Yes, you read that correctly: we had yet another extended weekend. A big perk of working in Thailand (other than, you know, being in Thailand) is that there are literally dozens of public holidays. In all honesty I don’t even know what this one was for. But since we’d finally been paid (I’m using the term loosely… tomorrow marks two weeks since we should have received our paychecks, and it still hasn’t happened. [The mayor, whose signature is allegedly needed on the checks, took a surprise trip to Indonesia.] But we finally, shall we say, bitched– though not in any unreasonable manner, I’m sure you’ll agree– enough that the school paid us half our salary from their own reserves. Or something. And word on the street is we’re being paid this afternoon.) we thought we’d do more than sit around in Thung Song and do something a little more exciting, like take a dive trip.
Koh Mook had been on our radar for awhile. It’s off Thailand’s west coast, in the Andaman Sea (so the same as Koh Lanta, and the opposite of Koh Tao), and is considered to be somewhat smaller and more off the beaten path than some of the other Thai islands. And though Koh Tao is king for diving, or at least diving certification in these parts, we’re reading over and over that the Andaman is actually far superior to the Gulf of Thailand in terms of marine life to be seen, especially at this time of year. It’s a bit more expensive, but since we were rolling in borrowed money we felt pretty gung ho about the whole thing.
Our last few gallivants around the country were far from brag-worthy when it came to displaying our traveling prowess. We’d end up stressed and worn out, usually after a few extra hours of traveling and a few hundred Baht poorer than expected because we either hadn’t researched the trips properly our had made silly mistakes along the way. I’m proud to say there was none of that this time! Everything went incredibly smoothly and was delightfully inexpensive; two minibuses and a ferry cost us just 320 Baht ($10.67), and four hours after our departure we were on the steps of Hadfarang Bungalows.
Item #1 on the agenda was to enquire about diving the following day. We found Chill Out Divers at their new spot on the beach and got sorted in no time at all, leaving the afternoon free to chill on the beach.
A number of our friends from town had gone to Koh Phangan to experience the Full Moon Party on Saturday, so we were expecting a lovely moon. What we weren’t expecting (at least until our new Dutch friend Maarten mentioned his motorbike taxi drive had told him) was a full lunar eclipse! I’d never seen one before and don’t really possess the technology to take worthwhile pictures of such an event, but I still took a bunch because I was so impressed by nature.
The following morning we got up early to make sure we were properly breakfasted before meeting up at 8 am to set out on the open seas. It was a clear morning and looked like it was going to be a gorgeous day, but alas… the sea got a bit rough (nay, “choppy,” I was corrected) in the 40 minutes it took us to arrive by longtail to our dive site, which did end up affecting visibility on the dive. That being said, we were well pleased with what the Andaman had to offer in terms of marine life, and were mostly just happy to be underwater again.
The dive site was called Hin Nok, which means “Bird Rock,” and allegedly at low tide there’s a large protruding rock that’s covered in seabirds. When we arrived around 9 o’clock, however, it was a barely visibly knob of stone peeking out between the waves, and I was more than impressed by our boat driver’s ability to lead us directly there. This was our first experience “Fun Diving,” (as opposed to diving to complete our certification) and it was a much more laid-back affair. Our group consisted of the leader, Alex from the UK; the Dive Master in-Training, Andreas from Sweden; and Chas and Mark, two Californians enjoying a Thai holiday. We went down for two full-hour dives (as opposed to 45 minutes, max, on Koh Tao) which was plenty of time to see come cool things in spite of the murky conditions. I started to make a list but it was tedious so I’ll just see if I can find some cool pictures.
Stuff we saw:
Now, what had drawn us to Koh Mook before we were even certified to dive were tales of the “Emerald Cave,” into which you could swim, in total darkness, and emerge on a small patch of beachy jungle. Or… jungly beach. Whichever. After our arrival on the island, we learned that you could actually rent a kayak and paddle into the cave, rather than go on a guided tour, and we decided that that’s what we wanted to do. We had no time to do it except after our dive, even though we were already a bit worn out. It was totally doable, but we made things worse for ourselves by rowing completely passed the cave, because it was labeled “Morakot Cave” rather than “Emerald,” and we felt sure that somebody would have mentioned this detail to us if it was the same place. So half an hour of extra paddling later we’d about-faced and found ourselves ready to enter the cave.
Sunday night was marked with more beer, a seafood feast, surprise meetups with friends we’ve met on other travels, and subsequent beach jam sessions. Nothing to complain about, really.
The folks at Hadfarang made the trip home Monday quite painless and now we’re enjoying another abbreviated week. Oh, oh… and wait for it:
A month and a half into the term, despite not having even been paid upon their issuance (and having the paycheck be… 10,000 Baht short when it did come… still haven’t sorted that out yet…), we have been given official nametag lanyards. So official.