All the blog entries that I've managed to scratch down, while travelling around the world.
You can view these blog entries in reverse chronological order (below), or you can browse them in a monthly archive. You may find the monthly archive more convenient for catching up on older entries, or for finding specific entries or ranges of entries.
Chris is a tall, long-haired, opinionated lad from Manchester, that great urban centre of northern England. He's one of my comrades in the Open Water course that I'm currently doing: and like me, he's finding diving to be challenging yet rewarding. Chris has a wicked sense of humour; but what makes me crack up everytime he speaks, more than anything, is his positively kick-a$$ super-strength Manchester accent. Chris is here in Thailand for a while — and if he likes it enough, he may just spend the majority of his Thai time right here on Ko Tao.
The pool dive yesterday was just practice. Today was the real thing: at 7:30am we were on the boat (little dinghy from Sairee beach, then we transferred to a big boat for the actual diving); and by 9am, my first ever scuba dive had begun. All scuba diving must be done with a buddy — and for today, my buddy was Alex. Once again, the deep-sea Dutchman Flav was my instructor. By midday, we'd completed two dives — to a depth of 12m, and at the sites of The Twins and White Rock. Contrary to my tip-top expectations, real diving proved to be quite a challenge: but I survived the ordeal, and I'm ready for whatever the next day holds in store.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
"Advance Australia fair!"
Jan 26th — Happy Australia Day, folks!
We may not know all the words to our national anthem (and some even deny the existence of a second verse). We may have less respect for our politicians than for a skunk in rehab. But there's one grand tradition for which us Aussies do hold national pride: we know how to put on a good BBQ! So, to celebrate this momentous day — when, 220 years ago, an English dude landed on our beloved soil, whacked a Union Jack into the ground, and promptly impaled several tribes' worth of Aborigines upon it — the Aussies of Ko Tao pulled out the grill and sizzled up some sossies. The fine folks at Chopper's (the one-and-only Aussie bar on the island) offered a free BBQ for 2 hours this evening: all you had to do was purchase a beer, and a generous plate-full of meat 'n' salad was on the house. Aus-tra-li-a, F$#% YEAH!!
The second day of our PADI Open Water course began quite similarly to the first day: with more theory, and more boring educational diving videos. We revised yesterday's material, and went over our "homework", before finishing off the 5-part video series. The theory is a total joke — the instructors don't take it seriously, the material is largely common-sense stuff, and it's all done simply "for the record" — but at least we're now through most of it. Then, in the afternoon, our practical tuition began: for the first time, we got fitted up with scuba gear, and we jumped in the swimming pool at Ban's for our introductory "simulation dive".
Dex and Jasper are yet more Dutch people in Thailand: two old mates from back home, who are here on holiday to enjoy the beaches and to soak up the sun. They're part of my class in the Open Water course that I'm doing, here at Ban's — and they're great blokes. Quite fond of Caroline, too: but then again, who isn't? I went diving with these guys during my course; and they then went on to do the 2-day advanced course after we were finished.
This afternoon, I commenced the first session of my PADI Open Water diving course. We're a big group: 16 people in all (although 1 person dropped out the following day) — but we're being split into two groups for the actual diving. This afternoon, the course's introduction consisted largely of boring but essential theory information: we had a short lecture from Flav, and then we sat and watched parts I-III of the PADI instructional video series. Not the most boring educational videos I've ever been subjected to in my time: but then again, not far off it. One thing I couldn't help but observe: never before in my life have I been in a classroom with such an amazing view :P.
There are divers. And then there are fanatical divers. And then there's Flav. Originally from the Netherlands, Flavius is one of the longest-serving instructors at Ban's: he's married to a local woman, and he's been living here on Ko Tao for no less than 14 years! Hasn't even gone home once, in all that time. Flav's a part of the furniture around here, and diving is his life. I was lucky enough to have Flav as my instructor during my Open Water course this week: and despite my utter lack of natural suitability for the submarine world, he did an amazing job of getting me down and of bringing me back up.
Ban's is one of the biggest resort / diving-school joints in Ko Tao: but don't let this put you off. It's a great school: highly experienced instructors, friendly service, and all the support you could need. It's a great resort: lovely rooms, a superb bar / restaurant, and an unbeatable location. Plus, despite all that, it still manages to offer pricing competitive with many of its lesser rivals; and even more amazingly, it still manages to retain a cosy, chilled and friendly vibe. Alex, Caroline and myself stayed at Ban's for four nights (accommodation complementary with the PADI course), and we had a blast here.
Like other places in Thailand, Ko Tao is also home to the delicious late-night street snack roti (pancake). Ko Tao's roti is no different to the roti anywhere else: but in this case, it's how you cook it that makes all the difference. Ko Tao is home to the legendary Pancake Ninja: this guy can be found in his little stall on Sairee most nights; and no matter who or what you've witnessed previously, you ain't seen flippin' til you've seen him in action. In 30 seconds flat, pancake cooking meets Kung Fu. Check out the video.
And it's called Sairee Beach, Ko Tao. I'm blurting out the secret — so consider yourself privileged. This place is heaven. For our first day on Ko Tao, Alex, Caroline and myself spent most of the day semi-conscious on Sairee Beach, letting the water lap at our feet and the sun pour down on our backs. We managed to fit in some time for shopping around, as well — and after some quick research, we've booked our 4-day PADI Open Water course at what we hope is a good place. It was a chilled evening: just a few drinks at one of Sairee's super-mellow beach bars, sprawled out on the island's ubiquitous cushion-and-mat "seating", before exhaustion overcame us and we crashed into bed. If the rest of my time on Ko Tao is going to be like this, then things are looking real good indeed.