Sunday, November 30, 2008

Moving House Party

After two years in Tai Au Mun, we are moving into a larger and easier to maintain house in Wing Lung Road. Hence, we had a great house-leaving party. Naturally, most of my scuba friends showed up. (They also enjoy other liquids, besides salt water.) From the Sandy Bottom Divers, we welcomed Martin, Mark and Harvey. Then, there was our neighbor Raymond. Most fortunately, I managed to reconnect with my friend Victor of AOI. He understands the market of underwater photography better than anyone, and provided great insight and advice. Yet, most of the info was proprietary, and I cannot comment on it.

Finally, one of the highlights of the evening was my 10kg leg of ham, baked in a two inch thick crust of German bread. Thanks to Dine At Home of Stanley.

Pranayama Workshop with Leslie Hogya

Last week, I attended a Pranayama workshop with Leslie Hogya at the Iyengar Yoga Center of Hong Kong. Leslie is one of the most senior Yoga teachers around, and has studied for forty years with B.K.S. Iyengar. She is president of the Canadian Iyengar Yoga Association.

Over three sessions (2-3 hours each), here is what I took away:
(I am sure there was tons more, but I am just a beginner.)

  • Pranayama requires a good command of basic yoga poses (asanas).
  • It is best performed sitting (lotus pose)
  • Unless the lotus pose is mastered, it should be performed sitting on a chair
  • Unless sitting has been trained properly, it should be performed lying down
  • Breathing takes place in the chest, not the belly
  • While inhaling, the abdomen should retract
  • The intercostal muscles (between ribs, like any other muscle harden over time and need to be stretched
My ribcage is super-stiff, close to concrete. Although much smaller, Andrew for example found several times more space in his ribcage. For me, this is a looong journey but well worth the effort.

Overall this was an absolute unique opportunity to study with someone like Leslie. She greatly helped demystifying Pranayama, and got me started in a new direction. The obvious targets are and increase in my free-diving capacity, and a reduction in air consumption on scuba.

Anilao, Batangas, Philippines

On the evening of November 19th, we flew to Manila, from where a van took us three hours to the small community of Anilao in the Batangas region. We stayed at the Portulano scuba resort, reachable only by a 10 minute boat ride.

The resort was small, consisting of a systems of bungalows on the hillside. Very low key, and charming. We were the only guests, and enjoyed impeccable service. Food was included, in the form of three buffets every day, standard Philippina fare. We particularly enjoyed the desert, a fried banana wrap.

Due to its proximity to the nation's capital, this was one of the earliest and most popular dive spots in the Philippines. Dynamite fishing stopped some 30 years ago, and the coral is in pristine condition. The locals however became very proficient in other fishing methods, and medium to large size fish are basically extinct. The few "marine sanctuaries" are usually only several hundred meters wide, and again only protect corals and small fish.

There are supposed to be a handful of turtles in the area, although we did not see any. Turtles must have a really hard time reproducing, as most of the coast is clustered with shacks, resorts, and marinas.

Nonetheless, diving was excellent. The underwater landscape was absolutely amazing, and there was tons of macro-opportunities.

We got three dives on three days, commonly 50 min, in up to 30 meters of water. Hence, we frequently exceeded our non-deco time. On Sunday morning, we did one very early dive, with 36% Nitrox, in shallow 10m water, and our Suuntos gave "clear to dive" twelve hours later, just as we were about to board the airplane to HK.

Overall, the diving was great, although not as good as other places in the Philippines. The area however is easily accessible, and the "travel-to-scuba ratio" was well worth the trip.