Saturday, March 2, 2013

Koh Tao, Thailand

Amber:  Tim and I love Koh Tao.  It is a tropical paradise island with the cheapest diving in the world for us.  We got our Open Water SCUBA at Bans Dive resort last year, and as a result, we get a discount every dive.  Score!  Our good friend and dive instructor Fai lives on Koh Tao.  Justin actually met Fai over six years ago in Bangkok as a Couch Surfer on her couch.  She moved to Koh Tao and became a SCUBA instructor, and Justin visits her every year when he comes to Thailand.  She has now taught Justin, our travel buddies Joe and Rico, Tim and I how to SCUBA dive, not to mention hundreds of others.  She is great; I have never met anyone that is more fun, but can make me feel more comfortable in the water.  With us going to Koh Tao, Ciara was next on her list!

This was Tim's and my third time at Koh Tao.  Fai booked Tim, Justin, Ciara and I a VIP bus from Bangkok and we had the most amazing reclining chairs on the 8 hour bus ride to Chumpon, the ferry port that connects Koh Tao with the rest of the world. It was so comfortable that even Tim fell asleep.  The luxury stopped in Chumpon, however.  We were supposed to be on the fast boat, a beautiful catamaran that takes an hour and a half to arrive on the island.  There had been a mix up at the ticket counter, however, and the four of us were booked on the slow boat.  This boat is old, stinks of diesel, and over booked. And takes about three hours.  We all tried to sleep through the fumes, but it gave Ciara a headache.  The deck was already crowded with people trying to escape the cabin, but we were able to climb past them.  For some lucky reason, no one had taken the bow, so we were happy to soak up a little early morning sun and hang our feet over the side.  There were flying fish that darted out of the water and glided across the waves about twenty meters before crashing back into the ocean.

Unfortunately, a group of very intoxicated French hippies found us.  It was eight in the morning, and they were all still going strong from the night before.  They were smashed.  They kept on standing up and mooning each other, to the point the captain had to stop the boat to get them to sit back down. One fell onto Justin and spilled his beer all over Justin's camera bag.  Not wanting to start an altercation, Justin yelled at them then we moved further up the bow.  We all stewed as they made asses of themselves.  Finally, we made it to Koh Tao, and we were happy to get away from them. 

Because of the mix up on the boats, we arrived in Koh Tao behind schedule.  Tim needed to be in a computer lab at ten in the morning.  He and two others were presenting to his entire MBA class via adobe connect.  It was about ten twenty when the taxi finally dropped us off at Bans.  Poor Tim!  I could tell he was silently seething.  We all found Fai, who was working in reception to help out Bans, said hello quickly, and Tim ran to find the nearest computer lab.  As it turns out, a different group presented before Tim's group was up, so he didn't miss a thing and was able to present as if nothing had happened. 

Bans was fully booked, and Fai was extremely busy.  Justin, Ciara and I went in search of a guest house.  The number of tourist in Koh Tao has increased dramatically!  A lot of the guest houses we have stayed at in previous visits were full.  Those that weren't completely booked had increased their pricing by almost double.  We finally found two rooms at the same place.  The woman that owned the place was a bit strange.  When asking to see the room before committing to staying, Justin also asked if there was wifi available.  She became agitated and shouted "do you want to see room, or do you want wifi???"  Um, both?  It was the cheapest room we had found, and they were nice, so despite the host being extremely cranky, we booked with her. 

It was Valentines Day the day we arrived, so Tim and I had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant, just the two of us.  We had baked brie, wine, and pasta. It was delicious!  We got a banana chocolate pancake from a street vendor for desert, my favorite.   Afterwards we walked down to the ocean and light a Chinese lantern while standing in the surf.  Tim can be so romantic!  We met back up with the gang after and had some beers at a beach side bar.  It was such a fun evening!

We spent eight days on Koh Tao.  It is so fun there, it is hard for us to leave!  Fai was finally able to take a day off, so the five of us drove motor scooters over to Shark bay, rented snorkel gear, and swam with black tipped sharks.  Tim and I had gone last year, and it was amazing.  Ciara is very scared of the water, but after completing her SCUBA course, was feeling a bit more confident.  The day we went, there was some chop coming into Shark bay.  The water was cloudy, and there was talk of going back.  No!  We had to see sharks!  We decided to stay in the water and go out into the bay a little further.  The visibility cleared.  And a big shark swam by!  Well, he was at least four feet long, and that seems really big when you are swimming two meters above.  The sharks pretty much did their own thing while the four of us trailed after them on the surface.  They are awesome.  We swam for about forty five minutes and were able to swim with at least four different black tipped sharks.  It was fun.  Afterwards, we went to a calmer beach (with no sharks!) and played in the water on a beautiful white sand beach and soaked up the vitamin D. 

We spent a lot of time just relaxing on Koh Tao.  Thailand is a perfect way for one to wrap up a five and a half month long trip, as if traveling were hard!  Sitting on white sand beaches, playing in warm, picture perfect turquoise water, eating really good food, enjoying great company, Koh Tao spoils you.  We did manage to dive four times, which is always amazing.  We went to Chumpon Pinnacle, where we saw the whale shark last year, but no whale sharks were to be found.  It was Ciara's first time going below 18 m, Fai took her down to 30m to give her her deep water certificate. Having gotten our deep water last year, and gone on many 30m dives since, we all went with, and had fun swimming around.  All the cool stuff is deep, you just can't dwell on the fact that you are swimming 90' below the surface.

We were nearing the end of our dive, and moving up the pinnacle, when I felt my weight belt shift.  Uh oh!  The buckle had come undone.  Two of my four weights slipped off and sank beneath me.  Trying to not shoot to the surface, I let the air out of my BCD.  It didn't help much.  I was surfacing.  All I could think was "Oh no, I'm going to get the Benz" and "Damn, now I can't go on our second dive".  I surfaced, and did a mental check.  Did I have pain anywhere?  No, so that was good.  I looked in the water beneath me.  Where were my friends?  Oh, still at about 18 m, swimming along.  They finally looked up.  I waved, letting them know I was okay.  They did their 3 min stop at 3 meters to, ahem, prevent getting the Benz, and finally joined me at the surface.  I was fine to go on the second dive, and we had fun swimming through under water caves and looking at all the pretty marine life in Koh Tao. 

The next day, Tim and I signed up for two more dives.  Fai was not able to lead us, so we went with Chris, a gentleman from England that was on holiday at Koh Tao.  Once upon a time, he was a dive instructor at Bans, and while he was back, they let him dive for free, so long as he occasionally took fun divers like us.  The first dive was an old battle ship that had been sunk by Bans to be a wreck dive.  At 30 m, the old battleship was eery in the poor visibility.  We swam around the boat and even stood on its deck.  The second dive was also poor visibility, but we did see clown fish, (Nemo!), so that was fun.  Chris let us use his underwater camera.  I so want one for the next time we go diving.  Guess it's time for me to go home so I can afford one!

If anyone is wondering where Tim went as far as blog posts... he is taking two classes and those consume all of his free computer time.  So, all his fun facts are not here in the blog like they usually are.  Sorry!  But, while he works on his classes, I get to write about all the fun we are having.  Then, when he is done with his class time, home work, and group meetings, we can go play!


  1. I think ko tao is simly the paradise. i've been there 2 yearsago and still want to get there soon!

    1. Joe, we love Koh Tao as well. In two trips to Thailand, we've been there three times and spent more time their than any other single place.

  2. Loved Koh Tao as well!
    The SCUBA diving was great....waiting to go to Maldives again, now that we are certified!

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