Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ko Tao and Ko Samui (Thailand)

Ko Tao is an island in Southern Thailand famous for its diving. We are not divers, but we headed down for some beach time and snorkeling. A basic bungalow with cold shower and a manual flush toilet (i.e. bucket and tap) was a little above the average cost of a room on our trip, but it was also 20 feet from the beach, Hat Sai Ri. A bricked path with backpacker hostels and resorts alike winds along the backside of the beach. It would be a nice stroll most of the time except for the odd motorbike that decides to plow down it, forcing pedestrians to scamper out of the way. Many of the bars are just a few low tables and cushions with sunset views. On our snorkeling day trip, our rust bucket of a boat (the captain told us not to lean on the rails because they would break off) stopped at 5 sites around Ko Tao, several of which were quite beautiful. Richard got to see one of the black-tipped reef sharks, and I was content to not see one. The last site was near a tiny island off the coast where the resort on it charged for stepping foot on land. I opted not to go and just enjoyed some people-watching and close calls as dive boats jettisoned their instructor-led groups amid busy boat traffic. We also ran into a fellow ENP volunteer on the beach and again while we were snorkeling.

One item I got to tick off my list of things to do was the seafood blowout. We found our perfect restaurant - if you could call a dozen plastic picnic tables on the beach a restaurant - where you pick out your choices from the fresh caught seafood by weight. They throw it on a grill, and you get it back with a salad and a baked potato. We ordered 1 crab, 1 squid, 2 tiger prawns, and a lobster. The German couple in front of us was amazed and kept turning around every time a new plate was delivered - how were we supposed to know we would get the sides with each order? ...but it was delicious! My mom and dad should be proud that we even picked through all the heads. We arrived around 6:30 pm, when there was already a wait for a table, and by 9 pm, like Keyser Soze, it was gone! No trace. We spent the rest of the evening sitting on bean bags overlooking the sea at a bar with surprisingly good music, almost as if the mixes were tailored to people our age.

After beach bumming in Ko Tao, we decided to break the bank and spend a couple of days in luxury on Ko Samui, a larger island further south. A vacation from our vacation, if you will. The simple things were magnified just from our last few weeks of roughing it, like being able to leave the shower without immediately getting soaked in sweat or covered in sand, having a refrigerator, and best of the best, the softest bed in Southeast Asia! In retrospect, Richard and I have to come to the conclusion that it was probably not much softer than our bed at home, we just have not slept on anything with springs that actually gives in a long time. Chaweng Beach was also a level above Hat Sai Ri with truly powder sands although both beaches had calm, crystal clear water with bath-like temperatures. While I was getting pampered with a tamarind scrub and aromatherapy massage, Richard took a spin out on a 1500 cc jet ski. He thought it was both terrifying and awesome! Our Ko Samui interlude was well-appreciated as we try to psych ourselves up to take on India.

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