Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ko Tao and a Rough Day in Paradise

So, we took off from Ko Phannang with the goal of catching up with Kersten and Mikael, after they to Ko Tao the day before we did.

The boat to Ko Tao saw us run into Aaron, Jenny and some young English people we had seen in Bangkok. Small world, eh? It was a lot slower, but a lot less rocky as the high-speed catamaran of Lomprayah (cruise company) gave way to the large-hulled Seastrom, which was a LOT easier. The lower deck was nicely air conditioned, but the upper deck saw us have the ability to hang our legs over the side while the main cabin blocked the sun. Aaron gave us some tips on where to stay once we reach Bali.
We lost the Englishmen when we left the boat, but told them we’d probably see them on the way to Ko Phi Phi :)
Leslie still was pretty hungry so we ducked into the first place we found. MAJOR MISTAKE!!!!  There were some bugs around, but we decided that wasn’t that big of a deal and ate our respective dishes.  I probably squished about 50 ants throughout the meal.  We wouldn’t know until later, but this meal made Leslie sick.  
Unaware of the bacteria in Leslie’s stomach, we headed back out of civilization by  grabbing a “taxi” to Tanote Bay (east side of island).  We expected to meet Kersten and Mikael there.
The internet connections are pretty slow in the places we’ve been, so we’ve given up on pictures for the time being. For those of you following along at home you can see a map of Ko Tao at www.thailandparadise.com/kohtaophotos/mapkohtao.gif.
The taxi was two benches along the side in the back of a pickup. The trip was shorter than it was from the port on Ko Phanang to the Treehouse, but even more treacherous. Water had carved out huge ruts in the road and noone has bothered to fill them it. To top it off, there was nowhere to hang onto in the back of the truck.
Our friends told us they were staying at Mountain Reef, so we went there. They were mostly full and offered us a dirty little bungalow for 300 baht. We decided to pass on that and went looking down the beach for other accomodations about 4pm.  Meanwhile, the food from the earlier buggy-place began a battle with Leslie’s stomach.
We ended up staying in the biggest of the five hostels on the beach called Tanote Bay Resort. Our bungalow was the third row upand not obscured by trees in this picture.  We got it for 400 baht a night (about $11). static.panoramio.com/photos/original/910956.jpg It was pretty nice, but there was no bug screen over the bed, no AC (a fan) and just wasn’t as nice as the Treehouse.
Renting some masks and fins let us make an attempt at snorkeling, but we failed due to muddy water, garbage and the lateness of the day.  We decided to try again the next day. 
We returned to the bungalow, dropped off our stuff and then went down to try and head to the Mountain Reef to find Kersten and Mikael. Turns out, they were in the lobby of our place getting some food! It’s the building with the red roof in that picture. It’s not common that “hey , I’ll find you in a few days somewhere on that beach” works that well!
A few hours over dinner allowed us to solve most of the world’s problems before deciding we would meet at 8:30 the next day to take a “taxi” to Haad (beach) Sai Ree (west side of island) to go on an all-day snorkeling adventure. 
Mostly Germans and Nederlanders were in the hotel, though we’d heard there was another set of Americans. That night, we snuck down into the lobby at midnight to see if they were there.
Sure enough, the entire American delegation from the resort met to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama . . . all four of us.  The other couple was Kate and Carl.  Kate was from Florida, Carl from Colombus, Ohio and they were living in Shanghai.  We watched the only TV in the place. The owner said he’d stay open for us, but he’d left. The worker who discovered us didn’t seem to mind though
We did get to see Obama’s speech, but everyone else was being talked over by the Thai announcers. It was definitely fun to see the speech though.
Unfortunately, Leslie took a turn for the worse. I met Kerstin and Mikael to tell them we were going to have to bail on them in the morning as Leslie was down in bed. We  decided that drugs were the way to go.
We’ve got a small collection of travel-meds, which appears to be unnecessary because they’re available from all the pharmacies without a perscription. Thailand has the second best health-care system in SE Asia behind Singapore.
However, we were glad we had them because there was no pharmacy in Tanote Bay. Leslie started on the penicillin around noon and proceeded to sleep for most of the day.
I spent a good chunk of time reading on the hammock in front of our bungalow, but eventually got hungry and wanted Leslie to eat something.  We settled on Tom Yum Soup, which was a chicken and vegetables spicy soup.  Leslie had the broth and went back to sleep. 
I then took the flippers we had rented the day before to go snorkeling.  It was fun, but I didn’t stay out too long, because I wanted Leslie to be there when I first got to go snorkeling and felt a bit guilty. 
On may way back I ran into Kate and Carl and hung out with them on the beach.  I’d go in every hour or so to check on Leslie while I learned what it was like to be an expat in China.  They seemed to enjoy it, but after a few years were starting to miss the States. 
The big adventure was the garbage on the beach.  It was GROSS because some large boat had dumped the garbage over the side a few nights before.  It started with three Germans cleaning, but then the three of us joined and soon, about 35 tourists were cleaning the beach.  It was spotless when we were done and showed that teamwork to complete a task can occur regardless of language barrier.   I guess it was a pretty easy task though.
Around five, Leslie woke and I got her some more soup.  She did pretty good, but we decided to leave the following morning to go to the more developed side of the island which had pharmacies and a plethora of clinics if it became necessary. 
We didn’t see Kersten and Mikael again, but I sent ‘em a facebook message explaining what happened, so they’ll understand. 
The next morning we booked it for Grand Coral Reef Resort (or something like that).  I’d heard about that from some guys on the boat trying to sell me some dive lessons and it looked like the most modern.
When we got there, we saw that the nicest bungalows rat $2900 baht a night (about $80).  We begged off those and ended up with a room for 1200 baht.  It was by far the most modern we had.  It had air conditioning, walls that kept out bugs, a television with two english-speaking  channels (CNN and HBO), soap and shampoo provided by the resort and a toilet that could actually flush TP!   It wasn’t their nicest room, but looked to be the place to let Leslie recover. 
I sat on the beach and tried my thai to order, which kind of worked.  “Ow nam yei nung kraut ga ru na” means “I would like a large bottled water, please”.  It’s getting better. 
Leslie stayed in bed for a few more hours, but the penicillin appears to have worked.  She’ll stay on it for another day or so. We spent a lot of the day resting in bed and enjoying the AC.  Leslie also let me watch the English Premier League review show . . . .in Thai.
We spent a bit of time in the water, where we met an english guy who told us about a cheap, nice place to stay called Blue Wind.  On the way back from the water some Thai guys were playing soccer and saw me watching them and asked if I wanted to play. 
A feeling-a-bit-better Leslie joked around with some English blokes about a dog that was gnawing on another dog’s leg as I played some beach football. 
I didn’t have a shirt, because I was swimming, but they said it was okay.  “It ok, it ok!” the spokesman said, ” We play no shirt on one and then shirt with farang (foreigner)!” 
I did okay, but the ball bounces funny on the sand.  After slipping and absolutely smashing a smaller opponent I decided to try and avoid contact (even though they were pretty rough).   These guys were much better than the guys on Ko Panyang and played a pretty passing game with TINY goals with a goalkeeper.  I dribbled at an opponent and was told “no no, no do that!”  The passing was more important than making forward progress. I adapted and played on defense for about 45 minutes. 
Suddenly, I felt a pain in my foot and looked down at the bottom.  I’d been having fun and didn’t notice the three huge blood blisters that had formed on the bottom of my feet.  I told everyone thank you and we went back to the room with me telling Leslie to slow down. 
That night, we went to the BBQ on the beach that was being hosted by our place and
destroyed our budget.  I ordered three MONSTROUS king prawns and Leslie tried to order a bit of fish . . . . but ordered a whole bass.  The meal ended up running about $30.  It was pretty good, but Leslie didn’t like how the fish was done (thought it was under-cooked) so I ate it.  I felt a bit iffy for a bit but am fine today. 
Last night was the only night we’ve slept in a climate controlled room so far.
After checking out this morning and progressed down the beach to Blue Wave.  We got a pretty good bungalow, which is almost as nice as the treehouse (mosquito net, real toilet, secure) for 450 baht.  The front of the hostel is also a bakery, which makes everything smell good.
We were gonna leave Ko Tao quickly, but now we’re thinking we’ll stick around for a bit.  We ate some breakfast and gave ‘em our laundry.  We did some shopping to pick up some beach towels, looked for another little backpack and sunscreen.  Sunscreen can run upwards of 480 baht ($15).  Aloe Vera is also rediculous, but the Thais don’t use it . . . . so . . . . .
Leslie  got some fisherman-style shorts to wear because all of her other clothes are in the wash. 
We then went snorkeling around the area, which was pretty fun.  We just headed out from the beach, but saw a load of tropical fish.  The coral was pretty slick, too. The colors were great and I wish we could show some pictures.  As my blisters appeared to want to come off we headed in.
Taking a shower to clean off I realized that the bungalow we were in was built for someone my size!  I didn’t have to duck to use the shower and the mirror is pointed at me! 
Leslie wanted to do some sunbathing, so I decided that it was about time to track down the ‘net.  It’s been a bit longer than I thought, so I’m gonna go catch up with her for some food. 
We’re debating whether we want to spend 1000 baht ($30) and go on a snorkeling trip around the island like we had planned with Kerstin and Mikael, or spend the 9000 baht each and do the four day PADI internation S.C.U.B.A. course that includes international licensing and accomodation.  It’s a bit expensive, but could be a blast.  We also might do either of those options on our next stop.  Ko Phi Phi.


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