Thailand wasn’t originally part of the plan for my travels this year but I got sick of the rain in Sri Lanka and Thailand seemed like a viable option for a good dose of vitamin D. I headed straight for the island of Koh Tao where I’d decided to tackle an open water diving course. I still can’t believe it took me this long to learn how to dive but I was so excited to get stuck into it.
Now when I say I headed straight for the island of Koh Tao, I use that phrase loosely. I arrived in Bangkok at 6 am in the morning and had 15 hours to kill before I’d catch an overnight bus to the ferry terminal and then the ferry across to Koh Tao. I caught the train and then a taxi to the Lomprayah office (the bus and ferry company I was using) on Koh San road and then killed time by wandering around Bangkok for a bit, getting a pedicure, grabbing a bite to eat and getting a massage. 9 pm finally arrived and I slept my way to Koh Tao. I was out cold on the bus and the ferry but I was still completely buggered by the time I arrived on Koh Tao at 10:30 am the next morning. For anyone interested in the stats, since departing Kandy, Sri Lanka, my previous destination it had taken me a total of 43 hours, 2 buses, 1 plane, 1 train, 2 taxis and a ferry to arrive at Big Blue Dive Resort, Koh Tao, Thailand, my next destination.
When I arrived on Koh Tao I was picked by the Big Blue taxi and taken to the resort where I would be starting my dive course that evening.
There were 18 of us starting the dive course on this day and I was grouped with 5 others. My dive family was made up of 5 solo travelers from various areas of England, Rebecca, Laura, Lauren, Dan and Grace, our instructor Scotty, a fellow Aussie who is originally from Evans Head, a town about an hour South of me and Abbi our assistant instructor from Canada. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to go through this experience with and we all loved it so much that after we finished our open water course we signed up for the advanced course, an additional two day course that would qualify us to dive to 30 m.
The open water dive course schedule went something like this…
Day 1 : Orientation and theory
Day 2 : Theory and pool skills – basically we went through everything we needed to know in the pool before we hit the ocean
Day 3 : Theory, test and ocean dives!! – We started the day with a test to make sure we understood/remembered all the theory we had learnt, it was a super easy multiple choice that would have taken a fair bit of effort to fail. For example one of the questions was something like what do you do when you see sea life on your dive… one of the optional answers – approach from behind and stroke it. I found this one particularly amusing and in case you were wondering this is NOT what you do when your diving, you don’t touch anything! Ever! Simple enough and not only does this protect the marine life, it protects you too! There’s some pretty nasty creatures down there that will do some damage if you touch them… Sea urchins, anemones and if you’re really unlucky you might get attacked by a trigger fish!
With the test out of the way we were ready to hit the water, we visited Mango bay and Buoyancy World where we spent time testing out the skills we had learned over the last couple of days. It’s hard to describe the feeling that you get when you sink into the water for the first time. I’ve done plenty of swimming, snorkeling and free diving (I’m a self taught amateur) but this is the first time I’ve been able to breath underwater and it was absolutely incredible! It’s a whole different world down there.
Day 4: 2 more open water dives reaching a depth of 18m at White Rock and Twins. The best part of today… we found Nemo!!! Well not exactky but we found a little family of clown fish and they were adorable! We all passed the course so we celebrated with some beers and then some more beers. Today was actually the full moon, a public holiday in Thailand meaning it’s illegal for establishments to sell alcohol (except for big blue I guess?). Anyway we were lucky enough that Scotty our instructor also owned a restaurant in town and for a “donation” we could continue to drink beers there. I probably had a few too many but I wasn’t that bad. I made it back to my room and passed out.
I’d decided the night before that I wanted to hike to a view a point and I set the alarm ready. I wasn’t particularly impressed when the alarm went off and I probably could have slept a lot longer but since I was already up I figured I may as well do the hike. Feeling a little under the weather, I hit up the 7/11 and equipped myself with water and potato chips, you know the essentials, and off I went. I’d read about mango view point on a couple of blogs and it sounded like a good one to try. None of these blogs really specified just how steep this hike was! And it was steep, really freaking steep and far and really not suitable for someone in a semi hungover state like I was. It took me about an hour to get to the top, a whole lot of sweating and a couple of moments where I had to stop myself from being sick but I made it in the end and the view was 100% worth it! AND I had the whole place to myself, bonus! After snapping a lots of photos I made my way down to my accomodation and got myself ready to start the advanced course at 10 am.
The advanced course consisted of a little bit a theory and a whole lot of diving and it was awesome! We completed 5 dives over 2 days, 2 of which took us to 30 m! We dove at Aow Leuk Bay, King Kong, Chumphon Pinnacle, HTMS Sattakut and Red Rock. These dives were all incredible but my favourite was definitely Chumphon, considered one of the best dive sites off Koh Tao this area is an underwater wonderland, the pinnacle is absolutely smothered in anemone and anemone fish, my favourite thing to see! We also had fantastic visibility and it was just completely magical! I loved the wreck dive, HTMS Sattakut, even though it wasn’t a legitimate wreck… the ship was left in Thailand by the American navy and someone decided to sink the ship and make it a dive site. So as far as I’m concerned it’s not a REAL sunken ship but it was still absolutely amazing. And another highlight of my dives was when we visited red rock and did the 12 m swim through in an underwater cave. Apparently there was an eel watching us when we did this but unfortunately I missed him!
All in all my dive experience in Koh Tao was absolutely out of this world, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and something I’ll never ever forget.
After my dive course in Koh Tao I decided to head to phuket for a few days to catch up with my friend Becky who I’d met in Sri Lanka. She was staying in an area that I decided to name fitness central! She was there to learn Muay Thai and I figured I could give it a go. Not really my cup of tea but I was in Thailand so I though I may as well try it. Apart from Muay Thai schools this area also had a whole lot of gyms and cross fit classes. Since I’ve been on the road for nearly 3 months at this point I thought a little bit of fitness wouldn’t do me any harm. We signed up for a cross fit class and I got absolutely slaughtered! My fitness that I work hard for when I’m at home had completely disappeared and this hour long class nearly killed me!
The following day I could hardly move so I put off attending the Muay Thai class until the following day. It rained nearly the whole time I was in Phuket and not just a little bit of rain but the kind of torrential rain that causes flash floods! I spent most of my time watching criminal minds episodes and catching up on my blog and videos. When the day arrived that I’d agreed to do the Muay Thai class a big part of me wanted to back out of my decision, but I sucked it up and went along and gave it a go. The first part of the class was great, kind of like a boxing class at the gym, I thought this is something I can handle and then they told us to get in the ring and sparr. To be fair we were all beginners so I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten hurt but this really just was not something I wanted to do, no part of me wants to fight with someone else, no matter the situation so I was out of the ring as quickly as I got in there and spent the rest of the class watching from the sidelines, totally fine with me! The main thing is I gave it a go, now I’ve done Muay Thai in Thailand and yoga in India… what’s next?!
When I was getting near the end of my stay in Phuket I decided that despite the weather I was going to get outside and do something. I got up one morning with plans to head up to the big Buddha, Becky was going to join me but when she saw the pouring rain outside she bailed. I wasn’t to be deterred, I headed to the 7/11 and equipped myself with a poncho and cookies and off I went. The rain slowed down a bit so I had high hopes that I’d be able to make it to the Buddha. I was very wrong, the rain picked up again and instead of easing, turned into a full blown storm featuring thunder, lightening and minor flash floods. I must have looked like a complete lunatic trudging through the puddles and poring rain in my bright blue poncho. I was definitely the only person out on foot! It ended up getting to the point where I was a little worried for my safety so I reluctantly gave up and made my way back to the hotel. I filled the rest of my day with a pedicure and getting my hair braided… classic Thailand.
Fortunately the following day, my last day in Thailand, did bring slightly better weather and Becky and I made it to the Buddha! The trek was a lot longer, steeper and harder than expected, an 18 km round trip in the end but it was awesome and we managed to make it nearly all the way back before getting hit with torrential rain about 1 km from our hotel. All in all this was probably the best day I had in Phuket.
I was up crazy early the next morning to head to the airport where I would fly to Bangkok and then on to Myanmar! I was super excited to arrive in Myanmar where I was meeting my parents for a 2 week Intrepid tour.
This was also an exciting day because it was the 3 month mark of my travels. 3 months since I left Australia for this crazy adventure that I’m on. Including Myanmar I have visited 7 countries, ridden on 15 buses, 4 boats, 11 trains, and 12 planes. I’ve watched 6 seasons of criminal minds, written 13 blog posts (including this one), 8 youtube videos and posted way too many photos on Instagram (sorry, not sorry). There’s plenty more where that came from and lots more adventures to be had so stay tuned as I explore the incredible country of Myanmar and more!
Speaking of YouTube videos along with my dive school video earlier in the post I’ve also put together a video of my whole time in Thailand. Enjoy!