Published: March 10th 2012March 10th 2012
Our morning greeting while waiting for the ferry to Koh Tao - tought to complain about a night bus when this is your reward!
Our trip from Siem Reap to Bangkok was interesting for one reason, the mini-van ride on the Thailand side of the border. We boarded a bus at Siem Reap around 6:00am and we made it to the border a few hours later. After an hour or so we were through the border and greeted on the other side by a tour guide that assigned us to a van, and one of the craziest drivers in the world. I believe the speed limit in Thailand was 80 km/h. Using the kilometer stakes I had marked us going about 120 km/h most of the time, slightly faster at times. This would not be a big deal on a normal U.S. road, but in Thailand you are weaving in and out of traffic and passing cars with cars coming head on. At one point we passed a vehicle and the car coming towards us had their mirror knocked off by our van going 120 km/h – scary stuff! This is why we typically try to travel by bus in foreign countries since they are the largest vehicle on the road (except 18 wheelers). To be fair to our driver, all Thai drivers drive like
Ko Nang Yuan
One of the three interconectted islands right next to Koh Tao - maybe the best beaches in Thailand? We dove all around these islands.
maniacs, it is a wonder that anyone lives past the age of 20 in this part of the world. At any rate, we made it to Bangkok safely in a few hours, found a hotel, and settled in for a few days.
For the most part we didn’t do much exciting in Bangkok. We visited the huge weekend market again. We also met up with an ex co-worker of Amy’s from RTP for a day of fun. We went to Muang Boran (aka The Ancient City) for a day of “visiting Thailand.” Muang Boran is a 312 acre Thailand shaped track of land with nearly 200 replica Thailand sites such as the Grand Palace. It was built so that local Thai’s could learn about their country without having to visit the entire country. It was fun to bike through the area, see a replica of some of the stuff we had already seen, and see all of the new stuff that we had not had time to visit in Thailand. After our time in Muang Boran we had some dinner and drinks and chatted. It was nice to speak to someone from the U.S. for awhile – something we
Getting geared up to jump off the back of the boat.
have not done due to the lack of U.S. travelers in a long time!
From Bangkok we headed south to the island of Koh Tao – this is an overnight trip. We left around 8pm and arrived at the ferry pier around 5am. The bus travel was uneventful for this trip, which means it was good. We opted for the fast ferry, which is a 380 person capacity high speed catamaran. I would guess that the ferry was almost at capacity due to the upcoming full moon party, which attracts some 30,000 travelers to a nearby island to party throughout the night of the full moon. As we set off, the rolling waves were immediately noticeable and the staff came up with some plastic bags for anyone that wanted them. I’m not sure if anyone took them. We weren’t 15 minutes into our two hour boat ride and passengers started getting sick. I’ve had some issues in the past with getting car sick if I’m in the back of a car on really windy roads and both Amy and I were sick on our 5th
dives in Honduras from the rolling waves. Luckily, neither of us got
Just geared up and ready to get underwater.
sick on this ride. I think I’ve learned some ways to mitigate getting sea sick. My experience with getting motion sickness in the past has allowed me to spot when people are sick, you can tell by the way they start to breathe. I was watching people and could point out who was not doing well and needed a bag. Sure enough they would have a bag and/or be on the side of the boat within minutes. Overall, I would bet that 25 percent of those on the boat ended up sea sick. Hopefully the ride back is calmer.
Our main reason to come to the island was to dive. Koh Tao is known for some great diving with an opportunity to see a whale shark this time of year (we did not see one). We originally planned on doing four to six fun dives each and then heading to the West coast (Andaman Sea) of Thailand. After our first two dives we asked about doing a wreck dive, which was a deep dive, and therefore an adventure dive. We decided we would get certified to do both wreck and deep (30m, 100 feet) dives, allowing us to do
those dives in the future. The wreck dive was actually an old U.S. navy ship that fought in World War II, it was later donated to Thailand and it was intentionally sunk last year at Koh Tao. Coral had already started to attach to the ship and the fish have started to call it home too – it was really neat to be diving a wreck. It was great to be underwater again. After our wreck and deep dives we opted to finish our Advanced Open Water diving license. To be certified Advanced Open Water you need to do some navigation underwater (Navigation Dive), a Deep Dive (already done), and three other specialty dives. Given that we had chosen Wreck Dive already, we chose a Night Dive, and Peak Performance Buoyancy. All of the dives are pretty self-explanatory except the Peak Performance Buoyancy, which is a dive to give you skills to improve upon your control in the water and minimize air consumption. Peak Performance Buoyancy is typically the most recommended Advanced Open Water Specialty to try since it can make you a better and more efficient diver. The only downside to diving in Koh Tao was that the visibility
was not very good compared to Utila. However, I would say there were more fish in Koh Tao, especially small fish. We did see some large Triggerfish and another large fish that I’m not sure what it was, but it was probably close to 40 pounds.
The night dive was really unique because it was almost like diving for the first time. Everything was new again. The fish were different and they seemed to school together more than they do during the day. The coral was different too. We saw a Giant Barracuda and some sting rays while diving at night. Our instructor also picked up a sea cucumber (like a gigantic slug), squeezed it some, and this white stringy stuff came out of him. He had us touch the stuff and it would put gorilla and super glue to shame. It was so sticky that Amy and I could not get it off of our hands for the entire dive.
After our diving time in Koh Tao we headed for the Andaman Sea - to Krabi. Krabi is one of the launching points for Phuket, Koh Phi Phi (where the movie the Beach was filmed), and several
Tiny crab create these little sand balls all over the beach. There are thousands of them. Not sure anyone else really noticed them.
other lesser known islands. To get from Koh Tao to Krabi we took two ferries, two buses, and three taxis – it was an exhausting travel day! Due to our Thailand Visa running out in a few days we decided not to head to one of the islands and just stayed around the Krabi area for a couple of days. There are some gorgeous beaches in the area, the kind of beaches that most people think of when they think of Thailand or see postcards of Thailand. Limestone karts rise out blue water of the sea and they fall just as quickly. Several cliffs at least 200 feet high greet the Andaman Sea in this area – leaving a few spots for gorgeous white sand beaches. It was a great way to spend our last few days in Thailand. However, I must admit that given the choice between Thailand beaches and other locations we have visited I would say that Vietnam comes out on top. Thailand seems to be so over-run with tourists – yes I know I am one of them – but it does detract from the appeal some.
Tomorrow we head to Malaysia, and then we
turn around the next day and fly to Indonesia (Northern Sumatra). We will be only a few hours away from Aceh – the main area of Indonesia hit by the 2004 Tsunami. We hope to see some Orangutans and maybe visit the largest volcanic lake in the world!
There are more photos below