In Asia, finding accommodation on the fly usually involves hordes of people clawing at your body and belongings, telling you they saw you first as you get off the buses or boats – Koh Tao in the Gulf of Thailand is no exception. As soon as I hopped off the catamaran I had multiple business cards and pamphlets being flashed in my face. The last time I had had flyers flashed in my face was Patpong in Bangkok, with the purpose of them trying to tempt my carnal appetite. After a bit of bargaining I found my way into the tray of a ute headed for Sunlord Bungalows in the north of Koh Tao.
In the ute I met an interesting English chap, who had been traveling alone and ran his own hypnotherapy business back home. He had really intense eye contact, hair like Sideshow Bob and had recently come from India where he’d spent ten days in a silent retreat. He was intending to spend another week in his bungalow on Koh Tao – I assumed in silence. That was the only time I saw him during my stay.
The bungalow we were given for 300 baht/night (~$7 AUD) was perched high atop a hill thereby giving Bec the perfect opportunity to gaze off into the distant haze whilst leaning on the rail. Inside we had all the modern conveniences: a mattress, a mosquito net, a desk fan, a toilet (no flush), a cold water shower head, a barking gecko to maintain the stability of the mosquito population, a lock on the door and a faulty switch for the light which bit off my arm and jump-started my heart as I groped for it during the night.
It was about a half hour walk to the nearest town that could supply a decent meal, of which I selected the mysterious Jungle Curry one evening. I’m not too bad with spice but I swear Satan prepared this one. Every mouthful was like taking swigs of caustic soda (or what I would imagine it to be like). But what this eatery did provide was a clear view to a neighbouring bar where the local hookers were giving the old love you longtime promises to some rather over keen Caucasians.
Bec and I loved Koh Tao for the amazing snorkeling opportunities it provided. The snorkeling tour that took us right around the island by boat was a great opportunity to finally relax from the very crazy Bangkok and the gurgling exhaust sounds of the tuk-tuks. Bec got to touch a turtle as we followed it beneath the surface. I had a great time swimming underneath the water to rock ledges where I would pop my head out to startle the tentative crabs, because whenever I see a startled crab I think of Animal from the Muppets.
It was pleasing to see efforts were being made with environmentally sustainable tourism practices on places such as the nearby Koh Nang Yuan where plastics were banned from being brought onto the island. The tour operators also took us to locations that were deep enough making it impossible to tread on and damage the coral reef. It was just unfortunate that there were sea lice in the water and every now and then I’d swim through a patch that would sting my lips and underarms.
And the experience doesn’t end there either – we left the place on a fishing trawler cum people transporter. The mezzanine level of the boat had been converted into a 5 foot high sleepery.
What made the journey more uncomfortable for me was that the engine speed resonated with my sinus, making sleep impossible. The vibrations traveled through every object I attempted to use as a pillow. Although Bec and I had intentions of relaxation, they were never met. I’m sure I left more exhausted than I had arrived.