Diving and the Beach (Khao Lak, Thailand)
“Ayeee!! Come heeere come heeere!” the slightly plump, grinning Thai lady frantically beckoned to us. I felt a little bad as I called out to tell her we wouldn’t be going there. Not again. We didn’t want to visit the same place twice, but then again, the people at this place really loved us.
Khao Lak is a nice little town about a 100 kilometers from Phuket. There are only three different kinds of places in Khao Lak: bars/pubs, dive centers and massage parlours. And personally I think it’s quite nice like that! I visited Thailand primarily to procure my Open Water Diver certification, and eventually realized Khao Lak was quite the perfect place to do it (particularly after visiting Phuket, which is way too busy and popular now). I’ll be talking about Phuket in a later post. It’s becoming a challenge these days to find places that are a little out of the way so that you can enjoy an experience without being disturbed by too many people! We lived at a quaint guesthouse called Amsterdam resort, managed by a wonderful friendly old Dutch man. We had our own villa and bathroom, all for just 1300 THB per night for five of us.
The two of us continued past the plump lady and walked on the beach for a while. We had just completed an extra day of training to get Open Water Diver instead of Scuba Diver. A nice walk on a clean beach with blue water was just perfect, and a paranoid hermit crab was fun to play around with! Oh and we did end up at the same bar anyway to catch the sunset with a good bottle of beer or two sitting at one of their lovely tables. When is the last time you made a sand castle? I did then, although admittedly it was a disaster. This little girl’s was fantastic in comparison.
Scuba Diver entitles you to go 12 meters deep and only with professional guidance whereas Open Water Diver allows you 18 meters and you only need a diving ‘buddy’ (basically another certified diver). Unfortunately three out of our group of five could only complete Scuba Diver since their swimming and/or floating wasn’t up to the mark. You need to be able to swim 200 meters and float unassisted for 10 minutes for the course. We did our course with Khao Lak Explorers, and they were quite helpful and competent so we had a really good experience overall, ideal for the first time.
Khao Lak had so many places to go to that we rented cycles to skip from place to place. It gets increasingly difficult as the beers go in, but that much more enjoyable. You may be wondering what was special about that particular bar I’ve been referring too. Put together cheap beer, being able to play your own playlist through the bar speakers, a lot of happy people (some you know and some you don’t), initiating dancing, some more cheap beer, and dancing more (with everyone you don’t know, including locals, Europeans and the people managing the bar). Oh it’s fun, with this satisfying feeling that you changed the scene for the bar that night because of your playlist!
Word of advice: Don’t drink too much when you have to dive the next day. Never a good idea. But of course, we didn’t quite care until the next day arrived. I’ll spare you the details. Diving is a lot more technical than you would imagine. The equipment and protocol, rules and restrictions, and also the skills you need to master are significantly larger in number than expected. However, they aren’t that hard to do, provided you aren’t scared of water! Also, severe sea sickness makes it awfully frustrating to dive, as I observed.
Our final two dives were at the Similan islands, a one hour fifteen minute speed boat ride from Khao Lak. These islands are recognized worldwide for diving. The water a brilliant blue, our first dive was beyond words. However, the weather worsened as the day progressed, and before our second dive the sky was gray and it was pouring quite heavily. Amazingly, as soon as you submerge yourself, everything changes. It’s a different world down there. The boat rocked and the rain poured and the wind blew, and we gently drifted amongst coral and fish meters below the surface, unperturbed.
Diving. I always knew I would love it. But occasionally, very occasionally, certain things surpass even high expectations, and leave you in a state where your body has no form of reaction or expression of appreciation for it. That was diving for me.
If you have dived before and pursue it regularly, I’d love to hear about new spots to dive at, since I definitely want to continue diving. I’d love to hear your suggestions!