After Cambodia I went back to Thailand for some beaches. I spent the last 8 days or so of my S.E. Asia holiday in Khao Lak, Thailand swimming in the warmest of waters (30 degrees). Please see my top 5 of Thailand (part 2).
TOP 5 of THAILAND (PART 2):
1. Exploring the Similian islands
The Similian islands are located in the Andaman Sea on the West Coast of Southern Thailand. The Similian archipelago consists of eleven islands, which include Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu Rock located in the Mu Koh Similian National Park covering about 140 square kilometres. All Similian islands are surrounded by crystal clear shallow waters that feature exquisite rock formations and coral reefs with spectacular marine life. Jacques Cousteau listed these islands as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world. I spent 4 days exploring these islands and diving around different spots. It was beyond beautiful and blissfully relaxing. You can snorkel or dive around these spots and I also recommend the liveaboard option for 5 days/4 nights which allows up to 15 dives in remote areas.
2. Diving tests
I did both my PADI open water and PADI advanced open water diving tests in Khao Lak. The first day was spent in the pool simulating all of the exercises that we would do in the open ocean such as flooding and clearing of goggles, navigation skills, emergency ascent and buoyancy. I particularly enjoyed the five different dives of the advanced open water diving test which included a navigation skill set where I had to use a compass underwater to navigate myself in a square, the buoyancy peak performance test and identifying over 20 different varieties of corals, slugs and fishes in my fish identification dive. I was able to find my neutral buoyancy and control my depth in the water simply by breathing in or out which emphasized the importance of breath work for buoyancy. Once I achieved neutral buoyancy, I spread my arms out in front of me like I was flying. I loved It when my scuba instructor allowed me to do spins and tumble-turns deep underwater by following him. I don’t think it is a regular feature of a diving course but when I said I was getting a bit bored kicking slowing behind him with my arms at my side (conserving air supply), he threw those in for some fun.
3. Snorkeling in Phi Phi
The Phi Phi islands in Thailand have become famous since being the film location for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, “The Beach” but sadly as a result of this publicity, they have become rather touristy. Despite the hordes of tourists, it is undeniably beautiful and has some magnificent scenic views (400 steps later), beautiful landscapes, crystal clear blue water and sensational snorkelling spots. I did a day-trip out there on a speed boat which included a trip to `’the beach”, swimming in the blue lagoon, a hike on the main Phi Phi island, lunch on Bamboo island and two snorkels. I am glad I ticked it off my list and loved the snorkelling but not some where I need to go to again.
4. Jumping from height into water
I have been scared of jumping from height into water since I can remember. I think it’s the idea of free-falling. I remember being too scared to dive off the diving board that all the kids were doing during a break between a swim practice or a gala. This fear hasn’t stopped me from doing other adventurous things that feature heights such as paragliding, parasailing or zip lining but I have always been disappointed to not join in the fun at some jumping off spots on holiday. So to tick off another item on my bucket list, I decided to work on conquering this fear. It started in Laos with jumping off a rock outside the Kong Lor caves, then in Cambodia with jumping off a two-story boat while snorkelling and then the final test was jumping off the roof of a three-story house boat in Thailand. When I stepped up to the edge of the boat, the water seemed so far below, and I felt all the old fears coming back. It was also disconcerting that none of the other tourists or diving instructors were keen and only the Thai boat crew was jumping. But I was determined to do it. So, with the assistance of the Thai boat director, I built up courage by jumping off each floor until the final level.
5. Thai cooking class
I took a break from all the diving/snorkelling activities and spent a day chilling around the beach, getting coconut oil massages, manicures and pedicures and attending a Thai cooking class. We learnt to make Thom Kha Goong (coconut soup with shrimp, mushrooms and tomatoes), Gai Pad Med Maumang (a chicken and cashew nut curry) and pad thai (my favourite). The best part was obviously the tasting but also nice to learn some new skills that I can hopefully bring back home with me.