To get to Ko Tao we needed to pass through Bangkok - the fourth time we have had to after changing there to travel to Cambodia, Chang Rai, Pak Chong and now Chumphon. We were starting to get a bit sick of the place, without actually having spent any time there. After a smooth boat journey from Chumphon we hit the road to find some accommodation. What we found was a basic bungalow overlooking some rocks over the sea. Simple, but pretty.
Ko Tao means Turtle Island in Thai, but with the amount of dogs running loose all over the place, perhaps it should actually be called dog island.
And, no, I don't know what Dog Island is in Thai. Our Lonely Planet says that the people who inhabit Ko Tao rely more on agriculture and fishing than they do tourism. From what I've seen, that is absolute rubbish. Backpacker and holiday resorts are falling over themselves to find space on an already crammed beach and everywhere seems to be selling something tourist-related. It's even a struggle to find restaurants selling Thai food; it's all English breakfasts and cheese burgers. That wasn't to stop us from enjoying it, though. The scenery is first class.
Enjoying a Chang
We didn't intend to do much while we were here and that's pretty much what we've done. We began by checking out the sand on Sairee Beach. Very nice. The heavily-developed tourism infrastructure meant that there was no problem finding the football on the telly that evening, so I spent the night watching simultaneous games on the big screens while drinking some Chang.
When we returned we found the biggest spider I have ever seen on our bed. I'm not really scared of spiders, usually, but this one was an absolute monster, so I screamed like a little girl. It took ages to try and catch it cos it was so fast. I didn't want to kill it, having found my Buddhist side since being in Thailand, but it was so fast that when I tried to catch it under some Tupperware, I kinda crushed it. No Enlightenment for me.
The following day was spent checking out a bit more of the island. The weather hasn't been great, which was expected, so cloudy skies and a bit of rain meant that Kyle didn't quite reach her sunbathing quota for the day. We hit the 'Monsoon Gym' early(ish) cos we felt pretty fat from lazing around all day and eating nice food. It was unbelievably hot, though, so we didn't do much.
We also discovered the 'food centre.' Away from all the Western food-selling restaurants, a few stalls run by Thai locals was selling Thai food at a fraction of the cost of sit-in restaurants. A personal - and very spicy - fave, papaya salad, was purchased, along with Kyle's drink of addiction, mango shakes.
On our final day we signed up for a tour round the island in a long boat. It was a bit of a disappointment; we could have done everything that we did by hiring a taxi boat to take us round for much cheaper. I can't really criticise because I can't speak a word of Thai, but the guide surely didn't get his job because of a command of English. All he could do was say 'Hello' and point, and when he did the snorkelling area he pointed to was often rubbish. And I think I've decided I don't like snorkelling, too.
Every time I don the stupid mask, I am told of what wonders await me in the water. We were told we would snorkel with black tip sharks. In the end, black tip sharks were added to dolphins,reef sharks and turtles on the list of no-shows. But what kills me is when I get back on the boat and everyone else is raving about all the things they've seen. Whereas all I see is some rubbish little coloured fish ferreting around! Sorry, fishes, but your novelty wears off pretty quick. Back to moaning about the tour. Oh, yeah, and it said we would eat - food included in fee - at the Mango Bay Resort. Sounds lovely; we actually ate cold rice and chicken from a polystyrene box on the beach outside the resort -and if you wanted to use the toilet you were charged 20 baht! No wonder people go in the sea. On the plus side, we did stop off at Nangyuna Island, which had lovely waters and a nice hilltop view of the island from the top.
Boat on the horizon
Plenty of complaining there, but all in all a good start to the island hopping route around the south.