Thursday, 2 July 2015

Thailand: Koh Tao

We left on a sleeper bus from Bangkok which took around 9 hours and watched the sunrise as we waited 3 hours for our ferry to leave for Koh Tao. We were treated to a few episodes of Mr Bean while on the boat. Maybe due to a lack of sleep or just poor sea legs but Bethan got very sick on the ferry and spent most of the time locked in the bathrooms. As we were nearing the island we were greeted with the most beautiful landscape - shimmering blue ocean, amazing limestone formations and what looked like a forest of palm trees, a sense of excitement was among us. 


It was a great relief after 2 hours sea crossing to finally be on solid ground again. We exited the port to try and get a ride to Good Dream Hostel at Sairee Beach and were horrified at how much the taxis were charging (around £10 for a 3km drive). But with no other option we hopped into the back of an open top truck for the short ride. We dropped our bags at the hostel and went for a walk to find breakfast. Just a 2 minute walk away was a cafe serving Italian coffee and pancakes - win! Even that wasn't enough to give us the energy for the rest of the morning so we decided to give in to the comfort our beds had to offer and take some rest.

Just a few hours later we couldn't resist the urge to explore any longer so went to check out the beach and the town - our bodies are always telling us how tired we are but our inquisitive nature wont allow us to keep still! We soon settled into a cosy place on the beach front to order some dinner. We all got a range of the delicious Thai food on offer, and Bethan really could not shut up about "THE BEST MASAMAN CURRY EVERRRRR" for at least a week afterwards (yes we did go back numerous times during our stay). At this place we were also treated to a fire dance show. Usually these can get fairly elaborate with many people taking part and complex skills involved. This one was a little more low key as there was only around three men taking part, but we really enjoyed the audience participation. At one point Sarah had a few flaming balls dangled over the top of her head :P - better to ask her for more information. 

Our time in Koh Tao was split between Sairee Beach and Chalok Bay where we attended Ocean Sound Dive School for our PADI Open Water course. We have an entire blog post on this here. So after our final morning of diving, getting our ever so flattering PADI certification photographs and saying our saddened goodbyes, it was time to move back to Sairee Beach for a few days. As previously mentioned the taxi service on the island is extremely expensive so Bethan came up with an, admittedly long winded but genius plan! We were to hire one moped and drive two of us (with backpacks) to Sairee beach where we would hire another moped, both drive back to pick up the other girls and keep doing trips back for fore until everyone and their luggage were safely in Sairee beach again. This plan actually worked out perfectly and Bethan was feeling ever so smug! Feeling confident we hired yet another bike so that all 5 of us could explore the island together.

As the hire of the bikes lasted 24 hours we still had the bikes to explore the next morning so we chose a random point on the map and off we went. Looking back now we should have thanked ourselves lucky that we had explored with no problems the day before and left it at that! The point we chose on the map happened to be up an extremely steep hill, and with our tiny engines and 2 persons per bike we couldn't quite make it. Bethan and Sarah were first up the hill and when Sarah realised the bike was slowing down and unable to make the incline, she thought it a great idea to just jump off. Of course with the bike now having less weight and Bethan full on the accelerator the bike suddenly sped off and Bethan lost control and fell onto the side of the road, falling backwards off the bike and landing directly on top of Sarah. Next was Sam and Sophie sharing a bike, who had a more graceful landing, although falling the bike on the floor. And Rebecca being by herself had no problems whatsoever but decided she should stop to see what all the commotion was about. Believe me it sounds a lot worse than it actually was, nobody was hurt - at least not physically. Our purses were really feeling the pinch the next day when we had to return the bikes, now covered in scratches to hear of a hefty bill we had to pay. Shops on the island of Koh Tao have a really bad reputation of trying to scam tourists into paying for damage that isn't there, or overcharging them for tiny scratches as they claim the bikes have to be in immaculate condition in order for them to be hired again. We knew we were going to have to be charged for the damage on the bikes as there were very clear scratches pretty much everywhere. But, when we were hit with a bill amounting to over £350 we knew our guy was trying to rip us off! After refusing to pay such a hefty price we headed to the police station for advice (the bike rental places ask for your passport as deposit so there is no way you can simple walk away without paying as you would be without your passport). The police were actually quite helpful and headed up to the shop with us to have a talk with the guy and in the end we paid just £50. Apparently this particular shop is well known for this type of scam and the police assured us that he is now on this final warning. It's fair to say things got a little awkward over the next few days as our hotel was directly opposite his shop!

Over the next few days we noticed the island getting more and more busy as people were heading over from the neighbouring island of Ko Phangan after the full moon party. Queueing for over 15 minutes in the local 7/11 shop wasn't our idea of fun so we though it best to head off ahead of the crowds and book our transport to another island, Ko Phi Phi. So for our final day on Koh Tao, Bethan, Sam and Sophie headed out to try a Thai massage. They found a really cute place with the massage beds placed outside on a balcony area overlooking the clear blue sea - it was soooo relaxing. Thai massage is a very love it or hate it kind of thing as they can be a little brutal. We found that if you just relaxed into the experience instead of fighting against it, it made for an amazing massage! After getting our complementary green tea and Bethan getting her hair brushed and restyled by one of the ladies we heading for one final explore of the shops. Feeling super relaxed from the experience Bethan decided that now was as good a time as any to get the nose piercing she has been waiting for ages. We simply called into one of the many tattoo and piercing shops, bargained for the price she wanted (£11) and within a few minutes there was a huge needle through her nose and a shiny silver hoop. 

It's fair to say we had an adventurous time on the island of Koh Tao - scuba diving, moped accidents, police involvement, facial piercings, vomiting incidents, lots of secret snapchat filmings (SAM!). Same again next year? :D

Putting Bethan's amazing plan into action




Still smiling even after the incident!
Sunset on Sairee Beach

Amazing massage location

One final photo before the nose piercing - oh and green tea :)


The Happy Wanderers



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