This story is much better in person as there is an element that needs to be acted out for full enjoyment, but just try to play the movie in your head. It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.
After visiting Bangkok and Khao Yai National Park, I headed to the Thai island Koh Pha Ngan. I heard the islands were beautiful and super fun from a couple of friends who had visited. Um, maybe during full or half moon parties, because I was pretty much just stuck on a deserted island. Still beautiful! Not at all what I was expecting.
My bungalow had a great view, but you couldn’t really go swimming. The tide was super low. Although I knew there were people staying at the same place as me, I never actually saw them, so I felt very isolated. And then there was the issue of transportation. Since I am unable to drive a motorcycle/motorbike (The bungalow owners gave me a tutorial but it was disastrous. Everyone said it was so easy??), I was pretty much stranded for two nights at my little shack since nothing was in walking distance.
I spoke to my friend back home who had visited before. She helped me look up a place to go the next day- a snorkel/SCUBA place at the beach Koh Ma. Trouble was I couldn’t get there on my own, so she suggested a songthaew. How this works is I walk along the road until a pickup truck stops. I negotiate on a price. I hop in the bed of the truck, and hope I get to my destination!
It worked out and I ended up at the snorkel place at Koh Ma When I arrived the woman told me I couldn’t go snorkeling. Why? The tide was too low. Pha Ngan means sandbar, didn’t you know? Maybe I could stop back later.
I made the best of it- chilled on the beach and in the water. A little later that afternoon I went back. This time a guy (Dutch but moved to Ko Pha Ngan) was aghast at my snorkel plan. He told me to just come out with them tomorrow. They were taking a boat to where it was deep. “I can’t,” I replied. “My ferry/flight back to mainland is tomorrow. I just want to do something.”
So he took me down to the water, amazed I didn’t have have anything to wear in the water but my bikini. I was really not prepared for this.
He points to a wooden beam about 100 yards away. He says I have to swim in a straight line until I get to the beam or else I will run into rocks (this is the boat path). Awesome, but the water is up to my shins. Can I at least wade part way? No, there are urchins and coral, so I must swim so I don’t step on anything.
Here’s where the miming comes in. The water is not more than a foot deep. I am face down. I am kicking hard with my arms by my sides. I cannot move my arms; the bottom of the sea is too close. My nose is like an inch away from the sea floor. I am kicking as hard as I can for those 100 yards BUT it makes me tired, and I hate the feeling of breathing through a snorkel. I need to stop and put my feet down approximately 6 times along the way. This is very hard to manage, and when I stand up, the water only comes to my shins. It must be a hilarious image.
I make it to the beam and a deeper part. I am alone in the Gulf of Thailand. Literally no one knows where I am and there are no waivers to sign. I swim around and I wish I had an underwater camera because it is so beautiful and colorful. I follow schools of beautiful fish, my favorite being these silvery iridescent ones. There were these super cool flat, oval-y shaped, colorful, plant like things that “grew” on the rocks. Each was a different vibrant color and looked like it was opening and closing, or that may have just been the water softly moving it. Either way, a thousand Google searches won’t give me an answer. I wish I had seen some sea turtles, but you can’t have it all! I had a “me” moment where I forced myself to sink to the bottom to pick up a beautiful bright white shell with my toes. It took about 4 tries, but I managed to transport this shell all the way back to Florida. It’s meaningful to me because it was a “growing day ” where I had to make the best of it and take some chances. Here I’ll include some other photos similar to what I saw:
I was out about 1 1/2- 2 hours. Definitely very tired, but trying to get it all in. Will I ever do this again? When it was time to go back in, it was even more hilarious than kicking my way out. I am swimming into shallower water, twice as exhausted, hair wild, stopping maybe 8 times to catch my breath. I must have looked like cast away pulling myself out of the water, a complete mess. Lips extremely saltwater chapped, back burned, hair tangled, lovely goggle lines around my forehead and cheeks. I made it. It was literally one of the most empowering moments I had in my life. It sucked and it was great. What a weird day.
I spent the rest of my time at that beach going to 7-11 for chapstick and oreos and eating a cheeseburger that was definitely not beef (so not eating it). I saw some giant boar just chilling on the beach & captured a beautiful sunset.
I also got this cool scar. It has faded by now, but somewhere in my snorkel adventures my knee must have made contact with something. Any ideas??