Wrap it up

Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, August 25, 2006

Today is the 28th of August. Last week in Siem reap, we decided to try to make it to a beach in Thailand to spend our last eight days in Southest Asia. It seemed like good thing to do. A ten hour drive let us off in Bangkok where we spent 26 hours. We stored half of our luggage in a hotel storage room and boarded an overnight bus to Koh Tao. (International standard on overnight bus rides demand a midnight snack stop. It happens about 40 minutes after the last passanger falls asleep. Bus stops, lights turn on. People grumble yet go to buy a bowl of noodles. I'm always the last one on the bus wondering why we're stopping). It dropped us at a ferry platform at 2:30 in the morning where we slept until 6am when the ferry shuttle started up.
By 10am we were docking and we had a good idea of how much diving was going to cost and who to go with. We spent two nights on the island's commercial side and took two morning dives. The water is warm and clear. We wore half suits, while others went in bikinis. Our first dive was on August 24, Erin's 30th birthday. We saw half a dozen 5-6 foot reef sharks. Even a minor nature lover would love diving. Anybody who has looked at a butterfly and thought "pretty,"; if you've seen a bug and thought "weird""; if you've ever looked at a puppy and thought "cute"" then you'd probably love diving. It feels like extraterrestrial exploration and it is a hoot.
From there we came here: Ao Luek. From our balcony we look down on a gorgeous bay. It is the ideal paradise beach that graces cubicles and day dreams across the world. The water looks like a thousand blues rubbing each other. The sand is white. We can see fish on the bottom, 40 feet beneath us. We have two rented sets of snorkel gear and we've been using them three to four times a day. The view from the balcony would make your jaw drop.
There are coral reefs lining the bay, habitat for all sorts of life. Yesterday we walked down from our bungalow and didn't stop until we were swimming. I saw one of the most incredible things of nature that I have ever seen. We had been treading water, playing around free diving and floating. Just as we started moving towards the beach, I looked down and saw a manta ray swimming by us. Erin had already taken off and I couldn't get her attention, so I turned and pursued the ray on my own.
In several hard strokes I was on its right rear flank. I could see the two mandible fins around/under its mouth. It was green with a light underside and a couple of smaller fish on its back span. From one wing to the other it was about six feet across. Just as I thought these things, it must have sensed me because it slowed down and started to slowly turn in my direction until we faced each other. I stopped right away and instantly remembered that I was a small fish in a big sea.
The manta ray turned away and continued on. I followed. After a short distance he slowed and turned again. This time he swam towards me. One part of me wanted to swim around and play with it. My decisive side, however, kept me frozen in a starter's block stance to attempt a feeble a get away.
Just then I glanced at a flash on the horizon and saw a barracuda shaking around just under the surface. They say that a barracuda won't attack something large, but they still have visible, sharp teeth and beady eyes that make me feel a little squirrelly. I looked back down and the manta was doing a circle around me. The barracuda swam off and the manta did a figure eight to sweep past me once again. He flapped his wings a few times and set back on his first course. I followed from above. After a short while he arched his wings and banked right down into a blue darkness. The manta ray qualifies as one of the coolest things that I've seen. It just happened by us one afternoon down in the water.
Time now is actually getting short for our trip. It looks like we have just another couple of months before we're back home taking on other challenges. On one hand I can count the time that we have remaining in Southeast Asia. Our plan thus far has been an utter success. For five days we listed away on a tropical bay that would make you salivate, as we talked about concluding our visit here. Our time in Asia has just about expired. Tomorrow we we'll take two more morning dives and then hop aboard the ferry/bus trip back. After three days in Bangkok we'll leave this part of the world and return to the southern hemisphere. The prospects of going home are sort of sad and sort of exciting. The reality of it hasn't quite sunk in. Sitting on a beach talking about her 30th bday Erin said "Everyday of this past year could have been a dream." It's always hard to wake from a good dream isn't it?
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