Out of the Kok and into the Phu
Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
135Trip End Ongoing
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I've never been to Phuket but I've always thought it a resort-y island for package holidays so not a place I would normally head and of course it was devastated by the tsunami a couple of Xmas's ago (which David's younger brother thankfully escaped!) so it would be interesting to see how well it had recovered.
We decided to go the overnight bus down there. Wrong, wrong, wrong. A.P.U. (as per usual) it was bloody horrible and took ages, which of course we should have expected because it's a bus journey and we hate overnighters. We had to switch buses half way and wait over two hours for the next bus. We were supposed to reach Phuket town by around 10am but we got there at lunchtime instead. Very unhappy bunnies!! By the time we got to Patong it was late afternoon. Our walk to his bar took us along the street lined with bars, bars and more bars. There were a few men in them with Thai women attached. Unfortunately because of it's reputation, I never know if they're actually girlfriends, wives or 'ladyboy friends' for the holiday. We found his bar, the Two Black Sheep (it's even in the LP!) and thankfully found it to be a sports bar rather than place with lots of poles. We met up briefly and met his new girlfriend, Trang, who is a manager of a Saigon hotel. I didn't know that he played so much music but he'd met her when he'd travelled through Viet Nam playing gigs. He had to play that night so we arranged to have supper after he'd finished.
We found an expensive internet place and booked some flights out. There was no-way we were going to waste another day travelling on a bus. We walked along the beach front. You'd never know it was ripped up by the tsunami less than two years ago. There is a guy with a stall along there with pictures of what it looked like. It's been rebuilt and now looks like any other beach in westernville. There is a MacDonalds followed by a Starbucks and a Hagen Daaz and lots of other brand knew shops to entice tourists out of their money. Everything a tourist could want. It's expensive though. Ice creams in MacDonalds there are 15 baht, they're only 8 baht in Bangkok. The beach looked ok. Not too many deck chairs and plenty of space to sit on the sand. There were, however, lots of jet ski's speeding about worryingly close to the shore and also paragliding that they charged a heap for and you only got about a 4 minute ride. We timed it.
During dinner that night Scotty, one of Michael's partners, said they were all going diving the next day and invited us along. It was too good to pass up. A day out cruising the islands around Phuket on a boat, fitting in a couple of dives on the way. We'd have to pay to change our flights but it would be minimal compared to the amount of fun we'd have on a day out diving with Michael and friends.
So next morning first thing we changed our flights. Very painful but we finally achieved it!! Then we went for a swim. It was lovely and warm but I did have to keep a watch on how close the jet skis were getting! Later that night we watched Michael and one of his business partner/friends do their set. They're actually really good and I learnt that Michael writes his own songs and music! If you're in Patong and want to hear some great acoustic sets and some original Aussie numbers then head down to the Two Black Sheep. When they'd finished we had a few drinks with him then he pulled the plug and headed home. They have a Thai cover band that plays every night so David and I carried on and sang along with them for a while. When we realised it was very late we headed off knowing that we'd regret staying out and singing for so long.
6 am came along all to quickly. A little worse for wear we met outside the pub. We picked up the equipment we'd arranged the day before and headed down to a marina on the other side of the island. We would be spending the day with a bunch of Aussies. Should be a laugh! It's been 4 years since I've dived so I was quite nervous. More so when I discovered that the guy who was going to bring the dive watch with compass wasn't coming. Then Scotty forgot the charts. Great. We took off, sped round for an hour or so and found a spot to jump in. It was just as you'd imagine if you'd been invited out on a boat in Thailand. No one around, beautiful blue water, lovely green islands, brilliant blue skies and lots of sunshine. I poured myself into my shorty wet suit. I hate them. They're so difficult to get into. My nerves eased slightly when we discovered one of the older guys, Norm, had been diving since 1957 and even though he couldn't dive anymore he had a hell of alot more experience than all of us put together!! Although we still didn't have a dive watch, computer of any sort or compass. The only thing we had were the gauges on the tanks. Norm helped the boys put the equipment together, got them in the water then helped me with my gear. He practically had to lift me over to the edge of the boat! I'd forgotten just how heavy that tank is!! I was really anxious and kept listening to my mate Liz saying over and over again in my head - breath in, breath out. Breath in, breath out! I jumped off the boat into the inviting, sparkling blue water not knowing what was down there. We all sank further and further down. Michael spotted a moray eel staring out at us with his unblinking, white eyes, his mouth opening and closing silently. Was he saying hello, or bugger off, this is my turf! There were loads and loads of star fish, wrasse, banner fish, parrot fish and I even got nibbled by a Sargent Major!! There was a huge trigger fish. One of the biggest I've ever seen, but apparently they're not territorial here. Thank god!! He looked big enough to take my foot off! Plus the fin! Saw loads of sea cucumbers which should be renamed sea-turds. They just look like big logs of shit. Saw our first sea snake (which we found out later are poisonous) and used our underwater housing for our old digital camera for the first time. It was fantastic! We even took little 30 second videos!! So exciting! I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed diving. Such a pity you can't talk whilst under water. When we surfaced and found the boat, we'd actually swam miles and been under for about 65 minutes! Longer than we'd anticipated but we were all fine.
We then looked for a bay to have some lunch and do a bit of snorkeling. Again, cast your minds to those picture postcards of secluded tropical beaches lined with lush green coconut palms. The aqua blue sea tickling the shores of the soft white sand. There was no one around. We could have been on a deserted island for all I knew! We seemed so far from the commercialism of Patong beach. It was a dream location. We moored on the shore and waded in carrying the lunch. It was gorgeous. After lunch I did a bit of snorkeling. There wasn't too much to see other than sand and a few silvery fish that looked like they were covered with silver sequins, but the water was crystal clear and wonderfully warm. A couple of hours later we all jumped back in the boat and headed off to find another dive spot. We saw a bunch of other dive boats but went past them to a really deep looking spot. Scotty had a spear gun and wanted to see if he could bag some dinner. Michael, David and I suited up and jumped back in. The water was so deep and dark blue it was almost black like a big pot of shimmering paint. The viz wasn't great. Very murky. When they shouted from the boat, 'What can you see down there?!', I shouted back, 'Bloody nothing!. It was a little scary looking down into the nothingness. I could imagine a big, fat, sharp toothed shark waiting for me to drop into his wide open mouth. Jaws. The music started playing in my mind as we sunk ever deeper into the darkness. It was a black bottomless pit. What was that, over to my right? Was it a swish of a grey shark fin, or the glitter of a shiny white tooth tip? Oh My God!!!! I'm going to scream!!!!!
My mask was too tight. It felt like my face was going to explode! How can I tell the others? Michael was well on his way down, and not looking my way. David was floating nearer the surface, having troubles of his own equalizing. Shit. What do I do? Is it panic time yet? I drifted back to my PADI Open Water lessons but couldn't remember anything about exploding faces, so I filled my mask with water and tried to empty it without drowning plus trying to decent slowly enough not to cause further brain damage. Bloody diving. Why do I put myself through these things?
Once I had sorted myself out and David had joined Michael and I down further than the Titanic, we looked around. Hmmmmm. Nothing to look at here, just a bunch of sand, salty water and metal box frames. We all looked at each other blankly. Because we didn't have any kind of navigational equipment we had absolutely no idea which way in hell the beautiful fish were. So we all just swam off in the hope we would find some, somewhere, and quickly because we had descended a little toooooo far for the second dive and if we didn't ascend even a little we would have to surface all too soon. Luckily we explored in the right direction, for not only were we closer to the surface (phew!) but we'd found where all the fish were hiding! Michael spotted another moray, even bigger than before! Lots more sea-turds, sea urchins, a few crown of thorns, clams, lots of star fish. I love them. Not too much coral action though. I tried to catch some fish but they were all way too fast for me. I'd relaxed a little by this time and all fear of sharks had vanished - for now. We saw alot of the same kinds of fish but it's still wonderful. I felt comfortable with Michael and David. They've both had alot more experience than me in the water, especially Michael including all the surfing and diving in different conditions and countries. They say that one of the most calming things to do when you're stressed is to watch fish swimming. Worked for me!
When we were finally running out of air, we surfaced. A moment of extreme panic though when we couldn't spot our boat. We'd swam further than the first dive and were round a corner and very close to the rocky shore of an island. Thoughts crept in of the couple that went missing a few years ago from the Barrier Reef in Oz. They went diving and were never picked up. Forgotten and never found. Headlines flashed through my mind.........Three Australian fun divers missing off Phuket........Search stopped after three weeks..............Wet suits found, washed up on remote island shores...............shark teeth remnants in wet suits.........No bodies ever found.........then Michael saw them in the distance. Thank goodness!!!! We went back to the little bay for some more snorkeling though this time we moored in the deeper waters and all jumped off the sides. We could see right to the bottom. Fantastic!! One of the Thai boat boys spotted a mackerel swimming round and round in the shallower waters, jumped off and in no time had caught it with his bare hands! He climbed back in the boat and dumped it on the floor. It was quite a big one. The poor thing was flipping and flopping and jumping around (just like a cold wet fish!). It knew it's goose was cooked. While Norm was holding him, the slimy bastard almost escaped! It was time to go back to the marina. It had been an amazing day. We met up with Michael and Trang for dinner and a few drinks. We were all buggered though and broke up early.
The next morning was our last in Patong. Our flight was in the evening so we arranged to meet up with Michael and Trang for lunch and good byes. We didn't know when or where we'd see him again. Could be anywhere.