Koh Tao

Astute readers will note that I havn’t been posting for a while. They may even have come to the conclusion that I disappeared somewhere in remote Laos, as that’s the last place I wrote about. But the truth is much less romantic: I’ve actually just returned to the US. And between getting out of Southeast Asia, a wedding in Hawaii, Thanksgiving and finally making it back to New York, I havn’t thought to update the blog. But I will now! I’ll try to quickly sum up the end of my trip in the next couple posts. I’ve also finally updated my route map so you can check that out if you’re into that kinda thing.

So anyway, after Laos I headed straight for the South of Thailand (via a bus, a night train, a plane flight and half-days in Vientiane, Nong Khai, Bangkok and Surat Thani), where I intended to spend my last week relaxing on the beautiful and sun-drenched tropical island of Koh Tao:

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Blue skies! Barfy burgers! Girls! It was going to be so awesome to sit on a beach in paradise after the chilly Laotian mountains.

Unfortunately my enthusiasm was damped somewhat when I got blatantly ripped off on my way to the island. The mole-bearded dude at my guesthouse in Surat Thani directed me to a travel agent who could sell me a ferry ticket to the islands. There are three major islands off the south-east coast of Thailand: Koh Samui, Koh Phangnon, and Koh Tao, and as far as I could tell there’s only one main ferry that links all of them with Surat Thani on the mainland. But the travel agent told me I could either get a ticket on the slow ferry that goes to all the islands, or on the express ferry direct to Koh Tao which costs twice as much. She even had a little brochure about it. So naturally, being worried about arriving late and not finding a good guesthouse, I bought the “express” ticket. But of course when I got to the ferry I discovered there was only one boat all along—the slow boat—and I’d just been sold a normal ticket for fifteen dollars more than it’s worth. I complained to the ferry people about the travel agent and they just said “oh yes travel agents, they lie”, like that’s just a given.

Eeeerrgg! That motherfucker! I know $15 isn’t that big a deal. But in Thailand it’s a huge deal. And come on! I’m unemployed here! That’ll buy me Macaroni and Cheese for at least a week back home! This is the one thing I have come to hate the most about Southeast Asia: as a visitor you cant trust anyone. Tourists are always fair game, and it’s just expected that locals will try to overcharge or cheat or otherwise rip off tourists in any way they can. It doesn’t even seem to be considered immoral or wrong to cheat farang (tourists). I mean it’s one thing when a seedy tout on the street rips you off, but you have to watch out for everyone: Travel agents in respectable-looking offices. The guy at your hotel reception. The Police. People who you are totally at the mercy of because they are the only ones who can give you the information or sell you the things you need. You just have to always be on guard, and always, always be skeptical of anything anyone tells you. I’ve gotten pretty good about always asking at least two or three people for the same services—it’s amazing how quickly prices drop when you do that—but in this one instance I let my guard down. And it pissed me off. I mean $15 isnt that big a deal really—mostly I just hate feeling stupid.

But anyway it was all okay because I was off to my sun-drenched tropical island paradise!

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And the ferry ride to Koh Tao was indeed sun-drenched and beautiful. But see those menacing clouds in that photo? Sure enough, like a joke in a bad cartoon, the second I stepped off the ferry onto the island it started to rain. And rain. and rain. Torrential, intense, furious rain—the kind that only exists in the tropics (and which I seem to have encountered an undue amount of on this trip). Apparently someone had neglected to tell me that November is the end of the monsoon season in Southern Thailand. And it kept raining pretty much the entire week.

So all the roads on the island looked like this:

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and to get anywhere you had to wade through flood waters.

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So it wasn’t exactly the tropical island paradise I was hoping for, and I didn’t do much sitting on the beach. But I still liked Koh Tao a lot, and ended up having a great time there. It’s a very small island, and you get the sense that everyone knows everyone else. The people are very friendly, and it’s extremely touristy, which meant that it actually had good services and western-style stores (like 7-eleven.. i dont mean cowboy stores). That might sound lame, but it was a refreshing change of pace after Laos. Plus, while it was very touristy, it was also friggin monsoon season, so there wernt many actual tourists there. And we did eventually get a little bit of sun, which hinted at the tropical paradise Koh Tao must be in the high season.

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Plus Koh Tao is known as the scuba diving capital of Thailand. Pretty much every guesthouse also runs a dive shop and gives lessons. And I figured as long as it was raining it would be probably nicer to be under the water than above it. So I spent a few days getting my PADI Open Water certification, and can now say that I am a certified scuba diver!

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That’s me looking all sexy in my gear. It makes my head look really big for some reason. And I think the photo’s blurry because it was raining really hard on the dive boat right then.

But anyway, scuba diving is awesome! I really enjoyed it a lot, and I think my future vacations are all going to have to involve diving in some way. The water wasnt incredibly clear due to the turbulent weather—I think the best visibility we got was about 10 meters—but there were so many fish, and beautiful corals. I can only imagine what Koh Tao’s waters must be like in high season when the viz (thats what us cool scuba divers call visibility) is over 30m. We saw stingrays and angel fish, moray eels and clown fish that everyone called “nemo”. And its just such a great sensation to breathe underwater and swim weightlessly. I can’t wait to do it again.

The instructors took a little video on our last dive, which I’ll try to post if I can figure out how to work youtube.

So despite my issues getting there, and the generally uncooperative weather, my week on Koh Tao was totally enjoyable, and really was a perfect way to unwind after my hectic charge around the rest of southeast asia.

check out my koh tao flickr set below:

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2 Comments!


  1. cameron
    Dec 6th, 2007at12:02 am

    you sure get a lot of comments from people who think your penis should be enlarged.

  2. Dec 12th, 2007at6:44 pm

    yeah this blog is quickly just becoming a repository for comment spam. i need to install a better spam-blocker.

    and now i need a new purpose for the blog. ive been slacking, since all i do all day is sit around in my bathrobe.
    i need something new to write about!

 

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