Thailands dirty south

Koh Tao Travel Blog

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Workers thatching a roof

After history laden Viet Nam, after experiencing some of the saddest recent history in Cambodia, after seeing the cultural and historical marvels of Angkor Wat, after having visited the Buddhist temples of Thailand and after having been to the UNESCO town of Luang Prabang,

I'm done with culture and history.

I've seen it, done it, and now it's time for some fun. For big tunes and short nights. For coconuts and hammocks. For cold beers and fine cocktails. For snorkels and fins. For beaches and bikinis. It's time for Thailands dirty south.

Niv, Zohar, Alex and me meet for breakfast in Vang Vieng, and with help of hussler Quito a bus ticket to Vientiane is easily produced. We say goodbye to our Vang Vieng mates and head south. I hadn't heard any really good stories about Vientiane and wasn't planning on staying there.

Alex figuring out where we need to go
We don't make it in time for the connecting train down to Bangkok, so we hunt down a hostel and chill out for a bit. Some food, a massage, the opening game of the Euro08 and a lot of episodes of Prison Break and a short night later we head to the border. While filling in all the paper work I manage to lose my bag, something I find out a minute later. Running back to the immigration point I find it, fortunately with everything still in it. I forgot to take it with me after handing over my papers to three different counters to get them stamped and feel incredibly stupid. It wouldn't have been disastrous and I had my travel documents in my pocket at the time, but losing my photo's, iPod, information and everything.
Ape on Sai Ree
. Pfew! Gotta pay attention Nic.

The train down to Bangkok is shitty. Not at all like the smooth sleeper trains in China and Vietnam, the Thai sleepers don't have walled compartments. A little curtain provides 'privacy' but doesn't stop any sounds of people chatting in the cabin or walking up and down the train. The airco is icy and the bright lights stay on all night; it's so much worse than my previous sleeper train experiences in Vietnam and China. The trainride is great in comparison with the busride down to Koh Tao that follows a day later though. It's the worst so far, if you exclude my epic trip from Kunming to the Vietnamese border. Changing buses in the middle of the night twice (once I'm forgotten on the bus; the bus sets off, then has to return to drop me off) and arriving in Chumporn at five in the morning; the ferry to Koh Tao leaves at eight.

Josh on the diving boat
Talk about organization.

Enough complaining about Thai transport. While waiting for the bus in Bangkok I meet Josh from Canada and I have a strange feeling of having met him before. We meet again on the ferry to 'Tao and talk the travel talk. After four months of travelling in SEAsia it's almost time for him to return home and, lo and behold, he's actually looking forward to that. You don't meet a lot of travelers who don't mind going back home or even look forward to it. The general sentiment is that of horror and sadness and the closer everyone gets to his or her final days, the more negative about returning home everyone becomes. In bars and hostels the date is often called something in the lines of doomsday or the end of days. I feel the same, although my situation is a bit different.

Back to play after four years!
My solo adventure is over in a mere two weeks from now, but after my travels I have another month long holiday with my family in Australia. Of course there's the joy of seeing people again, family and friends, but inside I'm petrified. Afraid of change, not being understood, not being able to fit back in.. Maybe more on this later.

Josh and I team up to share accomodation costs and a find a cottage at Sai Ree beach, the main beach strip on Koh Tao. The cottage is extremely basic. Now I hear that warm showers are overrated anyway, but they could have at least fitted a drainpipe to the sink so that the water doesn't splash directly on you legs and pants. Somehow we ignore this and take the cottage anyway, then go out to sign up for some dives. I'm the proud owner of a PADI license but as it's almost four years ago since my last dives I'm a bit nervous about everything.

With Ape
I plan a quick skills test later in the day to refresh my memory before the real dives tomorrow morning. I borrow a PADI book to browse through, but needn't have worried at all. I pass my skills with one hand behind my back and my eyes closed. It gives me a nice confidence boost ahead of the Advanced dives I'll do tomorrow; down to thirty meters instead of my allowed eighteen. Bring it on!

The next day we dive at the Chumporn Pinacles (30 meters/40 minutes) and White Rock (26m/50min). The day after we do the Southwest Pinacles (25m/40min) and Shark Island (23m/55min). It's great to dive again, but as the dive sites are all off the coast and pretty deep, you do miss out on a lot of colour. In that aspect I prefer diving in shallower waters as I did in the Caribbean. Having not have enough salt water for one day, Josh and decide to go snorkelling in the afternoon.

'Tao southside
We hire a scooter to get to the northwest point of the island and snorkel around for a bit. We think it's a good idea to hit up the island just off the coast and set out to do it. We hugely underestimate the current the flows between the two islands and it takes us the better part of twentyfive minutes to get there. Almost there we have to navigate through a half meter deep sharp coral reef maze, and then we're finally on the beach. We go for the classic survivors beach landing, limping on the beach, smacking down and just lying there for a minute, breathing heavily.

For an hour we sit in the lagoon, talking about all kinds of stuff when Josh makes apoint about travel friends. It's such a shame that you can't take 'em home with you, so true.. The people you meet on the road generally have the same mind set as you, understand you and your travel bug and have been on the front themselves.

What a poser
It's one of the curses of travelling I guess.

Meanwhile it's getting dark and stormy, and the waves in the strait between the two islands are getting pretty high. Lucikly for us we find a longtail boat driver who's ferrying a couple to the mainland and agrees to take us. We can't go all the way to the jetty though, as we still have the scooter parked up the mountain. The waves are really high by now and the couple in the boat can't believe it when we don our masks and fins in the middle of the strait. A well means 'see ya' and we jump overbaord into the waves, leaving them speechless. The must have thought we're mad, and rightfully so. We battle the waves and make it in one piece. Later we find out that there's a 100 Baht entrance fee for the island, which we skipped by swimming there.

Ape on Koh Tao
It makes our adventure even sweeter.

The rest of my time on Koh Tao is filled with lounging about, the Euro08 and Prison Break. Josh moves on for the final legs of his Asia trip and I make my way to Koh Pha-Ngan; the moon is almost full.

livelovelaugh87 says:
lol i love that you guys jumped out in the middle of the straight
Posted on: Jan 05, 2010
Ape says:
Haha, thanks matey :) Wrote one on the Full Moon Party as well ;) How you're doing Allan? Cheers matey ;) Nic
Posted on: Jul 02, 2008
codebeck says:
Great to see you were having fun there. And diving too! cheers, allan ;)
Posted on: Jul 02, 2008
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Workers thatching a roof
Workers thatching a roof
Alex figuring out where we need to…
Alex figuring out where we need t…
Ape on Sai Ree
Ape on Sai Ree
Josh on the diving boat
Josh on the diving boat
Back to play after four years!
Back to play after four years!
With Ape
With Ape
Tao southside
'Tao southside
What a poser
What a poser
Ape on Koh Tao
Ape on Koh Tao
Geared up
Geared up
Josh fully geared
Josh fully geared
Shark Island
Shark Island
Koh Tao
Koh Tao
Ape at Shark Island
Ape at Shark Island
Diving of the boat
Diving of the boat
Ape on Tao
Ape on 'Tao
Ape on Tao
Ape on 'Tao
Sai Ree Beach
Sai Ree Beach
Sai Ree Beach
Sai Ree Beach
Niv in Vientiane, Alex and Zohar i…
Niv in Vientiane, Alex and Zohar …
Koh Tao
photo by: RyanCorrea