Robert is an Austrian fellow — another Austrian from the city of Graz. He is, like, sooo gay: I'm sure he's not the only gay on the island; although he could very well be the only gay on tiny, secluded moondance beach. Robert runs a company that organises large, mainly homosexual parties and functions in Graz, and he's a very friendly and interesting guy. He's here in Ko Tao for a month (he's not going anywhere else in Thailand), where he's doing absolutely nothing, aside from lying on the beach and working on his tan.
I bumped into this group of three at Chalok this morning, where they were scouring the beach for accommodation. Martin and Flores are two Dutch boys, and Justine is an Indonesian girl who has hooked up with Martin. The three of them have been living and studying in Shanghai, China, on exchange for the past 6 months; and now, they're down in Thailand for a holiday. They're all business / economics students: and after this, they're headed home to continue their university studies. I joined them for dinner and drinks this evening, after my Ko Tao walkabout.
Adam's one of the quieter and less permanently-drunk Irishmen I've met over the past year. Nevertheless, he's still a right good ambassador of his booze-loving homeland: he can down his buckets all night with the best of 'em. Adam's been in my Open Water course since Friday; although somehow, I managed to avoid meeting him properly until today. Once we met, it didn't take long for us to click — or for the glasses to clink.
Claire and Amy are two young ladies from the city of Leeds, in fair old Mother England. Claire has been doing the Open Water course with me for the past four days, so she knows me and everyone else in the crew. Her friend Amy declined to partake in the diving — "it's not my thing", she said — however, this hasn't stopped her from getting in on the social side of Ban's, so we all know her as well. Lovely girls, and they've been here in southern Thailand so long, and their tan is so dark, that they're looking less English every day.
Abbie's a cheerful English girl, who's been travelling around the world for several months, and who's recently completed a long volunteering stint down in southern Africa. Abbie's currently undertaking her DMT (Divemaster Training) course with Ban's, which means that she's living and working here on Ko Tao for a few months. Abbie's been with my Open Water group over the past several days, and this is her first time as an instructor's assistant to a group of Open Water students. Great girl, and quite committed to her diving.
Ber's an English bloke, and he's another one of the devoted, dedicated and — let's face it — addicted diving instructors at Ban's, here in Ko Tao. As well as being a full-time instructor, Ber is also now the proud owner of the Hippo bar, which is just off from the main drag of Sairee. Ber took me for my second round of dives today; and like his colleague Flav, he did a great job of showing me around below the surface.
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.
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.
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.
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.