After a rocky start in Asia in Bangkok, I departed early to travel to the island of Ko Tao. The island exceeded my expectations in every way. In the most crucial aspects, it was the polar antithesis of Bangkok. Quiet, lovely, and soothing. The trip to the island was long and exhausting, but it was well worth it.
I rode a sleeper train south before boarding a ferry to Ko Tao. Although the train beds were not designed for tall people, they were far more comfortable than a tiny airline seat.
We waited for our ferry to the island early in the morning. I hadn’t made any reservations on the island yet. There were a couple scuba schools with decent recommendations, and I planned on enrolling with one of them.
Someone on the boat was offering a discount on one of the colleges I was considering. Ban’s Diving School was where I ended up. When I arrived at reception, I informed them that the guy on the boat had offered me a deal, and they gave me a tiny discount. My lodging for roughly 5 nights was included in the fee, as were all of the scuba certification training. Later, some of my classmates informed me that their tuition included meals. Although I may not have gotten the best bargain, I was nonetheless pleased with the price I spent.
I informed reception that I was not yet ready to begin classes. The trip to the island had made me a little queasy. My lungs had been slightly damaged by the train’s diesel exhaust. I had a day to myself to relax on the beach and drink some restorative cocktails.
Ban’s has excellent facilities. It was a pleasant resort setting. The accommodations were more backpacker-style than resort-style, but I was on a budget and didn’t mind as long as the pricing was reasonable. We were in a more tranquil area of the island, which was ideal for me. I wasn’t planning on doing much partying.
One day was dedicated entirely to classroom work. Scuba diving is a sport with a lot to learn. Then we did our first dive in the pool. When we tried to breathe underwater, our instructor had to make sure we didn’t panic.
Evenings were fantastic, relaxed, and lovely. This was the ideal location for me to adapt my mind and body to this region of the world. Bangkok had simply been far too much at once.
Our first ocean dive went off without a hitch! When we initially ventured down, the entire class gathered on the ocean floor. There was a little moment of panic when I initially went down there! A million different things may kill me in an instant down there, I was thinking (not animals but equipment failures, etc). Then the moment passed, and I began to appreciate my time spent down there.
Each dive had a different goal because we were getting certified. We acquired a variety of skills, including buddy breathing (I’m not sure what it’s called), which involves sharing your regulator with a friend in the event of equipment failure.
I enjoyed being submerged. It was incredible to see all of the fish and to be weightless in an exotic setting. It was something I’d fantasized about for years, and it was one of the rare times when reality triumphed over my imagination.
I took Spanish classes in Spain and highly recommend taking a class or participating in a group activity while abroad. It’s a simple method to meet new people right now. I connected the majority of my scuba classmates to Facebook and planned to meet up with at least one of them later in my vacation.
During the nights, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t want to go diving hungover.
I did sample a variety of local foods. Thailand has a number of good ones. Some of them remind me of the Mexican snacks I ate as a kid in California. The salted papaya was particularly tasty. One thing I realized was that I despise seaweed, dried fish, and dried sea critters as snacks. Basically, I don’t want to eat anything that comes from the sea.
Our instructor had posted on Facebook near the conclusion of class about a “live aboard” trip that a buddy was organizing. I was intrigued by the photographs and inquired about them. The excursion lasted seven days and took us through the Similan Islands. We’d live on an old Chinese junk, with all meals, equipment rentals, and other expenses covered. We’d go diving five times a day! It was costly, but I had no choice. I registered!
After we received our certification, several of our classmates went on a tour of the island.
We traveled to another side of the island, and I was delighted I had chosen Ban’s. For my taste, there were just too many inebriated visitors in this area. It was entertaining for a short time, but I was grateful that I could go to a more peaceful location if I choose.
Travel tip: Don’t jump a fire jump rope if you see one! This has to be one of the most inexcusable things that westerners have ever done in another country. Assume you attempt to jump the flaming rope. You jump over the rope in the best-case scenario. Wooper dooper dooper dooper dooper dooper do You leapt over a rope, so who cares? Consider the worst-case scenario: you miss your jump and are burned, causing your trip to be spoiled since your leg is too hot to walk on. It’s not like jumping from a cliff, where at the very least you can say you hurt yourself doing something fun. This is what it’s like to jump over a rope. Just don’t do that, no matter how inebriated you are. It’s ridiculous.
This is my final image from the island. It was my favorite dining establishment. It had a view of the ocean (behind the camera), and the food was delicious and inexpensive.
Following my certification, I boarded a boat for Phuket, where I would meet up with the live-aboard. The journey there was difficult, but I’ll tell you about it tomorrow. I’m hoping you’ll be able to join me then!