Tuesday – The morning began pleasantly at the hotel – I swam, had breakfast and a massage. Checking out, however, was an unfortunate ordeal. Although the shuttle booking was undeniable, printed quite clearly on my confirmation, the hotel staff and manager absolutely refused to take any responsibility for doing what they had said they would do and were extremely rude about it. Clearly this was not a hotel that relied on repeat business, the other guests seemed nice enough but mostly package tourists, always a bad sign.

My best advice to anyone out there on the internets is – never, ever go to the Old Phuket Hotel in Karon Beach! This is a Phucked Up Place (ha!). Fortunately, Agoda (which processed the booking) later did take responsibility and reimbursed me for the taxi. It was a shame to see Thai people at this hotel acting just like Americans! Super sketchy, I must say! Enough complaining, I just hate being cheated, that’s all. Time to go diving.

Arriving at the Sunrise Divers office, I was quickly fitted for dive equipment and climbed into their comfortable van for the ride north to Hat Khao Lak. I had been through this way in 2000, doing the same trip with Sea Dragon dive center which was still in business but not running a boat this early in the season. Of course in fifteen years much had changed, particularly since the 2004 tsunami.

After relinquishing my shoes and clambering over the side of the Andaman Queen (it was very low tide), the two divemasters Steve and Tod introduced the crew and gave their briefing about the boat. It was designed for 21 guests but this early on, we only had 9, so we were upgraded. I ended up with two-bunk cabin with private bath, shared with a nice Russian guy. We didn’t spend much time there except for sleeping and downloading pictures and videos, so that worked out great.

We were served dinner, then the boat headed out for the Similan Islands. In the cabin futzing with my camera, I missed the fireworks set off on the bow, but I heard they were great!