It is a popular travel destination specially among the Taiwanese as it is only 1.5 hour flight from Taipei to Okinawa. The low budget air makes it cheaply to fly, and the rising interest in taking a cruise trip to Okinawa brings many from South East Asia as well as China.
It is my first solo travel for a change. As I was sitting in front of the laptop to pin down where to go, the first question came to me “where to? ” It has to be safe for a lady traveller. And out of question, the answer is “Japan!!”. Second question, ” Where in Japan?”. I have had 5 days off only from work. And I recalled Okinawa that my Taiwanese friends recommended but never get a chance to go when I was working in Taipei. Next question, “What I want to do in Okinawa?”. So I check on the Google. A page popped out when I randomly selected something to read. It is a picture of a turtle swimming in the blue ocean. “Diving!!” I am going to Okinawa for diving. Do I dive? No, I do not and I am going to learn and get my diving certification.
I found a Diving school, sign up myself, booked the flight and the hotel, packed a few clothes and departed.
Naha airport is a small airport, it is unlike the other cities in Japan. Okinawa is a place that is un-Japanese yet it is part of the Japan. I felt like I went into the time traveller to the old Taiwan yet not so Taiwan. You don’t see geisha, Shinto shrines or torii gates. They have their own language, Okinawan, have their own music instrument like Sanshin, a three-string lute. See video attached. They even have their own rice wine, Awamori.
I went to a local restaurant that came with a cultural performance stage. You can always order a dinner set while enjoying the local ryukyu dance and singing performance. It is a good start for the first day, as the following 3 days, I will be doing nothing but dipping in the water learning how to dive.
My first day of diving lesson is rather strange. I was first invited to a room to fill in my personal details. When I have completed, the instructor came into the room. I thought it was time to get ready to jump into the water, but he made the sign asking me to sit. He interviewed me. He was curious why I came to Japan for diving course. He told me that Malaysia has many dive sites and diving schools and they are relatively cheap comparing to the Japan standard. Frankly speaking, diving never in my book and I have no knowledge at all prior to the Okinawa trip. But it is interesting to know that I am his first Malaysian Open Water student in Japan.
I have an instructor who is rather strict, he emphasised a lot on my buoyancy in the water. I have been diving and kicking hard in the pool for days, and for a minor mistake I will be asked to repeat again and again until I get it right. I have to relax and handle my stress and fear over the water and each and every steps were watched closely to ensure that I did it perfectly.
Tee, the instructor, explained to me that the sea is the home to the fishes, we are the visitors visiting their home, and therefore we shall go there with respect and shall not touch and move anything. When you think that you are in danger, do not panic. Observe, think and then act. When you are not sure, do nothing. Return to step one to observe. The later part becomes a life lesson to myself be it in the office or personal life. I handle cases better and much calm when facing obstacles.
The days gone by quickly. I went for a discovery dive with the dive master. I still remembered my first dive, I was so excited to see the fish.
One small fish swim towards me, look at me and probably thinking “who are you? another new diver? pfff…” and swim away.
Tee is one of the diving instructors whom I feel thankful to, with his teaching, he has made me a better diver among many.
My last day of the trip, I went to the Ocean Expo Park. My main interest is the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It was once the world largest aquarium and is one of the few that keep whale shark. In there, there are Papa and Mama whale shark, and the Junior. The Junior was born in the aquarium.
I put on the ear piece and play my favourite music, order a drink and sit by the aquarium and watch them swim. I feel so peaceful just by watching the dynamic monsters and the manta rays swimming in the deep, hurling itself into a swift, steep dive like a fighter pilot, soaring up and then down again.
I am glad that I made it this trip to Okinawa. Today I am a better scuba diver, and still keeping Tee’s word with me every time I went to dive.
I do not do UW photography which I never feel regretted, yet, after diving in many oversea popular dive sites later in the years. I have a much leisure dive, with more concentration in observing the marine life which is something I really do enjoy. Each of my dive, I expect the unexpected, and always come home with a lot of fond memories. My eyes are like the camera capturing the underwater marine life and the beautiful scene, the difference is they are store in me as a memory.
In my dream, I see bubbles in the blue water and my favourite gobi fish.