Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thailand returns and the diving begins

I'm still trying to find my rhythm here in Seattle. Hence tomorrow being today which was actually six days later.

I left off at my arrival in Koh Tao. I showed up with a busted ankle but otherwise ready to get my Open Water (OWD) scuba certification. Koh Tao is a tiny island that is a diving mecca.  It's reputed to be the cheapest place in the world to get certified.  Koh Tao is the most northern of the three islands off the east coast of Thailand and the hardest to get to.  It has over 25 dive shops and more than a dozen dive sites.
Phoenix Divers shop patio

The pink beast

After talking to the shop I wanted  to do my cert with, we decided I'd wait a day to start.  Tuesday was a rest day, and most of it in a restaurant or in my hut to stay off my feet.  The dive shops are competitive and offer great packages. With my OWD I got four free nights lodging in a little hut.  Nothing fancy but enough room to spread out.  The fan was enough and the mozzie net greatly appreciated. The course was a half day the first day, all classroom work watching videos and doing worksheets. Day two was coursework in the morning and pool "diving" in the afternoon.  Its the first time we gear up and practice the required skills. Day three is the written test and afternoon dive in the ocean while completing skills.  Day four was a morning dive and then we were finished. There were only three of us in my class and Al, our instructor, said we were the easiest class he'd had in a long time.  No one failed their test or skills and we had a good time along the way.
Outside my hut
I was hooked from the first dive.  I grew up a pool rat, starting on swim team at age six and working as a lifeguard and swim instructor for nearly nine years.  If I'd grown up in a warmer climate I guarantee I would have gotten my certificate much sooner. The only downside, something learned since Koh Tao, is that the diving SO good that it makes everything else pale in comparison.
Last dive for OWD!!
I finished my OWD and the two guys in my course both left the island.  I took a day off and then went straight into AWD, Advanced Open Water Diver. No one else signed up so it was just Al and I.  No jump in price even though it was a private class, AND because it was my second course with them I got a discount. I'm now cleared to dive up to thirty meters, in low visibility/at night, using navigation techniques and a dive computer and I have perfect buoyancy. I also managed to put a gash in the outside of my left foot too.  Remember that for later.
In all I was on Koh Tao about ten days and was hard pressed to leave.  I didn't see much of the island except what was in walking distance of Phoenix Divers and I didn't mind. The food was close and good, or good enough.  At night the vibe was mellow.  There was a bar with a great fireshow, even better than Koh Phi-Phi.  And here's the kicker.  The performers are under 15 years old. Next time I'll rent a motorbike and see the peaks and other coves on the island. From Koh Tao I could have taken two boats to a bus or train to Bangkok.  Instead I spent a little more and saved myself a day of travel.  I took the local boat to Koh Samui, spent the night and then flew out to Pattaya in the morning.  Bangkok Airways gets a big gold star from me.  Free deli snacks and beverages at the airport, food on the plane, nice attendants and all for a flight that was just over an hour.

I'd booked a bed in a eight person room in Pattaya.  I got in and found Mermaid Divers on my first afternoon. After walking around the city for an estimated five miles and seven hours, I went back and found I'd lucked. I was the only one in my room. Mermaids picked me up in the morning and we went out diving.

An outline of diving in Pattaya and contrasting it with Koh Tao, Bangkok, Arutthaya and (hopefully) a wrap up of Thailand tomorrow.

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