I got up this morning to a beautiful blue sky and packed up my things. As I cram things into my backpack, I can feel that old familiar vagabonding excitement creep into my stomach, the feeling of the unknown. I have yet to use one of the travel agencies here, I always figure it out myself and love the excitement and sometimes mishaps that come along with doing it that way.
I told my German friends goodbye, the saddest part of today for sure, then jumped into the back of a pickup truck heading to Thong Sala. It was a bumpy, hellacious 25 minute ride across the island with 3 guys from Denmark. The driver was trying to get us to the pier in time for the 12:30 boat so he drove crazy fast on the dirt roads. By the end of the trip we were all best friends. So many things here remind me of my army experiences, riding in the back of open air trucks on bad roads is one of them. I arrived in Thong Sala, and bought a ferry ticket for 250 Baht. Thats bloody expensive. About 200 of us stood on the dock waiting as a small, I mean small, boat pulled up. An English girl next to me told her friend “There is no way that is our boat”….but I knew that it was…after all, this is Thailand. As we all filed onto the boat, a mountain of rucksacks began to develop on the upper deck. We had to be 100 people over capacity easy, and keep in mind that everyone has a 15+Kg rucksack as well. I was one of the last on and had to sit on the pile of packs for the trip. I dont know how you can move a boat at 15 knots and produce no wind or breeze, but the driver was a master. Everyone on the upper deck roasted to a nice lobster red under the Thailand sun. It was the hottest I have ever been in my life. I thought several times of jumping over the rail just to cool my skin in the Gulf of Thailand…it was that bad.
We arrived 2 hours later in Haad Mae and I ran the usual guantlet of touts sticking signs in my face and screaming “taxi taxi”. Next trip here, I am bringing a T-shirt that reads “NO I DONT WANT A F*cking TAXI”. I walked up the way and crashed in a backpackers restaurant. As planned, about 20 minutes later I was talking to a couple dive instructors that had lived on the island for 8 months. They told me about the south end of the island, which is cheap and nice…so I hopped on the back of one of their motorcycles and off we went. The roads here are even rougher than Ko Pha-ngan, especially when you have a backpack on a motorcycle. We managed to make it and I told my new friend goodbye. I walked inside and found out that I had been dropped in the wrong place. Wrong bay. I didnt even bat an eye, slung my pack on, and humped the 2 KM down the road to where I needed to be. Im just glad it was only 2 KM in this weather.
I ended up in Chalok Baan Kao, at the very bottom of Ko Tao. Its very dark here, lots of dodgey trails and roads, you have to have a flashlight to survive. After some searching, I found a place with nice clean rooms for 350 Bht (US $8.50). King bed, real shower head, total luxury. Still no flushing toilet, but hey…you get a bucket…so life is good.
I found out about a place called Shark Bay where you can swim out and snorkel with tons of black tip sharks. It will be my first shark encounter in person. As soon as I heard about it, I marked it on a map, confirmed with another local, and knew that I had to see it. I will probably go exploring tomorrow and give my poor sunburn a day before I hit another beach. The sharks are in a place called Thian Og Bay, just a 30 minute walk from where I am staying.
So far, I love this island. It will be hard not hanging with my usual friends tonight, but an old friend is back…adventure!