First, I must once again apologise for the endless problems with this blog. Trying to get it fixed while I was away, with poor internet, was an exercise in futility. I am hoping it is going to work now, and I will play catch up with the posts I could not send while I was away.
Any mention of Koh Tao always mentions diving. As I am a diver and a lover of islands and beaches, I could not wait to check out my first island in Thailand. I was spending some time in Bangkok and heard a lot about flooding on some of the islands. Fortunately, reports said Koh Tao was returning to normal by the time I planned to go. I was going to take my first overnight train in Thailand. When I went to buy my train ticket, they have an inclusive train/bus/ferry package to get to many of the islands. I have used overnight trains in other Asian countries, and usually the bed is always a bed. Not so on the Thai trains. An attendant folds the bottom seats flat, puts a mattress on, makes the bed, and then pulls down the top bunk. There is a ladder and privacy curtains – nice touches I had not seen before. Train trip was very comfortable, and we arrived at Chumpon at 4 am. Bus arrived at 5 to take us to the ferry. We boarded a large fast catamaran – I would think it held about 300 people. Seas were rough and almost everyone was seasick. I was fine but felt so sorry for those who were not.
Arriving at Koh Tao it was a short, muddy walk to my guesthouse. I was reminded of Caye Caulker in Belize – dive shops and cafes dominated.
I had come here to dive, so my first goal was to find a dive shop, with decent rental equipment, and qualified staff. When you pass a diving course, you get a C card. It shows your qualification. As you take more courses you get different cards. It is common for a divemaster to accompany divers. An instructor in Canada advised me to always ask to see their certification, and I have been surprised how often they have not been able to produce it. In other words, they are not as qualified as they say they are.
My one and only dive was a great disappointment. Cloudy water with not much marine life to see. I later learned the reason Koh Tao is so popular is not because of the great diving – but because it is the cheapest place in the world to get certified. I paid almost $2000, 27 years ago in Canada. In Koh Tao you can get certified for $150. This is certainly a case of “you get what you pay for”.
So, my first island was a disappointment, still hoping to find that white sand and clear water as I move on.