When I got back from Malaysia, apart from wanting to get pished for Paddy's Night (duly accomplished at the Irish Embassy) my main aim on returning to Koh Lanta was to get the diving course finished as quickly as possible.
Unfortunately, the eye infection I picked up in a kip in Langkawi seems to have put paid to that notion for a week or so. After my hangover on the 18th and two days of assisting on an Open Water course with Kev Skeltern, my eyes hadn't cleared and a trip to Dr. Salarin on Monday brought the grim news that I have to take medicines and spend a week out of the water.
Given that we are getting near the end of the season here on Koh Lanta, I'm anxious to get in as much diving as possible over the next couple of weeks so that I get finished and qualified as a DM by mid-April. Still, what the hell, I love life on Lanta and sometimes living in a place like this should really be all about relaxation and not worrying about getting things done. "Sabai, sabai," as the Thais say quite often!
So this week is all about catching up on dive skills videos, finishing the theory part of the course, and basically just resting until my eyes recover from whatever happened in Malaysia (!). Contrary to what Roan Cambpell posted on Facebook, I didn't hurt my eyes by looking through a hole in a wall in a dingy brothel!
The island seems to be getting much quieter, if one is to judge by my sunset walks on Long Beach . . . not that Lanta ever really gets crowded, in the same way as Phi Phi and Phuket do. The beauty of this island is how chilled it is, which gives the solo traveller a better chance of sparking up conversations in the beach-side bars.
Stuart from Liverpool, who completed the Open Water course on Saturday, joined me for the disastrous 2-1 defeat to Man. U. on Sunday (8.30 p.m., Thai time). I introduced him and his travelling companion, Michelle, to the delights of the Sunday roast at the Embassy. It was interesting to hear Michelle's take on Lanta, she felt like Shirley Valentine in 'honeymoon central' during the three days when Stuart was off doing the diving course.
Had a couple of great chats with Stuart about LFC, their history, legendary away trips, and all their troubles, he's been following them for almost as long as I have. And then, the next day, they were gone to Ao Nang on the ferry. That's the thing about life on a holiday island, you get to meet a huge amount of people, most of whom move on within a day or two.
There's something about Scousers, really. It always feels like meeting another Irish person when you get chatting to them and we always seem to have so much in common. Maybe it's all down to Maggie Thatcher and how she tried to ruin their city, while Ireland was also a basket case in the 1980s. Maybe it's down to the fact that so many Irish ended up there by default, because they couldn't afford the onward coffin ships to America.
Maybe we're going back to those dark days, but hard times do bring out the best in people, which is why I've always loved my trips over to Kieran and Liz in Merseyside. Down the Smithdown Road, which may be a hole, everyone in the pub loves to chat to you. You just don't find the same level of ambience and friendliness in rich and frantic London.
I guess time here flies if you are into something like Muay Thai (kickboxing)or diving, which, of course, is the main tourist activity on the island. If not, you really need to learn how to relax, play football on the beach, swim, tour on motorbike, or just read a book. I think it's only when I leave Lanta that I will appreciate what a fabulous life I've had here since early January . . . beautiful beaches, motorbike tours, lovely Thai food, great new friends, one hour Thai massages for about five euros a go, etc.
The nightlife is not as hectic as on other islands, but that's definitely not why I came here. If you want it, it's there ... there have been Thursday nights spent at Ozone until 5 a.m. or Korner Bar, where the music and ambience are excellent, until dawn, but that kind of lifestyle doesn't really tie in with having to be at the boat at 7.15 (or, God forbid, 6.15 on Hin Daeng and Kingcruiser Wreck days) in the mornings!
Still, when Monday morning involves hopping on a motorbike, driving for 15 minutes to a boat, loading up the gear before bringing people to fabulous dive sites, I can't really complain, now can I? And did I forget to mention that it's over 30 degrees on land every day and 29 to 31 under water, which is why I only need to dive with a rash vest rather than a wetsuit. I can only dream about conditions like that when I dive in Carraroe, the Aran Islands, Fanore, or Inis Bofin!
Ayudante Profile #5: Concepcion
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