Bangkok, November 2007
Part III

After Part II

November 21-24, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We went to the Millennium Hilton for the buffet dinner at Flow. OK, bear with me for the food shots ...


and the interior/exterior shots ...


because they all just lead up to an amazing family reunion. After we left the restaurant Pom and Golf were surprised by their identical twin sisters. This was not a surprise for Watcharee and me, because we had been contacted by the twins earlier in the day and we had briefed them on what outfits Pom and Golf would be wearing.


PS: The twins' names are Mop and Flog.


Thursday, November 22, 2007 (Thanksgiving Day in the USA ... just an ordinary Thursday in Thailand)

Thanks for Goodshit:


The other night we returned to Witch's, the English pub on Ruam Rudi. Yes, you don't have to ask ... I started with a dozen oysters.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Tomorrow is Loi Krathong in Thailand. The management at River Garden has invited all the tenants in the building to join with them on the lawn to celebrate the event. But, since Watcharee has invited 50 relatives and friends to our apartment for dinner and the viewing of the fireworks we won't be joining the downstairs party.

For those of you who want to know more about Loi Krathong, I've posted a description of it that I saw over at River City. Inside River City local merchants have prepared booths displaying their Loi Krathong related wares.

A few nights ago several boats made a practice run up the river. Tomorrow night it will be the full show with lots of fireworks.


PS: Oh My God!

The ship that we sailed on all over the world ... including to Antarctica ... is sinking!!

Cruise ship sinking in Antarctic waters

LONDON, England (CNN) — More than 150 people have abandoned a sinking cruise liner that collided with an iceberg in Antarctic waters, a Chilean navy captain told CNN.

No injuries have been reported among those rescued, after they were forced to abandon the sinking vessel and travel on lifeboats in sub-zero temperatures.

The Norwegian cruise ship MS Nord Norge took the stranded passengers and crew on board, a spokesman for Gap Adventures, which owns the sinking vessel, said.

The Nord Norge is now heading to King George Island, the nearest point, in the South Shetlands, the spokesman added.

Passenger ship Explorer reported problems near the South Shetland Islands, south of Argentina. The area is in a sector of Antarctica claimed by the United Kingdom.

The ship was on the 12th day of a 19-day tour of the southern Atlantic and Antarctic Peninsula.

It had already been to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and was on its way to the Danco Coast, on the peninsula's tip, when the incident happened.

Capt. Carlos Munita of the Chilean navy said they received a distress call from the Explorer, saying the vessel had hit an iceberg around 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

But Gap Adventures spokeswoman Susan Hayes said it was not an iceberg but a "submerged piece of ice."

She added that while the ship was listing at 35 degrees or more it was not clear whether it would sink. Susan Hayes from Gap adventures talks about the rescue mission.

The Explorer, which carries a Liberian flag, had a number of different nationalities on board including 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans, 12 Canadian and 10 Australians, Gap Adventures said.

Other nationalities include Argentineans, Belgians, Chinese, Danes, French, Irish, Japanese, Swiss, Colombian, Swedes and Germans.

John Warner, a spokesman for Gap Adventures, said the captain and chief officer initially stayed on the ship to make sure everyone was evacuated and to see if they could repair the damage, but they later abandoned the ship.

British Coast Guard spokesman Fred Caygill told The Associated Press the ship had a hole "the size of a fist" in the hull.

"We believed it has been hulled, it has a hole the size of a fist and some cracking in the hull of the ship, it's taking water and it's listing about 21 degrees," he said.

The temperature in the area is said to be at around minus 5C, with a sea temperature at around minus 1C, forecasters told the Press Association.

Stephen Davenport, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, said:"It wouldn't take long for hypothermia to set in at that kind of temperature in the sea.

"They do get very bad storms down that way, and gale force winds especially, because there is no land in the way," he told PA.

Lt. Matt Alex from the US Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center said the boat is owned by Gap Adventures, based in Toronto, Canada.


PPS:

154 Flee Sinking Ship in Antarctic

By GRAHAM BOWLEY and ANDREW C. REVKIN

November 24, 2007 — A small, historic cruise ship with an imperfect security record was listing dangerously after it struck ice in Antarctic waters today, with 154 passengers and crew members evacuated in a flotilla of lifeboats and inflatable boats, the cruise operator and coast guards said.

Late into the day, the small red and white ship – named the Explorer but known affectionately as "the little red ship" – was listing steeply to starboard, nearly on its side, awash in ice floes and steely gray water. The vessel – on an expedition to trace the doomed route of the explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton – sent out a distress signal in the middle of the night (5:24 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time) after it began to take in water through "a fist-sized hole," said Dan Brown, a spokesman for G.A.P. Adventures, the Toronto-based tour operator that owns and operates the ship. He said the "running assumption" is that it hit an iceberg. Water began to trickle into a cabin and eventually flooded the engine room, causing the ship to lose power.

The accident occurred well north of the Antarctic Circle in an island chain that is part of the Antarctic peninsula, which juts close to South America and has seen sharp warming of temperatures in recent years. As the satellite distress signal was being picked up by coast guard stations in Britain; Norfolk, Va.; and Ushuaia, Argentina, the ship's 100 passengers – 14 of them American, 24 British, 17 Dutch, 12 Canadian and a smattering of other nationalities– were awakened and told to don warm clothes and life preservers, said Mark Clark, a spokesman for Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency, which was one of the first authorities to receive the distress signal. They clambered down ladders on the ship's side to board lifeboats.

Mr. Clark said they were taken aboard a small research vessel, the National Geographic Endeavour, that was nearby, before they were transferred to a Norwegian cruise liner, the Nordnorge. But Mr. Brown said open lifeboats bobbed in the frigid waters for four hours before the Nordnorge could help them.

Jon Bowermaster, a travel writer and filmmaker who was lecturing on the National Geographic Endeavour, said by satellite phone: "We arrived just exactly alongside the Nordnorge. There was a long line of black rubber Zodiac boats and a handful of orange lifeboats strung out and it was very surreal because it was a very beautiful morning with the sun glistening off the relatively calm sea. and all you could think was how relieved these people must have been when they saw these two big ships coming over the horizon. They'd been in the lifeboats around four hours, but cold. the water temperature is not quite freezing and wind chills in the 20s, Fahrenheit."

Passengers on the Endeavour prepared hot tea and gathered blankets, and a section of the ship was dedicated to emergency medical care. Luckily, there were no emergency cases.

In February 1972, the Explorer, then operating for a Norwegian line as the Lindblad Explorer, ran aground close to the same spot, in similar circumstances. Amid the heaving seas, all her passengers then – mostly Americans – had to be rescued by the Chilean Navy.

On Friday, it was not immediately possible to reach the Explorer's passengers, who had paid somewhere between $8,700 and $16,700 for the 18-day adventure expedition. Mr. Brown said they were being taken to King George Island in Antarctica. He said there was confusion about where exactly they would be taken from there.

"The Chileans think they are taking them to Chile, the Argentinians think they are taking them to Argentina and the Brits are talking about taking the British passengers to the Falklands," he said.

The Chilean authorities said the passengers were being taken to the Chilean Air Force base on King George Island, the President Eduardo Frei Montalva Base, and later the commander of the base was quoted as saying that the Norwegian ship had arrived at the shore of the base around midday, but the passengers had not been able to disembark due to bad weather conditions.

Mr. Brown said the company had not yet been able to speak to anyone on board, but some radio stations had managed to speak to the captain of the Nordnorge, and he had reported that "everyone is healthy, uninjured and comfortable," Mr. Brown said. Their families are in the process of being notified about the accident, he said.

According to the BBC, First Officer Peter Svensson told Reuters: "We were passing through ice as usual. But this time something hit the hold and we got a little leakage downstairs.

"No one was hysterical, they were just sitting there nice and quiet, because we knew there were ships coming."

The Explorer – which Mr. Brown emphasized was not a luxury cruise liner but an expedition vessel – is registered in Liberia. It embarked from Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina, on Nov. 11, and was due to return on Nov. 29. The Explorer was built in Finland in 1969 and specially designed to operate in Antarctic and Arctic waters, he said, and has operated for most of its life in the Antarctic.It had a double bottom, a second sheath of steel to protect it if the ship runs aground, but the vessel did not have a double hull, a complete second complete sheathing of steel – developed after the Titanic, with a double bottom, sank. Built in 1969, the Explorer was small, to move swiftly through dangerous waters. According to G.A.P.'s website, the ship had a swimming pool, sauna, fitness center, and lounge.

It was the first passenger vessel to navigate the Northwest Passage, and has operated in Antarctica since 1970. Mr. Brown said "some deficiencies" in the Explorer were discovered during safety tests in March in Chile and in May in Scotland. On its Web site, Lloyd's List said the British authorities reported deficiencies including missing search-and-rescue plans, and lifeboat maintenance problems, while watertight doors were described as "not as required," and fire safety measures were also criticized. The ship later passed a safety test with "flying colors," the company said,, and Mr. Brown said the earlier problems "were not serious enough for the boat to be taken out of use."

Fred Caygill, a spokesman for Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency in Southampton, England, said five ships within the area responded to the distress signal, including Argentine and American vessels as well as a Chilean warship. Through the day and into the night, Argentine, American and British Coast Guard vessels arrived to watch the Explorer and debate whether and how,to try to stop the ship from going down. As last reported by the Argentine Coast Guard, Mr. Brown said, it was listing at 40 degrees. "That's not a good sign," he said.

Stefan Lundgren, a member of the Endeavor staff who had also worked on the Explorer, said he was saddened by the sight of the listing vessel: "For me she was a beautiful lady– boats are ladies – and I have been part of touching her year after year. For every new owner, she gets a new facelift. As an old woman, she's a tough lady. She doesn't want to give up, I can tell you. I still believe that perhaps it is not the last time that we see her."

A spokesman for the Chilean Navy, Jorge Bastías, said about 50 cruise ships passed through the Antarctic every season from November to February, when weather conditions are reasonable. Most cruise ships come from Ushuaia.

"There are occasional accidents in this route, but very minor ones," he said. "Conditions in the Antarctic are the most difficult in the world, and accidents occur like everywhere else; here, it is usually running into a rock, or ice. But I have seen many ships in the Antarctic, and sailed on a few, and they are very well equipped and prepared."

The ship's operator is part of a growing niche industry of adventure cruises. G.A.P. Adventures, based in Toronto, was founded in 1990 by Bruce Poon Tip, who immigrated to Canada from Trinidad as a child, to specialize in adventure travel, and offers cruises to the Antarctic, Greenland, Scotland and the Amazon. It sends 30 cruises a year into the Antarctic, all on the Explorer. G.A.P. said it had never had an accident with one of its ships before. But in March, two Canadian women and an Australian man died after a safari van chartered by the company collided with a truck in Kenya.

On the Antarctic tour, the passengers stop at the Falkland Islands and South Georgia Island, disembarking at both locations before finally heading for the tip of Antarctica. Scientists on board give briefings and lectures on wildlife, geology and climate change. They stop at points including the grave where Shackleton was buried following his death by a heart attack in 1922.

In addition to the Explorer, the company owns five yachts which are based in the Galapagos Islands and three tour ships in Greece.

While it is privately held and does not disclose financial information, G.A.P. says on its Web site that it handles about 60,000 travelers a year and has about 500 employees.

Regulatory responsibility for the ship is split among different countries and organizations.

G.A.P. is one of 38 full members of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, a voluntary group based in Basalt, Colo.

That organization has hundreds of rules largely devoted to environmental concerns that, among other things, limit ship operators to landing no more than 100 tourists on shore at any time.

Denise Landau, the group's executive director, said that the rescue was based on an emergency response system that requires all ships belonging to member companies to track each other's status at all times.

While the Explorer is not leaking any fluids, Mrs. Landau said that under the association's rules it uses marine gas oil which generally dissipates rather than coating wildlife and shorelines.

Because Canada is a signatory to Antarctic treaties, G.A.P. must obtain a permit from its home country to bring tours to the region.

All issues relating to the vessel's design, condition and crew, Mrs. Landau said, fall under the control of Liberia, where the Explorer is registered.

A page on the company's Web site offers potential customers "what to expect from a G.A.P. Adventures Trip."

"Whatever happens," the site warns, "it's best to remember that it's all part of the experience."

Dorothy Spears contributed reporting from the Antarctic; Ian Austen from Ottawa, Canada; Pascale Bonnefoy from Santiago, Chile; and Michael M. Grynbaum from New York.


PPPS:

(CNN) — More than 150 passengers and crew aboard a sinking ship in the Antarctic, which is believed to have collided with an iceberg, have been rescued to safety, officials said.

The Explorer is seen sinking after it hit an object in Antarctic waters Friday.

The Explorer finally slipped beneath the waves Friday evening, about 20 hours after the predawn accident near Antarctica's South Shetland Islands, the Chilean navy confirmed.

No injuries have been reported among those rescued after being forced to abandon the sinking vessel and travel on lifeboats in sub-zero temperatures.

The Norwegian cruise ship MS Nord Norge took the stranded passengers and crew on board, said a spokesman for Gap Adventures, which owns the sinking vessel.

The Nord Norge is now heading to King George Island, the nearest point, in the South Shetlands, the spokesman added.

The ship was on the 12th day of a 19-day tour of the southern Atlantic and Antarctic Peninsula.

It had already been to the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and was on its way to the Danco Coast, on the peninsula's tip, when the incident happened.

Capt. Carlos Munita of the Chilean navy said they received a distress call from the Explorer, saying the vessel had hit an iceberg around 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

But Gap Adventures spokeswoman Susan Hayes said it was not an iceberg but a "submerged piece of ice."

The Explorer, which carries a Liberian flag, had a number of different nationalities on board including 24 Britons, 17 Dutch, 14 Americans, 12 Canadian and 10 Australians, Gap Adventures said.

Other nationalities include Argentineans, Belgians, Chinese, Danes, French, Irish, Japanese, Swiss, Colombian, Swedes and Germans.

John Warner, a spokesman for Gap Adventures, said the captain and chief officer initially stayed on the ship to make sure everyone was evacuated and to see if they could repair the damage, but they later abandoned the ship.

British Coast Guard spokesman Fred Caygill told The Associated Press the ship had a hole "the size of a fist" in the hull.

"We believed it has been hulled, it has a hole the size of a fist and some cracking in the hull of the ship, it's taking water and it's listing about 21 degrees," he said.

The temperature in the area is said to be at around minus 5C, with a sea temperature at around minus 1C, forecasters told the Press Association.

Stephen Davenport, senior forecaster with MeteoGroup, said:"It wouldn't take long for hypothermia to set in at that kind of temperature in the sea.

"They do get very bad storms down that way, and gale force winds especially, because there is no land in the way," he told PA.

Lt. Matt Alex from the US Coast Guard Atlantic Area command center said the boat is owned by Gap Adventures, based in Toronto, Canada.


Saturday, November 24, 2007 (Pre-journal)

These are the very early preparations for tonight.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

For today and tomorrow please excuse my 'calendaric' inconsistencies ... you see I took so many photos last night that I really want to spread one night of Loi Krathong into a three day blog. Yesterday you mainly saw bare tables awaiting the food.

Today here is the food. But, where are the guests? You'll have to wait until tomorrow to meet them.

Next: Part IV

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