Should I mash the little ant that is biting me or just flick it away? Banana or coconut shake? Should I duck out of the beach party tonight to actually get a dive or two in tomorrow?
Yes, daily life on Koh Tao — a small island in the Gulf of Thailand — can be difficult.
After an uneventful eight days in Bangkok, I took a hellish overnight bus, then caught a boat just as the sun was rising the next morning. Our boat arrived and I wandered the streets for over an hour with my big rucksack, sweating and trying to find a place to lay my sleep-deprived head.
This place is packed!
As I sunburned along my hunt for accommodation and watched all the precious liquid drip out of my body onto the dusty street, I couldn’t help but be haunted by memories and flashbacks from my visit here five years ago. Things look entirely different. Although the island is much more developed, I would pass by a restaurant or landmark and remember sitting there with dear friends back in 2006.
Back in 2006 there were very few ATMs on the island; now they line the streets. Good thing too, prices are exponentially higher. Not only has the island changed, but the crowd as well. Droves of young, well-dressed, English backpackers roam the streets with pockets full of pounds to spend on their three-week holiday. Where did all the hippie travelers go? Probably someplace cheaper. I even got some strange glances today for washing my own laundry in the sink…the norm for anyone on a shoestring budget.
Still, I’m on an island – far away from the heat and stink of Bangkok. Enough said.
I have met a few decent friends among the young crowd, and together we have sent more than a few Thai Redbull buckets into our livers where they belong. The nightly smell of fire torches on the beach, salty air, and sweaty Europeans is intoxicating.
Surprisingly, American hip-hop is now just as popular as the psy-trance and electronica that once blasted from every speaker in every bar in Thailand.
I somehow managed to keep my flip-flops two nights in a row — an epic feat at any beach party, particularly where buckets are involved. Not easy, I found the things hours later, half buried in the sand probably 20 meters from where I left them. Victorious, I carried my sandals home and showed them to all the people walking around at 04:00 a.m. barefooted.
The next day, they were gone.
Some bastard just had to ruin a good thing and take my flip-flops from the front of my bungalow. I just stared at the concrete where they had been sitting in disbelief for several minutes. My eight or ninth pair of stolen flip-flops, this is getting a little old. Not like they were nice; they were over a year old, but had worn perfectly to the contour of my feet.
Once again I find myself on the flip-flop war path. God help the backpacker I find on this island with my easily recognizable flip-flops. In fact, anyone wearing a pair of fake, black Diesel flip-flops on this island had better watch out: I know where to buy a machete.
Yesterday I was sitting (as I am now) in a little, open-air restaurant with free Wi-Fi. An American guy sitting at the table next to mine was just finishing his noodles when in a flash of fury and feathers, a sizable bird swooped down, landed on his table, let out a loud squawwwwk! to show who was boss, then proceeded to grab a beak full of noodles before flying away as quickly as it came.
We both sat stunned.
I looked at the disbelief on the guy’s face and waited for an impressive stream of expletives. Instead, he dropped his fork, shook his head, and stated matter-of-factly:
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. He turned, grinned, and we both agreed that that is why we both love this damn place.
You just don’t get that kind of stuff in the Olive Garden at home.