Monday, February 03, 2014

A new place and a new journey...


I have decided to move this blog over to wordpress for no specific reason. (That's the new place I am talking about). I know I haven't been the most active in writing. But I am traveling in South America this year, which was a big decision for me personally and feels like a big big journey too?  So, perhaps there is reason to hop over -  As I see it ... The journey continues. A little sad about leaving this space, but change is good?

Ooooh yes, you heard me right. As of this moment, I am in Sucre, Bolivia enjoying a cafe caliente (hot coffee) and desayunar (breakfast)!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

I saw sharks... Sipadan

Divers n turtle in the distance by Ms N
Divers and a turtle in the distance (Photo courtesy Hugh Diamond, a fellow diver)
Deep deep blue waters. A reef wall that seemed to go down to an endless abyss. My first shark sighting. Colorful corals. Fabulous fish. 18m underwater was never this beautiful.

Our first dive of the day was at South Point. This was the big day of diving as we were diving at Sipadan, one of the top dive sites in the world. I was excited. I was also nervous. Nervous, because this is my first time diving at a site where we couldn’t see the ocean floor. On my left shoulder, was the reef wall, but when my back was turned to it, all I could see was the deep blue. It is one of the most exhilarating and the also the most disorienting feeling. Nervous because I was hoping to see a shark for the first time – I was excited, but I was worried it would come out of the blue and smack into me (now I know where the phrase out of the blue comes from).

And then into the far, we saw spotted the outlines of some of these beasts. The white tip reef sharks. I was just wondering if that was it, when not long after, we saw some swimming closer to us, but down below. And as we moved through the site, many resting on the sandy beaches. And finally, we got as close as a meter to one of them!
A white tip reef shark which we played hid and seek with. Got within 1m distance! by Ms N
A White tip reef shark resting on the sandy bottom (This one was actually shot at Barracuda point, but decided to include it here. Photo courtesy Hugh Diamond, a fellow diver)

While in most dive sites, you can see typically the bottom, which is at a depth of 70-80m. At Sipadan the sea-bed falls sharply down to around 600m. Sipadan is actually the top of an ancient volcano around which living corals grew. (It is the only volcanic island in Malaysia, and the volcanic activity has made the sea rich in minerals ideal for marine life, and the depth of the sea bed allows for bigger fish to nest). The island has an army base and some facilities for divers, but people aren’t allowed to live or overnight here to protect the island as a marine park.

We finished the dive by shoring up over an expanse of the most vibrant and colorful corals I had seen in a while. Most of the other islands around this parts that I had been diving at had sandy bottoms, and this mêlée of colors was an assault on the eyes.

I couldn’t stop smiling after the first dive. In fact I couldn’t stop smiling for a long long time.

What we saw- White tip reef sharks, Green turtles, Titan triggerfish, Chevron Barracuda, Great Barracuda, Trumpet Fish, Trevally, Big nose surgeon fish, Black potted puffer, Sweetlips

PS: huge thanks to my fellow diver who shared his photos with me, which makes me recall the dive memories even more vividly.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We write...

... to taste life twice. In the moment and in retrospect.

 – Anais Nin

Friday, May 31, 2013

We must love it....

Words that resonated with me...

the fool will go through life
at the same time life goes through him 
he will pour himself past the brim
and swim through the mess he has made
knowing that he played his part
the only way he could
that he stood still when asked to move
he did this to prove
that the only things that belong to us are the choices we choose
that we lose everything by risking nothing
that we bring about our own ending
by pretending away our pain
as if we were somehow above it 
the fool steps blindly reminding us 
we cannot not simply bear what is necessary 
we must love it.

From the poem 'Tarot'

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tioman … then and now, untouched as ever!

Canoes by Ms N
Canoes stacked by a beach cabana, Paya beach
The full moon is silhouetted against the sea, smothering the waves with silver reflections. Sitting on a dune, we watch the continuous ebb and flow, each with our own thoughts. For me, the sea has always been a confidant, a friend absorbing all it is told and never revealing those secrets; always giving the best advice — its meaningful noises can be interpreted any way you choose... The fresh wind fills the senses with the power and mood of the sea; everything is transformed by its touch; even Comeback (the dog) gazes, his odd little nose aloft, at the silver ribbons unrolling before him several times a minute.
-Che Guevara, Motorcycle Diaries

This is why the Motorcycle Diaries is amazing. It’s not the greatest piece of writing or doesn’t have lofty observations. But it has layers… every so often, you will re-discover a passage, a part of the journey that will make you think, ‘Dang! That is exactly how I felt when I was at so-and-so, and when that happened’. This book could have been anyone’s journey … it could have been your journey!

I was re-reading the Motorcycle Diaries around the same time that I had gone to Tioman for the first time, couple of years back and I recall thinking how aptly the above words fitted the few days spent idling on this island. There is something to be said about just watching the endless ocean, and letting the motion of the waves take over you. Every single activity seems to take on an added depth when watching the sea – the coffee you sip, the book you are reading.   The sea here is calm and beautiful and it is easy to lose yourself in the beautiful interplay of blue and turquoise even as the day's heat seduces you into a lazy lull. And that first splash of cold when you dive in. And after all this, there are still the nights…

When I returned to Tioman, this time to Tekek beach, I was a tad worried it wouldn’t live up to my memories. But I was overjoyed and even surprised to find it just the way it used to be – rustic and under-developed, even after 2 years. My last trip had been on a long weekend, and we were scrambling to get the accommodation and travel sorted out and it seemed as if every single “resort” was booked out. Was this the ‘untouched’ island people spoke off? I expected to see crowded beaches and half of Singapore camping there. But when we arrived at Paya beach, it was a heady relief to see we had the beach more or less to ourselves.

Once past the not-so-pretty Tekek ferry terminal, the island opens up with the thick tropical forest rising in front – tall, green and dense, and almost reaching the skies. The road branches into 2, following the curve of the sea. Along the way are some wooden long houses, randomly dotting the roads, some have small grocery stores or restaurants, the odd souvenir shops, a garage… and there is that odd broken truck by the side. In the distance, there is smoke from some cooking fires. The road itself curves into the forest, which takes you through the heart of the jungle to Juara, the beach on the other side. The so-called resorts are in fact collection of wooden long houses, quite basic in the luxury they afford. Life takes on a slow and unhurried pace. So did our routine. 

I do wonder if I will tire of beaches, and it feels like I will after every trip. But within days of returning to regular life, all I long for is the calm of the seas.

Some FAQ:
Getting to Tioman is still a bitch (sorry, but that is what it is). But may be that is what keeps it rustic too. We tried a taxi (highly recommend it) for $150-200 one way from Singapore to Mersing. The ferry from Mersing to Tioman, however, still demands patience and god’s grace. Also see this link for 5 ways to get from Singapore to Mersing.

Choose a good beach too. Personally, I found Salang beach had too many chalets lined up one after the other. Tekek, is the main town on the island and the airport is also here. But this beach still felt more spacious. From Tekek, one can get to ABC beach and also Juara quite easily.

Try the Sunset cafe in ABC for some divine pizza's. The walk from Tekek to ABC can be quite nice too.

Also, the jungle walk to Juara is interesting. It takes around 2 hours, and it is recommended to hike in decent shows (i.e. not flip flops).

Untitled by Ms N
S at work, building a cabana by the beach...

Untitled by Ms N
Ayer Batang beach at night