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.
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.
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!
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.
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.