Koh Tao

Reflections

A few years ago, I spent a fabulous day tramping around Dovedale in the Peak District of England. Along the 3 km route, we passed caves known as the Dove Holes, used the stepping stones to cross the river and meandered along the path until we reached Milldale, a village of beautiful stone cottages with gardens full of brighly-coloured flowers. It would be so lovely to live there! From there, we turned around and retraced our route and ended the day, back at one of my friend’s houses, with a BBQ and beers. It was such a great day out, not only for the green and glorious countryside, but I spent the day with some very good friends.

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Dovedale, UK

In Cyprus, my friend and I and my mum and dad visited the Paphos Archaeological Park. I love these kind of places, I’m fascinated with the history and this one didn’t disappoint. There were ruins galore, remains of beautiful mosaics, and an ancent amphitheatre. I was in my element. I remember it being so hot that day, but it was nice to get out into the countryside with three of my favourite people.

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Paphos Archaeological Park, Paphos, Cyprus

I arranged to meet my friend in Adu Dhabi and, one day, we took a trip to Dubai. We went up the Burj Khalifa, a real treat with phenomenal views for miles around. We stayed up there for a couple of hours and we were glad we did because the views became even more spectacular when the sun went down and the neon lights of the city came on. It was a trip to remember.

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Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Wat Po in Bangkok reminds me how much I love exploring my city. I love just going out, with my camera, and visiting my favourite places and there are plenty of new places that I find all the time. There is a never ending source of things to see.

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Wat Po, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent seven weeks in New Zealand and at first I really didn’t want to be there. I had just come from Thailand and I missed everything about it, but thank God I got over that because I ended up having the best time there. I did so much and saw some wonderful things in that short space of time, including these Mirror Lakes. The water is so clear and still, it created some gorgeous reflections.

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Mirror Lakes, New Zealand

Whenever I used to go home, I always made the trip to Scotland to see my Nana, who is, sadly, no longer with us. This day, my mum and I had taken a trip to Edinburgh and we had lunch in the Halfway House. I spent the first 12 years of my life in Scotland, so I never really got to enjoy the city as an adult. It’s a beautiful place, and, although I wouldn’t choose to live there again, it’s nice to go back to my roots.

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Edinburgh’s Smallest Pub, Edinburgh, UK

New Zealand again, this time in Bluff. I’d rented a car, from Dunedin, and taken a road trip down to the south coast. It was New Zealand’s winter time, so I had the place, almost, to myself. I took the Bluff Heritage Trail, through wind-worn forests with brilliant views out to sea. I was also treated to a couple of seals playing in the surf. On the way back to Dunedin, I spent a very cold night in a little cottage in Owaka, so cold that I had to wear five layers, all under a blanket. Brrr! I can still feel the cold. It was in New Zealand that I acquired a love of walking and sightseeing.

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Bluff Heritage Trail, Bluff, New Zealand

In 2013, I graduated from The Open University with a Bachelor of Science with honours. I can’t tell you how proud I was! I wasn’t even going to go to the graduation ceremony, but a friend suggested I go, otherwise he thought I would regret it. I was glad I did. It was in Manchester and my mum came with me. The ceremony was a little nerve-wracking, but everyone there had all done something that was really worth this grand occasion. Afterwards, my mum and I took to the town and enjoyed a lovely meal and drinks in a Thai restaurant.

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Manchester, UK

Another day out in New Zealand and this day took me on a jaunt along the Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. It was on a day when I was supposed to be going whale watching, but it was cancelled due to bad weather. So I wrapped up and went off in exploration of the local area, through farmland and forests, until I reached the black-pebbled beach, and sea. I did loads of other stuff in Kaikoura, like horse-riding, wine tasting, cave exploring and having a Thai meal in a restaurant that didn’t have a liquour license, but not to worry, I had two lovely bottles of wine in my hand that I had bought from the winery. How’s that for good luck?

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Kaikoura Peninsula, Kaikoura, New Zealand

Whenever I’ve visited my rellys in Adelaide, they’ve taken me out and about to see stuff and we’ve gone to Granite Island a couple of times. It’s a small island next to Victor Harbour, small enough so you can walk around passed huge boulders, plants dancing in the sea breeze, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll spot the cute fairy penguins which live there. It’s even better when you’ve got Ernie by your side telling you about all the different plants and animals there.

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Granite Island, Adelaide, Australia

I love going to Adelaide and the last time I went was for Christmas in 2014. I wanted to do some exercise, so my cousin suggested we hike up Mount Lofty. So, at 6.00am we started our day, along with my other cousin and his daughter, Amy. When we arrived at Mount Lofty, we stopped at this map which showed the different routes available to the top. I asked “Where are we?” Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign. She giggled “We are here!” I didn’t live that down for the next thirty minutes, she couldn’t stop laughing! It was a fabulous morning out in the sunshine, followed by a well deserved coffee afterwards.

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Mount Lofty, Adelaide, Australia

A few years back, I spent a month on Koh Tao with friends. One day, I said I was going to visit a resort called Mango Bay. The best and easiest way to get there is by boat, but I wanted to walk across the island and my friends jumped at the chance to come with me. It was such an arduous journey, slowly going up some very steep hills with nothing on our feet but flip-flops. When we finally made it to the top, dripping in sweat, we took a well deserved break at the Mountain Bar. The views from our vantage point made us forget how hard it was getting there.

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Views of Koh Tao, Thailand

Another day out in Adelaide with my two cousins, Scott and Craig. We walked along the Torrens River before heading back to the city through the botanical gardens. I love trees and this Eucalyptus camaldulensis, or river red gum, was worthy of a photo. It was thought to be living between 1,500 and 2000 years ago and it died when it was 500 years old! Imagine the things it has seen in its lifetime. We finished our walk at my favourite bar in Adelaide, The Austral, somewhere I try to visit whenever I’m in town.

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Ancient Tree, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, Australia

Vachiratharn Waterfall is located in Doi Inthanon National Park, near to Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand and I went there when I first came to Thailand in 2008. Throughout the day, I did bamboo rafting and stood on the highest point in Thailand. In the evening, the tour guide asked me out for a few drinks with him and his friends. We didn’t go anywhere fancy, just a little roadside bar, but we had such a fun night and it made me realise that, as a solo traveller, there may be times when you feel lost or lonely sometimes, and I certainly felt that throughout my travels, but things happen that always have a way of making you feel good again.

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Vachiratharn Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I like to be reminded of some of the things that I’ve done. I wish I had a photographic memory and remembered everything I have ever done, which is why I love to take so many photographs! 🙂

What makes you remember some of the things you’ve done? 🙂

Farewells and an Aquatic Accomplishment

When we got back to Thailand, after Laos, and after a quick trip back to Singburi to meet our friends again we found ourselves in Bangkok once more. After a trip to the airport, an hour spent buying a new IPod and a visit to a tattoo parlour I met Tri and her friends in a bar, near to the Khao San Road. After a few drinks Tri told me that she was really going to miss me and that we had become good friends. I totally agreed with her, we had travelled all over Thailand together, been to Laos, and spent a great deal of time with each other over the previous two months. I was really going to miss her and I know she was sad because she was leaving Thailand but she was going off to Australia and New Zealand so, for her, a new start to her journey was about to begin.

Me and Tri
Me and Tri

When you go travelling you meet so many people but there is just a handful that you know you will keep in touch with and Tri is one of those people. We are still good friends to this day,  although we haven’t seen each other for a few years- the last time I saw her was in New Zealand in 2008- but we still keep in touch and regularly remind ourselves of the wonderful times we had in the Land of Smiles. And I am sure we will meet again sometime in the future. The thing that I love is that, when we do meet, it will be just like I saw her yesterday. I have that feeling with all of my friends at home and I truly love them for that.

As Tri was setting off for Australia and New Zealand, so I decided that a new chapter in my travel experience should begin, so I had planned to go back to Koh Tao to do my PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). After a tearful goodbye, with promises of meeting in New Zealand a few months later, I got on the bus and left Bangkok at 9.15pm. I arrived at Chumphon at 5am and had to wait until 7am for the first catamaran to take me over to the island.

Finally on Koh Tao again I checked into Ban’s Dive Resort which was really lovely- the room price being included in the dive package (at the time around 10,000baht). I was so tired I went straight to bed, and at 3pm made my way to watch a dive video at the office, which was all part of the course. Afterwards, I had dinner in a nearby bar, watched a movie, and decided to return to my room to do some homework for the diving course, which started properly the next day.

Bans Dive Resort
Bans Dive Resort
Accommodation at Bans
Accommodation at Bans

I did the PADI, not to be an instructor, although there are further courses you can do if you wish to go down that route, but to obtain an “Open Water Diver” qualification so I can dive anywhere in the world. The next day I had a session in the classroom watching videos, which was necessary but not very exciting.  The first “in water” session was more exciting- I learned how to assemble the equipment, got my wet suit on, and with equipment and flippers into the water I went. It was a very strange sensation. It felt like I wasn’t getting enough air into my lungs, and after feeling all panicky, I got used to it after a few minutes and the panic subsided. I also learned how to fill the mask up with water and empty it underwater, take the weight belt off and on again, take the Buoyancy Control Device (BCD) off and on again, how to help your buddy diver use your air supply, controlled ascent and free flow breathing. I managed to complete everything successfully but it was absolutely shattering- never felt so tired- and this was only in the swimming pool!

Swimming Pool at Bans
Swimming Pool at Bans

The next day I had two dives out at sea, for which I was rather nervous but decided I was going to give it my all. It was quite choppy but managed to get my equipment ready and wet suit on. I jumped into the water and started my descent but, because of the pressure underwater, my ears really hurt (and it is really painful!) I didn’t think I was going to be able to descend to the bottom but I managed to do it in order to navigate my way back to the instructor using a compass, and do everything I had been taught in the pool.

Diving is not as easy as it looks and, since the time of writing this, I have done a few dives and I always have trouble with my ears so am quite nervous about it (and have had a nose bleed because of the pressure, which put me off the next couple of dives) but once I get down there (if I can go at my own pace I am normally ok) I enjoy the experience of hanging out with all the fish- it’s the initial feeling of anticipating the pain, that I know will come before the nice feeling, that I don’t like.

Sitting this one Out
Sitting this one Out
Divers Getting Ready
Divers Getting Ready

I managed to do all the skills I had been taught in the pool which were obviously a little more difficult because of the swell of the open water. After a morning out at sea I was back in the classroom in the afternoon, followed by two more dives, to 18 meters, the next day.  My ears hurt again but managed to do everything that was required which meant I passed the course so I am qualified to dive to 18 meters in open water. It is such a wonderful experience, (forget the painful ears) we saw loads of beautiful fish, including barracuda and batfish and, most importantly, it opens up a whole new and fascinating world to you.

What everyone wants to see- Whale Shark (picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)
What everyone wants to see- Whale Shark
(picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)
Hanging Out with the Fish (picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)
Hanging Out with the Fish
(picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)
Beautiful Watery World (picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)
Beautiful Watery World
(picture courtesy of Vincent Lewis)

An Intro to Turtle Island

The first time I went to Koh Tao was with my friends, Hayley and Nikki, who were visiting me for a few weeks. Koh Tao- Thai for “Turtle Island”- is the smallest island when compared to its neighbours, Koh Phangan and Koh Samui and like them it is very beautiful but small enough to explore easily. On one of the first days Hayley and I went for a little walk, while Nikki stayed on the beach sunbathing. The trouble was when we were together we got itchy feet and a little bored sunbathing, so off we went to explore the island a bit more.

Hayley and Me
Hayley and Me

We walked for quite a way up towards the north of the island until we basically ran out of road. We followed the pathway and came across a building site for a new hotel, which has now since been completed, and we realised that we couldn’t get through the building site so we decided to walk back, the way we had come, to Sairee beach, stopping for refreshments in a small bar, which had wonderful views overlooking the bay. Then we realised that we only had about 30 baht on us so we had to share a bottle of sprite. Honestly who goes on a walk with no money and no water! (Oh yes, no water in the heat of the day- that was the reason we stopped because we were so thirsty).

A Bar with a View
A Bar with a View

We spent three glorious days on Koh Tao and one of those days we took a boat across to Nang Yuan which is a small island near to Koh Tao. It is actually a dive resort and it is so small that there are no cars or motor bikes, just calm and serene-it is simply stunning and has one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand.

Nang Yuan
Nang Yuan

 

You can walk round and up to the top of the largest part of the island where you can get fantastic views of Koh Tao, Nang Yuan and the surrounding ocean. It is a bit tricky in parts to reach the top, there being some scrambling over large rocks, but it is well worth the effort.

On the way to the Top
On the way to the Top
Nang Yuan
Nang Yuan

 

There is a coral reef, close to shore, called the Japanese Gardens. You can enter the water from the shore and it is very shallow so perfect for beginner divers and snorkelers. During our day trip to Nang Yuan we went snorkelling here and saw some beautiful coral formations and a fair few fish.

jap gardens2

Japanese Gardens
Japanese Gardens

There is a 100 baht fee for day visitors to Nang Yuan and, in the name of conservation, plastic bottles and cans are banned from the island, but there are refreshments available at the restaurant there but at prices higher than what you would normally pay. Nevertheless, it is money well spent to spend a few hours in this little bit of paradise.