A jaunt in paradise (Koh Tao)

On the ferry to Koh Tao I chatted to a friendly English chap, who told me about the water activities I had missed on the day of the Full Moon Party. Mentally noted for when I return!

A group songthaew (open air van / ute type vehicle) took me up to my accommodation at Spicy Tao hostel, which was a little way up a hill in the middle of the island, resulting in some consternation from the driver. However, it could hardly be considered far.

I wandered into the town to have a tasty and cheap burger at a cafe I randomly selected and have a bit of a wander around. As I walked towards the beach I walked into Harriet and Lauren (from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan)! Then, as I passed a small hostel in the main town area I ran right into Poppy from Koh Samui!

Back at my hostel, which is famed on the internet for being an amazingly social and laid back time despite not being the most salubrious of digs, I quickly got to talking with some other friendly people in the dorm. After an afternoon nap I met a couple more ladies – one from New Zealand and one from Australia – and invited myself to join them and their travel buddies for dinner and drinks. So after getting ready we went down to the open air restaurant / bar at Big Blue Diving, where we ordered the fish that was being BBQd on the beach (a tasty choice). Seated next to our table was a group of friendly guys from another hostel whom I got to talking with and who said they’d come back later. The ladies’ male friends, who were staying at another hostel, arrived, and who should arrive with them but Poppy and her friend! It is indeed a small hostelling world in South-East Asia.

The now decent-sized group of us enjoyed a couple of cocktails before the group of lads who had been sitting near us returned and we all partied in various beach bars – particularly Lotus Bar. Despite full houses the bars all stopped abruptly at 2am: since the terrible murders of the two backpackers earlier in 2014 the island has unfortunately put in place a 2am curfew, whereas it used to be possible to party much later, giving Koh Tao its now slightly less deserved reputation as a party island. However, myself and a few of the people I had met at Big Blue Diving enjoyed hanging out on a set of steps listening to some portable speakers, watching the ocean – beautiful in a different way at night – and chatting until at least 3am.

The next day I enjoyed a sleep-in and then leisurely explored the island on foot (it is helpfully very small) wandering up and down the coast and admiring all the beautifully located accommodation options. On my walk I saw a sign advertising a boat cruise. It wasn’t clear in which place I should book it so I called the phone number and was able to immediately book myself a spot on the cruise for the next day, including a pick up from my hostel. Moreover, Lauren suggested she would come too as Harriet and their other friends were scuba diving (many people come to Koh Tao to scuba dive) so I gave her the details and she booked it herself too.

After lounging on the beach I headed back to the hostel, preparing to go to the famous Koh Tao Pub Crawl that was meant to be running that night. When I went down to the meeting point at Lotus Bar I found it to not be particularly busy. Contacting one of my new friends from the previous night who had been talking about it I learned that the pub crawl was not on that night after all, so I made the trek back up to my hostel outdoor common area where some people were relaxing and chatting. Eventually a group of us, led by a Thai local who worked at the hostel, headed out down in Sairee (the main town area), first starting at a fun little corner pub and then heading out onto the beach bars.

We ended up at Sunset Bar, the main bar where everyone ends up, and eventually decided to get into the pool there – although I could not be persuaded to jump in from the diving board. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite hot enough to spend too long in the pool, but the bigger disappointment was that everyone was just getting into the vibe at around 2am when everything shut off immediately. Noone could believe me that it would really close at 2 as it felt like the pool party atmosphere was just getting going at 1am (probably everyone else had been at their hostels until 11pm or midnight too) but sure enough, it did close on the dot at 2 due to the curfew.

The next day I woke up in time to be picked up by my songthaew (already with a couple of UK guys on it) for the boat tour. We soon picked up Lauren, whose hostel wasn’t too far away, too. That day on the boat was quite delightful, as we cruised around in the sunshine, intermittently snorkelling and looking at beautiful fish and coral (I enjoyed this more than I had expected and concluded that it would be better than scuba diving anyway as most of the fish and coral were quite shallow) and chatting with other friendly boat guests, including a Sydneysider. The boat also had a slide that you could slide down into the water when we stopped – about four times – for snorkelling. As the afternoon wore on people took turns shouting everyone a round of beers, which one could buy and bring up from the bottom deck.

We concluded the afternoon at the beautiful little island that is in all the postcards. Here Lauren, the Sydneysider and I did the obligatory stair climb up to the famous view, which was indeed lovely. I did not suffer any tears when I accidentally left behind my deliberately leavable towel, but it did mean I had to share a towel when we all spent the next 45 minutes or so lounging on the beach and dipping in the warm shallow water in the island’s cove.

Back at the hostel I got ready again, during which I met some friendly UK girls who were heading out to meet their friends. They invited me, but I had already been invited to join the group of guys I had met on the first night at their hostel bar before heading out with them. On my way to their hostel I ran into the Sydneysider from the boat cruise that day and we agreed to try and meet up later.

My destination hostel bar was further than I had expected – a half hour walk — but once there we had a merry time playing pool and chatting right up until midnight. I confess, however, that it did bother me how those from other countries insisted on waiting until midnight before going out (it had been the same the previous night): it is certainly not a part of Australian culture, where people tend to go out straight after work on Friday and kick on to dinner and beyond; and will usually meet up in a restaurant, bar or club no later than 8pm on a Saturday; with 10:30 being the latest one would usually head to the final club or bar!

Eventually we headed to the Fishbowl which was the nearest venue to the guys’ hostel, which was in Mae Haad (near the pier). This proved a fortuitous choice as it was actually open until 3am unlike the other places, meaning we did have a good 2.5 hours of lounging on beach chairs and dancing before the music ended. At that bar I also ran into the three girls I had met at my hostel earlier but they seemed preoccupied and I’m not sure if they recognised me!

My final full day in Koh Tao passed very quickly by the time I slept in and went wandering around the village. As I passed some accommodation on the beach I decided to ask about vacancy and discovered I could rent an entire private bungalow with bathroom for only 1000 baht a night – roughly AUD$35, or the price of a bed in a nice hostel dorm in Australia! I decided to splurge and my hostel kindly let me check out without paying for the night I didn’t spend, even though I had overstayed the checkout time. The hostel is so popular they knew they could ask someone to stay who they had previously had to turn away.

However, I was also told that the hostel was holding a BBQ that night (the pub crawl was apparently cancelled AGAIN!) so after getting ready and thoroughly enjoying my luxurious private hot shower in my quite expansive bungalow, complete with private balcony, I headed back up to join the BBQ which was serving a buffet of food – not just sausages or hamburgers! Eventually (not before midnight, naturally) I joined a group of hostellers heading down to Sunset Bar, where I also ran into a couple of guys from that day’s boat trip, who amusingly did not recognise me wearing makeup and possibly without wet, scrappy hair.

The next morning I had to be up early to jump in a conveniently and coincidentally waiting van at a nearby guesthouse to head to the pier for my long day of travelling to Bangkok. After this I just had time to check into my delightful and very cheap room near Khao San Road, have a leisurely Thai dinner and a cocktail and run into one of the guys from my second night in Khao San Road before retiring early to bed before my early flight home the next morning.

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