The boat from Ko Phi Phi to Ko Lanta was awful. It was crowded, hot, stuffy and the rocking of the boat coupled with the residual effects of the previous night's Chang (6.4%) beers left me sweaty and nauseously miserable. I passed the time by alternating between reading and complaining to Gina who was in a much better state then I.
Mercifully, the trip was only 2 wretched hours and we were deposited on the beautiful island Ko Lanta, where we quickly secured accommodation at Sincere Guesthouse and collapsed into the rock hard mattress. We decided to save a couple hundred Baht per night and punish ourselves for the indulgent weekend in Phi Phi with Becky and got a fan only room instead of one with A/C. It wasn't that bad really, at least as long as you had the fan within 2 feet of you and blasting at full speed...but it certainly added an element.
We passed the remainder of the day lazily wandering the town, lounging in our sweat box, and reading/writing postcards.
In the morning we rented another scooter and took on Koh Lanta's winding roads on 2 wheels. It's alot of fun to hit the road with no real plan and to follow your nose to hidden beaches, small towns and down windy roads. We visited Lanta Old Town and had one of, if not the best Papaya Salads yet. We found Long Beach and swam, ran and laid in the sand. We drove down a windy dirt road to check out a cave. We missed the chance to explore the cave as it was too late and would be dark soon, but headed south west to "Sunset Beach" to check out the sunset...the first real good one since Croatia. After a soda water water for me and a fresh coconut juice for G the sun had dropped and we turned our trusty scooter north and headed home. During the ride we discovered some of the perils of riding a scooter in Thailand after dark...I got bugs lodged in both eyes, smacked in the face by a huge grasshopper thing while going 40kph, and we encountered a significant downpour of rain...all this in the 35 minute journey. We stopped to wait out the rain and had dinner before finishing the ride back without further incident, but still extremely wet. That night Gina blasted through 3 chapters and 2 DVDs in preparation of her PADI Open Water SCUBA diving course that was set to start in the morning.
In the morning, we headed down the street to Go Dive-Lanta dive-shop where we met Dene (pronounced Dean), a rough neck British dive instructor who would be in charge of us for the next 3 days. I left Gina and Dene to spend the hot day going over the basics of Scuba diving, safety, planning, etc. I found an Internet cafè and got some photos online finally, and caught up on some BBC News in the sweatbox.
By the time I met Gina for lunch they had finished all the theory and were to head for a pool to do the confined water dives that afternoon, which they did with no problem, as we would soon find out Gina is "a natural".
Next morning we got our Birdy iced coffees and hopped on the dive boat at 7:45am and at 8:00 exactly we had fired the engines and were heading south west towards our destination for the day: Koh Ha. The boat was nice and big with 2 decks, stocked with plenty of breakfast, refreshments and at lunch time they served a nice home cooked Thai meal. All good. Ko Ha meaning "5 islands" is a group of 6 small islands in a circle in the middle of the Andaman sea. They form a coral encrusted tourquise blue lagoon in the middle and there are walls of coral on the outsides of each. It's considered one of the best sites in Thailand.
As it has been about 5 years since I last dived, I enrolled in the "refresher course" which consisted of a 25 question multiple choice test and a little skill brush up, but was pretty worthless.
We did our first dive. Gina looked comfortable in the water immediately and we quickly finished the skill practice and headed out of the lagoon and into deeper water. The water visibility at the Koh Ha dive site is exceptional. The water was warm and chalk full of coral and countless fish. There were schools of glass fish in one area that looked like a million shimmering small pieces of glass all moving in unison. Pretty sweet.
After a little lunch and rest we headed down for another dive on another section. More of the same; crystal clear water teeming with sea life. On this dive we spotted 2 scorpion fish and 2 lion fish which are a few of the venomous, but non aggressive, species in the area.
(Enter G as author): Day 2 on the boat started again with a Birdy coffee and a 2 hour boat ride out to Koh Bida. This island is well known for its massive variety and sheer volume if sealife. Ole Dene-o has a theory (well several really) but this one explains why there are so many fish off Koh Bida. He explains because it is so close in proximity to Phi Phi, and because Phi Phi is run by 4 "Thai Maffia-style" families they forbid fishermen to go anywhere near Bida for it will directly effect their tourism business. And, well the fishermen abide, for fear of gettin capped.
Though the theory is not yet proven, I can confirm the sealife off Bida as being nothing less than spectacular. The third and forth dives were incredible. We went about 18 meters down on this one and were awarded with colorful coral, schools of millions of silver fish that gave one the illusion that they were either a) on some serious psychedelics or b) traveling at warp speed aboard the Millennium Falcon or both simultaneously... Whoa!
(Enter AM as author): We bid farewell to Dene-o with G's Dive cert in hand and a Go-Dive t-shirt on her back. As we shook hands and parted ways Dene-o hollered: "Keep diving you two. You're good divers." Word, Dene-o!
For dinner we went to a restaurant we had walked past a dozen or more times but hadn't noticed. It was amazing. The tom sam (papaya salad) was beyond spicy. I'm talking serious fire. We both broke into heavy sweats and nasal cavity drainage within seconds of the first bite. We followed it up with 2 fantastic mains and 2 tall Changs to celebrate Gina graduating at the top of her dive class. Then we passed out at 9pm. Literally. Island life takes it's toll.
We've been in Koh Lanta for 5 nights which is the longest we've been anywhere since Munich and our feet are itching, and it ain't the Dengue mosquitos. The island hopping extravaganza continues in the morning. Tough work, I know, but, as they say, someone's gotta do it. Might as well be us. Boom!