February 14, 2015, Jessica and I landed in Thailand for the first time. We landed at an insane hour of the morning and tried to sleep in the airport before catching the bus to Koh Chang. We spent several days on the island and I was even able to do some scuba diving. It was on that trip in Thailand where we met some teachers who said teaching in Thailand was the greatest thing ever and I decided to give it a try. Only looking back can we realize how our lives come in a full circle.
Jessica and I only spent a few days in Shanghai together. She needed to get back to work and I was off for a weekend scuba adventure (February 17-19) to Koh Chang with Mermaids dive center. We left the shop Friday afternoon to drive to the island, maybe about a 5ish hour trip plus the ferry ride. The plan was then to do three dives each on Saturday and Sunday on the HTMS Chang. The HTMS Chang was an American tank landing ship which was bought by the Thai Navy then sunk in 2012 for recreational diving. The top of the ship is five meters underwater and the bottom of the ship is at about 30 meters.
It was on this trip that I learned the phrase “secondhand fun,” where you may not be having fun now but looking back you can laugh at it all, which I think accurately describes some of my experiences abroad. On the ferry from the mainland to the island, we were stopped by some immigration officials. One of them used to work in Pattaya and recognized the Mermaid vans. Once on Koh Chang, we had to take an hour stop while they sorted paperwork with immigration.
When Jessica and I were in Koh Chang in 2015, we stayed at Cliff Cottages and I did a couple dives with Scuba Dawgs. Full circle, stayed at Cliff Cottages again and we were on the Scuba Dawgs boat going out to the wreck. Cliff Cottages hadn’t really changed much. Jessica and I had stayed in their tents, with Mermaids we stayed in the little cottage rooms. There were actually so many of us that we spilled into the hotel next door. I actually stayed in the hotel next door.
Since the HTMS Chang was sunk intentionally as an artificial reef, it doesn’t have as many broken sharp bits. One of the coolest parts was being able to go inside the cargo hold because it was such a vast dim empty space with shafts of light going through from the opening on deck. There were all sorts of schooling fish on the deck of the ship. Near the bow of the boat there was a giant fish about the size of some of my students.
The visibility was pretty clear; you would start your decent and when you were at the tower you could see the deck about 15 meters below but as you got near the bottom of the ship it got a lot more cloudy. There was no current so the dives were all pretty easy and enjoyable. We would go inside, through the hallways and peek into the rooms, or go up the stairs into the second level, or swim through the captains quarters. In some places there were bits of furniture, a desk or a lamp or a toilet still bolted down. It wasn’t a free for all going in anywhere, only places with clear exits. They were fantastic dives.
If you want to see a model of the HTMS Chang, click here! The featured image at the top of the post is another photo by one of my awesome dive buddies, Tex. Thank you to Tex, AJ, and Barry for letting me use your photos!