July 5 2015

Introducing our new project – a 1998 VW Transporter T4 – I guess we are joining #VANLIFE

A while ago I wrote about #projectsailboat. This was a desire to learn more about the “systems” of a boat prior to purchase. Such as a means of producing power (solar), storage options in limited space etc. Greater discussions with my partner led us to move away from the idea of a boat – we simply would not get the use of it, being some 150km from the ocean. The next option was a camper – we enjoy camping and exploring but due to weather this limits our options. A camper would extend the ‘season’ as well as offer a support vehicle for scuba diving.

After much searching we settled on a relatively old 1998 VW camper van. It had been roughly converted – allowing us to add many of our own touches. The video below gives you a look at the van after we have had it for only 2 weeks.

Check out the video and don’t forget to like, comment or subscibe.

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June 8 2015

Gear: Scuba – Second Hand BCD Self inflating

I have just finished washing and putting my dive gear away following another day of double fun dives on the South Coast of NSW.

For me this was dive 18 & 19.

Fresh from my tropical dives of Phi Phi Island in Thailand (and admittedly filled with false bravado), I kitted up just before the first dive as I have always done.

As with most of our club fun dives, today we were entering from the rocks so I added air to my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and entered the water with the rest of the group. After the usual awkward aqua-aerobics that is putting on your fins in a slightly surging wave group we pushed away from the rocks to the decent point. My BCD was making a funny sound and I thought “hmm maybe I have an air leak from an air hose”, I had my buddy check and she confirmed there was no visible air leak.

As we descended, my buddies started slowly sinking as they should but I could not go below one metre. I was weighted the same as other successful dives but was unsure why I could not drop down to the bottom at 7m. Luckily one of the Dive Masters (DMs) for the club dive was on hand and clipped an extra weight to me.

After getting down with my buddy we set off on exploring the underwater landscape – my video from Australia Day 2015 is shot at the same spot

I noticed my buoyancy was not very stable – all in one direction – UP. It was at that point I realised what the funny sound was on the surface – the safety valve on my BCD letting air out as it had over inflated. I know I only put a squirt or two in prior to entry and now the BDC was continuing to self inflate while diving – slowly but still inflating. to top this off my DIY Dive Tray was beginning to loosen and the camera and light set up was wobbling. I could not let go of it for fear of losing both GoPro and my brand new Knog Qudos Dive light. Review coming soon.

IMG_5831.JPG

This dive was rapidly turning into a cluster. I was not in any immediate danger due to the relatively shallow depths – however I did need to continuously dump air from my slowly inflating BCD.

At the 35 minute mark I pulled the pin. I was not enjoying myself, so knew it was time to end the dive. I indicated my intentions to my buddy and the DM and up I went – metres from the accent point – perfect.

I still managed to record a great clip of a sleepy Port Jackson Shark snoozing on the sandy bottom.

The second dive was much easier as the issue was known, after the dives I discussed the issue with the DMs and they indicated that one solution would have been to disconnect the low pressure inflator hose and manually inflate the BCD with my mouth – all stuff every PADI diver is trained to do – I didn’t know I could disconnect it underwater – I know now for next time!

I will however be taking my BCD in for a service soon to fix the problem.

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May 31 2015

PROTIP: Why having mobile data can ruin a holiday

I know it is an agreement that most people would assume is 180degrees from my normal position, but here it is – Having a mobile internet connection definitely negatively impacted on our holiday.

No coverage 1

This trip was very different to the 2013. During our time in Myanmar in 2013, there was 1 mobile provider with expensive access (a sim card alone cost $100 AUD). However this time, there were at least 3 providers with relatively cheap – including sim and 5gb for approx $30 AUD.

How did it negatively impact the trip? I hear you ask. It was not until we were in Myanmar, after having travelled to Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur and Genting Highlands in Malaysia that I realised I was spending a lot of time looking down (at my phone) and not up and out.

Maybe it is just me, but I suspect it is a wider concern for people around my age, especially in the west. We have almost instant access to anything we want online, usually via the screens of our mobiles. This post is not meant to be a mobile bashing piece, but I did want to highlight what I missed out on.

I know within myself that if I am going some where that has no connection at all, that is totally fine, I prepare. I lived in East Timor for 6 months in 2008 which when you said you had ‘good internet’ meant that you did not have to share the dialup connection with 4 others. Also mobile data was unheard of.
I can cope with that – for a period at least.
My issue is when there is a hint of connection, a fleeting blip of connection, I become obsessed with getting the news, Twitter and Facebook on that tiny connection.

This was the case during the 250km, 5 hour car ride from Yangon, Myanmar to the very west coast at Ngwe Saung Beach.

Screen Shot 2015-05-31 at 13.16.10

Looking back, it was an issue totally of my making. I was excited to test out one of Myanmar’s new carriers along with staying connected.

I missed out on bonding with my fellow travellers, along with seeing the countryside change as we moved from the lush Irrawaddy Delta into the dryer west coast. Seeing villages that have never had mains power connected, yet use 150w solar panels on top of their palm-fron roofs to power lighting and in some cases a 12v TV to watch football.

IMG_5030

Tips for offline travelling

These are some if the things I have done in the past that have helped me enjoy travelling with while remaining offline

  • PODCASTS

If you haven’t already gotten into podcasts, you are missing out!
Podcasts are downloadable audio clips. Usually radio segments or audio blogposts.
For travelling I prefer things that won’t date. So I don’t listen so much to my nightly news podcast from home, rather I listen to a science or history podcast.

iOS has a podcast app built in, however I prefer DOWNCAST and have set it to only grab new episodes while connected to wifi.

Some suggested long form or serial type podcasts include

SERIAL

FINISHING LINE

STUFF YOU MISSED IN HISTORY CLASS

  • EXTERNAL POWER

We have all seen them, those zombie like creatures that are huddled around the one or two powerpoints in airports and bus stations. Don’t be one of them, seriously just don’t.

Fortunately I was travelling through Asia, with its huge electronics markets and picked myself up a 20,000mAh external battery, The size of a small shoe can be a downside, however I can steer clear of a powerpoint for days. A 5,000mAh would do most people, I am not most people :D. You can read more about my battery obsession here.

  • OFFLINE READING

I am always seeing videos, news articles or blog posts that I think “I would love to open that, but I just don’t have time at the moment to watch or read it now”

Well that was before Pocket came into my life. it downloads all the text from a post along with the embedded pictures for offline reading. I smash this every time I am flying or laying on a beach reading.

Coupled with free services like IFTTT you can even set up rules for social media such as “ Every time I fav a tweet with a link, I would like you to save it to pocket for reading later” which is a personal favourite of mine. As for videos, you still need to be online for those, however you will not lose them.

  • REMEMBER YOUR PHONE IS MORE THAN AN INTERNET PORTAL

There are so many undervalues apps and features that work fine offline and are a lifesaver for travellers. Whether it is offline google maps for Android, or HERE offline mapping in iOS, your camera with geotagging, watching movies that you have pre transferred.

With a little planning ahead there is no need for mobile data and no need for mobile data to eat into your holiday

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May 30 2015

Thailand: Scuba Diving Koh Phi Phi from 3 angles

During our recent visit to Thailand I was fortunate enough to dive some of the most amazing places. Funnily enough they all centred around Koh Phi Phi Don in the middle of the Andaman Sea

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 23.18.37

I did not know this at the time, but the dives from Phuket and Ao Naung both required 2 hours of travel each way by boat. Not as horrible as it sounds as both trips were fully catered!

Having learnt to dive in the cooler waters off South East NSW, the 30 degree tropical waters were a real shock. All the dive guides could not believe ever diving in the cold temps of 18-24 that I dove here.

I will let the images speak for themselves. I will however add – I did not take them. The local dive guides thankfully have far better skills than I and provided them either for free or at a small cost.

The dive shops I dived with, I could not recommend highly enough. There were some shocking reviews on trip advisor about some shonky operators, particularly on Phi Phi Island.

I dove with:

The Dive, Ao Naung

Phi Phi Diving, Koh Phi Phi AKA Phi Phi Island

Aussie Divers, Phuket

 

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April 16 2015

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi has the best of both worlds – fantastic rainforests and amazing beaches and watersports. A huge proportion of the island is rightfully protected as a GeoPark ensuring protection and eco management. 

How we got there

Langkawi was our first destination after flying overnight Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. A quick transfer to the new KLIA2 AirAsia terminal saw us on our way for a quick 1 hour flight to the beautiful and relaxed island of Koh Langkawi

Things we saw or did

Here are some of the AMAZING activities we go up to:

Day sailing on a 40ft Catamaran with Rampant sailing that included laying about in their jacuzzi net behind the boat or laying in a hammock suspended between the hulls while anchored in a protected cove for lunch. Not to mention the open bar on board. Itis not hard to see why these guys are rated as the Number 1 thing to do in Langkawi by TripAdvisor

½ Day kayak tour of the mangroves within the GeoPark including a visit to limestone caves and the fish ‘farm’ located at the base.

A not to be missed trip up into the rainforest on the Langkawi Cable Car giving you a spectacular view over the beaches and islands.

A visit to the state symbol at Eagle Square featuring a huge Brahminy Kite statue.

How we got around

We quickly compared the prices of hire cars versus a scooter for the duration of our trip. The scooter was the easy option as I was licensed internationally and had ridden a fair amount before. Also it allowed us the ability to park just about any where.

Amusingly while refuelling I did manage to lock our only set of keys for the scooter under the seat. Before full panic over took the situation a young local service station attendant with particularly small hands managed to get his hand under the seat and retrieve the keys. A lesson was had and in future scooter keys will be on a lanyard!

Food we ate

As with most South East Asian countries, I highly recommend eating in small local cafes or tea houses and street food where ever possible. This ensures your tourist dollars stay in the local community as well as would provide you with fresh good local food.
Being Malaysia, I could not pass up fresh hand made Roti, the local hotplate cooked bread that is eaten with many meals. Langkawi also has a strong middle eastern population so there is no shortage of abab stands as well.

How we got connected

As with most connected travellers, if there is a connection available at a reasonable speed and reasonable price we will connect. Because we have little need for calling while in Malaysia we chose a prepaid provider that would offer us the maximum data available. We used Internet of Xpax that is a user of the Celcom network within Malaysia. One of the benefits was that should be go over our included data we were provided 3 30min windows a day to access as much data as we could use.

I would always suggest buying local sim in each country as it is astronomical the chargers providers from home charge to roam – much less use data. The website below is full of crowd sourced information relating to costs and access in each country.

http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com

Interesting facts

The entire island of Langkawi is tax free. There is no tax on luxury cars, alcohol, chocolate etc. Think a whole island duty free. Frankie was able to purchase 1lt of Vodka for the equivalent of AUD$10.00

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April 2 2015

Trailing a new posting style for AsiaTrip2015

As promised, I will be still posting about this trip through Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. However I wanted to trial a new style.

While other bloggers talk about things to do and see, I will write about the things we have done, places we ate – these are not things written in a guidebook that some one has regurgitated – we actually tried them so can talk honestly about them.

I will be using these main themes with others being used on a place by place basis. Let me know what you thing.

In the mean time head to Facebook, instagram or twitter and search #asiatrip2015 and you will see some of our live postings on those sites.

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March 11 2015

24 hours  with Lifeproof’s new iPhone 6 plus waterproof case – the “Nuud”


After many months of waiting finally LifeProof has released a limited number of their waterproof iPhone 6 plus case line.

I was lucky to snap one up and express shipped it from the US. It arrived today.

After a few hours use, I made a shocking discovery. LifeProof have made the charging port hideously small. My former iPhone 5’s LifeProof had a somewhat limited size hole but I found a number of cables that fit and made my entire EDC kit around that.

However the iPhone 6 plus LifeProof case will only accept cables “that are originally provided with the product” i.e. the original white cable. I rarely use these cables. They break to often and are too long for my every day needs.  I am now left with a plethora of lightning cables that are only usable for my iPad.

Hmm the hunt is not on for a 10cm narrow cable. Preferably before 27 March as we depart Australia.

UPDATE: on day 3 the two very tiny clips that keep the waterproof door closed over the charging port completely snapped off and were found on my bedroom floor. I super glued them back on, however I no longer have confidence on the waterproof nature of the door. I have requested a replacement from LifeProof.

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March 5 2015

Count down on for Asian holiday 2015

I have been looking forward to this trip for about 18 months. 

This trip will take us to the following amazing places:

  • Langkowi – Malaysia
  • Kuala Lumpour – Malaysia
  • Yangon – Myanmar 
  • Bangkok – Thailand
  • Phuket – Thailand 
  • Krabi – Thailand 
  • Chiang Mai – Thailand


Do you have any places you suggest we “must check out” while we are there ?? 

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February 27 2015

House update: We finally have internet & Garden Update

Internet

Since moving in in October 2014, we have been waiting for the NBN.

It was not until a “complex wide BBQ” that I was informed that some people in the complex had access to a separate Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) system, that had not yet moved to NBN. We have now connected to that system that offers 200gb / month. Sadly after already 5 days of connection we have used nearly 50% of our allowance.

2015-02-19 15.46.52

All this for under half the cost of the 3G system we were using just to book flights etc.

Garden looking amazing

Frankie has done wonders with our small court yard. It is now both functional and pretty.

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February 26 2015

Starting to feel like a real Scuba Diver

I have now finished 6 dives following my PADI Open Water Diver Qualification.

Of those 6, I have had to share air (essentially, I nearly ran out of air due to hyperventilation and excitement) if you would like to see this process, here is a Youtube clip showing the underwater process

I have now finished the final two, number 5 & 6. Only during these dives did I start to feel like a “real” scuba diver. Not just some one pretending. I was able to settle in to the dive. Enjoy it.

Here is a video of those dives (click on the picture)

alt=“Diving at Bawley Point NSW“ width="240" height="180" border="10" />

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