koh Samui, the bigger island on the south, full of resorts and things we both could not afford. Originally, I had intended to go directly to Koh Tao, the diving island, but Greta had convinced me to stop for a few days on Koh Phangan, the debauchery island, famous for hosting the full moon parties, where all the young travelers in the region converge for a drug fueled night of dancing on the beach. My schedule could afford this deviation.

Koh Phangan

Finally, after two full days of transportation we arrived at our intended destination. There we made the decision to share an hotel room as it made more logistical sense at the time, checked into one and left for dinner. Finding a restaurant provided to be quite a challenge as on top of being vegetarian, Greta was also Italian but eventually, she settled for a place that had a large selection of meat-less dishes and we both ordered a tofu pad thai. Later, a very stereotypical Italian by the name of Daniele that she had met at the airport in Malaysia turned up and we got together for drinks. There, Greta started complaining about stomach pains which progressively during the evening, got worse. Back in the hotel room, she rushed to the bathroom and emptied herself in such a jet of liquid that for a moment I thought she was actually taking a shower. While asleep and thanks to my ability to snooze through jackhammers, I had imagined her ailment had only been transient but felt disappointed to learn in the morning that she had barely gotten any rest and spent much of the night hugging the toilet. We had had the exact same meal, which had most likely been cooked simultaneously in the same pan and I felt normal. My ramblings about the complexities of the human digestive system did not really console her, we had came here to party off the moral righteousness of Malaysian and instead, she was to be bed ridden and weak who god knows how many days.

Steven's tattoo

Steven’s tattoo

That morning, Daniele turned up with his new roommate, Steven a pretty cool Irishman. Villages in Koh Phangan are almost made entirely of restaurants, hotels, bars, tattoo shops and clinics, which sort of gives you a rough idea of the kind of activity people indulge in on that island. Steven, inebriated like a proper Irish person often is had asked the barmaid the night before to draw him a picture of “boy meets girls”, which he then promptly had tattooed on his shoulder at the next door parlor. Obviously very hangover the next day, he had forgotten about this little adventure but got his memory refreshed by the avalanche of derogatory comments about his drunken stupidity on his Facebook feed. What amazes me was his ability to take the whole situation with humor, which for a moment distracted Greta away from her stomach issues. He first came across to me a drunken foreigner idiot out for a bout of binge drinking in Thailand, but the more we discussed the more I discovered the intelligent side of him. He actually worked for the Game of Thrones TV series and anyone who watches the least bit of television has heard of this magnificently executed production. Steven had loads of crazy stories to tell about the filming and gave me some pretty cool insider details on how they manage to turn papier mâché structures into awesome castles.

At the Black Moon Party

At the Black Moon Party

That night was the night of the black moon party, the reason we had come to the island and luckily, Greta began feeling better and better as the day progressed. Since the full moon party can only happen once every 28 days or so, the locals organize a black moon party (no moon) and two half moon parties to make sure the influx of tourist to their island stays relatively constant. So that evening, after some pretty good pizza at an Italian joint chosen by none other than Daniele, we boarded a taxi and made our way to some undisclosed location in the jungle. I’m not going to do into lengths describing the event because 1) it sort of sucked and 2) it’s not my sort of thing, but it had a setup made of funky sculptures and large mushroomy dome covering the dance floor. Fluorescent body painting stands greatly outnumbered those where you could actually purchase (overpriced) liquor at and the music was of the psychedelic trance type which to the untrained hear sounded like the exact same beat looping over and over again. Obviously, half the people there must have been on shrooms (drugs). We left pretty early considering the event was to end at 10 in the morning but at least we got that box checked.

Not a bad place to have lunch!

Not a bad place to have lunch!

Not much happened the following day but at night, we had planned to try the famous mushroom shakes, which ended up falling through as only Steven and I were up for it. This evening though, we were finally informed about the place to be for that sort of think on Koh Phangan, a bar only accessible by boat, open 24/7 and which tips off the police to stay away. Basically a drug supermarket, where weird things happen and from which people don’t really come back, but most likely because having spent all their money on psychedelics, can no longer afford the steep cost of a longboat back.

Koh Tao

Already quite fed up with the climate on the party island, I was anxious to get to Koh Tao, the diving one. Rimas, a friend, was expecting me and Jesse, an American I had met while in Seoul and with which I had planned to do some motorcycling around Thailand was also arriving on that same day. I left the others behind and took the ferry where I met a girl who upon laying her eyes on my Utila t-shirt, told me she had also spent a month there and after a few minutes of conversation, we realized that we had been following each other’s footsteps in Central-America by a week’s interval. She had been at the same diving school as me and had met and befriended the people I knew there; small world, good memories. Once in Koh Tao, my two friends were staying at opposite ends but I immediately took a cab to Rimas’ side of the island, where within a couple of minutes of meeting him he kindly offered me his couch in a small apartment he was renting. With accommodation sorted out for the next few days I unpacked my things and set out to rent a scooter for me and Rimas to drive to Sairee beach, a town some kilometers north where Jesse was staying.

The traffic on this island is crazy and unsurprisingly, you see people bandaged up all over from falling and scraping and still you see most of them riding in flip-flops and without helmets. To be honest, I would have rather not rented a scooter, but the taxis there run a cartel and fix the prices. Going to Sairee beach from the southern tip of the island is 400 baht (14$) one way while a scooter for 24 hours is 150 baht. It’s easy to guess which is he more economical option. I met up with Jesse and two other guys he had met on the way there, an Italian and a Portuguese, we all had dinner and went to a beach bar for some fire shows. Around 2 in the morning, I hoped on my scooter and slowly drove back to Rimas’ apartment, knowing that in spite of having limited my alcohol intake, if I was in Canada I would probably be over the legal limit but this being Thailand and on Koh Tao in particular, the police turns a blind eye to drunk driving.

Koh Tao seen from one of its mountains

Koh Tao seen from one of its mountains

Rimas was diving with Buddah View so I figured I should give them a try. I took the morning easy and in the afternoon booked a UV night dive with them and proceeded to visit the island on my scooter. While it was for the most part driving on steep dirt roads, the island had a few mountains which offered some great panoramas. Later, my ride surrendered back to its owner, I prepared my equipment for the night dive and hoped on the pick-up truck which took me to the boat dock and boarded the diving vessel. This is also where I was told the dive was not UV, it was just a normal dive. A UV dive is done at night and is the underwater equivalent of being in a club full of UV lights. You where a special lens on top of you mask and carry an ultraviolet torch in lieu of a normal one and supposedly, it makes the wildlife and plants down there glow in very psychedelic ways.

There is a staggering number of dive shops on Koh Tao, more than 40 I think. Since most of them cannot afford to have direct access to a dock, their ships all moor at the island’s main pier and they transport their customers between there and their shop on trucks. Some have air compressors on board their ships, but most of time, the crew has load and unload all the tanks as well. Quite a pain in the butt compared to what I am used to. Anyway, we sent to site called Junkyard, which is flat sand patch with a bunch of metal structures, a truck and some other items like a gym set scattered around. Not that interesting, but that night, I set a personal record of 70 minutes under, probably owing to the fact that since there was nothing to get excited about, my air consumption remained low due to boredom. On the way back to the shop, I put my name up for the morning’s two dives and met up with Rimas for dinner and some drinks (lots in fact).

Mango Bay

Mango Bay

Up bright and early, same routine of getting to the boat for diving. A ship it should be called actually, as it can take about 50 divers at once and even provides lodging for part of its crew, which while we were returning from the first dive, was chopping up squid and cooking rice. Neat I thought, what a nice snack but no, it was not for us. The first site we visited was named Green Rock and it was only me, Rimas, and the guide. It was fun, lots of swim throughs and little caverns to crawl around, but I came back up with several cuts and scrapes from trying to fit myself into small orifices. In case your wondering blood looks green underwater To my great disappointment, the location of the second dive got changed to Junkyard again, which was day or night, ended up being junk.

I rented a scooter again to visit Jesse and his friends and on my walk to the restaurant, stopped at a small dive shop named New Wave Diving to inquire about their pricing. Instantly, they welcomed me in a very friendly and professional way and right off the bat offered me a decent discount due to my experience. When I asked if they were going to the wreck, they replied that no but they would try to accommodate me by maybe selecting a nearby dive site and dropping me off there. Since I felt I had to give another opportunity for Koh Tao to surprise me, I told them there was a 90% chance I’d be there. Not much happened on that night as my friends were recovering from a Thai whisky hangover so I made home early. The following afternoon, as promised I showed up at the dive shop and just like the previous night, were very welcoming. Much better already, the previous company had became much to large to provide any sort of personalized service and contented itself on churning out divers like a factory, just living off a reputation of excellence in teaching but certainly not in customer service. Some do not really mind but in my case, since I’m almost always going along, I expect to be able to socialize a bit on the dive. Added bonus, I was alone with my guide, who was actually was only a dive master in training so in effect, I was the one taking him out.

This afternoon, we started with a dive at Green Rock, of which I did not see much for my rental mask was fogging all the time. Normally I carry my own. Masks are sort of like underwear, they are adapted to your morphology and being in close proximity with eyes, nose and mouth, can actually transmit diseases and infections if not properly cleaned between users. Stupid me though, I had lost mine on Koh Phangan. For the second dive, my guide kindly offered me his own and we were dropped of at the wreck while the rest of the group kept going to a nearby site. The HTMS Sattakut, an almost 50 meters long ship sunken to make an artificial reef lied almost 30 meters down below. Again the visibility was not that great, especially where the ship contacted the sea floor and we could only stay down so long as my guide had been diving in the morning and would hit his no-decompression limit way before I did but it remains that I really enjoyed my time under. Large fishes, and lots of cool stuff to see down there. After 25 minutes or so, we rose to a shallower depth and started finning westward to another dive site, which would get us closer to the boat. The site, a pinnacle, provided a scenic ascension to the surface from its bottom at 20 meters or so to its top at 5.

Satisfied with my afternoon, I gave farewell to the staff and went purchasing tickets to Bangkok with Jesse. Got back to Rimas’ apartment, dropped my stuff, desalinized, changed, met him for dinner and came back into town for my last night on Koh Tao. We remained for some hours at Jesse’s hostel where they had a party going but later went to a beach bar, where I was supposed to meet Greta. Being the Italian that she is, she was more than an hour late. While looking for her, I ran into a group of Danish guys I had met in the Pehrentians so that was a bit of a coincidence. The night out ended late and I drove my scooter carefully to my end of the island for one last night on the concrete floor. Rimas did not have a mattress, so all I had to rest on was my sleeping back and a couch that soon provided to be too short to sleep on. Early the next day I took my leave from my host, but not before thoroughly thanking him for his hospitality. Since both of us are into the same activity I guess, the chances of seeing each other again are pretty high, especially that he might end up working in Mexico, which thanks to cheap discounted flights is basically next-door to Canada.

Rimas, acting like a Canadian

Rimas, acting like a Canadian

Soon I was aboard the high-speed ferry and Koh Tao was retreating in the distance. Certainly happy I had visited the island, I was nonetheless relieved to leave it. Me and Rimas had discussed this at length some evenings ago and both agreed that we each vastly preferred Utila in Honduras. Understandably, before coming there we had projected our previous experience onto Koh Tao as this is what we had to compare it with. Regrettably, we had raised our expectations too much as for the both of us this island did not deliver (or it did in too great quantities): too much partying, too much people, too much traffic, too big, too many dive shops, too touristic, in short, too much everything. Too bad, since we had both been considering the place for work in the near future. Enough complaining.

Dammit, this was way too much writing for such a short period of time, but I’m in a bus towards Pai at the moment and don’t have much else to do.

Malaysia

On first impression, due to its similar cultural constitution, Malaysia appears to be a poorer and larger version of Singapore, but on close inspection, it is not. A very large amount of the population is Muslim, which gives everything a slightly different allure. Women walk around wearing the hijab, at certain hours cities fill-up with the imam’s calls for prayers and alcohol can sometimes be difficult to find. Not that Islamic countries around Asia are a rarity, but Malaysia was the first one I got to experience and I must admit that albeit it sort of lacks many positive aspects that I have found during my visits to other countries where this religion prevails, namely architecture, art and vibe, the cohabitation with more conventional Asian cultures is interesting.

Kuala Lumpur

Dressed for the mosque

Dressed for the mosque

Abbreviated as KL by its inhabitants and the Singaporeans, its your typical bustling Asian metropolis but this time with a Muslim twist to it. My bus from Singapore arrived much earlier than I expected and dropped me along with two younger Germans in the middle of the city and a long ways from where I had booked a bed. Early in the morning, the Imam’s first  calls filled up the air, waking in the process all the workers from the countryside, who not able to afford a room in the city, have to sleep on cardboard boxes in parks and alleyways. After a couple of kilometers’ walk we made it to the hostel but not able to check in for a long time still, I collapsed on a couch on the lounge and completed my night there.

The steps to the Batu caves

The steps to the Batu caves

Originally, I had booked three night at this hostel, but not entirely convinced KL was worth staying so long in, I preemptively cancelled my last night, which turned out to be a smart move. An afternoon spent walling in the city’s central park, a visit to the national mosque, where I had to endure an Islam conversion speech that would make anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge of logic and basic human psychology cringe and that was it for my first day. On the second day, I went to Batu caves, an Hindu complex on the outskirts of town, visited some caverns and upon heading back to KL, made a detour through the Petronas Towers and the modern downtown area which unsurprisingly was just a very large shopping mall. Funny story, while walking in the Chinatown, I ran into a fellow traveler I had met more than two months ago in Beijing, quite an unlikely coincidence but contrary to what my wannabe Islam teacher would have wanted me to believe, not a miracle.

Inside the Batu caves

Inside the Batu caves

Kuala Lumpur is dirty, messy, noisy and badly polluted (the amount of thrash floating around after a rain storm was staggering) so I quickly got fed up with it’s dense urban environments, but one of its definitely positive aspect was again, the food, which is good, varied an cheap and the only moment of which I did not enjoy so much was the time I seriously choked on a piece of bread in the middle of a restaurant. Regardless, I began considering my options pretty soon into my stay in the city and soon found the destination that would give me the contrast in my travels I needed so much: the Perenthians. Two islands several kilometers off the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia, with cabins set in nature, hiking, beaches and diving. With this new destination in mind, I began searching for accommodation there but soon had to give up as the options were either too expensive or unreachable. Disappointed, I turned off my computer and was soon engaged in a conversation with other travelers about the things travelers usually first speak about: their travels, where they have been, where they are going, and things in between. There, I learned that the Perenthians shut-down entirely during the monsoon season and might at the moment only be partially open and also that most had really good things to say about Penang, an island on the west coast and the location of Georgetown, and old British colonial hub now a UNESCO world heritage site and a foodie’s paradise. With this fresh new travel intelligence in mind, I figured that I could go to Penang for some days, which would get me closer to the Perenthians, would give me more time to contact hostels there and should I not be able to reach the islands at all, would at least get me nearer Thailand.

Penang (Georgetown)

A six hour bus ride, which was made longer by incessant stops to let the Muslim passengers carry on their praying duties, and I found myself in Georgetown. Not as pretty as I thought but given the amount of night markets and restaurants, the food scene looked promising.

A food stall at the night market in Georgetown

A food stall at the night market in Georgetown

Upon entering my dorm to set my backpack down before heading for dinner, I ran into Mike (his real name is Mikaj) from Vancouver, one of my roommates. Within one minute, I had established that he wanted to go to the Perenthians, that he had med two girls that came back from the islands saying that they were indeed partly open and that he had spent the last two weeks in Penang because he liked the food and got too lazy to move anywhere. Both coming to the realization that each other was exactly what we needed, me the information that he had and him a kick in the ass, we quickly came to an agreement that in two days we shall leave for those much sought-after islands, but keep on looking for places to stay there.

Two weeks in Georgetown though, there must be loads to do here, so I asked Mike what his recommendations were but sadly he had none in particular, he just felt that the vibe was great, and that he had discovered a luxurious hotel into which he could sneak in to enjoy the pool and jacuzzi without the staff having second-thoughts about him being a customer. I told him lounging around water surfaces was not my thing, but we still got a laugh out of this case of inverted racism. Penang is very touristic and outside of Georgetown, it’s resort after resort, but it was touted as having a great national park so I decided I should check it out and then afterwards take a walk around town. The park was somewhat of a deception, but the city tour provided an explanation as to why Mike had qualified the place as “chilled-out”. No hustle-bustle, lots of street life, sidewalks (an all to often absent concept in Asia), excellent food, a good crowd of backpackers and a city that is big but not unmanageable by foot. Back at the hostel but exhausted from a long day of walking around in the Malaysian heat, I sat down for a beer with Mike and Adam (from Sweden) which turned into two beers, which turned into three beers, which turned into a night of drinking and talking about diving between me and Adam as Mike had stuffed himself with too much Indian food and retired much earlier than us. As I am writing these lines more than two weeks later, I have had the chance to spend numerous evenings having many of those Asian beers and the curious fact about them is that if you stay away from the cheap brands, you will not get a hangover no matter the amount that you drink. You will certainly wake up dehydrated and tired, but no headache, no nausea. Perhaps these brews have been engineered specifically not to give tourists bad morning afters? So that they can have many and still be able to go out and spend money around the next day? I am digressing.

Colonial Gorgetown

Colonial Georgetown

Fearing that I would be out of reach of an internet connection in the Perenthians, I spend my last day in Georgetown doing some work and that night, Mike and I hopped in a night bus to Kuala Besut, the coastal town from which the ferry boats depart. Obviously, Mike and I were unsuccessful at securing any affordable bed on the island, but we reminded ourselves that just showing up somewhere hoping for a place to stay always ends up working out in some way or another.

Pulau Perenthian Kecil

The buses in Malaysia are actually quite roomy. With only three seats on the width, there is ample space for the elbows and shoulders. Still, in spite of a sleeping pill, I could never quite get proper rest and spent the majority of the night waking up to change position only to realize that sitting was the only option.

View of coral bay at Pulau Perhentian Kecil

View of coral bay at Pulau Perhentian Kecil

I arrived very early at the ferry dock and after a bit of waiting, was on a small craft hopping waves towards Pulau Perenthian Kecil (“small stopping point island” in Malaysian). The ride was certainly bumpy, and indeed some other passengers appeared not to have a particularly enjoyable cruise, but it was nothing compared to what I had experienced in the past. Once on the island itself, me and Mike set out to explore the area to see what our lodging options were and as expected, there were not that many: some cabins and a resort. We reserved a chalet at the one that seemed to be the most sensible choice regarding location and price, but had to settle for a double bed which we would have to share. At 40 ringgit (6.6 $CDN)  a night between the two of us, no big deal.

Contrast

Contrast

While scouting beds, I had also stopped by the three dive shops that were there as well and booked an afternoon dive with one of them so a quick nap and a short lunch later, I was in the water with the local marine population. The visibility was not great, not more than 10 meters, but the diversity of wildlife compensated and I got to see during that dive more species of fish and invertebrates through all my time in Honduras. Satisfied with the experience and the price (30$ for a dive), I booked another dive for the following morning, which was set to happen on Sugar wreck, a cargo ship that capsized twelve years ago during a storm and is now resting on its side in 20 meters of water at about 30 minutes by boat from the island, weather permitting of course. The season having just started, the seas could still be a bit rough and visibility poor, but that morning, mother nature decided to cooperate and made the dive possible. At a 100 meters long, Sugar wreck was to be the largest ship I would have ever dived on so I got pretty excited.

Once under, I was sort of disappointed that I could only see down to a couple of meters but soon had my attention diverted by the sheer size of the boat, all the junk that was lying around it and how nature had reclaimed the ship. The site of the sinking, originally a flat sandy plain, was now teeming with corals, anemones, bamboo sharks, carpets of sea urchins, barracudas and cuttlefishes. Even lion fishes, one of which visibly annoyed by this early morning intrusion, decided to get between me and the rest of the group, delaying my passage to the point where I almost lost them and challenging my buoyancy skills by forcing me to hover between walls of urchins, pieces of rusty metal sticking out and the roof of the cargo hold. How much more impressive must this dive have been in better conditions, but definitely satisfied, I would dive two other times around the island, but with another shop, not that the first one was inadequate, but I like spreading my business around. Although I would not be going back to Sugar wreck, I was the only customer on one dive, which really afforded me the time to properly look at things. I also did not get a chance to visit the other wreck, which apparently was guarded by a titan trigger fish with a very bad temper.

East beach

East beach

Mike occupied his time between napping and lounging on the beach so occasionally, I would join him for a game of frisbee or volleyball. The west side of the island, not yet open and essentially deserted, provided us with a lot of room to throw things at each other. Night time activities, as is to be expected in such a place, pretty much revolved around drinking and making friends at one of the few beach side restaurants or at the bonfire which some locals would make every night. Nothing unusual there, but what set this island experience apart was that the community was very small so you could make acquaintances one night and see them the next day. Soon enough, Mike and I had made buddies with a large portion of the foreigners, composed overwhelmingly of Scandinavians (and Finnish + Estonian), which made our efforts at building hype towards the Sweden-Canada Olympic hockey final that much more easy.

Normally, I would not care much about a hockey game, but the fact that I was in Malaysia on an island surrounded by sand, palm trees, tropical water and Swedish people made the whole event too extraneous/exciting to pass. So the night of the game, our cabin neighbors, a Swedish couple, had arranged with a local convenience store owner who happened to have a satellite TV to show the game. He probably had never head of the sport, but knew very well that so many customers at once would mean good business for him. Both them and Mike and I spread the word around that we should all meet there so at the rendez-vous time, the little shack was overflowing with Scandinavians and three of us Canadians, as we had only been able to find one other fellow country-woman. Naturally, we had a bet going with some supporters of the opposite team and naturally, we came out winners. Two beers per goal of difference, so six beers (Canada won 3-0), which we happily took over to the bonfire on the other side of the beach. The night ended with an infructuous quest for nesting turtles on the west-side beach and a swim, which I quietly sat out on the beach, because one person leaving the party without the others knowing could cause a major panic; someone had to play the lifeguard.

Inside the fishing village

Inside the fishing village

Mike had drank himself out of commission for the next two days, but I thankfully had managed my alcohol intake pretty well and only felt tired for the impossibility to sleep in the morning heat but otherwise fine. Well enough to go diving again during the day, hike to the fisherman’s village on the southern tip of the island and certainly sufficiently in shape to make it to the bonfire that night again. The following day was built around the same structure of diving, beach and bonfire, but that would as far as the routine went, I had to leave the next morning.

Coral bay at sunset

Coral bay at sunset

I had expected the Perenthians to be more “rural” than they actually were. For instance, before leaving I had told those who might need to get a hold of me that I would be disconnected for the next couple of days but to my surprise, the Internet had made it there and in fact, there were a lot of modern luxury that had reached those islands so much so that it was possible to indulge in a full-fledged resort experience. Still, the island (in its pre-high season state) provided to be an ideal compromise between size and amenities. For those that wanted a true “cabin on the beach” experience, all it took was a short taxi-boat ride to another more remote beach. And if you felt more social, the small crowds gathering at the handful of restaurants for the evening barbecues were a good way of making some interesting encounters. It suffices to say that my time on the Perenthians has been the highlight of Malaysia for me.

Moving North

Malaysia is split in two between the actual continent and the island of Borneo. Obviously, it was not practical for me to the latter as well, so sadly, there is a whole part of that country that I missed. I might come back to it if ever I do go to Indonesia, but while I’m immensely glad of having passed through Malaysia, I found that it generally lacked in charm and that at the end of the day, there was not a whole lot of things to do or places to go that seemed appealing to me.

Anyhow, I left the Perenthian Islands on the first ferry with two ladies that were both going up to Thailand, very relieved to be tagging along to someone that knows the way since that time, it was a pretty complicated journey and I had not done my homework. As for Mike, he replaced me with a Norwegian “friend” he had made himself earlier during his journey and that happened to be arriving on the very same ferry that was about to take me back on the continent. Let’s say that I fully understand why he did not seem terribly unhappy to see me go.

I’m sort of thrilled to go to Thailand, partly for the hype that has been building up during my whole trip but also for the fact that my time constraints are far looser here that they have been so far. I’m only suppose to meet a friend visiting me from Canada in Vietnam mid march and in Thailand itself, I should meet-up with two different travelling buddies, Rimas, my old diving instructor whom I saw in Hawaii and Jesse, an American I befriended while in Seoul.

At the Thailand - Malaysia border

At the Thailand – Malaysia border