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First I am a twenty year old student studdying in Australai. From the 24th of June to the 10th of July I will be in Thailand. I will be flying into BKK where a friend of mine is studying. I will be around there until the 5th of July. I understand there are good beach areas within several hours bus? any recomendations for both diveing and on shore fun. Then on the 5th I'll head to Phuket, once again recomendations for diving and onshore fun. I might be in Phuket alone, my buddy might not come with me, can I stay affordably. THANKS for advice
a few hours bus drive from Bangkok? Then don't go to Phuket! That's over 12 hours by bus if I recall that right... It took me an entire night to get from Phuket to Bangkok. The night bus is pretty good though... you'll get free rice at midnight and they'll give you a fresh tissue to clean up your face in the morning
I did some diving from Kho Phi Phi and that was awesome! I guess if you go diving from Phuket, you'll go to the same areas to dive. At least, that was what someone told me. On Kho Phi Phi I dived with Island Divers (www.islanddiverspp.com), when I was there they had a lot of quite international, young and friendly staff who were diving safe. I'd recommend them. I don't think it'd be a problem if you don't bring a dive buddy. There are quite a lot of people travelling by themselves...
I guess if you look for a place to dive closer to Bangkok, you'd be better off to go to Kho Tao. I haven't dived there myself, but I heard from other divers it's pretty good there.
Well, about 150 km away from Bangkok, there is Pattaya. However the beach there is not all that nice and the water is quite murky. I don't expect very much when I go diving there however there are plenty of night life there. A bit past Pattaya, you get some nicer and more quiet beach.
For diving, your best bet now is probably Koh Tao down south. It is closer to Phuket than Bangkok but is on the Gulf of Thailand side rather than Andaman Sea like Phuket. You can take a bus from Bangkok at night, get to Chumporn early in the morning and take the morning boat to Koh Tao. You can gete decent diving, laid back island atmosphere and decent fun at night.
Regardless of where you are, it is a monsoon season in Thailand right now so there will be days when the sea can be quite rough.
Personally, would avoid Pattaya like the plague, it's full of seedy old western men with young girls and the diving is pretty poor in comparison to the rest of Thailand.
Ko Tao's looking pretty good at the moment, like most places not too busy but viz has picked up tremendously over the lastfew days and at deep water sites like Chumpon we had 20m viz this morning.
Dives: I dive all common sites in the Phuket area (that are open) with the exception of King Cruiser. The Viz was as low as 2 meters and as high as 20 m. The farther you travel from mainland the better the viz and the longer the winds stay calm the better the viz too.
Best dive: Anenomea Reef (sp) Unbelievable number of fish!!! Including Leopard Sharks.
Best Viz: Racha Noi and Phi Phi sites
The boat rides are about 2 hours or so to the sites and when its rough 3 - 5 meter swells, its no fun. I used Euro divers from Dive the World and Sea Bees from Scuba Cat. They were both very good and charged about 2000 - 2300 BHT for a 2 dive day with lunch (that's about $50 - $60 USD per day).
Hotels in Patong (no reason to stay at this beach, but it's the most popular) charged from 1200 - 2000 BHT per night for a 2 - 3 star hotel. I stayed at the Burasari most of the time and it was quite good. I negotiated a room price of 1700 BHT for a junior suite. Eating is dirt cheap and so is driniking as long as you stay a block away from the beach. Expect to pay about 300 BHT for a Thai dinner (for 2) with a couple Beer, Western style cooking costs more. Try a place called Number 6. It's on the first major street away from the beach on the west side of the street it is about 2 - 3 blocks from the centre of town towards the north.
People I met had dived all of the other sites mentioned above in other posts, they all said that the dives in the Phuket area were they best they had experienced (mostly for viz) this time of year.
As far as getting to Phuket. I booked a round trip ticket on Bangkok Airways the day of my departure for 4700 BHT (about $110 USD). It's real cheap to get around by air.
Negotiate all of your Taxis. I managed to negotiate a 20 - 50% discount on almost all (except meter fairs in BKK) rides. Negotiate all your souvenier purchases as well or buy at the wholesale shop about 2 blocks from the beach (accross from Christens Massage Centre).
Have fun!! PM me if you have more specific questions, I can probably find some of the phone numbers and addresses if you need them. I haven't even unpacked yet!!
I was supposed to dive King Cruiser on a 3 dive day (Anenomea Reef, Shark Point and King Cruiser). But the dive boat did not have the same understanding. We did the two dives (Reef and Point) and them headed back. Dive the World refunded me for the lost dive. It was my last day od diving (I had to fly to BKK the next day). Oh well, maybe I'll make it back there again some day....