PortablePi - A RaspberryPi for Amateur radio Portable Operators

This project might be of interest to some SOTA operators.

I wanted to see if I could make a field companion Raspberry Pi for Data modes - I would never lug my laptop into the bush.

Hardware:

  • raspberry pi 3 with inbuilt wifi chip
  • USB GPS dongle
  • USB sound card
  • ZLP USB radio interface

Capability:

  • WSJT-X on RC1.9 for FT8 etc
  • Fldigi
  • Winlink using PAT - telnet only at this stage
  • APRS via Xastir and Direwolf
  • Logging using CQRLog - issues with database - working on that
  • GPS updates onboard time - needed for Data modes and logging as well as GPS for APRS

How do you use it?
Well when the Pi is near a wifi network it knows it connects when it is not - say on your favourite summit - it creates a hotspot allowing headless control by any VNC device - tablet, phone etc.

Some pictures:

 Set on top of my 817

Set on top of my 817

 Connected over VNC

Connected over VNC

Update: June 2018: http://wadeabout.com/blog/update-from-my-initial-testing-of-using-a-raspberry-pi-3-as-a-portable-option-for-amateur-radio-digital-modes

 

Wade
VK1MIC

Island Life - tech gear

MY LITTLE ISLAND HOME

Island Life - tech gear

This is the first in a series of posts called Island Life about the gear, techniques and tips I use to happily continue living on a small island, off Lombok in rural Indonesia.

Travelling long term, whether in one location or many presents a few challenges for the wanting to remain connected and sharing content.

Prior to heading off on this trip, I knew there would be a number of things I wanted to achieve that a tablet only setup would not be either best suited for or not convenient - such as video and photo editing. Possible, just not convenient. 

Computer
 

 The Apple MacBook Air 11in with the TP-Link wifi adapter attached.

The Apple MacBook Air 11in with the TP-Link wifi adapter attached.

I resolved to retain my 2012 MacBook Air (MBA) as it had performed well since I purchased it, however, I more than tripled the onboard SSD to allow me to move my Photo Library on board, where previously I had managed it via external USB. 

Additionally, I added a higher sensitivity USB Wifi antenna, the TP- LINK TL-WN822N, mounting it using velcro dots onto the back of the MacBook Air Screen. This has been invaluable for 2 reasons:

  1. it does receive more wifi access points than the internal MBA wifi chip owing to its two folding antennas and
  2. it allows me to rebroadcast or retransmit the internet connection of the TPLINK via the internal wifi chip creating a hotspot for my phone to connect to an internet connection that the phone its self could not previously receive. I do this daily in my rented bungalow as I can not receive a wifi connection without the TPLINK adapter.

Photo & Video Quick View

 Ursa loving our deep dive

Ursa loving our deep dive

Another challenge I needed to overcome is quick download and display of photos and videos. Often I am showing customers unedited pictures I just took of fish, turtles or them, on the dive we just came back on. Using the Lightning to SD card attachment on my iPhone 7plus has been a godsend. However In hindsight, I would have purchased a decent android tablet, with 4G and microSD / OTG capability for this very purpose along with quick sharing to customers emails etc.

Photo & Video Workflow

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After each dive I download all new photos shot on my Olympus TG 4 tough camera using the method I described above, however for videos that I shoot on my permanently rolling GOPRO 3 Black, I use my laptop to pull all the videos off and store for later editing and including in any youtube content I am making. When I return to my bungalow each night I download the day's photos that I now have on my iPhone7Plus to the laptop and do a backup using an external USB Drive.

The major downside of this workflow is the quick sharing without using a 4G or wifi connection is cumbersome. As Apple does not have an OTG capability yet, I can not simply put the day's pictures and videos onto a customers’ SD or USB Drive. I do however have a SANDISK iXpand 64Gb USB and Lightning Drive that makes moving larger files easier between iDevices and USB and then onto customers devices.

Cameras

 THE ENTIRE UNDERWATER CAMERA PACKAGED, OLYMPUS TG4 CAMERA, PT056 UNDERWATER CASE, GOPRO3 BLACK, KNOG LIGHT, RED FILTER

THE ENTIRE UNDERWATER CAMERA PACKAGED, OLYMPUS TG4 CAMERA, PT056 UNDERWATER CASE, GOPRO3 BLACK, KNOG LIGHT, RED FILTER


The heart and soul of my land based picture and video work are the great cameras of the iPhone7Plus. Whether hand held or on a selfie stick - it is never far from me and ready at moments notice to snap a great picture.

EDIT: I wanted to also give a highly honourble mention to LifeProof for their iPhone7plus case. It has taken multiple drops from my pocket while riding my bike, been splashed with fresh and salt water (I'm a diver, always near water) as well as generally added grip to the normally slick iPhone7plus.  I did have a lifeproof on my 6plus in the past and it was horrendous - the design flaws of the locking clasp for the charging door have thankfully been overcome  

However underwater, the two superstars are:

  1. Olympus TG4 Tough Camera - without the PT-056 underwater case it can happily go down to 15 meters, with the PT056 it will chug away down to 40m. Taking simultaneously 16mb JPEG and RAW images as well as 1080p video - I love this camera. I want to get a strobe for it eventually too.
  2. GoPro 3 Black  - with a side mounted Znog Sports light in the ‘cold shoe’ mount on top of the PT056. The GoPro generally is running from the entry until the battery dies (only 45 min.. this is terrible for me). I also use a red filter to compensate for the loss of the colour red at depth. Recently the hard GoPro Case has started leaking slightly during dives. Without the use of toilet paper in the bottom of the case I don't know if it will be remaining in the underwater set up for much longer.

PROTIP: Do not use devices with hard to source or proprietary cables. If they break (and they will) they can be hard to get. My Olympus is one such device. I purchased two cables on ebay before I left - first broke week 4.

 

Battery banks

Living on an island where the power goes off a number of times a week, I like carrying a full USB battery at all times, whether it is to charge my iPad, my iPhone, my cameras or even my Bluetooth keyboard. Currently, I carry one and leave one on charge swapping on a daily basis. Alternating between a no name, 2 USB port 10,000mAh or a large 20,000mAh quick charge capable no name brand white brick. There is always one in my bag. Having the ability to charge everything and not slow down has been fantastic. I now only plug into mains power at night - mainly to charge the batteries.

Sharing &  staying connected  

While wifi is available in almost every eating or sleeping venue on the islands, wifi doesn't crack more than than about 3mbs shared across all the other users in each hotel. This lead me to investigate the large data packages available for 4G that is accessible on the islands. I stumbled across a 48gig package (Aug2017) by XL for 270,000rp for 30 days. This has been my lifeblood connection - uploading daily for instagram, emails and normal web browsing. I often tether my laptop to my phone as the 4G is more stable than the wifi.  

DiveMaster life - post graduation

My first decent underwater selfie

 

It has now been a couple weeks since I graduated as a DiveMaster here on Gili Air, Lombok, Indonesia.

Another Amazing Island Sunset

I was able to spend a week in Bali last week at Mum & Dad’s house using all of their WIFI and hot water - things that are sorely lacking on Gili Air.

My feet! After the shoeless life on Gili Air they needed work!

 

Now I am back on the Island, my days have been filled with helping out in the shop as well as tagging along as qualified DM to assist Instructors with students who require assistance as well as taking photos and videos to share with you!

Ornate Ghost Pipe Fish

I will be posting a series of blog posts in the coming weeks about Island Life and things that people should be aware of when traveling / living long term on Gili Air, Indonesia.

Dive Master Week 6 - Gili Air - Indonesia

Wow. I can't believe it is week 6 already. 

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On Saturday I found out I am "graduating" on Tuesday night - the customary "snorkel test" - the drinking of a swamp brew of grog through a snorkel with blacked out mask. A light hazing of sorts to welcome you to the professional side of diving. 

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With the clock now firmly set I needed to get a move on to get all my tasks completed. 

On the Friday before the surprise graduation, the following tasks were completed:

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  • Another hurdle for me to climb over was again the dreaded mask skills components of the "skills circuit". This is - to demonstration quality - show the 24 skills of the "open water" course.  Minimum rating is 3/5 for each skill with at least 1 to a 5/5. Below is my score sheet. A pass.  
  • The planning for a deep dive including the rigging and use of a static decent line - something we don't often use in the Gilis due to incredible 25m+ visibility. Additionally, the task called for the rigging and deployment of a "deco breathing set" or separate air and regulator deployed for use at the 5m safety stop.  This was all completed easily. 
  • The next task that required considerable surmounting of my fear of taking my mask off under water was the equipment exchange... this requires the full exchange of all scuba equipment with another person minus your wetsuit and weights.  As we did it mid water I required three attempts to overcome the current to retain the position. Oh did I mention throughout this whole time you and the person you are exchanging with are sharing a single breathing regulator? Another pass 
  • The last task requiring completion was in my mind the easiest. In fact, it is the one I had the most trouble with - search and recovery. The search for a missing item around 10kgs of weight and lifted using a lift bag. Also required are the underwater demonstration of three knots, the bowline, 2 half hitches and the reef knot. 
  • I also finally submitted my dive site map, this was reviewed in the early stages by our resident navigation and map "nerd to ensure that it was accurate and able to be used as a briefing tool for students and visiting divers.
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And finally, I submitted an extension for my visa to remain in Indonesia on a month by month basis. An interesting experience dealing with the regional outpost of the Indonesian Immigration

What next? Stay tuned

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Dive Master Week 5 - Gili Air - Indonesia

Wow time is flying fast now I can’t believe it is now 5 weeks since I started the DMT.

 Local Dive Master Soni with one of our local turtles on Hans Reef

Local Dive Master Soni with one of our local turtles on Hans Reef

 

I have ticked over 100 dives - and no the 100th dive was not naked as is usual convention because I was with clients.

 

This week I have had a number of firsts - seems to be happening a lot:

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  • First UV night dive - Half the dive is using normal white light and then we switch to a blue light that simulates UV light which coupled with a yellow mask filter creates awesome reactions from coral - only a tiny proportion of fish react with UV light so they mostly appear black.
  • This week also saw me brief and guide 2 customers on a local fun dive. We went in search of sleeping white tip reef sharks on a site that they are regularly seen - Sunset Reef. Sadly they were not spotted, however we saw a school of 5 line snapper torpedoing as well as a hawksbill turtle munching on the coral. When I told the customers after the dive that it was my first - they said they were very impressed.
  • I am really starting to enjoy my assisting role while assisting Discover Scuba Diving programs. I seem to have developed a knack with divers that are struggling to equalise and risk ending their dive. I manage to calm them, and show them - underwater - techniques to relax and equalise their ears.
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Ramadan has come to an end so shops are returning to their normal opening hours and dive masters who were not diving during ramadan are returning so I am looking forward to learning from more of the local DMs

 

As now been in Indonesia for almost 6 weeks including staying my parents prior to commencing DMT I am now at a point I need to extend my visa so that process starts soon too.

Dive Master Week 3 - Gili Air - Indonesia

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To recap week 2 my physical learning pack arrives, I made a start on a few of my assignments - site mapping and emergency procedures, as well as some pool time working on my demonstration skills for underwater teaching.  

 

This week I have been able to assist our two in house instructors on their courses. In particular my role is starting to form on Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) programs. A DSD is not an actual course more a program that give a first time diver enough skills in the pool to be taken out under guidance onto a 12m deep reef and, as the name suggests, discover scuba diving. Many go on to undertake the PADI Open Water qualification - the first of many steps on the diving ladder.  My role is the provision of an overwatch / safety role to assist the instructor in keeping the group safe while exploring the site

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Also during week 3 I undertook 3 of my assessment tasks:

  1. Timed 800m Snorkel swim (no hands used, head not leaving the water)  in the picture below that equates to 8 laps with a slight current one way: 3/5
  2. 15 minute tread / float in water too deep to stand, with hands out of the water in the last 2 minutes 5/5
  3. Perform the role of dive master on our dive boat during a fun dive - provide the boat briefing, outlining the safety and comfort features, introduce the crew and dive professional staff as well as monitor the air and time both prior and post for each diver. 5/5

 

Also this week I was able to accompany qualified divers on ‘fun dives’ with some of our local guides to see often overlooked areas of local sites. It is from these local guides I can learn to hone the craft of fish and marine life spotting, group management and guiding around under water sites including the wreck of the tugboat Nusa Glenn seen in the pictures here (my new fav site)

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Dive Master Week 2 - Gili Air - Indonesia

 I took this picture showing the joy after almost an hour underwater on a discover scuba

I took this picture showing the joy after almost an hour underwater on a discover scuba

 

Bit of a recap of week one - house sorted, transport sorted, dive site orientations, shop orientation and the discovery of my inability to take my mask off underwater.

 

During week 2, I started settling into the rhythm of Gili Air and diving operations. 

 

After my attempt in week 1 of the first of a number of timed activities being a timed 400m ocean swim (week 1 attempt resulted in DID NOT COMPLETE due to current). I re-attempted in week 2 and received a mark sufficient to gain a pass.

 

Clocking up almost 15 dives since day one, tagging along on "fun dives" with qualified divers and guides as well as observing a variety of courses from Discover Scuba (base program) through to Advanced Adventure Dives including Deep Adventure dives to 30m.

Also this week I dug deeper in the "PADI Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving" - key text for any diver looking to gain a deeper understanding of many aspects of diving and the diving environment.

 

 

 

This week also saw the first of a series of pool sessions with instructors to work on my underwater demonstration skills.

 Me floating in the pool observing skills

Me floating in the pool observing skills

 

My day off during week two was spent in the large regional city of Mataram on Lombok getting a bit of a look at regional Lombok life and shopping.

Dive Master Week 1 - Gili Air - Indonesia

I have not been online much this week - as you will see I have been too busy!

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I arrived after a boat delay, late on Monday afternoon. After making my way to the dive center by horse cart I met the staff and crew. 

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Later that night I viewed a number of available homestay type rooms. Bedroom with bathroom and outdoor shared kitchen. 

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I have also purchased a bicycle - the main form of transport on the island. For the cost of 6 weeks rental I purchased one - a massive investment of $70AUD. 

Oh. And I think my bed has bed bugs. So next task is destroying them- all 

This week I have also done 10+ dives, following dive groups, observed regulator servicing, learnt how to use the refrigerated (air dryer) compressor to fill tanks and been working on my underwater marker deployment (DSMB). 

  

First dive of 2017

 

“Oh god I needed that, I was starting to think I was drying out”

 

Those were the words that ran through my mind as I broke the surface of the warm water on one of the first days of 2017.

Ascending from one of the 2 shallow photography dives planned for the day into the bright warm sunshine of Bawley Point NSW, I knew that it was going to be a good day.

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Planned over a Christmas BBQ a few weeks earlier, the double shore photography dive was chosen as when you are the buddy with the camera, you often are the slowest one of the pair. This can lead to your non camera toting buddy already looking at the next aquatic marvel while you are still taking your 900th photo of the tiny Nudibranch you spotted, trying to get the light just right.

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The day had no particular aim other than to increase comfort and practice skills. It so happened to be one of the warmest dives I had done at Bawley Point - 21degrees.  In August during my rescue course the temp did not get about 13 degrees. The warm bath-water like temp made for an even more enjoyable dive.

Amongst the small group we were able to practice our photography and camera handling while snapping pictures of one of the countless octopus who live in the rock crevices, or the bottom sleeping Port Jackson sharks soaking up a few zzzzz. The regular appearance now of a large cuttlefish is also a highlight.  To round out the cephalopod team, a school of small squid remained in the warm current for both dives. 

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All in all it was a perfect day and was much needed to get the 'gills' wet again.

In the below video you will also see the preparation that goes into getting ready for a dive when you have to travel 1.5 hours to a dive site.

TRAVEL: Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

 

Flying east from Bali, Indonesia across tiny islands ringed in gold and turquoise, over fishing villages and mountains you come in to land over yet another cluster of islands into Labuan Bajo airport, new, white and shiny. Soak it in. It's the newest building in 'Bajo! 

 

Straight away I noticed the striking difference in the faces of the Flores people compared to the Balinese and Javanese. They look almost exactly like the Timorese - Big wide smiles. Slightly curly hair. It felt so comforting. Reminding me of my time in East Timor in 2008. 

'Bajo is a growing port town and also the gateway to the Komodo National Park. The national park is a magnet for divers and adventurers alike. 

We specifically went to Bajo to do two things. See the famed Komodo dragons and to dive. We spent 7 days in Bajo, diving almost every second day.  A boat trip to most dive sites is around 1-2 hours. Our longest day included a guided walk within the National Park on the island of Rinka, a neighbour to Komodo. On the small island is a ranger station where the rangers live and base from - they have two main roles. Act as walking guides and to show the dragons The Rinka dragons are about 1/3 smaller than Komodo's due to evolution. Rinka's giant lizards are still 2-3m long. Our guide cheerfully informed us that they climb trees until they are too big then just hunt on the ground for small deer, birds and other Frankie sized prey. 

A day trip to Rinka can still fit in two dives later in the day however a trip to Komodo is about 5 hours one way from 'Bajo. With time not on our side as well as a hunger to dive in one of Asia's greatest sites - Rinka it was. 

Diving:

I can't talk about 'Bajo without talking about the diving. The best way I can describe the life around the national park - Prolific and Jurassic Park-like. Every fish, every Turtle, every Nudi was bigger, brighter and totally amazing.

We stayed with Blue Marlin in Komodo - can not recommend them as a dive company and lodging more highly. Loved it. 5 stars for me.

Check out my other travel posts : Here

Perhentian Islands, Malaysia

Getting there 

 

The Perhentian Islands are approx 25km off the north east coast of Malaysia, just south of the Thai border.

Flights are multiple times per day from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Biru, the nearest mainland airport. Then it is a 60km drive to the coast with any one of the friendly local taxi drivers. Before you depart KL, it is advisable to call your accomodation on Perhentian and confirm boats are operating to the island that day, particularly early in the season. We were caught out a bad weather front swept through as we arrived and no boats were operating.

Boats are either booked by your accomodation or tickets purchased at one of the local Kuala Besut ticket agents.

The boat ride from Kuala Besut to Perhentian is approx and hour. If the sea is rough be prepared for a bumpy ride.

Where to stay

We stayed on the ‘big Island’ Perhantian Besar at Abdul’s Chalets. Abdul’s afforded the best mix of location, privacy and quality.

Abdul’s has its own ‘home reef’ located within a roped section for snorkelling away from boats. Many other shallow reefs are within a 15 min walk of your front door.

Large parts of the big island are accessible only by boat and the hotel is more than happy to organise for you.

What to do

Anything in the water!

Perhentian is set up for watersports, be it scuba diving, snorkelling, turtle spotting, or relaxing on a beach.

Highlights

Calm water frontage

Lowlights

Not being told by our hotel that there was no boats operating, leaving us stranded in Kuala Besut - check with your hotel (particularly in shoulder season) about access.

Don’t forget to bring

Sunscreen and a towel

Quick update on the Van

It has been a busy few months working on the van.  The interior is almost up to scratch with the covers for the mattress being the only roadblock before its first test.  

 

The front windscreen that was cracked from left to right because of a rust bubble has been removed and repaired.  

 

 Brand new windscreen! 

Brand new windscreen! 

The last piece that I am looking for to make it perfect is a side awning that does not require roof racks. This is proving to be more ellisive than I had imagined.   Any ideas?

 

 Side awning needed  

Side awning needed  

Introducing our new project - a 1998 VW Transporter T4 - I guess we are joining #VANLIFE

A while ago I wrote about #projectsailboat. This was a desire to learn more about the “systems” of a boat prior to purchase. Such as a means of producing power (solar), storage options in limited space etc. Greater discussions with my partner led us to move away from the idea of a boat - we simply would not get the use of it, being some 150km from the ocean. The next option was a camper - we enjoy camping and exploring but due to weather this limits our options. A camper would extend the 'season' as well as offer a support vehicle for scuba diving. After much searching we settled on a relatively old 1998 VW camper van. It had been roughly converted - allowing us to add many of our own touches. The video below gives you a look at the van after we have had it for only 2 weeks.


Check out the video and don't forget to like, comment or subscribe.

Gear: Scuba - Second Hand BCD Self inflating

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I have just finished washing and putting my dive gear away following another day of double fun dives on the South Coast of NSW. For me this was dive 18 & 19.

Fresh from my tropical dives of Phi Phi Island in Thailand (and admittedly filled with false bravado), I kitted up just before the first dive as I have always done.

As with most of our club fun dives, today we were entering from the rocks so I added air to my Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) and entered the water with the rest of the group. After the usual awkward aqua-aerobics that is putting on your fins in a slightly surging wave group we pushed away from the rocks to the decent point. My BCD was making a funny sound and I thought “hmm maybe I have an air leak from an air hose”, I had my buddy check and she confirmed there was no visible air leak.

As we descended, my buddies started slowly sinking as they should but I could not go below one metre. I was weighted the same as other successful dives but was unsure why I could not drop down to the bottom at 7m. Luckily one of the Dive Masters (DMs) for the club dive was on hand and clipped an extra weight to me.

After getting down with my buddy we set off on exploring the underwater landscape - my video from Australia Day 2015 is shot at the same spot


I noticed my buoyancy was not very stable - all in one direction - UP. It was at that point I realised what the funny sound was on the surface - the safety valve on my BCD letting air out as it had over inflated. I know I only put a squirt or two in prior to entry and now the BDC was continuing to self inflate while diving - slowly but still inflating. to top this off my DIY Dive Tray was beginning to loosen and the camera and light set up was wobbling. I could not let go of it for fear of losing both GoPro and my brand new Knog Qudos Dive light. Review coming soon.

 

This dive was rapidly turning into a cluster. I was not in any immediate danger due to the relatively shallow depths - however I did need to continuously dump air from my slowly inflating BCD.

At the 35 minute mark I pulled the pin. I was not enjoying myself, so knew it was time to end the dive. I indicated my intentions to my buddy and the DM and up I went - metres from the accent point - perfect.

I still managed to record a great clip of a sleepy Port Jackson Shark snoozing on the sandy bottom.


The second dive was much easier as the issue was known, after the dives I discussed the issue with the DMs and they indicated that one solution would have been to disconnect the low pressure inflator hose and manually inflate the BCD with my mouth - all stuff every PADI diver is trained to do - I didn’t know I could disconnect it underwater - I know now for next time!

I will however be taking my BCD in for a service soon to fix the problem.

 

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi has the best of both worlds - fantastic rainforests and amazing beaches and watersports. A huge proportion of the island is rightfully protected as a GeoPark ensuring protection and eco management. 

 

How we got there

Langkawi was our first destination after flying overnight Sydney to Kuala Lumpur. A quick transfer to the new KLIA2 AirAsia terminal saw us on our way for a quick 1 hour flight to the beautiful and relaxed island of Koh Langkawi

Things we saw or did

Here are some of the AMAZING activities we go up to:

Day sailing on a 40ft Catamaran with Rampant sailing that included laying about in their jacuzzi net behind the boat or laying in a hammock suspended between the hulls while anchored in a protected cove for lunch. Not to mention the open bar on board. Itis not hard to see why these guys are rated as the Number 1 thing to do in Langkawi by TripAdvisor

½ Day kayak tour of the mangroves within the GeoPark including a visit to limestone caves and the fish ‘farm’ located at the base.

A not to be missed trip up into the rainforest on the Langkawi Cable Car giving you a spectacular view over the beaches and islands.

A visit to the state symbol at Eagle Square featuring a huge Brahminy Kite statue.

How we got around

We quickly compared the prices of hire cars versus a scooter for the duration of our trip. The scooter was the easy option as I was licensed internationally and had ridden a fair amount before. Also it allowed us the ability to park just about any where.

Amusingly while refuelling I did manage to lock our only set of keys for the scooter under the seat. Before full panic over took the situation a young local service station attendant with particularly small hands managed to get his hand under the seat and retrieve the keys. A lesson was had and in future scooter keys will be on a lanyard!

Food we ate

As with most South East Asian countries, I highly recommend eating in small local cafes or tea houses and street food where ever possible. This ensures your tourist dollars stay in the local community as well as would provide you with fresh good local food. Being Malaysia, I could not pass up fresh hand made Roti, the local hotplate cooked bread that is eaten with many meals. Langkawi also has a strong middle eastern population so there is no shortage of abab stands as well.

How we got connected

As with most connected travellers, if there is a connection available at a reasonable speed and reasonable price we will connect. Because we have little need for calling while in Malaysia we chose a prepaid provider that would offer us the maximum data available. We used Internet of Xpax that is a user of the Celcom network within Malaysia. One of the benefits was that should be go over our included data we were provided 3 30min windows a day to access as much data as we could use.

I would always suggest buying local sim in each country as it is astronomical the chargers providers from home charge to roam - much less use data. The website below is full of crowd sourced information relating to costs and access in each country.

http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com

Interesting facts

The entire island of Langkawi is tax free. There is no tax on luxury cars, alcohol, chocolate etc. Think a whole island duty free. Frankie was able to purchase 1lt of Vodka for the equivalent of AUD$10.00

Trailing a new posting style for AsiaTrip2015

As promised, I will be still posting about this trip through Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand. However I wanted to trial a new style. While other bloggers talk about things to do and see, I will write about the things we have done, places we ate - these are not things written in a guidebook that some one has regurgitated - we actually tried them so can talk honestly about them.

I will be using these main themes with others being used on a place by place basis. Let me know what you thing.

In the mean time head to Facebook, instagram or twitter and search #asiatrip2015 and you will see some of our live postings on those sites.

Gear update - Scuba Diving February 2015

Recently I was offered the opportunity to purchase some very good quality second hand Scuba Diving equipment. I managed to snap up a family new Buoyancy Control Device (BCD), first and second stage regulator (the hoses you breath through) along with a dive knife, a surface marker (an orange sausage that you inflate to get noticed on the surface) along with a really good quality mesh bag.

Some new kit include a Suunto Zoop Dive watch and a DIY GoPro Dive Tray that will hopefully stabilise some more of my dive videos

Here is a short video using all of the gear above along in addition to the standard here included in my “learning to dive” pack mentioned here

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A photo tour of the Buddhist temples of Myanmar

A photo tour of the Buddhist temples of Myanmar

I was going back and looking at more and more photos from our trip all over Myanmar from 2013 and rediscovered many of the amazing temples we visited.

I have broadly divided the photo collection here into 3 segments:

  1. The temple city of Bagan
  2. Cave Temples
  3. The Temple punched on top of Mount Popa
  4. The last Kingdom of Mandalay
  5. Slowly crumpling temples in the hills of Inle Lake

 

Temple City of Bagan

 

Cave Temples

 

Mount Popa

 

The last Kingdom of Mandalay

Temple spires in the hills of Inle Lake

 

Seal Diving - Montague Island, South Coast NSW

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Diving with Seals on the NSW South Coast

DCIM100GOPRO

As you know I recently learnt to scuba dive. I also became a member of my local scuba club, which offers a few times a year, trips to Montague Island off the coast of Narooma NSW to dive with the Australian Fur Seals that inhabit the island .

The boat ride out to the island was choppy to say the least, we anchored in the lee of the sou'easter that was creating the chop, which as (bad) luck would have it was directly down wind from the seal colony.

 

SAMSUNG CSC

The day was split into 2 dives with the dive boat captain supplying soup and rolls to fend off the chill (temps were low teens out of the water, even less with the wind, while the water was 17-14ºc degrees depending on depth).

I really can see the ease that having a regular dive buddy creates. I joined a small group of 3 experiences divers.

Any one was more experienced as me - I have not dived since my open water qualification.

Dive 1

I remembered all the safety checks, the buddy checks, the equipment checks - I was feeling pretty cocksure of myself. I entered the water using perfect 'giant stride'

[youtube http://youtu.be/PIsX9jFORNw"]

Almost immediately upon reforming in out little group of four at the bow of the dive boat I realised I was breathing too fast. Looking back at the GoPro video I took of Dive 1, I could actually count I was breathing 1 breath every 2 seconds - basically hyperventilating.

On getting away from the boat under water the Australian Fur Seals come straight up to us and started screaming around like some jet powered underwater labrador. With big brown eyes looking at you.. calling you to come play.

As the dive progressed I could I tell that as a group when we did 'air checks' I was using far more air than the other 3. About 23 minutes into the dive when we did another 'air check', the look on the small group leader's face when I indicated I had 80 bar (started with 230 bar) showed me that something was really wrong. He gave me the hand signal to take his emergency hose and 'share air'. This is a scary sign to receive on my first dive, but I was not going to argue.

We started slowly heading back to the anchor line of the dive boat on the shared air, holding the arm of the dive leader. Once we got to the site were we were going to do a 'safety stop' before ascending, I went back onto my air.

I surfaced with 40 bar remaining.

After drying off and putting some warmer clothes on to have some soup, I got talking to the group leader, he agreed yes I was breathing too fast, mainly because I was nervous. I also removed a weight from my weight belt as I felt weighted down, which adds to the unsettled leading to further nervousness underwater

DCIM100GOPRO

Dive 2

As soon as I got under water this time, I felt more relaxed, more natural

The video also backs this up to my breathing halving. One breath every 4 seconds.

During this dive we stayed around the 16m mark, seeing a Port Jackson Shark, large rays cruising the rock ledges and of course the seals.

I can see how much easier having your own gear is along with adding to a sense of security- knowing your gear.

I think my next purchase will be a dive computer - I am thinking of a simple Mares Puck for around $180 on Amazon

  UPDATE: Now with videos

[youtube http://youtu.be/gZAyz0g89xU]

[youtube http://youtu.be/En5lFUf4C20]

 

 

 

 

Travel: Winter Road Trips - Ep1

I love going for drives around our region during winter, it is the best time of year to see the region after the winter rains. Starting early we headed off from Canberra to Batemans Bay via Bungendore, Braidwood. The sun was bright over the green dewy fields of Bungendore followed up by a stop off at the Lolly Shop in Braidwood.

 

 

Winter_Road_Trip_Map

Lunch was on the waterfront with fish and chips in Batemans Bay followed by wandering around the marina looking at boats and slips for #ProjectSailBoat, just information gathering.

 

Heading back south heading through Narooma down to check out our favourite camping site at Mystery Bay, then south to Bega and up to the mountains through Bemboka (remember to stop off for a pie at the famous bakery) then up further into Cooma.

 

Just before dark we managed to make it back to Canberra having missed most of the first snow of the year but we did catch the trail end of the storm.

Were is your favourite road trip to?