Sunday, May 24, 2009

Krabi to Ko Tao

Krabi ended up being another Penang for us as somehow we ended up staying there a full week and didn’t even get out to the nearby beaches (which are the main reason everyone comes to Krabi in the first place). We spent a lot of time on the internet monitoring Bre and Ben’s progress and completely screwed up our schedule to the point of not getting our day started until well into the afternoon. Paul continued to stay in a separate hotel and frequently visited us. Sounds weird I know, but it worked out. On one of the days Paul and I went to the nearby Tiger Cave Buddhist monastery/temple complex. It is a little strange to name it Tiger Cave, because although there is a temple with a cave at the back of it, the main attraction now is the temple and giant golden Buddha statue at the top of the hill. The top of the hill was about 1200 steps up and I would’ve hated to have been the monks that built them. Some steps were like a ladder on a sheer dropoff. Very cool but I was out of shape and had sweat literally pouring off me by the end. The view was amazing until yet another storm hit. I was quite happy with the fact that we managed to hitch back into town too.
The Thai really are much more friendly than the Malay, although I have to admit it is very frustrating at times too. Thailand has to be the easiest tropical country in the world to travel in. You don’t have to do anything. Just wake up, breathe and reach into your wallet and everything is done for you. It is back to guesthouses that organize everything for you and although every shop and person that speaks English claims to have tourist information, it is almost impossible to actually get any unbiased information. It usually works something like this: Me- “Hi. Do you know the bus schedule to X?” Them - “Well, we have minibuses to X at such and such times.” Me - “No, I mean at the bus station.” Them - “Well, our minibuses pick you up and it will cost you the same to take the bus (definitely not a true statement), blah, blah, blah“. Anyway, they’ll never tell you anything that doesn’t involve buying something from them because after the minibus they can also organize your next hotel, meal, etc. If you don’t know what you are doing and want service, it’s great and you have nothing to worry about out here.
We have had rain almost daily now for the past couple weeks. It still doesn’t last long and is usually at night or early in the morning so hasn’t bothered us too much. Paul left us to go to Phuket from where he was flying back to Singapore and then home and after an extra day in Krabi (we missed the last bus out) we caught a bus to Surat Thani, from where we caught an overnight ferry to Ko Tao. The ferry is a small thing with mats along either side to sleep on and if you were to actually have it full and everyone in their numbered slots (there are 56) then you’d be getting really cozy with the people on either side of you. We were lucky because it was only half full and were able to comfortably spread out.
We arrived in Ko Tao at about 7am and since we didn’t have any idea what we wanted to do other than our next dive course, we just waited for some touts to give us a deal. Yes, I actually just wrote that. I was waiting to get touted… It worked and we ended up at Ban’s Diving Resort, one of many on the main beach strip of Sai Ree. It’s supposed to be the off season now but it is still very busy. They pretty much are resorts too but with most of the guests backpackers like us with a desire to scuba dive. If you aren’t going to dive it’s not really worth coming out here, as there are many other beach areas in Thailand that are cheaper and easier to get to. But how can you resist diving out here? Actually, it seems nobody can. I was told by one of the dive masters that Ko Tao is the 2nd busiest certification spot on the planet. I can believe it, wow there are a lot of people out here. I’ve noticed that we are not nearly as eaten by mosquitoes as a lot of the others here. Maybe we really are more “local” now. They don’t ever seem to have any bites.
To our horror and delight we have found that psychologically, when you get to the end, it just doesn’t matter anymore. When there is no money left, you might as well spend it and if there is no time left you might as well enjoy it like never before. So in addition to our sudden massage addiction, we have added diving to the list.
We did our Advanced Open Water course which involved 5 dives over 2 days, including a deep dive to 30m and a night dive. There were 11 people in our course (they divide it up during the dives) and Ban’s is only one of dozens of dive shops here. All 3 of us did the course and we had a great time. We were also extremely lucky because on our first dive we saw a 6m whale shark!! They are found here but are not nearly as common as they are at Donsol in the Philippines where we saw one before. Somehow, even though it swam right under our boat when we jumped in the water a bunch of people didn’t see it. Mom had missed the whale shark at Donsol so it was good for her to finally see one as they are really cool animals. The night dive was awesome too because halfway through it we got to turn off our lights and swim completely in the dark with the phosphorescence! The other divers seemed to be glowing as they moved around us. Very, very cool.
The problem with diving out at Ko Tao is the crowds. It’s just way too busy at each dive site and if you don’t watch where you are going you are going to run into another group and get kicked in the head. On the surface preparing to descend, if you look down everywhere below you, all you see is bubbles coming up from all the divers below. It’s terrible to have so many people everywhere without some sort of traffic controller, haha. Actually, Ko Tao is great to get certified and do a course, but I wouldn’t ever come back to do any fun dives. I’ll admit that I enjoyed the Philippines more with it’s lack of crowds, slightly better visibility and turtles. The best part about Ko Tao is that the water is 30C and doesn’t get colder as you go deeper. That is so warm. Finally some water that did not make me even think about getting cold! I still wore a shorty wetsuit, but most people were diving without. Of course we continued to be lazy and didn’t leave Ko Tao right after finishing our dives but proceeded to sit around the restaurant reading and “recovering” until it got to the point where we couldn’t resist the temptation to go diving once again! Yep, 2 more dives and some major schools of fish to see. I still stand by my first assessment though, there are just too many people here. The terrible reality is that right now I am tempted to stay and keep doing more diving courses. I haven’t had a sports obsession in a while and I also haven’t learned anything in a while so the temptation is quite strong and actually not all that unreasonable. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m at the end of my trip and have no money left….
Our diving instructor was a great British guy and after our first day of 3 dives he told us that he was also the MC for the Thai boxing that is done a couple times a month here on Ko Tao. Dad and I went and our instructor saved us some seats in the front row. Thai boxing or Muay Thai is pretty crazy stuff. The fighters are tiny to look at but obviously tough. They wear boxing gloves but are allowed to kick, knee and elbow each other. The matches are only 5 rounds of 3 minutes each but on our night only 1 of the 7 fights lasted until the end. 6 ended in knockouts. Very entertaining if you like blood sports. Gambling is illegal here but that doesn’t stop the crowds from gambling amongst themselves and getting right into the battle with every blow accompanied by a loud “Uhhnn!” from the crowd. Mom didn’t go, but dad really enjoyed it, especially when one of the fighters was kneed in the crotch and to “recover” had water poured down his shorts by his trainer. Yeah, that always works….
Our next stop will be Bangkok if and when we ever get motivated to leave here. It’ll have to be soon though because mom and dad have now bought their tickets to fly home. They leave here on the 3rd and go first to Holland for a week before finally arriving home.


At 8:11 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Gang,
Sad to think I will have nothing to read when this is done. It may have been crowded, but still sounded like alot of fun down there diving. I have mty open water ticket but havn't used it since leaving the forces.
Did you old frail 50 yr old mother have a happy birthday?
Next big one is your Dad's, the big 60!! that's like next year right Brandon?
Tell you Mom to email me contact information for Vancouver, I am out for a conference in June.

Love and Big Bear Hugs
The Bear

At 3:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Ammon, I just reread the post, you tell us what your parents are doing, but what about you? Where next? don't you have a book to write?

Do you have the Blog address for Bre and Ben?

Cheers & Hugs
The Bear

At 9:28 PM , Anonymous Nikki said...

Hey guys, is it really true that you are at the end of this amazing journey. What's next?


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