After a trip around Asia, I decided to punctuate the trip with a relaxation visit to the south islands of Thailand. After hearing from various other travelers about how great Ko Tao is, I decided to book a flight down to Ko Samui and head over to Ko Tao. Shani, the Israeli girl l met in Pai had already come down to Ko Phangnan, so since it was on the way to Ko Tao, I figured I would stop at this island as well.
After a long journey from Luang Prabang with an emotional ride with young Sean’s story about volunteering in Laos for a couple of weeks and his trip being interrupted by the unexpected death of his father, followed by trouble in immigration when leaving, I transited through Bangkok to the little plane to go to Ko Samui,
Once in Ko Samui, I met Japanese couple that were living in Bangkok for a couple of years, who were speaking Thai. It through me for a loop! I then got onto a ferry that took me to Ko Phangan, then onward to the beach Shani was staying on, Haad Yuan.
This was definitely not my scene by any means. It was a hippie beach where people were hula hoping, and probably coming down from last night’s high. The vibe of the beach gave me the creeps, and there was no ATM, so I was literally at the whim of what was in my wallet, which was not much. The accommodation was disgusting, where ants were crawling all over the bathroom, the smell, and the cleanliness was just really awful. No AC, and no escape from the wretched stagnant air, made this less of another stop, and more of a layover before my escape to Ko Tao.
The next morning, I was out of there and headed for the nicer, cleaner environment of Ko Tao.
I found a hostel on the main street up from the ferry and decided to call it home for the week. From there, I was able to rent a scooter and have various adventures around the island, beach hopping and deciding which ones were great, and which ones were worth a skip. Throughout my time there, I met people and actually started to feel like an islander where I’d see the same people over and over and be able to greet them here and there.
My favorite beach ended up being Ao Leek, which was the beach I went to on my first day. Funny how that happens. I feel like I started at the top, only trying to find something that at least rivaled its beauty. Ao Leek is tucked away on the eastern side of the island, and faces Shark Island, a small protruding rock. There is a coral nursery here, so the sealife is incredible. I saw a stingray, 2 sharks (one black tipped!), a family of squid, and tons of tropical fish all swimming around caring the least bit about my presence. Under the water, is a nonstop clicking like rain falling on a tin roof, only sharper. I wonder what they’re all saying, or if it’s just their chewing on all sorts of particles in the water that becomes their food.
After snorkeling, jumping off a 30ft rock, scaling said rock with a simple rope to the top, swimming with the sharks, schools of fish, tanning and feeling the sun, I started to notice how damaged my feet were becoming. Standing on a rock with barnacles or corals will just slice your skin without even feeling anything, until the saltwater seeps in and you really notice it. Now, both feet are covered with scratches and battle wounds of experiencing life under the sea.
During my last couple of days, I had a traumatic and tragic event happen. A friend back from Austin was visiting the same island, and literally we bumped into each other at the coffee shop I frequented during my stay. It was quite serendipitous, however, not as shocking as some of my other random meetups around the globe. Carrie joined my day which included scootering to the elusive Mango Bay, located at the top of the island requiring traversing the mountain. Despite a local saying it was paved the whole way and dangerous just because of the steepness of the hills, I warned Carrie that it might be a dangerous ride, especially for an inexperienced scooter driver. Luckily, my scooter riding years have provided me with some pretty good stability, even when driving on the other side of the road!
Long story short, Carrie had quite an upsetting accident that broke her wrist after driving off the road into a ditch. It was a horrifying sequence of events, that amazingly, Carrie had such a positive spirit about the entire thing, she wasn’t going to let a little broken wrist (or even a multi broken/fracture wrist requiring surgery and a metal plate) get in her way of her planned 5 months journey throughout the word. Unfortunately, this was the last taste of Ko Tao for me, as after seeing the vulnerability of having an accident, I put my tail in between my legs and turned in my scooter the next morning :)
All in all, the island was a nice relaxation point, and I even moved my ticket to Jordan up a few days because one can have only so much of beautiful sandy beaches, turquoise blue waters, beautiful pink, orange and red sunsets, right? My mind needs new stimulation, and I’m confident Jordan will have a very unique story simply waiting to unfold.