Thai Paradise: Scuba Diving Part 1

13 Jan
Koh Tao at sunset, Thailand

Koh Tao at sunset

The road was long, but we made it to Koh Tao – an island in the Gulf of Thailand. The journey was interesting and full of unexpected set backs. We packed up our bags in Bangkok and decided that taking the train down to Chumphon, spending the night and catching the 7am ferry to Koh Tao would be the most comfortable route, but then we were whisked away on a tuk tuk (a three-wheel motorcycle hut) to a travel agency INSTEAD of the train station by some ‘tourist police’. We ended up missing our train and paying for the overnight bus/boat combo ticket from the agency – exactly what they wanted from us, at a price we later found out was twice as much as the other people on our ferry. Scammed. We arrived at the agency around 1pm, but the transfer to the bus wasn’t leaving until 5pm, so Stefanie and I cruised the streets and found a local thai massage parlor. Ah, finally some bliss!

The Thai masseuse was amazing! Mine – at least. She was a tiny, old Thai woman, who hardly spoke a word of English, but we communicated just fine. She gave me an interesting, forceful massage using every part of her body and massaging every part of mine! She even massaged my face! She told me I was beautiful and so I complimented her as well but she told me ‘noooo!!! you so pink! beautiful’ and then pointed to her skin and said something in Thai. She reminded me of my grandmother. My avoe often says how she wishes she had light skin, instead of her tanned Portuguese colour. It’s definitely an old school way of thinking – but it’s funny how our generation wants the exact opposite: a bronze glow. Anyways, after the massage, we were given tea and then went into the front part of the parlor. My masseuse asked us to sit down and then she put her baby grand daughter in our laps and made us hold her while she kept saying ‘So pink from Canada!’ I guess they don’t see many ‘western’ people in the area. The baby was adorable and had charms on her wrist and neck for good luck. We said our good-byes and thank-yous and left. To top it all off, the 1 hour massage cost $6! Not bad!

After wandering a huge mall for a bit and waiting around in front of a sunglasses shop for 1 hour, we finally boarded the bus to Chumphon. I slept for a bit and then we were deposited on the side of a highway at 4am and waited for our transfer to the pier. Thirty minutes later, we all climbed into the back of a covered pickup truck with benches and drove for another 30 minutes to the dock. We had to wait for 3 hours for the ferry. We chatted with some interesting Europeans and read most of the time. At 7:15am, we took the ferry to Koh Tao. It took 3 hours and I slept most of the way – as usual. When we reached the island, we climbed into the back of a pickup and drove to Big Blue Dive Resort.

Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao, Thailand

Later, I noticed that my bag was packed wrong and realized that my iPod charger (the one that plugs into the wall) and cord were both missing. Stef checked her bag and someone stole her headlamp. Thankfully, we had no other valuables in our big packs. Everything was on us. We assume it was probably stolen on the bus because our bags were not packed into the luggage compartment. It was a minor setback, but still rather annoying. Once you realize that you’re on the beach for the next 10 days – you just suck it up and move on.

That day, Stefanie and I enjoyed some curry dishes at a beach-side restaurant, tanned and swam in the turquoise waters for a bit before heading back to Big Blue for orientation. While swimming, two people approached us and just started rambling on about their lives and how they smoked so much weed and drank mushroom smoothies. They were crazy and making little sense. I almost couldn’t stop from laughing. The girl was particularly insane! Welcome to Thai beaches! Anyways, we finally got rid of them and then headed to Big Blue.

During orientation, we watched a bunch of films, met our instructors, signed forms and all that jazz. We decided to take the Scuba Society International Open Water dive course, which allows us to dive down to 18 metres. The PADI course, which is probably more famous was 800baht more and it’s exactly the same – so we went with SSI instead.

After orientation, we had some pizza and beers while finishing up our homework – yes, homework! We met our European friends on the beach and watched some fire dancers, while resting on pillows. It was so relaxing – the perfect beach atmosphere.

fire dancers Koh Tao Thailand

fire dancers in front of Big Blue Dive Resort

We had class at 8:30am the next morning, so it was an early night. The following day, we watched more videos, listened to our instructor lecture and then went into the pool and practiced some underwater skills. At the end of the day, our group of 5 had dinner at a local restaurant. Stef and I are learning with 3  Germans. They are young and really friendly – but it’s true, Germans are everywhere!

Oh yes, my uncle Joe asked me about the food here in Thailand….. one word: SPICY! You can always ask for no spice, but it’s pretty hard to get away from. There are a lot of curry dishes as well – so you better love it 🙂 Other than that, there are tons of tropical fruits, fruit shakes, BBQ corn on the cob, kebabs on the street, etc. There are a lot of options – even for vegetarians. You will not go hungry in Asia.

Today we had our first two open water dives, but I’ll write about them tomorrow once we finish our last two. We also wrote our final exam and guess what – WE PASSED 🙂 Stefanie got perfect, so our instructor is buying her a beer tomorrow night and I had one wrong answer – darn! It was easy, but we still stressed about it.

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