Disclaimer: Before reading any further, you must first watch the following video as a precaution to dislodge any thoughts that I’ve gone totally insane. Cheers!
Traveling has done wonders from my imagination. Insert rational realist-->send traveling for six months--> receive an imaginative genius. The pre-travel Ember dreaded Disney movies, they are so unrealistic and animation is intended for the sole purpose of entertaining children and small minded adults, come on people grow up. Now, I kinda dig them. The pre-travel Ember got annoyed with people always entertaining the what ifs of life, especially the ridiculous ones that would never, ever come true. One night in Morocco, as Sam and I lay in our tent in the Sahara shivering and dreaming of sleep, he asked, “how much do you think it would cost to get a monkey that would warm my feet every night?” I was entertained at the preposterity of his inquiry, but knew a question like that would never pop into my head out of the blue. Now, I’m the one asking the questions.
My newly found overzealous imagination prooved itsself on a five day liveaboard dive trip in the Similan Islands, Thailand. Floating through the water with hundreds of funky colored bug-eyed fish staring at me, it was impossible not to go mental. I started entertaining the ideas…
What if fish had human identification charts?
“Hmmm…that one is kind of short, dark skin, black hair, ok Flounder, what is it?”
“This one is a white male, blonde, six foot…listen to his bubbles, he has a funny accent. I think they call them Sc-an-da-naveen!”
Then, the BBC Wildside videos came to mind. All of these fishies were going about their fishy lives and it was my duty to narrate! Here are a few of my favorite scaly friends I met:
Parrot Fish: Hellloooo, HELLO! Jonas, can you hear me? Shoot, my Face Time app keeps disconnecting. Anyway, I need your honest opinion, do you think I went overboard? I know they said business casual, but this suit was on sale at Men’s Warehouse, and well, just so flashy…I couldn’t resist. I don’t look like a clown, do I?
School of Bat Fish: Ok children, just a few more corals to swim around and we’ll be at your favorite playground. Keep holding onto the line, I don’t want to lose anyone now.
Moray Eel: Do I SERIOUSLY have to go to the office again? I am so over this job. All I do is work, work, work, doesn’t anybody get a break around here?
Trigger Fish: Hey Marlis, how ya doing girlfriend? I just got my lips botoxed again, can you tell? I’m going for the Angelina Joele look. Oh, and I just started this new diet, I’ll have to tell you all about it. I’m totally going to surprise Bruce with my new beach body just in time for swimsuit season.
To sum things up, I had an AMAZING time living on a boat for five days, hitting up the Similan Island beaches and diving around the clock. I saw sharks, turtles, octupus, snakes, eels and heaps of funky fishes, and had a lot of fun talking to the critters. Maybe it's time I make a Wildside viedo of my own...
...Seems to be my life these days. After a few busy days in Bangkok meeting the ladyboys and doing a couple of other things I never thought I'd do-like riding on a motorcycle taxi sideways in a dress and eating chicken foot curry-I was ready for some relaxation. Fellow backpackers raved about the ease and enjoyment of traveling Southeast Asia saying it was the perfect mix of sightseeing and relaxation and I was ready to put that to the test by visiting Thailand's famous diving island, Koh Tao.
One of my favorite things about Thailand is how easy it is to get around. I had already mapped out my plan of action: take train from Bangkok to Chompon, take bus to port, then catch ferry to Koh Tao. When I arrived at the train station to purchase my ticket they asked if i was headed for Koh Tao and suggested a combination train-bus-boat ticket. Being in the habit of figuring out my own travel plan and assuming they were trying to rip me off, I resisted. It wasn't until they said that the combo ticket was the only way I could get a sleeper cabin on the train that I caved.
They attached a yellow triangle sticker labeled, "Tao" to my shirt, and I was off. I was assigned a bench seat on the train and noticed that almost every passenger was a white tourist with a colored badge tacked to their chest. Pink circle-Panang, green square-Samui, red square-Surat Thani. It seemed like the Thais had the system down to a tee.
When the train lurched into motion, an attendant came through with dinner service and magically assembled a table between the two benches. This was now a dining car. An hour later, the attendant returned, and in three quick motions replaced the table, extended both benches and folded down a bed from the ceiling. Ta da! This was now a sleeper car with a row of bunk beds complete with individual privacy curtains. I couldn't be happier! This trip was off to a great start.
At four A.M. the attendant came through the cabin and shook me awake, motioning that the next stop was mine. Dazed, I exited the train to be greeted by the colored badge people once again. They sorted us into groups according to our colored sticker and we were herded onto our next mode of transportation-a bus that would take me to the port. The rest of the journey was smooth sailing.
Once I arrived in Koh Tao I signed up for a diving course. It was me and Nagaia, a German girl in the class. We would go out on the boat every morning, do our diving exercises and return to our bungalows on the beach just in time for a big Thai lunch. Of course being in Thailand it would be illogical to have a normal port or harbor where each boat could dock. Instead, the boats were tethered to each other in the order they came in from sea. The first one would be at the dock, the second one tied to the first, etc. In order for us to reach the dive boat we had to pass a series of boat obstacles. This involved walking onto the first boat, climbing through a window into the second boat, going up the stairs and jumping from the roof onto the third boat and so on. It must have been hilarious for an onlooker to watch the stream of divers playing follow the leader like monkeys climbing through a jungle of ships.
Our first two days were practice dives where we learned and demonstrated skills in shallow water. On the third day, our dive boat left port at six A.M. dropping us at the dive site just as the sun was rising. Air tanks on, we plunged into the blue for two hours of paradise. I felt like I was in a National Geographic video. Everywhere I looked colored fish were darting past in schools of hundreds and it was impossible to swim through the mass without bumping into a few. We saw angelfish, eels, stingrays, barracuda, clown fish and many anemones and sea urchins. My favorite part was watching the fish playfully chase each other and swim in and out of coral arches and crevices.
At night, restaurants along the beach would set out mats on the sand and light small fires along the shore. Dancers with fire batons made their way from one end of the beach to the other stopping at each restaurant to perform their routines. We would finish each day sitting in the sand watching bonfires and spinning fires glide through the air. Then, eat Thai food, lie on beach, dive, repeat once again!
Sunset on Koh Tao
The boat obstacle course we had to endure each morning.
Fishies in hiding! Photo credit: Alberto