Adventures in Thailand and Cambodia

Photo of Adventures in Thailand and Cambodia by Gaurang Garg
Day 1

The first destination on my list was the famed Khao San road in Bangkok. This is supposed to be the Mecca for backpackers worldwide. My flight landed late evening in Bangkok, so by the time I reached my hostel at Khao San Road, it was almost midnight. Suvarnabhumi Airport has shuttles running to Khao San road every hour or so. They are the cheapest way to commute and cost about 150 baht.

I stayed at Napark Hostel at Khao San. This was not on Khao San road (even though its called Napark at Khao San) but a couple of streets away from it. That being said, Khao San road was still easily accessible on foot.

The hostel was really cosy and clean. It had massive dorms with place for twenty two people or so. The only drawback to this hostel was that they had an inadequate bathroom area for so many people. Also the cost per night was towards the expensive side compares to other hostels in Bangkok (USD 11.5).

Day 3

I had booked my scuba diving with Aussie Divers in Phuket. I had already completed my Open water certification in Goa and opted to go in for the Advance open water in Phuket. It cost me 12500 Baht in total, out of which I had to pay 4000 Baht as advance vis PayPal. I thought this was a little towards the expensive side, so I would advise that you check with a few other dive shops like Sunrise divers before booking.

Day 4

The day started with another 8am pickup from the hostel followed by the tide to the pier. We hopped on to a different dive boat and set sail for our first dive. Some of the people on board were the same ones from the previous day. So it was good to see familiar faces around.

Our first dive spot for the day was a wreck known as king cruiser wreck. This ship sank in 1997 after hitting Anemone reef. This was supposed to be our wreck dive and was by far he best dive over the two days. The ship lay on the sea bed at a depth of over thirty metres. As a advanced open water diver, this is the deepest you can dive to. This was a wreck that you could not penetrate barring just one part, in which you can go through a doorway. Wreck penetration is a another speciality level in PADI. It is extremely dangerous if it's not done with the right technique or equipment. Most of the ship was still intact and had become home to loads of different fish. We even got to see some lion fish. On this dive, I also felt the effects of Nitrogen Narcosis which is basically a kind of narcotic effect that Nitrogen has on your body at depth. You start to feel dizzy and your vision starts to blur. To get over this, you just have to swim to shallow waters for a few seconds and then swim back down.

All in all, this was a great wreck diving experience.

Our next dive was Koh Doc Mai, which is a wall dive. Basically, in a wall dive, you have a huge nearly vertical wall on one side and open sea on the other. Most of the life is on that wall, except for the rare Manta Ray sighting in the open sea. The visibility could have been better on the day. This was supposed to be our Multi level planner dive in which you plan your dive using a dive planning computer. We got to see some good stuff here. This included shrimps, clown fish and Moray eels.

This dive was followed by lunch and then we headed over to our third dive spot, which was shark point again. I was hoping for some better luck today. Maybe we get to see a leopard shark or, even better, a whale shark. This last dive was to be our deep dive at 19 Meyers deep. Technically, we had dove deeper for the wreck dive but to be an advanced diver, you need to fulfill five different types of diving. So this was going to be our deep dive (anything over 18 metres is considered deep depth). Here we got to see a lot of great fish but the leopard shark was elusive yet again.

This was the last dive of the course and after this one, I was going to be a certified advance diver. Yayy!!

Today we got done early and I reached back to the hostel at 6pm. Rest of the day was as usual. Drinking games followed by the bar crawl. I partied it out till 3am with the fellow hostellers. The owner of the hostel, Dan, treated us to free shots at a club. All in all it was a wonderful two days in Phuket.

Day 5

I had booked the early morning ferry to Phi Phi Don, the main island at Koh Phi Phi. The ferry from the hostel had cost me about 700 baht. This was inclusive of the pickup from the hostel to the pier and an open return ticket from Phi Phi to Phuket. I tool the 9am bus by the 11am ferry. The ferry ride was picturesque about two hours long.

Phi phi don is a small paradise island with crystal clear waters. It was on every backpackers list because of its crazy party scenes.

A small piece of advice: AVOID Maya Bay and the tour. If, at all, you need to do the tour, get a half day one. A bigger tour is not worth it.

Day 6

I took the afternoon ferry back to Phuket and a subsequent, late evening flight to Bangkok

Day 2

I flew over to Phuket late at night from Don Mueang Airport. This is the domestic airport from which low budget carriers like Air Asia operate. Don Mueang is in the opposite direction to Suvarnabhumi Airport.

One of the mistakes I made was getting a late night flight because all shuttles from Khao San to the airport stop at 4pm. After that you need to get a taxi to the airport and it's very expensive due to a lot of toll tax along the way (total cost about 450 Baht). Also make sure you book your luggage online while booking your ticket. On Air Asia flights you do not get any check-in luggage allowance on the cheaper fares. If you book extra luggage online, it will cost you about three hundred Baht. On the other hand, if you do the same thing when you show up at the airport, you will have to pay over a thousand baht.

Day 7

I met up with a friend of mine for this second part of the trip. We took an early flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is a beautiful, quiet town in the northern part of Thailand. We went during the off season, so it was much quieter than we had expected. Places shut down by 12 pm. Chilling at the hostel and seeing temples spread out across town were our best bets.

We had earlier planned on staying at chiang mai for a couple of nights and then go to Pai (which is another small hill station), but we decided against that. It was probably the wrong season for the Northern part of Thailand. The numerous rivers and waterfalls around Chiang Mai and Pai were running dry with very low water levels (dry season).

We chilled at the hostel with a bunch of other travellers and enjoyed the food. I would advise everyone to try Northern Thai food. It is very different to the normal Thai that we are all used to (only for Non vegetarians though). BEWARE: Dont even mention spicy ;)

Day 8

We booked an early morning elephant and rafting tour. It was nothing spectacular for us. We had pretty much done most of the stuff back home in India. The elephant ride part of the tour was fairly straightforward while the rafting part was horrendous. With the waters running so low, there was barely any rafting that we could do. The entire time we were stuck in between the exposed rocks trying to move ahead. Overall the tour was a bad experience.

Day 10
Photo of Krong Siem Reap, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Krong Siem Reap, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Krong Siem Reap, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Gaurang Garg
Photo of Krong Siem Reap, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia by Gaurang Garg

The Khao San area is great for one or two days but I would recommend not staying here for longer. There are other better areas like Siam Square and Sukhumvit in Bangkok. Long gone are the days when Khao San road was the only place with cheap accommodation in Bangkok. Stay here for a couple of nights for the experience and then move out to other modern areas. While you are here, you can visit the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Arun. All these are walking distance from Khao San road. At night, you can enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Khao San road with its bars playing live music and cheap good street food available everywhere.

It is a short one hour fifteen minute flight to Phuket. The airport at Phuket is quite far away from the main Patong beach area, but you have cheap shuttles available until late night.

I stayed at Bodega Hostel which is very close to the famous Bangla Road. This is probably the best hostel I stayed at in Thailand, in terms of the complete package i.e. atmosphere, great dorms and friendly staff. I stayed in the right person mixed dorms and it was a wonderful experience. I met a lot of people from all across the globe and the entire vibe about the place was really friendly. Every evening we would start with a few drinking games followed by a bar crawl in which we would go to a few bars on Bangla Road.

I would highly reccomend staying here. I am sure Dan, Ben and Jake (the owners/staff) will make you have a great time.

My first day diving began with an 8am pickup at my hostel in Patong Beach. This was followed by a forty five minute drive to the pier. Here I was introduced to my instructor (Bryan) and two other Americans who were doing the course along with me. I was much less experienced (four dives) than the two other guys, who had over a hundred dives logged.

We hopped on to a dive boat and set off towards our dive destination for the day, Phi Phi islands. The journey was about two hours one way. The dive boat had space for approximately 25 people. This included divers from various other dive shops in Phuket. The dive boat was adequately equipped with all the dive equipment. We were also served breakfast enroute to our first dive spot.

Our first dive spot was Turtle Bay. As you can already guess by the name, this spot is famous for sea turtles along with occasional Black tip reef sharks. The depth was approximately nineteen Metres and the visibility was a good twenty Metres or more. This was a practice dive for our group since Bryan had to what our current level was. We were lucky enough to see loads of fish and three sea turtles as well. Some of the other groups saw a black tip reef shark as well. Apparently, while I was communicating with a friend from another group, a black tip whizzed past me. The shark disappeared within a few seconds. Sadly, I wasn't able to catch a glimpse of one. Nevertheless, it was an adrenaline rush knowing that they were in the water with you. Probably, the sharks know exactly where you were but you had no clue about where they were. This thought scared the shit out of me :p

The second dive spot was known as Koh Bida Nok. This site is known for massive schools of yellow snappers. Our dive instructor told us that on certain days, these fish would form a shoal of thousands. There would be a joke amongst divers that the visibility in this area was really bad because when you would swim through a shoal, you would not be able to see a thing. That's how many fishes you could see on a good day. We were supposed to be doing our navigation dive over here. On the day we were diving, the visibility was bad (3-4 metres) and the currents were really strong. This was the perfect environment to do compass navigation, something I really dread. It was a nightmare to navigate in such bad visibility because you would not see a thing anywhere over three metres away. Personally, I never understood how a compass works and would always get lost. Getting lost in such bad visibility was a scary experience. Even though we say a lot of fish, this dive was by far the worst for me because I really messed up with the navigation drill.

Before we went over to our third dive spot, shark point, we were served lunch onboard. The boad stopped right opposite Maya Bay (if you guys remember the movie "The Beach." This was the little paradise in that movie) For food we were served, Thai curry and Pad Thai cooked fresh on the board while we were doing our second dive. Also, this break was important because it helps eliminate the excess body nitrogen that we generate while diving.

Shark Point was an hour and a half away, on the way back to Phuket. We chilled on the boat on the way back to our third dive spot. Shark point is famous for the docile leopard sharks that can be seen resting on the sand bed. Also, there had been a whale shark sighting here a few days back (exciting stuff). We were going to do a drift dive over here. The basic thing about drift diving is that you do not need to do any work, the current will take you along with it. So, we dove with some extra kilos and our BCD fully deflated. In diving terms, this is called a Negative entry. You do this to not expose yourself to the strong surface currents. This turned out to be a really exciting dive. The visibility was a good 15 metres and we saw so many different kinds of fish here. Unfortunately, because we were doing our drift dive, we were not able to see some of the really big stuff. One of the other groups saw two leopard sharks. Seeing the big stuff is basically down to luck. This was our last dive and soon we headed back to Phuket.

By the time I reached back to the hostel, it was 8pm. All the lads at the hostel were playing drinking games. I joined them for a game of Kings cup. This was followed by a bar crawl which I went for an hour or so.

Lunch spot overlooking Maya bay

Photo of Maya Bay by Gaurang Garg

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