Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chang Mai to Koh Tao

Amber:  Our last night in Chaing Mai ended up being our second to last night.  We had booked a VIP bus to Bangkok with the travel agency picking us up and transporting us to the main bus station between 6:00-6:30pm.  We had a nice dinner of Woodies (this ridiculously fattening, delicious burger shop Justin and Rico introduced us to) and were back at our guest house five minutes to six.  We waited in lobby with no fan or air con until 7:45pm.  We had called our travel agency several times and they assured us that the driver was on their way, but being as our bus was to depart at 8:00pm, our guest house host told us to walk out to the main road and wait at the gas station.  Sure enough, no bus.  We got back to our guest house and called our travel agency one more time to see what the next step was.  They told us the driver had been waiting for us the whole time.  We told them no, that was not possible, and we were able to convince them (nicely) that we would be getting a refund. 
The next day we rented a motor scooter and found our way to the actual bus station.  All the late busses were fully booked, or had only the least desirable seats available.  I would have been fine with cramming myself into a seat for the ten hour ride.  Tim's 6'3'" frame is much less compressible, so we searched around for the best options.  Finally, we found a VIP bus that left at 6:00pm, arrived in BKK at 3:00am.  The two seats we booked were the best on the bus, with ample leg room for Tim.  Right after we booked them, we got a text from Rico.  Fai, our friend from Koh Tao that we had gotten our Open Water scuba certificate with, had seen Whale Sharks on Koh Tao!!!!  Tim was able to find a bus - ferry from BKK to Koh Tao that worked perfectly with our early departure from Chaing Mai.  With just under 24 hours on a bus, a little lay over in BKK, another bus, and a ferry, u  were set to go to Koh Tao to visit Fai and try and see a whale shark. 

Tim:  We arrived in Koh Tao at 3 PM after 20 hours of travel time, ughh!  We are getting better at it though.  We settle in an air con room thanks to our friend Fai at Ban's Dive resort. We relaxed the rest of the afternoon and evening after some lunch with Fai. We signed up for two afternoon fun dives the next morning. Fai had to work earlier in the morning, and was "on the rocks" about whether or not to join us for the dives. At the last minute she decided to join us and went as our dive leader. The three of us were the third, fourth, and 5th divers into the water once we anchored up. Within 30 seconds of submerging, we spotted a huge mass just 20 meters away. It was a 4 meter long WHALE SHARK! Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world. Our friend Fai has been diving in Koh Tao for over two years and had yet to see a whale shark under the water, so you can gage just how lucky we were that there was a whale shark right below us at the very moment we dove into the water. The shark was swimming very slowly and we were able to swim within inches of the shark for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes it swam away from the reef pinnacle that it had been circling. Not even everyone on our dive boat saw the wale shark, so it was possible to be within 50 meters of the shark and not even see it. We were so excited that our air consumption was way faster that it usually is. We were almost hyper ventilating under water. We were only down for 36 minutes and usually we could have been down for 45 minutes or so. This was definitely a highlight of the trip!

Amber:  We had such an amazing time with Mr. Whale Shark... which happened to be BABY whale shark... it was twice as long as Tim.  It was so beautiful and so amazing to be able to swim with it, on top of it, under it, along side it, for so long, and all within a grasp!  It was amazing, but as it turns out, Fai was looking for his momma!  Apparently, they get to be twenty meters long, so about the length of the house I grew up in!  I was quite brave and snuck in a small touch of his tail while swimming with him (very naughty, but I couldn't help myself). Had momma showed up, I am pretty sure I would have pulled my emergency air and gone straight to the surface!

We were able to go on three more dives while on Koh Tao, but never sighted another whale shark.  Tim was on his seventh dive ever, and I was on my sixth.  Our friends have dove hundreds of times and have failed to sight one, let alone swim with it for so long. We were content with our dive with the whale shark being one of the most amazing dives ever, so decided to book a train on to Malaysia to avoid an over stay in Thailand. 

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