i’ve managed to retrieve the photos from the hackjob and all is again well in cyberspace…for the time being.
after spending a night on a beat up old rickety local train from bangkok to chumpon, southeastern thailand, and then a 2 hour “fast” ferry (high speed catamaran, for those who are interesting in knowing the details: we cruised along at about 30 or 35 knots), i arrived at 9 am on the island of ko tao in the gulf of thailand 75 KM from land. my neighbors to the south are koh samui and kho phag ngan, the former being a high falootin classy resort type place, notably more expensive than some other islands, and the latter being the host island of the notorious and legendary Full Moon Parties. i may give samui a miss and take a peek at ko phan ngan now that the full mooners are gone and things are back to sane there.
as for ko tao, for 500 baht i’m living for the next who knows how long in a round concrete and bamboo structure, about 6 feet around with a conical roof peaking at about 15 feet, less than 100 feet from the crystal blue/green waters of the gulf of thailand. this particular spot does not suck. the place is called sunset bungalows. my first mistake was transferring from the pier to here via truck from the ferry pier. the road is TERRRRRRIBLE with potholes galore & ups & downs and i sat in the back of the truck that had, thankfully, 4WD. what may have taken about 10 minutes on a good road took about 30 (this island is only 21 KM around, to give you an idea of distance and sunset bungalows are probably about 5-7 KM from the pier). fortunately, the driver was very cautious and i never felt as though i’d be pitched out the back into the jungle, left to fend for myself (good thing i love coconuts if that has been my fate!).
needless to say, after 2 hrs. of sleep on the train (i never sleep well when my stuff is outside my sleeper area, even if locked up, and i’m amongst shady looking locals), no additional winks on the ferry over, and then bumping along in the back of a truck on the road to get to the place where i didn’t even know if they could accommodate me, i was in a less than fabulous mood yesterday morning. still, i recalled that this whole deal is indeed an adventure of monstrous proportions that i’m very fortunate to be going on and i must CHEER UP, DAMMMIT and get back in the groove! so that’s what i did. when i arrived, praise be to the heavens, the place is paradise with a capital “p”. all the little bungalows amid the coconut palms look like this:
how could i resist this scenario? i could not, my friends and neighbors. if i could ask for more it would be the ability to pick the coconuts, mangoes, papaya and bananas from the trees in the area myself. sadly, someone else has to do this and so i have to pay for the fruit i eat here. fortunately, every bit of sustenance here is dirt cheap.
this guy was waiting for me when i got back from dinner last night:
the view from my “porch”:
the area where i’m living (temporarily) is very quiet and secluded, yet feels really safe so i don’t think i’ll get the hatchet job that poor swede got in phuket here. the staff are all super nice, although not much english is spoken or understood, and pretty much leave you to your book/snorkel/nap without interruption, though are available with creature comforts like TP, bottled water and snacks when the need arises.
it seems there is no surfable beach here, but perhaps i will find someplace where there are waves and take a dip there. the diving here is supposed to be the next best to that of the similan islands, which is world famous. the difference is, i think, that because it’s so cheap to get certified here that most folks come to do just that and there are many operators of varying quality available to teach you how to get down under there with the fishies. this is good for me because i’m still a novice and it’s been more than a year since my last dive below 15 feet (my brief encounter at sting ray city in grand cayman hardly counts as it was all of 12 feet deep and i didn’t get very far). i have been told that the companies here offer good beginner diver hand-holding service, which is good for me until i get my sea legs and underwater breathing skillz back up to snuff.
perhaps after a couple experiences here, i’ll be ready for the big dogs over at the similan islands. fingers are crossed.
meanwhile, there is snorkeling galore in front of my house with rental of equipment for 100 baht for the whole day (about $3 bucks). i’ll save the kayak rental for railay/ko phi phi for the karsts and caves, although my bungalow nizzles DO rent quality looking kayaks too.
i’m the only english speaker there at present. the other guests in the 10 or so bungalows strewn around the area are german (of course. the germans are everywhere, i’ve noticed), french, italian and possibly dutch (although i’m still unable to distinguish some of the western european accents, sad to say) and either honeymoony type couples or families. despite the fact that some cabanas, mine included, are right up next to the neighbors, at least the walls are made of cement so i don’t hear the shagging going on with my neighbors…for the most part (though as the stereotype would prove, the italians are indeed a passionate people).
the best news to report: i have slowed WAAAAAY down now that i’m close to the water. the time is spent with book in hand (currently: the gate by francois bizot – khmer rouge survival story – a very good read), gallons of water/sunscreen/DEET and nothing that i am expected to do for another 1 1/2 months except be back in bangkok to fly out on may 12. after nearly 2 months of running around, staying between 1 night and 3 in most places, luang prabang and trinidad excepted and also that unplanned extra few nights in siem reap due to the critters in my gut, i am lying my pack down for a little while. the old carcass is exhausted and needs a bit of a break. two good things to come of the out of whack lifestyle are that i’ve gained some muscles here & there and lost some blubber there & here. it’s no concern, really, but a nice bonus.
gotta get back to tan cultivation so i will leave you with these images of paradise and try not to be too envious of my good fortune at finding this little spot of eden on earth. envy is a deadly sin, after all, and i know all y’all are trying your very best to be sin-free these days.