Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Diving Koh Tao

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Plan A was to go to Koh Tao with Hannah at the end of May after visiting Vietnam. However, Hannah went back to Bangkok early to do another massage course and I stayed on longer in Vietnam before deciding to revisit Cambodia. Eventually with my flight to China fast approaching I had a two night stop in Bangkok on the way to Koh Tao. I finally got to see the Grand Palace, rode the river taxi both ways, resisted the temptation to buy a new camera, watched one of the infamous ping pong shows, and had a fun day out taking photos with Stella.

I travelled from Bangkok to Koh Tao with Lomprayah. More expensive than whoever Hannah travelled with but apparently a much more comfortable and relaxing journey. With three recommendations for diving schools I ended up at Big Blue because the instructor I spoke to – Curtis – was so helpful and enthusiastic. Many of the schools on Koh Tao teach two certifying agency courses: PADI and SSI. You don’t have to buy bulky paper manuals for the SSI courses so theirs were the right choice for me.

Seventeen of us started the Open Water course the day I arrived with a couple of hours of classroom stuff – watching videos. Next morning we split into three groups with instructors for more theory. In my group there were a couple of gap year English girls – Georgie and Olivia – buddied together, two Brummies – Pete and Nick – in their mid-twenties buddied together and me buddied with Curtis the instructor. In the afternoon we were in the water for confined skills, learning how to deal with flooded masks and switching and replacing regulators. Over the next couple of days there were more theory sessions and four dives testing and teaching additional skills. The final two dives by each group on the last day were filmed and edited into DVD presentations. These were shown in the bar in the evening and provided lots of amusement. Obviously ours was the best video, Team Canada were a respectable second, and who was team three again?

I was the only one of the seventeen to sign up for the Advanced Open Water course starting the next day, although four of the others signed up for the following day. In addition I was hooked and decided to stay on and do the dive master course if at all possible. That would take several weeks and I was supposed to be flying to China on 27 July – just five days later. I had to rearrange that and all my subsequent flights, and quickly. Round the World Experts travel butler service did a fine job and by the end of the Advanced Open Water course my flights were all rearranged. So I stayed on Koh Tao and completed the Emergency First Responder (CPD points for C.ThA there I think) and Rescue Diver courses. Rescue Diver was hard work and great fun. But it did cost me my Tag Heuer watch, lost during the final dive of the course :-(

Leaving Cambodia again

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

The time finally came to say goodbye to Happy Guesthouse, Siem Reap and Cambodia. I had stayed an extra three weeks in Cambodia and it was time to scoot on down to Koh Tao for some diving before my flight to China. Even after I’d decided it was time to move on I hung around for an extra couple of days because it was just so easy to do so.

Friends came and went at Happy Guesthouse. They had some long term visitors who were working in schools or women’s refuges or orphanages and a steady turnover of travellers staying just a few nights. There were always friends to say goodbye to, and new friends to say hello to. Chinese Stella who lives in Singapore left a few days before me, headed for Bangkok. Canadians Bobbie and Tracy were going to Bangkok a few days later and I still had a day on my Angkor Wat pass so I stayed and caught the bus with them. We met Stella again at We Bangkok, a hostel recommended to us by Todd, another friend travelling the other direction a week or so earlier.

Travelling from Siem Reap to Bangkok was the usual hurry-up-and-wait bus journey. The Thai side of the border at Poi Pet is renowned for scams targeted at travellers from Thailand to Cambodia. Going from Cambodia to Thailand was a simple and scam-free procedure, although a few more signs would have been helpful. The only downer was changing from a nice comfortable air conditioned coach in Cambodia to a beat up old transit van in Thailand.

I had a really nice, laid back time in Cambodia. Except for the lack of tango I could easily go back there to live. Maybe next April I will but there’s a lot to see and do before then.

Just lazing around

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

We finished our massage course on Monday with an hour long practical exam in the afternoon. We both passed and have the certificates to prove it. That’s a good few CPD points for this year. Hannah is keen to go back to Bangkok and do another massage course. I don’t think I’ll be doing another one so soon.

On Tuesday morning we were up at silly o’clock to visit the flower market. The best time is supposed to be between 3am and 6am. We got there about 5am to be greeted by gorgeous sights and smells. The market is mainly wholesale but they’ll happily sell to individuals and tourists too. The flowers are stupidly cheap – two dozen roses for less than £1 for example. My photos don’t really do the flowers justice – the flash performance of my camera has always been a bit wanting – but there are a handful of the less poor ones on Flickr.

By dawn at around 6am the market was already winding down with some of the sellers packing up and going home. Afterwards we returned to the hotel for breakfast, checked out and caught our bus to Koh Chang. A six hour ride through country that changed very little once we were outside Bangkok. Six lanes of tarmac with a central divide and low rise domestic and commercial buildings both sides. Then a thirty minute ferry crossing from Trad to Koh Chang and almost another hour in a taxi to reach Bang Bao at almost the other end of the island.

We were soaked by the time we reached Bang Bao. It’s Songkran – Thai New Year – and the locals think it’s hilariously funny to chuck as much water over everyone else, but especially tourists as they possibly can. And the taxis (pick up trucks with a dozen unsuspecting victims in the back) delight in slowing down whenever passing a bunch of Thais with their oil drum full of iced water and plastic tubs and buckets for chucking it. Remind me to come back with a water tender and water cannon and repay the humour some time.

Hannah went off for another soaking yesterday and has gone snorkelling today. I’ve just been sitting in the shade on the decking with the ocean on my left hand side, listening to the waves, listening to Pugliese on my iPod, reading books on my Kindle and doing next to nothing. I thought about doing a couple of Happy Hearts Quest tasks but even that seemed like too much effort. Maybe tomorrow…