|Happy Holidays, everyone! Sorry we've been out of touch for so long, but we found ourselves on a beach for 2 weeks where internet service came and went with the weather and our inquiry about a card reader for photos was met with a very funny look.
We last updated as we were leaving Ao Nang for a short stay on Ko Lanta, which has turned into our longest stay anywhere so far! We were talked into booking one night at a hotel by the agency that sold us our ferry ticket, with the promise of transportation from the pier. 'Stay one night and move if you don't like it!' he said. So we were met by an unsmiling representative of the guesthouse and treated to a long ride to the southern part of the island, where the beaches are thankfully quite empty but choices for food and entertainment turned out to be equally sparse. Our room was fine for the price, although our view was one of our least inspiring. The hotel would have been fine if the staff hadn't all gone to the same school of management which clearly must preach treating customers to the most surly, unfriendly service if you help them at all! And we were also treated to daily 5AM wakeups for a Muslim call to prayer. Fabulous. Anyhow, the first thing we did when we got to the beach was to go looking for a dive shop. We found one nestled in the corner of a VERY fancy resort (a member of the 100 small luxury hotels of the world, we later learned) where we met Dalton, a very nice and very knowledgable Irish dive instructor. We signed up for an open water course with him that same day.
We had a couple of days to kill before we started with Dalton, although he did give us quite a bit of homework to do in the interim. One of them we spent on a snorkeling trip to Ko Rok, one of the premier snorkeling spots in the region. Despite the choppy waters and noisy Germans we had a great time. Lots of neat fish (although we didn't even know how much cooler it would get when we started diving!) and plenty of time to hang out on a nearly deserted beach. The next day we decided to rent a moped and see the rest of the island. It wasn't the nicest day but we hoped it might get better as we went along. We puttered along, wearing helmets and never going faster than we do on our bicycles for anyone out there who's worrying! We went over to the eastern side of the island which has no beach so really let us see what this area was like before tourism. We also had lunch at a viewpoint which would have been very nice if it hadn't been so foggy! We made a brief attempt to see a cave but abandoned it when we saw the state of the dirt road. How good could it be, right? Enjoy the photo of Raime driving the sexy hot pink moped. Between that and the fact that we were wearing helmets, we got lots of funny looks on the road!
The next week or so was spent either in our dive course or waiting out a bad weather day. The bad weather days in our bummer of a hotel were full of laundry, chess, knitting (for Kate anyway!), reading, and generally complaining about the fact that it's supposed to be the dry season here! Once we'd done all the reading and quizzes and lame DVD watching for our course, we actually got to get in the water with all the SCUBA gear-in the 4 foot deep pool that is! Yup, our first diving experience was in water up to our shoulders. But it was a good introduction and chance to make sure we could do all the skills like taking of our mask and recovering the regulator. Dalton said we were on the road to becoming divers! We had to wait out the weather for a couple of days before we actually got to go out to the dive site. The dive boat was so comfortable and nice, which made the ride feel like a cruise. Once we got out to the dive site we saw lots of other boats we would not have liked to be on, but that's another story. Both our class dive days were at Ko Ha. All the dives had their challenges and we had to show Dalton that we could do all the skills, but despite all that it was amazing! We loved being under the sea. We saw tons of amazing fish, a number of which we will probably never see again, Dalton tells us. We also saw a Hawksbill sea turtle!!! He was so neat, he just hung out and watched us as we watched him. It's hard to describe how cool it felt to be down there, the short story is that we loved it. We passed our course after a second day of diving and are officially open water certified divers!
Of course the minute this was true we were itching to go to Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, a dive site near here that's frequently listed in the top ten in the world. The weather thwarted us again, though so we had to wait a few more days. In the interim we moved house. We moved up the hill to a more expensive but much more pleasant hotel with a great view of the beach. One of the days we waited to go diving was too windy and therefore too rough at sea, but beautiful on the beach. We hiked over to a very quiet little beach called Ao Nui where we saw only 4 other people the entire afternoon! True paradise. It's there that we took our little holiday photo for all of you. :) On Wednesday we finally got the go ahead to go out to Hin Daeng/Hin Muang. After 2 and a half hours of crusing we finally arrived, although we wondered if there'd been some mistake! All we could see were a few rocks sticking out of the water! But once we got down there we understood. It's the only reef for miles so tons of fish go there to eat and be cleaned (by cleaner fish of course!). We didn't see any manta rays (of course Dalton's there 11 times this season and seen them every time!) but that's ok. We saw tons of big fish and little fish and reall neat coral. It was amazing and we were so glad we waited to go. It was also our first dive as independent divers, so even though we had a very well trained and experienced guide with us (don't anyone worry!) we were in charge of taking care of each other, which we did very well. The other couple who dove with us brought a digital camera and apparently the husband didn't have much luck with the bobbing up and down and all the air bubbles but he managed to get a good one of us nonetheless!
The weather has treated us pretty well over the last couple of days so we've been distracted from missing the holiday season at home too much. Today we moved north on the island to a nice resort Santa's giving us for Christmas! The resort has a Christmas party tonight that is going to involve school kids doing Thai dancing, fire-twirling, and fireworks. Should be a very unique Christmas Eve! We'll be here for a couple more days, enjoying our beach holiday, before we start the trip back to Bangkok for our flight to Sydney on Wednesday. We'll be back in the western world soon enough! Hard to believe after so many months in Asia.
Hope the holidays treat you all well. We're thinking of you and we miss you. xo.