Ok! So back in Bangkok after spending the last 5 days or so down south at the islands on the east coastdoing some scuba diving and enjoying the beach life :-)
So I'll pick up from where I left off which was on the train from Bangkok to Chumporn (a coastal town and main port for access to the islands on this side of the country). I arrived at Chumporn station after a good nights sleep on the train at around 5am and had to wait for a bus which came an hour later to transfer me to the port where I boarded the 'Loompraya' high speed catamarin service to Koh Tao. The boat was nice and had a movie playing on the way there but the a/c was perhas a little too good as it was bloody freezing.
After stopping by two other islands on route I arrived on Koh Tao and was picked up by a driver from 'Simple Life' dive shop which I had my 4 day open water PADI diving course through when planning my trip. At the dive shop I settled a deposit and got settled into my room which was only 2 minutes walk from the office where I'd be learning the theory part of the course. I just had enough time to have a shower and get settled in and a bite to eat before I started that afternoon at 4pm with my group watching the first two videos
introducing the course and getting stuck right in to all the technical bits and safety etc. I was also given my PADI divers manual which was a bit like a complete guide of everything you need to know about how to dive and at the back of each setion was a little knowledge test which we had to complete 2 of that night as homework! Once we had our introduction with Hanna, my diving instructor for the time there, and watched the videos I had the evening to explore my surroundings. The area where I was staying was called Sairee Beach
(named after the beach there of course) and it felt like a little town in its own which was nice and during my time on Koh Tao I didnt really venture much further as the island is so small there is no public transport so everyone hires mopeds and motorbikes but most end up with what they call a "koh tao tattoo" which is a nasty big scar from the very frequent accidents that happen with tourist riding motor bikes.
That evening I ate at a restaurant right next to where I was staying (Pad Thai of course) and then went for a wander around the area which had the usual loud bars and restaurants catering to every taste, and on my walk I was handed a flyer about a caberet show that night with free entry which sounded perfect if you want to sit and have a drink and your alone what better way than to watch a show. So I had a drink at a little place across the road until the show started and went in and ordered a 'Chang'. The drinks were considerably overpriced but the deal was you had to order at least one drink as the entry was free which I understood later as there were a few old chancers who tried to sit and have a free show and not buy a drink or even tip but were asked to leave. So then my very first Thai 'Ladyboy' cabaret show started! It was pretty good though, they went through an ecclectic mix of popular songs (all lip-synced) from Lady gaga to Moulin Rouge to Aqua's barbie girl (which I felt was begining to me my trips theme since my embarrassment in India!) They also had a huge collection of elaborate costumes basically one big sparkly sequin explosion and they were amazing dancers and could have given the original artists a run for their money! And it's true what they say, you would never know they were once men (or still are in most cases). When the show finished most people left but since I still had more than half of my drink left I stayed to quickly finish it and had a crowd of very flirty, touchy feely ladyboys around me, one of them asked if I wanted to play I game which sounded a bit dodgy to me so I just said no thank you but she was like, I'll show you and produced a connect four game from behind the bar! So I played connect four with the ladyboy untill I'd finished my drink (and lost!) and then went off to bed pretty knackered, plus I had to be up at 9am for more dive school and my first practical diving experience that afternoon!
The next few days that followed were pretty busy and routine, I would get up and have breakfast at the nearby restaurant which was owned by the dive school and had a really good buffet breakfast with continental and cooked at a set price plus free wifi and then I'd head straight for the dive shop. The morning always consisted of going through the homework from the day before (which was always optional but I was a good boy and it helped me retain the mountain of technical diving info each day) and then we would watch some more videos. In the afternoon
we would do the practical part and practice what we had leant in the videos underwater. When we first went out on the boat we had to learn out to set up the diving gear and dismantle it properly and then repeat it again and agian until it was pretty easy but one slip in the set up process could have lethal results so it was a little scary. My first time under the water with the scuba gear was quite nerve wracking, first of all its not that easy to get used to breathing underwater (because it not exactly a natural human instict) and also I was constantly worried I would make some big mistake but on the whole I think I did very well and we had lots of mini tests underwater where the dive instructor would demonstrate a skill such as taking off your mask and replacing it and getting rid of water inside the mask or taking off your scuba gear and replacing it underwater and also practicing giving air to another diver (quite handy in emergencies) and then we would have to repeat the skill which I managed to do well each time so was quite happy with myself after the first day diving!
Again in the evening I would do my homework and then head out for dinner and then a drink and I went to the Cabaret again but this time was joined by a lady called Cindy who used to work at the show (she told me her speciality was Beyonce's single ladies) but now she works in a dive shop down the road because her family weren't happy with her being in the show. We sat made small talk throughout the show and when it was finished she invited me to go to her friends bar I polightly declined, but it was late and I was up early again to dive!
My second day properly diving (3rd day of course) was amazing! We went out to one of the best dive sights off the island and once we had practiced a few more skills we went for a wander in a little formation underwater about 12 meters deep and had my first proper experience of gliding underwater through shoals of amazing tropical fish, I felt like Ariel, a propper little mermaid! It was beautiful down there but I accidently laughed with excitement and let a whole heap of water into my mask which stung my eyes for a bit so that was a lesson learnt but
thank god I had learnt to remove water from my mask!
That evening I wandered a little further for dinner and found a great reastaurant that had floor seating on cushions and a big projector screen that showed films all evening, dinner and a movie, excellent! I watched 'the next 3 days', not bad, and ate my dinner and then went to bed, no cabaret show tonight but a great end to a great day nonetheless!
The next day was pretty much the same and I started to feel like I was really getting the hang of this diving malarky and enjoying it too plus I met a nice girl from Kenya and her friends who were travelling with her (one girl from Glasgow!) and had dinner with them at a little thai place that evening and then showed her the cabaret show :-) She wanted to get an early night but I bumped into Cindy again who was with a crazy Australian couple and joined them for a drink at her friends bar playing loud techno/house music, but was pretty shattered so went to bed shortly after as I had a 7am start for my last day!
On my last day diving I had an amazing time and really enjoyed it and thought if time and money were no problem I could easily have gone on to do my advanced diving certificate. But once we were back from the dive, I just had to go through a few formalities such as forms and passport photos and our diving log books (which we fill out to show the date and place of the dive, the conditions and the depth etc) and then Hanna shook my hand and gave me my temporary PADI diving card (real one in the post from PADI), I was now a certified diver for 18 meters and could go into any dive shop worldwide and go diving!
That evening I decided to stay another night even though I hadnt booked it and made my plans to leave the next day to the neighbouring large island of Koh Samui, just to take a diferent route back to Bangkok and from their I'd take an overnight bus after one night on the island. But first I decided to remember my time on Koh Tao (turtle island) with some more ink on my leg, so I went to a place on the beach and had a turtle designed for me right on the opposite side to keep my mexican gecko company :-) It took just over an hour and a half and hurt a little but not as much as the alcohol he sprayed on after
to clean it which stung like a biatch! But I did feel sorry for an ozzie woman who came in just after me for a design which was ging to take at least 4 hours and she started crying as soon as he started, ouch!
The next day I checked out of my room, left my luggage at the guest house and went to buy my boat ticket to koh samui which I got very easily and just had a walk about until it was time to leave. The boat was less than a couple of hours and I arrived late afternoon but with no idea of where to stay, got a mini bus to the crazy nightlife area of Cheweng Beach to find somewhere to stay there. The place I had my eye on from my book only had double rooms available and I didnt want to pay for that so I looked around that area and found a small guest house behind the main road owned by a nice thai family which had a
nice basic clean room with a fan and a good shared shower/bathroom so I took it. Night fell quite quickly and I ventured out to explore the main street in the Cheweng Beach area and had a lovely dinner at a nice little roadside cafe which was super cheap but good and packed with foreigners and thai's, always a good sign when trying to find somewhere to eat. After this I wandered around the nightclub/bar area which was loud and bright with hundreds of neon signs and blaring music and went and saw another ladyboy show which had more glitz and glamour than koh tao but was just as good.
After this I wandered back down the road to where I was staying, I have to explain that right on front of the place I am staying is 3 bars in cul-de-sac which are all part of each other and from the moment I arrived each time I walked past I had about 7 girls shouting and waivig at me so when I left for dinner I promised I would come by and have a drink later on. I wasn't silly and I knew it was one of those seedier bars where the female 'bartenders' where all for sale pretty much and so they wanted my custom but I explained I was gay and was never going to do anymore than have a drink they were pretty good chat
but were still very persistent and did still ask if I just wanted to try being with a girl hehe.
The next day I got directions from a man gardening downstairs and went in search of the ticket office for the bus which took bloody ages and I must have walked for at least an hour and a half before I gave up and took my first motorbike taxi to it (you just hop on the back and off you go, a little dangerous 'cause no helmet is provided but worth it for the breeze and was really fun!), turns out I walked right past the place and it was only 5 minutes away. I bought my combined boat and VIP bus ticket direct to Bangkok which departed at 16:30 and was due to arrive in Bangkok at 6am the next day. So then I walked back to
the guest house which only took 20 minutes now that I knew the way and packed and then went for luch and a walk on the beach. An hour before my shuttle bus was due to leave from the ticket office I went out on the main road to flag down a taxi but I was given ridicolous prices and they refused to use the meter which they often do with tourists so I decided to lug my suitcase there and walk! Took me about 40 minutes but a sweaty, tired, red faced version of me made it onto the bus in one piece and I was glad to be on route to Bangkok again. At the bus station I boarded the vip bus which had huge comfy seats that
reclined really far back and we drove half an hour to the ferry port where we had to walk onto the ferry and the bus drove into the bottom too. The ferry ride was just lovely, I sat outside for most of it and took picturesd of the passing island and the amazing sunset. Once on the mainland, we boarded the bus again and were served a little cake sack, a carton of juice and a bottle of water and they put on some kind of chinese kung fu movie, I just tried to get some sleep and it was off to Bangkok!