We were a bit disorganized heading over to Ko Tao, 15 minutes late for a bus we had to sprint to wearing 50L backpacks in 35+ degree weather, no room booked, let alone any idea of which area of the island we were staying. Nick took the reigns as our tour guide, because he had been doing this backpacking thing for a few months, which was terrifying because he undoubtedly had his sister doing the bulk of their planning so far. Nonetheless, your a bit at ease when you jump on a bus with 50+ fellow travelers, who might have a plan, but probably don’t, but may have a general idea for you. Thats the thrill of backpacking though, you just wing it. You can plan, but you’ll probably meet people with useful insights who will tell you tales of their journeys, and you’ll detour. You meet people everyday with a story, of a place and some helpful advice they share, and you roll with it. You take every day as it comes, and it always works out (uh sort of). This particular time we had put all our trust in Nick to lead us to our new destination.
The bus drive was long, but we managed to sneak a bench at the front of the bus that allowed Alexis and I to lie down, and we were also given some handy advice given by a girl traveling from the UK that valium is legal in Thailand, and can help you sleep right through the long drives. So we took some. Thank goodness, cause I woke up once to roll around, and saw a cockroach crawling on the floor of the bus, and sure was glad I had no control over my sleep, otherwise I would not have been able to close my eyes.
Still a bit groggy once we got to the pier, it was around 3 am, the bus had clearly been speeding down the already unsafe roads because we arrived before schedule, and the pier wasn’t officially running boats until 6am. This is where you are thankful for music, and for good friends. We were sweaty, dirty, and undoubtedly exhausted. You can imagine the conversations were somewhat delusional and we got a little weird around this hour. This lengthened night also coincided with my first interaction with a squatter. A lot of bathrooms in Thailand have normal ceramic toilet bowls, but usually the common restrooms are equipped with a squat toilet. Its quite literally a hole in the ground you use to do your thing. Your exhausted, your legs week, and you have to squat over a hole in the ground to find some relief, ironic right? But your not even upset, because the entire situation you’ve got yourself into is hilarious. We laughed that whole morning, passing the time being forced to listen to Nick tell an endless assortment of terrible jokes (yet somehow funny at this hour), and as soon as I began to feel restless, and thought the madness would take over, it started.
Shades of pink, and purple slowly lit the sky and we started walking over to the edge of the pier to see the sunrise for the first time from the other side of the world. As dawn broke the colours reflected by the still of the water illuminated my mind, and the beautiful silhouette of the islands laid before me, and it was absolutely majestic. I felt like the water, calm and peaceful and took a couple of minutes to myself to meditate, appreciating that moment, being completely present. I reflected on how wonderful it was to be alive, there on the pier surrounded by a few close friends and a couple of new ones, who used to be just strangers. Taking in the beauty of that morning sky, I saw the wonder of the world as it was laid out, painting a beautiful memory right before me.
The ferry ride over was my first interaction with the Gulf of Thailand, and a great introduction towards my life for the next 5 weeks. Nearing the pier, the view was nothing short of a perfect postcard; crystal blue water, and shimmering white sand lined with thousands of palm trees awaited us. A jungle haven, just dying to be explored; and I couldn’t wait to sink my toes into it. We surrendered our trust and were quickly convinced by tour guide Nick that our first suggested bungalow was our best option and that AC was for flash-packers, and wasn’t really a necessity. He also swayed us into sharing a bungalow (I use the word bungalow lightly in this particular circumstance) as we were only staying one night and should save money this way. Now, I am no princess, but even backpackers should be entitled to air conditioning with no judgement.. or in our case at least a fan that properly works. Imaginably we ought to deserve sheets on a bed, and when staying in the jungle perhaps, maybe, hopefully some insulation to keep mosquitoes at bay. After a two minute obvious blame fest, that lead to the demotion of our short lived Captain, we surrendered to the surroundings outside our jungle retreat and headed straight for the beach, and some much anticipated food. Side note: If the beaches in Thailand don’t do it for you, the food is certainly enough to hook you.
We spent the day lounging (and drinking) on the beach, our foreign pasty bodies being burnt to a crisp while we took in our surroundings. Ko Tao is absolutely breathtaking, and rightfully known for its magnificent features alongside the beach. The strip we stayed, on Sairee beach was a really laid pack hippy retreat, with a boardwalk that ran along the main areas leading to many small shops, and vendors. Bamboo built bars line the beach, seats are usually cushions on the ground and cozy pretty much sums everything up. Scuba Diving is its main attraction, though regrettably we only stayed the night so we could not participate in the tradition of fellow backpackers. The strip has all you need for a week long stay, but sadly we had to move on to Ko Pha-Ngan the next morning.
We made the most out of that night we ate like kings for 3 dollars, and watched the sun disappear over the velvet water and lounged in complete wonder as the sky made way for the moon. Life doesn’t get any better then the simplicity the world has to offer you, I’m sure of it. All you need is a few good friends to share those unforgettable experiences with and your set. I even hate to admit that I had found some understanding as to why Nick didn’t want to look hard for a room, suggested that AC was a luxury and found humor in our high maintenance reactions to the room we would only call home for a mere 6 hours.
Our simple life in Ko Tao was better than good.