Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kuala Lumpur and Back to Thailand

We arrived in KL late in the evening.  We grabbed some food and went to sleep.  The next day it was Andrew’s Birthday and we just used the day to sleep in and bum around the city for a bit.  We then went for a nice dinner at a nice restaurant.  We spent 2 days worth of our budget on the dinner but it was delicious.  We had pizza, we had salad (vegetables! How we missed those!) and lots and lots of alcohol.  We were very happy leaving that restaurant.  The next day we caught our flight to Phuket, Thailand.  We didn’t have any time to spend there however, and we had the taxi drop us off at the bus station.  We took the overnight bus to Chumphon from where we would catch the ferry to Koh Tao.  The main difference between Thai bus schedules and Indonesian bus schedules: In Indonesia they tell you it will take 12 hours but it really takes 17 hours.  In Thailand they tell you it will take 7 hours but it really takes 5.  That is how we arrived at the Chumphon bus station 2 hours ahead of schedule.  It was 1am and we didn’t really know what to do from there.  A lady that had a shop at the bus station kept trying to get us a taxi but we didn’t know where we were going.  Finally, after sitting around for an hour she told us to go to the train station and that we would have more options there.  We agreed but now there were not taxies around.  She told us to wait a few minutes.  She closed her shop down and her and husband drove us to the train station.  There we had a 4 hour wait for the ferry offices to open.  We then bought our tickets and the bus finally came to pick us up at 6am.  From there it was another hour bus ride to the ferry terminal, and then an hour and a half ferry ride to Koh Tao.

When we finally arrived on Koh Tao (without any scary ferry incidents!) we were really tired but happy to be back.  We checked in at Big Blue and started filling out our paperwork for the Rescue Diver course we wanted to take with them.  But as we started talking with them, all the discounts which had been promised to us as returning customers (we had done our Advance Open Water course there last year) all of a sudden weren’t available.  They told us only Open water and Advance Open Water courses were subject to discounts.  That wasn’t what we were told last year nor what their rep had told us on the ferry ride over that morning.  We decided to check in anyway but this wasn’t sitting well with Andrew.  We had some lunch, and even though we were exhausted after a night of not sleeping, we decided to walk around and explore other options.  We found Crystal Dive shop (they receive very good reviews along with Big Blue) and Steve walked us through everything and offered us the same discounts we had been promised with Big Blue, even though we had just walked off the street and had never been diving with them before.  We had already registered with Big Blue for the Emergency First Responder (EFR) course that is mandatory before the Rescue Course for the next day, but we wanted to see if we could get out of it.  We arrived back and Big Blue, and of course they wanted to know why we didn’t want to do it anymore but we didn’t really want to get into a discussion with them so we didn’t really provide a reason.  Then we were told if we weren’t diving with them we should check out because they needed the rooms for divers.  Which we happily did.  As we were packing our bags one of the guys came by and started asking why we’re leaving etc. and we told him.  He started explaining the discount policy to us but ultimately we told him it’s not up to us to know all the fine print of their discounts, and besides, their own rep assured us we were eligible for the discount, and it even says so in the brochures they hand out.  It was simply a case of false advertising.  We told him we didn’t want to make a scene and it was just some constructive feedback for them.  We were leaving the resort and the same guy came back and now offered us the discount.  But the damage had already been done.  We had had to do the leg work and find the price they had advertised so what was the point of now staying.  We felt we were being loyal coming back to a dive shop we had had a good experience with and that our loyalty would be rewarded (as advertised) but it wasn’t so we decided to go try a new place.  And we weren’t disappointed.

We did our EFR course the next day with the Sam, who would also be our instructor for the Rescue Dive course, and she is awesome.  We weren’t really sure what to expect when we came over to Crystal, but we really weren’t disappointed.  Sam was very knowledgeable, friendly and approachable.  She is close to our age and right away I got a great vibe from her.  I have to say, she is what made our experience as good as it was. There were a few other people that would be joining us for our Rescue course in a few days, so while we waited for them we did some dives.  The Rescue course itself was probably the hardest thing (physically) I have ever had to do in my life.  Between towing people in the water to the boat, exiting them from the water on to the boat via a ladder (read: you have to carry them up) and various scenarios that were thrown at us without warning (with fake drowning people), after day 2 my muscles were so sore I couldn’t bring my arm up to brush my teeth.  And it was psychologically draining on me too.  One of the things you learn in the course is that sometimes you can’t help people, and that if the person is bigger than you, you won’t be able to get them out of the water on your own.  But part of the course is you have to be able to get a person out of the water on to a boat on your own, and I failed…4 times out of 6.  Looking back, it probably wasn’t the best idea for the assistant instructor (not Sam) to get me to lift a 200lb guy out of the water, but when I couldn’t do it, it had a very strong psychological effect on me.  All of a sudden I started thinking, why am I doing this?  Do I have what it takes?  At the end of day 2, I didn’t even know if I should be doing this.  But on the morning of day 3, I woke up feeling much better.  That morning we had our written exam and I passed with 100%.  In the afternoon we had our scenario day where 4 “victims” would randomly create a scenario for us and we needed to respond appropriately.  It was exhausting.  We had to get in and out of our gear after each scenario.  Each time it had to be as if we weren’t expecting it.  At the end of the day we were exhausted but we had all passed.  When we got back we all had a beer to celebrate.  That evening we all met at a bar to have some drinks but we were all so tired none of us lasted long.  I spent most of the night chatting with Sam.  We had a lot more in common than we thought but unfortunately we were leaving before she would be back at work so we promised to stay in touch via facebook.

I was on such a high after passing my Rescue course, I signed up for the morning dives for the following morning.  Of course the following morning I regretted it as I was exhausted but I made myself go.  Andrew didn’t bother getting out of bed as he was too tired.  When I got back, even though he had just gotten out of bed, we went for a nap.  It’s amazing what a toll the course had taken on us.  It took us the rest of the day to recuperate.  The next morning we did a couple more dives and checked out the following day.  Overall we spent 9 days on Koh Tao but I can honestly say it felt like 2.  I have no idea where the time went.  We were so busy while there that time just flew by.  From Koh Tao we took a ferry to Koh Phangan where we were looking forward to a few days of rest before heading back to KL.

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