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Courtney and Carol Courtnage on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2) to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok

EXPEDITION OCEAN VISION 2 - THAILAND 2009


This is our informal record of Expedition Ocean Vision 2, to Thailand in March & April 2009 to film in Bangkok, Phuket, the marvellous underwater world, The Similan Islands, elephants and Thai boxing. Sadly, Carol's mother, Jeanne, passed away shortly before we were due to depart, but we were contacted by all members of the family encouraging us to go ahead with our plans. Carol's father, Nigel, was insistent that we went, so Carol bravely decided to give the expedition the green light. We are so grateful for all the support we have been given in this difficult time.

This was an ambitious trip with the aim of shooting footage for a number of videos. Not everything went to plan and there were difficulties and set-backs. None the less, it was a very successful expedition and great experience for the team. We now have several weeks of editing to do and we shall post preview videos here as we go along.

If you want to jump directly to our video diary, click here.

Project Ocean Vision: Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok

See the new Project Ocean Vision
Guide to Thailand


Expedition Ocean Vision 3 Diary October 2009

EOV2 Day 1 – Thursday 19 March 2009 & Day 2 - 20 March 2009

Depart POV HQ

Tickets arrived 48 hrs to spare. Falcon Taxis from Aylesbury very efficient. LHR at 11:40. Easy check in – only 2kg over and no-one bothered about all the “carry-on”; we had dismantled the video housing and spread it between our carry-on allowance - just about the maximum weight and dimensions, maybe a "bit" over so we both had to make our bags look really light. Our video gear attracted a lot of attention from security, so lots of searching, but OK.

Breakfast of champions at O'Neill's at LHR (bacon and eggs and a glass of wine) .

Flight: Thai Airways International TG0911
London Heathrow , UK (LHR) – Bangkok (BKK)
Depart: Thursday 19 March 09 - 11:50. Arrive: Friday 20 March 09 - 06:10 (11 hrs 20 mins).

Flight long, but quite comfortable - Thai Air are wonderful. Regal Dive didn't mention that you can't check in to the Davis Hotel in Bangkok at 07:30 in the morning – (Friday) so what are we supposed to do? You can only drink so much Singha Beer at £3 a bottle for breakfast whilst waiting for a room!

Bangkok (13°45′N 100°29′E) is still Bangkok! Very sticky, hot and polluted. Davis Hotel very comfortable, so friendly and helpful. Actually, it isn't really called Bangkok at all. Its Thai name is Krung Thep, but even this is only short for its full name: Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Or, Krung Thep Mahanakhon for short.

Walked to a nice café and sat watching Bangkok go by and had some wine - not cheap in Thailand . We made friends with the waitress and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. So much diversity just along this one street, big smart buildings, people in coolie hats cooking at the side of the road or walking along with a yoke on their shoulders.

Dinner in hotel and then bed!

Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok



Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok

Thai Airways International






Passport Stamps - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok









Singha Beer - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok








BTS Sky Train, Bangkok - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok
BTS Sky Train, Bangkok















Expedition Ocean Vision 2, Wat Phra Kaeo
Wat Phra Kaeo, Expedition Ocean Vision 2















Expedition Ocean Vision 2, High-rise Bangkok
Bangkok from the Chao Phraya River,
Expedition Ocean Vision 2

EOV2 Day 3 – Saturday 21 March 2009

Bangkok

Walked to sky train (15 minutes walk from hotel) and then river boat along Bangkok's Chao Phraya River. Excellent for viewing the wats, small shacks on stilts along the river, with a background of hug high rise buildings. 150 Baht buys a day ticket with the Chao Phraya Express Boat Co Ltd. Cooler on the river and a great way to see and film the city.

Arrived at jetty to visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. We walked to a market and sat at a bar and had a Singha and cooled off for a while as very very hot and sticky. Humidity in Bangkok is extraordinary. Watched a lady selling fruit and vegetables sitting on the pavement and the general market scene. A mass of noise, colour, smells and poverty. But the fruit and vegetables were beautiful. We watched some Buddhist monks in their ochre robes, happily walking along and buying a few bits and pieces along the way. Some useful filming.

Walked up towards the Palace and bought Carol a long sleeved top and a skirt for the visit as you are not allowed in wearing shorts or sleeveless tops. When we got there we didn't need to worry as they provided them! Anyway, this is when things started to go wrong.

Very frustrated to discover that we were not allowed in to the actual Wat with our camera because professional photographic gear is not permitted into the site, so it was confiscated by the security guards.

The Wat was very ornate and completely made out of coloured and mirrored glass. We spotted the Emerald Buddha high above our heads. The Courtyard was too hot so we walked in the shade and looked at the marvelous frescos (mostly gold on black background) telling the story of Buddha and the artists at work repairing any small signs of wear. The Palace was inaccessible which was another disappointment. But we did see the Thai Guard marching past. A very unusual way of marching!

After a while we were getting too hot and Courtney was very frustrated at not being able to film here so we went back to our favourite bar and cooled off.

Return on the boat and some more good filming. Long tail boats. “junks” and all sorts of people living their day to day life in the hovels along the river bank.

On Saturday evening we took a taxi across Bangkok to Baioke Sky Tower and had dinner on the 82nd Floor. Dinner was good but not as good as Courtney remembered from two years ago. Carol had some disgusting little “sweet meats” which tasted of washing up liquid… After eating we went up to the very top (85th floor) and walked on the revolving platform round the peak of the building looking at the amazing scene of Bangkok at night far below.

Then got a taxi back to the hotel “Starsky and Hutch” style! Through back streets, into underground car parks, wrong way streets, past the Thai girls selling their wares. But we made it back in record time!


EOV2 Day 4 – Sunday 22 March 2009

Pratunam Market

Set off quite early to the market, in a taxi. The market was crammed with people and stalls, and being under cover, reasonably comfortable temperature wise. Bought some lightweight tops and trousers.

Walked over Klong Sean Sab (a canal) and filmed the scene from a bridge. We were then told by a passer by that the police had taken a keen interest in us so we moved along sharpish! Found another bar to cool off with a Singha beer and some water.

We then walked along the skywalk to an enormous shopping mall –The Siam Paragon. Prada, Armani, Chanel - it was all there. Returned on the Sky Train to Phrom Phong. Stopped at our new favourite café, Kofvino for water and a glass of wine.

Filmed random views of Bangkok today and stayed (reasonably) cool.

Had our planning conference in the evening and a very good dinner at the hotel. Consensus was that Bangkok was not an easy place to film unless you spent a lot of time here and got used to the climate first! A bizarre city. Great poverty and huge wealth rubbing shoulders. But all the people are very polite and kind - very Thai.




Carol Courtnage striking a hard bargain in a Thai market on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 2009
Carol Bartering at Pratunam Market




Klong Sean Sab, Bangkok, Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2)
Klong Sean Sab








The Thai mainland on the approach to Phuket Airport from the East, Expedition Ocean Vision 2
View from the air approaching Phuket,
Expedition Ocean Vision 2



Carol Courtnage at Club Bamboo, Phuket on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2) to Thailand and the Similan Islands 2009.
Carol Courtnage planning at Club Bamboo
Expedition Ocean Vision 2

EOV2 Day 5 – Monday 23 Mach 2009. Fly to Phuket.

Collected in the morning by Nina from Asian Trails and a good transfer to Bangkok Airport (Suvarnabhumi). She not only checked us in but took us and our bags all the way to security. Gleaming airport with beautiful gardens. British airports take note: this airport puts Heathrow to shame; and shameful it is!

Flew to Phuket. Saw wonderful coastline of Thailand from plane. Minibus through rubber plantations and palms. Small houses, shops and markets along the way. Drove through the hills and down into Patong. Pretty good roads. Drove though the old town and up the hill to The Bamboo Club.

Hotel small, no frills, but lovely. Set on hillside amongst the trees (and bugs!!). Our room looked out over the pool with a lovely balcony, surrounded by banana palms and lush greenery. Again terribly hot and sticky.

As always, wonderful Thai people. Cicadas very noisy at exactly 18:40 each evening. And then after about 10 minutes they stop!

Good news! 7:30am pick up in the morning for our first day of diving.

Thai wine?? A certain taste. We met Gon our waiter for the first time. Quite delightful.

Yam – perfect!!


EOV2 Day 6 – Tuesday 24 Mach 2009. Diving with Scubacat.

The start of diving for Carol and I. Slightly late pick-up by Scubacat and a bumpy ride in a pick-up truck with a tin roof to Chalong harbour. Out to Koh Racha Yai, about 10 nautical miles South of Phuket Island. MV Scubacat is no youngster, but comfortable all the same. The Thai crew were great, we weren't quite so sure about the Scubacat guides. Around midday it started to rain, really rain. And it kept doing it for the rest of the day and all night.

This was our first opportunity to get all the new video equipment in the water so it was a good shake-down day for us and the kit. We discovered a significant technical issue with the kit - if you use a Sony HVR-V1E in an Ikelite underwater housing, you need to use the wide-angle adaptor that Ikelite generously supply, otherwise you get terrible internal reflections that spoil the video. Lesson learned.

Two dives today: Bay number 3 and Staghorn Reef. Carol and I watched one of the guides getting attacked by a Titan Triggerfish, an octopus going about its business on the reef and a turtle sleeping under a ledge. There was a noticeable amount of damage to the coral, although hard to determine the cause; the nature and age of the coral damage was consistent with either the 2004 Tsunami or damage from dragging trawl nets. Either way, some degree of coral re-growth was evident.

A useful start to the diving, some good film of the coral and marine life and a good day on Scubacat.



Scubacat: Scuba Cat on Scubacat

Scubacat
Scubacat: Carol Courtnage on MV Scubacat


Scubacat
Carol Courtnage aboard MV Scubacat.
Project Ocean Vision
In the Andaman Sea on MV Scubacat.
The Andaman Sea from MV Scubacat

 

Scubacat
Paul Courtnage (Courtney) aboard MV Scubacat,
Expedition Ocean Vision 2

Leopard Shark
Project Ocean Vision - Leopard Shark



Mantis Shrimp
Mantis Shrimp - Project Ocean Vision

EOV2 Day 7 – Wednesday 25 Mach 2009. Andaman Sea, with Scubcat.

After a night of constant, heavy rain, we woke to a beautiful dawn. Back on board Scubacat; today's dive sites were Shark Point and Koh Doc Mai - "Koh" meaning "island".

Shark Point lived up to its name and rewarded us with a resting leopard shark that was quite happy to be filmed at close quarters for the best part of 15 minutes. Being mainly nocturnal feeders, these sharks tend to spend much of the day lying on the sandy bottom and can be approached if one is careful and patient.

We also found a peacock mantis shrimp who eventually came out hunting on the sand amongst the coral.

The light quality in the water was less than perfect due to a layer of algae in the upper few metres and a lot of suspended particles in the water - conditions fairly typical for this region at this time of year. However, still some really tremendous photo opportunities.

The sea at Koh Doc Mai was less kind as the rain over the previous 18 hours led to a lot of run-off in the water making visibility around the island very poor - 5 metres or less. The current was also strong enough to make effective filming very difficult. A shame as this site has lovely coral.

On the plus side, a change of personalities in the Scubacat team made for an altogether better operation. So a mixed day for filming, but some good diving.


EOV2 Day 8 – Thursday 26 Mach 2009. Andaman Sea, with Scubcat.

A great day for filming; 3 dives on not terribly exciting sites, but we were able to spend as much time as we needed setting up and taking the shots - one of the keys to making good video. So the day's diving from Scubacat was very good. We got some great footage of that wonderful relationship between goby and shrimp (pictured below right) and were able to watch them busy at work.

The Snapping Shrimps Alpheus share a burrow with gobies. The shrimp digs and maintains the burrow while the goby keeps watch for danger; the shrimps are virtually blind. The gobies eat plankton they find near their shared burrow, while the shrimps feed on what they find in the substrate while burrowing. They make their burrows in open areas of broken coral rubble and coarse sand.

Today was our last day on board Scubacat - we enjoyed diving with them and shall certainly be back with them in the fututre. Thank you, Scubacat.

We had a fascinating conversation with two of our Thai friends about the political situation in the country. It seems that there is likely to be unrest in Thailand for a long time to come - probably worse than we saw in the demonstrations at Bangkok Airport last year (2008). There is a huge divide between North and South Thailand and it seems unlikely that either will be satisfied with a prime minister that can suit both sides. What a dreadful shame for these lovely people to be beset with these troubles.

Project Ocean Vision
Project Ocean Vision - Banner fish
on Expedition Ocean Vision 2


Gobi and Sharimp - a partnership.

Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2) to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok
Long tailed boat - our transfer to the MV Mermaid II





Wheelhouse of the MV Mermaid II - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2) to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok
Captain Yong, skipper of the MV Mermaid II

 

EOV2 Day 9 – Friday 27 Mach 2009. Join the MV Mermaid II.

No diving today, getting everything prepped to join the big boat, MV Mermaid II, this evening. Shopping in Patong for a few supplies and most of the day spent servicing, drying and packing all our gear before checking out of Club Bamboo. Our few days on the MV ScubaCat had been very useful, allowing us a shakedown period and a good start to filming for our marine conservation and coral videos.

I'm afraid it has to be said that we didn't get off to the best of starts with Mermaid as no one took the trouble to contact us about our pickup time or any of the arrangements. It was all a bit disorganized to start with and Courtney had to work hard to stay positive. Still, no place for whining here; it's a beautiful boat, very comfortable and the Thai crew are excellent. We're not too sure about the DMs on the boat just yet - we think this is not quite their A team. Still, we are pretty self sufficient and will be perfectly happy to press on and do our own thing.

After dinner ashore, we were transferred to the Marmaid II by long-tailed boat. We settled into our cabin, which was very comfortable and sorted our gear. We set off over-night to the islands of the southern Andaman Sea, ready for the first dive in the morning. We took the opportunity of phoning home as mobile phone coverage is very patchy out in the islands.

Both looking forward to diving in the morning - weather conditions are looking good, although the sea seems to be very green just now - there'll be plenty of work to do in post-production to correct the colour!!!


EOV2 Day 10 – Saturday 28 Mach 2009. Mermaid II, Andaman Sea.

Four planned dives today - three at Hin Daeng (Red Rock) and Hin Muang (Purple Rock) and then Koh Haa for a night dive. A lot of briefing on boat procedures first thing (may have been better to do that the evening before) and not much on the dive sites.

Still, we had some great dives and were visited by manta rays and a whale shark and spent 10 minutes with a common reef octopus (right). Carol adoring the big sea life up close (see top right).

Water conditions were quite reasonable, but the visibility still wasn't superb and the lighting conditions not great. However, getting close to the big creatures made for some great footage and we hope to do some colour corrections in production. The whale shark and Manta footage is good.

We did find that the boat crew were a little rough on our dive gear and Courtney needed to make some running repairs on the regulators. Otherwise all the equipment is holding up well and the camera is coping with the lighting conditions for all except really close-up work.

After the night dive at Koh Haa, the weather took a turn for the worse in the evening, but did offer the opportunity to do some slow motion filming of some spectacular lightning. A splendid evening of white wine (wai kao) and Pink Floyd, watching the storms in the dark!

Met some great people and made some excellent friends: Ting from Singapore, Nic and Emma from Queensland, Australia.

Carol Courtnage
Carol Courtnage and Manta, Expedition Ocean Vision 2




Common Reef Octopus
Common reef octopus - Project Ocean Vision

Project Ocean Vision.
Project Ocean Vision. Whale Shark - Rhincodon typus.
Project Ocean Vision on Expedition Ocean Vision 2


Banded Sea Krait - Laticauda colubrina.

EOV2 Day 11 – Sunday 29 Mach 2009. Mermaid II, Andaman Sea.

Two day dives at Koh Haa then two more at Koh Bida Nok. Very lucky to have teamed up with the two great Aussie girls, Nic and Emma, who are fantastic company and like to dive as we do - taking time to look at the coral and marine life and being careful about setting up shots. We're looking forward to a week of diving together.

Good footage of the coral, a Titan Triggerfish feeding, ghost pipefish, a yellow boxfish,a leopard shark and a whale shark. Later we spend 15 minutes watching a banded sea krait hunting on the reef at Koh Haa; these are highly venomous, but not aggressive so we were able to film it in safety. Excellent!

In the evening we went ashore to Kok Phi Phi for a couple of hours - very nice and peaceful with just a few bars and restaurants and none of the noise and partying like there is in Patong. A great evening chatting with some great people.

Heading back into Patong tomorrow morning to re-supply and to change over a few people - getting rid of the French group happily. This has been a good couple of days with lots of really good filming opportunities. Expedition Ocean Vision 2 is going well.


EOV2 Day 12 – Monday 30 Mach 2009. Phuket.

Most of the day spent ashore. Went to a Premier Holiday Club presentation - supposed to be 90 minutes, but ended up being about four hours. Learnt a lot of interesting stuff about Thailand, the culture and Phuket.

After a bit of aimless wandering in Patong, we cooled off in a pool before dinner and return to the boat to set off for the Similan Islands National Park. The Similans boast two very different types of diving. East side dive sites typically consist of gently sloping coral reefs with sandy patches and the occasional boulder in between. West side diving is known for its huge underwater granite boulders with numerous swim-throughs.


MV Mermaid 2

MV Mermaid 2
MV Mermaid 2, our home for the week,
Expedition Ocean Vision 2

Project Ocean Vision
Lionfish by Project Ocean Vison
on Expedition Ocean Vision 2

EOV2 Day 13 – Tuesday 31 Mach 2009. Mermaid II, Similan Islands.

Sailed over-night to the Similan Islands. The normal tour leader is back on the boat so things running much more smoothly - better organization better dive briefings, etc.

Dive sites were Anita's Reef, Elephant Head Rock and Koh Bon by day and night. Good video of great-looking, healthy coral, lionfish and a small white tipped reef shark, although Courtney had to squeeze into a cave with it to get some (rather dark) film! Great swim-throughs and plenty of barracuda.

Even with four dives each day, the filming opportunities are a bit limited by light - a bit dull in the morning and evenings especially with the algae in the upper layer of water. But we press on regardless and do our best.


EOV2 Day 14 – Wednesday 1 April 2009. Mermaid II, Similan Islands.

Had the day at Richelieu Rock, which is always fantastic. Two morning dives very successful, but the current picked up markedly in the afternoon and the sea state caused us problems on the third dive, three of our team had to abort - we've had to adapt our kitting-up and entry routine to suit the conditions.

Courtney raised a couple of points with the staff. Most of the dive ops are conducted from small inflatables (RHIBs) - good practice to keep the big boats away from the dive sites. The RHIBs have small ladders, which is quite a luxury, but the dive guides tend to climb in with their scuba units on rather than taking the time to remove them in the water. It appears that the ladders are not designed for this and this practice puts the divers still in the water at some risk. Also, they have no dive masters on the boat during dive ops - who handles any problems? Anyway, issues raised and duly ignored, we think.

Courtney and Carol Courtnage on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok
Carol with our wonderful friends
Nic and Emma from Australia on
board the MV Mermaid II

Manta Ray - Manta birostris.
Manta Ray - Manta birostris. Expedition Ocean Vision 2

EOV2 Day 15 – Thursday 2 April 2009. Mermaid II, Similan Islands.

Koh Bon today. Courtney hoping for mantas on the West Ridge and there were: one black and white, one all black on her back. Great filming. Also a fleeting glimpse of a black tipped reef shark - just time to get 2 seconds of video of it swimming away from us.

Other great sights included a massive feeding frenzy, cornet and trumpet fish.

A great day's diving.


EOV2 Day 16 – Friday 3 April 2009. Mermaid II, Similan Islands.

Today's dive sites were East of Eden on the southeast Coast of Similan Island No.6 (Koh Payu) and Shark Fin Reef - so a good coral dive followed by one on massive granite boulders.

Some equipment problems delayed Carol and Courtney, who eventually sorted them out and did their own dive.

We watched goby and shrimp again, the shrimp doing some serious housework! It was a good day for filming some of the smaller stuff: 6 pipefish hunting together (top right), damsels, angels, and a serious close-up of a Titan triggerfish - always one to be wary about. Good marine conservation stuff today.

The weather has turned beautiful once more, flat seas and clear skies. A lovely way to finish our time on The Mermaid II.


Banded Pipefish - Corythoichthys amplexus, Similan Islands


Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, Manta ray, Thai boxing, Thai elephant and bangkok on Scubacat and Mermaid II
Nic and Emma on the Mermaid II
Nic and Emma - last night on the Mermaid
Paul Courtnage writing up the Expedition Ocean Vision 2 diary and video log
Back on shore, Courtney writing up the diary and video log.
Expedition Ocean Vision 2
Carol on the MV Mermaid II
Carol Courtnage on board the MV Mermaid II

Patong - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, Manta ray, Thai boxing, Thai elephant and bangkok on Scubacat and Mermaid II
Patong by daylight, Expedition Ocean Vision 2

EOV2 Day 17 – Saturday 4 April 2009. Phuket.

We went to visit the offices of Mermaid in Patong to offer our thoughts on their operation - essentially good stuff with a couple of constructive recommendations on things we had identified that could be improved. However, all was dark and locked up so we had to abandon that plan. Instead we ran into Nic and Emma so went for lunch with them.

The remainder of the day was spent doing a bit of shopping and then tackling the mammoth task of washing and sorting all our kit in preparation for our return to the UK. We also did some more research and planning for the following day's filming and made contact with a charming man, Mr Yao, with a tuk tuk who agreed to be our chauffeur for the day and take us to all the places we needed to film.

Green Thai curry (Courtney's usual) and wai daeng (red wine) for dinner and a reasonably early night with a lot of filming to do tomorrow.



EOV2 Day 18– Sunday 5 April 2009. Phuket.

A busy day of filming on land; three main events:

Filming the elephants (more on this in a moment)

Filming the beautiful Wat Chalong

Filming Thai boxing

 

ELEPHANTS

The plight of the asian elephant population in Thailand is a major conservation concern. There were once some 100,000 domestic elephants used as transport and for hauling logs, but in 1989 the logging trade was banned in Thailand due to excessive deforestation leading to devastating flooding.

Today, Thailand's elephant population is estimated at under 5,000 (only 1,500 of which are wild) with little of their natural habitat remaining. While some are still employed in illegal logging and others as a means of transport in less accessible regions, the majority work as tourist attractions with very mixed fortunes - some kept in poor conditions others in well run sanctuaries and camps. Keeping an elephant requires one or two full-time mahouts, 200 kilos of food and 100 litres of water each day - to raise the money for this, the elephants need to work and the most popular employment for them seems to be elephant trekking for tourists.

We wanted to take an initial look at the elephants here with a view to making a short documentary. Although this would only be a short session, we wanted to make a start with a view to coming back to this topic in the coming years.

Mr Yao took us first to a small shack beside a busy road where a family kept two adult and one baby elephant. They had few creature comforts apart from a tin-roofed shelter from the sun and a little food. Charging 100 baht to take pictures the family had trained the baby to do a few demeaning tricks and the adults were equipped for riding, seemingly wearing their "saddles" all day. It was not a pleasant sight.

We then moved on to the Kinnaree Elephant Trekking Centre near Chalong in southern Phuket Island. They have 22 adult elephants and a new baby born in January this year called Plai Pee Mai (Thai for New Year). Their conditions are much better and showed us how well elephant tourism can be. The elephants are well cared for, hosed down and fed after each trek and cared for by their mahouts. We enjoyed a half hour ride and took time to watch and film these magnificent animals.

WAT CHALONG

Next we went to Wat Chalong, a beautiful temple with a long and fascinating history. Probably the most important of the 29 wats on the island of Phuket, it is said that you haven't arrived in Phuket until you have set foot in Wat Chalong. The temple is thought to have been established in the reign of Rama II and has been expanded over the years. It is dedicated to two monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, who helped the injured of both sides of the tin miners rebellion in 1876.

We found it a very peaceful experience and we were very welcome to film both inside and out, although out of respect we decided not to film the temple's most revered relic, a fragment of bone from the Lord Buddha, the Phra Borom Sareerikatat, brought from Sri Lanka in 1999 and installed here in 2002. It is kept in the Wat's most recent building, the special chedi.

Carol spent some time in this peaceful place saying a prayer for her mother and remembering her.

THAI BOXING

Muay Thai is a truly amazing sport. Unlike western boxing or other martial arts, thai boxers mainly use eight points of contact: hands, elbows, shins, and knees. It is fast and energetic. Thai boxers start their training as young as six years old.

We went with Nic and Emma - Emma used to box and was able to explain a lot of what was going on (we're not experts). The ring was in a huge corrugated shed and attracted a large audience. Every fight is accompanied by a Thai band who improvise music, keeping pace with the fight. The audience cheer at every major punch and kick and money changes hands around the ring as the touts take bets.

The matches tend to start late in the evening, usually around 9, so as we had an early flight the following morning, we only stayed for a few bouts. We saw fights between youngsters, women, rising stars and international champions. An amazing experience.







Thai elephant - Expedition Ocan Vision 2
Thai Elephant at Kinnaree Elephant Trekking Centre






Asian Elephant - Elephas maximus
Thai Elephant at Kinnaree Trekking Centre







LINK
Read our article on the
elephants in Thailand








Wat Chalong, Phuket - Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 (EOV2) to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, manta ray, Thai boxing and Thai elephant on Scubacat and Mermaid II and in Bangkok
Wat Chalong, Mueang Phuket district
Expedition Ocean Vision 2











Thai Boxing - Phuket
We went to watch Thai Boxing
(Muay Thai) with Nic and Emma


Thai flag

EOV2 Day 19 – Monday 6 April 2009. Return to UK.

A 7:00 pick up from Club Bamboo and a swift drive up to Patong Airport. We were supposed to be on the 09:50 flight from Phuket to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (pronounced su-wan-na-poom), but this was delayed and they very thoughtfully put us on an earlier flight so that we could make our connection to the UK.

Bangkok (BKK) - London Heathrow, UK(LHR)
THAI AIRWAYS INTERNATIONAL TG0916
Depart: Mon 06 Apr 09 12:25
Arrive: Mon 06 Apr 09 18:30
Direct flight - Duration 12 hrs 05 mins.

Taxi back home, making it a long old day. But so worth it; what a trip! Project Ocean Vision are happy!


A FEW OBSERVATIONS FROM EOV2 - PROJECT OCEAN VISION

Regal Dive are a good company and very flexible if you want to do more than just a standard package. Quite laid-back, though so you may need to keep in touch if only for your own reassurance.

Thai International are a truly great airline - highly recommended.

Patong is quite a party town with a reputation for all-night drinking, bar girls and lots of noise. We were there at the back end of the high season, but the global recession and some concerns about unrest in Thailand meant that it was reasonably quiet during our stay. But if you want somewhere quieter, make sure you stay out of town (like we did) or go to one of the other, less commercialised towns like Kata. Club Bamboo was a good choice.

Scuba Cat are a good operation for diving from day boats returning to shore each day. They do liveaboards, but we couldn't say what these are like. For real comfort, we went for the Mermaid II and were delighted with our choice. Also a very good way of packing in loads of diving for filming.

The Similans Islands, declared a marine national park in 1982 (recently expanded to include the two remote islands of Koh Bon and Koh Tachai), are located about 70 kilometres West of Khao Lak or 100 kilometres from Phuket. The Similan group comprises nine granite islands in the blue, tropical waters of the Andaman Sea. Similan is a Malay word meaning nine as there are nine islands in the group. The best conditions for diving here are from November to April; outside of these months, surface conditions can make diving impossible. The Similan Islands are numbered and named from South to North:

Similan Island #1: Koh Huyong
Similan Island #2: Koh Payang
Similan Island #3: Koh Payan
Similan Island #4: Koh Miang
Similan Island #5: Koh Haa
Similan Island #6: Koh Payu
Similan Island #7: Koh Hin Pousar
Similan Island #8: Koh Similan
Similan Island #9: Koh Bangu


Project Ocean Vision

Project Ocean Vision
Project Ocean Vision



THAILAND

The Thai people are noble, gentle and very polite, devout buddhists (mainly) and highly respectful of their monarch. If you are not familiar with their ways, it is advisable that you do a little research before visiting this beautiful country. We have compiled a few factoids and some basic information for you - click here.

Some facts about Thailand:

Area: 513,115 km2
Population: 63 million
Religion: 95% Buddhist
Monarch: Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX)
GPP per capita: $US 8,225

Find out more in our Guide to Thailand

Thai Garuda Symbol

Courtney and Carol on Expedition Ocean Vision 2 to Thailand and the Similan Islands, filming coral, whale sharks, Manta ray, Thai boxing, Thai elephant and bangkok on Scubacat and Mermaid II

OUR EXPEDITION - EOV2

Our plan was ambitious - we knew it would be from the start - but we achieved and learned a lot. We have come home with enough quality video to get cracking on the production phase - many, many hours in the studio ahead.

Trying to travel light with all the scuba and video equipment remains a constant challenge - more thought to go into this for our next expedition.

We have put together very quickly a short video diary that shows a bit of what we did and you can see a version of it via the link below.


VIDEO
Expedition Ocean Vision 2 Video Diary

LINKS
Article on Thai Elephants Thailand Travel Guide
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