An American in Thailand

I casually mentioned my friend Caroline in my previous post about Seinfeld called Seinfeld: “What’s The Deal With Airplane Food?”. I sent the post over to her and explained how famous my blog is and that TMZ is trying to find out who this mystery friend is. Well wonder no more, Harvey Levin! She’s currently in Thailand working as a Snorkel Lead at a scuba dive company. I thought she’d be a fun person to interview so I sent her a list of questions through Facebook and she provided some great answers.

Where are you right now?
Right now I’m in Khao Lak, Thailand. It’s about 100 km north of Phuket, on the east coast.

How did you find this company?
I’m certified through an agency called PADI and they have a pro site where companies can post if they’re hiring, so I sent my resume back and this is where I chose. I had responses from here, a place in the Keys, and a place in Jordan so it was a pretty easy choice to come here.

What started you scuba diving?
I started diving when I was 12. I had an aquarium in my room when I was little, and I would always watch it while I was falling asleep so I always wanted to know what it would be like to be in there haha

What certifications do you have? When did you get certified?
My certs oh gosh. NAUI (which is another dive agency) Junior Scuba Diver, NAUI Advanced Scuba Diver, NAUI Enriched Air Nitrox (which means I can dive with up to 32% Oxygen in my tank instead of the usual 21%), PADI Rescue Diver, PADI Oxygen Provider (in a diving accident the first thing you do is always put the person on pure oxygen, so that’s an important cert). I’m also a certified Emergency First Responder so CPR/AED/First Aid. PADI Divemaster, which is what lets me work as a professional guide. I’m also a Disabled Diver Assistant Diver through an agency called DDI, Disabled Divers International, which is one of the courses I really learned to think differently and learned so much from. On the technical side of diving (so recreational diving is with one tank and open water, like coral reefs and technical diving you have at least two tanks and completely redundant equipment) I’m a Cavern and Intro to Cave Diver with IANTD (International Association of Nitrox and Technical Divers) and I’m Apprentice Cave through NSS-CDS (National Speleological Society, Cave Diving Section). I plan to get my full cave when I get back to the States.


What’d you do in Spain?
I was actually in the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura. Which is a Spanish Island off the coast of Morocco. There I did an internship to get my Divemaster certification and then worked at the shop for a couple of months as a dive guide. Actually cool story, while I was there they were filming Exodus with Christian Bale and I got to spend a couple of days on set! My shop provided a safety diver, so my boss was in the water and we also rented out wetsuits and boots to the camera men so I went and helped with that. It was pretty crazy, I had never been on a movie set before.

What’s your average day like? What’s your morning commute like? What do you eat?
My average day is long. I get to work at 6:30 am. It’s about a 5 minute drive from my place to the dive center on my scooter. There we load all the equipment onto the trucks and then it’s about a 15 minute drive to Tapla-Mu pier. We pass an elephant camp so I get to see elephants almost every morning, which everyday reminds me how awesome it is that I am able to have this Thailand experience. We get to the pier and load all the equipment and tanks onto the boat, and customers start arriving at about 7:45. We try to leave the harbour by 8 and then its a 3 hour ish boat ride out to the Similan Islands. Then we do one snorkel/dive, have lunch on the boat, and then one more snorkel/dive. We head home and usually get to the pier between 5 and 6. We unload the boat, head back to the dive center, unpack and repack equipment for tomorrow, and I’m usually home between 6 and 7. I usually have one beer on my porch with my neighbor, shower, and go to bed. During our busy periods I work 7 days a week, but  when it slows down I sometimes get 2 days off a week.

Ranong to Myanmar

I eat on the boat, and our cook is absolutely amazing. Western style breakfast, so eggs and bacon and Thai lunch. So rice and a curry, sometimes noodles, a veggie dish. Her name is Sau (I don’t know if that’s the right English spelling, it’s pronounced like when you hurt yourself and saw OW but with an S in front.) I call her Pee-Sau because she’s my elder, and Pee is the correct prefix for that. For children I would say Nong in front of the name. Actually Pee-Sau has kinda become my Thai mom. She brushes and braids my hair almost every day on the boat and we do some pretty elaborate gossiping with hand signals and her limited English and my limited Thai. She has a 9-year-old daughter and a pet monkey at home.

What are you responsibilities at the company?
At the company I’m the Snorkel Leader. So I guide all the snorkeling, and if there are additional snorkel guides that day I’m in charge of them. I’m responsible for all the snorkel equipment. We see some amazing things snorkeling, I see turtles at least once a week usually.

Caroline on the right

Are you the only American in the company?
I am definitely the only American at my company. There’s maybe 5 Americans working in the dive industry in Khao Lak…it’s a small community where everybody knows everybody’s business haha. Two of the others live in my little complex..they’re not from the South I don’t think.

What are your expenses? Housing, food, pleasure, etc.
My expenses are minimal. I get paid a monthly salary of 30,000 Thai Baht a month ($921.46 USD). My apartment is 10,000 a month ($307.15 USD) and my scooter is 2,000 a month ($61.43 USD). I probably put about 500 Baht a month on my phone ($15.36 UDS), and spend about 500 a month on laundry ($15.36 USD). No one does their own laundry here, there’s a million little laundry places and for like 100 Baht a load ($3.07 USD) they wash and dry and fold it. I don’t spend much on food because I eat on the boat and am usually too tired for dinner. Beer is my only other expense really and it’s not expensive either.

Snake in the tree

My apartment is pretty great. There’s probably about 15 bungalows in my little complex, kinda in a semi-circle. The two bedrooms are one whole bungalow, and the one bedrooms they’ve made the bungalows into 2 units if that makes sense. I got lucky and my neighbor is a guy I work with and get along with. I have air con and wifi (air con is why my place is a bit pricier than most out here) and have a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and really big porch. I hung a hammock out there and that’s where I usually spend my time at home

Funny story actually, I came home the other night and I usually park under a tree that’s in the middle of our complex, like twenty feet from my door. But I pulled up and my landlord and a couple Thai people were running around and told me not to park under the tree…a snake had gotten into the chicken coop and eaten all the eggs. But they were freaking out, apparently it was a venomous snake. So they finally got it skewered and killed, but for the next few days I was definitely more careful about where I stepped.

What tools do you use to communicate back home?
To communicate with people back home it’s Skype and Whatsapp. Whatsapp usually, because with the twelve-hour time difference it’s hard to find good times to Skype.

How long will you be in Thailand?
I’ll be in Khao Lak definitely until May. After that I may stay in Thailand or go somewhere else, I haven’t decided yet.

Any close calls on the scooter?
Haha ya I’m not good at the scooter. I’ve fallen twice, but luckily neither were too bad. One time was when I first got here and I just didn’t manage to turn and hit a curb and tipped right over. The other time was similar, low-speed so just a skinned knee.

Why do you love Seinfeld so much?
What’s not to love about Seinfeld?! A group of friends in New York doing nothing. It’s so relatable and hilarious.

Have an interesting story to tell? Reach out to me, I’d love to interview you!

One comment Add yours
  1. Great guest post from Caroline! I really enjoyed this one and getting some insight on a place I’ve never been #livingthedream

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *