After two months of new cities, roads and adventures, it felt great to be back in Bangkok where we knew the streets, sights, and most importantly, where all the best street food vendors were located. Although many of the friends and travelers we’ve met along the way made their best effort to get in and out of Bangkok as quick as they could, Alison and I found that we enjoyed the crazy collision of culture, religion, and late night shenanigans that this city has to offer. It was also nice to be back in a traveling hub where backpackers converge and we could sit for a few nights enjoying beer on the street while swapping tales of travels with others. After spending a few days gathering information and seeing a few of the sights we missed the first time around, we jumped back on the bus and headed south, making way for the small island of Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand.
The northernmost of three large islands situated in the Gulf, Koh Tao is quieter and less rambunctious than its sister islands to the south. Since the first hotel was built in 1984 it has experience rapid growth to tourism, and is now known for its affordable and excellent SCUBA diving. The island boasts more dive shops than 7-11s, a feat in this country, even if you are on an island! Despite its popularity however the island still maintains a laid-back tropical island charm, where sunsets are watched from the balcony with a beer, and residents are tucked into bed not long after dark.
It had been 10 years since I’d been under the water on a dive, but after a quick refresher in the shallow water we headed out to the deep, excited to see what secrets lay beneath. I’d forgotten how awesome it is to be underwater; the feeling of being completely weightless, swimming silently about while curious fish flitted in front of your eyes, while the more shy ones tucked themselves further into the rocks or anemone, hoping to escape your sight. The world under the water is such a fascinating one; to think that all that we see when we are diving is constantly there, swimming, eating, living just as we do on land beneath the water on a day to day basis fascinates me. Sometimes when I’m on a boat I look over the edge and get lost simply thinking about everything that is going on down there, everything that we know, and so much more that we don’t. It both fascinates and scares me, and I think it is what always keeps me coming back for more. The sea is such an incredible place and what makes it more incredible is how little we truly know about it.
Although I was hesitant to go diving after 10 years out of the water, I’m glad I did. In the past I have had trouble pressurizing my ears when diving, however this time with some recommended 7-11 decongestants (oh thank heaven!) and Alison’s encouragement we were soon swimming peacefully along side each other under the sea. Alison and I have been on the road together now for six months, never more than a few feet apart. For many that may not work, but for us it has been a welcome change to the time we spent apart while focused on our careers over the past few years. It has made a strong relationship stronger, and we continue to push each other when needed; this time I was happy Alison pushed me into the water.
After two full days of diving we pulled ourselves out of the water to dry off and explore the island a little bit further by land. Diving in 30C water is a far cry from my certification dives off the coast of Nova Scotia, and it was definitely a welcome change. Although we didn’t see any big sharks or whale sharks, we did see healthy coral and all the fish that rely on a healthy reef eco systems. What initially started out as a 2 day trip turned into 6, and put Koh Tao up there on the list of one of the best places we’ve visited so far on this trip, and one we’d definitely return to.
From Koh Tao we headed west across Thailand’s narrow sliver of land to Ao Nang, where we set up shop for the remainder of our days in the country in a little bungalow tucked up off the beaches, at the edge of the jungle under towering limestone peaks. Every night as the sun set bats would leave their hiding spots in the cliffs high above and come down to our cabin, chasing the bugs that swarmed to our porch light in the dying light of dusk. Some seemingly the size of birds, these never failed to cause Alison to shriek as they swooped in for the kill, always coming so close to our heads but never hitting as they caught dinner and dashed back out again at breakneck speed.
By day we explored the surrounding area of Krabi beach and Koh Phi Phi Island, while at night we ate our fill of delicious seafood and street food. Our days in the sun and warm water were numbered, so we soaked up every last bit of the rays and even snuck in one more day of diving. Only days before we had hit the button and booked the flights for the next stage in our adventure… in a week’s time we would say goodbye to the warmth of south east asia, and say hello to the snowy winter streets of Japan. After three months exploring this beautiful corner of the world, we decided it was time to change gears, we’re going skiing baby! Japow, here we come!
xo, Alison and Byron
For those looking to do some diving in Thailand, we highly recommend checking out Koh Tao. The diving is the most affordable we saw in the region ($70CAD for a 2 tank dive), and the marine life is plentiful. We dove with the PADI certified dive shop Ocean Sound, a well run and reputable company owned by a fellow Canadian who has lived on the island for over 10 years now. We also dove with Buddha View diving on Koh Tao, and The Dive in Ao Nang, both great companies that offered great service and dives.