thailand smiles again!

We got back this weekend from the most amazing holiday in Thailand. It is pretty obvious that I spend a lot of time travelling, so when it comes to holidays I am a very tough person to please. To start out with, I hate flying economy (in long haul flights). I hate flying economy more than I can possibly begin to explain to you. I hate it to the point that I stress out at the prospect and can kick my nerves into high gear with muscle aches and inflamed joints that I can barely move. I hate it so much that for my birthday, I was given a coffee mug with the statement “fuck off back to economy” with a picture of a flight attendant and a tray of champagne.


Enough said. I got to avoid my biggest fear because my lovely boyfriend used his air miles and got us upgraded to business class on Quantas from London to Bangkok. Oh lovely, bring me my champagne… We arrived in Bangkok to step off the flight into the glorious hot and humid weather of Bangkok. We were whisked off in a Merc with fresh cold towels (they love a good cold towel in SE Asia) to the Banyan Tree Bangkok. The hotel was nice, but more importantly housed an amazing rooftop bar for sipping champers and spying on the rest of the city. Fun fun. Albi and his sister Winzi happened to be in town, so we all met up for a nice evening of drinks and chatting. I can’t say enough how great it is to arrive into a different country and see a friendly face.


Next day, woke up around 2 pm and rolled up to Sodhi to get some custom tailored shirts made. Afterwards, had a nice sea bass and garlic lunch before heading back to hotel for another nap. Dinner consisted of a river restaurant for fresh seafood and backpacker alley dirty bar for some jack and cokes and laughs. After yet again sleeping in, we hopped a flight to Phuket where we met up with the crew of the MV Philkade liveaboard boat. When we arrived we were greeted by Emma, Ayala and Philippe from Aquamarine divers. Everyone was totally friendly and we sat there waiting for our fellow boat mates to arrive. Finally a van pulled in and 5 people hopped out. There were quick intros made and everyone filled out papers and then off we went to our boat and home for the next 5 days. I have to say that we have never been on a liveaboard boat and really didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t know in terms of fellow divers, crew, boat and entire experience. It is a bit of a frightening experience for a newbie! We got on board and Ayala and Emma did an amazing job of explaining all the amenities of the boat and the whole schedule for the week (basically 4 dives a day). Our fellow divers consisted of  Greg and Fey (American and Brazilian celebrating their 1st wedding anniversary from Chicago), Stefan and Dennis (Germans) and Angelo (Swiss Italian). Plus we had a stowaway, Tony, who is Ayala’s fiance / former crew member who was “on holiday” for the week. All in all a very small group for such a nice boat. Typically the boat can sleep up to 12 – obviously we only had the 7 – which turned out to be perfect.


So what happened all week? Our trip was 5 night and 4 days long, coasting along the Similan island of Thailand.  The sites that we went to were East of Eden, Three Trees, Turtle Rock, North Point,  Ko Bon Pinacle, Ko Bon West Ridge, Ko Tachai Pinnacle, Richelieu Rock and Elephant Head Rock. 


The week consisted of a pretty aggressive dive schedule. We were woken up every day around 7 am and given a dive briefing. On some days we were fighting to get to locations before the other dive boats all descended so it turned into a game of who can get there first. The dives were amazing, I’m really bad at recording what I see so my log book is filled with lame things like – “eel, Scott, other divers”. I was also busy doing my advanced underwater course with Emma’s patient help for most of the week. This course consisted of a deep (30m), night, navigation, naturalist and nitrox dives. It actually turned out to be pretty fun, despite my hatred and fear of compasses. During the week I also completed the full nitrox course. Man, that made a world of difference to my energy levels. Nitrox is basically enriched air – so instead of sucking on 21% oxygen and torturing your body trying to process all the nitrogen in your system, you are inhaling 32% oxygen (our mixture). This stuff makes you realise why they have oxygen bars. It really does boost the way you feel. Yipee. Hit me up! My most memorable dive of the trip had to be what was also my first night dive. The entire group went down and were not really expecting too much. We were all tired and a little deflated after having hustled earlier to jump into extreme currents to hold onto a mooring line in the hopes of seeing a whale shark that never materialised. Emma and I were doing our skills for my night dive, the usual navigation stuff and then we drifted onward to meet up with the rest of the group. As soon as we came upon them there was a great deal of excitement. Everyone’s torches were waving around and you could see their eyes were about the size of dinner plates. I looked up and WOW. A big leopard shark was swimming around with us! Then I looked even further and yet another one! Fey looked at me, squealed and pointed down and we were both literally on top of an octopus. The leopard shark was so curious about our lights that he was approaching us to check things out. He glided straight towards me, almost as if to kiss my mask, whilst I am freaking out and trying to figure out what to do to get out of this way.   Then he nonchalantly swims beneath me as I straighten my body out horizontally in the water. It was all good fun and we were so excited and happy to have had such a great night dive experience. 


My biggest regret of the week is when I took a nap and missed the manta ray. Darn it! All in all the week was totally amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people, a better crew or a more comfortable boat.  I fear that we have a very high standard for which to judge all future liveaboards.  During the week we made some nice friends and hope to see them all again someday, somewhere in the blue.  South Africa 2010, perhaps?!? Following all this excitement, Scott and I spent a nice relaxing few days at the Banyan Tree Phuket where we had our own spa pool villa.  Absolutely the best hotel I’ve ever had the privledge to stay at complete with a bedroom that floats on a lilly pond, our own massage area complete with waterfall and personal swimming pool and jacuzzi.  Bring. It. On. Overall the entire holiday was perfect. 10 out of 10.  The greatest mix of urban, meets sporty, meets tropical, meets relaxation… Perfect, that is, until we got on our business class flights home with Quantas and a couple with 18 month old twins and a 3 year old sat in the row in front of us and let them scream the entire way back. C’set la vie…


See the rest of the photos on flickr