[Thailand, Koh Tao] Scuba Diving

I blogged about Bangkok a while back and here’s the diving part of the trip. For those who didn’t know,  I was in Thailand for a week in May, mainly for diving but I stopped by Bangkok for 2 days to shop and eat. It would have been a terribly long post especially when my posts tend to be very wordy. So here’s the diving portion as promised. Definitely the more interesting part of the trip (:

But before that, here’s a video compilation my dive buddy did with her GoPro. Not the best you can find on youtube but it sure holds some wonderful memories for the both of us.

We didn’t manage to arrive in time on the first day to start our advance course on that day itself, so we decided to explore the island on foot. We initially wanted to leave the island exploration to the last day but we brought it forward so that we would still have enough time for our leisure dives. There were plenty of motorbikes for rent and I don’t think you actually needed a license to ride them. We didn’t quite dare to ride one though so we decided to just go on foot. Half the island takes about an hour to explore. The diving side of the island is populated with westerners, but the other areas house plenty of locals.

scuba 3IMAG0316

 

We were actually really tired after the long coach and ferry ride. Our first stop at a local eatery which served Pad Thai gave us our first taste of Thai food after arriving. Food there generally costs about SGD 5-6, which is considered pricey for the locals there. Normal street stalls along Bangkok would sell similar food stuffs for about SGD 2-3. However, Koh Tao having been populated by westerners also meant that almost every stall/eatery/restaurant we went to had good food. Even the “bad” ones served decent food; we considered them “bad” merely because they paled in comparison. IMAG0315IMAG0319

There were plenty of Muay Thai/ MMA/Cross fit schools over there too. They offered things like a week’s accommodation thrown in together with daily classes for serious fighters. I’m not into MMA (though I’m seriously considering picking it up for self protection since I love travelling) but my friends have told me that it is a lot cheaper in Thailand.

IMAG0317   Street shots along the roads as we walked down (: IMAG0321

We reached around 10am in the morning so we had a nice full day to ourselves. Frolicked along the beach for a bit before we went to a nice comfy cafe to chill out with milkshakes and a book. Milkshakes are around SGD 2 there which is quite a steal because they’re at least double the cost back here at home. Some of them throw in yoghurt as well (: and they serve it in a rather large cup. Drank quite a couple of banana yoghurt milk shakes because we were so lacking in vegies during our stay there. IMAG0323_1

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Stayed behind to chill for a bit while my friend went for a yoga class. Here’s a picture of the beach from the cafe. Oh yes, you don’t quite need to buy 3G/4G sim cards over there ’cause most eateries provide free wifi. Connection and internet speed definitely wouldn’t be be as great as what we have here in Singapore but it’ll do (:  IMAG0338_1 IMAG0337_1 IMAG0332_1

There were plenty of beach bars; we hung out at Fizz on our first night there. The party culture is rather strong on the island, but I guess we all just have to keep in mind the need to drink responsibly. It is rather safe on the island; you could walk around at 10/11pm without being overly worried. Drinks aren’t that cheap but the atmosphere is pretty great. Partying generally starts around 9.30-10.30 depending on the bars (didn’t see any clubs though) so my friend and I generally grabbed our drinks before 10pm and head back to shower/sleep before the parties begin. I suppose the parties would have been rather wild given that we could hear the partying while sleeping in our dorms.  IMAG0390 IMAG0385_1 IMAG0384_1

Photos aren’t in chronological order hahaha. But here’s one of my favourite pictures. This was the group of people we did our leisure dives with after we got our advance certification. The guy on the extreme left is french, followed by our italian dive guide, and the guy on the extreme right is an Israeli. The Israeli guy’s pretty interesting. He served as a tank commander in the army for a couple of years after graduating from high school and is going to read law in Israel later this year. One thing great about planning our own dive trips as compared to going with school etc is that you get to meet a whole lot of different people with diverse backgrounds. That is what I really cherish about travelling.  IMAG0376_1 IMAG0375

Here’s the group of people we did our advance course with (: scuba 1

Us rigging up for one of the dives (: We usually didn’t dive with wet suits on this trip as the water wasn’t too cold. We wore our wet suits for two dives though – the deep dive and the wreck dive. Wore it on the deep dive because we were diving through a thermocline (where by the temperature dips abruptly) and on the wreck dive for safety reasons.

The wreck dive was one of my favourite dives. We did it at a site whereby a Chinese battleship sunk, and it was fully intact with the whole cannon still on the ship. It must have been a really tragic incident though, but it felt really amazing to be able to explore a sunken ship. Plenty of marine life on it too.

Another memorable dive was the night dive. It actually isn’t as scary as it sounds. We enter the water while there’s still a bit of light left so it only gets completely dark when you’re near the bottom. We carry torch lights too (: Night dives are really awesome because you get to see sleepy fish that just don’t seem to want to move, as well as huge hermit crabs, and blue spotted rays hurrying back to their homes. We turned off our torches for a short moment during our night dive and we saw loads of glowing plankton around us. That really was a sight to behold ((:

Night dives typically start at 6pm (because they do want to have a bit of light when entering the water) and we finished our afternoon dives around 5ish. Needed to grab something quick so we headed for a shop nearby which sold really awesome sandwiches. They were western sandwiches but those sandwiches were one of the best I’ve had. We saw a really photogenic puppy at the cafe too (:

IMAG0350 (1) IMAG0362 Night dives get you real hungry after so here’s what we had for dinner after our dive 😀 IMAG0367_1   scuba 2 IMAG0369_1

This was taken before our morning dive (which started around 6.30am). The locals were moving oxygen tanks up the long tail boats which then took them to our dive boats which were further out in the sea. IMAG0348

Big toys they loaned us while we were there. The yellow one is a dive computer and the grey one is an underwater compass. A dive computer really does give you a huge sense of assurance. It calculates things like depth, temperature and the remaining time you have for staying underwater. It is automatically activated when you enter into the water too. It has a typical watch display in the picture ’cause I took it while on land. IMAG0342 Most eateries operate as cafes/ food stalls by day and bars by night. We saw this sign on one of the eateries when we popped by for breakfast one morning.

Big fish, small fish, cute fat worms (Nudi Branches), corals, groups of baby sotong … there’s just too many to list. But one thing diving has taught me is that you don’t have to touch or own something in order to fully appreciate it. Sometimes, seeing things from afar in their own natural habitat gives you much more joy than if you were to own it. I used to like sea aquariums, but I didn’t quite enjoy visiting them after I learnt how to dive. It just didn’t seem real. You definitely do not see so many types of fishes in such great numbers within a small area  of the ocean. It felt really strange to be separated by a layer of glass too.

I’m not that great at recalling stuff so I’ll just type off a journal entry I did while in Thailand

First two dives, mango bay. Technical dives, nothing much to see. Third dive – night dive, white rock was so freaking awesome. We entered the water while there was still light so it wasn’t as scary as it sounds. It slowly grew dark though. Did navigation but got a little lost. Managed to find our instructor shortly after cause he was holding a torch himself. Saw plenty of sleepy/stationary fish. Saw a large red hermit crab. Saw two blue spotted rays returning home. Fourth dive: deep dive, chumphon It was pretty exciting. Our first 30m dive! I actually can’t really remember what we saw on this one. We maxed out most of our deep dives doing narcosis tests haha. Like counting 1-25 on a square and identifying numbers. Saw a great barracuda though! Sea urchins freak me out. They’re all over the place/seabed/crevices I was so afraid I’d accidentally brush against them. One of the dive instructors pointed at us prior to the dive and said ” you girls have absolutely no fat on you whatsoever. Go grab an extra small or an extra extra small wet suit. Asian divers are cold divers”. It was a 6.30am dive and 30m meant that we’d drop through a thermocline. We usually didn’t dive with wetsuits cause the waters were rather warm and nice. Not diving with one was liberating though. Putting them on and taking them off really is a huge pain. 

Fifth dive was a wreck dive and was absolutely my fav. It was a sunken Chinese battleship with its cannon still intact. Many schools of small fish and a sizeable number of large fish residing in the ship as well. My amazement was interjected every now and then with thoughts of how tragic the event must have been – the panic and the great loss of lives.  6th dive was a leisure dive to chumphon again, now with our AOW certification! Saw that giant barracuda, pink anemone fish, pretty shrimps, queen fish( that was rather scary), huge groupers and lots of coral/anemone.  7th and last dive was at green rock. The swim throughs were annoying cause I was rather afraid of getting scratched by the rough surfaces. Saw even more shrimps, plenty of trigger fish (really ugly) and schools of small fish.  Met really interesting people on the trip too, people from all over the globe carrying diverse experiences. Would have been great if we had the chance to sit down and share our experiences with each other. Diving forces you to socialize, I realize. Haha. 

I wonder when the next dive for me will be. Definitely hope to do one dive trip a year. Perhaps get a bit of my own gear too but that’s definitely gotta wait. Dive computers are really amazing heh. Till then, I’ll just look back on these memories and smile because I’ve had the chance to experience them. (: 

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