Monday, 17 June 2013

Koh Tao

Koh Tao

Kho tao is so cute, I felt relaxed the moment I stepped off the boat. It's small, green and cute. Small restaurants are on every step overlooking the ocean, the near by island and the hundreds of diving boats. Kho Tao is the place in Thailand to dive, and it's very apparent by the endless number of dive shops offering huge discounts, free accommodation, and every one is trying to stand out in some kind of way. We went to were Penny lives with her friend Chris, up on the mountain, a pain in the ass road to get there, but so beautiful once you're there :) I met Chili who's the cutest flyings quirrel I've ever seen. It climbed on my hand a bit, but then seemed to get tired and to almost fall asleep. Penny said it's very unusual behaviour, especially when he fell asleep with mango in his mouth :S
Next day I woke up feeling very weak with a slight headache. It didn't help that Penny forgot the direction of the supermarket and we walked half way around the island just to find that it's not there. We went up, and the 4 of us, Chris, Penny, Shon and me started cooking Christmas pasta. Shon passed me a plate that was sitting next to the burner, he got the cold side, and I took the hot side, without any space to put it down, I got quite a burn on my finger, and no more cooking for me :( I was standing there with my hand stuck in the freezer, defreezing everything inside it. I then took frozen meat and was holding that for 3 hours with a pack of dogs anxiously waiting beside me :) The meat defroze and the only cold thing was the alcohol that we were drinking. Whenever anyone took it, I counted from 5 to 1 cause then it started to hurt and I started to whine :) I think I took a good care of myself cause 3 hours later of various cold objects, it didn't hurt anymore, and no signs of a burn were visible in the morning. Christmas began bad, Chili died :( We had to bury him, but didn't know if he was a Buddhist or not, so should we bury or burn him? We decided to bury him, but in a half Buddhist way, we planted his favourite food - the mango, and a small coconut, in hopes that it will give new life to something else. I'm on the other hand feeling worse and worse, can barely move, don't have appetite, after 12 hours of sleep at night, I crashed for 3 more hours, went to my place downstairs and couldn't wait to lie down. I have a headache, my first headache ever. My shoulder hurts and back hurts, I hope it's not some sort of a parasite. I'm ordering food, but can't finish even a quarter of it. I decided to get an oil massage to help relax my back. The massage was soooo good, but when she applied a bit pressure, I was almost crying. I hope I'll be better tomorrow!
I'm a bit better tomorrow, but still no energy. I haven't walked for more than 10 minutes a day, and all I do is lie somewhere, every other position hurts. My schedule is something like that. Wake up at 12, go to have breakfast with wifi hotspot, go back to room at 3, relax till 7, go to dinner that shows a movie. Breakfast and dinner are very lose terms, as I can only barely finish maybe a fifth of what I order ... if I'm lucky. I googled my symptoms, headache, hurts to move my eyes, muscle pain, joint pain, fever, fatigue ... looks like a dengue fever :S  Google says, there is no cure, just wait it out for about a week or two. I got tired of it and went to the doctor. Doctors charge here more than in Canada, thank god for travel insurance, though it's the first time during my travels that I used it. They did a blood test, it's not the dengue fever, but they don't know what it is except that it's a virus. He told me to relax and drink plenty of water ... grrrr !!! I'm done relaxing, I'm bored and need to do stuff! That day I got a red rush all over my body, also a Dengue fever symptom, hm ... Today was the first day that I walked along the beach, 10 minutes there, 10 minutes back ... man I'm gonna sleep well tonight! :) At least I lost 4 kgs in 4 days so that's not too bad :)
And again I went to a massage, I'm so stiff and need to be treated like a dough. I went to the same masseuse, she's so good! I'm getting massages about once or twice a week while in Asia, and they use the same moves, now I finally understood what these moves are supposed to do. A lot of the masseuses are not professional, which is still ok for the price, most of them do a decent job, but most of them don't know what some special moves supposed to do, they just do them without any effect.
I start to move a bit and do little exercises. Today I'm finally feeling ok. I woke up at 12 went for breakfast, came back at 2 and fell asleep for 3 hours ... hm ... maybe not as well as I thought I was :S I woke up just in time to do some snorkeling. It was great, although instead of corals there are mostly plants. One guy said that the sea temperature rose dramatically in the last few years and most of the corals have died :( There are plenty of fish though, and even though it's very shallow and it's very close to the shore, there is plenty to see. Of the coolest things I've seen was a huge needle fish and a school of 200 or so smallish fishies attacking the plants and a slightly bigger fish trying to chase them all away. I guess they've invaded its property.
Good news! I've ordered dinner, and I actually finished it all! :)) It was also the first time that I went out on the island. It was ok, the bars in Kho Phangan on the beach were much better, more engaging I guess, and you could dance on the tables :)
One evening I was eating at a restaurant rice with seafood and watching a movie Apocalipto. There was a scene when they took the prisoners up the pyramid, laid them on some rock, cut through the chest and took their heart out. Then cut their head and let it roll down the pyramid towards a demonically hypnotised crowd of people. At that moment I took a fork to my mouth on which there was an octopus leg with the suction cups. I looked at the screen, and at the leg, and I felt not good at all. How are we not barbaric with the way our culture built today? We also take precious life forms from the world, kill it, chop it up (sometimes without killing it), and throw the remains to the dogs. I never considered to be a vegetarian ... but maybe I could cut it down somehow, or do a research about intelligence of different animals that we consume.
I went up to see Penny, she got sick. She has a bad ear infection and just spent 36 hours going to Malaysia and back to renew her Thailand visa, only to find out that the embassy is closed for the holidays. In the morning she woke up to feel much better, I'm happy that my good energy works on her :)
Next day it was December 31st and it's been raining the whole day. We got soaked again and again from walking to the restaurant, from the restaurant, to the massage place, to her place. I've been wet all day long, and I didn't like the massage, but my masseuse was unfortunately busy. It sucks to pay the same amount of money and to receive such a different quality of service. The rain stopped, I crashed for an hour of power nap and was all ready for the big night out. A few of the resorts had free dinner with live music as opposed to Kho Phangan when the resorts had all of their guests pay $100 for a mandatory New Year dinner, I bet that's gonna be enjoyable!
The music, fire shows, fireworks were at every bar on the beach and I danced all night long. We met a DJ who was going to play at one of the bars, and when he asked us if we're gonna get shit faced today, that's when I lost him. It was the moment as they say on the t-shirts "you lost me at hello". On New Years I got separated from Penny, but that's ok, I still felt great. One random guy wanted to kiss me, at first I didn't, but then I thought, what the hell, I never kissed a random guy in my life, I had to try it once right? Then 1 turned into 4, but they kinda stuck around, can't you just kiss and move on, why are you following me to the washroom? Isn't it an international sign of "I'm gonna go now?". I didn't get the point of it though, I'm attracted to character, behaviour, sense of humor, intelligence, when I don't even the know the name of a guy all I feel is a tongue, a hand, lips, that doesn't feel nice. I wonder what guys like about it?
We met one guy who ordered us a shot, so you take the salt, rub it on your hands, then hold your hands together, pour a shot in and drink it all, I instead spilled it all, man that was disgusting. What a terrible waste of alcohol :) Overall, very fun night, went home at 5, barely woke up at 2 but on the 1st I was feeling down, don't know why. Didn't want to talk to anyone, didn't want to see anyone, instead I went snorkeling. This time I saw a huge school of some yellow fish, followed by grey fish, some big parrot fishes, and surrounding them a group of 30 or so needle fish. What is it, a great migration or something? As always, the small black fish was chasing everyone away :) At dinner, before the movie they were showing video clips, and I started crying at Aerosmith - don't want to miss a thing. Maybe that's why I was so down today, I don't want any random guys, I want one guy who wouldn't want to fall asleep cause he wouldn't want to miss a thing.
During the day we hung out on the beach and then did yoga to warm up for the traapppeeeeeeze class! :) I was waiting for it for so long, but couldn't do it because I was sick. Man, everything's scary in it, climbing the shaking ladder without safety, then standing on the platform without safety until it gets hooked to you, then reaching over to grab the bar with the guy "holding" you from behind. Ready! (bend your legs), aaaand hop
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!
Legs up, let go of arms, now now, ok, wait, Now!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA !!!!!!
ok, now!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!
Ok, now legs forward, backward, forward, let go and flip!
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAa!!!!!
3 tries later I finally let go of the bar on time :) Every time it felt like I'm gonna fly out of this thing, it doesn't look like it from below, but the momentum is huge! I did 3 tries, then 2 more tries of a birds nest trick and then 2 actual catches when I caught the catcher both times! :) Every time it was scary, it didn't get better at all, but every time I got out with a huge smile on my face :) And I had this smile for many hours later :) I couldn't even go to sleep. Reeeady, hop! I'm flying and flying and flying :))))
Woke up at 7, my muscles hurt, throat starts to hurt, I don't want to get up, but me and Penny are meeting up to rent a kayak and go with it to an island. Turns out that the prices are ridiculous and we took a taxi boat to the island instead. The island is beautiful, it's actually 3 islands connected by a narrow stretch of sand. Too many tourists though. I went snorkeling twice, saw a big jellyfish. On one side there was more fish and very calm, on the other side the corals were better, but no fish and pretty wavy. Then we went to an amazing view point where the picture's worth 1000 words, so I'm not going to describe it :)
I signed up for advanced scuba diving! Lets see what tomorrow brings!
In the morning the 7 of us were starting to learn theory. The instructor Yens pretty much said, ok, fill in these forms, now, for deep dive I'll show you at the bottom the change of colors and will give you a simple test of adding four to the number that I'll show you in case you'll have nitrogen narcosis. If you do, don't worry and just enjoy it. On the navigation dive, navigate in a square and then you're off to navigate around the site on your own with your buddy. There you go, theory is done! In Mozambique when I did my advanced course, I had to study about 50 pages and then write a test.
We had to set up our own equipment, and of course everybody did their open water course hell knows when back, and nobody has any idea how to set it up. Penny's explaining it to one girl and everyone copies whatever she does. That makes me a bit nervous, malfunctioning equipment on a deep dive, not a good idea. We did the buddy check, everything seems to work ... fingers crossed!
Off we go for a deep dive, Yens gives no instructions, such as wait for me at the end of the line, 2 people take off right away, the other girl lost her buddy and has troubles breathing, Penny is trying to get every one together and call Yens for help. I see the group going down and I follow it, then out of nowhere I see with my peripheral vision something big, a school of barracudas? What is it? I turn, and this thing is right in front of me, maybe 2 meters away, I'm taken by surprise, I try to understand what it is, a shark? A bunch of small fish are attached to it, then I see the spots on its body, OMG! A whale shark!!!! It was so cool! It was only a baby though, maybe 4 meters long, and it looked very cute and clumsy :) Funny how baby fish can look clumsy as well :) I went after it wanting to pet it, but they showed me not to :( Of course we didn't do any skills, no nitrogen narcosis test, all the group got all over the place again, it's bad visibility, 1 girl who had troubles breathing went up to the surface, someone else followed her. The current was pretty bad, we all got out of air pretty quickly. This was the most disorganized dive I've ever been on, and except the whale shark, there wouldn't be anything else special to see.
Second dive - navigation. This time we all go to the bottom together, but now another guy has problems equalizing. Yens shows a sign to 2 couples to do the square navigation, I guess they forgot the instructions and were just standing there looking at him. I did the square perfectly, yeeei ! :) Although I was so concentrated on the compass that I forgot absolutely everything around me and went about 5 meters vertically up. Then we were shown where we are on the site map that we redrew and were let go to explore on our own. I did well, except that I ended up at the exit way too early and just did a few circles around the same rock a few times until it was the time to come up. Well that's an interesting fish I thought and swam towards it, oh no! this is a trigger fish! A look of panic in my eyes and I'm swimming away as quickly as possible. This is a fish that protects it's cone shaped territory, and if you're in it, it will attack you and start biting you. So you should swim away horizontally, because vertically you'll still be in the cone, swim backwards with fins closer to the fish, so if it will want to bite you, hopefully it will go for the fins! Today was not my lucky day as it seemed at peace and left me alone :) We went back to mainland for dinner and got back on the boat for a night dive. We were given a few instructions on how to use the flash light and how to give signals with flashlight in your hands. The dive was cool. It's so dark, it was like exploring a cave. A bit scary cause you couldn't see anything beyond where the flash light shone and (hopefully) your group in front of you. We went through a small tunnel which was a bit spooky. I couldn't see anything in front of me because the person in front of me raised all the sand up, we were not supposed to move our arms at all so we won't get scratched by the coral or the sea urchins, my tank was bumping up against the ceiling, but it was cool nevertheless :) We all then turned off our flash lights and were waving our hands around to see the phosphorus plankton that's shining when it's disturbed :) Then near my flash light was a cute shrimp that kept following my flashlight, swim to the right, to the left, to the right :) I really liked the fish around us, it looks all black, but when you shine the flashlight randomly at your sides, you see the fish swimming around you. We also saw a sting ray and that's it, there was no turtle, no sleeping trigger fish which sleeps with its mouth up and open, so you can shine your flash light right in it and see it's teeth and no barracuda attacks :( But it was still very cool! :) Going to sleep early to prepare for our early morning class!
7:30am and we're ready on the equipment deck. Nobody talks, we're only sleep walking. 1st dive is a wreck dive which is also a deep dive. We go down to 30 meters, I put my hand down to the floor and get a maximum depth of 30.5m :) Visibility is shit, less than 2 meters and this wreck looks like a ghost ship. Yens pulls out a tomatoe to show us how colors get absorbed at depth, and this red tomatoe is purely orange. Red is the first colors that gets absorbed, then it goes by the colors of the rainbow. He smashes a tomatoe and gets out an egg, breaks it apart, and the yolk remains intact under 4 bars of pressure and we play with it like a balloon. Then he does a nitrogen narcosis test, he shows a number with his fingers and we're supposed to add 4 to it. He shows it to a guy next to me, and the answer is 7, then he shows me 2 fingers and I don't know what he's doing, what I'm supposed to do, so I copy the answer and show him 7 as well. He goes "what"? Oh, I'm supposed to add 4, right, ok, here you go a 6. We then swim around the wreck, see some cannons, but every time I look at something, I'm afraid that I'll lose my team. I have no idea where I am, I don't have a map of the site, if I'll lose them, I'll have to swim up and the rest of the team will not be too happy with me. So I keep following them without too much exploration. We arrive at a reef, Yens splits us into buddy groups, shows us to swim around and at 45 minutes to go up. Me and Penny are buddies :) We swim, and she shows me something and then an explosion motion. I'm looking and thinking, is this an exploded tomatoe? no ... is this an exploded plastic bag? no ... what is it then? Oh, it's a puffer fish! I might have had a nitrogen narcosis, or could be lack of sleep, or a motion sickness pill, or all together, but at least I didn't get my regulator out of my mouth and started talking to a fish :)
Last dive was buoyancy with navigation. We swam through an underwater obstacle course of swimming through hoops, turns, going down -> forward, up -> forward, down -> forward and up again without any use of hands and without touching the ground, all with the use of proper breathing. If you breath in, your lungs fill up with air and you naturally will start to ascend, the same as you breath out you descend. The problem though is not to get lung over expansion you should breath constantly to allow the air to escape. If you hold your breath and go up, the air inside expends, has nowhere to escape and you might get collapsed lungs. Then me and my buddy swam to the reef, and were allowed to stay down until low on air. It was cool and very relaxing, we successfully navigated from one site to another. It's so cool when you barely know where you are, cause everything looks the same underwater, then navigate with no visibility and suddenly find yourself an another site ... coooool ! There was plenty of fish, but nothing special. She then saw a different fish, I showed her a symbol for a trigger fish (which is like a gun), she didn't remember that symbol and started swimming towards it. Ok I thought, I'll enjoy the show ... but the fish didn't mind her so much :) It was too bad because I still had 90 bar when she was already low on air. I could've stayed down for 20 minutes more, but we're buddies and have to do everything together, so we went up.
Next day I did the trapeze again! Still every time I was nervous when I stood on the platform. I learned one move pretty quickly and got it right straight away, but the next move, 4 times and still can't get it :( It didn't help at all when there was this circus chick in the class who got all the moves from the 1st time! Also since it was just the 2 of us we did a lot of practice swings, you come down, you go up again, gets pretty tiring after a while. But nevertheless it's too much fun, and I'll definitely do it one more time, and will try to find something similar to this in Toronto. Next day nothing hurts except my lower back ... I forgot to warm up before the class :S  What I like about the class is that the teacher goes with your pace, it's not like in Toronto when I went to different classes, I learn the move right away, and then wait another hour for everyone else to catch up. I guess that's why I don't keep going to classes further than the 1st level, cause I get bored. I remember pole dancing class. The teacher at the end of 5 classes showed us the moves that we'll learn on level 2, and I did them all right away after she was done with the demonstrations. What's the point of taking 5 classes when I learned it all in 1 minute?
Next day Penny and me went to a resort with a pool which we were recommended to go to. It was so cool, overlooking the whole ocean, such a beautiful place, and food was only 1.5 times more expensive than usual, we spent the whole day hanging around, reading books, envying couples and enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Took a bike around the island, such a small island, so many beaches. I had only 1 day, so I picked the beaches in one geographical area. I know now why so many people walk with bandages on their knees and elbows, the roads are absolutely horrible, all I know is that my mom would be screaming. They're almost vertically up and down, turning 180 degrees, and sometimes there are no roads, just mud tracks, or even worse sand roads. Some beaches are beautiful, but most of them look alike, I took some pictures and continued to next beaches where there is snorkeling. Again, the visibility is not that great, there are barely any corals, but a lot of fish, although the fish is the same anywhere you go, it just depends on how lucky you're gonna get. In one place 20 meters from the shore there was a trigger fish! Once the visibility was so bad, 2 meters or so, while I was snorkeling, I was always mindful of a chance of bumping into a jelly fish, and so I did. They're beautiful, but the tentacles are long and are almost invisible. It's so much nicer to see a jellyfish in the water elegantly swimming, than to see it washed ashore. I remember in Israel there is a season where the whole beach is covered in jellyfish instead of sand... so sad :(
In the evening went to my final trapeze lesson. It was the first time when I wasn't nervous standing up on the platform. I learned 2 new tricks, but couldn't properly do them, it always took me an extra swing to get it right, and with extra swing I won't be able to do a catch. Out of 5 times, I only got it once right, but wasn't able to do a catch :( Afterwards as always I couldn't move, could barely walk, and it was very hard to take a shower as to hold anything takes an immense effort, since the hands are burning like in hell. After trapeze I was debating what's more important a massage or dinner. I decided that it's my last night in Thailand and I can find noodles anywhere in the world :) 5am wake up. It's so good that I got prepared in the evening by buying snacks for breakfast, as we only stopped at 2pm for lunch! We stopped at a travel agency to filter people according to their destination, they told me that the bus will stop for me at the airport, for some reason I was doubting it and was watching the signs closely. Airport sign was to the right, and the bus went straight, I talked to the driver, and by the time they stopped the bus in a place where I can get a taxi from, I was already 15kms away. I waited an hour for the bus which never came and finally took a taxi. The driver pointed to some people and said "they're from Sweden", I said "I'm from Canada", he said "close, yes?" ... hm ... well, I guess, relatively speaking. It just took me 12 hours to get from Koh Tao to Phuket a distance of about 400 kms, it will probably take less than 12 hours to fly from Canada to Sweden.
Who knew that "best before date" means the date until which you can enter Thailand ... I didn't. Apparently my visa expired 8 days before, and I had to pay $133 fine for overstay :( I already changed all my money into US dollars, now I had to change them back to Thai Baht, I don't even want to know how much I lost on that. I just paid a fine equal to a 5 day travel budget and surprisingly I'm not upset at all. I learned not to get upset over things that I can't change.

p.s. don't forget to watch the flying trapeze movie at the end of the album
p.s.s. Huge thanks for everyone who contributed to the "donate money for adventure" campaign :) I used the money to do the advanced scuba diving course!! :))

https://picasaweb.google.com/100036016632387453128/KohTao

2 comments:

  1. Yana

    The sunset was beautiful!
    Thanks for the great adventure.
    The trapeze looks like fun

    Ken

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  2. жалко, что у тебя нет камеры для подводного плавания, наверное, получилось бы классное кино!

    ты первый раз была на трапеции? по-моему, так очень даже профессионально!

    фотографии - чудо! Koh Tao - супер!! ты - красавица!!!

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