Feb 10, 7:30pm

It was another intense day today. I was up early to get some of my scuba homework done before class at 9am, but ended up chatting with Tan’s friend Sarah instead. She joined us in Patong late last night, and she’s also doing a rather random tour of Asia. She’ll probably come with me as I head up to Koh Samui towards the end of the week, and then towards Bangkok so I can help her get oriented in Thailand.

My diving instructor gave me a bit of an evil eye when he saw that I wasn’t done my work, but I passed the quizzes and final exam anyway.

I did two dives today at Kata Noi beach, about 30 minutes from here. The first one was the completion of my training. The training went really fast because I was one-on-one with the instructor for the last two days. The second dive was just a fun dive around the reef just off the beach. I’m getting much more comfortable underwater. I know how to deal with most of the emergencies that I’m likely to encounter, so it left me free to just enjoy the swim. Scuba requires a lot less exertion than I expected. In fact, it’s ideal to to just glide slowly through the water. It’s more about trying to find equilibrium and balance while underwater, which you do by controlling your breathing. With practice, you can hover underwater, ascend or descend with just a few controlled breaths, using your lungs to adjust your buoyancy. Once I learned to do that, I had total freedom in three dimensions. I could do sommersaults, rolls, stand, go upside-down, whatever I wanted underwater. Fun stuff.

The coral reef was amazing. We traveled through canyons made of coral. Even though visibility wasn’t great today, it was just like a scene from Finding Nemo. Fish of every color and size were everywhere, hiding in the coral, nipping at bits of algae, swimming in schools. I saw huge spiney things with poisonous spikes, and bright blue starfish too. There were also camoflaged fish that looked like rocks. The abundance of life just a couple of hundred metres from the shore was astounding. There were some sobering sights though. A few beach umbrellas were caught at the bottom of the ocean, sucked out to sea by the tsunami. I wonder how many bodies had to be recovered from the reefs?

Anyway, it’s time for dinner now, then I have to find a place to get a passport photos for my PADI card.

Feb 11, 7:15pm

I’m certified! We got back a couple of hours ago from our dive excursion to Racha Yai Island. We left at 7:30am, and hopped into the back of a pickup truck for the ride to the pier. Then we got onto a dive boat and headed out to Racha Yai. We did two dives in the island’s Rungalon Bay. I had to demonstrate a couple more practical skills before I was certified. First, I had to manually inflate my buoyancy control device (BCD) to obtain neutral buoyancy. Then I had to sit on the bottom of the ocean, remove my mask, leave it off for a minute, then put it back on and clear it of water. This second task was the one I hate the most. My biggest fear about scuba diving is losing my contact lenses and my sight underwater, so having to face this possibility was a challenge for sure. I’m glad I had to do it though. Now I’m not scared to do it any more. On the boat ride back to Phuket, I got my temporary PADI card. I’ll be able to use this until my new one arrives in the mail.

Patong Beach in the evening

Chinese New Year celebrations in Old Phuket Town

Random photos from the dive exursion. That’s Tan, Sarah, and my dive instructor, Michael.

Cue the Life Aquatic soundtrack (these photos taken from a CD we bought on the boat)