Kho Tao, Thailand
I had booked the afternoon ferry. You can go at 7am or 1pm, so the latter won; that way I got to have breakfast, talking to the Australian motorbiker about his trip and photography, pick up a cheap t shirt and then be picked up by minibus at 11.30.
That got me as far as the train station, from where I had walked the day before. If I’d known that was all the first pick up was for I could have walked and saved myself the 20minute wait in the sun, but never mind. We were shuffled onto a bus and taken to the pier. Scads of people there, but all, I think, at a resort and just not sure where to put themselves; too far out of tow to stroll in, they were left with the resort restaurant to feed, and this was lunchtime. Tickets checked for a second time, another sticker on my top – colour coded this time, so the announcements could say “if you have green sticker, leave now” for those who hadn’t quite picked up on the name of the stop. And we were off.
The island hoved into view a couple of hours or less later, after some intermittent adverts and ‘just for laughs’ on the screens. The hostel email had suggested walking for 10-15 minutes or getting a taxi to nearby for 100-150 baht. That’s only £2-3, but seemed way out of kilter for Thai prices, given the 50baht several mile transfer to the ferry. I walked, and was soon into the second half of the instructions. Then the rain dripped, and the girl ahead paused at a shelter. A macho moment made me think, pah, then I also paused, and soon it bucketed down. We had to talk to pass the monsoon time, and my mention of possible snorkelling netted me her kit – she was leaving, and it needed a home. The rain delayed entry to the beach by 20 minutes or more, but what a good stop. Walking was definitely easy, the right choice; a taxi would only have got me somewhere near. At least spotting the price had cued me in to expect things to be a little more expensive here. Not a rip off, and you can still eat for £1 off the strip, but shop items are a healthy percentage more here. Which doesn’t matter when a snickers – one of the more expensive things that I’ve noticed, though my tastes may not be typical – is normally 40p and here £1, but worth bearing in mind that the mainland is cheaper still.
I checked in, met Dave from Bradford and posh Will from gap yah, ate and sat on the beach. I figured leaving my mid length run until how had been a mistake – this is a small island – but actually, up and down the main street to both ends as an out and back was about 9 miles, with hills, so not bad.
Slipping on a turn onto a track was a bit bad, but never mind. I an a bit out of place, here. There are all ages, but not in a hostel, and the place is, earthy Dave aside, filled with okay yah, oh god I was like, oh, how you doin’? slightly strutting youth. Nobody bad, of course, just people who talk a bit louder than they might because they are a little self conscious. Not so much that I am too old for the place, but too old for the accomodation. Or it is too young for me. I spent my time aware that this is a paradise but also pondering my escape, and how imminent it should be, which is a slightly odd feeling. Haven’t quite picked a plan, whether to find a night in Koh Samui for the island hopping or push on to Surat Thani and then Malaysia, but luckily there’s no huge rush – or, rather, I know I need to move on, but if it takes an extra day then that makes for an even shorter trip to Malaysia, which by all accounts justifies more time.
I ate, and ate well, amused when I looked up from my book to spot the elderly gentlemen treating their young female Thai friends to dinner. Given more time I might have checked for wedding rings (with an airmail logo stamped in), but each to their own.
After dinner, total relaxation. As I stood on the beach, I wasn’t sure which view i liked most. The fire dancers next door were intermittently in time with the music, though I don’t think timing, other than the timing needed not to become a more literal man of fire, was their intention. That was cool. Straight up, stars; with the sea lapping gently it was just possible to forget the boom boom music. Out to sea, boat lights winking, and evenly spaced all around the horizon-probably just the minimum distance a sensible captain keeps an anchored boat to make sure of clearance if she slews round, but it looked like they were there for effect. And in the distance both right and left, lights on the shore and a few up the hill to the right.
Reading: Conan Doyle, Case of the Devil’s Foot, Alan Folsom, The Hadrian Memorandum.