Monthly Archives: August 2014

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I’m moving to Koh Tao!

Koh Tao is one of the worlds most popular dive locations. The extraordinary diversity of Koh Tao’s underwater world coupled with the reputation as the cheapest place in the world to dive, is undoubtedly drawing a crowd. Koh Tao boasts between 35-45 dive sites (depending on who you ask and who you know) so despite it’s popularity it hardly ever feels busy. The same applies on land too, with the laid-back atmosphere only an island of scuba divers could pull off, you never feel in too much of a hurry to do anything.

Heading out to the dive boat.

Heading out to the dive boat.

With that being said, I planned on visiting for around 5 days, just enough time to do my Open Water diving course and then I would farewell the islands of Thailand and head north. Only, Koh Tao doesn’t actually let you do this. I started chatting with the instructors and ex-pats that had moved to the island and the funny thing was that most of them had a similar story. They planned on staying for a few weeks or a month and here they were a year later with no plans on leaving.

So, there will be no surprises when I say I’m moving here for a couple of months too. I had been looking for somewhere to lay low somewhere for a while, catch up on a lot of writing and work for this blog, but mainly I was looking for somewhere that I could unpack my bag. Here’s how it happened.

I like long walks along the beach, as long as they go to a dive boat.

I like long walks along the beach, as long as they go to a dive boat.

The Open Water certificate was another bucket list item. Koh Tao was on my radar, so I hopped on a boat from Koh Phagnan with my full moon party hangover and went in search of a dive school. I’d been recommended Sairee Cottage from a good friend of mine so I headed that way. They were about 1000 baht more expensive that other dive schools, as a budget backpacker this is usually the point where I walk away but there were a couple of things that swayed my decision.

The dive office, pool and surrounding bungalows looked immaculate and there was a friendly group of staff hanging around to help me out. I was shown the complimentary dorm room and on the walk up the instructor let it drop that there was plenty of bar work available for westerners and this is what sparked the idea of a long-term stay.

That afternoon I began the Open Water course which was just a couple of videos and an orientation. Walking out from the classroom, I crossed a small road and was at the beach just as the sun was making it’s way for the horizon, showcasing a sunset that I’d rarely, if ever, seen beaten. Yeah. I could probably live here.

Sunsets on Koh Tao.
The following day was divided between the classroom and the pool to learn the basics of diving and the two days after were when the fun was to be had. The course takes you on 4 dives to a depth of 18 metres and we saw blue-spotted rays, barracuda, yellow box-fish, huge groupers, puffer fish and a whole lot that I can’t even begin to name but I’ll be exploring more of the underwater world in the next couple of posts. It was stunning enough that I decided to back it up with an Advanced Open Water course which meant wreck dives, night dives and chance to learn the basics of Navigation.

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So where has this taken me? Well, it all amounted to convincing me to complete my Rescue Diver and Emergency First Responder training and I’ve signed up to spend the next 2 months training as a Divemaster which will mean some opportunity to work once I’ve finished.

I’m on my way to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend to extend my visa and then I’ll be back to diving. Watch this space, exciting things to come.

Bucket List #5: Train Muay Thai in Thailand

Another tick off the bucket list as I signed up for what promised to be a gruelling week of Muay Thai in Phuket. Muay Thai is the traditional martial art of Thailand and combines punches, elbows, knees, kicks and clinching and the Thai’s are brought up on it. From the moment they can walk they’re trained in the art of Muay Thai and often by their mid-twenties they’ve had well over 150-200 fights. If they weren’t so strongly Buddhist, it would be easy to call Muay Thai their religion.

Training Muay Thai at Phuket Top Team

Knees for days!

I checked out a few of the gyms in Phuket and with the help of a recommendation from a friend who has fought in Thailand for the past 2 years I settled on Phuket Top Team. I won’t bore you with the details but PTT have fighters in the biggest organisations of the Muay Thai and MMA world. As well as that the trainers their are a mixture of retired champions and some of the elite fighters still in competition. It was safe to say I’d be in good hands there but it also meant they would take no excuses.

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I had trained back at home for 2 years but it had been at least 18 months since then and the past 6 months of travel had taken a toll on my fitness. I secretly hoped my treks in the Himalayas would provide me with some fitness but it didn’t prove to help me all that much.

It was 2 x 2 hours sessions a day for 6 days and most of the sessions went down in more or less the same way. Skipping, stretching, sparring and clinching with other people of a similar skill and weight, bag work, 1 on 1 pad work in the ring with a trainer (this involved the trainer calling out combinations of kicks punches, knees and elbows for you to throw and occasionally throwing some back at you to block) followed by a warm down with a couple of hundred push ups and sit-ups.

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Fifteen minutes into my first training session the mouth guards were in and I found myself behind a pair of boxing gloves facing off with an Italian guy in our class. It was the first time back at training for both of us so we stuck to light sparring, moved around a bit, traded some punches and had some fun with it.

The trainers in true Thai-style weren’t so forgiving when my lack of fitness showed up during the pad-work. They’ve been training since they were 2 and excuses never worked for them so they expect the same out of you. In fact, the more you shut up and try to get it done, the easier it’s going to be for you. I saw people learn this the hard way, if you’re the type to whine and complain well guess who’s getting extra push ups.

Phuket Top Team Muay Thai

It’s all smiles for the camera.

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As the days went on my fitness was slowly coming back as was some of the technique I had hidden away from a few years ago. I was sore just about everywhere and spent my time in between sessions either in the pool, in bed or at the massage parlour up the road all of which seemed to make the after sessions that little bit easier.

trainers at Phuket Top Team Muay Thai

The Trainers at PTT

The week came to an end and I had to move on as I have the full moon party booked in on the 9th but I will most definitely be returning to train with the team again only next time I’m hoping to stay for a month.

Have you ever trained in a traditional martial art somewhere? What was your experience like?