Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year

Maurine and I would like to wish you all a Happy, Healthy New Year. We hope it is prosperous but more importantly our wish is that you all get to dive some place special this year.

Since our last outing we’ve begun working on an expanded revision of our 2009 Raja Ampat dive guide. The new book will encompass the entire region known as the Bird’s Head Seascape. In addition to Raja, it will include Triton and Cenderawasih Bays. Scheduled for publication later this year, it will debut at DEMA 2011.

For the holidays we took a break from diving and visited Laos (for Christmas) and Thailand (for New Years). We had a blast. Laos was an incredible surprise and we loved our time there. We landed in Vientiane, the capital city. One of the reasons we chose Laos was that we had heard it wasn’t crowded. The population of Vientiane is only 300,000, which is nothing when you live on a small island with a population of over 3.5 million! Laos has a long history of French heritage so the architecture is a combo of Asian and European. And the food, OMG, it was fabulous. Laotian food can best be described as a mix of Vietnamese and Thai, with the emphasis on lots of fresh, fresh lettuces and veggies. Of course there was plenty of European choices, mainly French and Mediterranean.

Due to the nature of the import laws in Indonesia, “non-essential” imported items like cheese and wine are scarce and very expensive. That is not the case in either Laos or Thailand. We usually ate Lao for lunch and French, or Italian, for dinner. Vientiane is a culturally interesting city with numerous major, and active Buddhist monasteries; many are quite old. We spent our days walking and photographing these amazing temples. It was so nice to be able to walk without sweating.

We thought Vientiane was nice until we arrived in Luang Prabang. LP is located "up country" on the Mekong River and the weather was cool and cloudy. Believe it or not, a sweater was comfy in the evenings and early mornings. The old town of LP is a World Heritage Site. There are over 60 monasteries in this sleepy laid-back town and most of them are active. In the World Heritage section of town motor vehicles are kept to a minimum, which means you can walk down the middle of the street without fear. Bars close at 10pm. The people are lovely and friendly, and the sites are spectacular. The surrounding region is an adventure lover’s paradise and there are many remote areas where trekking to visit isolated “hill tribes” is encouraged. We are insatiable collect-a-holics and the crafts of the region, especially the woven textiles, are superb.

We couldn’t have been happier. Great food, culture, crafts, and an uncrowded friendly population that believe in karma. As photographers, we never lacked for subjects. What a find. Go there before it’s “discovered”, but please don’t tell everyone about it!

Bangkok, well what can we say? It’s fun but very, very crowded. This was our 3rd visit to Thailand and it was a great spot to ring in the New Year. BTW, the bars never close!

We are now back in the office continuing to work on the new book and planning our diving travel for years to come. Thankfully all of our 2011 trips are full and for 2012 there are only a few spots still available. So if you want to “have the best dive trip of your life” book now!

Even though our 2013 schedule is not yet posted (we still have a few more details to work out) we are planning to make 2013 “The Year of the Bird’s Head”. Keep an eye on our travel page where we will be offering journeys to all the region’s areas including Raja, Triton Bay and Cenderawasih Bay. Even though it seems far away our trips fill fast so don’t wait too long. We’ll keep you posted and hopefully travel with many of you in the years to come.

All the best fishes,