Killer Time in Koh Tao

Life is better here where it’s wetter.  In Koh Tao, it’s all about being under the sea and on the beers.

Island living on Koh Tao is hard to beat.  I’ve posted up in a bungalow in the mountains with a sweet view of Sairee Beach and the sunset over the ocean between huge palm trees.  The bungalow is basic with a fan and an attached bathroom (and a king sized mattress that I upgraded to from the more deluxe empty bungalow up the way).  The deck at the entrance to the bungalow complex is perfect for yoga in the morning, overlooking the sea with the sound of the breeze rustling through the leaves overhead.

Koh Tao sunsets are hard to beat.

Koh Tao sunsets are hard to beat.

The first few days the walk up the mountain was killer.  But I have since managed to get my motorbike fixed.  While she has a case of chronic bronchitis, like a farm mule she always gets the job done.  I currently have two roommates: a black cat named Puma and his spotted brother Peanut Butter.  They come and go as they please, hopping in through the window and scavenging for my muesli and peanut butter (those bastards!).

Another Koh Tao sunset.

Another Koh Tao sunset.

My first few days on the island were spent completing a course at Phoenix Divers, the Rock ‘n’ Roll diveshop, to get my Rescue Diver certification.  The course was taught by my boy Mitch, the hairiest Aussie I’ve ever met, and assisted by Kyle, a South African rugger.  Over the course of three days, myself and Lionel, a friendly Belgian enrolled in the course, practiced our underwater lifesaving skills.  Mitch and Kyle had a little fun with us, creating the most extreme of scenarios for us to deal with.  My personal favorite was when Kyle decided to take off his mask, put on an eye patch, draw his dive knife, and become an underwater pirate hell bent on stealing our regulators.  In the rescue course you never know what is going to happen, as rogue divers may come snatch your regulator out of your mouth or turn your air off to get you accustomed to dealing with stressful situations underwater.

The most physically demanding part of the course was surfacing an unconscious Kyle and getting him onto the boat.  Carrying 100 kg of dead weight up a ladder bouncing with the waves is no walk in the park.  Lionel is about half my size and this scene provided for some great entertainment.  After managing to get Kyle up three steps, Lionel’s legs began to shake violently and he shouted in his French accent “Ugggh this fucking guy!” as they both toppled backwards into the water.

Now that I am doing my Divemaster training (DMT), I get to be on the other side of the equation.  Wrestling with students underwater as a pretend panicked diver and getting a lift up the ladder is much more enjoyable than when the tables were turned.  I’m taking my time with my DMT, averaging around 12 dives a week while assisting with different courses.  It is a pretty cool feeling to be a part of someone’s first diving experience, especially if they are friends.

My Argentinian friends Jime and Flor from Vietnam swung through Koh Tao for a week and got their first crack at scuba diving.  As I expected, they were both champs under the water (they are gnarly surfers) and never freaked out like many divers initially do.  In fact, I had to keep a special eye out on our dives for them as they darted off in different directions chasing after different fish.  (It reminded me of my first dives in Australia where my instructor constantly had to remind me stay with the group and stop chasing sting rays.)

The girls picked a great time to check out the island as the Koh Tao festival was going on.  We got to see some local bands perform all types of music, from ska to hard rock to dj’ing, and did more than our fair share of dancing.  (It was a blast having Jime and Flor around.  Babaloo Bar isn’t quite the same without gorgeous girls singing along to Spanish songs like “Besame Mucho”.)

Chilling on the top deck with Jonas, Flor, and Jime.

Chilling on the top deck with Jonas, Flor, and Jime.

The last day of the festival happened to occur on Willy Wednesday, the day of the week where Kyle does the helicopter dick in public.  This particular Wednesday he happened to have a bigger crowd than usual and he upped his showmanship to cater to the moment.

As you can probably surmise from Willy Wednesday, partying is prevalent on Koh Tao.  It doesn’t matter what night of the week it is, the bars get rowdy.  It seems like every week a couple of friends have a birthday, are celebrating their last night on the island, or it is State of Origin or Canada Day.  All good excuses to go out.  And the Phoenix crew parties with the best of em.  When standing near the edge of the beach bar in Fishbowl, you better be prepared to get blindsided into the water by one of your mates.  (Taking a phone to the bar is a bad idea.  Aussie Tom caught his hair on fire doing some fire poi and had to bail into the ocean.  Both his hair and phone were casualties.)

Part of the Phoenix crew celebrating Aussie Tom's last night.

Part of the Phoenix crew celebrating Aussie Tom’s last night.

Things get especially crazy during DMT’s snorkel tests.  This tradition is a right of passage where graduating DMT’s have to perform a series of feats, usually ending with drinking a bucket of alcohol based nastiness through a snorkel.  One such feat is a naked fire twirling competition, with the loser having to do tequila shots, and other forms of debauchery follow.  It’s all in good fun, and the snorkel test is something your friends will certainly remember.  Which is good, because you probably won’t remember your own.