This weekend I visited the Thai islands for the first time – Ko Samui (very briefly) & Ko Tao. 🙂
Most of my time was planned to be on Ko Tao to get diving certified – but my plans went awry and it turned out to be quite a different weekend than I expected, full of too much drinking and a bit of self-discovery, hah.
Day One: Transit & Study
My first day, I flew to Ko Samui from KL. Bangkok airways has a bit of a monopoly and prices those flights very high…but at least it was nice and it was the first time I got a meal for just an hour long flight. At Ko Samui I had a couple hours to kill before my ferry, so I went to see the Big Buddha. A combo of my tiredness and neglect led me to get ripped off for a taxi – yeah, I may have paid 8 USD for a 2 minute taxi ride…Oh well, I can’t be perfect! (Spoiler alert: that was the theme of this weekend 😛 )
After that I napped on my sweaty ferry and arrived to Ko Tao. I was picked up by my diving school immediately thrown into the PADI course. It was weird to be taking quizzes and in a sort of classroom setting…made me excited but also (mostly) nervous about returning to grad school this year. My brain is a slug. Anyway, then I just walked around the main drag and got some dinner.
Day Two: Just kidding, this isn’t my thing
The next day, I went over the quiz with my instructor, a brusque Russian dude named Vlad. After a quick break we went on the boat and already went out to the sea for my first dive (ever). First I had to do a swim test – swim twice around the boat and tread water for 10 minutes. I was initally most nervous about that part, but it wasn’t too bad (just reminded me that I’m still not as fit as I should be!) But after that is when the nerves really started kicking in. Doing all the procedures I had just learned made me nervous…and the sheer amount of gear that I vaguely understood, and could break at any moment, made me nervous too. After putting on all the gear and getting in the water, I had a bit of a freak out moment, which I think was warranted – it was my first time breathing in that way, first time even wearing a wetsuit and fins – and they expected me to immediately pass some dive skills tests?!!
After some coaxing by my instructor I got the hang of the breathing. But when it came time to equalize, I couldn’t do it – even just a couple meters, my ears were clogged and I couldn’t equalize. In all honesty, I didn’t really want to continue anyway – and in all the quizzes I had taken the day before, they said if you don’t feel comfortable not to continue. So physically and also mentally – diving just isn’t for me. After not being able to equalize, I sat on a beach, constricted from breathing due to the wetsuit, waiting while he finished with other students, haha. While I was sitting there, I left all the dive gear at the shore. After a few minutes there was a small pop and a hissing noise – definitely a leak. Everyone on the beach looked at my gear, confused. For probably a full minute, I didn’t do anything and just shrugged my shoulders. Lol, but then I went down there and figured out that it was a hole in the tubing and closed the air. After seeing an air leak, I was like, yea, no – I am not going to dive. What if that leak had sprung while I was underwater? I know plenty of people do it, but…just, no. :p
All in all, the day was just a brief lesson in self-acceptance. Diving made me more nervous than I expected (when I was studying/prepping, I had no reservations), and physically I couldn’t do it anyway due to my ears. But there are plenty of things I can’t do – fine with me! Snorkeling is still fun! That night I had dinner on the beach and drinks with an Irish guy from my boat (and also from tinder…side note, my tinder really blew up here on the islands…). We watched some crazy fire shows on the beach where the locals twirled sticks of fire while climbing on each other, throwing them back and forth, and lighting cigarettes with them, hah.
Day Three: Consolatory Snorkeling & Pub Crawling
The next day I went back to my dive school to get some money back since I wasn’t continuing. My instructor, Vlad, was there, and one consequence of me not continuing the course was that he also didn’t have anything to do that day. He said he felt bad that I couldn’t continue (I said obviously not his fault) – so he took me to a nice beach on the other side of the island along with another instructor. I rode on the back of his motorbike, which to be honest was a little scary, considering the last time I was on a bike was when I fell off, ha (realizing the theme of this weekend = me being nervous, lolz). But it all worked out, and I used his snorkeling mask and saw some really beautiful coral and fish underwater! By the way, all of my gopro and video footage I am reserving for making a big video at the end of my year here, so those cool fishes will be in that 🙂
That night I went on a pub crawl! There I met a couple new people (Canadians, Floridians) as well as hung out with my new Irish friend. I thought it was great and hilarious that I was able to go on a pub crawl with Irish people in Thailand on, of all days, St. Patrick’s day!! Brutal mistake near the beginning of the night: I ordered a bucket, which is literally like a sand pail with a drink in it, but I paid the guy 100 baht to add more alcohol to that…which made the rest of my night, let’s just say, very hazy. I did end up meeting a man who looks, dresses, acts like, and is literally called Tarzan, so that was entertaining. That beach party life can be fun, I’ll admit, lol. But I’m not sure if it’s for me.
Day Four: More of the same
By more of the same, I mean more beach, drinking, eating, same people. I had breakfast at probably noon then went to another beach on the island (Freedom Beach) with some of the ‘friends’ I had made. It was really pretty and relaxing – I didn’t feel much like swimming, as I had some sunburn from snorkeling the previous day, but my nap on the beach was nice! Got some pad thai and then went out for one more round of drinks on the beach, this time with beer pong included.
Day 5: Ko Samui tour
The next morning I took the ferry to Ko Samui. I had contacted a travel agency just near the port for my ferry, so I got picked up by a guide, Yankee, who took me around for the day. I got some curry, saw a waterfall, saw a mummified monk, a weird monkey training coconut gathering thing, some phallic rocks (lol), and finally a beautiful beach. If I had known the beach was that nice, I would’ve just done that all day! The water was super clear and nice to swim in. In general a lot of the attractions on Ko Samui felt odd – like you just go for the photo then leave. I didn’t spend much time at any or really find any of them worth it. But it’s a beautiful place nonetheless!
To be honest, after returning to KL from this trip, I felt a little bit shitty about some stuff that happened there (people I interacted with, etc. – I won’t get into it). I still definitely enjoyed myself overall, but I think a combo of bad decisions and an environment not compatible with my personality was the nail in the coffin. Any time I want to resolve something, I, of course, make a list – so here are my lessons learned from my Thai island jaunt:
- If you feel unsafe, don’t do it – re:diving. Can’t do everything!
- Don’t make yourself the victim of your own circumstance
- Don’t drink like a freshman in college anymore – yea I should have learned this one by now
- Choose your company wisely – I think a combo of where I was (a party environment) and my mental state (hungover and tired and not having traveled alone in a while) made me hang out a bit too long with annoying people. Note to self: you do you!
But anyway, I totally recommend Ko Tao & Ko Samui! This slight negativity is just a personal aside. It’s beautiful and fun there. I’d go again to a Thai island…but maybe with friends, or at least now, with a clearer picture of myself. 🙂