Last week my best friend tried to get me killed. Considering we’ve been traveling together for about two months now, that should really come as no surprise. But believe it or not, he didn’t even do it on purpose. Or at least, I don’t think he did?? Regardless, I’ll get back to that later. I just figured it would draw your attention as an opener and now I won’t tell you the story till you’re a few paragraphs into this post and you’ve already wasted enough of your valuable time trying to find out about my not-so-near-death experience that you say “screw it” and finish reading it.
So this past week, after a few nights in Bangkok that involved a hostel that was effectively a prison in terms of entry and exit after 8PM, the use of the Google Translate app as our saving grace to purchase a screw-top bottle of wine bc we had no bottle opener, and a visit to the sky bar where they filmed Hangover 2 (which made us feel particularly poor and decidedly not fancy enough to exist in such a bougie place - like I didn't even want to cuss while on the premises bc I felt like it would be a whole other level of unacceptable but obviously I did anyway bc we all know how much I love colorful language), we headed to Koh Tao.
For those of you who don’t know, Koh Tao is a veeeery small island off the East coast of Thailand with some of the cheapest/best beginner dive schools and sites in the world. To give you some perspective, it would cost around $550 for me to get an Open Water Scuba Cert in California. It cost about that much for me to do my Open AND Advanced Certs out here. And it was amazing. We went with a dive company called Bans – one of the bigger resorts on the island – at the recommendation of some lovely Canadians we met in Cambodia, and we’re so glad we did. Free accommodation was provided while you were taking the class – thank god bc we’re poor and scuba diving is not a cheap hobby – but it was a double room with a fan on an island hotter than hell, so we spent most of our time at the local 7/11 wandering the aisles enjoying the much needed AC.
We were exhausted day one on the island as we arrived in the late afternoon after having taken a night bus (with no beds, just sorta reclining seats) to wait at a pier for several hours before taking a 2h ferry to get to the freakin’ island. It was a mission, but it sure was worth it. The water was crystal clear and the people were beyond friendly. We grabbed a delicious Burmese curry and Thai tea for dinner before our Open Water Cert evening orientation. An absolutely soul-crushing few hours of the most painful 90’s instructional videos on the basics of scuba later, we were done for the night.
We woke up the next day for class with our instructors, Sara and Freddie. I would like to take a moment to explicitly tell you how incredibly lucky we were to have these two as our teachers for this experience. Sara was easily the most fabulous human being I have ever met in my life who knew exactly what she was doing and never let us feel anything less than comfortable and confident – a difficult feat to accomplish when you’re trying to teach a couple of idiots how to breathe underwater. Freddie was potentially the most knowledgeable person we’ve ever met. He could teach you about everything from dive techniques and sites to financial advising and everything in between. We spent half our time when we weren’t diving just picking his brain and learning from his awesomeness. The two couldn’t have been more different, but we were so lucky to have them as our instructors. We had a group of nine students which was broken up into two groups of three and six for the purposes of dive instruction, and it was the perfect-sized class to feel comfortable asking questions and to get the right amount of attention when learning so many new things at once.
The entirety of our week was an absolute blur as it consisted of some variation of eat, sleep, dive, repeat. Even if we had wanted to, we couldn’t have done much else considering how draining the dives were and how early we had to be up for them (6AM is too much, I should not have to be up before the sun and I will fight anyone who disagrees). All in all, it couldn’t have gone better for Ky and I. There was no nervousness, no hesitation, and we couldn’t have felt more comfortable. Add that to the incredible underwater sights, and we were hooked. As soon as we got back to the island after dive two, we signed up for the Advanced classes. Mind you, we hadn’t even finished the beginner class, but we already knew that we would want more than just the basics. See, with an Open Water cert, you can dive to 18M, which is pretty awesome in and of itself. But with the Advanced cert, you can dive to 30M, which is where all the bigger fish are (sorry mom), and you get to do fun dives like night dives and wreck visits and photography classes (hence all those Facebook photos for those of you lucky enough to have witnessed them).
OH!! Speaking of underwater photography, let me share with you the story of how Kyle tried to kill me. We were on our photography dive – which is way more difficult than I ever imagined bc how can you breathe regularly and maintain buoyancy and not run into any coral reefs and not get stung by manta rays and take pictures of moving objects all at once like are you kidding me I can’t even breathe and chew gum at the same time??? – when we saw a triggerfish. We’d already had a run in with one of these lil’ b*stards a few days before when one swam right underneath Ky, and we thought that was about as exciting as it would get in the triggerfish category.
We were wrong.
So triggerfish are these horrific looking fish that are pretty substantial size-wise, move WAY faster than any underwater demon creature should be able to, and have teeth that are not even remotely proportional to their size that they like to use to bite people that piss them off. Google it. They’re not cute. We had been warned that they’re territorial and aggressive, so when we saw one a few meters away, we more or less stayed put trying to get a picture. But according to Kyle’s tiny, evil brain, we were not close enough. So he got closer. And the triggerfish was not happy about it. But did it go for the idiot that got too close to it? Noooooo. That would be too logical. The terrifying monster fish came for yours truly. And not only did it come for me, it CHARGED at me. IT WAS SO NOT OKAY. Do you know how difficult it is to defend yourself against what is essentially a saber-tooth FISH?! ALL YOU HAVE ARE YOUR FINS. AND THEY MOVE SO MUCH FASTER THAN YOU DO BC THEY ARE AQUATIC DEMONS SENT FROM HELL TO DESTROY US. It BIT my FIN! And when I kicked to get it off, it held on! Like a freaking dog! What kind bucktoothed monster from hell?!?!?!
Thankfully our instructor (and the man to whom my life is now indebted) Freddie was there to save the day. He maneuvered himself between us and the fish and signaled to us to swim away (not up, but out – the fish considers its territory to be in the shape of a cone so if you swim up it’ll just stay pissed off and keep trying to eat you). Honestly at this point it was all Ky and I could do to sign “holy sh*t” (we learned the ASL alphabet so we could communicate under water in addition to the universal dive signs we learned) to each other a bunch of times over as we stared at each other wide-eyed and still reeling from the what the h*ck-ness of it all. Mind you, I totally screamed underwater when the evil fish from the depths of hell was charging at me with its massive mouth open – but fortunately my smallish brain reminded me that the heavy breathing I was doing was not going to do the air level in my tank any favors so I regulated my breathing and watched as Freddie casually saved our butts. Eventually he made it out of the fish’s territory and we continued our dive – some of us a little more hesitantly than others. The rest of the dive was uneventful (thank goodness) as we continued to try our hand at underwater photography. Suffice it to say we won't be quitting our day jobs. Or... I wouldn't quit my day job if I hadn't already quit it. Oops.
Oh and BY THE WAY, as if that run in with the fish-monster wasn’t enough, we went on our night dive that night - when triggerfish are supposed to be ASLEEP - and when Sara pointed one out as I swam by it, the lil monster WOKE UP! Sara said she had literally never seen a triggerfish wake up at night, and she had even gone so far before the dive as to say that you could POKE a sleeping triggerfish and it STILL wouldn’t wake up. Well apparently the smell of fear will get ‘em even if a poke won't, bc ya girl woke it right up. Just a fun fact for ya for future reference and whatnot, in case any of you ever plan on coming into contact with these lovely creatures.
Aside from the run in with the end of my life (I am fully aware I am dramatizing the hell out of the incident but I’m enjoying it way too much not to sorry not sorry), it was a truly surreal week. We got our scuba certs in a gorgeous country with wonderful people and didn’t even die!!! Although there was this one Dutch guy who we were fairly certain was going to drown (his swimming capabilities were questionable at best, let alone his scuba skills). But he didn’t so YAY for a clean record of no deaths while diving (yet)!!!
In terms of right now, Ky and I are currently in Penang, Malaysia waiting for our bus/ferry combo to the Perhentian Islands on the East coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It was a freaking mission getting here from Koh Tao on an overnight FERRY which we will NEVER DO AGAIN bc it was TERRIBLE and we felt like we were on the damn Mayflower between the lack of bed-space and the severely aggressive rocking of the boat which was followed by several hours riding in the back of a freaking minivan to cross the Thai-Malay border which took waaaaay more hours than it was supposed to which is no surprise bc this is Southeast Asia, but I digress. Wow that was a long sentence. Sorry, I don't breathe when I talk, so I don't punctuate when I type. I would say I'm working on it, but I'm not.
Anyway, we can’t wait to explore the underwater world of the Perhentian Islands for the next week, and I’ll be sure to post lots of pictures so that you can all add them to the list of reasons why you hate me 😊 But for now, I think it’s time for me to enjoy some more of the delicious food Penang is famous for, so until next time folx!
PS. Ky and I were actually social at this Penang hostel, believe it or not! We met a girl named Michelle from Colorado and she’s awesome and we’re very proud of ourselves for talking to someone other than each other. Not sure what I’m gonna do when Ky is gone in a few weeks and I either have to make friends or talk to myself, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.
PPS. SOME JERK STOLE MY FLIP FLOPS ON THE ISLAND WHICH IS LIKE THE WORST KIND OF CRIME YOU CAN COMMIT ON AN ISLAND LIKE COME ON ARE YOU SERIOUS MY FEET ARE HUGE UNLESS THEY’RE FOR A DUDE THEY’RE NOT EVEN GONNA FIT YOU, GIVE THEM BACK U JERKS ugh
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
The Baltic countries,
if Covid allows for it (Latvia, Estonia, maybe a stop in Finland)
(in August in the US)