Koh Tao, eight months later

After a very long day travelling cross country and sea, I was determined despite my exhaustion to attempt the famous Koh Tao pub crawl that is only held three nights a week. As I was staying in private accommodation I also thought it would be a very good idea to go on this on my first night in order to meet people. I had pre-emptively ensured the room I had booked for just one night – to avoid wasting time hunting down a bungalow – was only a few minutes walk from the bar at which the pub crawl began.

So, after having gotten awkwardly dressed up in the toilet on the boat and put my makeup on – this was enabled by my suitcase having been fortuitously placed on top of the pile of luggage in plain reach in front of the main seating area – I jumped in a probably overpriced songthaew with another solo female and directed it right to the bar in question. I then hilariously turned up with my suitcase in tow, booked onto the pub crawl and received my (fabulously well-fitting) tank top right at 6pm, before a line had even formed. I then had time to walk back to my accommodation and check in, and find out from the man at reception that there was no availability should I wish to extend. Having overhead from some ladies on the ferry that there might be limited accommodation availability on the island I panicked slightly. After getting ready very quickly in my spacious room, I quickly dashed to the nearby O’Chai bungalows – where I had hoped to find a bungalow the following day -, only to see a sign declaring that the place was currently full. I thereupon went straight to the pub crawl.

I joined the crowd in the upstairs area where I only had time to quickly grab the included ‘bucket’ and introduce myself to a random group of three people, commenting as I did how very hot it was – much hotter than Koh Phi Phi had been, although this is unsurprising as the different sides of Thailand experience different seasonal patterns – before we all moved over to an outdoor pool bar, which I would only much later learn was ‘Office Bar’. Here I joined a few others in promptly getting in the pool, as the weather was very hot. I then spent most of the rest of the time at that bar on the Booking.com app on my phone, trying to source a nearby private room with air con for my remaining five nights – I was afraid that I wouldn’t sleep comfortably with a fan alone. Success greeted me: I was able to find a decent looking room with air con only a few minutes walk for only a little more than 1000 baht per night, which was what the fan bungalows had been going for over New Year’s (although I later learned that the price was lower now, and I could have gotten a fan bungalow for as low as 600 baht).

The third venue of the pub crawl was the cabaret, which was very similar to the one I had seen in Koh Samui. I sat with two very friendly ladies with whom I would have liked to spend more time: unfortunately, however, exhaustion was overcoming me (as you can see in the rather telling photo below), so after the cabaret show was over and we made our way back to the first bar, Chopper’s, for live music, I had no choice but to head back to my very nearby accommodation and crash.

Extremely problematically, however, the fan in that room was no match for the heat, and I slept terribly and became not only glad I had booked air conditioning for the remainder of my stay, but determined to upgrade my Koh Phangan accommodation to air con, regardless of the extra expense.

The next morning I woke annoyingly early, at around 9am; which was partly due to persistent body clock issues and partly due to the unabating heat. I also rather bizzarrely received an email on my phone from the manager of the accommodation I had booked the previous night, asking if I wanted to come and take a look at the room. I had wanted to sleep in longer but figured if it was ready and air conditioned perhaps I should move over there instead of staying where I was.

I went to meet the odd and undoubtedly drunk owner, who had a strange way of hanging about and being awkward as he showed me the room. As I had laid awake in the hot fan room unable to sleep that morning I had also read some bad reviews of the accommodation but actually found it hard to fault – despite the odd man – so I agreed to take it, and come back in an hour or so once they had cleaned it. So I went to get some eggs on toast for breakfast at one of the beach restaurants that possibly had ‘Wind’ in the title, where I was stunned by the beautiful views.

After this was done I checked out and moved the very short walk up the road to my new room, where the strange man again took a little too long in showing me in and then proceeded to insist on spending ages down in the restaurant explaining where I should go in Koh Tao.

Once in my room I was keen for a nap, but struggled to get the air conditioning to work properly. Additionally, although I had briefly sat on the bed to test it, I found the bed to be disturbingly hard and understood why one review called it concrete. Unfortunately, when one books five nights’ accommodation one cannot check out without losing one’s money once they have agreed to pay the whole amount up front, so I was a bit torn as to what to do. I rather poorly attempted more sleep, although I think a lot of that had to do with body clock and psychology more than the heat or hard bed.

For a late lunch I went to Fizz, one of the restaurants on the beach, because it was the place with the most beautiful vista, and about which I had read good food reviews on travel blogs, and had some garlic pork and brown rice (perhaps not the best choice). After a short while some rain and wind started to come up so we were ushered inside: by this time I was definitely needing more sleep anyway, so went back to my room to attempt more.

That evening I got ready and went to the large, renowned Thai restaurant called Su Chilli that I had enjoyed eating at last time, and happily settled myself down to order a cocktail and two Thai dishes (there were so many it was very hard to select) and listen to my podcast on my headphones. The next thing I knew, from the table next door, I heard “you ask her”, “no you ask her”. I looked over and found that my table was adjacent to that inhabited by two young men who promptly asked me to join them. Being generally disposed toward company I immediately accepted. It turned out that these two, Australian Kelton (of SEAKELT) and English Dave, were both long term solo travellers who had met each other not too long previously. They promptly invited me to join them and their crew (of various travellers who had all met recently in Koh Tao) for a few drinks afterwards. Being ready to party at a moment’s notice and having assumed I would have to crash a hostel’s common area, I readily accepted. Our food all arrived and I enjoyed a second cocktail and conversation.

After dinner I joined David and Kelton walking towards a bar they kept mistakenly calling something else, but which I assured them must be the Fishbowl. I even produced a free drink ticket I had been carrying in my travel handbag since January. Sure enough, we arrived at the Fishbowl – and my old and worn green drink ticket worked, to the amusement of the bartender. We also greeted a few other people, including a couple of Germans and Frenchmen. We whiled the rest of the night away having buckets there – Kelton was experiencing his first night able to consume alcohol after a week of abstinence and inactivity due to a motorbike induced abrasion – , and then moving onto the very nearby (and aptly named) Bar Next 2, as it was very busy – despite the efforts of myself and another lady to convince us to walk back down to Sunset Bar where everyone else was bound to be.

The next day I did little but upon Kelton’s advice, consume a burger from Bang!, the recommended burger joint. It was decent, but not the best I’ve had, and I felt a little over-salted afterward.

That evening I again attempted the pub crawl, although I had still not managed much sleep and was actually even more exhausted, causing the minutes to tick even MORE slowly than when I had first arrived from a full day of travelling. I forced myself to stay awake through the same first and third venues, and the second – Bar Next 2 – before giving in and calling it a night.

Early the next morning I woke not feeling well. I was booked onto the same day boat tour I had taken in January, but decided I would have to wait until the booking office opened and ask to postpone until the next day. In the meantime, I went to a pharmacy and took the advice of more than one person the night before and obtained some over the counter sleeping pills (not possible in Australia). I then went to get some breakfast – a Thai omelette stufffed with pork and some kind of tomato-esque sauce – all the while feeling increasingly ill and hoping I made it back to my accommodation without incident.

I managed to postpone my tour at the booking office without issue, and back in my room swallowed two antibiotics, two sleeping pills and promptly and finally went to sleep for the first proper time in the whole trip. In fact, I was able to sleep most of the day, regardless of the mattress. And I am not sure whether it was at this point or later, but I realised the air conditioning was not seeming to beat the heat because I had not put it on the right setting, which I was finally able to rectify.

Feeling better, I first had a tasty spring roll and Thai soup combo, and later an early dinner (or late lunch) of pasta at Fizz yet again (I felt like pasta and had first attempted to eat at the famed Italian restaurant, but they were not yet quite open and I didn’t want to wait).

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After getting ready I joined Kelton, David and a large table of some people I had already and some I hadn’t met where they were having a merry dinner at a tapas restaurant. I was feeling practically healed and ready to enjoy the night. I also became jealous of Kelton and David’s delicious looking roast chicken meals and ordered one for myself: even though I was full and only had a little, it was so affordable by Australian standards it didn’t even matter. This is one of the many things I love about Thailand!

The gents were determined to head to the Cabaret show to which I had already been twice, but it was too early so we headed to Lotus Bar nearby on the beach for a drink or two. We had to wait out a rain shower but it didn’t take long and the fire performers were soon back at it. The Cabaret show proceeded much as always – although they mix the acts up so it isn’t the same every night – but this time Kelton was one of the guys at the end who put on the ‘drag’ outfit and danced around.

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Afterwards we went back toward Bar Next 2 and met some others, before – woe – the bars shut off their music at midnight due to the suddenly appearing policemen insisting! This rule was brand new as they had been open until 2am until the very night before. I was quite disappointed as I had only just now gained enough energy to kick on, and I preferred some lively atmosphere to having a few beers at Kelton’s bungalow as others wanted to do. Nonetheless I did grow tired and knew I had to be up for my tour tomorrow, so called it a night before long.

The next day was the same tour I took in January, Popeye’s. However, where the January one was full of friendly and fun young single people, for some reason this one was entirely populated with couples (as in, ENTIRELY, except for me) and not many spoke English. All the couples kept to themselves and we had to sit below due to the rainy weather (in January we had enjoyed the sun and a few beers up top). The somewhat inclement weather meant we couldn’t go to the snorkelling place I had enjoyed most last time, Mango Bay; however it did mean we went to a different place we didn’t go to last time. Unfortunately, the water was cooler and I didn’t like to stay in the water too long.

When we got to the famed Nang Yuan I had little intention of hiking up to the viewpoint again so I promptly grabbed a cocktail and some chicken nuggets and chilled out at the restaurant. I then lounged on one of the sun lounges before it started to spit again, when I went back to the sheltered restaurant area. Shortly, who should turn up but David and a couple of his friends! However, it was almost time for me to head back to the boat – right when it started to pour with rain. I ran back to the boat, drenched.

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That evening I was wandering about when I spotted Kelton, David and co eating at the small restaurant across from Kelton’s bungalow. I invited myself to join them and had a tasty ham and cheese roll and a beer. It transpired that they were not keen for partying that night but no matter; after another beer on Kelton’s bungalow I wandered off toward the main bars.

I saw quite a few lively people in the bar on the corner and went in to be quickly greeted by a group of gentleman who, it transpired, were all solo travellers who had only just met. Such is Thailand! Some of them wandered off to find others at their nearby hostel, promising to be back; but I remained with some others. In the meantime, another group suggested I go with them to one of the beach bars: I declined, saying I was waiting for the others. However, the others did not come so eventually I went with the couple of people who remained and we headed down to Sunset Bar, and there partied merrily until midnight (this time I had deliberately headed out earlier to make the most of the time). I befriended a Dutchman working as a dive instructor on the island who showed me where to get a delicious chocolate pancake, although I quickly realised that the chocolate sauce was not as good as Nutella, which everyone conversely orders.

The next day I felt like pizza so grabbed a very tasty one from the pizza place nearby that did takeaway and took it to the beach, where I enjoyed the sun, the pizza and my podcast.

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Later that day I went back to Fizz for some pad thai, and also enjoyed my newfound ability to nap – assisted by the working air conditioning and me having piled a few towels on my bed to ease the hardness, as well as me having gotten more used to it. After all, Kelton assured me that his bed was also concrete-like, as per the Thai way.

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That evening I found Kelton and crew having a beer on their balcony again, but as they were again not having a big one I wandered back toward the bars. This time my ‘search’ for company was even shorter lived: I had gone only a few steps before being greeted by Markus, a German I had met in the corner bar the night before. He invited me to join him and his friends for dinner, which I promptly accepted.

It turned out that his ‘friends’ were a group of four other solo travellers who had only met that night! We went to the same nearby place at which I had eaten with Kelton and co. the night before, although as I had already eaten I simply indulged in a long neck beer. On the way I passed the original group of English guys I had met at the Koh Phi Phi pool party, and who had been ‘repeat offenders’ along with me on my second Koh Tao Pub Crawl. They asked why I wasn’t on the crawl for a third time! I received their ultimate location in case we would join: Bar Next 2, again.

We went over to Office Bar to greet a local worker we were joining; however, it soon transpired that the plan was to join the pub crawl, which at that time meant going into the cabaret show yet again. In fact, I had decided I was not a big fan of the pub crawl as it was a bit full on and quite hard to meet people, so I was adamant in not joining.

Instead, I went by myself to Sunset Bar where I sat on one of the poolside stools – after a quick ham and cheese toasty from the nearby 7 Eleven – and was promptly greeted by three friendly English folk. It turned out that they were heading to Koh Phangan soon, the same as I; however, they did not stay up long as they had to be up early. No matter: perhaps oddly, Lotus Bar was busier than Sunset Bar at that time, so I wandered over there and promptly found Markus and co, dancing away – they hadn’t gone into the cabaret show after all. I also befriended a couple of Parisians and we danced the night away before heading briefly to the Office Bar pool when everywhere else shut at midnight.

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The next morning I finally indulged in some duck noodles from the much recommended duck place (that had been closed the last time I tried to eat breakfast there) before a brief visit to the beach and a slow walk along the accommodation street all the way to the ferry.

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