Hello again from Thailand! I’m doing a lot of stuff here aren’t I?
My next adventure took me to the island of Koh Tao. I made the trip down there over a grueling two days. I first of all took a bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok overnight. The concept of a ‘sleeper’ bus doesn’t exist in Thailand like it does in Vietnam. It was a sitting bus. I could have cried (I didn’t though). I was a trooper and arrived in Bangkok having not had a wink of sleep and feeling awful. What was useful though was that the bus dropped me off right by Kaoh San Road. I not only knew the area around Kaoh San Road but it was also where I needed to get my connecting transport from so, silver lining and all that. Unfortunately the overnight bus got me to Bangkok at 5:45 which meant I would miss the 6am onward bus. The next bus was 9:30pm. Woe is me, I had to spend the whole day bumming around Bangkok. I considered many things. I thought about going to the movies, I thought about going shopping, I thought about going for a massage, I thought about all kinds of things. What I ended up doing was:
1) Buying my bus & boat combo ticket from Lompraya (1050 Baht) to get to Koh Tao.
2) Sitting in Starbucks (napping occasionally).
I consumed my weight in tea and half price frappuccinos and then got on the 9:30pm bus headed for Chumphon. At about 9am (I really can’t remember) I arrived at the Lompraya catamaran jetty thing having spent another sleepless night on a sitting bus. The catamaran was on time and sped me towards Koh Tao in good time. I arrived on Koh Tao at about 3pm. It was a horrible journey so why did I do it? Well, in order to learn to SCUBA dive of course!
Koh Tao is renowned as one of the best and cheapest places to dive in the world. The waters are warm, the industry is well established on the islands and the fish are colourful. I had always intended to learn to dive on Koh Tao and I had always expected it to be one of the highlights of my trip. I was not disappointed.
I embarked upon my SSI Open Water Diver course with Big Blue Diving at Sairee Beach on the island. Big Blue is one of the larger dive schools on Koh Tao and has two sites, Big Blue 1 and Big Blue 2. Whilst you are diving with them, you are entitled to free accommodation at their resorts which is good because the diving courses on Koh Tao may be the cheapest in the world but they still ain’t that cheap. My open water cost 9000 baht. It’s not a bad view for breakfast though is it:
The open water course involves both theory, pool work and actual diving. When you’ve passed, you’re qualified to dive to 18m. The theory is as you’d expect, dull. The pool work gets you used to the very alien sensation of breathing underwater and familiarises you with the equipment that is, literally, your lifeline underwater. Then you get to dive.
We did 4 dives as part of our open water and they covered the basics of controlling buoyancy and just generally diving safely (i.e. checking gauges, emergency ascents, mask clearing, the buddy system and so on). The first 2 dives went without a hitch but then, that night, the vomiting started. It was nothing diving related but I ended up unwell, in bed, for 2 days. I completed my open water with a different group when I was feeling better. Hoorah!
After my first 4 dives, I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop so, I signed up for a PADI Advanced Diving course which would mean I was certified to dive to 30m. As I had completed my Open Water with Big Blue, I was entitled to a discounted price on my advanced so I paid 7650 Baht. Money well spent.
Your advanced is a shorter course than the open water as you are building on the basics you already know so there’s less theory. The theory of your advanced focuses more on the physiological issues of diving to 30m. You look at lung expansion injuries and nitrogen saturation quite carefully. You do a total of 5 dives for your advanced. I was quite lucky that, during my advanced course, a monthly trip to Chumphon Marine Park was happening so I got to do 3 dives on brand new (for me) dive sites. Woo Hoo! The five dives I completed were a deep dive to 30m (where you get tested for nitrogen narcosis), a buoyancy skills dive (where you basically do an assault course underwater), a wreck dive (where you swim around a ship wreck), a navigation dive (where you are told to be back at the boat in 40 minutes and given a compass) and a fish ID dive (where you have to identify as many of the fish you see as possible). I loved ALL of them. I really did but my favourite was probably fish ID. It’s amazing how many more fish you see when you are actually looking. We saw:
Baby yellow box fish, Cobia, Banner fish, Angel fish, Cleaner Wrasse, Blue Spotted Sting Ray, Trigger fish, Parrot fish, Bat fish, anemone fish, barracuda and so many more that I can’t remember the names of. There was also coral, anemones and weird looking plants. It was ACE.
I would highly recommend Big Blue as a dive school. I actually don’t have a bad word to say about them. I mean, even the sunset view form their bar is incredible:
They have fire dancers on the weekend too:
So, yes, diving. It’s awesome and I cannot wait to get back in the water again.
I had planned to do some fun dives on Koh Tao, I even did a Visa run so I would have time (see different blog for details), but I got Dengue fever. So instead of diving, I was laid in bed for a week. Let me tell you, Dengue fever is not fun. The only way to get it is to get bitten by a mosquito which is carrying the virus. It is not contagious.
It started with what I had thought was food poisoning (see above). I’d felt pretty shoddy since then and hadn’t really eaten but, when the vomiting had stopped, I’d got back in the water. The night I finished my advanced course, I was crippled by a headache. It was horrendous. I retreated to my pit with excuses of ‘I’ve been doing a lot’, ‘I wasn’t well’ and ‘it’s too bloody hot’.
The next day, I really was too bloody hot. I had a fever and my muscles and joints felt like someone had screwed them too tight during the night. I creaked and wailed whenever I moved. This continued for 3 days whilst I still protested that I was just tired etc etc.
At the end of Day 5 of feeling awful, I googled my symptoms. This is normally a big mistake and I thought it was when all my symptoms matched Dengue fever. I remember thinking ‘that’s just ridiculous, there’s no way I’ve got that, I don’t have the rash’.
Day 6 of feeling horrid dawned and brought a rash. A rash that looked suspiciously, no exactly, like the dengue fever rash. All over my chest arms and legs. Bother.
Day 7, I felt better but went to the doctor who confirmed dengue and packed me off with paracetamol and water which is the only treatment.
After 9 days of feeling actually terrible, I only felt pretty rubbish.
By day 12 all of my symptoms had gone but I was left being tired after even the shortest walk or bout of activity.
Day 15 after the high fever struck is when I didn’t have to have a nap half way through the day anymore so I think that’s classed as recovery.