Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Koh Tao, Thailand

I was skeptical of Koh Tao, but was dragged there by the familiarity of old friends, mountain high stories of debauchery and a reputation for having the cheapest PADI diving certification in the world.

Getting to Koh Tao is not that easy.  Perhaps that is why it is so rad.  I had to take a 4 hour bus ride from Krabi across the peninsula, a 2-hour layover and then an overnight boat. I'm not sure what I had expected, but it sure wasn't this…

When I opted on the boat, which looked like a car carrying ferry, I dropped my bag off on the deck (sketchy), left my flip flops at the front door (who knows if I'll ever see them again) and searched for my "seat" number.  When I walked up the stairs, I saw a line of mattresses on the floor with sketchy flimsy pillows at the head.

Oh dear, I did not want to lay on that.  Who knew when the last time those sheets were changed?  I laid my sarong over the sheet (pretending like that was a sufficient barrier) and put my backpack under my head.  I used my pashmina as a blanket and went to sleep.  I figured the faster I fell asleep the less creeped out I would be by whomever was going to be laying beside me.

I woke up 10 minutes before the boat docked to this…

OMG, dirty backpackers everywhere! The guy next to me was definitely a bit sketchy, but hey they probably thought the same of me. I am proud to say, I made it all the way around the world without picking up bedbugs! Although, I'm not sure how.

Looking out the window made me forget all about the creepy sleeping situation.  Look how beautiful the harbor is in the morning!


Lets start with the PADI certification.  Easy Peasy.  Ban's Diving (http://www.bansdivingresortkohtao.com) in Sairee Beach made my PADI certification fun and easy!  For $300 (9800 THB), you can get your Open Water certification and lodging for 4 days.


Our instructor, Antony, was absolutely historical.  He drew the winning lotto ticket of teaching 9 girls ages 18-34, and one super rad dude, Simon.

Scuba class. Photo by Annick Beryl
This course was phenomenal.  Antony and his fellow instructors were very experienced.  They stressed safety checks and buddy safety extensively.  They married instructional material with dirty jokes in a way that tiptoed the line, but never actually crossed over it.  I felt very comfortable diving with all of them and enjoyed the double entendres, everyone did.

My diving buddy Jenaya was confident and of the same skill level so it was a great pairing. My two favorite people in the class were British, Annick and Simon.  They were hilarious. They got a taste of my blunt American demeanor and laughed with me along the way.  Cheers to you guys!

Simon and Annick
I enjoyed the Open Water class so much that I was contemplating taking the Advanced Open Water class.  The tipping point on this decision was basically that I didn't want any restrictions for diving in the Galpagos.  So I shelled out another $100 and took 2 more days of class.  The Advanced Open water class included 5 more dives.  The coolest of them were the night dive and the ship wreck dive. Unfortunately, the visibility for the ship wreck was kind of crappy, but it was cool to be down there anyway.

"Ok" with the tank gun!
Crappy visibility on the ship wreck dive
After I completed all of the PADI certifications, I could finally play with my friends.  My friend Sylvia that I met in Ios, Greece 4 years ago lived on Koh Tao.  So, I decided to spend an extra 4 days on the island and am I glad I did.  Sylvia is an amazing hostess.  She has lived on the island off and on for nearly a decade.

Em and Sylvia
Plus, her view wasn't too shabby.

First up, Sylvia and I participated in the Koh Tao Pub Crawl (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Koh-Tao-Pub-Crawl/195259667186954).

The Koh Tao Pub Crawl has an excellent business model.  For 380 THB ($11 USD), you get a Koh Tao Pub Crawl tank top, a bucket of liquor, a schedule of 5 bars to crawl to and entrance into an outstanding drag show.  The pub craw runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you participate a second time and bring your existing tank top, you get to crawl for 280 THB and then every time after that is free…for life.

 Needless to say, Sylvia has about 50 crawls under her belt…and I am free for life. So, if I ever go back I'll share my bucket with you.

The drag show was phenomenal!


The ladyboys put on great performances and they even drew in a little crowd participation.  They pulled people from the audience to break dance for miniature golf tickets, beer and a discount on a tattoo.  Then they pulled other guys onstage to dress in drag and perform to close out the show.

 The pub crawl always heads to Choppers for live music...

 And then to Fish Bowl for a fire show on the beach…

Photo courtesy of Annick Beryl's FB

At some point, they bring out the flaming jumprope for all of the drunk idiots to try out.  The best part of the night is sitting there watching people fail at jumprope, limbo and jumping through a flaming hoop.

Drunk, flaming jumprope

Drunk flaming limbo
Sylvia took us on the most amazing adventures ever!  She took us for a jungle hike to the Banana Rock Bar on a secret deserted beach.  The Banana Rock Bar is an honor system, serve yourself bar.  Super rad!

Barefoot hiking, lets go!

Just found this beautiful little inlet on the way

Serve yourself, bitches!
No shoes, no shirt required...
On my last day on the island, Sylvia organized a private boat tour to some of the best snorkel spots in Koh Tao.  We went to Mango Bay and Nang Yuan.

Mango Bay
Mango Bay
Emily and Sylvia at Mango Bay
so many fish….
Snorkeling with turtles, pike fish and trumpet fish
Road to the lookout point in Nang Yuan

Phillip, Em, Sylvia and Craig and his girlfriend
View from atop Nang Yuan lookout!

Wearing my new swimsuit by Flip Flop and Treacle! (http://www.flipflopandtreacle.co.uk)
Phillippe made it to the top!
Koh Tao excels in fun, PADI certification and sunsets.  They were incredible.  Here are some of my favorites!

If you're planning to go to Koh Tao, you need to reach out to Sylvia.  She organizes amazing tour packages and can provide you with the best itineraries, lodging, discounts and overall guidance of this amazing island.  (http://mj.sotulife.mobi)

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