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The Similan Islands

Written on: Monday April 7th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

Zee Germans! People often say that they don?t like to stereotype, well I?m not one of them, as I think it?s hilarious. And if ever there was a case of stereotypes being proven it was on the speedboat I was on approaching the secluded and beautiful islands of the Similans, in the Andaman Sea.


Joining me on this speedboat were a Thai crew and 7 Germans who we picked up in a songthaew in the mainland town of Khao Lak at different hotels on our way to the port. At each hotel we got to I knew immediately on spotting the people who were about to join me that they were Germans, and as we made our way to the next place, I hoped and prayed that the next group we picked up were going to be English, or of an English speaking country at the very least.


Sadly none were and I?d resigned myself to spending the next two days improving my German. What a bunch they were though. Before we?d even made it to the big boat where we would dive from and live on for the next couple of days I had given them all nicknames, as none of them, despite all speaking English had really acknowledged me and introduced themselves. I began thinking I had made the wrong decision again to shell out the vast amount of money I had to come here.


There was King Louie, a hulk of a man, who seemed to have much to say to the other Germans on the songthaew, then as soon as we boarded the speedboat fell in to a deep sleep, with his shoulders hunched over and his hands rolled in to fists which nestled in to the seating either side of his wide, bloated frame - orangutan style. His peak cap looked directly at me hiding his drowsy face from view. His wife, the equally hulk-like, butch Helga, sat peacefully beaming around the boat. She had thighs the size of treestumps and a face that said she was a descendant of the Valkyries. Next up was the Boss and his wife, the Secretary. The Boss was a bald, stout, plump man in his 60?s who sat surveying the seas with his arms firmly folded as if keeping an eye on them to make sure they behaved. His wife, the Secretary, had those thin-rimmed secretarial glasses on and appeared only to speak when she was spoken to by him. She seemed extremely unimpressed with everything.


Hansel and Gretel, a middle aged couple of no interesting description, sat in the back corner of the boat doing absolutely nothing. At that point if the old lady that lived in the gingerbread house had of asked me if she could have eaten them I would have gladly obliged. As it turned out, his name was Harry which mutated very nicely in to Hansel, but once on the boat he was one of the very few who did make an effort to speak to me and turned out to be a nice guy, and actually Austrian, not German after all. Finally came the one man who scared me in to silence the whole way to the Similans. Bobby Gruba sat in the front corner of the boat and kept his eye on everyone, with his thin, bony, creepy, feminine legs crossed left over right. His feet were so long and thin I actually had to count the number of toes on his feet as I thought he might have had one too few on each foot. If John McTiernan had of ever met this guy there is no doubt he would have cast him as another vindictive Gruba brother of Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons in a Die Hard sequel. If I ever happen to go in to film-making I would search the earth to find him to play the bad guy in Die Hard 9.142. Even now, writing this I shiver at the thought of him.


So these were my crewmates. I had to laugh and look forward to the amazing sights that the coral-rich waters of the Similan islands would offer me. As it was it could and only got better. The boatmaster was a German girl named Janette, but nothing like the stereotypical bunch that I?d arrived with. With short blonde hair, a prominent tattoo down her forearm and a bubbly, taking no-s*#t attitude and with her tall, smiley and friendly Australian divemaster boyfriend, Jez I was in good company. Already on the boat was Mark and Niiki, an English couple who had brought a bar in Spain a year ago, which had become very lucrative so this year they leased it out and are travelling the world; and Bernd, a middle-aged, extremely fit and courteous German. It also turned out that I was the only one of the speedboat crew who had arrived that morning who was staying that night joining the other 3 who were already there.


I don?t pretend to be a good diver. Quite the opposite, I know I?m pretty rubbish. I use up my air so quickly through trying to attain a decent buoyancy and then when I do get it right I expend so much energy farting about doing somersaults and spinning to see all around me that all the group has to cut their dive short to save me from drowning. But with an opportunity to come to the Similan Islands, voted as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world I couldn?t turn it down. And over the next two days and 6 dives I think I did improve considerably, staying down for one dive just one minute short of an hour.


Over those six dives I saw a wealth of sea-life, such that I?d never seen before. I dived through wrecks, down coral underwater cliff faces and through boulder swim-throughs 25 metres under the ocean. I was lucky enough to see clown fish, scorpion fish, puffer fish, sting rays of the like that led to Steve Irwin?s death last year, manta rays, conger eels, cleaner shrimp, turtles and was one of only 3 that saw a white-tipped reef shark swimming right towards me, no further than 10 metres away. On my last dive I was extremely fortuitous to look out in to the deep blue, away from the coral at just the right time to see two reef sharks peacefully swimming in the opposite direction. The one thing that the Similans is renowned for that I didn?t get to see is the incredible manta rays that frequent these parts, but what I did see more than made up for it. A fantastic trip that once again, after being apprehensive about doing it became another of the amazing experiences that I seem to be encountering every day.