Ko Tao is by far the best Thai island. The first few days where spent scootering around the island, finding little alcoves where we could go snorkelling and crabbing. The evenings, spent relaxing in one of the many beach bars and restaurants. The first night also consisted of Neil’s birthday with Marks the following night. Both nights were incredibly hilarious and spent dancing the night away. Matt, Bas and I found this adorable bungalow right on the seafront. Waking up every morning to go sit on your private balcony watching the waves roll in, was pure bliss.
The day after Marks birthday, the others all moved on, however Matt and I stayed to start our own open water diving courses. Moving into the dorms of our dive school, Big Blue, Matt and I pretty much had the whole room to ourselves, apart from the odd person who came and went.
Once the course started, we met what soon became called “The Dream Team”. This consisted of Matt, Marissa, Walter, Shane, Adam, Julian and myself. Our trainers consisted of Neil (a sarcastic Brit), Viktorious (also know as Wikus to normal folk), and a highly broody Swede called Erik.
The four days it took to complete the course where filled with complete madness and chaos. Our instructors helped to make us feel completely at ease, going at each persons choice of speed. Going down on my first dive, I was having mixed emotions of excitement coupled with a bit of fear. Even at the bottom, I panicked forgetting that due to the mask I was unable breathe through my nose, and only my mouth. The realisation of how silly I was being afterwards just had me in complete hysterics. Since that first dive, I knew I as in love with it. The sense of calm and peace when you’re under water is like nothing else I’ve ever experience.
In fact, I loved it so much that after the Dream Team all passed its course, Marissa and I decided to stay to complete our advanced course too. This course came with sadness as it meant my unofficial travel buddy Matt was moving on alone. Matt always had me and Roselina laughing, cheering us up when we had a down spell. So much so I even think Roselina had a bit of a crush on him. Not that she’d admit it of course. He used to dance around our dorm, blaring music that was popular when I was your age, like Good Charlotte and Blink 182. Most of the dream team left the following day too, moving on as well.
Marissa and I then spent the following few days learning to dive to 30m deep and well as diving around an actual ship wreck submerged 18m under water. It was an old war ship and still has the cannons attached. I wanted to go inside, however that takes a specialist course. Roselina loved her time on the boat, singing and dancing along with us to music, as well as the sunbathing. All in all were sad when our time on Ko Tao had to come to an end, however, it was time to move up north, to Chiang Mai.
Awaking in the early hours of the morning, we then had to endure a two hour ferry crossing, followed by a hour bus trip the airport and then a two hour flight before we had arrived. Tired and disorientated we agreed to go to join a friend we had met on the flight to his hostel in a hope for a bed for the night. Arriving at Deejais Backpackers we booked in for one night.
Roselina and I enjoyed it so much we ended up staying there in total for seven nights.
Chiang Mai is an incredible city. The people we met at our hostel too were so friendly and welcoming. There was always something to do or somewhere to go. From djing sixties music in a kiwi sports bar, to a rooftop pool party, or getting lost down country roads scooting around a national park.
I will never forget the people I met there, and the long evenings spent either dancing at Zoeys, or relaxing in the hostel courtyard. It was on one such night that I met my future travel buddies, Steph, Milly and Maddie. We made fast friends, so much so they even managed to get me to agree to a two day trek through a national park.
The paths were little more than dirt tracks, some so steep i nearly gave up a couple of times. The girls were amazing, spending the time singing and cheering each other along when it got tough. Arriving at the campsite for the over night stay, our room was just a shack with a mattress on the floor. The campsite was surrounded by a village known as Long Neck Karen. A tiny village of refugees who had to leave their homes in Myanmar due to the war. Their names based on the silver rings worn around women’s necks, an age old tradition.
The second day of the trek was spent bamboo rafting, visiting a waterfall and finally an elephant trek through the jungle. At the elephant sanctuary we played, bathed and fed the elephants. During bamboo rafting we were waving and cheering at the people having picnics by the riverbank. And at the waterfall, we splashed around with all the local children.
As the trek came to a close, we had already formed our version of a girlband, affectionately called S&M. The name chosen as all our names begin with S or M. As a girlband we started to discuss where we wanted to visit next. One place where everyone wanted to visit was Cambodia. The next day we booked our buses and started our long adventure to Cambodia.