Today’s first dive and the second to last of the trip began once again at 7 am. After the second early morning dive I can now see why the dive instructors/masters say that it is usually the best dive of the day. The morning offers so much liveliness in this world-sized aquarium. Best of all, this dive began with a leopard shark sighting, the first for one of our dive masters. This large predator sat perfectly still in the sand with its well-known spots lining the entirety of its body. When swimming in the ocean just offshore from the beach, sharks are easily my number one fear in the world; when I can’t see what is coming my imagination runs wild. In this instance, I bobbed in place just as calmly as the shark knowing we have a mutual understanding. What a beautiful creature, so powerful, so sleek. The rest of the dive led to more of the same which is not a bad thing because what I have seen the past few days has been incredible. As great as some of the aquariums I have been to, all thoroughly filled with fish, sharks, rays, etc., none of them can touch this, especially being in and amongst it. Fish swam around me as if I were some coral continuing on their path and the rest of their daily routine. Parrotfish are such a beautiful species of fish that they probably hide more rare fish from my sight but a rainbow of colors such as theirs can do that. So many of them chomp and munch away at the coral and hard rock and eventually leave behind the sand that later on graces Thailand’s photogenic beaches. While some hit the beach, I leapt in the water for some fish time by snorkeling around. The area was standard, nothing special until I found the one and only octopus of the trip. The creature flapped its tentacles together to propel itself forward eventually leading to a rock crevice. The last dive finished off the trip smoothly, not too challenging but with one of the densest abundance of marine life on this trip: more garden eels dancing their dance, lionfish sitting deadly but calmly, gorgonian fan corals populating the full expanse, and a peacock flounder hiding slyly in the sand before snatching its prey. A new cool fish that we found was the cleaner fish that enjoyed nibbling on your skin and especially my lip, which was an odd, out of nowhere sensation. I had the time of my life on this liveaboard trip. Sure the boat was nothing special but what do you expect for a backpacker price. I can’t believe those nine dives came and went so rapidly. The dives may be over but the memories will last. Whoever came up with the phrase that ‘all good things must come to an end’ didn’t know what they were talking about. Sure a moment comes and goes but who is to say that it is all over and done with. More scuba diving lies ahead in my future. I can’t say when or where but the salty waters of the ocean and sea will find me once again in its presence. The long trip back was a long, sweaty, rock me like a hurricane endurance. The Similans back to Khao Lak pier took an astounding five hours on our little tug boat that barely could.
However, it gave me some time to think and ponder. Along with this being the end of my scuba dive trip, it also meant the end of my time in Thailand. Although more travels await, I can’t avoid the sinking feeling of it being over. It brought me back to all those moments, kind of like a crazy flashback, in which I just didn’t want to let go. Those times ranged from the end of a weekend trip camping with some close friends, a thanksgiving holiday that brought an entire family together for food, laughter, and catching up, or a beautiful sunset or viewpoint that should stand the test of time with all of us as its spectators. The moment to let go comes whether you choose or not; you are never the final judge. You feel like a kid that wants to play at the swing set for one minute longer but the parent pulls you away as you try to dig in your feet hoping to hold on and linger a little while longer. I have not found a cure for something such as this; time moves on as it alone chooses. For me, I guess the lesson is to take hold of those moments and embrace them more passionately and thoroughly. They, just as life itself, have an expiration date. You can either let it sit on the shelf to rot or you can use it for all its worth. Easier said than done but I hope to absorb every last drop.
I got back to Khao Lak with little else to do except wind down before tomorrow’s grueling day at the airport. Knowing my sister wanted elephant pants, I set out looking for the exact one that she requested. For a couple kilometer stretch of road, I covered both sides of the street looking for the shop that had the one she wanted. I looked through so many elephant pants that I began to question whether I wanted to buy one at all knowing that I may never want to see another one for the rest of my days. The shop owners tried to sell me on ones that looked the same but in all actuality they weren’t. I was going to find them whether them killed me or my sanity first. Eventually I found them. I had look them over several times questioning whether I was witnessing a mirage. After bartering down to a fair price, I got the hell out of there, freeing myself of that burden. Now would have been as good of a time as any for a Thai massage but I passed on it for whatever reason. A delicious bowl of Thai seafood soup rounded out the night quite nicely before I finally calmed myself down to a slumber.