April 27, 2013

Getting Our (Diving) Groove Back (Koh Lanta, Thailand)

One of the strange things about traveling for such a long time is that we come across certain places to where one nationality flocks. There is usually no known reason why this happens, it just does. There were the scantily-clad Russians in Goa, the hash-smoking, guitar-playing Israelis in Hampi and, when we visited Koh Lanta, Thailand, after our 3.5 weeks in Burma (wrap-up coming soon), we were surrounded by over-tanned, blonde-haired Swedes. The main reason we went to Koh Lanta was to brush up on our diving skills before we set out on a dive boat for 5 days. Koh Lanta is a very long island so while there may be a lot of people on the island, there are so many beaches that it never gets too crowded. We stayed on a quiet stretch of Koh Lanta's Long Beach at Palm Beach Bungalows and our hut was only 50 meters from the sea.

Long Beach, Koh Lanta, Thailand

The resort we stayed at had a dive shop, Palm Beach Divers, which had a pool for instruction and refresher courses. Because we hadn't been diving in over 18 months and had only done 8 dives total, we completed a much needed refresher course with the shop's owner, Dominic, in the pool. The following day, we set out to dive Koh Haa and Koh Haa Yai. We are still fairly new to diving, so the first dive is always a bit nerve wracking, but it was just the two of us with Dominic for both dives and he made sure we were doing okay and comfortable and, 10 minutes into the first dive, we were in the groove of things and loving it. On these dives, we saw our first lionfish and seamoths, a huge moray eel and a decent sized sea snake, among tons of other more common fish. It was great to get back into diving and made us very excited for the dive boat we would board in a few days (coming soon).

While diving is certainly an expensive hobby it is something that we both love to do together. We first got certified over 2.5 years ago when we went to Cozumel for a friend's wedding. The other wedding guests were raving about the diving and sold us on getting certified. We completed our PADI Open Water certification and first 4 dives there and loved it (after my mind stopped screaming "I'M BREATHING UNDERWATER! I'M BREATHING UNDERWATER!" of course). It is so fun and relaxing to be in a different world from our own. Steph has never really enjoyed snorkeling because she feels too exposed, but she immediately loved diving and now has dreams about it all the time. One of our goals on this trip was to do more diving and get more comfortable doing it.

A couple of days after diving we wanted to see more of the surrounding area. We also decided to do the Four Islands Tour to see some places outside Koh Lanta. While there was a nice swim in cave (Emerald Cave) and a gorgeous beach where we had lunch, we were less than impressed with the tour. Granted, we don't really enjoy group tours usually. It was just a lot of time in a boat to get to the islands where we were on a group schedule. On the way back in the afternoon (after a big lunch on the beach), the waves were fairly large, making the ride on our small boat a bit turbulent. A Japanese family of four progressively got greener as the ride went along. About 30 minutes into the ride, the mother and daughter both started throwing up into garbage bags. Slowly, more people on the boat started getting sick. By the end of the ride, 5 of the 12 guests were throwing up in plastic bags. Needless to say, we were happy to be on shore finished with our tour. 

Emerald Cave, Four Islands Tour

Soon to be the vomit boat

We spent our last day driving farther south down the island to some of the even quieter beaches. Check out my hog below.

Wanna ride?
Each night in Koh Lanta, we would walk a little away from the beach  (where the restaurants get progressively less expensive), have dinner and usually end our warm walk home with a stop at a local market for an ice-cream bar. For some reason it quickly became part of our nightly routine and was a great way to finish our day. We liked our time in Koh Lanta as it served its purpose of brushing up on our diving and having some beach time, but I don't think we will go back...unless we move to Sweden.

See all our photos from Koh Lanta here. A few more of our favorites are below.

Emerald Cave, Four Islands Tour
Stephs toes, Long Beach, Koh Lanta

Steph at Palm Beach Resort, Koh Lanta

See all our photos from Koh Lanta here.

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