Monday 31 October 2011

Playing with some photos

I was messing about with the raw conversion program I use last night (Bibble 5) and found some features that are quite helpful.

The most useful thing I found was Layers. I've seen the toolbar there but never used it until now. It lets you select an area of an image and apply different setting to that area. Really useful for setting a different exposure on a sky for example:
I selected the sky area and adjusted the exposure down, leaving the rest of the picture how I had it before.
Here's the original for comparison:
No detail in the sky...
I also found a wavelet sharpening plugin that's far better than the built in sharpening, and it also does USM too, no need for gimp!

The RAW noise removal makes things better too:
From Ko Lanta. Still noisy, but better.

And one taken last night:
The lines are the prayer lanterns being set off from Ao Nang.
Now this means I have to go back through all the photos I've taken to see if I can recover any other images, at least I have time :)

Sunday 30 October 2011

Patong stories!

Well after yesterdays win with the hotel, the food I ate caused a fail. I went back to the brewery because it was close and I figured I could have a beer with some decent food and pay extra for the privilege. I got a seafood pasta thing just because, and it tasted good. But couple of hours after I ate I got reflux, just enough that if I had a drink or something else to eat it would go away, but then it got a lot worse. I was awake most of the night not able to lie down or lean back while sitting while my stomach was in extreme acidy pain. That is the worst I've ever had it. I took an extra nexium when it started to get bad but they take a while to work, so I had to do an emergency shops run at 4am to get some gaviscon as well. Then 3 hours later it's still getting worse, so I repeated nexium and gaviscon process. And it still got worse! So all I could do was wait it out. I couldn't eat anything again until late afternoon today.

Yesterday when I arrived in town I found a bike shop that services bigger bikes and I dropped in to ask if they could fix my front wheel. The rim has been warped or bent from shipping, not extremely bad, but it's just annoying to ride with. They said to come back again today at 10am to see if they can do it, but they were busy today and couldn't. They recommended a place on my way south that might be able to help though. If that fails I'll just wait until I get to Bangkok (or KL, if Bangkok has washed away).

So since I was on my bike in all my gear, I headed to the southern part of Phuket which I didn't get to last time.

This was the view from Kata view point.
This was only with the small camera, I didn't think to bring the SLR with me.

After the lookout you start heading back down and you go through a village that has lots of elephants! Unfortunately I didn't take any photos. They were washing a big one with a broom, and there were 4-5 others with saddles on (a howda? according to my googling), and a couple of baby ones playing too! Should have stopped for photos...

Not quite the southern tip of Phuket
I tried to get to the big budda on the hill but I missed the turnoff somewhere, I didn't know it was there until I saw it from the lookout. Given my stomachs state I figure it was best to go back to the hotel rather than back tracking to the budda which I may not find.

Tomorrow it's back towards Ao Nang, but at the next beach north this time. Found a place for 350b/night!

Then I have to figure out what to do about Bangkok. I was told I can get round it on the roads, but it's likely that a lot of the accommodation surrounding it will be booked up with people escaping. An option is to stay in Malaysia for a bit longer than just a visa run to wait out the floods rather than wasting my 30 day limit here again. The German rider I met back in Australia has decided to skip the rest of SE Asia and ship his bike from KL. Something I might have to do as well depending on how busy air freighters are after the floods. And with the recent grounding of an airline that's one less option for carriers, the others could be busier because of this now.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Back in Patong again

I'm back in Phuket again! I realised what a welcome break Khao Lak was from Patong once I got back here :)

Here's a few photos from Sunset at Khao Lak yesterday:
Your new background. You're welcome.

Smoothery watery time.

Sun is just about to disappear here!

Storm to the south.
On Phuket I detoured as much as I could from the main highway through the middle as I'd ridden it twice already, but my GPS kept directing back onto it. I did end up in some odd places however! Like a dirt road on the north side of the airport where I watched some planes take off. I didn't take any photos though because there were guards at the end of the road in a military looking uniform and I couldn't remember what the photography laws are here. I think military things are off limits, but I'm not sure if Phuket Airport would be classed as that. Australia is simple, from public land you can take photos of what you like, private land and public thoroughfares on private property are different however.

Hat Mai Khao
This is in front of one of the very expensive resorts on the island. There were security guards EVERYWHERE along the road next to it. I guess they get problems? Or is it just to create a sense of security? It was here, maybe it's the Marriot and the label on google maps is misplaced. Also looking at the map I didn't realise the runway spans almost the entire width of the island, this is where I got to.

The next exciting adventure of the day was my hotel booking! I booked into the cheapest-bestreviewed place on agoda for 450b/night (more than last time, still cheap for phuket) at a place about 30minutes walk from the main shopping and bar areas. When I get there however the lady at reception was saying there as a problem with my room, It was a new hotel so I was expecting something like, "we only have one room left, and it's not completely finished", I wouldn't care, it's cheap still! But she asked me to wait for the owner to turn up so I started unpacking everything from my bike while waiting.

When the owner arrived he had a long discussion with the receptionist and then told me that my room had a problem and that he would have to take me to a sister hotel to find a room. It was a lot closer to the busy area and that he would cover the difference in price. I thought that was fine! less walking for me! So I get in his car and, and on the way out of the street his hotel is on he says "how about these places? you want to check the room here?", but no, he offered the hotel near the middle of town first and now I want that one!  He takes me to the hotel he intended, but they had just filled up after he dropped off the last person there. So then he thinks, and heads even closer to the middle of town to another hotel. We go in and they have filled up, but they say to try across the road. So we go over to the PJ Mansion and they have some free rooms. We were shown a room, I say it's good, but then there's a discussion and we go to another room. It's a little smaller than the last one but it's fine for me so I say it's good too! I find out that he paid 800b/night for the room for me! Excellent! 350b/night upgrade!

We drove back to his hotel and I packed up my stuff. While I was there he showed me what the problem was. It was a leaking water system from the 4th floor which dripped into the rooms below. Nothing a bucket wouldn't solve...

Friday 28 October 2011

Khao Lak Photos

Sunset last night and playing around with filters this morning.
Rocks, blown out sky.

Someone standing very still for 4 seconds...
Wavy colourful rocks!

Light beacon.


More Sunset!

Waves! Full sunlight with NDX filter

More NDX, I think there was some cloud covering the direct sunlight here,  I couldn't get the colours to come out.

Beachy day.

NDX + CPL filter.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Phuket and Khao Lak

Patong, Phuket

Patong was... Different. I thought Ao Nang was built up so I was expecting Patong to be on the Georgetown scale of things. It's no so bad however, it's still under heavy development though, so this could change quickly. The road near Central Festival was like riding through Fountain Gate, a very odd sight for SE Asia.

Here are some "highlights" for my ride into phuket:

It's not that any of that kind of traffic behavior is unique to Phuket, it's just I had the camera on and the traffic nonsense seemed to be more frequent there. Everything in the video occurred within half an hour of riding. Generally the traffic is a lot better than Malaysia though.

Thrown in to this mix is the thousands of tourists getting around on scooters, most unhelmeted, I'd say a good majority are unlicensed too. Then there are the odd few on R6's or Harleys. I don't know about anyone else, but even though it's stupidly hot in all my gear I can't get on the bike without it. I saw a news story about the fatalities in Malaysia while I was there, I don't have the link but it was some ridiculous number like 1000 in the period they were reporting on (2 months?). That seems to line up with the 2009 figures of 6745 deaths. The point of the news story though was that trucks were collecting bikes that were stopped on the side of the road. I'm sure Thailand wouldn't be far off, my quick calculation from that wiki page sets it at about 12000 a year (more people in Thailand however).

Anyway. Patong is ok. Of course it caters to all the tourists, who are mostly sad looking Russians, drunk Australians and drunk New Zealanders. The drunk Australians were the worst, I witnessed one trying to start a fight in Jungceylon because someone said something he didn't like. I guess that's how Australians talk to people, I've been away for a while and I can't remember anymore. It's very easy to find western style food and it's a lot cheaper than Australia of course, and alcohol is much cheaper too. But everything is still inflated over other parts of Thailand, I think I kept it to 1200b a day. If you had a 2000b a day ($60AUish) budget you could eat/do/see/buy anything though.

There are touts EVERYWHERE. Taxi? Suit? Massage? One massage lady even latched onto my arm and told me that she loved me while I was just walking past (I have that effect). The touts don't work for me, if the shop has something I might want I'll just walk past if it has a tout because I hate it. I'm not sure how it works either. I see you have a taxi and if I need it I know I can ask you to take me somewhere, but for some reason preempting that is a good sales tactic.

I had a cold for the entire time I was there so I didn't feel like drinking much, plus it was too expensive for my budget. Didn't end up doing that much at all really.

This is the next beach north of Patong. It's a lot more quiet.

A photo off the side of the road. It's only here because there was some weird dream-ja vu about it.
Then it was time to leave this wretched hive of scum and villainy. I had nowhere booked and I had  planned to head around towards Ao Nang again and try stay in a national park on the coast. On my way out of Phuket I could see the rain in the distance, so I stopped for a bit to adjust my chain, then had some awesome crab fried rice right on the beach.

These are the beach huts! (this is past the airport, where the road splits into two between the customs shed and the bridge).

The view, with the rain in the distance.
My crab fried rice!
After I was satisfied the rain was gone I left the island, and because I could see rain coming in from the east where I wanted to head, I headed north instead. There was a town called Khao Lak that should have somewhere decent to stay. The lonely planet guide mentioned some bungalows that were just outside of the town that I decided to check out. They were down a dirt road off the main highway.

It was so quiet and had little tiny eyes. I stayed to watch the elephant get a drink for a bit, then I went to see if this road went all the way to the beach.

And this is the beach!
While I was there I searched for the bungalows on my phone and found a number of negative reviews and a price of 900b/night. I thought it wasn't worth the risk so then went on to Khao Lak where I eventually found a fan only room 200m from the beach for 400b/night.

Khao Lak

This is a big dive tour town. Apparently most places shut down in the off peak season, everywhere looks open now but not very busy. There are lots of swiss and germans here too. And of course every 3rd shop is a tailors or massage. The touts here are a bit more obvious too. When you walk up the road on the opposite side to the shops they will spot you and cross over then wait. One of them even got into a big long conversation with me to try and get me to buy a suit, I didn't care, I was wasting his time, I'm never buying a suit! I told him I started travelling because I didn't like working, and then he tells me that he doesn't like what he does but does it anyway. He's a tailor in a town with 50 other tailors, I can walk 10 meters either side of his shop and go to a different tailor... The term "market saturation" hasn't quite caught on here. If he doesn't like it he should go something he likes, at least open a different business so people have a reason to visit. There must be some point in the year when EVERY tailor is busy here, otherwise why would there be so many?

Rant mode off.

And now, some beachy sunset photos:

Now it's off to the beach to get some more sunset photos!

Sunday 23 October 2011

Ao Nang and Patong!

Ao Nang

I still wanted that sunrise photo of the cliffs after my first failed attempt. So I got up at 5am the next day and headed down to the beach, a little earlier to give the camera time to defog itself this time. The clouds were a little better this time but still blocking the sun on the horizon. The lens was all clear, so then I try to take a photo and get a flashing message on the camera: "No CF".... I'd left the memory card back at the hotel...

Oh well, failed attempt number two. 

I did get some sunset photos that night though:

I wasn't getting up early the next morning because I had to pack. However when I did get up it was a much nicer clear day than the other days there. It would have been perfect for a sunrise photo. I did get these though:

Dumb non-sunrise photo of cliffs.

After visiting Arthits Coffee for breakfast again I packed up all my things and headed to Phuket.


The colour of the water here is different, you can see it as soon as you cross the bridge into the state. It helped that the weather was great yesterday too, just the right amount of clouds for photos.

A fishfarm/boats, next to the bridge into Phuket.
I'm staying in Patong, but a little back from the beach and closer to the residential areas in a cheap hotel. It's only 350b a night ($12AU?) and next door there is construction, but whatever, it's cheap! It's only a 15 minute walk to Jungceylon and Ping Pong shows, the beach is close too.

Patong! Look at that water!
So clear. If tilted slightly to the right...
After I unpacked I went to the brewery I read about here called Full Moon Brew Work. It's in Jungceylon behind the Junk, kinda hidden away so I don't know if it gets too much traffic. But when I was there, there were also some New Zealanders watching the rugby thingamabob. They were very very drunk, and quite loud about some nonsense or something :) Anyway, the beer is 'ok'. nothing special. They brew the darker beer with a black sticky rice, but it just tasted wrong. And at 170b a pint (cheaper than Australia, more than my budget) I'm not sure I'd go back there.

I went down to the beach for sunset, it is crowded down there.

People, cars, boats, jetskis everywhere.
This isn't even the peak season either, not sure what it would be like then. 

Then since it was after 6 and Soi Bangla was closed to traffic I had a quick look up there. This is the street with all the bars, ping pong shows and ladyboys. It was still early there, but the bars on the main street seemed to be full of drunk Australians, I didn't look down the side streets, my main concern was food (and trying to find a <300b meal). There are most definitely ladyboys there, you can tell because they just look like males in a dress. I guess there were many more that blended in better however!

I came back to the hotel because I was still extreme tired from lack of sleep from stupid failed sunrises. Maybe I'll go have a better look tonight.

Friday 21 October 2011

Ao Nang

I'm in Ao Nang now! The trip here was quite uneventful, except for the ferry.
I got on first this time! But we had to wait about 20 minutes for it to fill up.
A left over photo from Kantian Bay.

The temperature is noticeably cooler now too. It means I can stand around in my full gear and not die. Hopefully from here it stays that way.

I've been booking places via Agoda while I'm here. It seems to offer the best deals, but sometimes when you get to the hotel you find out that the special price was the rate they offer when you front up anyway. That happened quite often in Malaysia. It's mostly a good tool for the bigger cities where finding a place with parking is a problem, and the endless taking off of gloves/helmet/glasses to go and ask is annoying. I used Hostelworld a couple of times too but they only offer a single person rates on the site, when you select a double or twin room (when they don't offer a single) you have to pay for two people which often ends up costing more than fancy hotels on Agoda.

Anyway, why I get into this, is because in Thailand it's the off peak season until the 31st of October. The rates in most places are less than half of their peak season rates normallay, but Agoda offers discounts on that. I'm staying at Ao Nang Green Park Bungalows near the business end of Ao Nang for 740b a night (roughtly $22AUish), but the normal rate in the off peak season is triple that. Once the peak season hits I'll be looking at the cheaper scale, but right now I'll use it to stay in places I'd overlook otherwise. This does lead to slight overspending however, but I guess that's exactly what Agoda wants by allowing easy access to discounts :)

Half of the bungalow, with lovely pink sheets. That sold it for me.

The other half! Fridge and TV in there too, with A/C, and location!
Now to Ao Nang. Ko Lanta was a bit of shock to see after spending time away from touristy hot spots, Malaysia just didn't seem to have that touristy feel. But Ao Nang is something else. It's a small place, but everywhere is geared for tourists. So again there are touts on the street are constantly asking if I want a taxi, tuk tuk, a suit, a massage. No "you want girl?" like in Kuala Lumpur though, I guess that's what Phuket is for. And then it could be a boy, I guess (or both).

Sunset at Ao Nang last night.
I was a bit disappointed with the Sunset here, so I got up at 5:30 to try get a photo of the sunrise over the cliffs near Rai ley (or some other variation of spelling). There were no nice red sun colours, but everything was quite calm, would have made for some great photos... However, when I rushed down there I for I had my camera in the bag in the air conditioning, as soon as I took it out the lens and sensor fogged up, so I sat there watching it get lighter and lighter while waiting for the lens to defog itself but that took close to half an hour.

These ladies are there for most of that day that I could tell. They go sifting through all the shells on the beach looking for  the nicer examples. No idea what they do with them afterwards. Of course, this only leaves all the broken crappy shells on the beach.

The view at about 6:30am.
I think I'll get up and try again tomorrow. I want that photo, somehow! Since it was early and hardly anyone was about to sell me anything I had a quick tour around.

Tsunami evacuation signs everywhere here. This part of the coast was hit in the 2006 2004 Tsunami. 

The main street of Ao Nang. Reminds me of the Cairns Esplanade

I was here, at walking street... ?

MR HOT DOG! I'll be disappointed if it's not real dog.

After that I came back to the bungalow and attempted sleep, which failed. I went back out again later to get some breakfast, after researching the best place in Ao Nang. I searched for this place everywhere, but couldn't find it. Three kilometres later I just ended up going somewhere near where I'm staying, and it was excellent. I may have hit peak bacon. I did take some photos out on my search though.

Long boats waiting for passengers.

But they get none, the speedboats are quicker. This was at 9am when all the tour groups leave.

Aw man, my bike is not nine headlights cool :(

After a successful breakfast, again, attempt sleep, which failed due to coffee intake I'm sure. Anyway. Early afternoon I head out for lunch. I'd researched some cheaper places because I'd been paying anywhere between 150-300b each time I ate ($5-10AU) and I realised I'd never pay that in Malaysia. I think the most I ever payed in there was about $6AU. Thailand has learnt it's a tourist destination and charges as much (everywhere too, not just Ao Nang or Ko Lanta). I managed to find some excellent Pad Thai in a fly covered stall for 40b, that's more like it! On my way back to the Bungalow the rain hit... I could see the black clouds coming, but I ducked into 7-11 on the way back, that threw out my timing enough that I was hit with this at the corner near the bungalow:

About 5 minutes into the rain...
Heavy rain! Finally! Big hurting rain! That big heavy Asian rain that everyone talks about. The lightning was hitting the big limestone cliffs around the town. It was awesome and loud! The cliffs here give the thunder a different sound too. It wasn't a rumble, it was a bang and then repeated bangs. More awesome!

Now it's time for more food...