Thailand, Koh Tao

13th – February 2009 – 17th June 2009

The Thailand chapter came about because I had good friends Ben and Mia’s wedding in Korea. When purchasing air tickets in Perth, Mandy and I decided to have a 2 week stopover in Thailand on the way home. But what started as a stopover turned into a final destination. Mandys dislike of her job in Perth and me needing no excuse to move on as I had been in Australia for a year and was suffering from a severe case of itchy feet. We decided to cancel the return ticket and make Thailand a new chapter.

Our first stop on the itinerary was Korea for the stag do and wedding that acted as a reunion of all the guys I had taught English with in Korea back in 2003. After a week long stag do of eating at the galbi restaurants, sleeping at shim shil bangs (Korean bath houses), drinking soju, singing at norae bangs and having a near death experience, it was wedding time.

Then we left the harsh cold of Korean winter and flew into the harsh humidity of Bangkok. We had a one month tourist visa and planned to back-pack around Thailand. In which time we would decide on a place to settle down and me complete my Dive Master certification.

During our month we completed our advanced open water dive certificates on the island of Koh Tao, went hiking and got attacked by leeches in Kao Sak National park, did a 14 day live aboard dive trip in the spectacular Similan Islands which to date after over 100 dives is still my hightlight of the underwater world.

After the live-aboard we went to Krabi province and marvelled at the limestone cliffs that tower throughout the province. In Krabi we went out to the islands, firstly to the rock climbing mecca of  Tonsai and the scenic beach of Railey. Then in search of tranquillity we found Koh Jum, an island that answered our prays, even though I learnt some hard lessons about wearing bare feet on the islands

Our month tourist visa quickly came to an end and we made a dash into Malaysia to obtain a 2 month Thailand tourist visa. It was an eventful 3 days on the island of Penang in Malaysias north west. We stayed in one of the more derelict guest houses Malaysia had to offer and I had the worst breakfast experience of my life. But one day we hired a scooter to get out of Georgetown and were impressed with what hid in the far off corners of Penang. The trip to Malaysia was not complete until I managed to have Mandy abducted by some long haired Malaysian rickshaw driver.

With our 2 month Thailand visa in our hot sweaty hands we made a bee line back to Koh Tao, the little island north of the famous Thai islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Koh Tao was to be our home for the following 2 months. It is known as the diving mecca of Thailand, or arguably the world with over 45 different dive schools on the small island and home to the biggest dive resort, Ban’s.

Koh Tao is not a place you go for a Thailand cultural experience. There are more foreigners on the island than Thais, and all the worker s on the boats, in the cafes and restaurants, are all Burmese immigrants.

What Koh Tao lacks in the cultural experience it makes up for with its chilled out vibe. Also the foreigners that are attracted there are relaxed and all riding the same wave, just wanting to have a good time.

Within a day of being back in Koh Tao we had a bungalow, a motor bike, Mandy had a job and I was enrolled in my Dive master course. The island lifestyle quickly became our reality. And what a reality, waking in the morning to the chorus of roosters, throwing on boardies, ready for a day of diving and studying. And that basically sums up the 2 months.

During the course of my Dive masters I made over a hundred dives and was lucky enough to do 4 dives with the Whalesharks that make their seasonal pilgrimage to Koh Tao in May. So after 4-5 weeks of diving and studying I completed the snorkel test challenge with my fellow Dive master trainees to be a certified Dive master.

I picked up a few days divemaster work here and there before Perth friends arrived in Thailand for some exploring. A week was spent in Koh Phangan where we rented a truck and explored the island. Then it was back to Koh Tao for a hurried pack-up and selling of belongings before heading up to the Northern Thailand with friends and Jeff and Ji.

After renting a jeep and exploring the mountains of Northern Thailand it was back to Bangkok to catch a flight back to New Zealand. A fleeting trip back to New Zealand enabled me to recharge the family batteries, show Mandy the beautiful sights of New Zealand she had heard so much about and to pick up my snowboard gear for the next chapter.

NEXT CHAPTER

5 Responses to “Thailand, Koh Tao”

  1. Victor Kim FUNNELL September 10, 2009 at 5:55 pm #

    Hap, my friend 🙂
    How are you?
    It’s been a long time ah? I hope life is treating you well my friend, where are you now? I just read the Koh Tao article for the moment :S I’m gonna keep myself informed for sure!
    Give me some news man 🙂
    I tried to contact you guys via Mandy’s FB page but no answer…
    I’m now back in France, quite depressed :S I just want to save as much money as I can in a short time and go back as quickly as possible in Koh Tao, with Jon, the whalesharks and the Sunshine family!
    Take care my friend,
    Give me some news when you can!
    Vic

    • Hap September 10, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

      Hi mate,
      Good to hear from you Vic mate, yeah I´m not too good on the FB, i spend all my time on my blog.
      Mandy and I currently in Paraguay, all goign well here, but no doubt you read my blog and know anyway.
      Yeah mate, always a depressing buzz heading home with no money and back to ¨the real world¨, good luck on the making money mission and getting back to the Sunshine family and those whale sharks, good memories of KOh Tao, I miss the diving, i haven´t been diving since leaving.
      Anyway mate, gotta go, i´m currently at spanish school.
      NBL Hap

  2. janeontheblog May 27, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    Wow!!!!! awesome. why wouldn’t try to continue to Indonesia???

    • Hap May 28, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

      Hey Jane,
      Yeah, made it down to Indonesia, was good times, Hope all going well in Indo.
      Hap

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