Almost five months since we move from Seattle to Bangkok, and we’ve successfully completed the first semester of grad school! I’m happy to be back in school, I’ve learned a lot in just one semester and four classes, but now it’s time for summer break and some adventures.
We started off with a trip to Koh Tao, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. Two years ago we spent almost two weeks there when the political situation in Bangkok became violent. We know the island well, we love it it’s an easy trip that doesn’t require any research on my part and it’s cheap. So we headed off. Of course, this being Thailand, getting there presented its own adventure. A canal boat, a sweat-induced walk, finding out the bus was sold out, waiting for standby and then one moment someone asks us where we want to go, we pay for tickets and off we go. Eight hours later we disembark the bus and wait two hours at the pier for the catamaran to take us to the island.
This is a good example of travel in Thailand. The same company operates the busses from Bangkok to the pier and
then the boat from the pier to Koh Tao. The bus leaves Bangkok at 9pm and gets to the pier at 5am. The boat leaves at 7am. Why do they leave us a two-hour dreary gap? Couldn’t the bus leave Bangkok at 11pm? 10:30? Who knows the reasoning and asking is out of the question. You just gotta go with it.
The sun rose around 6am and since we were on a beach, Bob and I left our fellow travel mates trying to sleep on marble benches at the pier and explored the beach. We found the beach where all flip flops go to die, or where they all float to when the tide washes them away. We counted hundreds of flip flops. Even mated pairs, but neither of us are in the market for Sponge Bob shoes so we left them there to rest in peace, or for one of the beach dogs to use as a toy.
We arrived flawlessly on the island that looks like Disneyland met a beach. When travelers disembark a boat on a Thai island, a feisty swarm of hotel/bungalow staff await to swallow up anyone who looks lost. They ask a
million times, “Where you go?” “You need room?” “Cheap bungalow!” It can be an intimidating onslaught for those who are unprepared or first-timers. But we’ve perfected avoiding this. First, we pack close to nothing so we don’t look like “tourists.” We both bring day-packs, not full. It’s the beach so all that’s necessary is something to wear in the water, something to wear over the swim gear and something to wear to sleep. With small packs on our backs, we don’t look quite so desperate for a place to find immediately to drop the five bags in tow. Since we know the island we also know exactly where we’re doing and therefore don’t look lost or in need or help. I feel a little bad when I see tourists getting stuck in the spider web of people trying to coax them to their hotel but at the same time it makes me smile a bit that we didn’t and have graduated from the lost tourist.
The beach was wonderful, as it always is. Koh Tao is a place that could suck you up for years if you let it. Life is easy and relaxed there. And plenty of Westerners
have allowed Koh Tao to suck them in and thankfully for us some have opened great restaurants.
We had great weather on Koh Tao, sunny during the day and pleasant at night, with an almost cool breeze at night. But not really cool because we're in Thailand, and it's hot here. It rained once - just as we were boarding the ferry en route back to Bangkok. The rain came down in sheets and the wind kicked up. Immediate visions of a puke filled cabin on the boat emananted in my mind. That was the situation two years ago when we took the boat over. The entire cabin was ill half an hour into the trip. It was a bit horrific. So we crawled onto the boat and I closed my eyes and hoped everyone had taken motion sickness pills. The waves shook us around a bit but thankfully we all made it without using any plastic bags. Once at the pier in Chumpon the rain decided to really dump. With the wind blowing the rain perfectly sideways and docked at the pier while not being able to see the pier through the rain, the crew kept us onboard
the boat until the rain subsided. The pier has no railing and I'm sure some intelligent people would have managed to fall off in the wind and rain.
Then it was just a nine-hour bus ride with a screaming infant (what tourist bring an infant on a nine-hour bus ride?) and we were back home in Bangkok ready to plan the next adventure as soon as I get over this cold I caught - perhaps from the marvelous time on the bus.
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