Monday, 2 September 2013

On to Chumphon or Chumporn depending on where you look!

Werner and Jackie, waiting for the boat

So you’d think the minibus would be easy….. and mostly it was, though we did take the easy/expensive option of booking three seats, one for the luggage, which still made it cheaper than the train. A/C was working, always a good start, and so was the radio which I turned down as soon as the drivers back was turned!

We left Prachuap on time with the correct number of people per seat, but that didn’t last long! He stopped and started, picking up and dropping off people all over the place, hence why the 198km journey was scheduled at 3 ½ hours, even though he was scarily doing 120km/hr a lot of the time! 
Their view out to sea from the dive centre
I hated the fact that in the tiny minibus, the whole paid for seat was now full of our, and everyone elses luggage, but people would have to stand, or crouch anyway in the small gaps between seats, I just felt guilty, not that any of them said anything, though I did feel better when the posh lady in the front moved to the folded down middle seat so granny could have the good front seat, she hadn’t done that for anyone else! Some of them seemed to pay, some didn’t, they all seemed to just shout ‘let us off here’ typical Thai mayhem, but all good natured and absolutely fine. We assumed we’d get to the terminal and get off with everyone else, and that was I think, what we’d told Werner, but the driver seemed to think we’d be better off going to the ‘Fame’ bar, where they obviously speak a bit of English and organise trips etc, so out we got! 
Paddling out to the inflatable that transports us to the main boat
Fortunately it wasn’t far and Werner, appeared moments later. He’s German, from the former GDR, probably about 65, lived here since last century! Taught himself Thai, which seemed to involve teaching himself English as all the best language books were not in German…. Really nice guy, very helpful, though not sure how good his English actually is, or whether he just carries on speaking regardless as he wants to make his point!

Returning to collect more people
However, he was there waiting, he took us the 14km to his house had a quick coffee while we looked at the dive gear, and tried on fins, he then dropped us at the guesthouse and arranged to meet us later for a beer to confirm our dive date. (Since then he appeared at breakfast on the dive day to take us to the boat and then collected us early evening to take us to the ATM (we had already paid him but that left us a little short!) quick look at the Sunday market, then back for another beer!

Having originally suggested Monday would be a better day for us as it would be quieter as the weekending Thais (this really is mainly a Thai resort) would have all gone away, it turned out to be too quiet – no other divers!

Koh Ngam left (Werner thinks it looks like a shoe) and the small Koh Ngam Yoi to the right
Arriving at Ngam Noi for our first dive
So we went on Sunday. Joe our dive leader spoke precious little English, and no-one asked to see any dive qualification at all. Oh well, I suppose it’s our look out if we want to kill ourselves! I asked him how long he’d been diving, 4/5 yrs I think, but he showed me his computer which had logged 311 hours, so he’s done a bit! I then showed him my log book so he knew we hadn’t dived for 6 years, and then showed him that my first dives were in 1983, probably before he was born, and certainly before most of the other clients on the boat were born! I did feel old. Over the course of the day we realised that most of them probably spoke English, so not only old, but inept as well! We were put with a group of three, who’d probably had Joe all to themselves yesterday, but there didn’t appear to be any ill will.

Lunch and our 'surface interval' between dives
Koh Ngam Yoi, our second dive site
This really is ‘lazy persons’ diving, Werner had taken the gear to the boat, the fairies had put it all together, when it came to kitting up I found myself with a personal dresser, all I had to do was get myself in and out of the water, the fairies refilled the tank during lunch and away we went again!

It didn’t take long to re-familiarise ourselves with the techniques of diving, air in to jacket, air out, subtle depth changes by big breathes in or out, slow gentle fin movements, and look cool with the hands loosely held together.  Almost the first thing we saw on descending to about 17m was a turtle, chomping on some coral, that’s it, I’m happy. 
Not one of our pictures (taken from the 'dive Chumphon' web site, but we did see these clown fish in amongst the sea anemone
Another 'dive Chumphon' picture, but we saw these Batfish as well
Pleasant dive, lots of fish, not so much coral, and did see some crown of thorns starfish, so perhaps that, in conjunction with the over fishing and over diving tells a story! Just thinking I was getting a bit chilly when we came upon the wreck of a fishing boat, not sunk that long ago with huge shoals of fish, took the mind off the temperature and suddenly we were back at the boat. Apparently it was an hour after we went in the water!

Nice lunch – rice red curry, some mushroom and tofu thing (with a lump of pork thrown in just in case you might want to be veggie, we’d had that the previous night – steamed fish, lots of thai herbs, and minced pork! Sorry Helen, veggie just doesn’t seem to be an option!) and some fishcakes. Fruit and cold drinks.

Goatfish (Dive Chumphon website)
After a not very long surface interval, off we went again to dive on a wreck of the Prab 741 a decommissioned Thai naval vessel previously known as the USS LCI (M) – 670, very interesting, here is a youtube clip of someone elses dive earlier in the year. I think our visibility was a little better, but not much

Swam away from the wreck as it turned into Piccadilly Circus back towards some rocks, passing another turtle swimming along minding his own business, before coming across a ray of some sort, easily a meter across, he was lovely. So all in all two good dives, all in £44 each – ok lunch wasn’t as spectacular as the Barrier Reef trip, but the bank balance was a lot happier!

Pleased to see the turtles (Dive Chumphon picture)
Back to shore, tired but happy, quick trip out with Werner, who I think we may have now upset as he thought we’d like to go again, so he’d earn himself some more commission, but once was probably enough! Good dinner and a long nights sleep. Only thing I’m not happy about is despite the long cotton trousers and the socks, the evil little bitey things still bit me! Through my clothes! Perhaps it was my punishment for weakening and having 'France fries' instead of rice with my dinner, I just get a bit 'riced out'! Very hot today, so we had a leisurely breakfast before starting the task of hunting out our next place to stay!

Leaving our second dive site
My only comments are that I’ve been a very ‘silly billy’ and managed to break a second camera. Yes Bill, if you are reading this I’m very sorry to have to tell you that I’ve broken the camera you gave me! ‘Broken’ is perhaps a strong term, there is nothing visibly broken, it slipped out of my hand as I picked it up from the table in our room in Prachuap and dropped to the hard floor. It was in its padded case and made hardly a sound as it hit the floor from less than 1 metre, so I thought nothing of it, but while it switches on, the lens keeps moving in and out, it can’t focus and then it says ‘lens error’. I was pretty disappointed and annoyed with myself, two cameras, how bad is that! I’m almost afraid to buy another one lest I should do the same to that! Anyway, it means I am back to the fairly bad camera in my mobile phone so the quality of pictures have deteriorated severely, let’s hope I don’t break that!

Koh Ngam Yoi as we left for home
The Prab 741 wreck we dived on in its former life as USS LCI(M) 670, here landing troops in Italy in July 1944
The one thing that Jackie didn’t mention in her excellent report is the rain storm we had on our first afternoon here in Chumphon. Werner had just dropped us off at the Albatross Guesthouse after telling us it hardly ever rains here when the ‘heavens opened’. Fortunately we were in our room by then so could watch the deluge from safety. It lasted a couple of hours, reducing to just rain after about 20 minutes and, so far has not rained since. Immediately afterwards the humidity made it pretty miserable anywhere but in our room with ‘life support’ air conditioning (so glad we didn’t opt for the lower cost ‘fan only’ room Werner originally booked for us!). Today, as yesterday, its mostly blue sky, temperatures in at least the mid thirties if not higher and is very hot outside, so we’re waiting until late afternoon/early evening before venturing back outside.

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