there was nothing but blue; suspended in time – PADI Advanced Diving in Tioman, Malaysia

PADI advanced diving



Dive #5: tiger reef. 33m. 20 mins.

giant stride. we went down. the currents swept us as we held on the line. strong choppy waves for awhile. it felt deep, or maybe i did not pump my bcd properly. continued to be swept. tank cradle. 
we hugged our legs around the tank of the person in front of us.

one, two, three, descend. down we went.

it felt deep, for sure. down, down, down.clear ears, clear ears, clear ears. i was still grabbing daniel. he was above. he slapped my legs. i let go. 

i could see nothing in front of me. was i going up or going down? how fast was i going down? there was nothing in front of me except a canvas of blue. only blue. 
that was probably one of the most panic-inducing blank space of blue ever. 

it is like hanging frozen in time, stuck. you are nowhere, in another dimension perhaps. there is nothing around you. you are moving but you’re not quite sure where, because there is nothing around you. no sense of time, no sense of distance, no sense of space. 

my head felt heavy. i could feel the depth. i saw a pair of yellow fins from the corner of my eyes. this means there was someone behind me i wanted to turn but decided not to, in case this wrestle of movement cause that person to detach him/herself from me. 

suddenly we landed. i guess we reached the sea floor. everything was so slow-mo. everything was so, so slow. i could feel the depth of the waters because of how slow everything seemed to be. 
everything was mo v i n  g    s        o              s         l            o            w          l                  y 

finally in the midst of my confusion and anxiety i saw daniel and he gripped my hand and frankly, i have never felt so comforted by another human’s grip
it reminded me that this was not a dream, it was real, we were THAT deep underwater and i could feel it, and i was not completely alone and lost in this landscape of blank blue.

saw the others and jeff and we waited awhile. at one point we took selfies.
that calmed me down a little, some form of normality in the midst of this dreamscape where i felt somewhat… like i was on drugs. like this was a dream where i was trying to wake up. how do i describe the feeling? i had never, never felt anything like that. never. it was so… crazy in some ways.
jeff started to swim. i tried to follow. what scared me most was how there was just nothing, nothing around me. except jeff’s yellow fin in the distance. i could feel the current pushing. we were trying to fin against the current. the yellow fins started to drift further and further away from me. i could feel a ball of panic rising. if i don’t catch up i am screwed, i am washed away, i am gone, into this canvas of blue nothingness. nothing. everything was so slow mo. my brain was hardly working. think, think, focus, i thought to myself. i also felt like falling asleep, because it was so quiet, so peaceful, you could hear nothing but your own breathing, with a blanket of weight over me 

i finned hard
i tried to shake myself awake 
focus on finning, focus on finning 
catch up – i remember having a slight mental struggle as i tired a little 
but i can’t because this is my life
i suddenly thought about how crazy this was
jeff also couldn’t turn around to count
if someone were to be lost or left behind, how were we gonna find out in this canvas of nothing-blue? 
finally somewhat we were to hover which meant we were going up already 
finally we ascended
what was that? my puzzled thoughts echoed the confused eyes of others, i guess i wasn’t alone. well it seems like the current carried us too far away so when we descended it was too far from the coral. 
we tried again. this time we descended by ourselves – no more tank cradle.  
this time it wasn’t too bad. still, i felt that familiar wave of confusion 
at one point, i swam towards jeff and the line 
at another point, we swam towards the rest 
that mental picture is the most poignant – the group of them all trying to go back up, a blank blue in the background, the light gently cast on them as the bubbles sparkled
i joined the school of them 
we hovered and played with bubbles for awhile
then we went up
we didn’t get to see anything, but that was something intense and something i would remember
the drugged feeling 
the emptiness of space
of being completely alone with no sense of space and time

i realised the importance of objects in keeping me sane 


We left Kranji with the chartered bus in the early morning of 6am. Fast forward- We crossed border, took the ferry, put our things, changed into our dive suits, assigned dive buddy, put on our gears, anti-fog, goggles and fins, d-i-v-e

it was somewhat familiar, and I was not particularly nervous. Maybe more of anticipation, anticipation because I remember how it was like and I briefly wondered if I forgot anything. 
First site – 
1. Temok – 10.2m where we recapped mask clearing / regulator throw, + learnt some advance skills, e.g. releasing the ‘diver below’ sign, the bag to carry things up to shore, the compass directions thing 
we saw a big coral bush
hello familiar scene 
hello familiar breathing
hello, my inhalation and exhalation, softly booming about me
2. Sipadan boat wreck – 28.2m – 28 mins
we dived deeper this time, descending superman-like towards the downward sloping line 
equalize, equalize
i was very conscious about that 
little shell-like structures (can’t remember what they are – little clams? shells? barnacles?) clung to the ropes
i followed the yellow fins ahead of me 
i was here again, lost in this dreamscape of silence 
we finned forward
at one point, we turned and (as i envision the scene again) a wrecked boat was to our left
a Malaysian flag somewhat waving from its mast 
a school of fishes swimming orderly across my view
i could almost hear a cacophony of trumpets announcing someone’s arrival (like little mermaid you know, that scene of fishes welcoming some Sea King or something) 
i looked at the wreck curiously
I looked at the side walls curiously
I saw some slug like thing 
I hovered across some sea urchins
I finned and finned and followed Jeff
fin, fin, fin
a colourful fish (parrot fish) says hi, another flaps its wings robotically 
i briefly saw an eel
the lion fish
we emerged after
because i speak from one having come from a much greater depth now, i cannot remember if i recognized / felt the depth for this particular dive
but diving at a greater depth feels heavier, and lighter
3. Tedau reef – 10.1m – 31 mins
our third dive of the day
this was a very pleasant dive because our group was small(er), there were only 6 of us or something with Lishi, i bumped into people less (fewer people to bump), water was pretty clear and I was comfortable to observe the things around me
I didn’t bring my go pro (and it was the right thing tom do) because my open water reminded me that I look at the screen 
this time i finned and i observed and looked around me
it was nice because it was clear and we saw many interesting things – the nemos and the corals and the other fat fishes 
and it was just pretty, and shallow 
10m feels so… un-scary to me now
it makes sense that one would be able to come up quite readily at this depth
it made me realise that i had expanded my view from open water – hurray! was i so worried about this during open water dive? this was really pretty much nothing to be concerned about
(at this point, i am somewhat pleased!)
here, we dipped under a tunnel and it was fun 
we dived and swam between corals with lishi
i liked it
came up and had dinner 
4. Night dive – Soyak – 41 mins – 14.4m
night dive was not scary – the anticipation for night dive was of greater contemplation, the preconceived notions made it so. i pictured night dive to be one of pitch darkness, where i could hardly make out the surroundings save for the glowing source of light. I pictured the possible scenario of myself chasing the rest rapidly as they slowly disappeared into the darkness. I would cry, aloud, except I couldn’t, because no one could hear me. Even if I were to falter, no one would notice, it would be too dark for that. I could just disappear into the darkness. They would emerge, ‘where is siangyee?’ and by then i would have wailed silently as i spiralled downwards… 
nah, just being dramatic. frankly, knowing it’s only 14.4m, and having done the previous shallow and deeper dives earlier than morning, it didn’t feel so scary, i was fine and i was busy talking to the rest – there was not much time to dwell on the anticipation. i didn’t feel a wave of nervousness either, because of the 14.4m. plus it wasn’t the pitch darkness i pictured, it was just the sun that had set, and the boat lights lit the distance. we swam and laughed in the waters, fiddled with the torches. i felt some butterflies when we said to descend, but after that everything happened too quick for my brain to activate the associated emotions. 
down we went… i could see Daniel I think (best dive buddy ever, frankly, very conscientious in looking out for me which is GREATLY appreciated) 
we could still see fairly, with everyone’s torches, and my own torch was used to used to scour my surroundings
did i like night dive? i did, i liked it for its sense of discovery
i felt like my torchlight was my tool, and i was really exploring as i shone my torch over the corals, the treacherous sea urchins again, the nemo snuggled within the anemone – sorry for disturbing… 
the big big seashell – jeff passed it to someone
i wanted to see it! i went up, someone else took it and it dropped
oh well, next
the little unibrow that poked its head
at one part we reached the seabed. jeff indicated to turn off our lights. 
out. out. out. jeff gestures for us to wave our hands.
we waved our hands. 
little green dots came into vision. green flakes floating, like fireflies. 
small little planktons zooming past, leaving a streak of light. we waved for a while. 
fin on, fin on
a moray eel slides across. i hover above jeff as he points it out. the eel hides under the rock. jeff pokes it. the eel slides across, unveiling its full majesty. we crowded, watching its full body slide… 
we fin on
eventually we emerge 
night dive checked, another misunderstood fear marked off
5. Tiger reef – 33m – 20 mins – ‘Journey Into the Unknown’
We were deciding between Tiger Reef and Chebeh. Tiger Reef, apparently in the middle of nowhere, had strong currents that supposedly might wash us away from our targeted reef site. As tricky as that was as a dive site, the abundance of oxygen meant that the frequent currents carried meant that the corals and wildlife there would probably be very beautiful. they let us decide.
as usual, taking responsibility for my decisions is not something i like to do. i voted ‘fine with both’. sounds like everyone went for Tiger Reef… i only had awhile to picture myself getting swept away by the currents and disappearing into the middle of the ocean with my weak and slow swimming skills + other worries because i was too tired and the day zoomed by and before i knew it we were on our way
6. Chebeh – 21.7m – 37 mins
Cheetah was pretty. It had many things to see. it was a deeper dive than Tedau reef, but i could feel the depth of it making it somewhat smoother for me to hover. or maybe I’m more comfortable now 







PADI Open Water Dive (7/8 May – Tioman, Malaysia)

I opened myself to a whole other world

A world without voices, a world without words
The first and the second and the third and the fourth feels different each time
With each one I grow a little more, I feel myself inch (just that little bit) closer towards the extension of my own potential

The first – I walked from the shore towards the calm waters, my heart skipping a beat every now and then
The drills were familiar, the shore dives were fine
We were in rather shallow waters, maybe 6 or 7m below
I have grown to place my trust in my BCD, and to remember to breathe

The Nexts, of Fan Canyon and R island

magical and quiet and hollow and loud and dark and bright and echoed and dream-like surreal surroundings – am I in a dream? Here, time slows down
Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine

Here, voices dissipate
What is it like in a world without words?

I could feel the stir of excitement as we chased after the turtle
I wanted to giggle aloud as I watched them get on the treadmill
Jeff points to the playground; I can hear us going ‘omg!’ as we fin, as we fin
Silent excitement stirring the waters
We could only communicate mainly through signs
Was this close to how to deaf feel, I thought of my sign language classes
Not quite so, since we still have the ‘ding ding!’ of the tanks
If I screamed, no one would be able to hear me
If I were to disappear, how long would it take for them to realize?
There was no sound, except for the sharp hollow inhalation, bubbles
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. We moved along with the bubbles

Sometimes I had no concept of space
Was I moving up, or was I moving down?
Without the rope I found it so hard to tell if I was descending
It was blue all around, and bubbles
My ears feel the pressure; I blow my nose as I grasped onto the rope tightly – were my eardrums going to explode?

It was about the 4th dive that I felt myself more relaxed, and truly looking around my surroundings
Observing the Nemos peeking from the corals
Ugh, what’s that brain-like thing?

A school of fishes swim past me – I screamed in excitement silently as I frantically tried to take a video
I looked to my front: my right
They were shrouded in a veil of sediments, amplifying the mystic of the underwater world

A wave of warm current seeps in

We fin on, past the sea urchins, the waving anemonies, the unknown fish species, the turtle we chased to the surface
We fin on, on to our next chapter of possibilities

I love life-shaping weekends like this
How ordinary my weekend could have been, but how significant such days become

thank you for being my strength 🙂

busy turtle-chasing
thanks for the memories 🙂 first times will always be special
until next time, you unfamiliar waters 🙂