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Old 25th November 2011, 18:20   #31
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ Sttandint Buddha

The Buddha was 70 feet plus, the base like a lotus, actually a circular hall with safety-deposit-box like pigeonholes, 1000’s of them. These are sold to relatives of dead people to keep ashes in pots, sells for a big price, the monastery nearby keeps the money for social work and keeps the nearby graveyard going.

Very interesting memorial structures there, Elle could read Chinese inscriptions for us, many of them sounded Indian, like the one, ‘I go back to the elements’, ‘we are part of each other’ etc., The statue can be seen for miles, the setting around typically fisher men, farming villages, poor but everyone smiled and waved. I think even the villagers respect the tourist money that flows into Vietnam.

4 PM, tour for the day completed, we head back to town for lunch. Mark finds a road-side restaurant roasting duck and orders rice, vegetables for us. The duck was delicious and so was the vegetarian soup and rice. We drop off Elle to HCMC, get back to Mark’s dive shop and discuss basics of diving. There’s bad news for me.

Me with the mask on, I had to stand like this for Mark to take a snap, please notice top of my mush is gone!!!!
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The face mask will not get an air lock until I shave off my mush!! What, what, what, what, I ask. “Thundering Typhoons” I was stunned!! Shave off the mush, no way, that’s my trade mark for Pet’s sake. Mark looked at me with pity, he said, “no shaving, no diving” and that was that. He said, we will try with a half shave, I got a disposable razor, at least 2 cm had to go. Like a candidate in Death Row, I do the deed and look in the mirror, what a ghastly sight. Anu tried her best not to laugh out aloud, had a difficult time not to stare at the result. Those of you ‘mushers’ who want to do diving, this is it. That scare out of the way and the embarrassment in, we ride back to the hotel on the scooter. Having transportation under control is a great feeling.

6 PM, out for a 4 km walk on the beach, sit on the park, pick up some 3 minute veg noodles, a Smirnoff triple distilled and Sprite on the way. Quick shower, noodle dinner, a small drink, tom & jerry on the telly.. what more can one ask. We were tired and happy. Day has been exciting, different; the real problems of life seemed far away. Is this what a travel is supposed to do? An Opium dream, I drifted off to sleep.

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Everyone wears a helmet, everyone waits for the green signal, even if the road is empty, even if its 1 AM.

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They have used drills and explosives to blast these granites.. we were discussing blasting techniques, the French guy is a miner.

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Mark explaining life and death and burial at Hawai.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 25th November 2011 at 18:33.
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Old 25th November 2011, 18:53   #32
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Lovely travelogue, Ramky, really enjoying reading the minor details you've put in there. One more addition on my list of things to do before I die!
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Old 25th November 2011, 19:15   #33
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Arrow re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
Lovely travelogue, Ramky, really enjoying reading the minor details you've put in there. One more addition on my list of things to do before I die!
Thanks SST. Just wait for the next day's log before you make up your mind.

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Old 26th November 2011, 14:03   #34
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Nice travelogue, very detailed with equally good pics.
Looking forward.
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Old 26th November 2011, 19:24   #35
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ DIVING DAY

27-11-2011: Nha Trang – Diving Day.

Before I start, a little bit about the women there. Yes, I feel its mandated now. Most young women we saw, 90%, wore shorts very short. Even country side fisher folks / farmers were on jeans, fashion seems to have spread fast and wild, reportedly through telly. Nha Trang is no exception, being a beach resort, if you can imagine the least amount of cloths, you get the picture. The western tourists, mostly from Australia and an assorted lot of others who are on a beach holiday? Almost starkers!! It was difficult not to watch, tough when your wife is watching YOU!! For just such an emergency, over a period of years, I have developed strong peripheral vision, I can easily be mistaken for looking straight while I can take in what’s on the sides. Need I say more? We also had a small sample of uninteresting Japanese, Koreans who were more modestly dressed; modesty is relative, I guess. If you consider HCMC warm, Nha Trang was hot and Hanoi sizzling!! Wait till I upload videos.

We were told to reach Mark’s dive school at 0700 Sharp, we were 10 minutes late, the pick up van had left. We biked it to the pier from where most dive ships leave, they were waiting. Our boat had a bunch of Russians, Estonians, 3 families, they were all professional divers; 5 men, 3 women, 3 boys below 10, one of 15 and a small girl of 4 years. A young commercial diver who knew little English seemed to be in charge of the group and Mark was in charge of our boat. A 45 minute journey brought us to the marine park, you can see a small island and 2 more dive boats full of people.

A dive boat has many helpers, the cooking staff and lot of local guys. Mark told us not bring anything expensive and keep the cameras, mobiles, jewelry, money in the locker, neatly tied in plastic bags. He said we can think of photos later, most people were NOT carrying cameras. We were too tense to think of clicks, we were concentrating on what other people were doing and concerned about getting into open water. Later, after everything was over, we managed to take a couple of snaps, most important shots were missed.

Our boat tied up with another, that was full of Russians too, about 10-15 diving families!! They said most Russian divers are paid very well and they come with wads of money, this was news to me. While the men were in water, women were on the deck with the skimpiest of bikinis, a couple of them joining in the diving. At first, we seemed to be the only ones learning to diving, the Russian gang talked to us in broken English, some translated to others, they were surprised to see an Indian women in bindi, shorts and T shirts jumping into water with diving gear!! There were 2 US born Indian guy, surprised to see us diving, they were learning too. It was a freaked out setting, we stepped way out of our comfort zones to try something new.

We had already passed entry course, the free class room portion of the diving is online, one need to register and select his dive center.

SSI :: SSI Scuba Schools International :: take your dive @ diveSSI.com

It’s an interactive course on basics, science and procedures of diving with videos, question and answers, you have to finish one stage to move to another. This is necessary to understand the basics of depth, pressure, air volume, air density, Boyl’s Law, Archimedes principles of buoyancy, using of masks, fins, tank & regulators. Even snorkelers should know the basics before jumping into water.

There are many helpers, dive schools pool resources like boats, support people, equipment etc., to maximize profits, they are communal here as seen on the boats. Most outfits are owned by whites, competition is hectic. Mark helped us into a wet suit, the water was cold. The weight belt, tank, the BC (buoyancy compensator) suit, the fins go in next, first, Anu’s turn. Experienced divers / snorkelers are already in. Mark rigs himself up, goes a classical jump from the boat deck, 8 feet down holding his face mask, helpers ease Anu down and I jump in. After that, all theories disappear.

The water is a different environment, not natural to us. We’re both good swimmers but with the weights, face mask, mouth piece and tank on your back, one feels out of place. The mind plays tricks on you, what if I sink with the weight, what if a big fish attacks you, 1000’s of what ifs play havoc, short-circuit all logical thinking, adrenalin the survival hormone takes over. With the mask on you should not breathe with the nose (the natural and automatic thing to do), the glass fogs over, breathing thru the regulator on your mouth sends out clouds of bubbles all around your face, you think if bubbles are coming from my mouth, something is seriously wrong, your reflexes kick in and you try to breathe through the nose, it fogs, you can’t see and fear takes over. Mark allow us to float, put the mask on and off repeatedly so we would get to understand air lock, blow out water, clean the mask, breathe through the regulator, use the two red buttons on the BC to go up and down. I was comfortable to float on the surface, Anu dived in holding on to Mark, there was a slow tide on and I drifted off.

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I release air with the red button on the BC, go down and see Anu and Mark swimming. Knowing they are safe, I try to go under, Mark gestures for me to keep close by, this goes on for 15-20 minutes, we go up and down, Mark points to fish and coral. Dive 5 minutes, surface 5 minutes, about 45 minutes was the most terrorizing for me as water was finding its way through my mush, the mask was fogging and I was very uncomfortable. Anu did better, she stayed down longer and said she saw lots of fish and coral. We swim back to the boat, it’s very tiring, we take rest, most people come back to boat. 2 boats move to the next location.

Clear water, deeper location, you can see coral below. Anu decides to stay on board, I rig up and jump in again with Mark. After some floating, he pulls me under, we go down to 10 feet, he points out the magical world of fishes, coral and underwater life. A couple of Russian divers wearing blue shorts glide below us effortlessly with just snorkels, that looked easy. Mark is fingering my BC to go deeper, I guess we reach 25+ feets, I could feel the increasing pressure on my ear; one has to hold breath and blow on and off to equalize , the pain in my ear starts. Don’t remember what I did, some water enters my nose through the mask, I almost panic and gestures to go up while Mark pulls me down, he was frantically gesturing something. This goes on 2 minutes (looked like hours to me, all I wanted was God given surface air) me trying to go up, Mark pulling me towards one side and then we surface. He was livid, we are not allowed to surface beyond the boat line. The line is a rope floating on a buoy, a marker for safe diving. Beyond the line, boats move, I suddenly remember the noise I heard overhead while trying to surface, a boat on the move!! Thundering typhoons, this is scary stuff. You cannot surface fast, for a beginner that could be dangerous, we had moved almost 300 mtrs away and 25 feets down from the boat in search of corals!!

I was winded. The air from the tank is natural air but dry, my throat was burning, my nasal track was on fire with sea water, some must have found entry inside my sinus, must have swallowed liters of salt water too. What looked so romantic, adventurous and easy while reading, seeing movies and in fantasy in reality is a different ball game. Mark said, let’s do it again and reached for my BC, I wanted as much distance from him as possible and told him, lay off, I need time, he nodded and we headed for the boat. Anu was anxiously waiting on the deck, one look on my face, she said let’s call this off and enjoy the ride. This was a hit below belt for my Macho (if I was objective, I would have agreed with her and done the wise thing) and said no way (I have something to prove to all these divers!! How stupid can one get) Almost everyone was on water, diving, snorkeling except for a couple of Russian female sun worshippers on the top deck. The three year old Russian girl was on a life buoy swimming with her mother!! I said if 3 year olds can do, why can’t I? Water babies and land lubbers are different, late realization that.

In 30 minutes Mark comes back and asks, are you ready? I said, let’s go, right question wrong answer. We jump into water again, Mark said, just relax, breath on the regulator and leave the rest to me. We stay put at 10 feet for 5 minutes, seeing the sights. It was magnificent; schools of fish swam by, a bright coloured fish came close, I almost reached out to touch it, it darted away. The coral were alive and pulsing, we hit sand bottom at 25 feets; all the while I was equalizing, blowing, but the pain in the ear was constant now, I gestured to Mark my ears and said, let’s go up, it has been 15+ minutes, this time I follow Mark slowly and independently. Was a great dive and the best part of the whole tour. The pain in my ear disappeared, I was very happy to have tried a new world and a new adventure.

It’s about 130 PM, we transfer to our original boat, change our wet dress and settle down for lunch. I feel very tired, head ache, ear ache and nausea returns and I know this is the start of sinusitis which has been dormant for 3 years. If it hits, it could be a bad spell which only aggressive medical treatment would solve. I manage to gulp down some vegetables, boiled eggs and rice, Anu knew my condition and kept quiet. My pains were increasing, by the time we reached the ferry, I was in agony. Anu just took the keys form me, drove the bike and we reached the hotel about 4 PM. I rushed for the medicine kit, took out an Allegra, a loading doze of Azithromycin 500 mg, 650 mg of paracetamol, Tramadol HCL and went to sleep. When I woke up around 8 PM, I was feeling much better, the pain had subsided though not disappeared, my frontal sinuses were swollen and inflamed. This was the red flag for diving!!

The return journey. The Floating Farm, people live on these farms, there are fishing pens, once they grow big they are sold. We saw big ones splashing inside nets.

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Notice the baby sleeping on the pram, she was on water most of the time.

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Mark clowning as usual:

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I said no diving tomorrow to Anu, she said, “I knew that after our first dive, but you had to go in again, prove something and aggravate it. Even the first dive was great and we can remember that for a long time”. I agreed, it was stupid and irrational and I should have aborted the 2nd dive. Lesson learned the hard way. We called Mark and gave him the bad news, we’re not coming in tomorrow, he was concerned, rushed to our hotel right away, wanted me to see a doctor. We went down and I explained my para-medic background, the medicines are on and working. He told us not to worry and take it easy for the night and promised to work out something.

In retrospect, we did enjoy the day a lot, an adventure tied; something tried something lost, an experience gained and shared together, a truck load of memories under water. Enough.

A list of things we saw under water, later Mark showed us these next day in the Oceanographic Museum:
  1. Emperor Angel fish
  2. Clown fish (finding Nemo fame)
  3. Golden stripe angel fish
  4. Bandit angel fish
  5. Millet Sea Butterfly fish
  6. Convict fish
  7. Clarks angel fish
  8. Moorish Idol fish
  9. Pike fish
  10. Golden damsel fish
  11. Neon Damsel fish
  12. Mushroom Coral
  13. Plate Coral
  14. Lettuce Coral
  15. Staghorn Coral
  16. Brain Coral
Some of these we would be able to recognize if we saw them again, new learnings.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 26th November 2011 at 19:50.
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Old 27th November 2011, 00:38   #36
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

"No Shaving No Diving" LOL I think you should copyright that and use it as the title of the book on your varied travels if you decide to write about them.

Very interesting and intriguing this travelogue absolutely 5* and the 2 cms of shaved moustache actually does not look bad at all.

Looking forward to the rest of the adventure, especially the videos taken with the advantage of peripheral vision ;-)

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Old 27th November 2011, 08:58   #37
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Arrow re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
Nice travelogue, very detailed with equally good pics.
Looking forward.
@ Ashish : Thanks for your comments. I want to put in critical details so that prospective travelers to the region / area would have a head-start on information; time is money, right?

@ Khoj:
"No Shaving No Diving"-- that's a great idea for the title of a book I am planning to write some day. My mush has grown back to its original position now

I was careful while shooting "other people", specially scantily clad women, would not be right to load it into an open website. The videos I load would be generic, taking in the whole scene. The private ones are "for your eyes only" when you come to A'bad.

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Old 27th November 2011, 12:52   #38
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Default re: Footloose in VAMBODIA (Vietnam + Cambodia)

A phenomenal read RK and worth every penny I bet on it. I was looking forward to this travelogue and trust me it has far exceeded my expectations. All thats needed now is a small tete-a-tete over a cup of coffee on SG highway!
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Old 27th November 2011, 23:21   #39
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@ Ashish: Thanks.

Originally Posted by arethusa View Post
A phenomenal read RK and worth every penny I bet on it. I was looking forward to this travelogue and trust me it has far exceeded my expectations. All thats needed now is a small tete-a-tete over a cup of coffee on SG highway!
Call me, any time for a meet on SG Highway. Enjoy, more coming up.

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Old 28th November 2011, 18:39   #40
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ VIDEO

A video of the return journey on the dive boat, you can see the 30X magic of the Sony HX 100 V, so compact and powerful:


Last edited by ramkya1 : 28th November 2011 at 18:41.
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Old 29th November 2011, 10:43   #41
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Fantastic, eager to read more.

Keep it going
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Old 29th November 2011, 11:31   #42
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A thousand Blue Blistering Barnacles, no shaving no diving that was hilarious, but nice adventure you had diving.
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Old 29th November 2011, 11:44   #43
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Originally Posted by Rajesh1968 View Post
Fantastic, eager to read more.

Keep it going
Thanks a lot Rajesh, your post was what I needed to keep the post going. I was on the verge of just posting photos and finishing up as interest on the thread was not so great. Now.. I roll up the sleeves and go at it.


28-10-2011: I realize I’ve been typing 25,26,27, -11-2011 and nobody had seen the mistake, so here’s correcting it to October.

The medicines are surely working, I’m feeling better so I ask Anu, “How about diving toady” and she looks at me like I’m loco. I was joking, so I tell her, “let’s pester Mark today, we also have to settle up for the diving course etc.”, call him up, he’s free for the day, has some students in the evening he’s teaching English, he said let’s hit some tourist spots together, it’s been a long time since I’ve done some guide work. We were more than happy to have him around, he knows the place and people.

Around 9 AM, we ride towards the National Oceanographic Museum, a big complex with a bay on the other side, entrance 15,000 VNDongs, about 35 INR per person, Mark exempted as a guide. There were lots of live fishes, specimens, lots of stuffed ones and more pickled ones in Jars. It houses more than 20000 of them, great for Marine students.

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A Sea Cucumber being picked up by Mark

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Star Fish

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The Neli Fish from film Finding Nemo

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The de compression chamber being explained.
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We were taking a tour on the big turtle pond and heard a cry from a women on the far end, it was a souvenir shop, the woman was on a table, there was a snake on the ground, before you can say “Jack Robinson” me and Anu were on top of the highest object nearby, an airplane on display. Typical Mark ran towards the lady, stunned the snake using a broom stick handle, he told the lady she can come down from her perch. She gingerly came down, called someone on the phone, in 3 minutes a man came on a bike, went to the snake, caught it on its head with his hand, sat on his mobike, drove away with one hand while holding the snake!! Mark said the man would have snake soup/ supper that night, it was a poisonous one.

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We had come down form our high vintage point after the reptile was secured and took the clicks, continued on the journey. The commentary of an Ocean expert like Mark was great; we finished up around 1230 and decided to have lunch in an Indian Restaurant we had located the other day. Lunch tasted nice, we thought pricing was also OK, quantity lunch for 3 at 15 UDD, reportedly one can get a huge helping of fish, rice and soup for just 3 UDS in other places. Well, that’s how economic it would get if you love non-veg food.

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The Sting Ray type that killed Steve Irvin, the Croc Hunter

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 29th November 2011 at 12:02.
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Old 29th November 2011, 12:13   #44
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Arrow Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ Oceanographic Museum

National Oceanographic Museum

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Lunch tasted nice, we thought pricing was also OK, quantity lunch for 3 at 15 UDD, reportedly one can get a huge helping of fish, rice and soup for just 3 UDS in other places. Well, thatís how economic it would get if you love non-veg food.

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Last edited by ramkya1 : 29th November 2011 at 12:22.
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Old 29th November 2011, 12:33   #45
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Default Re: Footloose in VAMBODIA/ ON THE ROCKS

Next stop was the ‘rocks’ on top of a hill. The pile of rocks, some as huge as houses, juts out into the sea, there’s an entrance fee to get in there.

Nha-Trang Hon Chong

Entry ticket to the Rocks:

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One can spend time there looking down into Nha Trang bay which is supposed to be safe for swimming or the waves crashing into the waves on the opposite side. There’s a huge rock with an impression of a huge palm; story of a Princess waiting for a Prince and becoming a statue. Place is great if you want to kill time, read a quiet book or meditate, we kill 45 minutes communicating with the sea and surf. I find it therapeutic, sitting with your spouse quietly gazing out to sea, many of our big problems of life seem dwarfed compared to the vastness of water, the reserve power, generosity of nature and recommend it to all couples. Does this sound crazy?

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We go up the steps to the cultural center made in typical Cambodian style. There were a couple of girls engaged by the city council, one was working on sand art, art piece out of different colours of sand. The sand is filled in different layers into a glass making beautiful patterns.
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Sand art in the making and some made.

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Another was on duty talking to her boyfriend drinking tea. Mark drew her out in a conversation, one remark, “you don’t look like a Cambodian” was enough to get her going about her lineage. She broke off her tea-party, showed us how many Cambodian instruments she could play. This run-of-the-mill looking girl was exceptionally talented, we were soon mesmerized by the talent she unabashedly showed. She played 3 instruments fluently, the Bamboo Trung, the Lithophone (Stone Xylaphone) and mono string instrument, Dan Bau. Lord Love a Duck!! That way she played the Dan Bau blew us away, being a rhythm guitarist in my younger days, I know how much skill is needed to play this instrument. One has to pluck, use the palm as the fret immediately and also stretch and very the sound by your other hand, it was really something, only people who have played any string instrument would know the amount of practice needed to master one. I tried my hand at it, it’s a tough, we got into a conversation, she saw my interest and played us 2 more songs. Mark was floored, I guess he did not expect this. She looked at him as if to say, “Any more questions?” I was spared, after all we had a connect as a musician, my wife was a mute spectator and enjoying the show. An unexpected feast for me, one of the most enjoyable encounters in our travels. It was around 4 PM, all of us were humming songs when we walked to the parking lot.

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The Little Lady who enjoyed playing it and showing it:

Pieces of stone and stone hammers create this music!!

The most difficult instrument.

Learn about this instrument here:



Last edited by ramkya1 : 29th November 2011 at 12:53.
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