A backpacking trip to thailand's koh Samet for my first scuba diving experince.
26.12.2009 - 31.12.2009 28 °C
I don’t know whether I was looking nervous or just like that, the flight attendant gave a huge smile and offered me a drink, something that never happened before. Nervous I was but I guess not very visibly as It was my first ever foreign trip all alone.
It was end of the year and every one had some or the other plans of their own, so I couldn’t lure any one to accompany me to explore Thailand just like that. Once again it was a plan made at the 11th hour.
I had promised my mom to visit her for New Years at my home town Nainital, but before that I had some 4-5 days which I could make good use of. During an earlier trip to Jeju Island in South Korea, I had witnessed the beauty of underwater world by a submarine ride. That was a great experience which made me long for more. The sight so beautiful so alien and so close yet so far because of the walls of submarine, made me pledge to feel the real thing, without any obstacles or boundaries, and I knew that the time has come to fulfill that woe. So it was almost 3 day prior to departure when I got my tickets, no reservations, no itinerary.
I had no idea where I will go and stay and which island is good for scuba and all, so I decided that I will depend upon the “travelling brotherhood”. I have experienced that travelers on the way are greatest wiki or Google. In the bus from Swarnabhumi airport to city I met a very jovial and interesting Scottish guy. In his very Scottish accent (reminded me of Brave heart) he told me that it’s his 5th visit. I knew I have found my first guide although he kept on talking about “shiki shiki boom boom “if you know what I mean and also offered me a trip to some nude bar that night. I had to pass that offer as I was looking for a different kind of diving. He suggested me to look for Dormitories at Sukhumvit road near Soi Nana. Taking his advice I went to Sukhumvit area and located an internet café, to find the hostels around. After listing down 5-6 names I stared walking down the street to visit the places. No vacancy was just about to ruin my day when I saw Soi 1 guest house, which luckily had two beds free and I only needed one.
This place is run by an American guy, David who had married a Thai woman, Nai and was running this Backpackers hostel for long. I was lucky to find this place as David is a very good host. Since he is an American, communication is not a problem and the guy knows Bangkok like back of his hand. So I got myself a nice bunk bed in the dormitory which cost me some 200 Bhats (Inr 300) per day .
If you are travelling alone backpacker’s hostels are the best place to stay, buzzing with mostly young travelers, place like this helps you make friends, share interesting experiences and get some great cost effective traveling tips. The first day I met a bunch of students from Australia who were also here for the first time.
After some relaxation I decided to explore the city by my own and I figured boat ride is one of the most fun ways of doing it. So I hopped into a boat and got down in some area which was looking interesting in the map. After 10 km walk and seeing lots of nice buildings around I by chance came down to a huge Buddhist temple named Wat Pho where they have world famous golden lying Buddha .
This place was amazing. I had never seen anything like this before. It was night and the building was well lit so I took my camera and clicked as much snaps as I could. It was getting late and I realized that I have no means to go back. I took a lift from a gentle looking Thai couple who dropped me till a place where I could find some mode of transport. Meanwhile I kept on exploring amazing Thai street food.
Weather was like early Indian summer, the sound of cuckoos and people selling mangoes in street were reminding me of home. Dead tired I had yummy Thai curry with rice and lion beer from a street shop.
I began my day with frustration of losing one imp place to see as I was under wrong impression that world famous floating market is in Bangkok. It’s basically 3 hours away from Bangkok and all buses leave early in the morning, so that’s gone now. I met a Canadian guy Ethan, who checked in last night. Ethan had done Scuba in Thailand and suggested me to head towards “Koh Samet” as that was not very far from Bangkok and easily accessible.He asked me to accompany him to snake farm. It turned out to be okie type as I don’t think any Indian guy would like to pay to watch snakes. Here in India we see them everywhere, from movies to our toilets, they are all around. However Ethan was very trilled, and wanted to go see some Elephant park. That was too much for me so I decided to go solo again.
I hopped into a big boat on the river and started travelling upwards. On the bank of the river there were many beautiful buildings and temples. I hoped down near a tall looking temple known as Wat Arun, the temple of dawn. The stairs of this temple are the steepest I had ever seen, very scary at the top. But you get to see a very beautiful view of the river and nearby temples as a reward to concur your fear. The sunset from was awesome.
One the way back I kept on exploring different food items. In Thailand I think they barbeque everything. Today I ate barbequed bananas, bit funny in taste but edible. I also tasted some stuffed chinese something which was delicious. one the way back i saw lots for chistmas decorations on the street.
I reached hostel back around 9:30pm. Completely broken and dead tired, I thought it is a nice chance to get some foot massage. It was amazing after one hour of massage I was fresh again. To my surprise when I came back to the hostel I saw almost every one (8 boys 2 girls) standing outside along with my new Canadian and Australian friends. Curious I was, so I asked what was the matter. They were all planning to go to notorious “ping pong show". I had no clue what ping pong show is all about so when they asked me to join I readily agreed. We all boarded two tuk tuks which took us to some very shady and dingy place. There were evil looking bouncers at the door step who asked us to submit our phones and cameras. It was not feeling right at all but still. Till that point my wild guesses about the ping pong show was some drunken half naked girls playing Table tennis in a funny way. It turned out far far away from my imagination and I cannot give details of it in open forum. We came back on tuk tuk around 2:30am. To my surprise most of the group wanted to party at another place but I took leave as I had to catch an early bus for Koh Samet.
Koh Samet is a small island on the gulf of Thailand and its proximity to Bangkok (179 Km) makes it an ideal place for travelers with budget/time crunch to enjoy white sandy beaches on a tropical island. To reach Koh Samet one can take tour buses (good service, reasonable prices) or taxies (bit expensive). It took me almost 5 hour to reach here but man it’s so beautiful, white sand clear water.
First thing I did after getting down from the boat was hiring a Dirt Bike and started my search for a shelter.
I did a little mischief unknowingly as this island is part of Ko Samet National Park and one has to pay a fee of 200 Bhat as entry fee. Since I took the bike from outside the gates and just had a back pack on my back the guards thought that I must be staying here for past few days and they did not charge me any entry fees. After little bit of wandering I got a hut to spend the night. 300 bhat was the tariff of this Non AC accommodation. I was hungry so I looked for food and in Thailand almost every place serves great curries.
Koh Samet is a hilly island with most of the beaches on eastern side. The roads are not very proper and towards the end of the island there is almost no road. I think that’s the reason you should rent a dirt bike or an ATV. I enquired about the scuba diving facility and booked myself 1 day 2 dives course.
As sun went down the beaches came alive with party music, lightings and firework shows.
Most of the sack owners put the sea food on display so one can pick and choose the items for barbeque.
The whole atmosphere was magical and I enjoyed a lot.
Excitement was in the air, which I could feel gushing wild through my ear, sitting on the edge of the speed boat. We were on the way to my first dive sight. Prior to this I had a small half an hour session in shallow waters understanding the gears and the sign language through which divers communicate.
Luck was with me so I was all alone to do scuba introduction course and the instructor had lots of time to teach me all the fine details.
It was very difficult in the beginning. First of all the scuba gears are very heavy (although you don’t feel that in water) and the most difficult thing was to cope up with the pressure that comes to your ear drums once you start descending. The more you go deeper more it hurts . I had to come up in between because I was not able to bear the pain but I guess my earlier experience in swimming helped me a lot. With the oxygen pipe in your mouth and nose all covered with the mask it was very difficult to breath especially if you are not used to swimming.
My instructor Mr. Wim was a very nice guy and told me lot about his sexual adventures with females all around the world. Alas! I got married before I could test his theories by myself :P
We took 2 dives and the second place was more fun as I was more comfortable with gears.The world beneath the surface is definitely more colorful, exiting and magical than our regular world. Sadly I didn't have any underwater photography tools that time so i couldn't take any pictures ( how ever you can see some under water shots in my other post )
It was truly a life time experience and now my next mission is to acquire a PADI scuba Certification. The itch I got from submarine ride in Korea last summer got quenched here a bit.
I always wanted to jump from a high boat into deep sea and to my luck there was a snorkeling boat nearby and the owner of the boat was a friend of Mr. Wim. He requested the snorkeling boat owner to allow me to take a jump from the roof of his boat that he gladly okayed. And I took the jump of my dreams to swim with fishes in the midst of the sea. We completed the entire diving thing in around 3 - 4 hours.
Meanwhile I woke up early today to shoot sunrise. It was bit cloudy but that helped as the color of morning sun bled through the clouds to create divine magic. After diving I came back and changed my hotel and moved deeper into the island to a hut next to the beach (slightly expensive 500 bhat /750 Inr). Adventure was riding my senses wild so after lunch I took my bike to explore the island, I stopped at a new beach to see sunset.
From there I decided to go till the end of the island which turned out to be a crazy idea. It was getting dark and the more I was moving further the more the road (doesn’t qualify to be called a road) was turning into a dirt bike racing track.
After 6 km of journey in such a track my bike just refused to move ahead. It was very steep uphill with all muddy tracks so I had to turn back. It was pitch dark and very dusty, so even in high beam my visibility was very low. I was all alone in the middle of the jungle and around 12 km away from my hotel. Somehow I managed to come back from that mud field. It could have been a perfect plot for a nice horror movie. After this I was very tired so once again I thought to help myself will a little bit of massage. This time it was a full body oil massage and it was bliss. From there I went to the beach and saw some fire work and fire stunts by local guys. I treated myself with grilled fish and corn, a tasty way to end an adrenaline fueled day.
It was my last night in Thailand and the next day I was to take on a journey involving all modes possible, from boat to bus then plane to taxi to a train and then finally a bus .during the boat ride from Koh Samet i had a brief romantic eye-chat with a sweet thai girl. Alas! one of the world briefest love story ended as soon as i put my feet on the ground. I had promised my mom to reach Nainital on 31st which meant I had to reach Bangkok from Koh Samet , fly to New Delhi, board a train for Kathgodam, catch a bus to Nainital and walk 2 miles to reach my home which is located on a hill. And that’s exactly what I did. A more than 24 hour journey was possible only with a lot of help from luck (I boarded the running train) and will be remembered throughout my life.
This trip created a special bond between Thailand and me, so after 3 years I went back to Thailand with my wife for our Thai honey moon