Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild



We had a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Danang, which was very convenient. We took a taxi from the airport to our homestay in Hoi An. We recognized a lot on the way, from our last visit in 2013, but there was a lot of resorts being built along the beach between Danang and Hoi An, so the area is constantly changing. Ngo homestay was very central and cozy, but in a quiet street a few blocks away from the chaos of the old town. Every morning we had a great local breakfast (ordered from a nearby restaurant), often some sort of noodle soup.

The city was getting ready for Vietnamese New Year (Tết), and there were lanterns and lights everywhere, and large dragon sculptures in the river. Large pots with yellow flowers were constantly being transported back and forth (mainly on the back of motorbikes), to get tiny red ribbons hand tied to each flowers. Hoi An had changed a lot since the last time we were here. You actually needed a ticket to get into the old town now, and there were a lot more tourists and big groups. Also a lot of the cozy local restaurants had been replaced by chain restaurants and coffee shops.

Everything was more expensive than normal because of the holidays. Most tailors were closing down for 10 days, so we stressed a bit to pick one, and got all our clothes made in just over 24 hours. Not sure that was a very good choice, because we didn’t really have time to look around, and find the best fabric for what we wanted, but it seemed to be the best option at the time.

We found a restaurant called Mango Mango close to the hotel that served craft beer from Pasteur brewery in Saigon. We also spent quite a bit of time at the dive bar, Cham Island Divers. No diving was done in another month or so, but it was still a great place to hang out. People played pool and board games, and the waitress came around with free shots several times during the evening. We talked to several different people about diving, travelling and tailors.

We also went to an Australian Bar (3 Dragons Sports Bar & Restaurant) a bit outside of the center, because we saw they had a local craft beer we hadn’t tasted. We talked a lot to a Swiss bartender and a Finish couple there. We ended up joining a pub quiz, but were not very good at it, especially since it had a lot of questions about Australian and Vietnamese celebrities etc. We had great burgers and played a few rounds of pool. We also stopped by the next day, since it was Australia day, but when we arrived at 7 pm, most people had gone home drunk already.

One day we rented bikes from the homestay and bicycled to the beach (approximately 6 km one way). When we arrived there lots of people wanted money for bike parking, and it all seemed pretty chaotic. We went along the beach a bit instead, away from the hustle and bustle. There was very much trash on the beach, and the locals didn’t seem to care much. We had a not so good glass of white wine in a very local restaurant (probably the bottle had been open for too long), and decided to head back. We stopped at a bridge to take photos on the way, and spotted a nice place called Biaaa! & Bbq a bit hidden along the river. We went back for a beer, and ended up staying for hours, eating some small dishes, talking to the owners, enjoying the sun and having a great time. We took a different route back to the hotel, stopping to see some communist buildings, statues and nice parks, and a lot of Tết-decorations everywhere.

Since we had been in Hoi An before, we had seen all the main sights. Instead we decided to walk around in some of the smaller streets with less tourists. We found a large market and a lot of small restaurants with so much amazing food. We also went back to “Morning Glory”, one of the best restaurants we visited the last time we were here.

Our last destination was Ho Chi Minh City, where we stayed at E Central, a slightly upscale place in the backpacker street. We didn’t recognize the street at all, but a few other places around town were still familiar. We found a great small restaurant called the Chicken Coop, that had their own craft beers. We had some great food and beer there, and also talked to a lot of people, since they had these long tables which made it very social. We went to see the flower street, some drum shows and light shows, street acrobats etc. We stopped by the Official new year celebration, but did not get a lot out of it. Later in the evening we visited Heart of Darkness brewery and tasted the beers they had on tap. They were ok, but we were not very impressed, and there were hardly any people there either. We also stopped by Pasteur brewing on the way back, but they were closing, so we had to come back the next day.

Our flight back to Norway were not until 2355, so we had another full day in HCMC. We had several breweries and craft beer bars on our list, but all of them except one was closed on this day (Vietnamese New year’s day). So we went to Pasteur Street Brewing, luckily the highest rated one, and tasted what they had to offer. Quite American with a lot of hops, but they also had some really good ones. Other than that we spent the day doing some last minute shopping and eating some of our favourite Vietnamese dishes.

It was a long travel home via Dubai, but we arrived home on time. Gunnhild’s 29 kg suitcase had a rough trip, and only had one wheel left when it arrived in Norway. Quite a hassle, but at least it was quick to register the damage, and Emirates will cover the repairs. We were worried it would be very cold when we got back, but it was only a few degrees below zero, and a little bit of snow on the ground. Not too bad.

Kuala Lumpur

We had to have a stopover somewhere on our way from the Philippines to Vietnam, and decided on Kuala Lumpur mainly based on the selection of craft beer. We had been drinking too much crappy beer for a while, and looked forward to a better selection.

When we arrived, the line to the passport control was extremely long, so we ended up having lunch at the airport before taking a taxi to the hotel. We stayed at Parkroyal serviced suites, which was much needed luxury after the liveaboard. We had a big apartment with one bedroom, and an extra bed in the walk-in-closet. Lots of space and privacy! We got some laundry done, repacked, dried a lot of wet clothes and dive gear, got some blogging and photo sorting done and took long, warm showers. Lovely! The hotel also had a rooftop pool, but it was quite nice to stay dry for a while, so we didn’t use it. Nice views from the terrace though.

The hotel was located in a bar/restaurant area with lots of tourists and expats. We could pick restaurants from all over the world just a short walk from the hotel. We had Irish breakfast and Thai dinner, but mainly picked places based on the beer selection. Just next to our hotel was “Taps beer bar”, which had 20 beers on tap, and even a Norwegian/American collaboration beer named Trolltunga. They also had a lot of bottled beer, and allowed take-out, so we brought a few beers to the hotel to relax and get some much needed sleep.

We also did some sightseeing in the area around Petronas towers. We visited Skybar at Traders hotel, which is known for having the best view of the towers, travelled around a bit on subway and monorail, visited a food market and went to see the fountain show outside Petronas towers in the evening. We didn’t really have enough time to get to know the city, but we saw the main sights, had a lot of great beer and food, and were ready for our next destination.

Liveaboard and Cebu

When we arrived in Cebu we were supposed to be picked up at the pier by the liveaboard (Seadoors). But when we arrived we could not find anyone picking us up. Because of fear for terrorism during a festival in Cebu, the government had turned off all cell phone services, so we had no way of contacting the liveaboard. We waited for two hours, before we decided to take a taxi to where Fredrik thought he had read the boat were leaving from. We were very happy when we saw the boat in the harbor. Phew!

We boarded the boat and were welcomed by a French divemaster that had been on the boat for 4 months. He was the only one of the crew that were decent in English. On the boat we were only 9 guests, 4 French (that did not speak much English), two Australians, one guy from the UK and the two of us. We had a short briefing and were told that we would not leave the dock until 8 or 9 PM. The trip to the first dive site did take longer than planned because we had had more head wind than expected, so we got in the water just before 8 AM. This spot should be one of the highlights on the trip, because it was famous for it’s rare thresher sharks. The two dives we had here were kind of useless, since we arrived after the day boats arriving from the nearby island Malapascua and all the sharks were scared off. Luckily we went back a few days later.
We had a cabin in the bow of the boat below deck. We had two problems there, a leaking air condition that resulted in a lot of wet belongings. Fortunately we noticed before anything was ruined. The other problem was that we were very close to the anchor, so we were often woken up (almost jumping out of the bed) at all hours. The rest of the boat was ok, but quite small, so we couldn’t really stay up late without bothering people who was trying to sleep. That was probably a good thing though, since they managed to run out of beer half way through the trip, even with a half-full boat and not very social people.

It was quite obvious that the divemaster was not used to run the boat on his own. We hardly got any information, often arrived late to dive sites, didn’t know when to get up in the morning and how much time we had to relax between dives. The rest of the crew was very shy and didn’t speak much English, so except from when we were getting in and out of the water, we didn’t see them much. We did see them dumping trash in the water though. Not good! Originally 20 dives was planned, but because of some bad weather, but mainly very bad planning, we ended up doing just 15-17. A lot of the dives were very deep, and on most of them we didn’t really see very much. Even the OW divers were going much deeper than they were certified for.

We had a few days a bit further north before we were supposed to go southeast to Southern Leyte and search for whale sharks. but because of bad seamanship and and an anchor stuck on 60 meters, we were not able to go. After a vote between the passengers, we ended up going to Cabilao island between Bohol and Cebu instead. The diving there was good, but this was not what we had planned for so we were disappointed, and the mood on the boat was not the best. The highlight of the trip was definitely the thresher sharks at Monad Shoal. On our third dive there, we stayed at 30 meters for most of the dive, laying still and hardly breathing, to not scare them off. A few of them got really close, and it was quite spectacular.

On Gato Island we went through a cave, and saw lots of sharks and moray eels. We also did a night dive there where we saw a cat shark, frog fish, flamboyant cuttlefish and a sea horse. At Bullshark reef (Maripipi) we saw 2 Pygmy seahorses, which was pretty cool. We looked for hammerheads around Cabilao island, but had no luck (which means another short, deep dive with not much too see). The rest of the dives there were pretty great though. We saw 2 frog fish opening their mouths, and had an awesome night dive where we saw 2 squids, 1 small octopus, 1 big octopus, lots of different crabs, shrimps, stone fish, lion fish, scorpion fish, shaded batfish, nudibranchs, moray eels and catfish.

When we got back to Cebu we were taken to a hotel close to the airport (Park Hill Hotel). We took a taxi to Cebu city to find some craft beer. We had done a lot of research, but couldn’t find most of the places on the list. We had lunch and a couple of boring beers, and finally went to Turning wheels brewery when they opened at 6 pm. That saved the day! Awesome people and great beer. We tasted all the different types they had, and enjoyed a few more while talking to great people from all over the world. When they closed we went back to the hotel to pack for the flight to Kuala Lumpur early the next morning.


We had a private car from Bongo Bongo to the ferry terminal, and had planned to have plenty of time there. That was a good idea, because we first needed to stand in one line to pay port tax, then in one to get our seats assigned and finally in one to check in our luggage. We had bought business class tickets, which meant that we got to sit on the upper deck in good seats with air condition, large windows and watch a movie. Two hours later (about 1 hour delayed) we arrived at the port in Tagbilaran. It took a while to get our bags, and we stopped by the ticket counter to buy tickets for the ferry back to Cebu in 3 days.

We found a cheap tricycle to transport us to our hotel at Alona Beach, the Alona Kew Resort, which appears to be a resort from the exterior but is quite basic and located on the main beach road, close to everything. The greatest thing was that we got a room in the garden, so there was no noise from the main road or the beach. This is why travel planning is essential. You may frequently take advantage of travel offers, lower airfare, and seat sales to discover accommodations that fit your needs and budget. The longer one waits, the fewer options there are, and those choices may be more expensive. A well-planned travel itinerary is essential for a successful and enjoyable trip. Whether you’re traveling alone, with family, or with friends, having an organized itinerary can save you time and money and reduce stress.

We had originally planned to spend 4 days in Bohol, but because of lost luggage, typhoon warnings and fully booked ferries, we only had 2 days here. Since the weather wasn’t great either, we decided to skip diving, relax and try to go through some photos and write a bit on our blog. The first evening we found a Belgian restaurant, with quite a few Belgian beers on the menu. We stopped by for at least one beer there every evening, and really enjoyed drinking something other than lagers all the time. Especially the slightly sour Rodenbach was perfect in the heat.

Fredrik got a sting of some kind while diving in Dauin, and since the rash didn’t get any better, we decided it was best to get it checked out before the liveaboard. The hotel got him an appointment at the hospital right away, and after a quick and efficient visit he got back with a lot of medicines. The doctor was great and gave him stuff that should heal the rash as soon as possible, and have as little impact as possible on the rest of the vacation (diving, sun, beers). He’s not at all used to taking pills though, so it’s a bit of a hassle. 😀

Fredrik was told to be careful with too much sun for a couple of days, and also noticed that the rash got a lot better of the dry air condition air. So he stayed home going through photos, while Gunnhild went on a short sightseeing tour by tricycle. The first stop was the Blood Compact Monument, celebrating the March 1565 blood compact between Spain and the Philippines. Baclayon church was closed for visitors as it was still being rebuilt after the 2013 earthquake, but it was still interesting to see the coral-stone church from 1727 from the outside. Lunch was had at a very local fast food restaurant in Loboc, instead of on the tourist packed floating restaurants on the Loboc river. The final and most important stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella. Tarsiers are the world’s smallest primates, needs space, silence and gets easily stressed, so they had guides to take you around to make sure the tarsiers were not disturbed. It was a short 20 minute walk on muddy paths. Since the tarsiers are territorial, the guides knew where to find them, and 7-8 of them were easy to see from the path. They were very cute clinging to the trees looking at you with their large, sleepy eyes.

In the evening we packed all we needed on the liveaboard in our backpacks and all the dive gear in one half of the suitcase, so it would be easy to take out. We had a couple of rum and coke in the room, got a good nights sleep, and took a car to the ferry terminal in the morning. This terminal was a lot more structured than the previous one, but it still took some time to get through all the lines. They had departure screens, loud speakers for announcements that was almost possible to hear and the ferry was less than 30 minutes delayed. Again we had business class tickets (only slightly more expensive than the other ones) and had a smooth 2 hour trip to Cebu.


It was a 1,5-2 hour car ride from Moalboal to the port in Liloan (South Cebu), and after buying the tickets we waited for about half an hour for the ferry. It took just 20 minutes to get to Negros Island (Sibulan), and from there we took a tricycle through Dumaguete to our hostel/home stay/dive center in Dauin. It was quite a fun ride, with a lot to see on the way. We arrived at Bongo Bongo just before sunset, and were welcomed by owners, dive guides and guests. Such a friendly place. We had a private room in one of the bamboo huts on the property, but again spent most of our time in the common areas.

One of the owners at Bongo Bongo is Danish, and quite a few of the guests and instructors/dive masters were Danish too. But this was also a popular place to stop by for expats from all over the world and quite a few locals. They had a shared kitchen for the guests, but we ordered from the nearby restaurant Cat’s instead, which delivered for free. Very good and quite cheap food. The hostel had a self-service bar with cheap beers, and the owner, Magnus, even managed to get us some craft beer from a Norwegian brewer in Dumaguete while we were there. We also shared some aquavit, but especially the Danes were not big fans. We spent most of the time between and after dives in the common area in the front. We played music, cards, games (tumbling towers was especially popular), learned Danish kids songs, shared info on places to stay/dive etc, cuddled the 5 house dogs and laughed a lot.

Dauin is famous for muck/macro diving. We had most of our dives with dive guide Marvin, who was excellent at spotting all kinds of marine life. We had a few dives just off the beach outside the hostel, but normally drove a few minutes along the coast in either direction. On Sunday we were supposed to go to Apo Island by boat, but the government issued a typhoon warning, and we were not allowed to go. We went by boat to other dive sites along the coast instead. Fredrik still needed to rent equipment, and this was a great place to do so. They had high quality gear, a lot of the same brands as our own gear.


A lot of ferries were also cancelled because of the typhoon warning, so the day before we were leaving we sent a guy to the ferry terminal to buy tickets. They had no availability, but we got tickets for the ferry one day later. Luckily our room was available, so we could stay a day longer at Bongo Bongo. That was a very good idea, because a bit after we originally should have left, Fredrik’s long lost suitcase finally arrived on a motor bike, 8 days after he arrived in Cebu, 10 days after he checked it in in Norway. Happy-happy! We even signed up for two more dives, just so he could dive with his own gear. After checking the labels on the suitcase, we found out that it had been on a little vacation of it’s own to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. 😮



 We finally found each other outside the airport in Cebu around 5 pm, both very tired, Fredrik with no suitcase and Gunnhild with a damaged one. We said goodbye to Fredrik’s new friend, Helle, and got into our pre-booked van. It turned out that it was the end of the holiday in the Philippines, so the traffic was terrible. The trip that should have taken 2,5 hours ended up taking 4. We had one short stop at a super market on the way, buying some basics (t-shirts, shorts, toothbrush, flip-flops etc) for Fredrik.
Our hostel in Moalboal, Chief Mau, was very nice and just a few months old. We were welcomed by the staff who had received updates on Fredrik’s delays, and were very happy that we both finally arrived. We got a private room which was so new it was still lacking a few things (night lamp, mirror, hooks, curtains), but the beds were comfortable and the staff was very accommodating with whatever we needed. We didn’t spend much time in the room anyway, since the hostel had a great social area by the bar. They served basic but good food, had hammocks and other places to relax. Most people there were divers, so we had a lot to talk about.

The hostel staff where amazing trying to track down Fredrik’s suitcase, and we left most of the communication to them. After a couple of days we got a message that it would arrive the next day, but it didn’t arrive to Cebu as expected, and we had to go shopping again. That was an interesting experience, since the local shopping center had different departments for everything, and we had to pay at different counters. Also it was completely impossible to understand the sizes, and all packs had to be opened to see if a shirt had long or short sleeves. After more than an hour we finally got out of there, with almost everything needed for the next few days (we gave up finding shaving cream and a couple of other things). After that we didn’t receive any useful updates about the suitcase at all. We did some laundry and extended our stay by one day, but had to give up in the end and plan our next stop.

 We had a total of 7 dives over 3 days with Cebu dive center, just down the road from our hostel. Fredrik had to rent gear since his was still stuck at an airport somewhere. He was a bit unlucky with the regulator on the first dive, but after that there were no problems. Most dives were a short boat ride away, in their traditional bancas (double outrigger boats), but the house reef just outside the dive center was also a great dive site.
 We saw lots of frog fish, turtles, small moray eels and pipefish, a few sea snakes, octopus and leaf fish, several different nudibranchs and sea slugs (the electric one was pretty cool), reef fire gobies, flounders, scorpion fish and barracuda. We also got to see what Moalboal is famous for, the sardine run. We just noticed that it got dark, and when we looked up we saw a million sardines moving around, creating different shapes and forms. Pretty cool!

 The dive center had a bar, so we normally had a beer or two there after our last dive. We spent a long evening talking to an Irish couple there, and also some late evenings in our hostel. Especially our last evening got a bit later than planned. Everyone had trouble getting money from the local ATM, but one of Fredrik’s cards worked fine. We met a quite desperate Swedish girl there, who didn’t have any money at all. We ended up lending her 10000 PHP, and spent the evening (and most of the night) drinking beer with her, a Swiss guy and two Canadian brothers. Good times!



Since Gunnhild was already long gone, I had to travel alone to the Philippines. When I came to the airport the airplane was already 3 hours late into Oslo, and it was a small chance that I would get on to the connecting flight. I only had 3 hours and 20 minutes between flights in Dubai. Everyone told us that it was a good chance since all airplanes to and from Dubai was delayed, so everyone kept up a good mood. I have never seen so few people at OSL. This was on new year’s eve, so a few hours after we were supposed to fly, there were less than 10 flights left on the departure screens. By chance I started talking to a nice girl from Gjøvik (Helle), that was travelling the same route to Cebu, Philippines.

When we took off we were about 4 hours late. Since we were supposed to land in Dubai just before New Year we had to celebrate it aboard the airplane. The captain announced it, and we had a countdown to the new year, with following drinks. We landed in Dubai when my flight to Cebu was taking off. When the captain turned off the seatbelt sign, and we where standing up, I realized that Helle was sitting in the seat in front of me. We agreed that since both of us were traveling alone, we should try to tackle the airport together. That was a good plan, since the first customer service desk where packed. Helle went to ask if there were more customer service desks, and there were! So we kept on through security, and got to the next customer service desk. Here there were slightly less people, but still a mess. We somehow got to the counter in about 2.5 hours, to be told that the guy behind there could not find a solution for us, and that we where in a ticket line, not a customer service line, and that we might have better luck there. We went out of the line, and looked at the customer service line. Nothing moved. We found an Emirates representative, and she could tell us that the booking system was down, and that we were better off coming back in 2 hours or so. Our next question to the representative, was where do we find beer 🙂 She answered fast that the closest one had to be Heineken lounge, and we went there with a short pit stop at an eatery on the way.

After a few beers, we went back to get some food vouchers. We got them and they told us that the booking system was up. After a short discussion about food or tickets first, we agreed to go for tickets. Then the long wait started, we were kind of happy, so we were laughing and smiling and giving out candy to the kids that were standing with their parents in line. After about 4 hours we arrived at the counter, and after another 30 minutes we where the lucky holders of 2 seats on the next flight to Cebu, arriving just 24 hours late. We found out later that others on the same plane with the same destination where on a waiting list, and had to wait at least 48 hours.

We also got hotel vouchers and were looking forward to a shower. We should just go down to the baggage carousels and we would be off to the hotel, we thought. We were not that lucky. Since it was January first, there were no hotel rooms available in Dubai, so they gave us lounge access. Helle and I agreed since we only had about 15 hours left for our flight we will not go to a hotel, as long as we got a shower and some toiletries. The guy behind the counter lit up, at least someone he was not responsible for anymore.

Since we where at the baggage carousels we had to wait for someone to take us through some restricted doors before we got to the security counters. From there we walked the entire terminal 3 at Dubai airport, after standing still for 4 hours. This was refreshing at first, but soon our legs hurt like they had never hurt before. We arrived at a non alcohol lounge with no hot food. We could at any time go to the reception and get a voucher for warm food and go outside and eat, so we had no complaints. After a hot shower and coffee, we decided to go for some hot food. On the way back we saw a shop selling whisky, and decided to buy a bottle.

Now the day with the most laughing I have ever done started. Helle and I could not stop laughing, after a few hours we had finished the whiskey (sharing with some others in the lounge). So we went for another bottle. The next 6 hours were gone in no time. I think I have a new best friend! At midnight we left the lounge area to get to our flight at 02:45. We needed some hot food, and it was a long walk back to the gate. We arrived at the gate about 10 minutes before it opened, and got to our seats in no time. Both of us fell asleep immediately, and we do not know when we departed (probably on time).

We arrived before scheduled arrival time, and went fast through immigration. Then it was the wait for our baggage. We waited for a long time and Helle’s backpack was at last on the carousel. She went out because she wanted to get a local SIM card, and I was waiting until the “last bag on belt” sign came up, and I did not have my suitcase. After some paperwork and ATM work, Helle and I left the airport only 24 hours late!

Red Sea Liveaboard

One of the reasons we choose Egypt and the Red sea was the diving. It is famous for more than 1000 species of invertebrates, over 200 species of soft and hard coral and 1100 species of fish (more than 200 can only be found in the Red Sea). We went on a wreck tour (Famous five) with the Emperor Superior, a 37 meter dive boat with space for 25 guests, 2 sun decks, a large dive deck and spacious common areas. Our group consisted of 20 people, mainly from the UK, but also South Africa, Canada, Germany, Spain and Norway. A lot of the dive sites on the trip was quite deep, so 16 of our 19 dives were deeper than 20 meters.
We started our diving with an easy check dive where we for the first time dived on our own without a guide. We started off with a guide, but decided to leave him half way into the dive since he had to sort out some problems with other divers’ gear. The rest of our time at the Emperor we dived without a guide, although we often stayed close to the guided group to benefit from the guide’s trained eyes and local knowledge.

We had two dives on the Salem Express, one afternoon dive and one night dive. This is a controversial wreck to dive, since a lot of people lost their lives here. The passenger ship sank on her return journey from Mecca with up to 1600 people (mainly Egyptian pilgrims) on board in 1991, and only 190 survived. It was an interesting dive, but since we don’t have enough training we did not go inside the wreck, and because of that didn’t see much of the luggage and personal belongings still to be found inside.

During the night we cruised out to the Brothers islands witch is a world famous scuba diving destination. It offers some of the best diving in Egypt and in Red Sea, but can be quite challenging due to strong currents and rough surface conditions. These 2 small Islands (Little Brother and Big Brother) are famous for their abundance of colourful soft corals and gorgonian fans and the rich diversity of marine life and large pelagics including sharks and manta rays.

We were a bit early for the shark season, but were very lucky with the weather and the currents. We had 6 dives in total here, saw several large Napoleon Wrasses, a few different types of shark in the distance, visited the wrecks of Aida and Numida, and were seconds away from seeing two large hammerheads (they were spotted just under the boat as we were climbing up the ladder). On Big Brother there is a lighthouse and a navy base. On the second day at the Brothers, we were allowed onshore to climb the lighthouse and buy some t-shirts. The view was good, but since we were so far from everything, there was little to see 🙂
From the brothers we had a 12 hours journey to “Ras Mohamed National Park” on the tip of the Sinai peninsula. We did one dive, with beautiful corals, loads of small fishes, crocodile fish, scorpion fish and moray eels. The wreck (Yolanda) had a cargo of toilets, so there was a lot of them as well.

Our first penetration of a wreck was at the Dunraven.The dive guides said it was a very easy penetration with lots of exits, so we went for it. Inside we did not see much, but Gunnhild spotted a nudibranch on the way out. We ended the dive at the nearby reef, which was very colorful and with loads of fish.

In the afternoon the same day, it was time for SS Thistlegorm witch is considered THE best wreck dive in the world. There are 2 locomotives, 2 tanks, army trucks, jeeps, motorbikes, boots, stacks of rifles and various spare parts for planes and cars. Our fist dive on the wreck was a little crowded, but on the two next dives the crew made sure that we were the only ones on the wreck. We had one of our best night dive so far on this wreck, and the next morning we penetrated the wreck to explore 3 of the cargo holds. It was a very special experience!
Dive number 100 for Fredrik was at Giannis D, a very picturesque wreck, due to the great visibility. It is possible to access the engine room, but because of a lot of stilt this was only recommended for experienced wreck divers. We enjoyed the blue spotted sting rays on the outside, and again spent the last part of the dive on the shallow reef nearby.

Gunnhild started the last day with dive number 100 at Shaab El Erg, famous for dolphins in the passage between two reefs.We had a long and relaxed dive (our first over 70 minutes!), and also saw two Red Sea Walkmen,a very strange scorpion fish using it’s pectoral fins to walk along the bottom. One dolphin swam by as we were surfacing, and we saw several from the sun deck after the dive. Our next dive at Umm Gamar Island was maybe one of the best of the entire trip. We saw lots of large stone fish, a very rare (especially during the day) Spanish dancer, a huge moray eel and again loads of colorful fish and beautiful corals.

We both celebrated our birthdays on the boat, and the chef had made birthday cakes for the both of us. The entire group sang the birthday song, and Fredrik even held a short (slightly ironic) thank you speech. In addition he made a cake for a couple that got engaged on the trip (underwater proposal!), and a shared cake for 5 people (including us) that reached 100 or 500 dives during the trip. Since we are not really that fond of cake, we had brought some other treats to enjoy on our birthdays; Norwegian craft beer and aquavite!

After a week on a boat with wreck dives, we agree that corals and fish are more interesting than wrecks. Not that we don’t like wrecks (some of them were awesome), but we had our share for a while and will focus on other things on our next trip. Liveaboards on the other hand is something we will definitely do again. Living on a boat for a week, walking around barefooted, diving 3-4 times a day, meeting great people, relaxing on the sun deck, going to remote dive sites, learning so much from the dive guides and the other divers, watching the stars and the life in the sea around the boat, staying up late drinking beer and sharing travel stories, being exited to get up although you are tired because a great dive is waiting, eating great food, having someone to help you with your gear and put your fins on, warm cacao when getting up from a late dive, music, laughter and nice conversations. Gotta love it!

Hurghada, Cairo and Luxor

Time for a new dive trip, this time to Egypt. We ended up booking a charter trip, since that was the only direct flights to Hurghada, and we got a decent hotel for a very good price. Just 4 days before our departure we got an email from the charter company saying that due to few bookings our return flight was cancelled, and we had to travel via Copenhagen the day before instead. Not too happy about that, but not much we can do (except get some money back). Our flight from Oslo to Hurghada was not full either. Less than 50 of the 180 seats were taken, so we had plenty of space. We arrived in Hurghada around midnight, were the first ones out of the airport and were happy we had pre-booked a shuttle instead of waiting for the charter buses. When we arrived at our hotel (Triton Empire Hotel), we were told that it was closed and that we were moved to the beach resort instead. We got a nice room with a view over the beach and the pool area. Even though it was quite late, we went to a bar close by (Debbies) for a few beers before going to bed.

The next day we explored the resort area and the neighborhood. Our main goal for the day was to find a dive shop, and we stopped by a few different ones. We ended up booking 4 dives with Funny Divers who were very helpful, professional and flexible. We got the cash we needed for the next few days, bought beer and snacks for the boat trip, delivered our dive gear at the shop and packed the few things we needed for our next excursion, Cairo and Luxor.

The next morning we got up at 4.15, and were picked up 30 minutes later and taken to the airport. We had a 6 am flight to Cairo, where our guide for the day was waiting for us. We had a large van all to our selves, and got a lot of information while driving through Cairo. The French president was visiting, so the main roads were decorated with flags and banners, but the traffic was luckily not too bad. We started at the Egyptian Museum, and were the first ones through the gates when they opened. The museum has more than 120000 items, including the treasures from the tomb of king Tut Ankh Amoun.

Our guide showed us the highlights, explained a lot about the history and the culture, and thought us which signs and features to look for in statues and carvings to know what or who they represented. We were amazed by the details, and impressed by the condition of these very, very old treasures. The mask of Tut Ankh Amoun was one of many highlights.

Good food and great views, but way too much to eat as always. At 1 pm we arrived at the Giza plateau, and had our first view of the great pyramids. Wow! They are the most substantial ancient structure in the world and still surrounded by mysteries. They were built over the span of three generations from 2575 to 2465 BC. The great pyramid of Cheops/Khufu is the only remaining Seven wonders of the ancient world. We also visited the Great Sphinx, a limestone statue with a lion’s body and a human head, most likely representing Pharoah Khafra. It’s the largest monolith statue in the world. Our visit ended at The Valley Temple, made out of red granite and used for the embalming process.

As always we were quite efficient tourists, so when we finished we had a lot of time before our flight. We stopped by a papyrus factory for a short tour, and stopped for tea and coffee at a small coffee bar downtown. The plan was to eat dinner at the airport, but the airport was very quiet and all we could find was a couple of sandwiches and some Sakara beer.

We arrived in Luxor quite late in the evening, and were again picked up by a guide and a driver. Luxor was small, cozy and very green compared to Cairo. We spent the night at a beautiful 5 star hotel with great views over the Nile, and were picked up again at 7.30 am. We had a short stop at Colossi of Memnon, a temple ruin currently being excavated, and where two large statues were restored. In Valley of the kings (no cameras allowed) we visited three tombs. Ramses IV was very colorful and Merenptah was very long, but the most interesting one was Horemheb which was newly opened for visitors. It was very steep and closed before it was finished. Here we could really see the different stages from stone cutting to carving and painting. Really cool!

We visited Hatshepsut Temple, built for the queen that ruled as a king. Two of three levels were mostly restored, but a lot of the carvings were ruined by her stepson after her death, as a revenge for keeping him from the throne. We had an amazing lunch at Cafe Africa by the Nile, and went on a short cruise on the river in our own boat while crossing over to the other side (east bank). Nice!

The final and maybe best stop of the trip was Karnak Temple. The complex is the second largest temple complex in the world(247 acres), after the Angkor Wat Temple in Cambodia. The temples were built over several generations of pharaohs (around 30 contributed). There were several large obelisks, lots of carvings on large pillars and walls and the colors of the paintings were still strong in certain areas. The drive back to Hurghada took 4 hours and we arrived at our hotel around 6 pm.

It seems we ate something we shouldn’t have on the way back to Hurghada, because in the evening Gunnhild got sick, and Fredrik the next morning. Luckily it didn’t last very long, so we were still able to go on the two planned day trips with Funny Divers, but the energy level was not very high. We spent a lot of time between dives talking to a group from Belgium and The Netherlands, and it turned out that 4 of them stayed in the two rooms next to ours at Triton Empire. The dives were also very nice. We saw lots of Napoleon Wrasse, loads of giant moray eels, some beautiful nudibranches, bluespotted stingrays, cornet fish, crocodile fish, box fish and all kinds of colorful fish. We also had a filmcrew following us for a day, to take photos and videos for their webpage and Facebook. When we got back on the second day we had about 20 minutes to pack and get ready to be picked up for the liveaboard. Luckily we were almost done already, so we didn’t forget anything very essential.

Liveaboard and going home

We stayed one night in Khao Lak, 60 km north of Phuket island, before and after our liveaboard. This way we could repack and only bring our dive gear and a small bag of clothes on the boat. We lived in a cozy hotel, Fasai house, just off the main road. The city was very quiet, and it seemed that most tourists in the area stayed at the various beach resorts. We enjoyed our time there, had time for some quiet shopping, found a relaxed German bar with some import beers, had a lot of great food (springrolls, satay and pad thai in particular), enjoyed some thai massage, had a local tailor fix a ripped bag etc.

The hotel let us keep the room until our pickup at 6.30 pm, and after a short ride in an open truck to the pier we were welcomed onto our home for a week, Deep Andaman Queen. Most people were coming by car from Phuket, so we gathered on the main deck, getting to know the other guests while waiting for everyone to arrive. Several of the people we were talking to realized after a while that they were on the wrong boat though, but by 8 pm our group was complete, we were introduced to the crew and got ready to leave. The thai crew had decorated the bow of the boat for the good spirits, and as we left the pier firecrackers were going off to scare the bad spirits.

Our group was quite international with 2 Norwegians, 3 Russians, 1 Dutch living in Switzerland, 1 American living in Japan, 1 Chinese, 2 Singaporeans, 1 Australian and 2 Americans living in China. The 4 dive guides were American, Australian, Dutch and Japanese (private guide). The evening was spent finishing all the paperwork (Myanmar visa, departure cards, dive certifications etc), setting up our dive gear, packing out a bit, getting to know the boat and have a few beers.

The next 7 days we did a total of 22 amazing dives, both in Thailand and in Myanmar. We normally had to get up at 6 am, but instructor Tod had the best wake-up call ever, and knowing we were going diving it was actually not that hard to get up. We had some toast or a yoghurt, something to drink and a briefing in the saloon before we were ready to jump in around 7 am. When we got back up the chef had prepared a large, hot breakfast and we had a couple of hours to relax before our next dive, normally around 10 or 11 am. After lunch we had another dive, and normally ended the day with a sunset or night dive. And after that it was beer o’clock, shower and dinner time. What a good life!

Our very first dive of the trip was on Koh Bon. This was a so-called test dive, where they see which level everyone is on, and try to create the best groups possible based on that. We were 5 people (the two of us + Tim, Al and Danny) who were both advanced and nitrox certified, and we were in Anne the Dutchie’s group. And what a test dive it was. After a nice start we hit strong currents, and were all low on air and pretty exhausted when we got back up. But we all passed the test, and stayed in the same group for the rest of the trip (except some minor changes on a couple of dives).

On our second full day we had a chance to sleep in a bit. Breakfast was not until 9 am, since we were crossing the border to Myanmar and had to spend most of the morning getting through immigration.
4 Myanmar officials boarded the boat to go through everything, and a local guide stayed on the boat for the duration of our stay in Myanmar. On the way back to Thailand 5 days later we even got to leave the boat for an hour. It was a weird feeling to wear shoes (well flip-flops that is) again, and we all had a bit of sea legs. We did some tax free shopping and had a few local beers at Smile restaurant in Kawthoung.

We had to do some changes to the original plan, sometimes because of currents or visibility, but the biggest change was that we had to skip Black Rock due to dynamite fishing, which sadly still happens occasionally here. We still got to dive a lot of great sites though: Koh Bon West Ridge, Tachai Pinnacle, Richelieu Rock, Pratong wreck and Bonsoon wreck in Thailand, and High Rock, Three Islets, North Twin, Shark cave, Square rock, Submarine, Rocky island, Stewart island, Cavern island, Dancer/Holy crab,Frog rock, Fan forest and Western rocky (cave + pinnacle) in Myanmar. Some of the dive sites had so much to see that we did several dives there, and sometimes we returned to a previous site for a night dive, which was a completely different experience. We hardly saw other dive boats our entire time in Myanmar, so we had the dive sites all to our selves. Awesome!

We were a bit early to see manta rays and whale sharks, but other than that we got pretty much all we were hoping for and then some. The highlights would have to be the octopus changing color, the frog fish and last but not least our very first sea horse! Mantis shrimps, barracudas, cuttle fish, squids, rays and spanish dancers were also pretty cool. In some of the sites there were so much fish it was sometimes hard to see your buddy, and other sites had so many moray eels and scorpion fish we lost count after a few minutes. Tim brought a large camera, and was showing us a lot of small stuff we haven’t seen before, like different kinds of anemone fish, sea snails, nudibranchs, shrimps etc.

We also got to do several cool swim throughs and caves, and test ourselves in a few more currents and surges. The swim through at Tachai pinnacle was absolutely gorgeous with large sea fans everywhere. On Stewart island there was a large swim through with a current taking us on a ride the last part of the way and at the end it really pushed us out and up over a wall. On this dive we also went in to a cave with currents going in all directions in the middle. Anne knew how to time it and went through while the rest of us were holding on to the bottom the best we could. Both Tim and Fredrik tried to get through, but were both thrown back by the currents, and we had to exit where we came in. On Cavern island we went into a large tunnel going into the middle of the island, and out an exit on the other side. Quite some surge and so much fish on the way out it was hard to see where to go. On Western Rocky there’s also a large cave, with a beautiful archway by the entrance and lots of large lobsters along the walls. Also our night dive at Three islets was totally crazy with movement absolutely everywhere.

Deep Andaman QueenThe boat itself was very comfortable. It had 9 cabins of different sizes, with room for in total 16 guests (we were only 13). Upstairs there was a saloon, where we had all our briefings, watched pictures and videos, looked up all the marine life we saw during our dives and relaxed when we needed some air condition. We had a large area with a bar and seating for everyone. This is where all meals were served, 5 per day (if you include the pre-dive mini-breakfast) and so much to choose from every time. On top there was a sun-deck with several sunbeds and some sofas in the shade,First of many delicious meals and this was also a good lookout to see dolphins and sharks swimming close to the boat. Downstairs in the back was a large dive deck, with plenty of room for everyone to get ready. The crew was so helpful putting our gear on, making sure everything was set up correctly and showering us with water if it got hot waiting in the sun. Tod usually played music while we were getting ready, and our group often had a little get-ready-to-dive-dance while we were waiting for the captain’s signal to jump in. The captain was really good at what he was doing and manouvered the boat onto the exact right spot every time. When picked up after a dive he “sucked” us right in to the ladders without having to swim at all. Impressive! And of course the crew welcomed us, helped us off with our gear, served fruit juice and at the late dives provided hot towels.

In the evenings we were all hanging out in the seating area (and a bit in the smoking area in the front), playing music, sharing Norwegian aquavite and other drinks, talking, learning new languages, laughing a lot, sharing dive and travel stories, sometimes even singing and dancing. We were a great group and had so much fun! People are telling us we are getting older, but it hasn’t sunk in yet. We skipped the naps a lot of people took during the day (I’m sure the nitrox helped a bit as well), always went to bed last, had twice as much beer as the rest of the group (yes, the list got full and they ran out of our beer of choice) and were still able to be the first one’s ready on dive deck in the morning. The Thai crew actually named Fredrik “Number one”, and always allowed him to get first onto the boat when getting up from a dive.

It was really sad leaving the boat, especially since we were going back to Norway the next day. We took a lot of group photos both under and over water the last day, exchanged email addresses, connected on Facebook, agreed to meet again and said goodbye with a lot of hugs. We really want to do the same trip again, next time probably a bit later so we might be lucky enough to see mantas and whale sharks as well. And hopefully get to dive (and drink) with Anne and Tod again. And a trip to Japan to dive with Tim also sounds like a really good plan. 😉