As I mentioned in my last post, I had no clear vision for what I would do in South East Asia – or even what the major ‘tourist attractions’ were within each of the countries. I knew Vietnam for its war, Cambodia from a Dead Kennedys song, and Thailand for its world-famous ladyboys. Today? I could tell you the best place to get a Vietnamese visa in under two hours, recommend coffee shops in Phnom Penh, and have seen enough breast implant scars on ladyboys to last a lifetime.
Half a year. Six months. 186 days. Regardless of how you want to define it, this trip has now gone on longer than I ever expected it to. Along the way there have been a number of ridiculous (and potentially previously unmentioned) stories. Today seems like a great day to make a summary of the last 186 days and share some details of the stories that have previously remained secret. Perhaps “summary” isn’t the best way to describe this – there are a lot of pictures, some old stories, some new stories, and then more pictures.
Upon re-re-re-re-redeciding to leave Koh Tao, I reached for my wallet and briskly walked down to the nearest travel center on Koh Tao to purchase my transportation to Malaysia before I re-undecided or un-redecided my plans again. The ticket would only get me to the border of Thailand and Malaysia, but that would be as good a start as any journey really needed.
Koh Tao isn’t ‘just’ an island; it is a shared experience of 7-11s, Scuba diving, late night dancing in the ocean, buckets of alcohol, fire dancers, and balloons filled with laughing gas.
Over the last three days I’ve been busy receiving my “Stress and Rescue” diving certification – a prerequisite to enrolling in a Dive Master course. At the same time I’ve been asking myself the following question: “What the hell am I doing?”
I’m back on Koh Tao and really maximizing the island lifestyle. The last four days have been filled with Scuba stuff, but I’ve had a little bit of downtime to compose my thoughts.
The full moon has come and gone. Endless hours of dancing and partying on the beach until 7, 8, and 9 AM have been logged. Many of the things that happened on Koh Phangan will never be spoken of again. Over two months have passed since I arrived in Vietnam, and in those 60 days I’ve gone around the coast of Vietnam, through Cambodia, and stopped by the typical tourist destinations in Thailand. So what now?
I arrived yesterday back on Koh Tao, the small island north of Koh Phangan where I had been for the last few days. (Four or five – I really can’t remember since the ‘end’ of the day came at rather weird hours…) I will stay here for the next three or four days getting my open water scuba dicing certification. Similar to randomly hopping onto a scooter and proceeding to drive it 1000 miles down the coast of a country, scuba is the next adventure that I’ve decided to undertake on this trip. It turns out that Koh Tao has the second highest concentration of scuba instruction sites in the entire world – second only to the area around the Great Barrier Reef. Considering that people plan vacations around the ability to get to this side of the world and go underwater, it only made sense that I spend some time getting certified and seeing what all of the fuss is about. This also opens up some of the other activities on this side of the world (should I choose to visit them) – specifically Borneo and the Great Barrier Reef.
Certification is 50% class and 50% underwater. I spent 2 hours in a class room last night, and today will spend half of the day in the pool and half in a classroom. Tomorrow I will be on a boat all day doing the first of two dives, and the day after I’ll start the day early with two more. I’ll have an exam to complete after that, at which point I’ll be $300 poorer and certified to go roughly 50 feet underwater. While this is going on, I get a reduced rate at a hostel (4 person dorm) for any days that I’m diving with this company. The room costs $3 a night when I’m diving and $12 when I’m not.
In the meantime, I’ve got a few days to figure out what to do after Thailand. Flights from Kuala Lumpur are extremely cheap to a number of countries in this area. Which ones, and in what order, are the primary questions I’m trying to answer.
On the eve of the Full Moon Party I took my camera out for an hour while everyone was waiting until midnight to head to the beach. This is what happens when you stick a camera in people’s faces after they’ve been drinking for a few hours. Some of these people I know …and some I don’t. With some I remember a state they are from, a school they go to, or a random conversation we had.
The party itself went until at least 8am – there were still people dancing on the beach when I needed to walk back to my hostel and sit down.
For the first time in this entire trip – I actually know where I will be for the next 9 days.