Thailand – take 2 – Diving with MANTAS!!

Upon leaving Australia, Lane and I made our way back to Thailand.  As you may know, we had been in Thailand before and had planned to come the second round for a longer stay. However, because we decided to extend our stay in Australia,  by three weeks, to attend the surf academy, this visit to Thailand would actually be shorter than the last.

One thing I had read about and was excited to do in Thailand was to dive and hopefully see manta rays. I have always been fascinated by this creature and could not imagine the joy I would feel being in the water with one. A creature so huge, so much larger than me, yet harmless and reputedly curious. So, Lane and I hopped a few flights and landed in a town called Khaolak Thailand which is on the west side of southern Thailand. We stayed a few days and relaxed at a mid-level resort which was quite nice. We had some wonderful food, particularly from a tiny shack of a restaurant just around the corner from our hotel. OMG green curry, panang curry! And my favorite – meat with basil and chili. I’m hungry thinking about it!!

Like many places in Thailand, it is completely open – no walls really, no roof less you count the tarp overhead. This takes some getting used to. Yes, of course, there are more western looking establishments around, and we go to those too, sometimes-  but the best food and the best prices are at these little places !!

Above – sharing a smoothie. The ladies who cook and serve got a good laugh when Lane made my ‘sharing straw’ by linking two straws together.  Ha!

Above- you will see one of these Sporit Houses at nearly every home and business. The idea is that there are spirits all around and you make this house for them so they don’t bother you. Each day food or drink or gifts are left. Fanta is a common one. Red I think not orange. And there is speculation about whether a person should drink the Fanta after a day or two or not. Some say it’s very lucky.

Beautiful flowers remind me of birds of paradise

Our patio.

While some building is Thailand are shacks- ok most are, with corrugated metal roofs or just a tarp – other buildings are quite beautiful. And they may be right next to each other.

Above an adorable Coffee house not far from our hotels.

The gardener/grounds/maintenance guy at the resort handed this to me one morning. He had picked it from the garden. He didn’t speak any English and I wasn’t sure at first. But I ate it. Ha. Can’t be insulting the staff you know. It was like a green apple but more tart. Quite good.

Nice small quiet pool.

After those few days we were picked up and driven to the Headquarters of the SCUBA shop where our liveaboard trip would begin. Scuba Adventures. In my opinion a great company. We were booked on a three night cruise leaving one evening and arriving back also in the evening. After the usual rigmarole of registering, storing luggage etc. we picked up some snacks at the grocery next-door and hopped in the truck to drive to the dock. We boarded the boat, were given the usual (somewhat long-winded) instructions and were ready to go. This boat was much more heavily staffed than the one we had done in Australia. There was, I think five or six crew to help with diving gear, driving and cooking – plus six dive instructors – all for about 18 people or guests on board. Pretty good, nearly one on one. And the guys who helped with the diving!! They put your fins on for you!! Ha. Never have I had such service on a dive boat.

That evening we drove out a ways to reach the famous Similan islands. While we were driving we ate dinner and got to know one another. There were some lovely people on the boat from all over the world. Including some from Vermont in the USA some from China, Korea, France, and even Pakistan. I think everyone went to bed early in anticipation of the 4 dives the next day!!

Above, this is nearly all the guests on the boat. Having fun.

Above, Cathy and Perry from Vermont. Loved spending time with these two.

Because Lane has a junior advanced open water certification from PADI we were assigned our own instructor just for the two of us. There are depth limitations with his age and so we were separated from the rest. This suited me just fine, as a smaller group provides more personal attention and, in my opinion, you see more because there aren’t multiple people waiting to look at the same object or creature when the instructor points it out. Plus With fewer people in your group, it’s less likely that anything will go wrong or have issues that hold up the dive time. If you’ve never been diving, it might be interesting to know, that each dive is generally only about 40 minutes long. And that includes time to get down and back up again. In a large group, if someone has trouble with their ears, or some other issue with equipment, the entire group generally has to wait for that person before they can proceed with the dive. As you can imagine this can waste a lot of time. So, I was quite happy it was just the two of us. Especially because we’ve been driving very recently and frequently so the chances of issues were minimal

The next morning, we had an early wake up around 6 AM for our first dive which would happen before breakfast. This day we would do four dives, including the last, which would be a night dive. The second and third days we did three dives each day. We saw many wonderful creatures including  nudibranches, flatworms, blue starfish, crabs, an insane amount of beautiful fish, including puffer fish which were at times very friendly and curious.

During one dive, both Lane and I, separately, were bitten by cleaner fish which are very small fish that help other fish in the ocean by cleaning parasites and dirt off of their bodies and from inside their mouth and Gills. Apparently, this fish determined that we were dirty. Ha! It doesn’t hurt, in case you’re wondering.  I guess this fish has no teeth, but it is a bit startling. It’s a bit of a joke, actually, because most times your dive buddies can see the fish following you and checking you out, But they don’t tell you, because they want to see the surprised look on your face when the fish finally decides to take an nibble. Ha. Dive humor. Same policy for sharks. Just kidding.

Here is Lane, Jessie and I in the water at the end of a dive. Photo courtesy of my new friend Cathy from Vermont. Funny, the dive instructors in the boat called her and her Husband Katy Perry because her name is Cathy and he is Perry. Ha.

Over the 3 nights at sea we saw some amazing scenery. Beautiful islands and rocks rising from a vast blue sea. Some great sunsets and sunrises. Just beautiful.

Our dive instructor Jessie, was amazing. Always energetic, patient, and excited to have us as her dive group. We became somewhat close her and to the couple from the US. I guess birds of a feather, and all that. It was nice to have Americans around, for a change. I was particularly impressed by the dive instructors on this boat. Each of them speaking a minimum of three languages!!! Allowing for this dive operation to accommodate any and all nationalities and countries.

I’m including some pictures that were not taken by us however they are indicative of what we saw in our dive trips on this trip

Above, this is a nudibranch. It’s about 3 inches long

Above a box fish, only about 3 inches long

Above is another kind of box fish

This is a puffer fish  we didn’t see them puff up  I’ve caught a few in NJ though and they puff up when you bring them out of the water.  Puffers can be very small, like the ones I caught in NJ, or rather large like 10 or 14 inches long like some of the ones we saw on this trip. We saw small ones on this trip too. It was the large ones at the last dive site, at the wreck, that were so curious.  One swam right up to my mask and looked at me, then followed me

Overall the diving was really amazing. The visibility was incredible. And so many things to see. And I’ve never been so relaxed in the water. Well, I wasn’t relaxed on one dive but that story is coming.

They were a few specific experiences that I feel are worth mentioning on the dive trip. One was watching an octopus that our instructor spotted. These are particularly hard to see if you do not have a trained eye, as they are heavily camouflaged and look very much like the coral rocks that they live around. Anyway, Jessie spotted the octopus which was not very large, smaller than a volleyball. We watch the octopus crawl around and hide inside his rock. Then we patiently waited, being as still as possible, and he came back out again. The way they move is like magic.

Another interesting find was during the night dive when I spotted an enormous red reef crab hiding in a rock. At first I only spotted his claw. But then moved and saw the entire thing. It was bigger than a dinner plate.

I also managed to spot a few Nudibranches as well as some boxfish. The box fish are so tiny and so cute with their square bodies. And they come and some of the most beautiful colors. Also, of course, we saw lots of clown fish. Some, of the black variety, which I like very much. And eels. Lots of eels. Some of the giant moray eels. Some of the colorful eels.

We also saw some flatworms. One was swimming through the water. They are so adorable! Wiggling their entire tiny body in what seems like a fruitless effort to get anywhere. Such a tiny vulnerable creature trying to swim in an enormous ocean!

Another cool sighting was the black and White Sea snake. We saw him up pretty close and watched him swim away. Very beautiful. Very fast. Very poisonous too although we were told that, while their venom is deadly to humans, you would have to inject it to die because heir teeth aren’t long/strong enough to penetrate our skin. Ha. This one was at least 4 feet long. Very impressive.

Jesse also pointed out some tiny tiny creatures like a spearing shrimp and a sea horse type creature called a pipe horse.

Most importantly, WE SAW MANTA RAYS!! Not one but two!!! It was the most amazing experience possibly of my entire life. Yes even better than child birth. I mean, we all know that’s got some downsides. Ha.

We were swimming out into the blue, as they call it, which means away from the reef and toward the open sea – like the drop off in Finding Nemo. We were hoping to spot some sharks. We had been told that it was not a good season or year for the manta rays and that hardly any had been spotted in the last few months which was peak season for them. I have not been very hopeful about seeing them and had resigned myself to enjoy the diving for what it was. But, we swim out to the blue and all of a sudden, coming from far away out of the blue, I saw something — big swooping wings!! A FREAKING MANTA RAY!!! . I frantically grabbed both Jessie and Lane screaming into my regulator to get their attention. I pointed and they saw. Jessie grabbed both Lane and I – forcing us to stay still. I guess, fearing we would swim towards it. We sat there suspended in the water as the manta ray swim towards us. At first it swam overhead so close, Lane could’ve touched it. But of course, he did not. That would be improper. Then, as we stayed in the same spot, the manta ray met up with another manta ray. About 10 yards away. They came together, belly to belly, facing the sky, and twirled around each other and what looked like a dance, or maybe it was a challenge. Then they swim away one on top of the other beyond where we could see. Of course, we were ecstatic, over the moon excited. But then, one came back!!  He came back, and swam in front of the three of us and very specifically and obviously trained one of his eyes on us within 5 feet of our faces. Examining us, maybe trying to figure out what we were. He hovered there for at least a minute then proceeded to swim around us a few more times. Unfortunately, my excessive excitement caused me to breathe heavily. My crying, not just tears but actual sobbing – underwater, may have had something to do with my air consumption. I was running out of air! Jessie, our instructor, obviously had stayed calmer than me, and she had air to spare, so we were able to stay down a little longer. I never ended up needing her air, but I probably came back to the boat with very little.

I can’t even describe to you what an amazing experience it was. It brings me to tears just writing this. I hope I get to do that again someday. I’m told in the Philippines they see them often. I’m definitely gonna make it there.

Upon completing the dive trip, we return to land and once again to Khaolak. This time, we would stay in a different hotel, which I thought was a little further away. Much to my surprise, it was a mere block away from the original hotel. Ha! And – happy days- near that little shack of a restaurant that we loved. With all the food and banana smoothies to boot!! Lane’s fave. Both of these small resorts were somewhat hidden and on small streets at least one kilometer from the main action. Which is kind of how I like it. In both resorts,  I was able to rent a bicycle for 100 baht per day which is about three American dollars.  This proved to be the best way to see the sights. Although, one evening when Lane and I rode to dinner the pedal of my bike kept coming off. Yikes! Ha!! Challenges.

A side note in food and drink in Thailand. There are several places that we have visited that we cannot drink the tap water. We are also told no uncooked food of any kind. Unless we wash and prepare it ourselves. Not only is this extremely limiting, and annoying (try to brush your teeth and remember not to use any water) but it also just give you an icky feeling all around. At least for us it did. And then there is all that gray area. Like, washing dishes and can you use them if they aren’t dry? Wash your vegetables in bottled water? No mixed drinks in the restaurant because they have ice? Or lime?

On our first visit to Thailand we ate at the resort restaurant and mostly avoided uncooked food. However at the lunch lessons with our instructors everyone was ordering drinks with lemon and fruit so we did too. Hence the start of Lane’s banana smoothie obsession. Ha. We had found a Good cheap restaurant that we didn’t have to worry about eating at.

Now In Khaolak, same thing. We saw a recommendation in the resort reviews for this restaurant so we tried it. Banana and watermelon smoothies included. We felt fine so we continued to trust that restaurant. And we were fine.

Then in Vietnam, we stuck to restaurants our guide suggested. Or hot food. And at times branched out to other places. Banana smoothies and passion fruit mojito were our best friends. Ha. My conclusion is that as long as it’s a reputable place, either by a personal recommendation or by looking nice and being busy with foreigners – it’s ok. We took some chances. But we used our judgement and it was fine.

But brushing teeth with bottled water is still annoying!! Ha.

Overall, we did spend quite a bit of time relaxing at the hotel before and after the dive trip as spending three days on a boat is tiring enough and doing 10 dives besides – it’s practically exhausting. Ha.

A couple interesting random things

One was this takeaway carrier for drinks, like smoothies. I have not seen these in the US have you?

And these. Crackers? No I did not try them. Ha.

Out of Thailand and off to Vietnam.

Thailand – Round 1 – Diving and WHALE SHARK!

Arrival in Bangkok from Tokyo. Not as nice a flight as some others we have had. Oh well. We survived!

While driving to the hotel in a taxi, we saw our first Tuk Tuk and an insane number of people on a scooter.


That’s two women, three children PLUS a baby. WHAT??

In Bangkok we booked a hotel. With a gym and a spa and a pool. We were near the famous Koh San road which is a bustling street of shops bars and food carts.

Of course, I had to check it out. It was very entertaining. As were the shops on the route there. There were silver shops too. Some were just wholesale. Others retail. I saw some tempting foods being sold by the cart vendors on Koh San Road – Mango rice and sugar cane juice and fresh fruits. And of course beetles, and scorpions and other various bugs. ON A STICK! HA! I was a tad concerned about cleanliness so I didn’t eat anything from there. I had a nice dinner at a restaurant across the street from our hotel. And a very expensive bottle of wine. Beer is pretty cheap in Thailand. But wine is expensive. Even for the crappy stuff ha

One thing I found shopping was this bag. Lane had wanted one in Japan but they cost $90! In Bangkok, $20. WIN! We also bought what I call ‘harem pants’. Thin cotton baggy pants with elastic waist, very comfy for travelling in hot weather.


Mainly in Bangkok we recovered. The two tours in a row exhausted us. It was great spending the few days doing some casual wandering. Going to the gym, getting massages and sometimes eating room service. I mean, when room service costs about $5, why not? Ha. Sorry Bangkok. Even extending our stay by a couple nights we didn’t see much of anything. Yes, we should have seen the reclining Buddha, etc but honestly we had seen so much in the way of ‘man made wonders’ in Japan, we were worn out.

Yummy Room Service above. This time Indian, with NAAN BREAD YUM!!


Above, and below, is the door to the massage room at the spa at the hotel it’s a clever, simple door lock and I thought it was neat!


Lane and I getting pumped at the hotel gym. HA!

I really liked this display in the hotel gym. Representation of all the Olympic Games and where they were held. It was motivating and educational. We noticed that two ‘games’ were missing. Cancelled due to WWII. Very interesting.

There was this really beautiful zen/chill area also on the gym/pool/spa floor of the hotel. Like a rooftop area. There were very friendly Koi fish, and beautiful platforms just for chilling.

A towel elephant on our bed. So cute.



Above, check out that ‘scaffolding’ – it’s two pieces of bamboo and the guy balances on them in bare feet. Him painting that was one thing. The other guy carried up 3 bags of cement that same way!! YIKES!

This was the view from the gym/pool area. There were a variety of shops along the street, some what ‘shanty’ style.  You can see that some buildings look brand new, while others are looking a little rough.

Lane and I did have a nice dinner at a nearby pub/Bar and had some nice conversations there. As well as some really good beer. I was entertained at the list of American Beers.




The cashews were SO GOOD. Basically sautéed in a pan with some chilli sauce (I think) and some Thai peppers. They were spicy and SO GOOD. I did NOT eat the peppers. HA. The Cashews alone were hot enough to encourage lots of beer drinking. I bet these could be easily made at home though. YUM






The first few nights in Bangkok, there was a celebration outside the hotel so I got to see this cool dragon that sprayed water and spat fire. It was controlled by multiple people. You can see in the pic below there are people at the bottom and people all the way up to the top. Very cool.  Unfortunately with all the spotlights getting a good picture was nearly impossible.





One cool thing we did in Bangkok was a ‘Airbnb Experience’. This is a new version of booking a tour/excursion with TripAdvisor (or Viator). Only the Airbnb Experiences are supposed to be more unique. This certainly was. We attended an authentic Thai dinner, cooked in-the-home by our hostess and her helper. Even better, the evening starts with a tour of the hostess’s garden, where she shows you some of the ingredients growing. Including Kaffir leaves, and some fruit, and other herbs. There were 5 courses – some things were familiar and some were not. One unique item was fried flowers! Very cool. They are dipped in a batter and deep fried. I guess this just proves that anything fried tastes good. HA!  The food was amazing, the hostess so gracious. We shared the evening with a couple from Singapore and (his or her?) parents. The parents didn’t speak much English, but everyone was really nice. Our hostess also had 4 cats (her listing for both ‘staying’ with her, as she is also an Airbnb hostess in the traditional sense, and for the dinner included the phrase ‘for Cat Lovers’. HA. Good idea. these were some pretty friendly cats. Lane and I enjoyed having the cats around.  Can you believe the one cat ate pumpkin? Weird. The pumpkin was part of our pumpkin custard dessert, which is custard baked inside of a pumpkin (in this case not an orange pumpkin but a green striped one). It was amazing! YAY FOOD!

This (above) is the fried flowers being made. Flower, batter, fryer, done! And the flowers are so pretty too!!

These are the ingredients before she started cooking.

One thing I noticed, the bowl of slightly brown liquid had contained dried mushrooms, which were soaked in water, and she added this water to the soup later – similar to how the Polish recipe is done for Polish Mushroom Soup.

The dishes include sautéed cabbage, fried flowers, meat with basil (darker in colour), shrimp pad Thai I think, and lastly a curry soup. It was all amazing.

This is the custard which is baked inside the pumpkin. First you cut a hole in the top (of a raw pumpkin), and clear out the seeds, then you fill it with the custard and bake the whole thing. Our hostess said it’s tricky to get it to the right ‘doneness’.

A cat that eats pumpkin. HA!

Our hostess mentioned that, between her own Airbnb ‘rooms for rent’, managing a few other Airbnb rentals for people, and the cooking, she is planning to ‘quit her day job’ soon. Awesome. She says she can manage the properties remotely so she’s looking to do some travelling.

After Bangkok we were due to get to Koh Tao for our scuba certifications. I was told the overnight train was the way to go. Unfortunately I hadn’t booked enough in advance to get a first class cabin, but was told the second class could be fun because you get to meet more people.

Another adventure awaits. HA

So we attempted an Uber to the train station but after 25 minutes of the Uber app telling us he was 5 minutes away we gave up. And took a taxi. HA.

The taxi dropped is at the train station, but we needed to get across the street to a “gray building” to get our tickets that we had ordered online. Well. Not just a street but a few streets. And quite busy ones!  With our luggage! And we knew this because a nice Thai man took pity on our obviously confused faces and asked something like ‘pick up tickets?’ And pointed to the building. I thought Lane was going to kill me for our attempted crossing. It was pretty crazy. At one point we got stuck in the middle of the road (between lanes). YIKES. We got there. Alive and well. We waited a bit. Got our tickets and then I asked if there was an easier way to get back to catch the train. Yup. Around the corner. No streets to cross. And go underground. Yay!  (I got another death look from Lane, though). Hey you don’t know what you don’t know right!!

I had planned to get something to eat in the train station. That turned it to be a mistake. Nothing in the food court looked particularly clean to be honest. So we settled for packaged food of some kind from the convenience store in the train station. I think nuts and water, or a candy bar. HA.

We waited a while for the train. During which there was some kind of ‘hail to the king’ thing that happened. Music came on and everyone stood and faced the big picture of the king on the wall. Around Bangkok there are many pictures of the king. We learned later in Koh Tao that the king had passed away about a year ago. And the country mourned for nearly a year. Including a serious restriction on tourist partying – so some of the southern Thailand tourism business suffered greatly. Hmmm.

Anyway the train was definitely interesting. I had booked seats for Lane and I next to each other. Our seats would convert to a flat bed, this would be the lower bunk for me. And a top bunk would fold down from the ceiling for Lane. The staff supposedly handled all of that. Including fresh linens, pillows, etc. I was curious to see….

These are the bunks, to and bottom, with fresh sheets and blankets. Not too shabby considering

This is me sitting in the lower bunk (with my kindle)

After a short time someone came through asking for food orders. I knew we could go to the food car for food –  but honestly we were just so tired. And frankly a bit nervous about leaving our stuff behind unattended. A lovely Thai woman brought the food to our seats. A nearly-toothless guy kept wandering up and down  the isle offering beer. Which we turned down – I wanted to have all of my wits about me being surrounded by strangers and sleeping. Ha. The guy nearly insisted Lane have one though. Almost forced one into her hands with a toothless grin. Ha. He was being nice I guess. Lane managed to turn him down nicely.

Well, after getting past some motion sickness (night/dark/movement = nausea) Lane ended up sleeping on the lower bunk with me. It wasn’t even as big as a twin bed so we were shoulder to shoulder. We managed to sleep some. Ha. Pretty well, actually, considering!!

Travel tip for everyone. I was told by Matt that antihistamines can help with nausea. Twice now, on this train and on a ferry also in Thailand, I gave Lane a Claritin and it seemed to do the trick! Best part is, you can take it after the nausea sets in, and it doesn’t cause sleepiness!!! WIN!

13 or 14 hours later, we arrived at the train station, and Checked in with the transport company counter at the station.

Side Note: It’s a great system they have, this transport company. They put together the train and a bus and a ferry in one package/price/plan, and they align the times for you. A huge help when trying to get from Bangkok in north/central Thailand to the southern Thai islands.. Also, when you check in (in this case, after the train ride) they put a sticker on you. It’s color coded for where you are going. Same for your bag. It seemed stupid to me at first – I was feeling a bit embarrassed to be treated like an idiot….but then I realized it makes good sense. Even though the staff all speaks English the accent sometimes gets in the way and you don’t entirely understand what they are telling you. This way (and this happened to us one one of these types of journeys) when at a ferry stop, and they instruct certain passengers to get off (by destination name) they can look through the cabin and see if anyone has remained that should have gotten off. So everyone gets where they are going. In my defense – when it happened to us –  it was a ferry transfer and we didn’t know we HAD a transfer or where it was.  I thought the ferry was going to the island we were headed to. And there is no map like a train of stops etc. and no one was able to explain to me in a way I could understand.(i.e. language/accent barrier) Ha. So I was humbled. And I understood why we were being treated like kindergarteners on field trip (marching t shirts etc). Ha. And I was grateful. !!!

Here’s my ‘travel for dummies’ sticker. HA

Anyway, we waited a while for the bus (during which Lane saw a rat, or so he claimed, in the garden bed behind where I was sitting. HA) – the bus ride was maybe 40 minutes then check in again, get on the ferry, and that was a couple hours with a few stops before ours. Then, we got there, found the driver for our resort in the chaos, and got a ride on what I would call a tuk tuk ‘bus’ (drives many people, kind of golf-cart style) to our room.

Our room turned out to be pretty crappy even though we paid for the upgrade to AC. Apparently that just gets you the OLDEST room where they have slapped an AC unit on the wall. UGG.

We explored the area a bit then rested.

We visited the onsite bar and restaurant for dinner and attended our first ‘meeting’ for our scuba class. Our instructor was immediately hilarious and engaging. I could tell it was going to be fun. We had an interesting mix of people in a relatively small class of 6 students, and we had the advantage of a very experienced instructor and 2 ‘instructors in training’ which is awesome. We did some video watching that evening, and then the next morning we did some instruction next to the pool (plus the reading on the night between), then we were IN THE POOL swimming and practicing with the equipment. All went well. Lane did amazing. He seemed to master buoyancy so quickly (the goal being a balance of your weight, additional weights, air in your BC/vest and your breath to stay suspended in the water, neither on the bottom nor floating up).

The next morning, we took our first training dive! Out on the boat we went!

The course was great, so much better than when I took it in NJ. It seemed then, we had like 4 Saturdays of instruction and testing before we got in the pool and my instructors were so high strung it made me nervous.  Not the case here. Andy thought that experience was the best teacher and he was so right.

We made good friends during that course. Each day instead of sitting in the classroom for our ‘out of water teaching’ we went to a nearby restaurant/bar and ate AMAZING and CHEAP food and had a few drinks.  Needless to say, each afternoon resulted in a nap and most times dinner was unnecessary. HA.


One night, I went out after dinner with the other ‘grown ups’. Got to see the fire dancers. Pretty cool


These beautiful buildings were near Bingo’s – that great restaurant we met at every day. We also got to see some ADORABLE baby chickens there, as well. Lots of chickens running around ‘wild’ in Thailand. ha.

There was a pretty nice beach near our resort, which is called Ban’s, and some nice sunsets from the bar and restaurant. Most nights there was live entertainment too. They’re no Melanie and Tony, but it was still nice.


Oh, and we decided to take the Advanced course, with the same group of people (minus one) and the same instructors – all 3. AND, the instructor spoke to the office and got us a MASSIVE upgrade to a LOVELY room. WIN! YAY! Oh and now we had room service. WHOO HOO!!

Of course, I had to shift a few things ‘forward’ to accommodate these additional days on Koh Tao.  I had to shorten our stay in Ao Nang, Thailand,  (west side of southern Thailand) but it all worked out OK. Turns out, after all the diving, (like 9 dives in 5 days) I got sick and spent the Ao Nang time in bed anyway. Hello Ramen noodles for Thanksgiving. HA. No, I’m not kidding. It was the only thing in the apartment when we got there on Thanksgiving and I didn’t have the energy to go find something else after a rather long day of travel and feeling ‘punky’, as we say. HA.

But I’ve skipped over some really cool stuff.  Back up! During our first ‘Advanced Open Water Course’ dive, we got to dive with a WHALE SHARK! WHOO HOO! I was over the moon. This is such an amazing creature. In case you didn’t know this creature is more whale than shark. It eats krill and plankton, has no teeth so isn’t dangerous at all.  But it is a fish (not a mammal). The one we saw was relatively small but still was 4 Meters long!! WOW. Magical. Our instructor took the pic. The two guys in the background are our ‘Instructors in training’, Andy and Nicolas. Lane and I were equally close to this amazing creature, though. What an experience. I have lots of video, but haven’t had the time or patience to cull through it all yet.



THEN, we did a deep dive – and I’m glad to report that Lane and I don’t get loopy at 30 Meters deep. HA.

FINALLY we also did a night dive. This was the 3rd dive of the day and I was EXHAUSTED. We started at about 630 pm when it was getting dark. It was the most amazing experience though. We were each given torches (FLASHLIGHTS), and we dove a while with those turned on. I have to say, perhaps due to my inexperience, I didn’t see much with the torches on. I’m sure there are certain things you are supposed to look for at night (like lobsters maybe?) but I didn’t see them. BUT, THEN WE ALL TURNED THE TORCHES OFF and the real fun began. First, you could still see a little bit. Maybe 10-15 feet so I could keep track of where Lane was and where our Instructor ‘in training’ was (with 3 dive masters, we had one for each pair of divers, so awesome) – but the best part was when you wave your hand through the water, or watch behind the fins of the person in front of you, you see STARS. OK it’s BIOLUMINESCENT ORGANISMS, but they are everywhere and it’s like swimming in the night sky with stars swirling around. SO SO SO SO COOL!

OK, so back to Thanksgiving. The next few days, really 7, were nothing. I was bed-bound except for absolute necessities like food and medicine.  Somewhat self-imposed, mind you. I just know myself – and if I rest when I’m sick, I get better. If I don’t, the sickness lingers and/or gets worse. And I know I didn’t want to get any worse. We were headed to Australia next and I know it’s no good to fly when you’re sick. I was very pleased, though, with the pharmacy. I showed up with a picture on my phone of Mucinex (or Mucinex D, I can’t recall), which is what I would take at home for my symptoms. An employee with very good English talked me though the options and found me something pretty much exactly the same as what I needed, she wrote down instructions, and sent me on my way. And it was all quite reasonably priced. DONE!

Fluids, rest, meds. That was it. And a run to the grocery one day (via tuk tuk, hilarious) and take out another day or two from the place literally 30 feet away, and we chilled and rested. I think Lane was pretty tuckered out too, and needing some rest. He gladly did nothing for the entire 7 days. We had some rainy days in there, anyway. And the one day I DID venture out for a walk on the beach, I was not impressed. A lot of people stay in Ao Nang to get a longboat to some of the remote beaches that can only be reached by boat. They are very pretty. And there is good diving from Ao Nang, I believe. But overall I didn’t love the area. Too backkpacker-ish and touristy in my opinion.

We did manage to pull together a nice dessert in Ao Nang. All bought at the grocery store. Whipped cream, strawberries, and CAKE!

I found this sign amusing regarding what to do in a tsunami scenario. I’m not sure you have much of a chance, unless you can get to some REALLY high ground. I read recently (based on this sparking my curiosity) that the tsunami that hit Indonesia was 50 METERS HIGH. WOW!!

After rest, we took the glorious journey back across southern Thailand, and a ferry to Koh Samui (where the airport is) and spent the night in a cheap hotel in town. I have to say, though, for $25 American, I could not BELIEVE how big and how nice our room was. Clean, fridge, big bathroom, two double sized beds, really nice! And around the corner a great beach and restaurant area. We had one of our best meals. Lane fell in love with Tuna Tar Tar, and had an amazing steak. I had fish that was OK, but the apps and cocktails made up for it. There was a pumpkin soup (I think) and the Tuna Tartar with avocado. And for DESSERT chocolate something cake, which was actually quite similar to that amazing chocolate cake with the chocolate sauce in the middle that they serve at Applebys. HA!  No, not really Thai food, but we were due for some comfort food.





The next day we took a taxi ride to the airport and we were OFF to Australia!!

This time, we had a 12 hour layover in the Singapore airport. There is SO MUCH to do there. A movie theatre, free tours of Singapore, TONS of shopping (which we took full advantage of ) and tons of restaurants. Also, these AMAZING resting areas with recline/lounge chairs. I took a full 2 hour nap during our stay and I swear I could have slept more but I think Lane was bored. HA. So great.

THEN, we arrive in Cairns! Our Australia Adventure Begins!! WHOO HOO