Thailands dirty south
Koh Tao Travel Blog› entry 43 of 52 › view all entries
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.