Craig’s Travel Diary

Monday, 14 May 2007

Location: Koh Phangan, Thailand

MapHello all!

I've been a bit busier this week and managed to get out of Bangkok and headed to an Island in the South called Koh Tao. It was a long journey between bus and boat but everything runs on time, is clean and hassle free but not as fun as using Indian transport! I traveled down with Ed and Katie, a really cool couple from London who I originally met in India and then Nepal and will probably see them again in Oz.

The main reason why Koh Tao is popular is because of the dive sites it sits between, some of the best in the world I've been told so where else better to learn. We relaxed the day we arrived on a picture perfect white sandy coastline and because it's low season not too many tourists. The next day we started our first day of our PADI open water course which if passed allows you to dive with a 'buddy' down to 18m. I say 'if' because we kind of assumed you pay the money, have a bit of time in the water and you get your certification - as we found out this wasn't the case! The Instructors were all stereotypical danger sport types from all over the world and even one guy from Grimsby who called himself Chill, couldn't help but wonder if that's what his mum back home calls him! We were introduced to our Dutch Instructor, Sandra who despite her petit appearance wasn't afraid to give us a good kick when we messed up! The first day was spent in the class room, learning about equipment, breathing and safety. This was pretty intense considering brain activity has been at minimum levels for the past few months. We watched the video's, had discussions and had to study the whole PADI manuel in 2 days which would be the basis of questions for the theory element. Luckily it was a lot of common sense so we all managed to pass.

The next day we had our underwater training exercises which involved being in water only a few meters deep and practicing emergency scenario's like turning your air off so you know what it feels like to run out of air, taking out your regulator and finding it again and taking off your mask and clearing the water plus a few others. Now apart from minimal snorkeling this was my first experience of under water life and the initial kitting up with a 6 kg weight belt on and the rest of the equipment weighing me down I was a little nervous to say the least. To be honest first time under the water I was pretty freaked out and wasn't sure if this was for me, all I could think about was that the only thing to keep me breathing is this can of air behind me and the thought of going 18m under water with this just made me more nervous. But all was fine, after the initial half an hour and having completed all the skills I was feeling a lot more confident.

The next day we went on our first dive to 10m but due to Ed and I being pretty terrible we couldn't do much. The principle of diving is to become neutrally buoyant so when you sink to the bottom you can control yourself hovering in the water by your own breathing alone, if you want to go up a bit, take a bigger breath in, to go down a big breath out but some how we couldn't figure this one out! So we came to the final day and unfortunately Katie was ill so couldn't make it so Sandra had the pleasure of trying to teach 2 useless aqua boys how to dive. The third dive was better but still not good enough to pass, it was ok under water as we couldn't be shouted at but as soon when we reached the surface we got an earful! The final dive and we both cracked it and managed to get round some coral and see some of the amazing sea life. Unfortunately as we didn't reach the 18m depth we were give the 'scuba diving qualification' which is to 12m and given the option of doing 2 more dives the following day to get the 18m qualification. I was determined to get it no matter how bad I was so the next day I went out and had 2 almost perfect dives down to 19m. It was certainly worth carrying on, once it clicked and I began to relax I could really enjoy this weird and wonderful underwater world. We dived in a famous diving spot that reaches 30m in places and swam round coral and saw butterfly fish, clown fish, trigger fish, a huge hermit crab and even an octopus and many other marine life which I had no idea existed let alone what it was. I'm really glad I carried on and had the extra dives as I want to do a lot more diving, possibly more in Thailand but also Vietnam and Oz of course!

Yesterday I came to another island called Koh Phangan which is the famous 'Full moon party' Island but unfortunately no full moon while I'm here but from what I've seen so far no one lets that minor detail get in the way!

Hope your all ok back home and you'll be glad to know it's even raining here!