Angel Reef | Moyo Island

 

Angel Reef | Moyo IslandGreetings from Indonesia!  Spending my birthday diving in pristine reefs with what my dive master jokingly describes as “too many fish!”  Thank you to everyone who for being a presence in my life.  I am privileged, honored, and truly blessed with all the people in my life.

 

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Puerto Princesa Subterranean River | Philippines

 

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River | Philippines
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River | Philippines

 

How to describe that beautiful blue water?  I could’t photograph it.  The cave itself is a marvel, but after having spent so long at Mulu, it just didn’t impress me–I know it’s a spoiled thing to say.  I think that if the quality of the tours improved, then perhaps the experience of the cave would, too.  Once you get here, you pile into a boat, get taken into the cave and then back out.  The guides hardly know what they are talking about and with some training, I think it would only improve the tours.  They certainly work really hard and want you to enjoy their natural wonders.

 

I would come here, though, just for this blue water.  Or perhaps if you weren’t traveling for so long.  I loved the feeling of adventure at Mulu.  Here, you are taken for a ride.

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Et Cetera | Amanpulo | Philippines

 

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Sunset |Coron, Philippines

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Amanpulo | Philippines

Amanpulo water from Tien Le on Vimeo.

Amanpulo water from Tien Le on Vimeo.

 

She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet

 

–From “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens

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The Sky | Hanuama Bay

August 2013.  I still think of the sky that day.

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Sunset | Amanpulo, Philippines

I won’t like it here, I thought.  It’s a luxury resort on an island–I’m going to be stuck and get bored after a few days.  I’m too used to wandering on my own, moving about as I please.  But–that soft powdery sand.  High in silica, it never burned my bare feet.  And the water so clear it made for some fantastic pastel sunsets as the light reflected off the white sand.  The diving?  Technicolor.  The best diving instructor.  Somehow 8 days flew by like nothing.  I don’t know what I did.  I slept.  I went diving.  I lazed on the beach.   And I saw turtles that I thought were cement statutes (they measured between 5-6 feet, these turtles).  I had never seen such big turtles.

 

Amanpulo has the best beach I have ever had the privilege to be on.  There cannot exist softer sand than on that beach.

 

 

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Thailand

A total of five weeks I spent in Thailand though I don’t have many photos.  In Phuket, my heart grew until it bursted–something I desperately wish I could talk about but my language is inadequate.  Was it spiritual?  Was is visceral?  How do I separate myself from it and move on?  Then I meant to go to to Khao Lak to go diving, but somehow ended up on a ferry that took me further south to Koh Lanta.  By chance I met up with a friend there, and we frolicked around the island on our rented scooters (mine had pandas).  There was an afternoon where we spent hours under the blazing sun snorkeling in bath temperature water.  My first sunburn.  Ever.

 

After that, we proceeded to Tonsai, then Ao Nang, took a dip in pitch black water while bioluminescent plankton sparkled around our moving limbs, then boarded an overnight train to Bangkok.  My heart broke again.  Hard to travel and bond with a friend and then have to let her go.  But I was ready.  I was ready to be on my own again.  Then I spent another week wandering the smokey dark alleys alone–they were always more exciting when she was around.  I boarded a plane to the Philippines, but I had to go back to Khao Lak, where I was even further heartbroken at having left the Philippines.

 

As I write this, my heart longs to be back there.  Eating the street food.  I loved the simple flat rice noodles that were more like pieces than strips, the stewed pork over rice with pickled greens, the fresh fruit you can buy anywhere.  The ubiquitous massage parlors.  The smell of durian.  I loved even the sound of small women harassing me into buying things I didn’t need or want.  “You buy!  You buy!”  Or the aggressive tuktuks.  The exhaust fumes you breath in while on a motorbike (yes, I have a license for that, ok, maybe not really, but I’m going to say I do anyway).

 

I was alone here in spurts and then I had the best company.  I remember an afternoon snorkeling with a setting sun in Phuket, the cabbage coral and blue parrotfish parading before my eyes.  I remember kicking off at the surface and free diving deeper, the excitement choking at my throat and thinking, I could be like this, right here, forever.  I remember days lazing at the beach, doing nothing, sitting and drinking fresh coconuts, and then going into the water, feeling the waves carry me.  But those are just memories now and I will have to content myself with that.

 

I didn’t want to leave Thailand, but I couldn’t stay any longer.  I had to go.  But maybe the reality was, I didn’t want to go because the next part of the journey would be too difficult for me.  Personally.  And it would have signified that I have passed the midway point.

 

Then there were days of shadows and being steamed inside ancient stone temple ruins.  Hot baked road whose dust rose and invaded the nostrils, building up until the passages were blocked for air.  The dust also lingered in the throat.  But my god.  The plumeria.  Every night.  Plumeria.  And Laos.  Then Vietnam.  I thought I favored Thai food.  Nothing beats Vietnam.  The essences and flavors of home in my mother’s kitchen, or even more painfully bittersweet, my father’s.  Yet, this place was still foreign to me.

 

My heart feels different.  I am different.  Somehow I am home now but I don’t feel at home.  Perhaps I will feel different in the morning.

 

 

 

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Hannah L.

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Longtails | Tonsai

I don’t know how I ended up in Tonsai except that I followed two friends to this stretch without having done any research.  What the hell?  I was really going out of my comfort zone, leaving myself open to whatever comes.  Upon having my luggage thrown from a big boat to a smaller boat, then taken to this beach, where I waded in knee deep water to collect my luggage from the smaller boat and from there waited on the beach until I could figure out where my friends were.  They had left earlier that morning and I had chosen to sleep in and take the afternoon ferry.

 

The karst was spectacular.  I looked briefly at the travel guide and excitement grew as I thought about all the rock climbing I could do in addition to cave exploration.  After finding my friends, we laughed maniacally at how beautiful this place was and couldn’t believe we were actually there.  “Where are we?” we kept asking each other.  As we walked up the hill, my friend, M, relays a story of her experience prior.  She had tried to reach me through messenger, but she could not find wifi anywhere.  She approached a young lady who had thick dreads, and the lady said, “Why do you need internet in such a place?  But here, you can use my phone, it has unlimited data.”

 

After we check into our bungalow (mine had a corrugated tin roof and barely any lighting), I sat outside, where this young man reading a Tim Robbins novel from his hammock greeted me.  “Where are you going next?” he asked.  It’s a thing all the travelers ask, I’ve noticed.  Where are you going?  Some are truly interested in where you are going, others just want to know to make sure you’re not going anywhere they haven’t gone before.

 

“I’m thinking of Ao Nang,” I said.  There’s a Muay Thai gym there that offers Brazilian jiujitsu, which I wanted to train at.  I hadn’t gotten a chance to train since Penang, and I missed all those lovely gyms in Phuket because I had gotten my tattoo.

 

“Why would you want to go there?  It’s full of tourists.  I have been in Tonsai for four months.  This is the real Thailand.”

 

My mouth fell agape at this.  If there is a “real Thailand” I doubt that it would be in this enclave of hippies and pseudo mountain climbers with fair skin and braids with beads in their hair.  I look around me and not one Thai person did I see.  This is the real Thailand?  As the day progressed, it worsened.  There were slackliners playing with fire, scantily dressed barely out of their teens running amok hopped on some powerful cocktail of drugs, and then us, completely out of our element and getting more and more uncomfortable by the minute.  Maybe it was because we were all in our thirties, or maybe it was because we just didn’t belong, but by the time we saw the moon in the sky, we wanted to get the hell out.  The locals running the businesses there were unhappy, unfriendly, and could frankly not care less about you–in stark contradiction to all the other places in Thailand I have been.  And I don’t blame them.

 

Tonsai is beautiful, but it is not my scene and I doubt I would returned there any time soon.  Maybe when I develop more patience for the kind of debauchery and depraved behavior I witnessed there.

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