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2019/11/08 Diving with Palau Siren
π 2019-11-08 01:01 in Diving
Palau was one of the major diving destinations that we hadn't hit yet, so it was time to fix that. We found an 11 day tour on the Siren where a group of Russians booked the boat, but ended up having an unused cabin, which worked great for us (all trips of more than 7 days were otherwise full when I looked). As a special bonus, they wanted to start one day early, so we ended up with an extra day on the boat (11 days instead of 10).
The day prior, we did a kayak/snorkling tour with Sam's Tour.
After the boat, we did a Palau land tour, also with Sam's tour

We were familiar with the boat as it was mostly identical to the siren we took in the Philipines. It's a nice and spacious boat, but has a moronic design where the saloon roof is so low that it's mostly impossible to spend a whole trip without hitting your head badly on it. I did so in the previous trip, and after 9 days of avoiding hitting my head, it happened again on this boat too. If only I could have 2 words with the lovely person who thought it made any sense to build a boat that way...

Anyway, while the boat is not as big or nice as the now defunct Waow, it comes as a close second. The staff was fantastic and the boat amenities were good, Even if we got the smaller cabin #1, it was still bigger than at least a portion of the dive boats out there.




The Siren was a bit unusual in Palau as the seafloor was such that the boat could not anchor close to the dive sites (either it was way too low, or too high for the boat, making it likely to hit coral). This did translate into sometimes long skiff rides (15mn was typical, with a few that were 20 to 25mn). I was not a big fan of that as we spent many hours on those skiffs over the 10 days, but it was unavoidable for that boat and location. On the plus side, some of the skiff rides were scenic and the skiff divers were good:


they were well equipped, better than my handheld garmin I logged all the dives with :)
they were well equipped, better than my handheld garmin I logged all the dives with :)

For diving, I had my trusty RX100M5, but found out with great chagrin that the CCD on the camera had been damaged by lasers in Prague and now had visible purple dots on all my pictures. Because I like to be ready for failures, I had just bought a diving case for my RX100M6, but it was a terrible case with so many problems, and to make things worse, my RX100M6 grew a fault where its lens could not retract anymore without my pushing it. So, I had to turn the camera on on the boat, close the case, and make sure to keep the camera awake so that its 30mn shutdown timeout didn't trigger. If anything went wrong, the camera stopped working for the rest of the dive, so I ended up diving with both cameras with an this self built setup (yeah for zipties). When the camera with a non damaged CCD but damaged retraction mechanism, failed under water, I switched to the 2nd camera that took pictures with some purple artifacts on them (better than no pictures at all):


Anyway, let's look at the diving pictures:

first day was a wreck dive in murky water
first day was a wreck dive in murky water

Day 2, we stayed in the lagoon, due to bad weather and dived more wrecks:



And finally we were able to navigate to the south/west area where most of the nicer dive sites are located and the water wasn't as murky:



But rain didn't stop and hit us randomly most days, it was the first time I got to see such hard rain on the surface from underwater:


Sires Tunnel was a cool dive, especially as I like caverns:











we found a nice leopard shark down at 45m
we found a nice leopard shark down at 45m


While Yap is supposed to be known for mantas, Palau's German channel has mantas, although we only had good conditions one dive, the other dive had horrible visibility:





lots of other fish
lots of other fish


red snappers eat plancton just like the mantas
red snappers eat plancton just like the mantas


They have a local friendly napoleon fish, called Al:



Other nice fish could be found, and of course plenty of sharks:


beautiful Orang Outang crab
beautiful Orang Outang crab


Blue holes had fish swimming upside down in the cave, as they often do
Blue holes had fish swimming upside down in the cave, as they often do


Blue holes also had a huge barracuda
Blue holes also had a huge barracuda





always nice to see an octopus hunting for food
always nice to see an octopus hunting for food

this is how it tastes rocks for good, also amazing to see how stretchy that 'skin', is
this is how it tastes rocks for good, also amazing to see how stretchy that 'skin', is


I think that was a leopard shark I found sleeping under a rock
I think that was a leopard shark I found sleeping under a rock

German Channel had something I had never seen before: gobis that were looking out for 2 shrimps that worked together:



Another unusual thing we saw was a shark missing its top fin:


The area had lots of holes and caves, and my favourite was likely Virgin Blue Hole:





Jennifer found a fire coral in there
Jennifer found a fire coral in there

deep holes that you could explore
deep holes that you could explore

nice crocodile fish
nice crocodile fish



nice school of humphead parrotfish
nice school of humphead parrotfish



Al came back to see us
Al came back to see us


The last day of diving, we went to Jellyfish Lake for a snorkel (you can't dive there as the water below 15 meters is quite dangerous to living organisms, but it's perfectly safe at the surface. The many jellyfish are non poisonous as they have lost the ability to sting because they have no predators (the lake is separated from the ocean by porous rock, which allows water through, but no organisms). It was super cool to play with the pretty jellyfishes:

we got dropped off
we got dropped off

short hike to the lake
short hike to the lake

and then time to get in the water
and then time to get in the water






that is the 2nd kind of jellies you find in the lake (much less common)
that is the 2nd kind of jellies you find in the lake (much less common)

there are a few other fishes in that lake
there are a few other fishes in that lake

and I found this single invasive crab
and I found this single invasive crab

A few videos of fish:

Giant humphead parrotfish:

Back in the Korror lagoon, we did a wreck dive (Ijn Iro), but the water quality was pretty terrible:





top mast
top mast

Our last dive of the trip was Chandellier Cave, which was 5 different caves you could get to with short dives:








Outside the cave, we found a rare (for the area) sea snake, and nice mandarin fish:




We also did a fair amount of night dives and got lucky on some of them:



lots of plancton
lots of plancton



This squid was a lucky find, it stuck with me because it loved my light and used it for hunting:


Normally squids run way like this:

biggest nudis ever
biggest nudis ever

interesting shrimp with long arms
interesting shrimp with long arms


manta shrimp that dug itself in the ground
manta shrimp that dug itself in the ground


Basket star, a very interesting organism:

Dmitry who oragnized the trip for the Russian group, nicely lent us discreet blue lights that show off some proteins at night. Very cool to see with that:



lots of baby manta shrimps liked my light
lots of baby manta shrimps liked my light

found more squids, but those didn't like my light and swam off
found more squids, but those didn't like my light and swam off

Of course, we did a lot of diving (32 dives out of a possible 34 if we had missed a couple of land excursions), and the main land excursion was Peleliu.
The land tour in Peleliu where US Marines landed to kick out the Japanese that were there. Sadly they were well equipped and fought to the last one, infliciting significant losses to the US. Taking the place over too 74 days instead of the planned 4 days. The island has left over Japanese buildings, tanks, and amphibious vehicles for the beach landing:


found a nice hermit crab on the beach
found a nice hermit crab on the beach

also, plenty of small ones
also, plenty of small ones

runway that the americans wanted to capture
runway that the americans wanted to capture



lots of crickets in the caves
lots of crickets in the caves









thousand man cave was last on our tour
thousand man cave was last on our tour

they drunk lots of beer
they drunk lots of beer

lots of bats live in there, now
lots of bats live in there, now


one of the caves' exits
one of the caves' exits

That evening, we also had fun on a nearby island we got dropped off at one evening:



easier to take pictures of the moon when not on a moving boat
easier to take pictures of the moon when not on a moving boat

One of our last days in the area, we had a nice BBQ on the small island:



Thanks to the nice Russian group that we shared the boat with, it was nice to chat with them and learn more about Russia. They were also all good divers, so it was a great to dive with them:





See more images for Diving with Palau Siren
2019/11/07 Sam's Tour Kayak and Snorkel in Palau
π 2019-11-07 01:01 in Diving

We went to Palau for diving which we did with the Palau Siren (on its own page)

After landing in Palau the previous evening, we got up the next morning to go to Sam's Tour and do their Nikko Bay Kayak and Snorkel day tour:



we saw many of the rock islands that are concave because of errosion and animals that eat the linestone in them
we saw many of the rock islands that are concave because of errosion and animals that eat the linestone in them

Snorkel location #1:






Jennifer found this unusual fish :)
Jennifer found this unusual fish :)





After that, we went to kayak a bit to see a cave with bats:







those are the animals that slowly eat the islands and give them the concave look
those are the animals that slowly eat the islands and give them the concave look

We then went to see an outpost where the Japanese used to look for invaders (which never arrived in Palau)




the japanese soldiers drank a lot of beer since they had nothing else to do
the japanese soldiers drank a lot of beer since they had nothing else to do




Then another snorkel:



hard to capture mandarin fish
hard to capture mandarin fish

After a full day, we had a very nice dinner at a local restaurant:





2019/11/07 Palau
π 2019-11-07 01:01 in Trips

This was not our first time in Micronesia, we had been to [Truk Lagoon|perso/diving/post_2018-12-01_Diving-Truk-Lagoon-with-Truk-Odyssey.html] before, but first time in Palau, which is another world top diving destination. In the process we got to learn about the country too, which used to belong to Germany, then Japan (peacefully), and less peacefully during WWII.
The US liberated the country in a bloody battle at Peleliu, and eventually Palau opted for independence from the US and became a young republic 25 years ago. There are lots of signs left that this used to be a US territory, including the use of the dollar, gallons, NOAA weather station, and more.

On our first day, we did a kayak/snorkel tour to Nikko Bay with Sam's Tour



the tour did include visiting a japanese outpost
the tour did include visiting a japanese outpost

On our 2nd day, we boarded the Palau Siren for an 11 day diving tour of Palau. During that time on the Palau Siren, we had a half day Peleliu tour, which recounted the history of the US landing to liberate the Island from the japanese.
Unfortunately, the Japanese were well equipped and fought to the last one, infliciting significant losses to the US. Taking the place over too 74 days instead of the planned 4 days. The island has left over Japanese buildings, tanks, and amphibious vehicles for the beach landing:


found a nice hermit crab on the beach
found a nice hermit crab on the beach

also, plenty of small ones
also, plenty of small ones

runway that the americans wanted to capture
runway that the americans wanted to capture



lots of crickets in the caves
lots of crickets in the caves









thousand man cave was last on our tour
thousand man cave was last on our tour

they drunk lots of beer
they drunk lots of beer

lots of bats live in there, now
lots of bats live in there, now


one of the caves' exits
one of the caves' exits

After our time on the Siren was over, we had one more day in Palau before flying out, so we took Sam's Palau Cultural day tour of Palau. We learned more about how Palau became a county with many states within it, and a bit about how it's ruled.
We saw the nice Nikko hotel before leaving for the day:




We then arrived to a cultural house where state leaders gather to conduct business




Next, was a hike to a waterfall:



the japanese built a train to shuttle out the boxite they were mining
the japanese built a train to shuttle out the boxite they were mining




and eventually we arrived
and eventually we arrived


jennifer found a small snake on the way back
jennifer found a small snake on the way back


On the north side of the island, they have some monoliths that are around 2000 years old:


they also had yummy young coconuts
they also had yummy young coconuts


Last stop wsa the new congress that had just been built, partially financed by Taiwan and the EC. It looked like a mini Washington DC and was very pretty:







Even though Palau is not that big, each state within it, has its own license plate and while they drive on the right as per US influence, most of the cars also have a steering wheel on the right (wrong side) because they are second hand from Japan:



And that was it for Palau, it was then time to go to the airport and fly home

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2019/11/06 A Few Hours in New Taipei to see Bitan and the HTC/Google Buildings
π 2019-11-06 01:01 in Trips

We had a 7H layover in Taipei on our way to Palau, so I figured it would be more fun to spend a few hours in Taipei than just burn all that time in some lounge. Because we landed very early, we first headed to Bitan in New Taipei and its suspension bridge, an area that Jennifer went to with her parents when she was a kid.

China Airlines business was nice, but hard to get with miles (sadly we were not able to get it in the other direction):



After landing in Taipei, we took an uber to new Taipei City bright and early, but the small shopping street by Bitan suspension bridge, was already open for business.:






enterprising people were swimming in the river in lieu of jogging
enterprising people were swimming in the river in lieu of jogging






small colorfull temple nearby
small colorfull temple nearby

a bit more time in the local market
a bit more time in the local market

views from the nearby HTC building
views from the nearby HTC building

By 08:00, we wre able to go to the HTC buildings nearby and tour a few before it wsa time to go back to the airport.



2019/11/01 Ferry Corsten at Pure Nightclub
π 2019-11-01 01:01 in Clubbing
After seeing Ferry Corsten just 2 weeks prior at ADE's This is Trance, and Prague's Transmission just before that, we got lucky enough to have in the Bay Area:

















Ferry was super nice as usual, and took pictures with his fans, luckily, after 5 tries around the world, I was one of the lucky winners this time :)


Video Summary:

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2019/10/30 Googleween 2019
π 2019-10-30 01:01 in Google, Halloween
Like recent years, Googleween now includes a full metal detector and prohibition of any costume items that look like weapons, including lightsabers and plastic swords. That's a bit over reacting in my opinion, but oh well. My costume of course thoroughly failed the metal detector, but looked at the guy with "what are we doing here, I work here", and he said "you probably don't have IEDs" and he let me in.



Once in, the decors and attactions were well done. They also did a reasonable job of handling the crowd loads so that you didn't have to stay in line for too long:


curling
curling











They had a haunted house which wasn't very big, but was well done and had good actors:








Then was time for the costume contest:









I didn't compete as my light outfit didn't look like much in the sun, so we went back to see the animations and games:

you could actually make wine
you could actually make wine


great costume
great costume

sun was finally setting, giving my outfit a better chance to shine :)
sun was finally setting, giving my outfit a better chance to shine :)








As I put this page together, I realized that Jennifer and I didn't get a good picture together with my outfit in the dark, small oversight which we will hopefully fix next time.

By 19:00, the event was over and we were nicely escorted off the premisses :)

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2019/10/26 Another Halloween at Regis'
π 2019-10-26 01:01 in Halloween
Regis had another nice costume party with a new mystery to solve. This time Jennifer and I mostly solved it, outside of one detail:










Thanks for the evening, good food and fun costumes.

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2019/10/20 ADE 2019 Day #5: Trance Orient Express
π 2019-10-20 01:01 in Clubbing
For the last might of ADE, the parties were more limited given that most people went to work on monday morning. In the ADE schedule, I found Trance Orient Express, which was supposed to be psytrance, so it seemed interesting. I didn't really love the fact that it was far out of town 50mn bike ride at night, so I went or a 25mn cab instead.
I ended up near an abandonned church, I had to walk the rest of the way as cars were not allowed to proceed to the end:


a church turned night club, that was a new one for me...
a church turned night club, that was a new one for me...


dB meter to make sure it doesn't bother the neighbours too much :)
dB meter to make sure it doesn't bother the neighbours too much :)





I was there at 22:00 when the event started, but unfortunately it was very uninspiring minimal techno for hours that eventually turned into something that was slightly better, but nowhere close to what I'd call psytrance. I'm not sure if it got better eventually, but I bailed around 02:30 and went to bed to get a few hours of sleep before my flight back to SFO.
In highsight, that night was totally skippable but oh well, given how good all the other nights were, that wasn't the end of the world.

2019/10/19 ADE 2019 Day #4: Luminosity's This Is Trance at Panama, Amsterdam
π 2019-10-19 01:01 in Clubbing
Just 2 days after Shine with John OO Flemming, Alex M.O.R.P.H., Paul Van Dyk, it was time to go back to Panama. The afternoon did have a boat party with Aly & Fila, but by Day #4 of crazy partying, I just didn't have the energy to go, and rested during the afternoon.

This is Trance was expected to be the big party of the week, I was definitely looking forward to it, and it was a great lineup:

  • Dimension
  • Andy Moor
  • Giuseppe Ottaviani
  • Aly & Fila
  • Ferry Corsten
  • John O'Callaghan
  • Bryan Kearney
  • Video summary:

    I arrived early when the room was virtually empty, and Dimension warmed things up:



    the room filled up quickly
    the room filled up quickly

    Andy Moor was next:



    By then, the room was banging, and Giuseppe Ottaviani took over, with a live 2.0 show:




    After a banging set, Aly & Fila took over:






    Then, was time for Ferry Corsten:






    Panama had nice dancers with laser, that was pretty cool:





    From there John O'Callaghan took over:







    Bryan Kearney took over from there, however he wasn't my favourite, too hard for my taste:





    But Panama had a second room, where other DJs were playing good trance too, so I hoped back and forth between the two rooms:




    And by almost 06:00, it was mostly over and time to go to bed for some sleep :)


    2019/10/18 Louwman Car Museum in The Hague
    π 2019-10-18 01:01 in Cars
    Little did I know that 1H away from Amsterdam, The Hague has a world class car Museum, actually one of the best collections I've seen. I spent a few hours in Den Hagg to see other things, but Louwman Car Museum was where I spent the most time.

    The story is that a successful Dutch businessman started collecting cars, and eventually realized that he needed a better place to house them, so he built this extensive multiple building, multiple story museum to house them all. The collection is heavily weighed towards older rare cars:


    very old steam powered car
    very old steam powered car

    face to face sitting car, using candles for lights
    face to face sitting car, using candles for lights



    another very strange design, makes you wonder why it didn't catch on :)
    another very strange design, makes you wonder why it didn't catch on :)


    the controls look 'interesting'
    the controls look 'interesting'

    unusual steering control
    unusual steering control


    boat car, which apparently was a poor boat and a poor car
    boat car, which apparently was a poor boat and a poor car

    not a boat car, but pretending to be one
    not a boat car, but pretending to be one


    another steam car
    another steam car

    the first hybrid gas/electric car, some 90 years before the prius!
    the first hybrid gas/electric car, some 90 years before the prius!



    looks like every crazy thing has been tried
    looks like every crazy thing has been tried










    6 wheel drive formula 1!
    6 wheel drive formula 1!




    whoa!
    whoa!














    And after 4H, the visit was over, just as the museum was closing. It was definitely a museum that was one of a kind.

    See more images for Louwman Car Museum in The Hague

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