Fun crew and great dive leaders (including the fire-throwing Sedrich and the dive site artist-extraordinaires Tommy and Leo). Dan Slater offers to our group his expert, fun, safe brand of dive leadership.
Return to Khao Lak and immediately find a nice (250B/day) moped and (700B/day) motel room with air-conditioning and private bathroom. The only Robinson Caruso I understand resides in my audio book.
Eating fattening food and drinking fattening beer. This phenom, along with my non-existent exercise schedule, is obscuring what little abs I had back in January.
Blast 30 moped kilometers north to Ban Bang Muang. En route, I see only Thai people (read: "No English speakers"), and I eventually learn the path to the recommended tsunami memorial and museum. Only two years since the horrible event, native Thai people have regrouped well enough to cheerfully help me enjoy large Singha at a local restaurant.
I roam hot noon-time minutes around the upscale post-tsunami Green Beach bungalows that once held the folksy dive shop of my first Similan dive trip four years ago. I didn't stay close enough to the staff there to know if they even survived the tsunami that washed 8 meters over their shoreside shop in the morning hours of 26-Dec-2004.
Now debating two primary options for visa renewal en route to Koh Tao:
- Van to Phuket, fly to Singapore and back, fly to Koh Samui, speedboat to Koh Tao ($500) --or--
- Bus to Ranong, boat into Myanmar and back, bus to Chumpon, catamaran to Koh Tao ($100)
Three-hour bus ride from Khao Lak to Ranong. For half of this trip, it's standing-room-only so I sit crumpled in the stairwell, alternately gazing at the swirling landscape and resting my head on folded sweaty arms.
Crossing into Myanmar (formerly Burma) to start my second 60-day non-immigrant Thai visa, I suddenly realize that anything could happen because I've decided to go alone via long-tail boat for a 90-minute round-trip into a country that prosperity has forgotten. Thankfully, it's uneventful, and after three more hours by truck, I crash overnight in a dingey seaside motel in Chumpon on the East side of the peninsula.
Awaking at dawn, I board the speedboat to Koh Tao.