Our initial plan was to see the Cambodian islands and not Koh Tao diving. But there was a tsunami around that area. So, that was out. Quickly, I scrambled some ideas through my head. My niece and I talked with others at the Mad Monkey Hostel in Siem Reap (that’s where we were staying) to get ideas. But my mind kept going back to the Thailand islands, specifically to Koh Tao diving. I had heard that they offer the cheapest scuba diving padi classes in the world! This is something that I had been dreaming about getting my diving license for a while now.
I mean, my husband already has his. If I have it too, we can have underwater adventures together! I can imagine it now, an oxygen tank strapped to each of us with our gear diving into the water. The colors become more vibrant! I want to touch everything! But that can destroy the nature, so I hold back. After a moment, I come back to reality. Right, figure out our plan.
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The cost to get there and back was what stopped me from just jumping on a trip to Thailand. I had to think of paying for two. Since my niece graduated high school, I wanted to help pay for her on a trip outside of the US. This is something I feel many Americans should do at least once. It is such an eye opener to venture out of the country and be surrounded by another culture than what you are use to. I thought it over and finally booked a bus from Cambodia to Thailand. Now she will get to experience another country!
The bus ride to the Thailand border turned into madness. We walked off the bus and found the office for border control. The border was filled with a crowd that swarmed into the doors at the checkpoint. It felt like an unorganized mess! Our first border pass went quite easy. But our next one, we had to walk a while just to get to it, and there were no signs to help us know if we were walking in the right direction!
A stressful feeling overtook my body. Stress was thick in the air and it became hard to breathe. Sweat trickled down my face. The chaos is almost over. Now, we had to look for the parking lot. Stress and worry began taking a hold of the girls we were walking with as we frantically looked for our bus. Finally, a light at the end of the tunnel! The bus waited for everyone. No one was left behind!
Our next obstacle was when they dropped us off at a bus station . Time to find a bus going to the town they told us where we can find a ferry to Koh Tao island so we can do some Koh Tao diving lessons. But no one spoke English, and it didn’t help with us pointing at the English word. After asking many people, we finally found the right bus and got on. We rode for a long time and made it to our drop off point around 3-4 am. The place we were left at was a restaurant/hostel in Chumphon. The tiny old man there sold tickets for ferries to the island Koh Tao, our destination.
Neither of us slept very much on the last bus, so we were exhausted. When the old man came up to us, I managed to get him to understand ATM. He pointed in a direction around the corner, so I followed it. It felt eerie walking down the abandoned street. I was beginning to feel uncertain that this was the way. Then I saw it. Phew! I had two different banks so, just in case one doesn’t work while I travel. Well, guess what?! Both of them didn’t work. When I walked back to the place, I had to plead with my niece to pay. She sucked it up and paid for both of us.
It’s best to tell your banks you’re traveling. Some banks may freeze your account if they feel that you’re account is getting hacked into. So, it’s good to tell the dates and where you plan on traveling to. In my case, I did that, but I don’t remember if I put down Thailand as well.
The whole time while this drama was happening, that old man that works there, kept trying to talk us into buying the more expensive ferry ride. He was beginning to get underneath my skin. I told my niece, we would be fine with the cheaper one. He reluctantly went away and made the phone call.
A half an hour to an hour passed and then a big black van showed up. It was our ride to the ferry. The man driving it ushered us in quickly. He must be on a tight schedule. It had a couple more stops and then we would be at the ferry drop off spot. The van became packed with people. Then we made it to the last stop, the ferry drop off.
Once the ferry sailed up, I saw how huge it was. Since it was low season/ rainy season, there wasn’t so many people that came on it with us. As first, we sat on deck and I passed out. Everyone was up here, so there wasn’t so much space. Finally, I nudged my niece and pointed to the downstairs. We went down to the lower deck and found empty rows. I was filled with so much happiness. The two of us picked our own row and passed out. I slept the rest of the ride that was around 2 hours!
With sleepy eyes, I took in the beautiful beaches and pristine looking water. We grabbed our backpacks that we had by us and got off to start Koh Tao diving. A crowd of locals waited for us. Many had signs and others waved at you. I told my niece we can just walk and find a place. I had googled the scuba diving schools in Koh Tao. After reading some reviews, I felt I found a good one for us. Maps.me is so handy when you are in different countries. It directed us to Crystal Dive, the school that I had decided on.
Once we made it there, all the people were genuinely friendly. Since we were planning on doing the course, we were able to get a discount on a little cabin to sleep in. The class would take around 4 days. Since I was having the issue with my banks, they were more than happy to wait the next day for us to pay and start the class.
So, we unloaded a lot of our stuff in our room and checked out the town while I made phone calls to my banks.
The next day, everything began to work out. I could take money out of the ATM, so I was able to pay for the two of us. Then we started class. The first day, was boring. But they said that’s why they do that part right away. Then, all the other days, we were in the water. It was long days and hard work, but we both made it to the ocean. Our first dive in was rough. The water was murky. You couldn’t see anything, until you got to the bottom. my gear had some water in it, which made me panic a little, but I just slowed down. Once I made it to the bottom, my nerves were on panic mode. Then I saw a beautiful striped fish. All the stress dissipated as I watched the fish in awe.
Being under the water is another world. It feels so surreal! I passed and got my Open Water Diving certification! Now, I can go just about anywhere and dive! Woohoo!
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