Anyway, while we're away, i'm going to try and update my blog on a weekly basis so everyone knows where we are & what we're up to. I won't be uploading many photos, because the Internet connection is a bit slower here & I'm too impatient to wait...
I've been keeping a diary as we've been travelling around, so here's what we've been up to for the last week:
Probably one of the safest days of the year to travel on nowadays, but still a tad unnerving to be sitting in Dusseldorf airport watching the 9/11 memorial service on TV.
We flew with Air Berlin direct to Bangkok; 7 and a half hours. For those who don't know, Air Berlin is one of Germany's budget airlines. And it is BUDGET. Before we got on the plane, K exchanged all his Euro for Baht, not realising that you have to pay for beer on board. Not only that, there is enough legroom for Hobbits, but not many other people. For all 192cm of The German, those 7 and a half hours were torture. Added to the the fact that our overhead lights weren't working & they only show movies on the big screen, it wasn't the most fun of plane rides. BUT saying that, the food & service were OK and they arrived pretty much on time.
Day 2: Saturday 12th September
Because of time differences, we arrived in Thailand a day later, at 9:30am. We got a taxi from the airport into town (Khao San Road). Then we wandered round & found a cheap guest house (500 Baht/night; about 10 Euro); had lunch - of course Thai; had a 5 hour afternoon nap; woke up and had dinner - Thai again; played some poker (K's favourite new pass time...) and then went back to the guest house and crashed.
Not the most exciting of days, but we were so tired from the flight that we needed an easy day.
Day 3: Sunday 13th September
We decided to go to the famous weekend market, both to see what it was like & buy a few holiday essentials (sun hats, walking shoes, mini-towels). K said we should go by Tuk Tuk, and after convincing the Tuk Tuk men that "No, we REALLY didn't want to go and see his friend's gem shop", off we went. This was my first Tuk Tuk ride. Wow. Those guys are a tad crazy, weaving in and out of buses/taxis/cars/other Tuk Tuks. Felt a little bit like i was in an action movie, but it was fun.
The weekend market was an overwhelming maze of stalls selling EVERYTHING. The customers were a mix of locals & tourists and i found it all a bit too much - too many people, too hot, too jet-lagged. But despite this, it was fascinating - impossible to see everything in one go though, i think.
After all that exercise, we needed a nap so Tuk Tuk-ed our way back to the guest house & crashed for a few hours. Woke up in time for dinner (ramen, Thai style - ie not very ramen like at all, but tasty all the same).
Once again played poker; I did say that it's K's new hobby...actually, i won't bother writing about our poker games for the rest of trip. Just assume that we played, and i probably lost. But i will say that playing poker is a wonderful way of meeting people. So far (until today, 19th September) we've played with an Israeli couple, an American guy & a Swiss guy. And have had curious bystanders come by & see what we're doing. And don't worry, K & I aren't going to come back with huge debts & Thai mafia hunting us - we have our own poker set & are playing with chips. No money involved!!
Day 4: Monday 14th September
We'd decided we didn't want to spend too much time in Bangkok & wanted to get out asap. Proper Bangkok site-seeing there can be left till the end of our trip.
We'd decided that we wanted to go down to south Thailand & hit the islands down there. After a little research, we decided that train would be the best way: more legroom for K, not much more expensive than the bus & only a tad slower. Still, it was 8 hours. Longer than Dusseldorf to Bangkok. We got the train down to Chumpon - left Bangkok at 1pm & arrived at 9pm. It was LONG, but on-time & air-conned.
Chumpon is not one of Thailand's most beautiful towns, it serves as the port for Koh Tao, Koh Phangan & Koh Samui & most tourists get out as soon as possible. Because of our late arrival, we had to stay the night there (there was the option of a night ferry, but after spending 8 hours on a train, we didn't really feel like 6 hours on a boat).
Found a place to stay - nice lady was standing outside the station offering cheap rooms, free taxis & ferry booking. Think we paid about 1400 B for everything. Had dinner in the small night market in Chumpon then crashed pretty early.
Day 5: Tuesday 15th September
Got up bright and early to get the 7am catamaran to Koh Tao. Arrived in Koh Tao's main port, Mae Hat, at 8:30, in time for a English Breakfast. I know i should be eating local food, but sometimes you really can't beat baked beans, bacon & fried eggs...
We wandered up the island to find a place to stay. We'd already decided that we wanted to try diving while we were in Koh Tao (apparently, it's one of the best & cheapest places in the world to learn & issues yearly the most diving licences worldwide) and found Big Blue, which i'd already read about in Lonely Planet. Talked to one of the guys there & i explained i was a bit nervous about diving & being in the ocean and he was really reassuring, so we decided to stay there. And because we signed up for diving courses (a 3 and a half day PADI open water course), we got free accommodation.
Our course started the same day, with our first theory session. Did you know that diving's safety record is one of the best of all active sports - in or out of the water?
Was really interesting & i was looking forward to learning/doing more....
Day 6 (Wednesday 16th September)
Had our second theory session in the morning. Again interesting stuff going over the basics & the pieces of equipment.
In the afternoon, we headed out for our first diving experience; a swim test, treading water test then onto basic diving manoeuvres - mostly oriented towards safely suing the equipment & dealing with problems. K, with his sailing experience, got through everything like a fish. Me, i managed the swim test & tread water for 10 minutes. But, when it got down to the actual diving part, i found i really couldn't do it. I just couldn't fully immerse myself in the water - even though it was only 160cm deep. I had a full on panic attack & had to be taken back to the boat. And there ended my diving experience. I was really disappointed, but i am really glad i tried. Now i know that diving definitely isn't for me. But i am planning to try some snorkelling while i'm here. K, on the other hand, fell in love with diving & enjoyed every moment in the water.
Day 7: Thursday 17th September
K was continuing on with the dive course & i was left to my own devices. we both decided this was actually good thing because we'd actually have something to talk about at the end of the day!! In the morning, K had another theory session & i stayed in bed. Erm, yeah, lots to talk about!!
In the afternoon, K went out on his first 2 dives. He came back totally in love with the whole experience & wanting to do more, so signed up to do the advanced open water diver's course from Sunday.
Meanwhile, i went for a Thai massage & foot scrub. The massage was great, although a bit scary when i heard my spine crack. Felt great afterwards. The foot scrub made my feet all smooth and shiny and got rid of all the crusty dry skin (the masseur"s comment about my feet was, "Too hard"). Think i fell asleep and snored through the foot scrub because when they had finished and woke me up, all the masseurs were smiling at me...
This morning K went out on his final two dives to complete his Open Water Diver's Licence. At lunch time, he came back really excited about all the things he had seen; fish, coral, bubbles, meeting other divers underwater and so on. He said it was like flying underwater.
He & his classmate, Stefan from Switzerland, have both signed up to do the Advanced course together from Sunday.
Right now, K is completing his final exam & by the time i see him (in about 15 minutes) he"ll be a qualified diver! Cool! Meanwhile, i am updating my blog & picking up the laundry...not much different from Stuttgart, eh? Except here there is a beautiful view, great people, wonderful weather & no work.
Tomorrow, K is taking a break between diving courses, so tonight we're planning to sample the nightlife of Koh Tao. Tomorrow, we are planning to rent a bike & explore the island a bit. But that plan could change depending on how much fun we have tonight...
Not sure where we're going next, but i will keep you posted so watch this space!
All pictures are of Sairee Beach, Koh Tao, from the restaurant of Big Blue.