Exploring a new world

My plan was to have at least a little bit of beach time on the trip. Nha Trang in Vietnam was rather disappointing in terms of beach and water activities, and I didn't check out Cambodia's coastline. So, the winner was Thailand, and I decided on the tiny island Ko Tao near by Ko Samui and Ko Pha Ngan. One of the ideas was to just hang out and relax, but I figured this would have been too boring. Therefore, I signed up for a diving course, and this was so much fun that I not only got my open water license, but the advanced one as well.

Ko Tao is located near the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand, and there is a ferry service from the mainland city Chumphon that takes less than two hours. The island has an area of only 21 square kilometers (8 sq mi), is less developed than its neighbors, and the 1,300 inhabitants live almost exclusively from tourism. People (mostly backpackers) visit the island particularly for scuba diving and snorkeling. There is not much else to do except hitting the bars and restaurants after a day in the water. However, the island is beautiful and time flies by pretty quickly. Most of the dive instructors came for vacation to Ko Tao and just stayed there.

I chose the school Big Blue to learn diving. Great choice! Everything was perfect. Good people, well organized, and a lot of fun. Before you get the real deal in the ocean, one starts in the pool and has to learn theory as well. There is even an exam; I definitely didn't expect to study on this trip. ;) Once all this foreplay is over, it is finally time to enter another world. It is amazing! Spending time in the underwater world was a fantastic new experience, and I can highly recommend it. One also recognizes how fragile this ecosystem actually is, and divers are only guests who need to treat the environment with great respect (something we should also do on land). In the advanced course, we did a few extras such as navigation, deep water (30 meters), wreck and night diving. So, I am now prepared for other dive spots in the world. Can't wait!

If you have the time (25 minutes) and motivation, watch this video from our last dive for the open water license. Includes some great underwater pictures among others (turn on the sound). Oh by the way, my dive buddy was Sam, she took the same dive course. It is unbelievable that I met her and Liam again in Ko Tao. The last time we saw each other was when we partied at "Angkor What?" in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The last night in Ko Tao with folks I have met at Big Blue. Judith and Thorsten, a couple from Germany, were in the same dive course. They are on a two years around the world trip visiting each continent including Antarctica. I am jealous. Joe is American, but he lives currently in Kabul working at the Afghan U.S. embassy. One meets so many interesting people when traveling; I am going to miss that. We went to MOOV, a place that suddenly turned into a big party with live music and a bunch of people. Afterwards we checked out Baby Rasta, a funky reggae bar. The next morning I said goodbye to Ko Tao with a little headache. Worth it.