I woke up in my hotel in Krabi, Thailand, scratching at bug bites. I wasn’t sure where I got them, but they itched! I booked a package ferry and bus ride to Koh Tao Island from my taxi driver the previous day, so I got picked up from my hotel at 11:30 am and taken to a bus stop.
After enjoying some fried rice at a stand and talking with a guy from France, I got on the bus. It took a few hours to get across the peninsula, where the bus dropped us off at the ferry terminal. When I boarded the ferry, they just stacked suitcases and bags in the front of the room inside.
I spent some time inside writing for my blog, and then I wandered to the top to watch the water. We stopped at two other islands (Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan) before arriving in Koh Tao. Each island was beautiful, and I enjoyed watching the sunset on the water.
By the time we arrived on Koh Tao, it was dark outside and a cool 86 °F. Getting my bags was a challenge because everyone was trying to find theirs in the chaotic stacks. I got a taxi, which was pretty expensive for Thailand ($13 USD), but they don’t have many cars on the island. We drove just over a mile and arrived at my Airbnb.
I was renting a room from a family. I walked into the downstairs portion and was greeted by a pregnant woman sitting at a desk. Although she didn’t speak much English, the woman directed me outside and up two flights of stairs to my room. Her husband carried my bags and told me that his wife could do my laundry for $6.50 USD. It would take 24 hours because they line-dry clothes. It sounded pretty good to me, so I gave him my dirty clothes.
The family rented out a couple of other rooms, but I felt like I hit the jackpot. I was on the top floor with incredible views of the island because the house was situated on a hill.
I walked down the hill to the first restaurant that I saw, which was Italian. It was romantic, and the other patrons consisted of couples and groups of girls. This island was not a party island like Phi Phi. I sat alone and ate delicious tuna fish. After I ate, I stopped at a market and bought some bottled water. I huffed and puffed as I carried the six, 1-liter bottles up to my Airbnb.
The next day, the Airbnb host told me that his brother rents motorbikes next door at his shop. Since I was staying with them, they would rent one to me for four days for only $700 baht ($23 USD). I could park the motorbike in the small dirt section in front of their building and the building next door where they (and several construction workers) were doing renovations.
The brother got me a bike and showed me the basics. He also didn’t speak much English, so it was a challenge. The shop is on the side of a steep hill, and the night before, I heard a girl crash her motorbike across the street while trying to drive up the entrance to her nice hotel. I ran outside when I heard the noise and saw her boyfriend helping her get up and move the bike. I had to sign a form saying that if I wrecked the bike, I’d have to pay a lot of money.
I rode a scooter in Italy five years prior, but that’s about it. I loved riding that scooter, though, and even thought about buying one. I was confident I could drive the scooter, but I wasn’t so confident that I could make it up the steep hill. As I pulled away, I kept stopping, hitting the breaks, and putting my feet back down on the ground because I felt like I was going to fall to the side. You need to put your feet up and onto the bike platform once you start driving for obvious reasons. The problem was that I had to turn the throttle hard to get enough power to go up the hill, which scared me.
The poor owner looked worried as I kept pausing to put my feet back on the ground. My Airbnb hosts and some of the construction men were watching me, and the pressure was on. My hosts were encouraging me, saying I could do it. Finally, I gave it enough power, lifted my feet, and took off up the hill. I made it to the top, and then the road went back down the other side of the island. It was so beautiful! I was thrilled to be on a motorbike and thought it would be a perfect way for me to get around.
There was a crazy steep, small dirt path leading up a hill. I paused, unsure if I could go up it. A couple drove down the path and said it would be fine. Then a woman came driving up, past me and drove up the path. Shortly after, she returned, saying it turned into too much dirt and wasn’t suitable for the scooters. As I was waiting to see if she would come back, the bike owner came riding up. He wanted to check on me and make sure I was ok. I thought it was nice, but I knew he was also likely concerned about his bike.
I went back down the hill past my Airbnb and into town. There were a lot more motorbikes and cars, so I drove slowly. Driving on the left wasn’t very hard because the lanes were basic. I drove all around the island and then saw a lookout point with a bar at the top. I pulled over and parked by all of the other scooters. A blonde American girl in her early 20s was getting back to her dirt bike, and we chatted. I told her that I was impressed that she was on an actual dirt bike. She said she grew up in the country and was used to them. Then she asked me what I had to leave with the bike rental company. I told her nothing; I just gave them money for the rental. The girl looked worried, saying they took her passport and asked for a $5,000 baht deposit. Once they saw that she had $5,000 baht, they asked for $8,000 baht ($260 USD).
The girl, clearly concerned, looked at her boyfriend when I told her that I didn’t leave a passport or a deposit. However, I explained that I rented from my Airbnb hosts’ brother, so he gave me a deal. It’s one of the nice things about staying in Airbnb’s with locals – they help you out. I told the girl where my place was and warned her because I read online that it’s a common thing. They hold your passport and won’t give it back unless you pay a crazy amount of money. Don’t ever give up your passport.
The girl and her boyfriend drove off, and I climbed some rock-steps to the top of the lookout point. It was breathtaking! From that spot, I could see two different beaches, one on each side of me. The land jetted out, so the beaches were in coves below me. There was hardly anybody there either. I ordered a watermelon frozen drink and sat down on a mat. It was 83 °F with a real feel of 94 °F, and the breeze felt good.
After my drink, I got back on the bike and ended up at a hotel on the beach. I passed two guys playing pool and asked for a table. It was 2:30 pm, and there wasn’t anybody there! I know I often eat at strange times, but I couldn’t believe how empty it was. I ate some food while sitting at the best table right off the water. It was crazy. In Hawaii, places would be much more crowded, and Thailand was a fraction of the cost you’d pay in Hawaii. It was just as beautiful as Hawaii too.
After I ate, I drove to the dive shop, Roctopus Dive, where I would start my three and a half-day diving certification class. I was getting Open Water 20 certified, which would allow me to dive up to 20 meters anywhere in the world.
I arrived at the shop to start the orientation. At the last minute, a guy walked in and signed up for the class. Roctopus Dive only trains in groups of four or less, and this guy now made five. I was impressed that, at the last minute, the company found another instructor and separated us.
I was in a group with two other girls from Germany. One girl was only 18 years old, and the other was 22. They weren’t traveling together, though. The 18-year-old traveled with a friend who was getting her advanced certification, so she thought she would get Open Water 20 certified while she was there. We also had a third girl with us from Germany who was working on her Dive Master certification, so she was in training.
Our instructor was Birgit. She appeared to be in her mid-20s, had long wavy blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and was from Estonia. She was stunning and had an athletic build to her short frame. Because everyone except for me was a non-native English speaker, she spoke with a very distinct pronunciation. Birgit had been teaching dive certification for two years and loved it. From the time she was young, she called herself a mermaid.
We were in a small air-conditioned classroom learning “academics.” There was a lot to learn, and we were assigned homework that had to be completed before the next morning. Once class was over, I drove back to my Airbnb, walked across the street to the hotel rooftop bar, and ate dinner. The place only had a group of three people there, and once they left, I was all alone. The view was beautiful, and the music was nice.
After dinner, I went back to my Airbnb and did the homework on my phone. We were provided an app to read through A LOT of information, and we had to take (and pass) several quizzes. I was lying on the bed and kept falling asleep. There was so much information, and I was struggling to retain it all. I kept failing the quiz on equipment, but it wouldn’t tell me which one I was getting wrong and would change the questions on the next quiz. It took me a few hours to go through it all, and I was exhausted.
I had never dived before, but so many people recommended Koh Tao for certification because of the cost. It cost me $350 USD, and I was told it would cost three times that in a place like Australia. I figured I should take advantage of the lower price and the warm, calm water in Thailand. I had no idea what I was in for.
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