Nov 8, 2015

Ko Samui, Thailand

03 (Tue) - 08 (Sun) Nov 2015

Lodging: Samui Beach Residence Hotel, 155/44 Moo 2, Bophut Sub-District, Chaweng, Ko Samui, Surat Thani 84320, Thailand

No idea why but similar to skydiving, it was never in my bucket list but because my friends wanted to do it, I did it with them and my bucket list for skydiving is instantly added and completed.

Not skydiving, but this time round it's diving, specifically, we're on our way of getting our open water diver license because my friend Mei Ling wanted to fulfill her bucket list of diving.

I travelled with Mei Ling (a friend of mine working as a nurse), her boyfriend Roy and her younger sister Yi Jia (who's also a nurse and librarian wannabe). Only Mei Ling, Yi Jia and I were attending the course as her boyfriend was already a certified open water diver.

Bangkok Airways PG962
Changi Airport Terminal 1
Our flight details
03 Nov 2015 (Tue)
Changi Airport Terminal 1 - Samui Airport
Flight No: PG962
8:10PM - 9:05PM

08 Nov 2015 (Sun)
Samui Airport - Changi Airport Terminal 1
Flight No: PG961
4:30PM - 7:20PM

Average fare per person: S$492.72 (booked through Expedia)

Mei Ling helped to book the accommodation, at S$88.25 per person for 5 nights.

Day 1

It's my first time flying with Bangkok Airways (not to be confused with Thai Airways). Its economy class comes with a free 20kg luggage check-in and a meal during the flight per passenger. Not deliberately wanting to be extravagant, but the only airlines that operate directly between Singapore and Ko Samui are Bangkok Airways and SilkAir.

My in-flight meal, a freeloader like me always asks for red wine. :D

At the airport, we bought their local AIS 3G SIM card at 100฿ (~$4) each, it comes with data and local calls a week. We took a taxi at 500฿ that fetched us from the airport to our hotel. At the exit of the airport, I find the airport a very humble one, it looks more like a villa.

Samui Beach Residence Hotel, the place we stayed, might be as foreign to their local drivers too, especially with the address that Google can't even pin accurately. But thank God we reached safely and we're staying at the highest level (level 3) and check out the room, it's much more spacious than we thought.

Good night~~

Day 2

I was woken by the stormy rain as early as 4am. I took out my phone and loaded the weather forecast of Ko Samui for these few days and guess what, stormy rain everyday. My mind stepped deep into depression, thinking that having spent so much money for this trip and we couldn't dive anymore due to poor weather.

The rain got less heavy, we still got up at 7am to have our breakfast before departing.

Continental breakfast

Discovery Dive Centre
We engaged Discovery Dive Centre for our PADI Open Water Diver course.

The course fee was around S$675 per person, inclusive of free pickups and lunch.

To complete the entire course and be certified, it takes at least 3 days, 1st day on confined water training and the 2nd and 3rd on

Perhaps we're the only 3 persons from the dive centre who were taking the course. So only 3 of us had our confined water training in a swimming pool at Choeng Mon Beach Hotel & Spa, with our instructor Nik. He actually told us not to worry about the rain, ironically, we should pray that it rains when we dive, so we may enjoy the sunny beaches on those days when we're not diving.

Prior to this we've done our e-learning and tests in Singapore, so we saved our time by not having required to attend the theory lessons.

At the pool we're asked to swim 10 laps without stopping, which got me astonished. "Is that a must?", I was wondering. I'm not sure if it's normal that average human is able to do that but for me, no way my stamina allows me. I did stopped for a while and got caught by Nik, he seemed pretty serious about it. At the end, I did a count and we actually did only 8 laps instead of 10 but Nik kinda thought we completed 10. LOL~~

Next up we learnt how to attach and secure the oxygen tank and regulator to the buoyancy control device (BCD) and pick up several diving techniques.

Ok here comes the part that gave me the most tormenting experience, when we're doing the mask clearing technique, somehow I think because I haven't really got used to breathe entirely by mouth and might have accidentally breathed using my nose and I suddenly had panic attack that I breathe so rapidly and migraine started to attack me very badly and I quickly ascended to the surface. It was so painful, and cold because it was raining heavily. I had to take a break, it took me a while to get back to the water and continued the last few techniques thankfully, when I thought I really couldn't make it for diving.

It took one morning, so we had the afternoon on our own plan. It's my first time being in a swimming pool in a rain, a heavy rain moreover. The journey back to hotel was spent looking out of the car window pondering, "I... might not be cut out to be certified diver."

Confined water training @ Choeng Mon Beach Hotel & Spa

CentralFestival Samui
After reaching our hotel, we took a quick shower and cabbed up to CentralFestival Samui, a modern and trendy lifestyle shopping complex with an open-concept design located 2km away from our hotel, to meet Roy, chill over there and do some shopping.

CentralFestival is a brand for a group of beachfront shopping complexes only in Thailand.

Lunch @ Yayoi

Starbucks Coffee

Fried rice with curry powder
Stonefish, Chumchon Chaweng Yai Soi 13

Chaweng Walking Street
There's a 2-piece live band performing there, and the percussionist was playing a cajón, which totally reminds me of the regular gig that I was missing because I traveled here. :)

We then headed back to the hotel for a good night rest, looking forward to next day's dives.

Day 3

With our diving instructor Nik
We're going to do 2 dives for the day, well, none of them is at Ko Samui, but the 1st one at Mango Bay, Ko Tao and the 2nd one at Twin Rock, Ko Nang Yuan.

This time we're setting off with many other divers, most are here for fun dives as they were already certified divers. One might see this as a waste when we're not really diving but learning at such beautiful and prominent diving spots.

My phobia from the previous day persisted, when I tried to do mask clearing at Mango Bay, same thing happened and the uneasiness forced me to ascend back to surface again. I was disappointed by myself, Nik ascended and asked, "so how? Are you gonna quit", I excused myself for a moment.

I haven't been frustrated so much by my own incapability before, when I didn't even expect prior to that. Well, finally I got back to the sea and this time, I think I got the hang of it, that I managed to breathe normally through the regulator. And somehow, I think I'm quite good at equalizing my ears by pressing my nose and trying to blow air out from my nose, as I heard many people have trouble equalizing and have to suffer the pain while diving.

Everything seemed to be going smooth and I was confident that I could dive normally for the subsequent ones.

Mango Bay, Ko Tao


THe dive centre prepared lunch for us on the boat. The 2nd dive at Twin Rock involved jumping off the boat with BCD fully worn, unlike the one at Mango Bay where we dragged our BCD from the shore. We the controlled emergency swimming ascent (CESA) there from the depth of 6m. Water there was pretty murky though, despite the relatively good weather.

Twin Rock, Ko Nang Yuan

At the end of the dive, we're given each a diver's logbook - we're supposed to log all our future dives in this book. Perhaps there are some diving certifications that require a certain number and types of of clocked dives.

A group picture with the divers of the day

Free time again in the evening, we chilled at Chaweng Beach and had dinner at Sydney Steak House Seafood.

Chaweng Beach

Aglio Olio @ Sydney Steak House Seafood

Baci Italian Bar & Grill

Day 4

Yi Jia's early morning yoga
Roy's finally joining us and we're doing two dives today, both at Sail Rock. Apparently Sail Rock is said to be the best dive site in the Gulf of Thailand, owing to its biodiversity - it's not uncommon to encounter a whale shark there, but we didn't manage to see one due to murky water and bad weather.

The rain is causing so much swaying of the boat and making the passengers feel nauseating.

An open water diver is supposed to dive only to a maximum of 18m, at some point of time we're at the depth of 20m but some extra meters don't really make any significant difference.

We did a compass training that day as well, where we have to swim away to a direction given by the instructor (in degrees) and swim back to the original point, using a compass.

I was finally able to dive freely in the sea, it's a more secured sense of weightlessness compared to skydiving. The only limitation that I was facing was, I sort of consumed the oxygen faster than others, guess in nature I really do breathe faster.

I'm not sure if Nik chose a wrong resolution settings when he was handed over the aquatic camera, because all photos of us taken by him are at a lower resolution compared to others. Well... that's unfortunate but can't be helped.

During the 2nd dive, we were quite anxious when one of the instructors noticed that Yi Jia was lost and he had to go look for her while we continue diving. It's important to stay together during a dive - searching a person at surface level is a 2-dimensional effort while in the sea it's 3-dimensional. Thank God we found her back and the reason was her not being able to equalize properly that she couldn't descent further.

Sail Rock

We saw a pink dolphin on our way back to Ko Samui

It's over... it's finally over! And we're now officially PADI Open Water divers!!

I must say that I'm proud of myself for completing the course successfully considering my horrible experience on the 1st day of lesson.

It's a wrap. Thanks Nik for your patient guidance. And the rest of the trip is free and easy.

Chaweng Beach Road

Dinner at Chaweng Kitchen

Special mix BBQ @ 1,100฿

Black Canyon Coffee @ CentralFestival Samui

Kinda like their toilet design

Foot massage @ 250฿/person, My Friend Holiday Traditional Thai Massage

Day 5

Chaweng Beach
It's the last full day that we had in Ko Samui, also the day when we could wake up as late as we wanted to as there're no more diving lessons. I missed sleeping so much...

While it's still sunny in the morning, we went down again to Chaweng Beach to enjoy some sun, sea breeze and photo taking, though it drizzled a bit after a while.

We've walked the Chaweng Beach Road so many times in a day, and everyday you'll see waiters doing their best in getting customer patronizing their restaurants by speaking all kind of languages possible. I was impressed that most of them can really speak Mandarin quite well.
Well too bad sometimes their efforts were just fruitless.

We had our lunch at Samui Kangaroo, in the sunniest afternoon we ever had in Ko Samui.

Stir Fried Garlic Pepper with Pork @ 160฿
Green Curry Chicken @ 120฿
Tom Yum Shrimp @ 130฿
Stir Fried Morning Glory with Oyster Sauce @ 120฿

Back to Starbucks Coffee @ CentralFestival Samui that we visited almost every other day

Full body massage @ 250฿/person, Iyara Bodyworks & Spa

They can do a better job in 5S keeping

Stacked Samui
Last dinner was Mei Ling's treat! At a rather upscale restaurant along the Chaweng Beach Road, which we've been eyeing for days.

It's called Stacked, and I like it's layering structural layout, it just makes itself a very referable landmark.

Of course, I expected gourmet delicacies and ordered spaghetti with some fancy names and weird ingredients, perhaps I'm not really good at appreciating sophisticated delicacies.

To leverage on the dining experience, Yi Jia and I ordered each a glass of wine. Accompanied by the ambience, I was very contented with my last night in Ko Samui.

By the way, thanks Mei Ling!! :)

Sol De Chile Merlot 2014, Chile @ 180฿
Corte Giara Bardolino DOC 2013, Italy @ 250฿

Chick Wings (8) @ 195฿

Spaghetti, Calamari, Prawn, Clam, Green Olive, Fennel, Tomato, Lemon, Chili-Herb Butter @ 345฿
Told you the name is fancy...

And there's a Swedish bar few doors away from our hotel

Day 6

We always thought we've spent enough time at a foreign land, probably until the last day.
Goodbye Room 301.

Again, their airport is the most unexpected one I've visited so far. It's more like a farm resort, in spite of its humility, it still looks very welcoming.

Seriously, it's an airport...

There's a courtesy corner at Bangkok Airway's gate, this is something new to me

And finally my last in-flight meal, red wine FTW. :D

I spent a whopping S$1,400 for this trip, having the air ticket and diving course fee been the major contributors. Couldn't believe This is the amount of money I spent for my 10-day Japan trip in 2013. But well, looking at the sense of fulfillment of acquiring a new skill, it can be a consolation to myself.

However, one might consider going for a cheaper option for certification and having fun dive at a more expensive dive sites. Come to think about it, it's quite dumb that when other divers were busy looking for whale shark, we were doing CESA and mask clearing. LOL~~

For more photos, please check out my photo album Ko Samui, Thailand on Facebook.

Javin Tham A master's degree graduate in engineering, a musician at heart, loves playing with soft toys.

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