Friday, October 20, 2006

Scuba Diving and chilling in Ao Nang

Our first afternoon in Ao Nang we had sushi and phad thai noodles for lunch, which turned out to be quite expensive - close to what one might pay at home.  While we were in the restaurant, it started to dump rain so we lingered over a couple of Singhas.  During a lull in the rain, we hopped across the street to Coral Diving, the outfit we booked our Superday with (three dives) for the next day.  After getting fitted for gear, (I am such a goober I put my wetsuit on backwards at first), we went back to the hotel and just vegged out for a while.  I think we were both feeling pretty overstimulated from the hustle of the last few days.  By evening, we had our mojo back and were laughing and joking like our old selves.  Dinner with the group at an Italian restaurant.  We ordered Thai curries (I had sour red curry with shrimp and what appeared to be little squares of basil frittata and Dag had a green chicken curry with coconut milk).  The strange thing about eating out here is that there seems to be no system for getting a group's dishes out at approximately the same time.  By the time most of our group had their pasta and marinara finished, we were still waiting for our curries.  It has no bearing who ordered first - actually, the non-Thai food seems to usually come out first which meant Dag and I were often left waiting for our food while the others at our table who had ordered burgers or hummus were getting ready to pay their bills.  We skipped the bar they went to afterwards so we could get a good night's sleep before our day of diving.
We were last to be picked up at 7:45am and rode in the back of the pickup truck with the pineapples and watermelon to the beach.  From there, longtail boats took us out to the dive boat.  Dag knows how many meters long it was but I don't and he's taking a nap so you'll just have to put up with my desriptive words - it was big!  We all sat around a table on the upper deck eating monkey food, watermelon and pineapple and these little cookies that had a sort of jelly inside.  I think those were probably British in nature though - the only Thais involved in this operation seemed to be the crew of the boat.  I bit my lip for the hour and a half it took us to get to the first dive site.  I was nervous but confident at the same time, if that makes any sense.  I knew it would be OK but had the big butterflies all the same.  I made sure to tell our leader that it was my first time since certification so he would understand if I flailed and maybe keep an extra eye on me.  I couldn't quite catch his name even though I heard it several times.  He had fled the intensity of Italy for the laid-back pace of a country where it's too hot to really move.  Now he works 12 hour days and in high season he does this seven days a week - but by comparison, this is more relaxing. 


Anyway, back to the first dive: King Cruiser, a wreck.  We were not allowed to go to the bottom since I don't have an advanced certification but the top of the wreck was at 30 meters and I'm OK for that with my open water certification.  We jumped into the water and waited for the group to be ready.  It was so rough on the surface we were thrown from side to side and every few seconds a giant wave would smash over your head.  I just put my regulator in right then.  Finally, we could begin our descent.  The current was a little strong so we used a descent line to get down.  This was nice because I could really take my time and concentrate on clearing my ears, which for the first time, I didn't really have a problem with.  I spent the first half of the 30 min we were down there concentrating on myself, my breathing, my ears, my gear, Dag's whearabouts and the leader's wherabouts and totally forgot to look around at the fish or the wreck. 

Where's Dag?

During the second half, I allowed myself to check things out a bit.  I didn't have enough weight as it turns out and was constantly trying to swim down to where the rest of the group was.  The guide came and gave me another weight and that helped a lot.  Reality turned out to be much different than the diving nightmares I have where I'm in an uncontrolled descent to the bottom of the ocean.  We saw a lot of jellyfish, angel fish, parrot fish, apparently a moray eel that I missed


and just schools and schools of differently colored small fish. 

Pretty yellow fish

There were hundreds of sea urchins and also some rock fish (stone fish?) that camoflage themselves on any surface they land upon and are highly poisonous.  I don't think it'd kill you but you'd be very unhappy for many days to come.  So if you don't touch anything, you're basically good.  Even though Dag says he sucks air like nobody's business and because I'm a newbie, I do the same, we were out-sucked by the other girl in our group and we had to start our ascent after about 25 minutes.  Most people slept during our hour long surface interval but I was way too hyped and just stared out at the scenery anticipating the next dive. 

Everyone sleeps between dives

The second was my best.  Despite an even choppier surface and strong currents below, I was able to control my bouyancy and movements quite well.  We ended up seeing two leopard sharks on that dive - very exciting!  They weren't doing much - just sitting on the bottom being munched on by cleaner fish. 

Zebra Shark

They were about 5 or 6 feet long probably.  Later, our leader told us that when they are juvenile, they have stripes instead and are called zebra sharks.  (Later: I guess I got that wrong - these ARE zebra sharks but when they're young they actually look like zebras (stripe-wise) then as adults they turn into leopard spots but are still called Zebra Sharks)
Coming out of the water after that dive, my weight belt slipped off into the water - never to be seen again.  I guess that happens a lot since they just shrugged and made me a new one for the next dive.  During the second surface interval, they opened up a big plastic tub of rice and another of chicken curry - I was so famished after the dive it was probably the best plate of chicken curry I've ever had!  The third dive was not super great for me.  They diverted us to an area that was current-free with a calm surface, and for that I was very glad.  But I was tired and my brain had melted and I was not getting all the air out of my vest and kept thinking I'd lost my weight belt again so spent a lot of time struggling to swim down when I didn't really need to be.  Once that got straightened out, it was much better but by then I was just kind of over it.  We saw two smallish stingrays and I was like - yeah, yeah. 


I knew it was the coolest but just wanted to get back to the surface.  Also, visibility was pretty poor so I spent a lot more time just looking behind me for Dag and in front of me for the leader and repeat.  For my first time, two dives might have been enough but I'm still glad for the experience I now have!  The hard stuff is what makes you stronger and better for the next time!  Cozumel should be a breeze!  After we got back, we had one last dinner with the group, who all went to Thai boxing after.  We went to an Irish pub down the street to see the video that was taken of our dive day.  It was SO great and we were even in there a few times (luckily you can't tell how much I'm flailing) so we bought the DVD.  I can't wait to get home and watch it!
Today we kept talking about all these things we could do but the plans kept getting smaller and smaller and went all the way from a half-day snorkeling trip down to a nap for Dag and the Internet for me.  It's hard not to squeeze the last bit of possible activity out of our last full day of vacation, but a day of rest is all we need.  It's scalding hot today, which makes motivation even more difficult, although I guess we should at least see the beach once. 


I've got to get a massage too.  Tomorrow morning we fly back to Bangkok and have an afternoon and evening to spend there before catching our flight to the ever-lovely Narita airport and hopefully to Portland on the same day!  It's been an awesome trip and I'm anxious to get back and start going through all the photos.  Thanks again to everyone who's been following along - I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed sharing our trip!  Now...I need some ice cream!

Ice Cream!


Baby Boy D said...

It sounds like everything has worked out smashingly well...I can't wait to see photos and watch a diving dvd...

Larry G said...

You guys are bad! Hope you have an uneventful trip home.