Having been promised tropical islands and plentiful sunshine upon my arrival I was ecstatic to be swapping the crazed capital for warm waters and beers on the beach. Sorry, did I say beers? I meant bottled water. We are on a bud-get.
We boarded a well-loved (once loved) bus South to a place called Chumphon – the gateway to Koh Tao Island – arriving in time to eat two pad-thais each and board a rather hefty passenger/car ferry that would ship us overnight to our destination.
Arriving well before dawn and getting dumped dropped off at the quieter Southern corner of the Island we sat on the beach waiting for the sun to come up, hoping the locals might emerge at some point too. Who am I kidding? Island time is island time. We waited until about 10am before the sleepy face of the guesthouse worker appeared and sussed us a couple of bungalows.
Making the most of the snorkelling equipment available to us we grabbed snorkels and goggles and hightailed it to the beach to swim about elegantly in search of colourful fish. Well, that was the plan. I mean snorkelling is super easy, right?
How wrong was I.
As it turns out, I am completely retarded when it comes to swimming, breathing, and looking at the same time. And then you put me underwater too? Forget it. My dreams of mermaid-dom were fast shattered by my half-choking-half-suffocating-frantic-splashing-about-ness that I stood up (the water was only up to my thighs) and waded away in a sort of subtle adult tantrum.
We took a boat to the Northern reaches of the island to the most amazing place called Koh Nangyuan where two small islands are connected by a tiny stretch of pure white sand – covered in sun-baked Italians – and harbour a crystal clear cove of small corals and tropical fish. I attempted this snorkelling business with a pinch more grace and success than the day before and was rewarded with short bursts of colour zapping past me and plenty of sea cucumbers just chilling on the seabed. Seriously, why do they even exist?
I lay myself out on the white, white sand in an attempt to rid myself of my horrendous sock/boot/t-shirt tan I had acquired from three months solid work in wineries and had a giggle at the Asian snorkellers wading around in the water fully clothed. The joke was on me though, by sunset I was hobbling about coloured like a Kaikoura cray.
The next day I woke up to this:
Great birthday surprise! The only problem being, of course, that the temperature at 10am is a tickling 30 degrees so we had to eat the entire thing – and quickly – before the cream turned naaaasty. The rest of my birthday day was spent exploring the island on scooters: stopping off at nice little beaches to swim and snorkel – hell, I was even getting good by this stage – and sunbathe. My present was supposed to be a diving course, but after my snorkelling freak-out Angelo wasn’t entirely sure it was a good idea. I told him I might need a few more islands to practise before I threw myself that far into the deep end.
It was actually thanks to our escapades that we actually discovered some life on the island. We really were staying well and truly in the quiet end. We celebrated my 24 years with some Italian food (surprise, surprise) and settled with a couple of whisky buckets on a beach-front bar to watch some Thais throwing fire around. I think I may have even tipped them in a very small denomination of New Zealand coinage, useless now that I think of it, but maybe it’d make a nice souvenir…
The next point of call was super famous full-moon-party-island Koh Pha Ngan and we arrived in perfect timing for… the rain. Urgh. WHERE DID MY SUN GO? We spent about a week doing not much other than lounging around on hammocks, playing with two adorable puppies, reading books about running – but not doing any actual running (or exercise) – eating and yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Tangent: Thai curries = yum. Holy moly, they’re like little bowls of creamy sunshine in my mouth.
As far as full-moon parties go, I went… but not when the party was on. Oooh, got you all excited there for nothing huh? I don’t know if it’s because of my maturity or the fact that I’ve done the huge-mass-of-people-drinking-and-partying-and-pissing-everywhere at Carnival in Brazil, but the thought of being on this not-huge beach with 10,000 other drunken backpackers – and seriously, where are the toilets?! – is not really my cup of tea. Yeah, yeah, give me a few years and I’ll be checking myself into a retirement home.
Another passenger ferry transported us and a delightful local lady – who made perfect use of her time on the boat by cutting her nails (fingers and toes, in case you were wondering) right next to me – back to the mainland. We continued further South to the city of Krabi stopping only a few days to extend visas and climb up a ridiculous number of steps (1237) to see an even more ridiculously (in a good way, of course) sized Buddha. If it wasn’t for the 70 year old monk threatening to overtake me I might not have even made it to the top.
Next stop: more islands!