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Ko Tao

May 27, 2012

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Quick anecdote before I get into this. While playing football with my friends when I was a kid, my buddy Aaron somehow got his keys stuck in a high tree branch. We all spent half an hour or so throwing the football at the branch to shake the keys loose. Once they fell, Aaron scooped them up and declared “But an Aaron never learns,” and immediately threw his keys back into the tree. Turns out a Jaehak never learns either, but we’ll get to that further along.

Ko Tao was my swan song for the south Thailand beaches. By the time I left it, I’d been kicking around the islands for nearly four weeks, across seven different beachy locales. Same same but different, as the locals say.

I’m not exactly sure why, but I liked Ko Tao straight away. Within an hour of checking in to my hotel (Tommy Resort) I was considering renting a room for a month. The island wasn’t dead like Lanta or Pha Gnan off-peak, but it wasn’t a zoo like Phi Phi or Patong. I stayed between Mae Haad town and Sairee Beach, a five minute walk from either. Sairee is filled with lazy beachfront cafes and, come nightfall, busy beach bars. On more than one occasion, I lounged around a cafe for so long that when I went to pay my bill, the staff had forgotten that I ordered anything at all. It was easy to lay around reading or to go hiking around the island without being bothered by any touts, and it was equally easy to be social and meet random people at the bars.

For the first time on this trip, I went scuba diving. Ko Tao is mainly known as a dive center, and diving amongst the live coral reefs was certainly a highlight. My dive buddy was a dude from Mauritius. I think it would be pretty cool to meet at least one person from each country in the world over my lifetime, so meeting a Mauritian adds a pretty obscure point on my map.

Back to my original story, which could either be considered “Thailand in a nutshell,” or the main recurring theme of this blog – “Jaehak is a dumbass.” I left my hotel and got a ride to the port on the back of a motorbike. The lady who ran Tommy Resort had been extremely nice throughout my stay, which was a main reason I didn’t move to somewhere closer to the beach.

When I arrived at the port, I discovered that the ticket that I had purchased from my hotel the previous day was missing. The ticket cost 1,000 baht, so it wasn’t like I lost my credit card or something serious, but it was still far more worrisome than losing, say, a lighter. Since I didn’t have an actual ticket but a voucher from the hotel, I asked the women at the port office if anything could be done, if there was any computer record of the purchase yesterday. They told me to contact the resort and gave me the phone number, so I called and asked if I left my ticket in my room. The port lady and the hotel lady ultimately talked to each other. At this point, I had pretty much accepted that I needed to buy a new ticket, but the port lady told me to sit tight, Tommy Resort was sending something over.

I was starving, so while waiting I headed to the nearby 7 Eleven. I bought a banana pancake from the headscarved Muslim woman at a stall in front, then went into the 7 Eleven to buy water and snacks for the trip. In the store, I joked around with the flirtatious ladyboy working there, then returned to the stall to get my pancake.
After I returned, the port lady beckoned me over to her window and issued me a ticket. Problem solved. I was overjoyed. I had a 100 baht note chambered in my pocket to tip the Tommy Resort person, but apparently I missed him or her while I was getting my pancake. I happily got into line for the boat. As boarding began and the line began to move, I noticed the ticket taker and stalled to grab my ticket from my pocket. It was gone.

Unbelievable. A Jaehak never learns.

I went back to the window, and the port ladies were kind of surprised. “Ever have one of those days?” I started. Just then, some random taxi driver came up. Apparently he found my ticket after it fell out of my pocket. “100 baht.” I didn’t even think about it. I immediately drew the note intended to tip the kind people at Tommy’s with Wyatt Earp speed and handed it to the opportunistic taxi driver.

On to the pics. Be warned – these are going to make you want to move to Ko Tao.

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I’d never seen the sky look quite like this before.

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Ko Tao had the most chilled out, sweet dogs that I’ve come across so far. This one looks like it lives pretty well.

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This one gets to sleep in air conditioning, a luxury that I didn’t share. This guy was sorta unofficially adopted by the graveyard shift dude at 7 Eleven.

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Beachfront town by day.

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View of the ocean through the jungle on my hike to remote Sai Nuan Beach.

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Sai Nuan Beach

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The Ko Tao hinterland.

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Sunset from my hotel. 10 bucks a night, by the way.

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One last sunset shot.

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My first sight of the mainland in two weeks. This is just south of Chumphon, where the fast boat docks.

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One last look at the mainland beach before getting on the bus to the big city.

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