So I finally made it out of Bangkok, albeit without my visa for Vietnam. It seems that sleeping in til 4pm on the day I originally had planned to visit the embassy made no difference at all. The embassy was closed all week for Chinese New Year (the biggest holiday in Vietnam apparently) and did not reopen until Tuesday the 19th. I had planned to get my visa sorted on Monday the 18th, and in my haste to get out of Bangkok had already booked a flight to the islands for first thing on Tuesday morning. So it looked like I'd screwed myself good and proper. However it turns out you can get a visa on arrival sorted online if you are flying into the country, which I've already done. So I'm approved to enter Vietnam from March 8th, that's that sorted. In the meantime I had made my day trip to Ayyuthaya to visit some of the ancient temples. Lots to see there and definitely worth doing if you are looking for some culture, although the temperature was unreal. 35 in Bangkok was too much for me, and I spent the day wandering around outdoor temple sites in 38 degree
I booked a flight/bus/boat ticket with Air Asia to get me to Ko Samui. This involved a one hour flight from Bangkok followed by a one hour bus transfer to a pier in Donsak, and then a two hour boat trip from Donsak to a port on the west side of Ko Samui. I had not arranged any accommodation before I got to the island as I was unsure if I was going to stay there or get a boat straight to Ko Tao to enrol in a scuba diving course. As my flight from Bangkok left at 06.50 I was completely wrecked by the time I got to Ko Samui and decided I was definitely going to stay the night there. Unfortunately, it turns out there is very little on the west side of the island, and everyone else on the boat had prearranged their accommodation as I watched them all get into minibuses provided by their hotels. I was left scratching my head a bit and wondering how the hell I was going to find a decent place to stay. I ended up following what I think were a group of Russians to a minibus they
were in the process of hiring, it turned out they were headed to the north of the island which is where I wanted to be so I managed to share the taxi with them. I got dropped off in the hotel they were staying in and enquired about getting a room there, but it was in the region of €50 a night and didn't look great so I decided to try elsewhere. I ended up finding a backpacker hostel in the northeast of the island.
I had decided I wasn't going to stay in dorms until I got to Japan, as it is cheap enough to get your own room in Southeast Asia. However I might rethink that policy, I found it much easier to meet people staying in a dorm in a proper hostel than I did when staying in what was really a hotel in Bangkok. After a quick wander around and some dinner I met up with another Irish solo traveller in the hostel, Jimmy. After some Changs and a bit of pool we ended up hitting the town with some other people we'd managed to pick up, spending a lot of time in a bar
playing connect four for some reason. I swore I wasn't going to stay up to watch the Arsenal game as it didn't start til 02.45 over here; however I have some vague memories of watching the first half.
I got up at around midday the next day and enquired about getting a boat to Ko Tao. There were two remaining boats going that day, and both were full. It seems I was stuck on Ko Samui for another night, however I can think of many worse places to be stuck in. After booking my boat for the next day, a room for the night and my accommodation/diving course in Ko Tao, I went back to the hostel to find Jimmy looking a little worse for wear. He had hired a scooter and was going to explore the island, so I went along for the ride. We ended up playing football golf, a cross between football and mini golf. It's basically an oversized mini golf course but you kick a football into a big hole on the green instead of using a golf club/ball. A fairly simple concept and a lot of fun, no idea why something similar doesn't exist at home. We continued on and explored the north of the island, first taking a look at the big budda statue, before checking out the north pier and its surrounding areas and food stalls. We even managed to run into the Russians I'd shared a taxi with the previous day, they seemed happy I'd found a place to stay. Went back to the area by the hostel for the evening, and had a few more drinks without going too crazy.
My boat to Ko Tao left at 8am, so it was another very early start. Finally arriving in Ko Tao at 10.30, I was picked up by Bans diving company (recommended by a work colleague a few weeks before I left), and enrolled in the PADI open water course. Spent most of the day asleep before starting the classroom part of the course in the evening by watching a few videos. Unfortunately due to my odd sleeping pattern lately it's now 02.30 here and I'm wide awake. Tomorrow is more video watching in the morning, followed by diving in a swimming pool for the afternoon. Days 3 and 4 of the course involve doing a few ocean dives, which I'm really looking forward to. The plan is to then make my way to Ko Phangnan to meet up with Jimmy for the full moon party on the 26th, arriving on the morning of the 25th. After that I'm not really sure what to do. I'll have a further week or so in Thailand before making my way to Hanoi, but not sure if I have enough time to get to all of Ko Phi Phi, Phuket and Chiang Mai. I'll worry about that next week.
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