Sunset on Pattaya Beach
So I know in my last post I said I’d write more regularly now that I have a computer again and I haven’t, but I have 2 very good reasons for that. But that will have to wait until my next post. My Thailand adventure needs to be told first!
After 8 months of teaching in China, a vacation was definitely due; and since I needed to renew my visa, the timing was perfect.
It all started Monday the 21st when I headed to the airport in Hefei, teeming with excitement to finally visit a country that I’ve had my sights on for several years now. I won’t bore you with the details of getting to Bangkok, but a cancelled flight, a missed flight, lots of airport food, free hotel room and 30 hours later, I finally made it to my hostel–at 10:30 Tuesday night.
The next day my plans to renew my visa were cancelled because it was Chulalongkorn Memorial Day; a holiday celebrating King Chulalongkorn, who prevented Western civilizations from ruling parts of what is now Thailand. Although most businesses were still open, government buildings as well as the Chinese Embassy were closed in commemoration.
So instead I headed out with my new Australian friend, Andrew, to visit some famous tourist attractions. After getting somewhat lost, we had a tuk tuk driver offer to give us a ride. (Tuk tuks are the infamous 3 wheeled taxis all over Bangkok) After we pointed to where we wanted to go on our map, (like tourists begging to be scammed) He offered to give us a ride for 500 baht. We talked him down to 250 (about $8), which made us think we were getting a deal, but as we found out from our metered taxi on the way back, it should have been about 50 baht.
Since that first encounter, we’ve all been much smarter about getting around the city. We’ve used each kind of mass transit several times, including skytrain, subway, ferry, and canal boats. All of which are extremely cheap to ride, usually less than a dollar.
Not long after arriving an Bangkok, I met a guy named Ollie who, as it turns out, works for the same company I do, teaching in China, and he’s in Bangkok renewing his visa as well. Which is great, so we were able to split taxi rides and endure the nightmare of renewing our visas together. Doing so required 3 trips to the Embassy and 5 days to complete by the way. But even with all the difficulties, Bangkok has been one awesome experience after another.
Over my time in Thailand, I had a Thai massage, which was the most painful thing I’ve endured since I left America, I visited several amazing temples–including Thailand’s most famous, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), I shopped at many markets, including the world famous Jatujak market, which is the largest weekend market in the world with over 15,000 stalls selling goods, and I made great friends — even for a few days — before going separate ways.
That’s the interesting thing about traveling abroad, there are some great people that you meet for short periods of time and then never see again. I met a Canadian flight attendant who is my age and would love to continue her job for the rest of her life. I met a German who just turned 20 and has saved up enough money to visit over 25 countries on 5 continents while filming a documentary. I’ve had long conversations with a Chinese man while he destroyed me at chess almost every game. I’ve made friends with people from all over the world and we’ll probably never see each other again. That’s okay though, because we’ve learned from one another, gained worldly views, and shared our stories.
After a busy week in Bangkok and finally getting my visa, I hopped on a bus to the extremely touristy town of Pattaya for the finale of my Thailand adventure–skydiving! But not long after getting off the bus, I realized that I had lost my phone and didn’t have a hotel for the night–or a skydive booked for the next day. It’s like I always say, it’s not an adventure until something goes wrong! But with a can-do attitude and some exploration, I found a nice hotel and made plans to be picked up the next day (Wednesday) for my big dive.
I chose Thai Sky Adventures because of their reputation and it certainly preceded them. My tandem instructor was from California and had done over 10,000 jumps. Surprisingly, I didn’t get nervous or afraid the whole ride up. Maybe there was no room with all the excitement building up inside me. And with one little push, we plunged through the air for a ride that I’ll never forget. Needless to say, I will be doing this again and probably taking a course to go solo in the future.
What better way to finish a day of skydiving, than to go swimming in the ocean and walking along the beach? At this point, I had one more full day (Thursday) to plan before I head back to Bangkok and ultimately to China. As I pondered the possibilities, I passed a booking agency for scuba diving. How could I resist?
The next morning, I took a short walk to Pattaya beach road so I could catch a baht bus to the pier. After getting all my scuba gear, I boarded our boat that would take us to and from the dive sites. There were only a few other divers on the boat, which was a nice surprise, given the size–some might have even considered it a yaht.
We were soon leaving the docks for the ride to Koh Rin island; where we’d be diving for the day. On the boat, I became acquainted with about 10 people from various backgrounds and countries. Again, it’s always a good experience, meeting people from around the world. After about an hour and 40 minutes, we arrived at the first dive spot.
I’ve wanted to scuba dive as long as I can remember, even though I have had some fear in the back of my mind about being so far underwater. But as soon as we took that plunge into the sea, the fears evaporated and were replaced by wonder and fascination about this surging world just beneath the surface. Words can’t adequately describe the sights down there, so I’ll let my pictures do the talking.
After the first dive, we were treated with a buffet of delicious food prepared by our on board cook and wife of the captain, Tutka. We had about an hour to rest and let our food settle before our second dive, but I spent most of the time jumping from the 3rd story of the boat. It’s difficult to find places in Hefei to swim in deep water (Most Chinese people can’t swim, so the pools are usually chest deep in the deep end.) so I really was in need of some good swimming.
Everyone who had been diving at this dive spot before told me that our second dive would be much better and they weren’t exaggerating. The reef extended as far as I can see along the ridge and the entire thing was teeming with life. I will say that I got this ominous feeling every time I looked out into the depths where the ridge dropped off into a deep blue. We saw a moray eel swimming out that direction and I had just been told that they like to latch on to the bottoms of sharks, so that added to the excitement of the experience. Although, we only saw one little bamboo shark the whole day. And a barracuda.
Shortly after our second dive, we made way back to Pattaya. When we arrived, I went back to the Adventure Divers store so I could get the pictures from the underwater camera I’d been using for the day. I ended up having several beers with the owner and two other divers, and although I don’t remember their names, we had some good discussions about life, travelling, and the world. Not a bad way to spend Halloween, right?
But little did I know that the day was far from over for me. You see, I was under the impression that my flight back to China was at 11pm the following night. What I found out from double checking my itinerary though, was that the airline changed the time to the following day at 4:30am.
After rushing to pack everything in my hotel and taking a motor taxi to the bus station, I barely caught the last bus of the night back to Bangkok and the airport. Now, I really can’t overstate just how much fun it isn’t to spend Halloween night in an airport and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
Once I arrived in China, I had a 13 hour layover in Shenzhen. And since I didn’t have a phone, I found a small shop with free wifi where I could arrange to get picked up that night. I finally got home at 11:30 that night and fell into a coma once I hit my bed.
Thus ended my Grand Thailand Adventure. I had many unforgettable memories and ticked several experiences off my bucket list. I apologize for this post being so late, since I arrived in China over a week ago, but uploading all those pictures using my VPN was an adventure in it’s own right. For those who have made it all the way to the end of what is my longest post to date, I thank you and hope you enjoyed it!
Till next time, cheers!