It’s becoming increasingly difficult to write these because a) I want to make sure I write down and remember every detail of every moment (except for the food poisoning) of my trip to Thailand, and b) each time I write, I want to be back there…rather than writing about it.
I’ve been back to work a few days, and it’s…fine…made some good money, which is…nice…but it’s still super tough to be back. I got back on Tuesday, worked my internship at Second City on Wednesday, worked Thursday, Friday, last night, and will work tonight at the bar…then I have my internship again Monday, writing class starts Monday night, then I work Tuesday through Friday at the bar again…first day off is on Saturday. Ugh. Take me back to the beach.
Back to the trip, I go.
Day 4 of my open water diving certification started at 5a, then 6a for a quick breakfast before getting on the boats at 6:30. We were diving at an area called White Rock, and in the water at 7:23a according to my handy dandy official dive book. This was a fun dive, and we saw all sorts of fish, including (but not limited to) the following: Wiebels Butterfly Fish, Slingjaw Wrasse, Golden Trevally, Moray Eel, Bluespotted Ribbontail Stingray (which I saw again on a later fun dive where I had my GoPro – video later!), Crocodile Needlefish, Sergeant Major, Titan Triggerfish and a ton of these things called Christmas Tree Worms…which looked like, you guessed it, Christmas Trees, but they were about 2 inches tall, and if you got close enough to them and waved your hand over/near them, they’d suck back into their…trunks?…and disappear. They were all sorts of different colors. Awesome dive and we were down about 37 minutes.
Dive 4 was at Twins, and we did our final task, the “Mask removal and replacement” which went off without a hitch. We also saw MORE fish…shocker! This time we saw: Giant Grouper (and holy shit were they giant), Longface Emperorfish, Chevron Barracuda, Yellow Prawn Goby, Parrotfish, Longfin Bannerfish, Sea Urchin galore, and Magnificent Anemone. In the water at 8:57a and out after 42 minutes. After finishing all of this, we surfaced and were officially deemed certified Open Water Divers. That means we could go to at most 12m. We celebrated by doing jumps and dives off the top deck of the dive boat, and then headed back into shore…where I immediately decided I wanted to stay on the island, and do the Advanced Open Water Dive course.
This is precisely the point at which I began appreciating the fact that I hadn’t planned this trip out at all, really. The only thing I planned was getting to Koh Tao that first day, and everything else was researched, but up in the air. Since I didn’t have any return flights booked, or hotels, or anything, I could stay an extra few days if I wanted to…and I wanted to. That night, Nick and I feasted on Steak and Barracuda at the restaurant at Big Blue, and it was fantastic. We officially signed up for the Advanced class, so it wasn’t a crazy partying kind of night because we were to be diving again in the morning. I was okay with it. I actually didn’t really party much at all this trip – it just didn’t turn out to be that kind of trip – which I was okay with. I did some drinking and whatnot, but didn’t really GO OUT go out. I had some nice meals with new friends and I explored and did exactly what I wanted to do.
Advanced Adventurer was the next certification level for an Open Water Diver, and it consisted of 5 more dives (oh darn). Dive 1 of Advanced (dive 5 overall) we worked on Navigation underwater. We lead each other around, and learned the way to get around with a map and points of interest under water. Quite cool. Got to a depth of around 14m at a dive site called Laem Thian. We went back to Japanese gardens for the second dive of Advanced, where we practiced “perfect buoyancy.” I was a little wobbly under water trying to not move at all when I breathed, but it was fun. Part of the “testing” was having a weight put upright on the ocean floor, and us gradually turning ourselves vertical above the weight, slowly lowering ourselves to it, so we can gently knock over the weight with our nose or regulator. It wasn’t the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done, but I did it…and it was very rewarding. I had had some issues with my buoyancy and just getting used to it down there, so I was happy to accomplish the task. The third dive was later that day, and it was the night dive. It was cool as shit because we went out on the boat toward sunset, and once we got to the site, we got in the water as the sun was gradually going down, and when we got to about 14 meters, it was totally dark. Eerie and weird at first, but we had flashlights (torches) and a lot of things were coming out that weren’t out during the day so it was all really cool to see. At one point we stopped, held our torches to our chests so it was perfectly dark, and then we waved our hands around in front of us furiously and there were these little bioluminescent things glowing when we moved. It was pretty awesome. Dive four was the next day, where we were doing our advanced deep dive. It was crazy because down to about 15 or so meters, it was perfectly clear! We were swimming by a school of barracuda, and tons of fish were just being all fish-like all around us…then we kept descending, and all of the sudden the visibility just went down to next to nothing. We got down to about 28 meters, where we did some tests to see if the depth messed with our brains because of the nitrogen in our bloodstreams (I’m pretty sure that’s what we were checking). Our instructor did simple math with us – like, he held out 10 fingers, then 5, and you’re supposed to subtract…so you’d show him 5 fingers to show that your brainparts are working right. It was hilarious because one girl, he showed something like 10, and then 5…and she looked at him like he was an alien…then she looked at her fingers like she was tripping balls, then she tried to start counting on her fingers, then she held up like 3 fingers or something. Even underwater I could tell he was getting a kick out of it. He then brought out some eggs, cracked them on his watch, and then due to the pressure, the yolks stayed in tact, so we played a little volleyball with the egg yolks. He also showed us how colors are affected at that depth by displaying this board that had various squares of color, and it all looked like different shades of green to me…and some brown…but when he held his flashlight over the colors, blues and oranges and reds came out. It was trippy. That dive was at a site called Chumpon. Then, the final dive was at a shipwreck! Now THAT visibility was even worse. It was so bad that we had to surface, reposition ourselves above water, then use the buoy line that was pretty much attached to the shipwreck, lower ourselves down and stick close together because we couldn’t even really see our hands in front of our faces. That was eerie as shit because even when we got down to the wreck, we couldn’t see it…but we kept floating around, and then all of the sudden we were literally on top of the wreck. So cool. Up topside we were informed that we did it, and we’re officially certified as Advanced divers, and now I can go diving anywhere in the world to a depth of 30 meters.
I plan on doing just that, too. Once Bo gives his blessing, I feel like I’m going to have a lot of new decisions in my life, and one of them feels like it’s going to be to move to Thailand for a while…get more certifications…maybe get a job there. It seems just crazy enough to work…and be fulfilling and amazing and great. It’s probably one or two or three years off yet, but it’s still a possibility. It was just such an amazing time.
Before leaving Koh Tao, I was able to do a couple more “fun dives” with my friend, Erin, from college. These were my favorite because we didn’t have big groups of people around us, and it was just chill and at our own pace. I was also able to take my GoPro with me, and Steve let me borrow his red filter (which adds red back into the image because red is the first color to “go” within the first 10 meters of depth). I was so close to so many fish and coral and I got some cool ass footage of a couple stingrays – one of which got up and floated away while I was filming! We dove at Red Rock Drop, and then again at White Rock. Such an amazing couple of dives.
Net/net, in about 6 days, I went from never being in Thailand and never scuba diving to being on a beautiful island in Thailand and having two scuba diving certifications under my belt along with 11 dives. Unreal. What an amazing trip, already…and it wasn’t even halfway done. More later…