Side track to koh tao - getting there we ...

Trip Start Dec 07, 1999
Trip End Jan 07, 2000

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Tuesday, December 28, 1999

"Side track to Koh Tao - Getting there"

We decided that we could squeeze a few extra days in and we headed up to an Island called Koh Tao. This island is known world-wide for its diving and, having never tried it before, we figured it would be a perfect opportunity to try. But getting there was half the battle...

To make getting there even harder, we celebrated Christmas the night before leaving with a bang... a big bang. Now, *I* blame the doxycyclin ( the malaria medication I am taking ) but I had one of the worst hangovers of my life to start the trip down to Koh Tao. The trip consisted of a flight to Phuket and then a flight to Koh Samui and then a boat to Koh Pangnang and, last but not least, a boat to Koh Tao... I made it as far as Koh Samui...

I'll skip the details but let's just say that I know what those little paper bags in the airplanes are for now :)

"150 Bhat! Final offer"

Once we got to Koh Samui we headed for the port. The funny thing was that I was so tired, hung over and generally disoriented that my bargaining was all messed up again. With my poker face steady and my mind set, I counter-offered 150 Bhat for the cab ride which was originally offered at 100 Bhat. The cabby looked at me... then he glanced over at Ed thinking "is this guy serious?", after a quick laugh, at my expense of course, I sheepishly took the lift for 100 Bhat and buried my head in the sand.

Once there we crashed in a cabin on the beach for 4$ CA a night. This was some much much much needed rest I might add.

"The boats... my god the boats!"

The next day we hopped on the boat to Koh Pangang to get a connecting boat to Koh Tao. Little did we know that the speed boat we caught was the first which had left from Koh Samui in over a week. It's monsoon season here and the waves were too violent for the boats to run. The military actually had to send supply ships to the Islands we were headed to in order to bring supplies for the stranded.

Although the water was navigable, the waves were insane, 2 meter high waves made the boat rock like mad. The constant rocking (6 hours) made a bunch of people seasick, Ed included. It was my turn to laugh at Ed while he was sick this time :). The rough thing was that the 3 hour boat ride we were promised at the dock was now turning into a 6 hour battle with mother nature. Quite brutal to be honest. A quick Thai massage once on the Island and I was ready to take on the world again...

"Quiet Island"

Koh Tao is definitely quiet. The locals told us we were on the liveliest beach on the Island which didn't say much. If you are looking for a quiet place to stay, this is it. No more than a handful of tourists can be seen at once. This wasn't really what we were looking for but the place we stayed at (the Ban Resort) was nice and offered good scuba courses.

"Scuba baby..."

Most people come to Koh Tao to get their PADI. The PADI is pretty much your certificate to dive alone. Once you have this you can dive anywhere in the world without an instructor and it only takes 3 days to get it. The water on Koh Tao is a great place to get it too... but with only 2 days here we went for the 1 day crash course and dove...

It was our first dive... to be honest, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. It's breathtaking! I took a lot of pictures but obviously not with my digital camera ( Not underwater at least ) so I'll have to wait 'til I get back to upload them... The coral, the fluorescent fish, the underwater life... it's something which I don't think I can explain here, it's really something else.

Breathing... underwater is something that I found really neat. The feeling of weightlessness and the ability to float and swim with the fish is something else. I really enjoyed chasing a puffer fish until he ducked into a cavern.

Ed didn't quite take to the water as well as I did. I guess it's just not for everyone. It's quite easy to panic when under 10 meters of water...

"The sea was angry that day my friends..."

It was me, Ed and Paula... our instructor. She had the underwater disposable camera under control until I decided to take it... that's when it all when down hill.

I was really looking forward to the underwater pictures and I wanted to use the entire film. I started snapping pictures beneath the waves and suddenly the camera slipped... up it went... slipping beyond my grasp! Noooooo .... My pics!!!! I began to swim up to get it but Paula grabbed me by the flippers. At the time I remember thinking that there must have been a good reason for her grabbing me like that, the water depth was too much or something but in retrospect, I could have easily swam up a bit to get it. The truth was that she didn't see the camera and wanted me to stay near her...

We swam back to the boat as the dive finished... the water was rough, the sky gray... I was very, very disapointed... "My diving pics!" ... sigh... Once on the boat Ed and myself climbed to the top of the ship and kept a keen eye out for the camera... hopeless... left ... right... back... forward... nothing... wait a minute! What's that off in the distance! Thank God Kodak makes these babies bright orange! About 150 meters away a tiny little orange dot bobbing for dear life... MY CAMERA!

After explaining my troubling story to Paula I was given the option of jumping in and trying to swim for it. Pretty hopeless, the waves were very high, after all the Island had been marooned for quite some time by the monsoon and the storms were just now over. But there wasn't anyway I was going to lose my prize-winning underwater pics! On with the fins! On with the mask! Sploosh!

I'll tell you friends, I never thought I would make it... I had an image of me swimming out too far and the boat having to rescue me. Swimming past a dive team I heard them yell "Good luck!" mocking me... Looking back to Ed for swimming directions, 100 meters back on the boat gave me no help. His black shirt on the black backdrop of the ship made it impossible to see him. Soo off I swam and swam and swam. Until... I looked up and by some strange miracle, there it was. A single beam of light shining down from the sky onto it like some apparition.

Ok, I may have exaggerated a bit but it was such luck that I got that camera back and it was the only life or death experience that I had on the Island :) Those pictures damn well better turn out!

"Lets get outta here!"

After our peaceful night and lack of nightlife we decided that we should beeline it for Koh Pangnang early. One full day on Koh Tao had been enough.

The boat to Koh Pangang was much better... the speed boat had 4 x v6 200 horse power engines which cut through the insanely large waves rather than rocking onto them. I think I have the boats here figured out now.

Speed boat = Fast
Express Boat = Slow ( Not really much of an express )
Slow boat = You can just imagine...

"Next stop please"

We got off on Koh Pangang, the site of the New Years bash. The New Years bash that our whole trip was revolving around. 'Til then we had heard other travellers for 3 weeks now saying they were headed here and it was just packed solid with people when we arrived... packed with party-ready travelers. When we got off we quickly found out that the only accomodations left were some lady's kitchen floor or a tent someone had on some beach...

After a quick huddle we hopped back on the boat and decided we would just head back to the Party Island for the New Year's bash night. 50,000 people on the beach was the last estimate I heard and I think that one day should be enough.

Now here we are, on Koh Samui. We'll take the boat to the party Island at 6pm and take it back at 6am... should be fun!

Now I am off to the beach to work on my tan... I would be ashamed to go back home without one :)

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