This is going to be an equipment exchange like no other

Amidst the long list of activities that have been undertaken over the last three months, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you that diving (the big one), has come to an end. With the majority of our original group having already flown the coop, just a few of us stragglers have been dragging out our assists and skill circuits for as long as is reasonable, but the time inevitably came for us to partake in the legendary snorkel test. 

 

The theme was, there was no theme. Bitterly disappointed yet creatively inspired, we took the loose fancy dress term and ran with army. 

     

Camouflage tee shirts were found in the market and ripped to shreds. We schlepped through the middle of a tropical rain storm all the way to Chalok for body paint and green glitter. To complete the outfits, we found the most important accessories of all – plastic guns from the 29 baht store.

We drank creamy frappuccinos and ate cheesy pizza while Abi selflessly did both mine and Maria’s hair and make up. That girl deserves a medal! Miraculously, despite having started to get ready practically at midday, we were in a state of rushed panic come 7 o’clock. We weren’t to worry though, as our counterparts were running equally as late, and it afforded us time for a quick strawberry daiquiri to calm the nerves. It was totally worth the wait, as they turned up looking rather dashing indeed.

Ryan and Tess raided a pyjama shop, and ended up looking a little bit like cleaning ladies. 

 

Kristine wore her epic Great Dane tee, complete with a Danish flag around her bun. 

 

Sander…well, I have no words for what Sander was dressed up as. Your guess is as good as mine. 

 

The games kicked off with ‘Equipment Exchange’, an original concept dreamt up entirely by James. As we were an odd number, I had pick of the bunch to choose my partner. Did I go for any one of the hot men who were plaguing the bar that night? No, I panicked when I saw Georgia run off (she was wearing a lovely dress, sans knickers, and rightly ran off to the loos so she couldn’t get picked), so someone chose for me a poor lad called Will. Will had just finished his green curry and wasn’t much in the mood for drinking, so it fell to me to pick up my partner’s slack and drink the beers. 

  The rules were simple (ish). We had to remove two items of clothing from each other while continuously drinking the beer, and re-dress in the other’s clothes. My carefully cut tee shirt ended up a bit more gaping than intended, Kristine flashed her bum to the crowd and we got away with our guns passing as an item of clothing. Happy campers all round!  

 

 After a celebratory sambuca shot, things proceeded to get messier and messier. We were covered in eggs from our egg and spoon obstacle course (no photos, sad times), the outcome of which determined whether we’d get a ‘good bucket’ or a ‘bad bucket’. Considering the ratio of mayonnaise to alcohol in mine was probably around 3:1, I most definitely got a bad one.

The time came to line up on our chairs, all of us already three sheets to the wind and ready to go. Lovely Adam poured mine into the snorkel and was generous with the motivational encouragements, which absolutely helped, as it tasted pretty foul.  

  

  

But we did it!  

     

The night continued and nobody was sober enough to take a photo. Poor Kristine spent most of it in the recovery position, and Tess did the baby sick thing when you spontaneously spew mid conversation with somebody, and gallantly soldier on as if nothing happened. There was a serious case of over-sharing in the air that night, as it turns out I may have confessed my undying love for the most elusive of instructors, to the man (the myth, the legend) himself. Thankfully, whatever happens on your snorkel test is totally acceptable and subsequently erased from memory. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many of my friends kissing each other in one night! There was a lot of love going around, and it was lovely. 

       

My last memories of the fiasco were all of us arriving at Sunset to the music shutting down, and the DJ enthusiastically shouting at the girls to jump in the pool topless for a free bucket. Mine was a vodka and peach!

Those guns came in handy for the long walk/run home, as myself and Abi went a bit Lord of the flies and thought we were being chased by every man and his dog. It turns out we were genuinely chased by a pack of dogs, and then bulldozed into James who was innocently coming round a corner.

The whole night was simply unreal, one of those I can’t really remember but will never forget. An unbelievable effort from Sophie and Adam made it extra special, and we can’t thank them enough for organising all the games for us. It was the perfect way to end my time here on Koh Tao, with some of the loveliest and most special people I think I’ll ever meet. Us DMTs come and go, but it’s safe to say that we were the best group that ever has been, and ever will be. We probably all think that, but for us I promise it’s true! 

I never was one of the braver children…

To ease ourselves back into the land of the living after a rather raucous few nights, lots of time has been spent treating ourselves to some of our favourite things. Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, plus the famous bistro burger from Zest, got me through some not so pleasant morning dives. But believe you me, a giant stride into the ocean can battle any hangover, no matter how crippling.



But enough of the savoury Western delights. We have sniffed out the most wonderful cafe in Mae Haad who make a caramel cream frappuccino ten times better than Starbucks. Even nicer, they let us sit upstairs all day using their airy space to draw up our evacuation plans and maps for the DMT course. Aside from one awkward Maria moment, where she was mistakenly given a ‘strawberry shake’ instead of the desired ‘strawberry cheesecake’, we have found a gem to satisfy our sweet tooths (if the usual banana pancake won’t suffice).

 

 To make the most of our last days with the leavers, we’ve been having a whale (shark) of a time on the boat.





Bringing Abi’s go pro on our first dive proved to be very fruitful, catching not one, but two blue spotted rays. One even swam out and about in front of us. There I was, calmly watching it float past when all of a sudden, Abi powers across in front of my eyes, chasing it down with the camera stick. Anything for the money shot!

Reaching heights of 40 degrees that day rendered my insulating wetsuit useless. Donning Dennis’ spare rash vest (after he gave it the ominous sounding ‘sniff test’) and dropping the many weights needed to usually make me sink, me and Maria had a lovely dive at Hin Pee Wee, managing to miss the turtle that everyone else seemed to see. Oh well, hopefully it’ll stick around!  

Clinging onto Gill’s hand for dear life, we whipped off our masks and regulators for a photo supposed to show how carefree and relaxed we are underwater. My screwed up face doesn’t quite give off that impression, but I’m going to blame the contact lenses. 

   

To build up Ryan’s bank of go-pro footage for his film in the making, a group decision was spontaneously made to jump off the boat. If you know me at all, you’ll know that spontaneity is most certainly NOT my middle name (planning is) and it took some coaxing to get me down from that great height. 

     

We ended Gill’s time on the island with numerous fanciful dinners, at both Barracuda and Lung Pae, to give her the send off she deserved. 

     

Atop the hillside restaurant, once we’d polished off our fillet steaks and we’re ready for speeches, I whipped out some crumpled pieces of paper upon which I’d penned a little goodbye poem, aptly titled ‘Hurricane Gill’. It went a bit like this…

You blew in from your travels to do Open Water, and ended up staying, a lamb to the slaughter. 
You jumped from great heights, forgetting your clothes, due to the buckets and shots, I suppose.
Through the course of your stay, you rocked many a man’s world, except for that poor bloke whose bed on which you hurled.
The boys got an eyeful on many a boat, you poured water seductively, us girls should take note.
You’re bubbly, you’re bright, you have a great future in sight. We’re lucky you chose Simples to do all your courses, and one thing’s for sure, we won’t spare the horses!

Now it’s not going to win any awards, but it made Gill chuckle and that was the best. We said our goodbyes at the pier, many tears were shed (mainly by me), but it was a happy day. How lucky are we to have made friends for life?!  

 

And look at these epic collages Gill made of our memories – it just shows that we really have been living in paradise. 

     

Our direction to One Direction: backwards and uncomfortable

Cheerfully flip flopping down to the pier, clutching our £14 tickets to Bangkok, me, Maria and Georgia felt on top of the world. By a stroke of luck, Georgia’s mum had informed her of One Direction’s tour stopping off in Thailand, and we unanimously decided we’d be fools to miss it. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and despite none of us actually being genuine fans, we were most definitely fans enough to travel the length of a country to catch them.

The Songserm ferry took us to Chumphon, mainland Thailand. The first of a series of terrible decisions made by the Thais, was forcing upon us unfortunate passengers the entire length of the director’s commentary of I, Robot. As you can see, this didn’t trouble Maria one bit! This girl could sleep through an apocalypse.



After a supper of freshly cut pineapple at the pier, we wearily boarded the optimistically named ‘VIP bus’ number two. It boasted two decks, and we confidently strode towards the tables at the bottom level. After all, the table seats are the most sought after positions on most modes of transport, are they not? Not today, folks. 

We were squashed like sardines onto a hard, straight backed bench, facing backwards towards the faces of those lucky enough to inhabit an individual seat. Blaring behind us was a fifty inch wide screen TV, which also doubled as what only can be described as a head rest, as it was in the space that the head rest should have been occupying. So for the start of the journey, we blocked the view of a Denzel Washington film for the rest of the prisoners. Oops, I mean passengers.

The motley crew sitting opposite us consisted of a scary Russian man, accompanied by his hareem of three bleach blonde, plastic boobed, Scouse browed ladies. We spent the entire time trying to figure out the relationships in this strange set up, and they spent their time eating an assortment of sausages on sticks, pickled onions and a whole jar of mayonnaise.

The only sensible thing to do was to knock back a Nytol at 8pm, awkwardly have our drug induced sleep in the square view of people trying to watch a film (apparently 22 Jump Street played afterwards) and wake up on Khaosan Road at 3.30am, on Saturday morning.

Now, we hadn’t expected this early arrival to be quite so early, so we had no hostel to check into until a more sociable hour. It called for one thing and one thing only, an amble down the infamous backpackers’ road to a good old twenty four hour Macdonald’s. Never has a cheeseburger and chips been so therapeutic and comforting, after the bus trip from hell. After a fair few refusals from taxi drivers to take us to our hostel (they were holding out for airport trips) we managed to find the most useless driver in the entire world. Showing him the name of the hostel, the address, the nearby main road names, heck, even a frigging GPS route on Google maps, was entirely fruitless. He took us to the Austrian embassy for some strange reason, and tried to offload us in a couple of different swanky hotels, none of which were our own. Eventually, after asking a thousand different taxi drivers for directions, we rolled up to our lovely haven of a hostel.

WE Bangkok was recommended to us by Georgia’s sister, and apart from being impossible to find by taxi, was incredible in every way. Set up like a loft, we stayed in the eight bed mixed dorm which was super clean, modern, and incredibly comfortable. After a couple of hours kip, we headed straight to Centralworld for ten o’clock, as soon as it opened its doors. Being the world’s sixth largest shopping centre, we felt it a suitable choice for our city starved selves to explore all day.



Purchases were made in Forever 21, H&M, and our new favourite, Pull & Bear! There’s only so many elephants pants a girl can handle after two months on an island.



Georgia went to a lovely French restaurant to meet her family friends for lunch, so me and Maria were left with the whole food court to contend with. We settled on Mexican burritos for lunch (Koh Tao lacks a good Mexican) with a Dunkin Donut for afters for Maria, and a maple and walnut scoop of Movenpick for me.



Reconvening at our hostel, we scrubbed up a bit for the boys, and hit the road.





Arriving at Rajamangala Stadium was an assault on the senses in every which way. Hordes of screaming fans littered the area, dressed up to the nines in all sorts of One Direction paraphernalia. We queued for our tickets, grabbed a beer before the show and headed up to our entrance, B1 standing. Feeling like the most blessed girls in the world, we discovered pretty quickly that we were probably the only Europeans in the whole of our section. Being a good foot taller than the tallest of the crowds was just the best. We could see the stage as clearly as anything, and were within spitting distance of the runway section of the structure. If you’re ever going to a concert, try and make it in Bangkok. You’ll be winning at life.





A very obscure DJ called ONO was the supporting act. He was totally a disappointment, being no 5 Seconds of Summer or McBusted, but he got the crowd going with chart hits.



When the 1D videos eventually started playing (they were about forty minutes late – we blame Zayn), the crowd went wild and we knew they were nearly here. Just before they popped on stage, the much loved classic Macarena played, and we performed the dance with gusto, as you would. Lo and behold, not ONE other person knew the dance. I kid you not, the Macarena must never have made it to the East! They stared at us like we’d gone mad, and weren’t even interested in learning the moves. We went for it for the full three minutes, and then the boys arrived.

What followed was the most glorious two hours of boyband ballads and chart toppers. Poor Zayn was red eyed, thin and generally looking extremely worse for wear. He hardly sang his parts during the whole set, and the cameras notably ignored him for the big screens. It would not surprise me one bit if he has a stint in the Priory on the horizon. Harry, on the other hand, had the most oomph of them all! He was such a talented frontman, and his rendition of Happy Birthday to a fan was so Johnny Cash-like, I’m convinced he needs to go solo and become a soulful crooner.





Our legs were jellified, our backs were killing and we were both dehydrated and starving hungry. The night was a resounding success. We stopped off for a bite to eat before heading home, and had one of the best nights sleep of our lives, waking up as new-found One Direction devotees.

The morning called for a rather posh breakfast at a swanky café we found near the hostel. Alkalising green juice for Georgia, roots juice for me.



We splurged on a more fancy brunch than we usually would have. Pah, we’re on holiday! The coconut porridge made with oats and barley had me at hello.





Next on the agenda to make the most of our Sunday was to pay a visit to the multiplex cinema back at Centralworld. I’m sorry, but we’ve been hearing too much hype these past two months about Fifty Shades of Grey to miss it. Verdict – we loved everything about the darned thing! On the way out, we nabbed a selection of Krispy Kremes in the beautiful mall before reluctantly returning to the hostel to fetch our bags and make tracks back to Khoasan Road.





Booking our tickets for that evening, we left our bags with the travel agents and had a few precious hours of market exploration. Fuelled up with a gloriously cheap and tasty pad thai, we hit the streets for our various endeavours.





A successful pedicure for Georgia, present shopping for friends for me, and poor Maria ran out of baht at the final hurdle. We stumbled upon a little jewellery shop on my unsuccessful search for a new sparkly belly bar, which sold the most gorgeous temporary body tattoos. I’ve seen these gold leaf and feather designs all over Instagram lately, but to order them online has so far been extortionately priced. We purchased a sheet each for 120 baht, around two pounds fifty, to adorn ourselves with for our snorkel tests. The owner was kind enough to give us a sample in the shop, which he says can last up to a week. No scrubbing for me! I want to remain a mermaid forever.





The journey back was nowhere near as hellish as the last. We cleverly sourced seats on the upper deck at the front, for ample leg room. Aside from being chilled to the bone after eight hours of sleeping in a fridge on wheels, we arrived safely back to our island home. Wallets considerably lighter, bellies full, beach starved for an entire three days, we cannot wait to get back in the water. Bangkok is a city that has everything you can imagine, and it seriously satisfied our cravings for civilisation.

‘Where do broken hearts go?’ I hear the 1D boys say. Come on down to Koh Tao. If you can survive the journey, you won’t be disappointed. We have less rats, and more sand! 



And it was all yellow…

Sadly, there comes a time when all good things must end. Hitting the Divemaster milestone this week were six lucky folks, some of whom are leaving the island to go home (sob), and others who are starting their IDC (instructor training course) on the twelfth.

So from left to right, we have our beautiful Gillykins in the pigtails. As you have probably gleaned from her cropping up in 99% of my stories, we are as thick as thieves (though not as thick as two short planks – she is an inspiring young lady with a list of credentials as long as my arm, and buckets of oomph. She’s gonna go places). Even simply writing this post is making me tear up. I don’t want to gush, but meeting Gill has absolutely made my trip in each and every way, and thanks to this girl I have an abundance of hilarious memories to take home with me and treasure forever. I’m still holding out for a collection of stories illustrating her magical childhood growing up on a farm in Zimbabwe – it has literary success written all over it.

Sporting the particularly fetching frilly hat is Hannah, who was lucky enough to have her birthday on the same day as her snorkel test. Serendipity? I think so. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate their special day covered in flour, egg and God knows what else?! Poor cherub! But kudos to Mike, he baked her a wonderful chocolate cake that we all got to enjoy.



And now for the boys! We have the myterious James, notoriously late for every boat, more often than not due to the shortcomings of his beloved (crappy) moped, Daisy. Sitting proudly in a lady’s dress to his right is Seb, who was irked by the considerable number of people who complimented him on his ability to pull off said dress. One diamond overheard during the night was ‘Some women would kill to have those curves!’. Note that it was his wallet stuffed in the chest area, people.

Sam and Joe, aka dumb and dumber, were lazy enough to arrive in identical outfits. This was not a case of great minds thinking alike, as their forfeit was to have three Changs strapped to their hands, not two, during one of the challenges. Sam, the Hulk Hogan of the seas, is going home to Bath to become a Physics teacher, believe it or not. Our very own Liam Hemsworth lookalike, Joe, is off to sunny Cornwall to continue breaking hearts and train as a fully fledged instructor. Did someone say seven millimetre wetsuit?



Not included in the group shot (photography isn’t a forte of mine) is the lovely Ross, also on the road to instructor land. One bright spark gave him a moustache to rival that of Sam’s, and he does rather pull it off, don’t you think?



The night began as civilised as ever, dousing ourselves in glitter while Gill painted her nails a striking shade of yellow that proved to be a nightmare to remove the following day. The ladies at Blue Wave will curse the day we chucked about the sparkly stuff, and we really shouldn’t give them any more reason to be peeved at us, but who can resist a bit of fairy dust on an occasion as special as this.





Highlights of the evening at Simple Life consisted of the brilliant games, organised and brought to fruition by Instructor Sam. The special seven were lined up in front of plates of flour with gummy bears hidden inside. Their cruel friends behind were responsible for cracking the egg on their face, the signal to begin the search!





It’s safe to say that Abi’s sadistic side came out to play during this round.





But Gill looked to be enjoying herself, nonetheless!



A carefully choreographed dance competition decided who was to receive the ‘nice’ buckets (really, is there such a thing?) and hidden talents were duly revealed.





The time came for the grand finale and everyone was done for. Seb finished his in lightning speed and Gill impressively did not spill a drop. That’s a lot to live up to, but challenge accepted for the rest of us.



How cute does she look in this poncho? I die.



What followed was a night of total drunken debauchery. Not naming names, two of our own separately went AWOL, ending up catching some shuteye in the dark corners of the Simple Life bar. Not even the barmen noticed them when they were shutting up shop! Over the course of the night you would often see yellow clad figures scurrying off behind a rock to undo some of the damage, but they were well looked after by those who love the most.



It’s been an utterly wild ride with this lot, and they’ve all made my time here amazingly special. Saying goodbye at the pier is going to be horrible, but I’m so lucky to call these fantastical peeps my Simple Life famalam. 



Triple boating is the new double 

My day began with a stroke of horrible luck for Hannah, but great luck for me. The full moon is looming, which means the tides are on our side, and as a result, the visibility has never been clearer.



Ross led a wonderful dive around White Rock, a dive site we visit most days, but it felt like discovering a whole new world this time due to all that we could see. While Kristine and I were ogling a blind white eyed moray eel swimming around the coral, poor Hannah was feeling rather unwell and pushing the limits of her one way regulator system (anything ‘foreign’ expelled into it gets pushed out so that you can breathe, thank goodness). When we returned to deck it was decided that she couldn’t assist her course in the afternoon, so a spot opened up for me.

A day previous, instructor Dennis finished off an Open Water course for a lovely girl called Jess, from Scotland. Before flying off to travel Australia for six months on her gap year, she wanted to complete her Advanced Open Water Diver course, too. This consists of five adventure dives, where you get the chance to explore more exciting and challenging dive sites.

Hopping straight back onto the afternoon boat, we started with Peak Performance Buoyancy at Japanese Gardens. The coral is beautiful there, but it’s rather shallow and there’s not a huge amount of fish to be seen. Dennis very kindly let me demonstrate the buoyancy skills, which included hovering vertically, horizontally and upside down, only using your lungs to keep you neutrally buoyant in the water. We then whipped off our fins, had a race in the sand and practised our somersaults.





Our next stop was Twins, home to two large pinnacles with a sandy patch in the middle. Highly ironically, I, with a complete lack of sense of direction, was trusted to teach Jess how to use her compass for the navigation portion of the course. It didn’t go terribly wrong! Under Dennis’ watchful eye we were filmed for a Simple Life promo and she grasped the skills super quickly, totally mastering each task underwater. We were even trailed by a triggerfish doing our squares and kick cycles, and she still managed to find the boat. I was suitably impressed!



After inhaling a chicken massaman curry with rice back at the dive shop, we were ushered back on the long tail for a night dive. Desa kindly lent me her torch, and much to Dennis’ surprise I confessed that this, too, was my first night dive. He taught us the changes in hand signals underwater – instead of the standard okay sign with thumb and forefinger, you make a circle of light with your torch.

It was an unbelievable experience diving at Three Rocks in the pitch black. You don’t know what’s coming around each corner – sometimes it was a big rock, other times a pufferfish, and we even followed a nocturnal blue spotted ray for a while. Needless to say, after triple boating and six dives in one day, I slept very well that night.

The morning brought the last two dives for Jess. A deep dive at the beautiful pinnacle at Chumphon, and an exploratory wreck dive to follow. It was so great to experience the Advanced course all over again, made even more special by the opportunity to play instructor (in a teeny tiny way). It has, without a doubt, made me even more excited to complete my IDC one day. 



Unfortunately for me, on the last dive I went past my NDL (no decompression limit) and didn’t understand that my watch was telling me to do a seven minute safety stop. Should have read the manual. It’s a bit mad at me and has locked me out, so that means no diving for 24 hours.



Anyone for a well deserved passion fruit daiquiri at Fizz? I don’t mind if I do!



It takes two to Mango

Since the blow out night of snorkel tests gone by, us divemaster trainees have been utterly worked to the bone. Well, not exactly, but our days of diving have been some of the most productive so far. Under the watchful eye of a wonderful instructor, Jo, I assisted my first Open Water course. We were lucky enough to teach a small group of two Scottish boys, who took to the ocean with nay a care nor a worry. Taking their masks off underwater and clearing them was an absolute doddle, which made my role as assistant pretty much redundant. It was decided early on that my role would be ‘professional Go-pro handler’. Thanks to me, they’ve got some lovely footage of them finding their fins in the waters of Koh Tao!



Somewhat more tasking was the ominously named ‘stress test’ that all of us must complete. You and your buddy kneel on the sand, buddy breathing for a minute, which is sharing one regulator between you. You take two breaths, pass the regulator to your buddy who takes two breaths, all the while blowing bubbles as not to hold your breath underwater (the number one rule of scuba diving). As if this wasn’t hard enough to master, you then have to exchange every piece of equipment, until you’re both wearing each other’s kit.

Myself and Gill bravely went down with Steve to give it a go. You’re not allowed to practise this one, because someone must be there with you holding out their alternate air source, in case one of you panics. We were suitably sh***ing ourselves, but we muddled through and apparently made it look fairly easy (people came down to observe/have a nosey). We came away with a sterling five out of five, and no desire to ever repeat the experience.

All of this ticking of the boxes and studying for exams has meant that these sorts of embarrassing things have started to happen.

^ Falling asleep catching flies in a coffee shop with pen still in hand. Gill subsequently sent me home for a much needed nap.

Having got a bit caught up in spending every waking moment either in the water or learning about being in the water, me and Maria felt it was high time to spread our wings and explore the island, with nothing but our Nikes and some vague directions (go up). We filled our water bottles at Simple Life and set off at 4pm, with the intention of watching the sun set at around 6pm. This was met with doubt from our fellow divers, who clearly didn’t realise how we not only giant stride off the boat, but on land too.



The route was littered with sandy potholes and slowly moving mopeds, including this horrendously harsh sign promising to shoot anyone lucky enough to survive the first shooting (we stayed well clear, only climbing the one barbed wire fence to take this picture).



Reaching the summit was a glorious moment, where we promptly ordered peach iced teas, followed immediately by a more refreshing Chang.



Watching the sun set over the mountain top, with our legs dangling over the ramshackle bar, was a moment of total and utter bliss. We took it all in, pointing out all our favourite spots from up above, before taking our obligatory rock photos to mark the occasion. 



The long walk down was made bearable by the promise of a bountiful dinner at one of our old favourite Thai places, Blue Chair. Being all the way down at the wrong end of Sairee, we rarely get to go. Once in a blue moon, some may say. So we rested our weary legs, gulped down a few more Changs and ordered a veritable feast.



Massaman curry, Penang curry and vegetable fried rice. A meal fit for a king, or for two girls who have just climbed a mountain!

They don’t call it a test for nothing

There comes a time in every divemaster trainee’s journey when you must don a snorkel, subject yourself to the mercy of your peers and down a bucket of God knows what. This happy time came recently for three brave souls – Henry, Desa and Ste.

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Henry joined us on Koh Tao after my arrival, which just shows how quickly you can bosh out the course, if needs be. He’s soon to be on his merry way to Australia for more adventures, and we’re sure to miss his signature enthusiastic waving, among other things. Desa and Ste aren’t quite leaving us yet, but as the snorkel test is such a lavish affair, they joined in early for the fun.

To kick off proceedings, the wickedly talented handymen, Sam and Ryan, had spent two (just two!) afternoons building the most incredible beer pong table you can imagine. It fit perfectly over the simple life furniture, they painted it a fluorescent red and green, and even managed to source the American plastic cups to boot. Copious bottles of beer were bought, so much so that the bar ran out of Changs and Leos, and we positively hammered the game. Kudos to the boys for showing such inspired initiative!

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After a fair few successful rounds of beer pong and pool, the real games were about to begin. Everyone had been asked to bring offerings of an unusual item of clothing, to complete the outfits of the night for the lucky three. They each had one minute to grab five pieces each, from an eclectic mix of bunny ears, bikinis, underpants and all sorts. It’s safe to say that fashion boundaries were pushed, with Henry puzzling over whether to have the bikini top over or under his tee shirt. Over. Definitely over.

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The snorkel test itself was a corker. Mustard, Tabasco and fish sauce were among the ingredients used, and it’s safe to say that every contestant did themselves proud.

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Another reason to celebrate this particular night was that it marked Ryan’s final day as a Royal Marine. To welcome him into civilian life, the gang decided to surprise him by plonking him on the bar, dragging him along it and pouring our assorted drinks over him, Coyote Ugly style. One savage person was kind enough to vigorously shake the pot of salt in his mouth right at the end. Poor Abi got a bit carried away and up-ended her precious Baileys shake all over his face. A moment of madness.

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What followed was one of the most outrageously fun nights we’ve been lucky to experience so far. Desa and Maria were forced to guzzle water outside the 7/11 before being allowed to enter Fishbowl by Gill, Ryan got hit in the face by a flaming tennis ball, Henry and Ste had a tactical snooze on the bean bags at the beach, Tess ran wild in her Victoria Secret underwear jumping in the pool at Sunset, and we generally had the best time ever.

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You can probably tell that we’re extremely sad to see our friends leave, and our Simple Life family truly won’t feel the same without them! Adios, amigos.

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Barracuda, woulda, shoulda

Ever since Gill was lucky enough to eat at the famous island favourite, Barracuda, when her auntie and uncle came to visit, we’ve been eagerly listening to her description of the seafood platter with mouth watering anticipation. Insisting that the platter for two is more than sufficient for three, we took heed and planned our romantic Valentine’s Day, devoid of men yet still so full of love.

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After the slightly traumatic experience of Skills Circuit One on the afternoon boat with Zac, we felt we heavily deserved a treat night. Sixty seven minutes of kneeling on the sand at six metres, demonstrating skills as an instructor would do (aka, perfectly, with clear and exaggerated movements) both me and Maria let out a strangled wail of anguish, and clung onto each other for dear life once we finally surfaced. Around forty minutes into the dive, we were all contorting into strange positions in between skills to ease varying stages of cramp. At the same time as controlling the shivers, trying to keep weighted down on the sand as our air was used up, we became more and more buoyant with each breath. All I can say is, thank goodness that ordeal is over!

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Dressed up to the nines, Maria, Abi and I descended upon the restaurant in a haze of cocktails and excitement. Sampling the raspberry mojitos and their special mixes, we had an absolute whale of a time from start to finish. Introducing the girls to a favourite childhood game of thinking up things an object could be, we were totally occupied for the following three hours. The napkin ring was most definitely the best (and most inventive) round.

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When the platter eventually came, we were three sheets to the wind and loving life. The imported house white in particular was a cracking choice, justified to ourselves by the fact that it goes so well with seafood. It’d be rude not to, right?!

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^ A bit squiffy.

The food was positively glorious, and true to Gill’s word was plenty for us to share. While myself and Maria hammered the whole red snapper (eyes included), Abi was in seventh heaven with her prawns swimming in garlic butter.

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To top it all off, we ordered a beautiful white chocolate, ginger and passion fruit cheesecake with three forks, and naturally one more round of vino.

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Now for that veritable banquet that we enjoyed so immensely, you would have expected a fair bill at the end of it. But true to Thailand form, we escaped with the minor damage of £16 a head. A steal!

Strolling arm in arm back to Blue Wave as the clock struck midnight, I could truly say it was the most perfect and memorable Valentine’s day a single girl could wish for.

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Mojito Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…

We’ve recently discovered, to the detriment of our wallets, that Fishbowl along Sairee beach does a mean hundred baht deal on mojitos every Monday. This isn’t just your average lime and mint combo either. We’ve sampled the wild berry, passion fruit, mango, and the absolutely lethal Thai. A mixture of ginger syrup and chilli rum, it truly burns! Not one for the faint hearted, but I rather enjoyed it.

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Feeling a tad tipsy and over exposed to the sun, we had an impromptu shopping spree at a shop ran by the meanest of staff. Not even a measly 10 baht could be knocked off, despite our sweetest smiles. We’d even set up camp outside awaiting her return from a clearly leisurely lunch – but alas, no discount was to be had.

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Abi came away over the moon with a pair of perfectly fitting denim shorts (something we’ve been striving to find at every corner), Maria with a gorgeous high waisted bikini, and myself with a striking neon number! An afternoon well spent, and we may have spent rather a lot.

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Wobbling back along the yellow brick road to Mae Haad, we stopped at a restaurant that housed the most lovely dog, who’d just had a litter of puppies. We elbowed several shrieking girls out of the way to grab a puppy for a cuddle. They were too cute for words! We wished more than anything that we could have ran off with one and kept him at Blue Wave in the courtyard.

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Puppies, shopping and cocktails. Just another day in paradise!