All aboard the Manta Queen

For Thai New Year 2017, I left the soon to be water drenched Bangkok to…the underwater world at the famous Similan Islands south of Thailand. So, not really escaping a ‘wet’ fate.

Similan Islands

tl;dr

Aboard the Manta Queen #1, you can expect good spirits and a lot of diving. The staff are friendly and make an effort to answer any questions guests may have – feel free to joke around and grab a beer together after dives. Shout out to Isma for being an enormous ball of good energy – really spruces up the 6AM mornings 🙂

These were our beautiful dive sites: Anita’s Reef, West of Eden, Deep Six, Elephant Head Rock, Koh Bon, Koh Tachai, Richelieu Rocks and Bonsoon Rocks.

This was a list of the ocean’s wonderful creatures we saw: manta ray, cuttlefish, blacktip shark, turtle, school of barracuda, murray eel, lion fish, scorpion fish, puffer fish, box fix, boxing shrimp, seahorse, tons of nudies!

All equipment was in good shape except my suit was a bit tattered – gotta rock that grunge diver look. Meals were timely and average tasting. I recommend making friends with the Thai staff and they might slip you some Southern Thai goodies.

As always, the adventure is mostly about the company, not necessarily having to see big things underwater. All the guests were considerate and friendly and Khao Lak staff, although probably have done this a million times, made a great effort to keep things fresh.

I recommend this liveaboard, not for the food (bring your own snacks!), but because these sites are memorable for anyone who enjoys diving.


Our four day, four night dive trip was arranged with Khao Lak Scuba Adventures. For those looking for a dive school, I’ll quickly sum up the basics:

Staff: experienced, friendly, introduced us to different creatures underwater and made an effort to chat even though they’ve probably answered the same questions 100X and definitely working some crazy shifts but they truly love what they do.

Dive Equipment: My full body suit was tattered and shredded at the knees but it was the last of my size, so I was rocking the ‘grunge diver’ look each dive. All other equipment was in good shape (BCD, dive watch, flashlight, fins, mask, etc.).

Process: Like most administrative tasks in Thailand, there was a bit of shuffling around but it was relatively quick to pay, select and pack all of our equipment into the van before setting off to the pier.

Safety: Air was checked (L was my group’s dive master so he was very attentive), my buoyancy was corrected if my dive master noticed I was too heavy and in general, I was in good hands.

Price: The price is average, similar to all the other liveaboards available. I do think they take safety more seriously here than other schools.

 

Boat: All aboard the Manta Queen #1! Briefings were great, very detailed. Food was mediocre, they typically make Westernized-Thai food to cater to the mix of foreigners and Thais onboard so I understand the lack of spice.

The Chinese group with us brought their own spicy chilli to give the food some kick. I would recommend bringing your own snacks if you’re picky with food.

Facilities were clean, dishes were always cleared and fresh water was always available.

Disclaimer: I didn’t take a full shower until after the last dive – what was the point if I was going to be in the salty ocean four times a day?

Overall, the water is unbelievably stunning and the biodiversity of the dive sites are excellent. Tons of sea fans, nudies, a variety of fish and

We were lucky to see manta rays, a blacktip shark, a turtle, schools of barracuda, glassfish, cuttlefish (probably my favourite siting), a large crab and a group of porcupine puffer fish during our 15 dives.

Some shout outs: 

Thank you Isma for your enormous energy! I would gladly climb out of bed at 5:50AM again to hear one of your briefs – I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at such childish jokes, you’re a natural 😉

Thank you Koen for saving my ass during an upwelling. Big thank you to the boat crew for taking care of us and sneaking us some spicy Southern Thai food to quench our cravings.

 

France. Je t’aime you-ish kay?

 

paris-je-taime
Eurocup. Paris. 2016.

Europe. Many dream of feasting their eyes on the Sydney Opera House or exploring an inconspicuous city like Iquitos, Peru – thanks Google search – but I’ve always imagined Europe to be my magical journey.

Completely aware that a mere seven hour flight from Toronto could have parked my ass in front of the Eiffel Tower, the idea was more about timing for me. Half the journey is company.

Paris.

Buildings right out of Hollywood sets (or more accurately, Hollywood sets modelled after European architecture perfection) instantly left my Thailand accustomed eyes wide open. How was it possible every balcony I saw immediately left me squealing to my sister that this was where I would eat croissant donning a fluffy white bathrobe? A girl can dream.

My impression of Parisians after many warnings from French homies in Bangkok kept my pain au chocolat radar high and expectations low. The city felt cold, both literally and figuratively. Waiters didn’t smile, people were pros at avoiding all human contact getting from Point A to Point B and the nicest guy I encountered was Mr.Crêpe maker who dawdled a teeny bit too much (no offense!).

I will be the first to admit that 1.5 days in Paris couldn’t possibly determine my entire feeling towards France so until next time, au revoir dear Paris!

Oh, Eiffel tower sighting, check. Happiness factor level 9000.