My trip officially started on March 9th. After a full, full day of travel on the 8th, I didn’t do much other than check Koh San Road off the list in Bangkok, and GET to Koh Tao, so I consider the 9th day one.
Big Blue Diving was officially my home for the next “x” amount of days, and I had woken up at 5a (which turned out to be a normal time for me the entire trip) and went down to the beach to just walk. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved walking the beach. I get it from my dad. He’ll walk and walk and walk – sometimes with an ice cream cone at the totally coincidental turning back point. Whenever I’m at a beach, I love just walking by the water. I even do it here every New Years Day. I find an emptyish beach and just walk. Anyway. I just walked until the resort’s restaurant opened at 6a. Sat at the edge, looking out at the live-aboard boats and other boats on the water with the small beach just peeking out of the edge of the restaurant’s patio. It was magical. Seriously, unreal. I could relive that…and I hope to one day when Bo gives me his blessing.
That first day, I was pretty starving, so I had their “American Breakfast” which was enormous and I practically licked the plate. Eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, toast, and a big fat fluffy pancake with butter and honey. I washed it down with some Nescafe coffee (which was the only coffee they offered) and a DELICIOUS shake. I had one the previous night, pineapple I believe, so this day’s shake would be coconut. I think my meal cost $3. That was something that was really true about Thailand…food was SUPER cheap there compared to the states. A big Chang beer at happy hour was 50 Thai Bhat…which translates to just over $1. Delightful. (Incidentally, a big Chang beer at NOT happy hour – like, breakfast for example, is 70 Thai Bhat…which translates to just over $2)
Something I wanted to do was an Open Water Diving certification course. Honestly, up until VERY recently, SCUBA diving wasn’t even on the radar of things I’d want to do/accomplish in life. Even as recently as JANUARY of this year, it wasn’t a thing…but my friend, Erin, from college always posted amazing pictures on her Facebook page, and once I determined that I was going to go to Thailand, my other friend Bob, reminded me that Erin lived there and I was like, huh, well, maybe I should try scuba! Holy shit am I glad I did…but more on that later. The ONLY thing I planned for my Thailand adventure was starting this class (and getting to Koh Tao to start the class), so I was pumped. Class started at 4p, and it was a couple hours worth of classroom talk and videos about what we’d be accomplishing, so I had the ENTIRE day to either sit on my butt and watch the water (a perfectly viable option) or I could explore.
While I sat and pondered what to do, a girl was trying to take the perfect picture of her drink in front of the water – which was exactly the picture I had just taken. She was trying at every which way, and I just told her that I stole the seat that had the best picture, so I moved my stuff and told her to sit there for it and she did – and thus got the greatest picture in the history of pictures in front of water thanks – singlehandedly – to me. That girl was Hy Nguyen, a saucy little Vietnamese Canadian, with whom I struck up a great conversation. We talked about the marketing world and travel and how she’s going to be a TV star and do TED Talks one day, and got to the “what are you doing today” conversation. I told her that I wanted to rent a motorbike and explore the island, and she said that’s something she wanted to do also, so I invited her on my yet-to-be-planned-out adventure. She had just arrived at the resort that morning, so she didn’t even have a place to put her stuff yet, so we chatted until the office / reception area opened at 8ish, she checked in, signed up for my same Open Water Certification course starting that evening, took her stuff to her newly appointed room (when you sign up for class, they allow you to stay for free at the resort), and we were off to an off-beat bar that was recommended to me at which to rent our motorbikes.
The bar was about a 7 minute walk from our resort. There was a dude just chilling at the end of the bar and it turns out this was the brother of the guy we were supposed to be dealing with, but it didn’t matter. He didn’t know much about motorbikes, but it was 150 Bhat per day to rent them (about $5) and they were little guys – 110cc – but they were perfect. He didn’t know how to turn them on or anything, so we had to have a local show us what to do before we were off. He did recommend we wear helmets because the local police would charge an arm and a leg if we were caught driving without one. I happily obliged because my brainparts are pretty important to me, and it’s been a minute since I’ve been on a motorbike. I think the last time was with Liz and Nick in Key West maybe? I have my motorcycle license in LA, but motorcycles these were not. Plus, there were a number of dirt roads on Koh Tao that were a BIT more treacherous than I would’ve preferred, but we made due.
We were off! Thankfully, it was a small island, so the two times we got lost on the way to the beach we were trying to get to didn’t really matter. We were trying to follow the maps.me app while also trying to motorbike among the locals (on the other side of the street than I’m used to driving on), so I was happy that we figured it out. Someone at the front desk of Big Blue recommended we visit the other side of the island to Tanote Bay, a beautiful little beach that wasn’t touristy at all, with a lot of beautiful sand and sun – which I happily burned to a crisp under even though I put on 50 sunscreen.
We didn’t really plan ahead, so we rented beach towels for the day, and I immediately wanted to get into the water. In my other life, I think I was a fish. Off of the coastline, a smallish swim away, was an “island” where I saw people climbing up the jagged and harrowing rock face to jump off into the ocean. Of course I needed to do that, so I hooked my GoPro up to my pointer finger (I didn’t have the right mounting pieces because I didn’t think I’d be cliff jumping on this particular day) and started swimming. About halfway to the “island” I remembered that it’s probably been more than a year since I’ve swam. Sooo, that’s good that I was already halfway there because if I had thought like an adult, I might’ve turned around. It was gorgeous, and warm, and I was in heaven. Got to the island and found out the hard way that under the beautiful blue water up to the edge of the jagged rocks I had to climb up to throw myself off, were – in fact – more jagged rocks underneath that I probably should have paid attention to so my knees and feet didn’t get beat up on the way out of the water. Oops.
I managed to hoist myself up to the “ground level” of this “island” and then scampered up the edge to the second level. This was a little more flat, so I could look back at the beach and see the tiny ant people watching ME on the rock now. At least they were facing that way. The next “level” was really about…five levels up. When I saw people from the beach on top of this rock, I was like “Oh, that looks cool” not really thinking about the whole “getting to the top of this giant rock” thing. After shuffling from my nice safe spot overlooking the water and beach, I moved to the front of the rock face where there was a thick rope dangling down. Following the rope up, it was attached to a giant chain. The giant chain was (hopefully) attached to something that could support my weight, but this contraption was the only thing I could use to get up to the top of this very vertical rock face. Heady, I thought, “well, I’ve been doing some bouldering back in the states so I should be fine” even though I didn’t have any gear, I was wet, my fingers and toes were bleeding, and I had a GoPro clamped onto my pointer finger. I began my ascent, and about halfway up, I got that rumbly feeling in my stomach of “if I fall, I’m going to die” which wasn’t pleasant, so I just took my time and continued up – because going BACKWARDS down the rock wasn’t an option in any way shape or form. The rope-to-chain transition was super weird too because the chain was a good grip, but rusty as shit, so I chose to ignore that part.
I pulled myself up onto the top of this much-bigger-than-I-thought rockboulder, and just caught my breath. The people I had seen up here were long gone, nobody was up here anymore, and I couldn’t see over the edge – but at this point, I was just happy I made it. Now, as long as I don’t die slipping on the top, or fall into a hidden rock underwater, I’d be fine. I caught my breath, and tried to find the “right” place to jump into the water. It was probably about 50 feet out of the water at what I deemed to be the “jumping point” and I’ve jumped from higher, so I wasn’t terribly worried about that part, but I just didn’t know the right place to begin. I inched my way to the edge to try and see over, but it was just too close for comfort, and my tingly-balls were on high alert. I saw a couple guys in the distance snorkeling, and I yelled to them “do I jump from around here?” and they said back in broken English “run and jump!” Super helpful guys, thanks. There would be no running and jumping because the top of this boulder wasn’t exactly flat, nor a runway.
Tingly-balls be damned, though, I found a spot I thought was appropriate, turned on my GoPro, and launched myself off into the water successfully. The video looks awesome, and once I compile all of my video, I’ll be able to show the highlights, like I did with my road trip video.
Happy to be alive, I now realized I was even further out into the water than when I started on my first swimming trip back…so I flipped onto my back and just started to float-swim backwards forever until I was close enough to the beach that I could stand on the sand/jagged rocks and relax a bit.
Hy and I spent the rest of the day getting some sun, chatting it up, and playing in the water before I burned to a crisp, and we had to head back to the resort for class. It was an awesome day, and I was super psyched to have made a new friend to share it with. I was reminded constantly on this trip that I’m a pretty social person, and I enjoy hearing stories from people and getting to know people on a deeper level. I’ll write a synopsis at some point of the learnings I came across on my trip, but that was one of them. A lot of times, living in Los Angeles, people keep so much to themselves, that it’s hard to really connect. I find myself being more negative here, sometimes, and I don’t like that about me. Coming back, I’m going to be working more diligently to see things from other people’s perspectives, and I’m going to be continually working on myself to try and be the best me I can possibly be. More later…