Wednesday, April 05, 2006

What not to do when Scuba diving

I signed up for the PADI course at a shop called Viking Divers, and sure enough it was owned and operated by a group of Norwegians.  I was enrolled in a course with a British guy named Matt.  Matt was in the Royal Army and had been sent down to Ko Phi Phi to become a certified Divemaster.  He had never been scuba diving before and was enrolling in a month-long course to obtain the highest cert in PADI.  Not a bad work assignment.  I got along with him as best as I could, but he was a stereotypical army meathead… the kind of guy that goes out looking for a fight just because.  I HATE people like that.

The first day was three hours of classroom lectures and videos.  Overall, very dull.  The only godsend was that it was in an air-conditioned office.  Afterwards we went over to the beach for our basics instruction.  This was were we first got to don our scuba equipment and go through fun drills like having the instructor shut off your air underwater and practice sharing your buddy’s air supply.  Not nearly as hard as it sounds, and the only part I really didn’t like was having to take of your mask and swim around without it on before putting it back on and clearing it.  Ok, so… Day 1 not bad at all.  As we left the office that day the owner strongly advised us not to go out drinking that evening as, “it will make tomorrow miserable for you.  I’m serious, not even a few.”

I am sure you can see where this is going.

Andrew and Jenn met me in town that night for dinner at an all-you-can-eat sushi place and after we walked around for a while we found that we were stuck in Ton Sai because the waves were too big to allow the longtails to make the trip around the island.  I was of the opinion that making the trek through the jungle in the dark would be suicide, so while Andrew and Jenn took off across the ridge, I went and found myself a second hostel for the night.  Afterall, I had to be back in town at 8am the next day, so it would save me the hike in the morning.  So… here I am stuck in a party town, with an entire evening to kill, surrounded by bars and disco, and nothing else to do.  Yes I had a couple.  I had made the decision to have two drinks for the evening.  Not much, just enough to lubricate the senses and have fun for the evening.  I failed to take into account the effect that a Thai bucket has on you (read: erases the “sense” from the term “common sense”) and before I knew it I had had a few more than two.  I partied in an Irish bar with some Swedes, saw a Thai kickboxing match (quick side note… ultimate fighting has NOTHING on these guys) with some Australians, and played a few rounds of pool with some Thai tattoo artists.  I eventually ended up in a bar that was giving away free buckets at 2am so I had another one of those.  I would like to point out the obvious to the people reading this post right now…


I woke up in my room the next morning 20 minutes after the boat had left for the dive site.  I ran to the shop, with my head throbbing and with tounge-in-cheek told the owner that I had just hiked up over the hill.  He knew that I knew that he knew I was full of it, but he smiled, called a longtail boat for me to get to the dive site, and wished me a “fun dive”.  If only I had known what that had meant.  The owner must have know the torture I was in for… and I deserved every second of it.

When you dive underwater, every 10 meters is an additional atmosphere of pressure on your head.  The small pockets of air in your ears and sinuses change size as this occurs and you have to equalize the pressure by blowing your nose while pinching it shut.  Normally a very easy thing to do.  Now imagine doing this with a hangover.  I don’t think I have every sworn off alcohol more in my life.  Between our two dives for the day, I went into the head on the boat and puked my guts out.  I hadn’t felt sick underwater, but once on the boat for our lunch, the motion of the waves quickly turned me green.  Afterwards I felt better, but on my second dive the acidity from my being sick and the dry air from the air tank cause my lungs to feel as if they were on fire.  Really extremely unpleasant.  To top all of this off, when we got back on the boat I dropped my camera on my toe, thus breaking it.  And as if the day hadn’t been terrible enough (I know, my own fault) when I got back to the beach I found that someone had stolen all of my money from my wallet when I was underwater.  That day was awful.  Oh, and when I was on the boat back to my beach, I lost my hat, one sandal, and my new polo shirt over the side.  I was being punished for my shear stupidity.

Thankfully, the next day of diving was the exact opposite experience.  They gave me fewer weights on my weight belt so I wasn’t constantly sinking like I was the day before.  I wasn’t sick, I was able to control my breathing and hence my buoyancy.  The two days couldn’t have been in greater contrast to each other.  After those two dives I was a qualified PADI diver and I can now dive anywhere in the world within my qualification.  I have been snorkeling before, but this is SOOOOOO much better than that.  You get to float through the world like a weightless astronaut and see so many things you can’t see by just snorkeling.  I was so happy I had done it.  

Also, lesson learned… Listen to Norwegian guys named Sven. They know what they are talking about.