kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
I didn't make a post about my 2014 shows
So i'm starting one
(plus this helps me with taxes and refunds n stuff).

April 18         -  Motorhead                                  -     The Warfield
April 25         -  Johnny Hallyday                         -     The Regency
May 31          -  Toby Keith                                  -     Shoreline
June 14         -  Jake Shimabukuro                      -     Mountain Winery
June 15         -  Lady Antebellum                        -     Shoreline
June 21         -  Vans Warped Tour                     -     Shoreline
June 26         -  Managing Behavioral Emgcy       -     Bill Graham
June 27-29    -  Camp Challenge                        -     Mission Springs, Scotts Valley
July  04         -  SF Symphony                             -     Shoreline
July  06         -  Mayhem Festival                         -     Shoreline
July  07         -  49er Training Day                        -     Levi's
July  11         -  New Order                                   -     Bill Graham
July  13         -  Happy Together Tour                   -     Mountain Winery
July  23         -  Motley Crue                                 -     Shoreline
July  26         -  Journey/Steve Miller                    -     Shoreline
July  27         -  Santana                                       -     Shoreline
Aug  01         -  Beach Boys                                   -     Mountain Winery
Aug  02         -  Earthquakes v. Sounders              -     Levi's
Aug  12         -  ZZ top                                          -     Mountain Winery
Aug  14         - Paul McCartney                              -     Candlestick Park
Aug  24         -  9 inch nails/soundgarden             -     Shoreline
Sept 12         -  Weezer                                         -     Vina Robles
Sept 13         -  Jennifer Nettles                            -     Vina Robles
Oct  02          -  Weezer                                         -     San Jose State
Oct  25          -  Bridge School                               -     Shoreline
Oct  26          -  Bridge School                               -     Shoreline
Nov 12          -  Slayer                                           -     Fox Theater
Dec 03          -  Fleetwood Mac                             -     Oracle

kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
Updated the post with the most recent concerts worked.
Also went to Motorhead at the Warfield as a guest but RockMed no longer does stuff there.
Also went to see Scorpions at the SAP center (again as a guest!)
It was fun but not as fun as AC/DC!

Not as many shows at the start of this year - been busy with other things.
But getting back into it :-D

#rockmed #shorelineamphitheatre

May 09 - Shoreline Prep day
May 16 - Tony Bennett                 Paso Robles
May 20 - Lana Del Rey                Shoreline
May 22 - Train                              Shoreline
May 23 - Bryan Adams                Shoreline
May 29 - Toby Keith                     Shoreline
June 06 - BFD                             Shoreline
June 20 - Vans Warped Tour       Shoreline
June 28 - Mayhem Festival         Shoreline
July 16 - Van Halen                     Shoreline
July 17 - CCR-Revisited             Mountain Winery
July 19 - Art of Rap-IceT            Shoreline
July 25 - ManU vs Barca            Levi's
July 27  49ers                             Levi's
July 30 - Chemical Bros             The Armory
Aug 08 - Juanes                         Mountain Winery
Aug 21 - Dierks Bentley             Shoreline
Aug 30 - Kid Rock/Foreigner     Shoreline
Sept 02 - Kacey Musgraves      Montalvo Arts
Sept 03 - 49ers vs Chargers     Levi's
Sept 09 - Social Distortion        Fox Oakland
Sept 14 - 49ers vs Vikings        Levi's
Sept 25 - AC/DC                       AT&T
Sept 26 - Graces Jones            Fox Oakland
Oct 02 - Duran Duran               Greek Berkeley
Oct 13 - Janet Jackson            Bill Graham
Oct 23 - Marilyn Manson         Paso Robles
Oct 25 - Bridge School            Shorelnie
Oct 30 - KORN                        Fox Theater Oakland
Dec 15 - Muse                         Oracle
Dec 27/28 - Dead & CO          Bill Graham

32 events

#rockmed #tonybennett last time was here was in September
#rockmed #tonybennett last time  was here was in September '14. Great venue, awesome staff!

lana del rey
Ready for another #shorelineamphitheatre season for #rockmed

#bryan adams
Back at it! #rockmed #bryanadamsMy new folding clipboard arrived! #rockmed #emt

Toby Keith

My world today! #rockmed #BFD

My world today!  #rockmed

#drsmith2015 #dominiondiagnostics #rockmed

#drsmith2015 #dominiondiagnostics #rockmed#rockmed #dominiondiagnostics

Back in my world... Annex #rockmed #slayer #mayhemfestival

Back in my world... Annex #rockmed
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
Still alive and doing stuff.
Mostly work.
Need to update the last Rockmed post I made with the shows I've worked.
Also need to blog about my trip to Belize! oops!

At least I've been keeping my moblog current!
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
Neat stuff!

This weekend I will be sitting on my ass watching this over 2 days:
The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers on Saturday,
and the Return of the King on Sunday.

This is one of the many rehearsal videos that the silicon valley symphony has posted.
check out their youtube channel for more!

And a dress rehearsal video too!
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
So sleeping in the ice hotel wasn't really a challenge - I was pretty tired after the long day of flying and traveling and trying to stay awake. I passed out all too quickly. However I did wake up in the middle of the night and instead of tossing and turning I immediately got out of my sleeping bag, threw on the borrowed ice-hotel boots, and walked to the bathroom.
The air inside was brisk - as was my walk. I had on my base-layer bottoms and top, and my mid-layer fleece top during the night. When I got to the locker rooms, I ran into a group of people having a party. Apparently they were drinking in the locker room as well as the men's shower room. I was on a mission so I didn't really stick around. I did grab my phone before heading back to the ice-room. (Ah, it was about 01h30).

I got back to the room and crawled into the sleeping bag. For me, the difficult part in trying to get back to sleep was the fact that I just felt so tangled up. You sleep in a sheet - like a giant pillow case. This is the liner. It doesn't feel chilly like the inner, synthetic part of the sleeping bag, however it made me feel very restricted. I didn't want to get rid of my warming layers nor sleep while touching the inner cooler sleeping bag layer.
When you've got the sleeping bag all zipped up it's highly insulating. There's a small hole where you can let air in but you've got to find the right balance. Too much air = a chilly face, too little air = so much stuffy heat.

I dozed off for a couple more hours. I thought about sleeping some more and getting the full experience of the hot-ligonberry-juice-delivery-man wake up call. But that was still a couple of hours off so I gave up on trying to sleep more and went back to the lounge. Oh and before doing so I snapped some photos (and also woke Richard up with the camera flash). When the camera flash went off, I figured out why our room was called, "Forest Fairy" :-D

I spent the next couple of hours enjoying the quiet in the lounge with hot chocolate from the vending machine. I got to catch up on posting photos and just chilling out. It was pretty nice. Eventually I got hungry so I got Richard to hurry up so we could hit the breakfast buffet. I was very happy with it because it has lactose free berry yoghurt. However I must say that so far, the buffet at the Anantara Mui Ne resort in Vietnam is the one I miss the most.

After breakfast we got ready for our first planned excursion: dog sledding :-D
The things I learned:
Sit near the back.
If there are only 2 of you, your view isn't obscured and you're not going to miss anything.
If there is a larger group, do not sit in the front.
The dogs run pretty fast.
When they run they kick up little bits of ice that you can see land on the seat.
The dogs do not stop for bathroom breaks. They take poops while running.
When they run they fling up little bits of poo.
Sit in the back.

After our sledding excursion we headed back to the IceHotel to watch the big ice extraction machines do their work for a bit. It was pretty cool.

There was some construction also happening which I just learned today was for some big Ice Run. "Toughest Ice" You can see part of the hotel locations no longer intact. :-D

There's a new video up but it's on facebook and I can't seem to embed the thing.
So this is the video from last year:

We then headed into the church. It was so pretty. I couldn't believe I'd tell people, "Skip the bar, get into the church!" I really loved the fern design. Each "leaf" was an individual tube of ice.

We then headed to our new warm room to take a little nap before the evening's snowmobile northern lights hunt!
More later!
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
The journey getting there was a little on the long side but very nice!
I was on Virgin for the first leg (SFO-ORD) which is always a joy, and then SAS the rest of the way (ORD-ARN-KRN). And surprise, Richard and I were in Plus which means we had lounge access and were able to breeze through security check lines (in SE airports - not US ones though). I would fly SAS again readily.

I met up with Richard in Chicago. Since I knew we'd have a little bit of time I suggested eating at Tortas Frontera. I'm so happy I did. It was great! There are a couple at ORD - the preferred one has the actual restaurant seating in the international terminal.

We then boarded an 8 hour flight to Stockholm, after that we continued onward to Kiruna for a couple more hours!

It took some time for us to get to the hotel after landing in Kiruna. While we waited for the shuttle to pick us up, I fell asleep. Finally Richard called them and they sent a taxi. It took a few hours AND they forgot us! UGH. Anyway, it was a short ride over to Jukkasjärvi.

We walked over to the cold-room check in area and set our bags down so we could check out the available art suites. We had an art suite booked but if you don't know what you want in advance you'll get one picked for you. When you arrive you can change and pick one of the available ones.
There are a few "tiers" of ice rooms you can sleep in. There's a basic ice room, there's a northern lights room (which features a colorful light display you can shut off at night), and then there are the art suites. There are also 2 luxury suites that require a card key to access.
During the day, the hotel is open for visitors. It's in a separate building and when you enter, there's a main hallway with corridors on either side. Down each corridor are doorways with a bit of fabric functioning as a "door". Until 18h00 you can enter any of the rooms freely to take photos and wander about.
So we went through to select our room - we chose 317 (my bday!) - and then moved our bags into our warm-storage area. For those staying in the ice rooms, you get to share a locker room changing area with most of the guests. If you get an art-suite, you get a large closet space with a mirror and seating to store your items. There are separate shower/sauna rooms for wo/men as well stocked with towels and soap/shampoo. Really, it's very nice.

So we went and visit the IceBar for a quick drink. I actually didn't have one. The colours scared me. It was pretty sad. Considering the hotel is celebrating it's 25th year, we felt that the IceBar should've had something with a little bit more oomph. And when I tell people to visit the church, and don't bother with the bar, you know something is wrong! I didn't really take any photos of the bar because I didn't think it warranted photos. The church you'll see later! After Richard's drink, we wandered back into the IceHotel to take photos of the first half of the rooms!

By this time we were pretty exhausted. The rooms are just too cold to stay in and as I mentioned above, the public can roam around until 18h00. So we hung out in the warm-room lounge for a bit. It was pretty crowded. We had a light dinner in the main restaurant. I ate foie gras.

We then went to the cold-room lounge which ended up being my favorite place to chill out. There's a machine for coffee and hot chocolate (gotta pay for it but whatever), there's free water, wifi and a fireplace that keeps everything toasty. I actually ended up hanging out in a tank top, flip flops and sweat pants.

2015 march 16 - Jukkasjärvi from KumiM on Vimeo.

I took a shower in the evening. It helped keep me awake for a little bit longer. It also got the stink from the too-many-hours of travel off of me. We exchanged our boots for the free ones given out by the hotel, grabbed the inner liners and arctic sleeping bags (all supplied by the icehotel) and then got ready for bed!
You leave most of your personal belongings in the locker storage area. You don't want anything that you're not actually wearing because it'll get too cold during the night. That's why you use the hotel's items like boots which will be sitting in the cold room, outside of the warmth of the sleeping bag.

OK. This is good enough for now. More later when I get to it.

ALL the photos are at my tumblr moblog
(in reverse order though)
kumimonster: (gilles glassed)
Yes, well life has been happening.
Nothing too thrilling, just work and diving mostly.

And even though I've retired from that previous work that allowed and even facilitated so much travel, luckily, my ability to keep traveling hasn't stopped - although I have cut down a bit.

So this time, I'm headed to Sweden - at the end of this week actually!
I've been to Malmö (while visiting Copenhagen), and on another visit I traveled directly to Stockholm and up to Umeå in northern Sweden. It's still sub-arctic and about 250 miles south of the arctic circle.
This time I'm headed about 100 miles north of the arctic circle to Kiruna and then traveling to Jukkasjärvi - where the Ice Hotel is made every year.

Going with my main travel buddy, Richard.
My flights: SFO>ORD>ARN>KRN
(another new airport for me! Kiruna!)

I've been shopping, which is something I don't like. But I do like some of the new gear I've picked up. The hotel does set you up with gear but I needed my base- and mid-layers. I got a pair of outer layer pants from R, and I got a nice goose down jacket online. R said he really likes his Baffin boots so I got a pair of my own too. My new mid-layer Columbia fleece is teal and actually matches my boots, though I'll be completely covered in black - but at least I know what I'm wearing underneath!

yup, the smartwool socks don't actually match - that's how they came.

my new Baffin boots. Flare - rated to -50C!

people say they really like this company. I hope they work out for me. And a pair of Wigwam socks too.

This is a couple of recent webcam shots from the ice hotel


I posted about wanting to go to the Ice Hotel in May of 2006 on LJ.
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
I'm so behind in posting.
Things have happened.
But most recently, I finally got a new car.
It's orange. :-D

oh, and i'm on instagram now
kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
Last year I volunteered for the Me-One Foundation and after that experience I was ready to sign up for the following year. I'm not sure if I posted about it in here already but this is the mission statement from their website:
"The Me-One Foundation is a non-profit corporation created to provide adult cancer patients and their families with an environment where they can be allowed to embrace life without cancer as the first and foremost thought of their every waking moment. The Me-One Foundation will provide families with activities and events to promote courage, hope, laughter, and enjoyment through Camp Challenge. Camp Challenge is a no-cost camp for families afflicted by cancer and in need of a place of joy and relaxation that will focus them on living life, and not fighting disease. By providing this haven of hope, we allow families to be victorious, even if temporarily, over cancer, and keeping life’s scoreboard at Cancer-Zero; Me-One."

Normally most of my volunteer work is with RockMed but even though RockMed does provide medical care at the camp (as well as run the tie-dye table!), I decided to work as a family host. Basically a host's job is make sure their family gets to their activities on time and also makes things run as smoothly as possible. If the family wants or needs anything, we take care of it and do all the running around. But then we also get to participate in the activities too!

This is me with the Tweets in 2013 and me with Donald in 2014.

We had a blast! And everyone was pretty excited for camp in 2014. Unfortunately, not everyone can come back. There's limited space for families and Me-One wants to give new families the chance to get away so those that want to return are put on a wait-list. Well, there were some last minute cancellations so Donald Tweet was able to come back again.

He was so thrilled! He spoke a lot about coming back again for 2015 but as a volunteer so his spot would be guaranteed! I was host to a different family last weekend so we didn't get to hang out all that much but we did get to catch up a little bit outside off facebook which was great. Unfortunately, he passed away last nite. It took cancer 4 tries before it was able to beat him.
kumimonster: (steen mason hat)
Sometime in the late 90s I remember seeing a photo of Midori wearing a transparent latex dress with a copper snake appliqué. It was a custom made dress by Molly at So Hip It Hurts. I asked and was told that the name of the photographer was Christine Kessler and got interested in finding more of her work.
(Midori doesn't actually remember the shoot, nor does Molly. Waiting to find out more but as it stands, this is my memory of it all).

I remember wanting to know more about her work because at the time I don't really recall that many female photographers that were shooting fetish/bdsm imagery - at least in the US. I recall Doris Kloster and her images featuring mostly dominant women in leather and corsets. I know I owned her first book with the red-capped and corseted dominatrix on the cover. I also owned  her "Illustrated Story of O". There was also Gary & Pierre Silva but I don't think I shot with them until a few years later. Oh, and Justice Howard was another name I remember though we never worked together. Anyway, as far as fetish photographers in the US, those are the names I can remember that stood out at that time. Yes, I do know there were other women shooting fetish at the time like Doralba Picerno and Emma Delves-Broughton but this was the 90s and they were still too far away for me. (I did end up shooting with Doralba in London eventually).

In any case, the images that I found were not bright and colorful photos featuring young, nubile models with perfectly manicured nails in gorgeous wolfords teetering on the tallest of hells. There were no bodies encased in the latest fetish fashions from the trendiest designers. The first photos that I saw were in black and white. They were gritty and sometimes dirty. I don't recall seeing popping bright colors but instead dark backgrounds. They showed individuals without the added fantasy of glamorous sets and glossy pro make up. And the images featured mostly tattooed and pierced men. Now it's pretty difficult to find any of those online.

Eventually we did work together in Los Angeles and San Francisco... One of our first shoots took place at a play party and I ended up being tied down to a cold glass table while guests sat around and ignored me. I also remember being tied to a cold chair outside near a swimming pool. Instead of latex, I wore leather. I still have a stack of the prints she gave me from this shoot somewhere around here. Yeah. Prints. There are a few images from that evening and others in my Yahoo Group but I'm not sure about the actual shoot date. (Many of the earlier photos posted in there were added to the group 2001 or 2002 but I got lazy and just stamped everything "2002" instead of figuring out the actual year. Oops).

My friend Jen created a website for me. It was mostly an online portfolio of my work. A lot of models had already started to build up their own online homes and it seemed to make sense. Of course I ended up with a paysite as well. And Steen became the webmaster of the 2nd incarnation. We shot often and created quite a bit of content together. I started working with Vex Clothing around this time and we ended up shooting a lot of my new custom outfits too.


She also started PervCity Productions and started taking on more work by adding more websites to the family. At first it seemed nice, but then I realized that it just didn't make sense. I think she just had too many models and websites to focus on. We were shooting less and less - but then my work was taking me to Europe instead of Los Angeles. And when I did travel to LA, I wasn't staying at her place anymore. I think our last shoots took place around 2006/7 and only a small handful of sets came out of them. Some of which I have never seen nor received. I ended up starting a new website. I don't think she was pleased with my choice of new webmaster.

clairekumiduohan23 006 000zt80c

We had already pretty much stopped communicating and so I wasn't around to notice any drastic changes in her temperment or health. I had heard some mention about her online and through reading the online postings of others. I recall a bunch of models becoming very irate and frustrated about their websites being abruptly pulled down. Apparently they had no warning and so they lost access to a lot of content and work.

According to my blog posts (moblog), the last time i saw Steen was in December of 2009. She had a show up in SF at the Center for Sex and Culture and I went with Samar. It was nice to see people I hadn't see in a long time and we were all there to support her. However I didn't get a shot of us together.

I decided to retire around August of 2010. I pretty much moved on from all things fetish but kept in touch quite a few people thanks to social networking websites (I rarely want to see people in real life anyway). Steen was not one of the people with whom I kept in touch.

A couple of years ago I got a phone call. It was a number I did not recognize and not in my phonebook. I picked up and immediately got to listen to a barrage of accusations about me spreading rumors concerning her use of drugs which she denied. I also recall a few "who the hell do you think you are, how dare you talk about me?" and "I'm warning you" type of statements. It took me a while to figure out who it was. Actually I wasn't able to figure it out myself. I had to ask. When she calmed down we spoke for a few more minutes but then the irrational side came back out so I said goodbye and hung up the phone. And then I tried to go back to sleep because it was around 5 am.


I heard it was suicide by means of an OD. I don't know if it was premeditated or accidental. But I'm hearing more and more that it was the former.

A lot of people are posting about sadness and guilt.
I can understand the sadness. A lot of people stayed in touch with her and remained constant friends. Some did not keep in touch but still feel badly. I don't feel sad.
And I certainly carry no guilt.

Suicide can be a selfish act but it's also a way for some people to take control of their own lives. It's selfish of others to demand that someone live with whatever issues they're dealing with. Unless there's some kind of existing relationship or current bond, the deceased not responsible for the feelings that other people may or may not have. Guilt? Why guilt? I'm not quite sure I understand that one. Were they there to facilitate the act or did they actively ignore repeated cries for help?
There are very few people that I allow to have that much power over me. Also, I believe in the right of self-determination (the right to make decisions about one's own life including ending it).

I see posts about people calling it a cry for help which I think is bullshit. The cries would've come before the final act. A lot of people do drugs because they want to drugs. They want to alter their reality for a while. They want to have fun. I think I'll leave that to those who knew her better rather than speculate.

Personally, I feel she does merit a decent blog post/memorial from me - hence this super long post. Something more than a 160-character tweet.
We worked together and we became friends. We created some great images and some not-so-great ones. And then our personal and working relationship ended - albeit not in the best of ways. But I'm glad we were able to be friends for a while, but when it was over that was it.
kumimonster: (dive Plane)


So for day 2 and 3 I went out with the resort team and boat. (Sailing Club Divers)
Day 2 was with my travel buddy Richard. Day 3 I went solo.
Each day we were accompanied by DiveMaster Vu.
Day 2: octopus rock & tri minh treat's
Day 3: south bay & coral garden

(Some of this is kind of a re-hashing of my first post).

Now initially when I inquired about diving, I sent an e-mail directly to the resort. It was not mentioned that they worked with Sailing Club Divers. I found that out later. I'm not sure how I did though.
I sent an e-mail to the resort's general inquiry address and it was then forwarded to the "experience manager" - (both on April 24). I then sent off more questions on April 25th and since I did not get a response, I sent off another e-mail on May 7th. I did get a response to that one (which didn't even answer half of the questions I had on the April 25 e-mail). I wrote back immediately with a couple of more questions however I got no reply whatsoever after that.

Since it was getting close to my departure date, I decided to write another e-mail once again (on May 12). This time I had already done a bit more research (however evidently not enough) and decided to go with another company because I was getting the feeling that my business really wasn't wanted. So when I wrote to the activities manager, I asked about getting a transfer to the mainland because I had decided to go with another company. I got a response on May 12 telling me that in order to get a transfer to the mainland it would require a private boat at a cost of $150 (one way). I don't know why this information wasn't given to me in a previous e-mail when I mentioned going out with another operator. On May 13 I sent an e-mail to the resort thanking them for the information and mentioning trying to work something out with Sailing Club. I got no further response.
(I'm under the impression that the person I was talking to wasn't a Sailing Club employee but worked for the resort so this first part isn't about the dive operator!)

I should also add that it's at this point in time that Kerry from Rainbow Divers stepped in to figure out transport to the mainland for my dive with them. I was determined to dive Electric Nose, however my following dive day with Richard was going to be with Sailing Club.

I also sent an e-mail off to Sailing Club Divers directly on May 9 and included in my message that I was staying at the Six Senses. I much prefer to book my dives well in advance but Dom, the person I was in touch with told me that the resort maintained a dedicated staff just for resort guests so it wasn't necessary. I also asked about 3-tank dives and diving Electric Nose but their boats just don't go out that far and the timing of their dives really doesn't allow for 3-tank days. However he did say that it'd be worked out (the dives, not the site). Since I didn't pack a camera, I asked about that and I was given a price of 550,000 VND. (Oh and 2-tank dives were 4,000,000 VND and the 3-tank pricing I got was 5,000,000 VND).
As far as the communication regarding these dives, Dom seemed open, enthusiastic and actually interested in responding to my questions in regards to dive sites, numbers of dives, gear, and my not-so-experienced dive buddy.

We arrived at the resort on a Sunday. I did my first dive on Monday (with Rainbow). Upon my return back from the mainland I walked over to the activities area and met up with Vu. We spoke about diving and I verbalized what I had previously written in regards to getting into the water. He also explained to me how 3-tanks weren't really feasible but I was kind of insistent on trying so he said they would bring an extra tank. In the end, it didn't happen. (Richard, my travel buddy didn't care really).

I probably should add here that the prices that Vu gave me were not the ones that matched the prices I got from Dom. It's not Vu's fault and I do realize that the resort's prices for diving are going to cost more. The resort isn't exactly your bargain basement set up! It requires a speedboat to bring divers to their main dive boat and there's a slightly greater distance to travel however I did show him the e-mail from Dom. I think someone needs to get their numbers in order. ;-)
The thing that sucks is that higher price would've cut heavily into my tipping money too!

So Richard and I got fitted for our gear and then the next morning we set out to the dock and met up with Vu and the captain with our gear already on board. We met up with the main dive boat over at the Hon Mun Marine park and transferred ourselves over and then got suited up. When we got to the dive site, we tied up to two other dive boats (different operators) and although they also had divers, we didn't really run into them that often.
We both put on 3mm full suits. The water was pretty warm but there were some chilly spots. We didn't go much past 40 feet though. That might've been the max depth actually. It's a great site for new divers with no current or surge to speak of. If I remember correctly the first dive was pretty flat with coral spread out everywhere. On the second dive there was a slightly sloping bottom with outcroppings of coral and sand as you got deeper.  Pretty clear vis and some nice fish to look at. Also a frog fish and sea cucumbers and cute little gobies. I spotted a couple of nudies but otherwise, not much else. Not to say there wasn't anything there, I was just on the hunt for nudies since I saw so many the day before.
Vu told me that the sites we hit on this day were called Octopus Rock and Tri Minh's Treat (both right near each other and north of the island at the west end).
I rented a camera for this day. I suck at taking photos. I need a better camera to make up for my suck status.
Anyway, lots n lots of coral and clams and black longspined urchin everywhere. I love seeing the feather stars too. Personally, I enjoyed being in the water but I was pretty bored at these two sites.
Richard enjoyed the second dive more.
Gorgeous area though.

Since we were from the resort, they had a packed lunch for us which was a very, hearty club sandwich as well as fruit - more than we could eat!

When we got back, we chilled out at the activities center and I ended up booking another dive for the next day. Since Richard was going to do his manly spa treatments, the dives would be costing me a lot more since I had to pay a single supplement fee of 2,000,000 VND (according to the e-mail I got). Not sure how much it really was. I guess I'll find out! I would've loved to have gone out with Rainbow to the Electric Nose site but I didn't think that there was enough time to deal with arranging that. So I decided to go out with Vu again. Oh, and we HAD to go to a different dive site as well. :-D


And so we did! On the next day we hit South Bay and Coral Garden. I enjoyed these dives a lot more. And it's this day that I wished I had an awesome camera (and that if I did, that I was a decent shooter). But I didn't so most of this is from memory. It was a more leisurely dive since we didn't have to worry about my travel buddy floating away. And I got to maximize my air (The day before I'd barely go thru a 1/3 of my tank before having to come up).
Again the speedboat took us over and we tied up to a couple of other boats with new divers going for their open certs. The dives I did however were not hampered in any way by the classes or other divers on the boat which was really nice. Vu and I got to take our time.
So as we cruised along I kept looking for the tiny things as we swam along over the coral. I finally decided to stop and look around and that's when I realized we were surrounded by a mounds of hard and soft coral in a rainbow of colours. It was really gorgeous.

Saw a few nudies - not as much as day 1 - but also saw some giant clams - really nicely sized ones with scutes n all. Gorgeous variety of mantel colors as well.
The sea cucumber we spotted was pretty big as well and trucking along with its tentacles out in front. Never saw one moving/feeding like that before.
There were a few shrimp as well including a rainbow mantis that tucked itself away under some coral. Gorgeous, scary thing! Frog fish, lion fish. And again, more of that long spined black urchin everywhere.

All in all a much better day of diving for me. I'd love to check out that site once more if I ever got to come back.
I hope Vu didn't think I was a pain in the butt!

kumimonster: (dive)
(part 1 here. copy/pasted from scubaboard thread).

So here's another update!
Ended up diving for 3 days in the end. There were some great and good experiences and some hiccups too but in the end it all came through. (However it's not rocket science, it's a holiday and really it shouldn't be that much trouble!)

But before I recount my experiences, I should clarify again, that I am staying at the Six Senses resort. It's not actually near the city and accessing the resort requires a boat. The guests arriving and departing the resort are transported to/from the mainland via speedboat. Other than private hires and booked excursions, guests are pretty much "trapped." (Can one say "trapped" when you're talking about some super fancy luxury resort? I've got a freaking butler assigned to me here!). Anyway, four times a day staff is shuttled back and forth as well but on a wooden boat that takes just over 35 minutes. The dock it stops at is called Pearl Farm and almost 30 minutes' drive north of the city. In my post above, I thought that the Rainbow Divers' boat would be able to pick me up directly from the resort however I learned that no boats are allowed here without prior permission from the resort manager - so it's definitely something that needs to be sorted out in advance.

So to start, my first day of diving was with Rainbow Divers. It was Kerry P. that I communicated with for the majority of the time. It was Kerry that was most pro-active about responding to my e-mails and getting my questions answered. And it was Kerry that finally got an answer out of the resort about my transfer over to the mainland: instead of hiring a private speedboat at $120 (the price quote I received was $150), I would take the am staff boat at 0645 which would get me to the mainland (approx 0715). From there a car would take me to the dive shop and then to the main harbor. Luckily, since I was hiring a speedboat for my dives, I wasn't under the same time constraints as those that were diving via the main boat! Things seemed to be getting later and later as departures got slightly delayed. FYI, this whole time I had Kerry's mobile number in case things didn't go smoothly. (She did call the driver to find out where he was after I waited at the Pearl Farm dock for almost 15 minutes).

I didn't bring any gear besides my mask, computer, warm water gloves, and an SMB. So I used the shop's gear. I also paid for a Rainbow photographer come along (Iain Wood).
My dive companion for this day was Mr. Anh and he was a great buddy and quite skilled at spotting all the little things.
When I asked other companies about this dive site - Electric Nose - most of them didn't go out there and/or said the diving there wasn't that great. They also mentioned that it was not in the Marine Park and that a lot of dynamite fishing occurs there. I found one review online that raved about the dive site with details and explanations and a few one-liners that said that it wasn't worth the trip. My opinion: it was well worth the trip! Also, best to get 3 tanks and make the most out of the journey!

We primarily swam around rock walls that went down to about 45 meters /147 feet (that's what people say). There's no need to go that far down however. Actually, there's not really any need to do much swimming because there's simply a lot of life hanging out in various outcroppings of a single wall. From coral to stars, clams to sponges!  Lots of little and not so little hermit crabs hanging out, and of course the nudies! So many different kinds in more easier to see sizes (about 2-4 inches) to the ones that could comfortably fit on the top of a pencil. And in such a variety of colours! Saw a few flatworms too. If you're looking for big fish, there are some here but they're not *that* abundant (We did spot a barracuda swimming along). Come here to check out the super small things!

I wore a 3mm full. The water temp in this location changes constantly as you swim between rock faces and it does so at various depths.  The dives here are deeper than at the Hon Mun Marine Park and even there I wore a 3mm full - granted they were rental suits had quite a bit of stretch in them so I had a decent amount of water flow. But then I'm used to the cooler Monterey water so maybe that helped me out a little bit.
On this day there was a small amount of current but nothing to write home about. As most of the online sources say, it is not a site for new divers.

The nitty gritty: Rainbow Divers charges $95 (US) for a 3-tank dive. The private speedboat out to Electric Nose ran me $150 (US). There was a fee for the photographer and yes, I did tip out as well. All in all, slightly a bit on the pricey side for 3 tanks but then running a boat out for a single person isn't the most cost efficient practice (there was the capt, and 2 DMs (one in the water with, and one out). In addition, I knew I wasn't going to be on a boat with a ton of other divers/snorkelers. I know that's a prime selling point for a lot of divers. I read on some other site that another company charged a couple around $65 for 3-tanks - but then that just seems a bit crazy low for me. In any case, if I had time to go out again, I'd go out to this dive site and I'd book with Rainbow Divers to take me there.

(thanks for reading! more on days 2/3 later)

Also Iain posted with some photos from our dive at Electric Nose.
I'm the white q-tip head so just disregard the human in those shots.
Also, I hate weight belts. And those fins. The tops of my toes aren't happy.

kumimonster: (bluenudeavatar)
Photos are probably the best way to describe certain things.
Instead here's a video:

But before we even got to see the room, our bags were taken from us and we were ushered into the open and airy lobby where instead of standing at a desk we were asked to sit down and handed some yummy sweet honey elixir. Then we were given cool towels to refresh ourselves and 5 minutes of neck/shoulder massage action.

Best check-in ever!

At the foot of the bed are two chairs and a table that face our door to the outdoor deck area - there's another area I'll call the outdoor patio area which has more chairs and a lounge you can stretch out in too!
On this table they have a bowl of fruit which is changed daily.
Water bottles in the room are constantly replenished (and free) however the chocolate snacks are yummy and can add up if you eat them all!
Oh and each night for turn-down service you get some kind of sweet snack too.

The shower and the bathtub are actually outside of the villa (within and enclosed space). I'm not that comfortable using it during the night however. I know there are mosquitoes around and I got bit about a dozen times in the space of an hour.
The hotel spa did set me up with some Eucalyptus oil which has been working like a super magic anti-bug potion. I'm going through the stuff like it's the water of life!
More resort review/blogging later. I need to get to the beach!

kumimonster: (me wcGreen)
After getting through customs and immigration we headed to the exit and Richard spotted our driver with the Anantara Resort sign. We jumped into the SUV and was given a gift bag full of snacks and water which was really nice.
The best thing: the car was WIFI enabled!!!

It was about a 4.5 hour journey to the coast. We got to experience the traffic in HCMC as well as the aggressive driving everyone has to master - in 4 wheels and on 2. I think the most I saw on a scooter was 4 but I did see a lot of heavy and over-sized objects being transported in things that most people would rent a u-haul for!
Otherwise, I suppose one would just get used to having to make do but I'm still not certain about packing on the infants.
The other day I saw a family of 4 - one child was in front of the driver on the handle bars and the mother held the baby in her arms but to protect the child from the wind or whatever, it had a plastic bag over its head.

We did have a chance to stop at a rest stop for a quick pause and then we continued onwards to Mui Né and the resort!

kumimonster: (camRiceBowl)
Pretty much an uneventful trip!
Richard got to SFO before I did and what a long line it was at the China Airlines check in queue!
Luckily when I arrived he was just about next.
We both had small bags to check too - both were carry-on sized!
Eventually we boarded the aircraft and settled in for a 14+ hour journey to Taipei.

The food was OK. There was a special request meal that looked good - noodles. Didn't figure out which dietary restriction I need to claim in order to get it though.
Slept OK for most of the flight. Got to watch a couple of movies from the international selection though which I wanted to see some time ago (Korea: The Face Reader & Germany: Hannah Arendt)

TPE was very quiet before 0600. Humid and warm and rainy too. Wasn't too impressed with the areas I saw.

Arrival at SGN a few hours later. Lots of crowds! Getting the VISA on arrival was no issue whatsoever. However the photo on-site fee was actually $5, not $2. Still the whole thing costs less than applying for one in advance!
kumimonster: (aKMin)
Hungover today.
I don't think I'll be doing that again - at least until the next time.

A month ago I decided to use the local UPS store to handle my VISA paperwork to/from the Embassy of Vietnam. I figured I'd give the local business my business instead of going to the post office.

Well, that was a mistake.

Everything was going fine. I kept checking the tracking info. Documents received, VISA approved, documents sent back. On May 1 I saw that there was a scan in Sacramento and then Menlo Park at the local distribution area. Of course the documents never arrived. And for some reason I wasn't troubled by the delay. I should've been though. A few days ago I went by the UPS store and asked them to help locate my package. I got an 800# to call which I did and they said I could file a claim which would take up to 8 business days. Thinking positive, I thanked them for their help and left the store.

May 14. I went to work and then during a break called the 800# again. I was told that my documents were found and delivered to the local UPS store. After work I drove over there. But then there were no documents. :( I called back the 800# and they told me whoever I spoke to previously made a mistake (!!!!!!WTF!!!!!!)

May 15. Canceled work to handle this crap. Called 800# and no help there. Called local store so they could contact 800# peeps. (local store peeps = great and sympathetic).

Vietnam is way ahead of Cali time. 9am here is 11pm there.
I did find a way to avoid having to drive to the consulate in SF by applying for a VISA-on-arrival letter.
That was close to the wire too. I got my request in last night (before going to the bar) and just before noon in Vietnam. I paid for the rush service and got my letter.

So now, instead of just breezing thru customs & immigration, I need to stop off at a desk and show my travel letter (and get my photo taken) and pay more money ($45). At least I wont get sent back home.

Just UGH!

I want UPS to give me back my $140. Oh wait. The documents did arrive to DC on time so I'll lower that down to $125.
kumimonster: (dive Turtle)
So I'm learning that the resort I'm staying at outside of Nha Trang is pretty damn remote. Or it might not be. But I do know that getting out of the resort and into town at odd hours will set you back $150 - each way.
I guess it's one of those places that would rather you stay within the resort - or at least use the vendors they work with in order to get away.

This means that another wrench has been thrown into my diving plans.

This also explains the $200 2-tank dive price at the resort with Sailing Club Divers. We're just a further distance away from the Marine Park as well as city harbor where most of the dive boats start out.

I wrote to the resort a couple of weeks ago and shot-gunned off a number of questions. I really would've wished that they could've supplied this information with me before I looked into booking dives with other operators. (Why not say, "FYI we are some distance away from town and further away from the dive sites so we work with a dive operator here at the resort in order to save you some time/money. However you can contact other operators, but they leave from the main harbor in nha trang and that is FAR AWAY! BTW, if you want to leave the resort at odd hours to meet other dive boats we can totally arrange that - $150. each way." BAM!)

I can't help feeling a little resentful at finding this out now.
Oh, and another thing that annoys me is how the first responses I get to my initial diving inquiries pretty much pushed taking PADI dive courses (open water, AOW, EANx, rescue... )
I could understand that if I wrote asking about trying out diving but I did not. I included my cert information. I also asked questions regarding other things like water temp, thermocline... I don't know. Maybe I just think that the process seems kind of like a PADI machine where they feel a need to get people into the system rather than treat them as divers with (some) experience. (I can't help but think about how great my dealings with Ed Robinson's Dive Adventures in Maui was. It seemed there, divers were treated like divers rather than new meat for the PADI grinder).

I'm determined to make this work. Even though this is starting to become increasingly insane! The boat rides are starting to cost 3x more than the dives themselves!!!

I'm still going with Rainbow Divers - Nha Trang for the first day though even tho I'm going to shell out $300 for the private speedboat to the Electric Nose dive site (3 tanks is only going to be $95).
Because from what I've just learned, the boat from the resort to their Pearl Farm harbor is $150. Then I'd have to take a 30 minute car ride via taxi into town (about $20). Then if I stuck to my original plans, I'd shell out another $150 for Rainbow Diver's speedboat to the dive site. So instead, I'm splurge and get the direct pick up from the resort and give RD some more of my cash. I hope this dive site is worth it!

I sent a response off to Sailing Club and asked about getting more details for diving with Richard on the 27th. I asked about adding a 3rd tank option. Hopefully they'll respond. But either way, it looks like we'll probably go diving with them instead of RD on Wed.
kumimonster: (dive Plane)
Wow. This has been a little difficult.

I'm sure the time difference hasn't helped but initially it seemed like I really had to press people and send multiple e-mails in order to get my questions answered!
Unlike my previous experiences with EdRobinsonsDiveAdventures or Extended Horizons in Maui where I was able to book almost immediately, this has taken a couple of weeks. Actually, one place took over 2 weeks to respond to my e-mails!

Vietnam has not been known as a dive destination in the past but the industry seems to be steadily growing in Nha Trang.
With the initiation of the Hon Mun Marine Protected Area in 2001, diving seems to have become more attractive to locals and tourists alike.
As with many other countries in SE Asia, uncontrolled fishing practices have destroyed a lot of the sea life but in the MPA, coral and other flora/fauna have been able to grow and develop.

"The Nha Trang Bay MPA is about 13,000 hectares and comprises many important habitats including coral reefs, seagrass and mangrove areas. Nha Trang Bay houses the highest coral reef diversity of any surveyed location in Vietnam. Due to its biodiversity values, Nha Trang Bay is an “area of highest national priority” for marine conservation and coastal tourism."


So I have to do a little bit of research to figure out where I'm going and even though Nha Trang is the major city, it's not actually where I'm staying. The map I posted here I found online on some resort's website however it's just about where I'm staying (Ninh Van). Mun Island is where most of the divers go.

After hitting some online forums to get some information on the local diving, I wrote to a handful of dive operators - the ones that had the best reviews on Tripadvisor. I also contacted the Six Senses Resort about their offerings and they explained that they do work with a local dive operator (that maintains a "shop" at the resort) and sent me a pricelist. I immediately balked at the $200 2-tank dive price.

I eventually contacted Sailing Club divers and learned that they're the operator that the resort works with and instead of sending me a pricelist for dives leaving out of Nha Trang, I once again got the price-list featuring the 4,000,000 VND 2-tank dives ($200 US approx). I was also told that 3-tank dives aren't offered because of the hours of the Marine Protected Area - apparently the boat at the resort leaves later than boats from the city. They meet up with regular boat operations already in progress. I'd rather get up early and get in 3 tanks!  Oh and I was also told that I could just pop over to get these dives scheduled. (There's a dedicated staff at the resort). I guess I'm used to planning things in advance because there's just less disappointment that way.

Also, in my initial e-mails to operators I do explain that I am a certified diver that isn't interested in taking an open water PADI course. They keep trying to push the courses! My buddy is certified as well (however still a novice) but he had taken a refresher a couple of weeks ago.
I've been asking which areas are suitable for a new diver and current water temps and suggestions about gear, etc. I also mention that getting 3-tank dive days is important for me because I want to take advantage of my time there!
Each time it's like pulling teeth. For ever 10 questions, I might get answers to 2 or 3. I seriously started to wonder if these places really want my business.

I learned about a place up north about 2.5 hours called Whale Island from the Rainbow Divers website which is a remote and nice area as well but according to one person I contacted the whale sharks that used to be in the area aren't really out there any more. My initial excitement about planning that excursion has passed. This might be a good thing because it'd be $100 for the journey up there via road, otherwise a $600 speedboat ride - either way it also required a super early AM wake up time. It's not totally out though, there are afternoon/evening shore dives offered.


So far I've primarily been in contact with Rainbow Divers and it looks like they're the company that's going to be taking my money.
Finally getting dives sorted out. I wanted to try out a couple of operators but I guess it's going to be RD since they're are the only ones that seem to be actively responding in the most timely manner. The time difference also makes things a bit more of a hassle.


Apparently Whale Island no longer lives up to the hype so the 26th I'm going to take a private speedboat to the Electric Nose dive sites even though another operator told me that I'd probably not enjoy it due to the dynamite fishing. Yeah, I suppose whale song is a better soundtrack to dive to but I'll just have to live with the fact that it's not going to happen EVERY time I get underwater... Speedboat is gonna cost me $300. 3-tanks is going to be just under $100. I get picked up at the resort.

v-nha-trang-s dive_map_sm

The 27th I'll be diving with Richard at the Hon Mun Marine Protected Area - a variety of nice and easier sites for 3 more relaxing dives! Thought it'll most likely be on one of those nice n full boats with a bunch of other people. We'll get a $30 transfer into the city to get our paperwork and gear sorted out, and then we head out! Afterwords, there's a bar attached to the dive shop. I think that's where we'll be!

There are other activities in Nha Trang but I'm so very tempted to book a third day of diving... !!!
We'll just have to see how things progress!
kumimonster: (dive Plane)
I'm planning a trip to Vietnam.
Actually, the trip is planned and I'm leaving for Vietnam in 9 days!


Going to fly into Ho Chi Minh City and then travel via private car to Mui Ne. Then on the 25th I take a car to Cam Ranh Airport to meet up with another private car that will take me to Nha Trang which is north of Mui Ne along the coast.

First Mui ne: Staying at the Anantara resort

Mui Ne is mostly about wind-centric water sports - wind/kite surfing. But it's also known for the sand dunes.
This place is going to be cool!


Second: Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

Going diving here. Quite a bit of it.
But I'll save that for another post.
kumimonster: (dive Plane)
It was time.
My old journal format was messing up my posts so I decided to change it.
The photos were bleeding down into previous posts and looked horrible - at least from my POV.
I also added some more user icons - apparently I can have about 120+. Wow.

That is all :-)


kumimonster: (Default)

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