Crazy-crazy thailand

Trip Start Aug 20, 2005
Trip End May 06, 2006

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, January 27, 2006

I came to Phi Phi to enjoy the beaches and night life and secondly to complete my open water diving certification. The relaxed Thai life invited me with open arms but the second was filled with more obstacles than I expected.

Things are never what you expect, curve balls all over the map when you're traveling. I struggled to finish my open water after witnessing a very rare accident three dives into my course.

They say in the training PADI video,American made, in the late nineties, that you've never experienced anything like scuba diving, and your life will be forever changed after your first dive. I laughed at their seemingly fake enthusiasm they kept feeding us during the training videos until I experienced it for myself. They were right on many levels.

Diving goes against all human instinct. Your body desperately wants to ascent to the surface and your mind is battling to stay with the fishes. The calmness of the ocean is my type of meditation. Just you, your mind and the gear. If one fails-you're hooped. I guess it's a form of extreme meditation and it makes me happy.

My first dive-one way of putting it would be like loosing your virginity to an alien. At first it's completely foreign and exotic but somehow after a while it feels euphoric and wonderful.

Before agreeing to dive with Island divers, I shopped around to find the most trustworthy company. I agreed to the Phi Phi divers first off. I arrived early morning to do my theory and met my group at the top of the shop which is a bar/living room/classroom. Two Swedish men, a dive master and my instructor who is a Swede as well and I've seen him before. Tall, brown, skinny and strangely good-looking in a hippy sort of way.

He's the cute guy we saw a few nights ago at the Reggae bar where they host May Thai kickboxing WWF style most nights. Right in the middle of the bar a ring is set up and after the locals do their staged fight the tourists get in. Two fisting our red bull and Sam sung buckets we watch as two friends get in the ring. Eclectic Thai music plays in the background as they dance around each other. Some are lame; some are widely entertaining with dance moves and animated drop kicks. Usually a fairly friendly fight. But the cute Swede knocked his friend out of the ring, less than 30 seconds into the fight four feet down onto the concrete.

Sitting in the classroom/bar/living room, ready to start my course, I remembered that he was the freak that did this to his friend.I was trying very hard to go against my overly-analytical female tendencies nagging at my brain and continued to persuade myself that these are trained PADI professionals in front of me who I should look up to and trust.

Couldn't do it.

I carried on for another thirty minutes and listened to his broken English and often correcting the important terms we would later need. My dive buddy who happened to be a dive master clumsily got up to get the tanks and bang. He got knocked out and lay on the ground face up. He failed to see the lower than eye level sloping roof. Teacher puts a pillow under his head and instructs him to stay down for a while. Dive masters eyes were shaky but he reassures us he's fine, no worries. Gets up again, hits his head one more time and back where he came from. We try to resume "class" as normal but the dive masters diminishing state is making us all weary. He looks dazed but tells us he's not at all confused. We carry on the lesson for another 30 minutes. Its 9:30 am, and I'm reminded of my geographical location on the map, the fact that I'm here alone and that these men sitting before me, will be my life line for the next three days if anything should happen. I put the equation together and figure out a way of bailing would be the correct answer to this situation.

I pull out the old sick line, being in Thailand it's a more valid excuse, getting the shits is part of the daily life here. I tell them I won't be joining them in the water today but hope tomorrow I will feel better. The next day goes by and I don't go by the dive shop. Instead I choose a shop that my fellow Vancouverite received his open water safely. I sign up for the next day and all is good.

The shop is clean, the instructors seem professional and no drunken hangover eyes or remnants of drugs left over from the night before. I feel better. All goes as planned and I complete my first two dives like clockwork. I'm in heaven, just like my dreams.

That night I refrain from drinking like a responsible diver should and wake up nice and early for a Thai pancake and banana shake with my Holland roomy.
I arrive and asked my instructor big Kim, another Swedish guy, but obviously bigger, why we were taking a long tail boat instead of the regular well equipped large boat with all the needed facilities. Long tail boats are multifunctional for the Thai people. They live, eat, sleep and work on these beautifully strong wooden boats. The have elegant brightly colored scarves tied to the bows of each and sadly are littered with garbage on the inside. I honesty thought this was a joke and he didn't give me much of an answer besides this is what we were doing.

No one else seemed to mind and I thought I was being high maintenance by not wanting to dive on the boat. So, I took this obstacle as an adventure but still thought it was a bit much for our third dive ever. So the Swedes and I hopped in the boat and puttered to our diving destination getting drenched in salt water the entire time.

The dive was brilliant.
I'm infatuated with my foreign lover and arrive at the surface safe and sound. I wondered about the Swede that was 15 meters away from us and came up early. All looking over to see what he was doing, he started to panic, flailing and gasping for sir. Kim swam and brought him over to the long tail that was bobbing hard with the waves. We take are gear off in the water and pass it to our Thai captain. We climbed aboard and all three of us attempted to pull the large dead weight into the boat and lay him down in recovery position. Checked his breathe and pulse and high tailed it to the closest dive boat.
Turns out we have no oxygen aboard.
If I knew this before hand I wouldn't have gone. Ten minutes of no oxygen and the guy was barely breathing, shaking and twitching. Oxygen for 45 minutes till we reached Ko Phi Phi and arrived at the hospital which I thought would be a relief. Kim told us the hospital was a useless and we set off again to the dive shop where a speed boat would meet us and take him to Puket to go in the decompression chamber. He was conscious by this point, but I was semi.

I was offered to stay at the dive shop to chill out but couldn't handle the company. Straight to my bungalow to think about what just happened. Couldn't digest it, just like the food for the last week, this too made me feel ill. I decided after relaxing at my new home I would indulge in a little retail therapy. I bought some funny fisherman pants. I figured if this was to be my reality for the next three months I might as well dive right in and play the part.

With my new funny pants and my two Holland roomies, we ate dinner on the beach and were herded into the tarp covered area as it down poured with rain.

Later that night I found out the sequence of events that triggered the accident. Firstly, he shouldn't have been diving to begin with, he was blind in one eye and had nerve damage behind it and failed to check the box provided when signing all the paper work. The doctors say, his one eye was unable to focus properly and his lack of perspective created a type of vertigo, he panicked, hyperventilated which created too much carbon dioxide in his body and shot up to the surface too fast. No excuse for having no oxygen aboard, but the Swede is okay thankfully.

Me, well, I was rather shaken up. After finding out all the details and speaking with the owner and taking a day off on the beach I decided to finish my fourth dive and receive my certification.

I got back on the boat the day after and finished what I started. So my plans of living aboard a boat and sailing to the similain islands is put on hold for now due to my slight lack of trust in the dive centers out here.

But my views of Ko phi phi are much brighter than this freak incident. The island is filled with young, relaxed backpackers, buckets of Sam sung and red bull and humid dancing at night while the days are spent recuperating on the beaches sweating out all the bad stuff from the night before. The hammering still wakes us in the morning as do the excavators rebuilding what the tsunami left in its wake a year ago. Things are looking up and it's amazing to see how happy the Thai people live. Always cracking a joke, the women giggling as they massage the tourists and continue to work long, long days in the hot sun which is only their winter. Crazy I say.
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