Getting our scuba diving certification
20.07.2012 - 22.07.2012 86 °F
So we decided to both become certified scuba divers since we are living in Asia and are in close proximity to some great dive sites. The certification consisted of some pool sessions followed by some open water diving in Malaysia. We booked through Orpheus Dive in Singapore and our instructor Lester did a really great job. Once we wrapped up our pool sessions early in the week, we left for Tioman, Malaysia on Friday evening. We left in a passenger van with our chaperone Jonathan, the driver, and two other guys getting their certification as well, William and Kenneth. This was the first time we had actually driven out of Singapore and the border crossing into Malaysia was absolutely jammed. There was a ridiculous line of motor bikes like I had never seen, but apparently this happens on a regular basis. Once we made it through the checkpoint we continued on to Mersing. The ferry was delayed until the morning so we stayed at the Mersing Inn on Friday night. This was about as basic as a hotel room as you can get, and definitely not the resort we were expecting that was supposedly included in the trip. After we checked in at around 11:30pm, we headed across the street to a "restaurant" which was an open air food stall with some seating. Everything on the menu was in Malay, but lucking William was kind enough to help us order and the food was actually really good and really cheap. We headed back to the hotel for some rest prior to an early wake up to catch the ferry, placing t-shirts over the pillows and not using the blankets because we were pretty sure they had not been washed.
We made it to the Mersing Jetty to find a ridiculous line of people waiting to board. The ferry makes around 5 stops on the island so we were told it fills up fast and if you don't make it you're stuck waiting for the next one a few hours later. Lucky our chaperone Jonathan had done this before and he quickly took us around the side to the very front of the and we were the first ones to board. I felt a little bad about jumping line, but its not like people haven't done it to me before. We arrived at our stop in Tioman around 10:30am and had a quick lunch. After that it was time to dive. We did our shore dives at the house reef followed by an open water dive later that evening. The dive instructors were great, especially Thomas who was very patient with a nervous Theresa. Once we wrapped up, we showered and headed down to the "bar" across from the dive house. this was more like a small wooden building that sold cold beer, which was good enough for me. Jonathan had arranged dinner for us at a restaurant a few hundred meters down the island. Most restaurants were closed as today was the start of Ramadan. We all met up and had a nice dinner of bbq seafood and chicken, which was surprisingly good. Afterwords we stopped by another "bar" on the way back to the hotel for a night cap.
Waking up Sunday morning, it was time for one last dive after breakfast prior to heading back to Singapore. We wrapped our dive and then boarded the ferry to head back to Mersing. Again there was a ton of people on the pier waiting for the ferry. And again, Jonathan took us to the docking location on the north side of the pier in anticipation of the ferry docking there. Sure enough, the ferry showed up and docked in that spot and we were the first ones on again, which was great because the ferry was nearly full and there was limited seating. Not everyone made it aboard and a second boat had to be called to pick up the remaining passengers. We arriving in Mersing and stopped of at KFC for a late lunch, which surprisingly was not that different from the states. Driving back was an adventure. I remember the driving being somewhat precarious on the way through Malaysia, but it was night time so it wasn't too bad. On the way back however was a different story. There is constant passing on a two lane street and people just speed in the opposite lane until oncoming traffic comes, then merge over. This goes on for nearly the entire way with some motor bikes thrown into the mix. Several times there was not enough room to merge back over and the cars were three-wide on the street. I'm not sure what would happen if there were no shoulders to drive on. Tailgating seems to be standard with no speed limit signs or traffic enforcement to be found. Regardless, I will likely not be driving in Malaysia for a while. We finally made it back to Singapore which was nice, this time as certified scuba divers.