Thursday, April 4, 2013

ANGKOR, CAMBODIA


Angkor Wat at dawn

Another perspective of Angkor Wat at dawn

I first studied the brutal genocide that took place in Cambodia. Then I read ‘First they killed my father’ by Loung Ung and other related books. Finally, I heard so many wonderful stories about Cambodia, some of their landmarks and super friendly people, that I decided not to skip this country in my last visit to Asia.

It turns out this country has way more to offer than a history  of a fairly recent genocide and wars. Among others, it has the largest Hindu temple complex and the largest archeological site in the world : Angkor. It’s so large, that I will just focus on my vivid experiences here.

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Used to wonder and explored Mayan and Aztecs ruins in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, I knew ruins much larger than usual awaited this time. Most guide books cited from one day visits to a full one week visits, offering from bikes to rickshaws to air-conditioned vehicles.

Nature is savvy and takes back what we dont' use
If you believe that the four pillars of human foundation are physical, mental, emotional and spiritual (like I do), folks you will find them all at Ankgor.

With temperatures soaring above 40° Celsius (May), stretching over some 1000 km2 including forested area, it’s a physical challenge to walk around the large compound. Further challenging is to cycle around them, like I did. You can’t miss sunrise at Angkor Wat, viewed from across the moat. Early bird catches the rise.
Stare at sunrise after you have managed to cycle into the temples compound from Siem Reap town, and begin you long and physical challenging day.

Chasing sunlight inside the ruins
Mental observation on details and historical information of each temple is overwhelming. Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple has countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
Mind-boggling sculptural details are everywhere to be seen! 
It is emotional; the ruins have a truly outstanding universal value.
Angkor complex represents the entire range of Khmer art from the 9th to the 14th centuries, and includes a number of indisputable artistic masterpieces such as the mentioned Angkor Wat,  Bayon, and Banteay Srei. The Khmer Empire of the 9th-14th centuries encompassed much of South-east Asia and played a formative role in the political and cultural development of the region. All that remains of that civilization is its rich heritage of cult structures in brick and stone.

Great place to read Lonely Planet

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It is spiritual. I suggest you try to check out why for yourself. My own spirit feels happy about all those days I spent cycling around the ruins. Did I forget to talk about the young Cambodians making a living selling goods to tourist around the ruins? Oh yes, I did. Well, let me simply mentioned I found a young and humble lady with a wonderful smile. She reminded me that war and genocide, are already in the past. She has a bright future ahead, and we can help them a little bit by supporting their country by discovering their wonders.

 
A young entrepreneurial example, she has such a strong spirit!

Facial features... and nice hats!
I snapped this shot, then had no chance but to run away! 

Overlooking elephant temple there's a tinny portion of 1000 km2!







Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DIVING IN KOH TAO, THAILAND

Chatting with Alex Mitsch from www.bansdiving.de 

What matters the most for you as a diver? Have you ever asked yourself the list of ‘must have’ from a diver operator and dive site?

Let me share with you my personal list:
·    -  Dive site: local fish that I haven’t seen before in previous dives, highlights that make the reef special or different from others, large species that I haven’t seen before or missed, protected or in need of protection.
       -  Dive operator: Concerned about the diving environment and do his best to benchmark green practices, efficient and friendly customer service, fun people to meet and truly passionate   about the ocean, run small boats (6 to 10 people).

My wish list is in fact a bit longer, but for the sake of keeping this post concise and interesting, these are the main ones.
Ban’s Diving resort in Koh Tao fulfilled all of the above, except from running small boats. Well, if you are the largest diving certification school in the World, you certainly can’t run small boats.

Bans certifies more than 14,000 divers a year. They have an extensive and comprehensive Dive Master program that requires one to pass their test program, beside the one required by PADI.

Nope, I didn’t manage to see whale sharks. I’ve missed them in Roatan (sightings are rare) and missed them again in Koh Tao (sightings aren’t so rare). But I had plenty of fun with grumpier Trigger Fish not so happy with the presence of my great photographer and cameraman, Aarny Patterson. I also had plenty of joy diving the Sattakut wreck with wonderful thermoclines, laying at 30 and more meters, just for Aarny and myself.

Koh Tao it’s an awesome island, Thais are friendly and fun to be with, as the rest of Ban’s diving resort staff. My room was up on the hills of Koh Tao, from where I had a majestic view of the ocean. It took me a great effort to come down by the sea the last time; I knew that meant living the island. Luckily, more adventures and dives waited for me in Phi Phi.  I just never felt again the energy and comfort of Koh Tao. Trigger fish on the Adaman Sea aren’t as grumpy as in the Gulf of Thailand, thus not as fun to dive with! 

Wanna check it out for yourself? Go to www.bansdiving.de






A FEW WORDS OF WELCOME BACK TO MYSELF, WITH YOUR HUMBLE PERMISSION !


Hello everyone! I’ve been away from this blog kindly set up by Suunto for me back in 2007. I couldn’t be happier to be back!

A serious knee accident kept me away from writing here for a few years. A strenuous recovery program, which made me train like mad, kept me busy. I focused on writing for magazines and I kept missing the chances to write back here.

My adventures began again fifteen months ago, and it’s about time to start to share them !

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Diving in Andorra...what about altitude diving?





Isn’t it always great to discover new aspects of the sport you love? If you are an experienced diver, but had neither tried altitude diving nor dry suit diving, Andorra is the place for you.

Altitude diving changes decompression tables. As long as you review your diving theory in advanced and use any Suunto diving computer, bottom time isn’t something you should worry about.

Altitude diving changes your surroundings. You are not longer surrounded by astonishing beaches and coral reefs, as it has been my case every time I dove in Central America. In Andorra, you are surrounded by beautiful mountains, enclosed lakes with pristine waters and all the kick that diving with a dry suit has to offer.

There are new companies running altitude diving operations along the Pyrenees. Most of those companies have been inspired by two entrepreneurs called Raul Baro and Hector Encuentra. These buddies won an award in Andorra for an ‘innovative tourism concept’ and trigger the development of altitude diving in the Pyrenees. Therefore if you want to dive with the most experienced team around this mountain area, in the highest lakes and get the kick of learning dry suit techniques, check out www.divingandorra.com or contact info@divingandorra.com

Diving Andorra believes that altitude diving can also provide the right setting to those who have never dove before. They offer several courses, from beginners to advanced run either in Grandvalira or Vallnord mountain resorts.

Above all, Raul and Hector are Suunto lovers, and always trust in their D9 and Cobra computers when they dive in cold waters.

Do you wanna know how cold? Just wait till next winter, when more news and pictures diving under the ice are uploaded!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Bond yourself with nature!





When I was four years old, my parents were told that clean mountain air from the Andes could help cure mine and youngest sisters’ asthma. Repetitive family visits to the mountains since that age, helped cured that illness. Since then, I developed such a great fascination for mountains that I felt the thrill of mountaineering was among the greatest ways to create a bond with nature.

After twenty five years of mountaineering in the Andes and Alps, I have the chance to dive in the Caribbean Ocean for the first time. Immediately, I recognized my bond with nature was incomplete. I was missing the fundamental knowledge of life underwater. I was missing a crucial contact with underwater environment. I did not know the peculiar, strange but magnificent life underwater.

As a sportsman, I gained a strong motivation to understand how the adjustment of our bodies in the mountains and underwater could be compared. By learning about gasses and pressures, I could begin contrasting.

In mountaineering terms, the air becomes ‘thinner’ the higher we climb. This means that due to the reduced atmospheric pressure, we find less and less concentration of oxygen particles in a given air space the higher we ascend. Our body triggers a process to compensate for the lack of oxygen concentration we provide to our lungs. Nitrogen found in the air we breathe, as we don’t metabolize it, is not an issue when breathed above water.

When diving though, atmospheric and water pressure change the game rules. Nitrogen becomes a major concern under increased absolute pressure (water pressure + atmospheric pressure), due to the fact that we don’t metabolize it. Oxygen, on the other hand, it isn’t an issue of concern as long as we remain within the limits of recreational diving. Although timing differs a lot, as with mountaineering we can help our bodies adapt to the environment following a predefine set of rules.

To my view, mountains create a bond with our world due to the fact that put humans back to where we belong: nature. Mountains are astoundingly big sentinels of stone that make us feel humble against the beauty of nature. Only by learning to respect and mastering survival in their uneasy environment we increase our chances to climb them again and again.

Oceans teach us about our very first origins. After all, life was first formed in them. The more ancient ecosystems are found underwater. Unthinkable life forms and creatures live in our vast oceans. Underwater life is so striking to the human eye, yet so fragile and so endangered by human hands. Diving creates a bond with nature by showing and teaching us about the still little explored underwater world, which dominates life on earth. Diving help us to value and respect our living oceans, before they become dead and polluted oceans by the hands of those who never learned to value them.

Now, when I dive deep down, I came back up to the surface feeling as grateful as when I am about to reach a mountain summit. Likewise, when I contemplate the mountains heights I feel happiness in the same way as when I contemplate the underwater world. It feels like I am now more… bonded with nature.