Koh Pi Pi

Trip Start Jan 18, 2008
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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The White, Ko Pi Pi

Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, February 4, 2008

We got a ferry from Ko Lanta to Koh Pi Pi.  It was approx 1.5hrs journey, and halfway through the journey, the ferry docked with another ferry and some of the passengers boarded the other ferry heading for Puket! This looked a bit hairy out in the middle of the sea, when the passengers jumped from one boat to the next along with their backpacks!! Approaching Koh Pi Pi, we could see what a special place it was.  Tall limestone peaks dropping into turquoise seas and white sand beaches! The place looked like paradise! 

As we got off the boat and lugged our backpacks and rucksacs into the town, we were lead to one accommodation agency! The place was very busy compared with Ko Lanta, and most people looked very stressed.  The reason for the stress became apparent to us soon after.  The island has only a limited number of hotels, hostels and beach huts.  Since the tsunami, the government has limited the development of hotels etc, and as many of the accommodation was washed away by the tsunami, the result was most places being fully booked. The result was very over inflated prices. We managed to find one place, but when we got there to check in (after lugging our luggage there in the hot sunshine) we found out we would have to check out of our room after a day and check back in in the afternoon to a new room! This was not explained to us by the agency, and as we had been travelling, we just wanted a place to unpack and relax, so we had to try and find somewhere else.  In the end we had to settle for having a room for one night and moving to a new hostel for the rest of our time here.  We decided to try and get our Scuba Diving done here, as it was a good place to get the PADI Open Water course done, and as it as a small island, the journey to the dive sites were not very long, meaning longer time spent in the water.  Also the bonus of doing it here, was the swimming tests are done in the sea and not in a pool (and as Mufajel is not a strong swimmer, the sea water helped in the treading water test).

We booked into Pi Pi Divers for our course, which started in a couple of days, leaving us with a bit of time to enjoy the islands beaches before the diving course started. The island has two main land mass formations, and a sand bar spans the two landmasses, creating two gorgeous beaches either side of the town.  The beach on one side however had a lot of boats and ferrys moored up, so we got a longtail taxi boat to Long Beach, which was a 10 minute journey. On our second day on the beach we saw a Bollywood film being shoot n the beach!

On our 3rd day we started our PADI open water course for scuba diving. The first day was spent in the beach, going over the basics.  (Quite a lot to take on in one hit).  The following day we headed off to the island of Bida Nok and Ko Pi Pi Lei (One of the beaches used in the film the Beach). The morning dive involved taking off our weight belt and our jacket and tank and put back on in open water.  Both of us managed to get this ok, but the open water was a very different environment to the beach. Just looking down we could see how deep the water was (and this weas the shallow part!!).  After the test we were to just scuba with the instructor (without any further tests).  (Extract from Marie's Journal)  After the surface tests, we descended to 7m below the surface.  Very strange, a little scary, to think there is all this water above us and we were relying on the regulator for air! After a few minutes under, I had saltwater seeping into my mask, as we were all swimming along merrily, the instructor had shot off. I couldn't see, felt miserable, panicky and so decided to swim up.  With the panic, I couldn't remember which button to push to inflate the jacket! I was at the surface kicking like mad to keep myself afloat, but no sigh of anyone, I tried to take the tank off, as the weight of it was pulling me down, and the sea was rough, pulling me under. A second later Mufajel was there (Thank God !!!), then finally the instructor.
After I calmed down, we all went back down, and stuck to about 8 metres. It was really great down there, we saw marine life, from blue sea stars (formally known as star fish) blue sea snake, cuttlefish, lionfish etc. After an hour or so, we headed back to the boat.  We had a fun lunch, everyone diving off the boat, we had a lovely girl hanging with us called Anna also doing the dive with us.

Here we had the swim test Marie - 2 laps of the boat, Mufajel 3 laps of the boat (with Snorkel and Fins). Then a 10 minute treading water test, which we both passed.

Niel (the instructor) got me to practice swimming with my eyes open underwater......to my amazement, this can be done! Before we could start our second dive, we had more skills to do. Niel was worried about me clearing my mask, I did it the day before, but we weren't 7 metres down then! The regulator (this is the apparatus for breathing, which is connected to the air tank) test was first. We had to throw it away, but then breath out  first whilst finding it. I ran out of breath but did not know I was meant to purge the regulator (as it was full of water) so I could then breath out from it. Up I shot to the surface gasping for breath. At the same time, both Niel and myself were trying to find the cord that had the jacket inflator button.  My head, heart, ears, were pounding from panic and lack of equalization. At the surface I was totally calm, but suggested I quit, so Neil said to not do any further skills and just do the dive. The next hour underwater, I wasn't totally relaxed, but we saw a turtle which was amazing, and gorgeous terrain of coral, massive orange leaves, and it was like hills of coral, which I had never seen before. That evening, after more theory and the exam, we finished at 8pm, and both passed the exams....wicked!!!...

I did however have sea sickness, tooth ache and of course ear ache ?. We came up with a plan for me to do the skills the next day, however when I was woken up at 4am the next morning by rowdy party going neighbours, that gave me enough time to contemplate the situation, and make the decision to complete the certificate when I am feeling A1 again!  Instead the day held for me an hour massage and Mufajel gaining his Open Water certificate, amazing for someone who says he cant swim! (end of Marie's Journal extract)

After saying good bye to Marie, I got on the boat and headed off to Bida Nue for the last day of the course, and the 2 dives. The first dive we had to do two tests, the first was navigating underwater using a compass, and the second was to manually inflate the jacket underwater (blow into it using your breath)! You were meant to use short breaths, however underwater you don't think straight, so I took a big breath and blew into the jacket, as you cant hear underwater Niel was signaling something to me, and I totally forgot to place the regulator back into my mouth! I finally did once prompted to, but strange to think being underwater and forgetting to use your only source of air! The water does strange things to you, and your mind isn't always on top form)!  After the tests, it was a free dive session, and we swam into the blue.  We were down to 13 metres this time! We saw more amazing fish, including a leopard shark, which was such a graceful sight underwater, compared to us in our cumbersome kit.  We had lunch, and then down for our final dive.  The tests this time was mid water removal of the mask and placing back on, and then emergency ascend to the surface breathing out (if you didn't breath out your lungs could explode due to the air pressure if you ascended from deep depths).  After the tests it was our last dive.  We dived to a depth of 17.6m, which is a long way down underwater.  As the visibility was not that great, at these depths I couldn't see the surface of the water, a daunting feeling.  Our final test was controlling our buoyancy using our breathing, its like hovering underwater! He even made us swim through a tunnel (not part of the test), which was a bit unnerving. Finally at the surface as we waited for the boat, I spotted a large jellyfish, which swam very close to us, luckily didn't get too close. The course was much harder than I thought, but it was nice to have done it.  It qualifies me to dive without an instructor, but I think that is a long way away.  Our plans is for Marie to redo some of the skills again once Maire is better and doesn't have a cold, and then we will both be able to dive together.

That evening, it was our last night on the island, so we decided to head out and party with the rest of the island.  We saw a few Thai boxing fights in the islands boxing ring.  We did a bit of a pub crawl, we met some people from London, and partyed with them in an open air club. As we didn't have any diving the next morning, it was nice to finally let our hair down.

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