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Phuket Lifestyle – wreck diving in Khao Lak

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Lifestyle – wreck diving in Khao Lak | The Thaiger
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PHUKET: The descent line disappeared below us after we splashed in above the Sea Charter, one of the few diveable wrecks off the coast of Khao Lak.

There is a long moment between leaving the sunny surface of the Andaman Sea and the first hint of the ship’s shadow blackening the blue water below us. In that moment I found myself clearing my ears again and going back over the dive briefing, reviewing all the details of the wreck that Markus Hippel, the manager at Sea Bees Khao Lak, had gone over last night.

The wreck is a cargo ship about 80 meters long, lying on its starboard side with its cargo of teak wood still on board. The ship had departed with the cargo from Burma in August 2009, heading for Vietnam, but was caught in bad weather and ended up on the sandy sea floor 38 meters from the surface, not far from the recreational depth dive limit of 40 meters.

The real question I kept asking myself as I followed the line down was: what is the wreck like now? It’s the question every diver asks before a wreck appears. Even a wreck as young as this one was bound to have started to break apart and become a haven for sea life.

Markus had explained that Khao Lak wasn’t known for it’s wreck diving, being in fact the premier jump-off location for liveaboards heading out to the Similan Islands.

“People are coming to dive the Similan Islands because they are one of the 10 best dive sites in the world,” he said in a light German accent.

He went on to explain that many of the divers that booked with Sea Bees got on board with one of the two liveaboard trips they offered. However, tomorrow we would be taking a day trip out in the beautiful teak hulled Runaway to do a little wreck diving.

The nervousness of diving with Nitrox, instead of compressed air, which I hadn’t done in some time, was mostly calmed by Andrea Filippazzi, an Italian dive instructor new to the Sea Bees team, and it totally dissipated once the wreck came into view. With the wreck in front of me I knew the extra bottom time given by the Nitrox wasn’t to be taken for granted.

We swam down past the wreck’s silty hull to the vertical lying deck, with Andrea confidently leading the way. The wreck is shallow enough that there wasn’t an eerie stillness to it. In fact, it was bustling with life. We dipped into the bowels of the hull, keeping our heads down to avoid the myriad of sharp oyster shells already cemented to the ship. Long beautiful timbers of teak passed below us and then we were out into the open water again.

Snagged fishing nets hung around the wreck’s tower like shredded sails. Slowly we worked against the mild current towards the stern of the ship to see the enormous propeller still above the sand.

After 32 minutes of bottom time and our safety stop completed, I was ecstatic to have just been aboard the Sea Charter. A pleasant drowsiness set in after we had a delicious German style lunch. I closed my eyes and started diving the Sea Charter again, wondering what it would have been like to slide past the broken glass of the ship’s tower window and find what mysteries lurked inside.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Thai Life

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight

Tim Newton

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Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | The Thaiger

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. But this year authorities are saying ‘only floating Krathongs thanks’. No polystyrene, no steel pins – keep it natural and plant-based please. This year Loy Krathong in Thailand co-incides with the annual Halloween celebrations on October 31.

Authorities are also urging people to choose, or make, their krathongs using natural materials only. The latest craze for “edible” krathongs is also causing problems. Read about that HERE.

Loy Krathong is a festival celebrated annually throughout Thailand The name could be translated as “to float a basket”, and comes from the tradition of making krathong or buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river. Loi Krathong takes place on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar so the exact date of the festival changes every year.

In Phuket, the Provincial Office says fireworks, fire crackers and sky lanterns are prohibited “for people’s safety” (but be assured there will still be a few sky lanterns seen flying off the islands beaches this evening).

 

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

Loy Krathong is celebrated at many of the island’s popular waterways and at many of the beaches. Many hotels also host their own celebrations for their tourist customers. Here are a few of the locations you will be able to launch your own Krathong or buy one on site and watch families and couples launching Krathongs.

Popular locations in Phuket include…

• Saphan Hin Park Lake, Phuket Town

• Suan Luang Park (off Naka Market Road)

• Bang Wad Dam, Kathu

• The recreation lake near Ket Ho Temple in Kathu (The Thaiger ‘local’)

• Tin Mine Museum Lake on the Kathu back road, near BIS International School

• Nai Harn Lake and Nai Harn Beach

• Bang Maruam near the Alan Cooke Cricket Ground in Thalang

• Laguna (the main lake just inside the entrance)

• Just about anywhere along Patong Beach

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

On the night of the full moon, Thais launch their krathong on a river, canal or a pond, making a wish as they do so. The festival may originate from an ancient ritual paying respect to the water spirits.

We would urge people to consider the environment if you’re making your own Krathong or try and select Krathongs that are made from natural products. Many of the ‘commercial’ Krathongs use polystyrene and pins that end up scattered along our waterways and provide a hazard on the island’s beaches when the Krathongs eventually wash ashore and disintegrate.

Same goes for the new fad of bread and “edible” krathongs. Officials say these can be dangerous for the fish and cause long term problems for water catchments.

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket. Where to launch your krathong tonight | News by The Thaiger

If you’d like to make a krathong, here’s a very quick guide…

If you want the easy way out, you will find hundreds of stalls on the way or near any waterway around the island that is participating in the event. Try and pick ones that appear to be made from natural materials.

Happy Loy Krathong Phuket!

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Events

‘Bread’ krathongs are killing the fish

The Thaiger

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‘Bread’ krathongs are killing the fish | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Khaosod.co.th

First it was no polystyrene or steel pins. The push was for natural, sustainable ratings as Thais floated away their woes in the annual celebration. Now there is a new warning that the “natural” kratongs, made from bread and edible ingredients, are causing river pollution.

Fish found in the river don’t eat bread and the ingredients have broken down before cleaners remove the krathongs from the waters and along the shores.

Department of Fisheries’ Wichan Ingsrisawang, is asking Krathong launchers, celebrating Loy Krathong Festival this evening, to be careful what they’re pushing out onto Thailand’s waterways. He noted that bread and ice cream cone krathongs have become increasingly popular over the past few years because people believed that fish would eat the au natural krathongs. After years of foam and polystyrene krathongs, held together with pins and plastic cable ties, became a clean up nightmare, authorities urged people to consider more environmentally-suitable components of their floating offerings.

Wichan says that the intention behind edible krathongs is good, “but the truth is that not all fish can eat these ingredients”.

“Even if they can, there are too many krathongs for the fish to eat and they just end up stinking the river.”

The situation is even worse in closed water catchments like temple and school ponds because the food ends up sinking and makes the water rotten over a long period time, killing the fish.

“The only fish that can eat these types of krathongs are herbivorous fish while thai rivers often have a lot of predatory fish including catfish and snakehead fish.”

“If you intend to use edible krathongs because that is what you prefer or the kratongs have already been purchased then it is best to float them in open waters.

The best materials for a krathong are natural, plant-based products like banana tree trunk, spider lily plant, banana leaves, flowers, and wooden sticks to join all the materials. In the past krathongs were made from natural materials but the banana tree trunk later became replaced with polystyrene and foam and the krathongs decorated with plastic, sharp needles, and other materials that don’t break down and cause pollution and a dangerous, unsightly mess.

'Bread' krathongs are killing the fish | News by The Thaiger'Bread' krathongs are killing the fish | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Thai Residents

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Bangkok

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue

The Thaiger

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The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Former Thai Sports and Tourism Minister with Vernon Unsworth MBE

The Isan Project has collaborated with the TAT on new marketing campaign featuring music commemorating the Tham Luang cave rescue.

The story of how 13 young men, members of the Mu Pa (Wild Boar) football team, were saved in the caves of Chiang Rai continues to ignites interest in the miraculous internationally-followed rescue in July 2018 from the flooded Tham Luang cave

To honour the safe rescue music video company The Isan Projectrecently launched “Where the Eagles Fly”, video to pay tribute to the British hero of the dramatic saga, Vern Unsworth MBE.

The release of a movie and Netflix mini series shortly will also boost interest globally in Thailand. The series includes the first individual interviews with the boys and they coach.

The launch, in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, and supported by the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit and Serenity Wines, was attended by several key persons involved in the rescue mission two years ago, including former Tourism & Sports Minister, Weerasak Kowsurat, who played a major role in flying in special cave divers from the UK as requested by Vernon Unsworth, a recognised cave explorer, who knows virtually every inch of the Tham Luang cave.

“It is absolutely true that without Vernon’s persistence in obtaining the help from the UK cave diving experts to initially spearhead the rescue mission, the boys and their coach would not be alive today.”

“Needless to say, assistance from experienced and skilled cave divers from around the world, who later volunteered to join as well as our own Navy Seals, all contributed to the mission’s ultimate success.”

Vernon Unsworth MBE, his partner Woranan Ratrawiphakkun, and his caving buddy Kamon Kunngamkwamdee, all starred in the “Where the Eagles Fly” fantasy music video, which was set in deep jungle and caves in the mountain of Doi Nang Non in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

“I’m truly honoured to have this song written about me. It was very moving to relive parts of the rescue while making the music video, especially when I think back on how Kamon and I covered over 16 km. on the first day after we knew the boys were missing. We virtually lived in the cave for the first 4 days prior to the arrival of my cave diving colleagues from the UK”.

The story of how the football team were saved in the caves is a heart warming one. For many attending the event it was a privilege and an honour to meet 63 year old Vernon Unsworth in person. An event filled with stories of bravery, emotion and moving music.

Vernon, who has mapped the cave system for 8 years, was the first professional cave diver at the site and realising the enormous danger the boys were in, played a significant rôle in the rescue and earned him the UK’s high honour, an MBE medal.

As the rescue became a race against time ahead of impending monsoon rains, Vernon undertook reconnaissance dives upstream through flooded passages against strong currents.

Weerasak Kowsurat, the former Minister of Tourism and Sports, recalled how a message written on a piece of paper by Vernon and handed to his colleague for safe keeping with instructions that it was to be handed over in case Vernon, fearing the worst, didn’t make it out on an exploratory dive. It was very dangerous work and one Thai diver died during the course of the rescue.

Although Vernon was safe, the message was handed to the Minister who was at the cave site. The message was to contact the British Dive Caving Association and gave names of expert divers and telephone numbers. Within 24 hours the Tourism Minister had managed to get the UK divers on a hastily arranged flight to Thailand to assist in the rescue effort.

The team of UK divers, working under appalling conditions and with time running out, in poor visibility located the team marooned on a ledge above the water about 4 kilometres inside the cave complex.

Writer and executive producer of The Isan Project, Will Robinson says… “Although I had penned and produced “Heroes of Thailand” honouring all those involved in the Tham Luang cave rescue, I felt it was time to pay a special tribute directly to the mastermind of the extremely complex mission.”

“Vernon is such a humble man, I wanted to create a song not only to honour him, but also to establish Tham Luang and what is now known as the ‘Wild Boar Cave’, where the boys were found, as a new tourist attraction for those who love to explore caves.”

At the beginning of the video it reads…

“On June 23, 2018, 12 boys from the Wild Boar football team went exploring the Tham Luang cave with their coach in Chiang Rai. They never returned home that night, next day locals contacted cave explorer Vern Unsworth in nearby Mae Fah Luang. Over the course of the next two weeks Vern put his life on the line for the young football team with a daring rescue engineered by Vern and Elite British cave divers. This song was written in honour of Vern Unsworth M.B.E. and inspired by the above events.”

You can watch the video HERE.

Commenting on the Isan Project Tanes Petsuwan, TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications said, “TAT appreciates Will’s love of Thailand, and we are delighted to be supporting this launch. We also believe that this song combined with the newly-published children’s book, “All Thirteen” and the soon-to-be released Hollywood movie, “Thirteen Lives”, will help to dramatically boost tourism in and around Chiang Rai even though we will need to rely mainly on domestic tourists until the end of the year while international travel is still restricted.”

“Where the Eagles Fly”, co-written by Will Robinson and Daniel Ryan, and performed by Daniel himself, is tipped to top the charts when the MGM blockbuster movie, “Thirteen Lives” and the Netflix mini-series about the epic story of the Tham Luang cave rescue are released. The song is now available from all digital music stores including iTunes, Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

The Isan Project honours a hero of Tham Luang cave rescue | News by The Thaiger

From left: Mr. Sobchai (Ford) Kraiyoonsen Singer/composer, Mr. Tanes Petsuwan TAT’s Deputy Governor of Marketing Communications, Senator Weerasak Kowsurat former Minister of Tourism and Sports, Mr. Vern Unsworth British cave explorer, Mr. Will Robinson Writer and Executive Producer of The Isan Project, Mr. Nithee Seeprae TAT’s Executive Director of Advertising & PR Department, Ms. Woranan Ratrawiphakkun Vern’s partner, Mr. Sammy Carolus GM of the Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit

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