We got back into Bangkok from Cambodia and headed straight for Khao San Road. We booked a night bus-boat combo ticket to Koh Tao from a roadside travel agency (1100TB, we later saw some as low as 850TB) and headed to our hostel to crash. We wandered around the area the next day and did some island research (this includes me booking my SSI open water course) before catching our 7:30pm bus. We were supposed to arrive on Koh Tao at 9:30am, but overnight the bus driver made some executive decisions and we weren’t there until 3:40pm. This would’ve been fine, had I not made plans to start my course at 4pm that day. Everything worked out in the end, but in the future I’m going to leave a buffer day between the boat-bus combo and any solid plans. Here’s a picture of the bus sunrise to reassure you.
I didn’t need to book ahead, but with conscious tourism on my mind, I wanted to attend a dive school that gave back to the environment it used. So among the Eco-conscious schools I approached, I chose Roctopus mostly because they emailed me back quickly, but also because the entire process of enquiry was exceptionally relaxed. I was looking for a dive school that could set me up with accommodations that both Darrian and I could stay at, and I didn’t want dorms (we’re up early for class and dive sessions). They said they could help me out, as well as drive me to the resort/dive school when I landed.
There is no shortage of dive schools or hostels on this island, and while I would recommend research, this really is something you need to feel out. Roctopus was super helpful over email and they had everything I wanted. You’ll have your pick of the crop for dive schools and accommodations so definitely scope it out, keep in mind the prices will all be relatively the same (and the same is cheap so don’t complain), hovering between 9500TB and 8500TB. The smaller the group the better (I only had one other student in my class), and the quality of your instructor matters, though you won’t have to worry about that on Koh Tao. The competitive environment keeps all the schools performing at the highest standards.
You’re up early so you catch the sunrise.
I would like to take this moment to thank my mom and dad for putting me in swimming lessons, for taking us consistently to the sludgy pea soup beaches of Churchill (Alex and Nicci, I know you guys had this responsibility too, all the thanks), to my mom for passing down her love of the water, and my dad for making boating and water sports so accessible. I was spoiled rotten, and as a result have a comfortableness with the water that I see now is not necessarily a given.
After 3.5 days of doing my SSI Open Water certification, I can now do a whole bunch of other technical stuff that contributes to keeping myself alive whilst under the waves. Tons of people get certified so it’s not a big deal, but I mean, I can now conquer the last frontier of earth as long as it’s above 30m. But yeah, not a big deal. They start in the pool and move you up.
All joking aside, it was a great experience and if you enjoy the water and silence (there’s no talking, it’s beautiful) I highly recommend hitting up Koh Tao for your certification. To continue diving as far north as Canada you need to take an additional dry-suit course, which is calling my name this coming August.
There was a nice walking path that people insisted on driving down, and I found the nightlife uncomfortable and forced. Word of advice, do your research on Koh Tao, there’s no point in me saying what every guide book will tell you. The roads are terrible, we didn’t explore more than Sairee Beach, and with my class taking up my daylight, I didn’t have the time. We found the island to be a little more expensive and if you’re not diving, I hate to say it, but there’s no real reason to head over when you have a perfectly good adventure at Koh Phangan calling your name. I’m lucky to be traveling with a very innovative and active person who was willing to pick up a new past time while I took my diving plunge.
Darrian’s Muay Thai experience:
Two daily sessions, 8am and 4pm, and make no mistake; this is not the place to be rubbing sleep from your eyes, or taking a break from the midday heat. Of course, if you do happen to find yourself at Monsoon Gym, I’m sure one of the trainers will be able to drag you from your stupor.
There’s no walls, only punching bags outlining the training area, a slot from the roof to hang the skipping ropes and a stretching area-turned training area once the session gets going.
All skill levels are welcome, and all skill levels are present. The circuit system allows you to push yourself as hard or as soft as you’d like, and the one on one time with the trainers doesn’t leave you feeling out of your depth or bored with a slow pace.
It begins with a 15 minute cardio warm-up of skipping, which transitions into shadow boxing. From there, 4 trainers take 4 individuals and everyone else takes out their inner frustrations on one of the numerous punching bags.
After everyone has been with every trainer atleast once, sometimes more depending on the circuit, one trainer takes control and the entire room spends 45 minutes doing core training as well as stretching.
All in all? I was sweating just watching them. But it was a great set-up for learning, and the personal structure of the workout makes it appealing to all levels of fitness.
This gym has dorms and hosted several students who worked and trained for various lengths of time, in case there’s any wrestlers currently living in Medicine Hat who might be interested (Eric!).
The weather started to take a down turn, so we decided to see what Koh Phangan has to offer. After a 6hr ferry delay and 6m waves when we were on the water (I’ve never been so seasick in my life), we landed and the adventures began.
Adventurers of which, will be talked about in my next blog when we actually finish our adventure here.
All the best,