Posts Tagged ‘Koh Tao’

This isn’t China

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Five months ago, even two weeks ago I expected to be in China, somewhere around Chengdu today. Instead I’m back in Koh Tao and starting a dive master course today.

In the last 5 days I’ve been back to Bangkok to collect the stuff I thought I wouldn’t need for just a week on Koh Tao, made a visa run to Laos and returned to Koh Tao. Expensive and time consuming running around. Last night I arranged some “long term” accommodation, paid a month in advance. This afternoon I’ll shell out at least the deposit for the dive master course. Probably within a couple of days I’ll buy a dive computer. Add in the diving I’ve already done and that’s almost two months budget spent in two weeks. Ouch. On the bright side, I won’t have to spend much on food for the next two months so when I head for China at the end of August I won’t be very much over budget.

I have stolen two months out of the rest of my trip. Two months that I was going to spend dancing tango in Buenos Aires. I figure the potential to earn money from the dive master qualification in the future (perhaps in Cambodia?) is worth delaying my return to the milongas for.

I’m not planning to return to the UK next year when my round-the-world ticket runs out. When I bought it I thought I would stay in Buenos Aires when it ran out. Now I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll stay in Buenos Aires, possibly elsewhere in South America or perhaps in Asia. In the last few years I had quite a lot of freedom to do what I wanted (outside of work) and what I wanted to do was walk, or dance, or fly. Through travelling I’m expanding the palette of things I might want to do and where I might want to do them. I would still like to stay in Buenos Aires and dance tango but there might be something I want to do more. I owe it to myself to find out and I’m having fun doing so.

I haven’t stolen time out of the rest of my trip after all; just reassigned it. That running around may have been time consuming and expensive but it was also enabling.

Nowadays I encourage everyone I meet to reject the conventions of getting a job and settling down. Instead I urge them to find a way to travel, to find and to do the things they truly enjoy. Shift the work/life balance firmly to the life end of the scale. I meet lots of people who have gone travelling. They fall into four main groups:

  1. The ex-pats who have done their travelling and settled into a new routine in a new part of the world.
  2. The (mostly) mid-lifers like me who have quit jobs, sold up and  gone travelling. Some on round-the-world tickets, some on a more casual basis. Most have no real idea of when their journey will end, or where, or what they’ll do when it does.
  3. The late twenty-something/early thirty-somethings on an extended trip who are definitely going home. Maybe to the same job they left, maybe to something new. Perhaps they’ll be starting a family but they’ll almost certainly be settling down.
  4. The gap year brigade. Already at or planning to start university. Few know what they’ll do afterwards.

Curiously I’ve met almost no two week holiday tourists. Perhaps because it’s the wrong time of year for them? To those in the third and fourth groups I say it’s not too late. Go home if you must, but don’t settle down. Reject convention, defy expectations. Explore, make real your dreams.

That was a bit of a ramble. I’m not sorry.

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 :-(