04.04.2012 31 °C
After a very quick break in Bangkok I find myself back on the night train to Koh Tao my current favourite island in the whole wide world! This particular train route serves the Ferry Terminal for Koh Tao, Koh Samui and Koh Pangnan. It also continues on wards to Surat Thani. All these destinations are very popular for quite different reasons but it also means the train has a habit of selling out early! Book this one as far in advance as you can is my advice. Second class sleeper carriages in Thailand are absolutely fine, you can expect a full on lie down bed with air con and the whole trip only costs around 12 GBP. The risk of course comes from your fellow travellers - I've been lucky so far on pretty much every occasion I've used a train in Thailand but in this case I was travelling with a loud group of french girls (why book a sleeper carriage if you want to drink all night dick heads?) and a family with young restless babies. No matter, you have to expect these things from time to time. I grabbed what little sleep I could before transferring to the coach. Its a 40 minute coach ride the to ferry and I know from experience that being Thailand the coach is expected to hold more passengers than it has seats! Not wanting to spend the journey sat on the floor a second time I strategically positioned myself near to the coach in preparation for boarding. Coach and ferry ride are pleasant enough affairs despite Lomprayah wanting you to show your ticket 3 or 4 times (paranoia regarding stow aways I guess).
I arrived back on Koh Tao at about 9 Am and i couldn't really keep the smile off my face, I was delighted to be back and since I had arrived early I was convinced Id make the dive boat for today if I hurried. New Heaven were again good enough to pick me up at ferry terminal and I was off. Dumped my bags got suited up and was back under the ocean in the time it takes to board the boat. This is life! the fact that I had yet to organise accommodation or eat didn't cross my mind. It was just great to be back on the boat and heading out to a dive site. All of my fellow divers on the boat are training for a certification of one or the other. Im the only fun diver (which incidentally is now free for me since Ill be doing my dive master with these guys, FREE DIVING!). This means of course that my dive group consists of me and my buddy DM. A 2 man dive is always nice since you don't have to worry about bumping heads or some crazy newly certified diver kicking your mask off and your reg out of your mouth.
We hit up 2 great sites that day, didn't see anything out of this world amazing but the Choral and Marine life here is great anyway and well, I don't really care what I see if I'm under water I'm happy After completing our 2 dives for the day and our surface intervals we headed back to shore and arrived at about 2.30 PM. Now is a good time to organise a room for the next 3 months right. Im weighing up my options here, rooms range from about 3000 baht per month to 9000 baht per month. Suffice to say the really cheap room are very basic, a bed a fan and a shower in a single small room. Im fine with that but there is a problem. The only room available that is anywhere near convenient is on top of a fucking mountain and although the walk is a short one at about 10 minutes its really really steep. While i can manage it sober this is not the kind of hike I want to undertake after a skin full of chang. Moving on a lot of the long term rooms are already full. Shit maybe I should of booked something. My buddy is helping me out here and showing me around on the back of his bike so we head out a little further to see if there is anything available in one of the other bays. For 6.5k baht I can get a room thats a 10-15 minute drive from the shop but I would have to rent a bike for another 4k baht. In one place I was quoted 15000 baht for a room. Fuck knows what that chick was smoking but there is no way I'm paying 5 x the price of the 3k room. After about an hour of searching and finding rooms that were all inconvenient for one reason or another (I really want something thats walking distance to the bars and dive shop since taxis on the island are stupidly expensive and I want to be able to go out for a beer without breaking the bank during my 3 months I finally find a 3 room apartment that is available and meets all my criteria. its 8.5k a month which is more than I wanted to spend but given the other options are further away and would add 4k for a bike its a sensible option, not to mention that when I do the math this room is actually working out at 6 GBP a day. I can hardly call that expensive and it was without a doubt the highest quality room I had seen that day and I decide to take it. So here I am, my new home consists of a living room with leather sofa and TV / Fridge. A bedroom with Fan and big double bed. A small kitchen area with a sink and a bathroom (cold shower only, but that won't be a problem its hotter than fire on this island). Im a bit sad that my TV only has 5 changels of which 2 are in thai 1 is a news channel of some kind 1 appears to be a talk show channel and the last one has been showing a picture of god with the message "he leaves you" for the past 2 days, I don't hold out a lot of hope that its going to start showing great movies any time soon. I didn't want to watch TV anyway!
Rooms sorted, its off out for a beer with a few of the guys, I want to take it easy because I'm pretty tired from the lack of sleep. We hit up a couple of bars and I quickly discover that you can order a pint and a smoke in some of these bars. A smoke if of course thai stick and it comes pre rolled for 100 baht (about 2 GBP). How very civilised that you can purchase both of your highs in the bar while reclining on a comfy cushion and listening to the waves lap at the beach! Were having such a great laugh that I kind of forget I wanted to get to sleep early and the night doesn't end until were in fishy burger ordering double cheeseburgers at about 1 AM!
At about 4 am that morning I discover the one and only problem with my accommodation, behind my room is a sort of common area of scrub full of roosters that are giving it big balls at 4.30! Ok fuck it ill sleep when I'm dead right? Shower time anyway and ill head off to 7 for a coffee. For 26 baht or about 60 pence you can get a great big cup of ice coffee and I'm reminded of just how bad Boracay was in comparison, on that particular island id of paid like 4 pound for half of this and had the privilege of waiting 20 minutes for it thrown in for free. I head to koppee for breakfast as is my morning ritual (bacon and cheese bagel is a winner and it only costs about 1.60). At the dive shop I'm told there are no fun divers again today? Seems a bit odd that the island is as quiet as it is but again there are 2 full classes of students doing open and advanced open water classes and one half class with 2 students also doing AOW. I get my first chance to assist on a class and I'm to be an obstacle for peak performance buoyancy. Ive also picked today to change my wetsuit to a full wet suit and up the neoprene a bit. Ive gone from a 3mm shorty to a 4.3 mm full suit and really I should of added a bit more weight but I like to dive with minimal weight so I'm going to stick with my 3 kilos. This was all before I knew i was going to be kneeling on the sandy bottom at 8 meters for 20 minutes. While actually diving I'm having no issues what so ever with my trim and buoyancy but when it comes to kneeling stationary with a quarter empty tank I'm actually finding it a bit of a challenge not to rise off the floor when I breath in. Im reduced to taking little sips of air so I don't float around like a muppet and make myself look incompetent. We complete the skills section and move onto a fun dive for another 45 minutes and in total our dive time is a whopping 1 hour 17 mins. Thats probably the longest dive I've yet completed but its easy on the air when your sat on the ocean floor for 20 minutes and only diving to 10 meters.
Its a quiet one that night with all of us a bit worn out from the night before (id had 4-5 hours sleep for 3 nights on the trot now) we ate, we had a beer and I went to bed at about 10 PM. Tommorow I'm to assist with an AOW course I guess ill just be watching the students to make sure they don't do anything too crazy. I know one of the dives is to be the deep dive so it will probably be around the 30 meter mark. Students are likely to use air pretty fast at that depth and theres also a unlikely possibility of nitrogen narcosis to watch for, it should be a fun day.....