Ko Tao (Turtle Island)
Islands are my favourite.. they are the most difficult to reach but also the most rewarding. The people on this island all share this: we all took a very long (and uncomfortable) train or bus ride to a remote village jumping point and we all took an ocean crossing vessel to get to the island itself. No one here is lazy and no one here can’t swim..
Ko Tao is paradise yet again.. like most islands, it’s a mountain poking out of the ocean and it’s a bitch to cross. The main pier is on the west side and there is a main road that runs north and south along the coast.. there are about 4 villages that we have seen along this road. It’s paved and busy. In Thailand they drive on the left side of the road so it makes this main road quite the challenge.. you can tell that we aren’t the only ones used to the right side of the road.. when all else fails, come to a complete stop and let everybody go.
Sylvie found us a nice bay on the east side of the island which is renown for its clear shallow water.. snorkelling grounds! Getting there would be a challenge.. crossing that mountain. We got off the boat and decided to get food rather than compete with everyone for taxi rides and resources.. let the dust settle and get some fuel into us. We then started walking east through the village and instantly it’s “taxi taxi !” .. ok how much for Tanote Bay? 400 Baht.. we had read that this ride should cost 100 Baht.. $3 or $12.. it’s quite a difference considering we are going to want to go back and forth… $12 one way adds up fast and kills the budget.. so we gave a few more cab drivers the chance to be honest and fair but together they stood.. and together they failed at getting money from us. There are so many cabs doing nothing.. some sit there for hours doing nothing but chanting “taxi taxi” and you would think they would take the lesser fair over nothing.. no way. Just like the flat rate taxi drivers in Bangkok.. it’s scam prices or nothing.
So a quick scan of our surroundings reveals a motorcycle rental outfit… gotcha taxi man! we rented a motorbike ( the Kawasaki KLX 150 ) for 350 baht ($11) per day.. at this price we took the bike for 5 days and we smile ear to ear passing the unemployed taxis. We win and we are free to travel where and when we want. The only snag in our plan was how bad and challenging the roads and mountain crossing would be. Using our tourist map we managed to navigate our way across to the east coast and holy comoly .. some of the hills are like at a 45 or 50 degree angle down and up and then half of them are packed dirt with multiple veins of washout running down them.. little channels that grab the bikes attention.. and then add hundreds of rocks of all sizes embedded in the road and you get your 400 baht cab ride. By day 3 we were cruising down these hills passing trucks and mopeds … but what a learning curve.. we actually had a British girl in front of us on a moped lock her front breaks on one of the dirt sections going down and she went flying.. scraped up her legs and arms.. this is not moped territory but it doesn’t seem to stop people from trying.. people that want to have the independence the bike offers but can’t use a clutch and gears. The roads are also very thin so two full size trucks can’t pass at once.. and you had better beep or hug the left bushes when taking a corner or you can find yourself in the grill of a Toyota Hilux.
Yesterday we travelled to another bay called Hin Wong bay and encountered the steepest hill yet. When you get to the top of it you can see the bay in all it’s glory inviting you to try the hill.. there is a sign that says “should I stay or should I go” which completely resonates with you at that moment.. there are 20 bikes parked up here meaning many people decide to walk down.. the hill itself is paved but the pavement is frozen in a flowing shape.. dripping.. like lava flow.. you can see the troubles they had paving this section.. nothing like animals or people putting foot prints in drying pavement. The grade must have been close to 55 or 60 degrees.. first gear and lots of brake pad.. on the way back up it was leaning forward all the way as we floored it in first gear.. engine whining and hoping the front end wouldn’t leave the ground… we cheered when we cleared the top 🙂
Island life is pretty amazing.. we have a nice little routine of waking up and riding to the west coast for breakfast.. coming back for some snorkelling or exploring.. back to the village for supper and maybe a free movie.. then the market for beers and back to our beach bungalow to sit on the patio and chill till bed time. Everyone here is so relaxed and quiet.. there are no big parties or loud patrons.. we are the loud ones with our music on the tablet. most people here are European.. lots of families.. we haven’t met any Americans but we did catch a Quebec accent the other day.. but that was the only time. We are struggling to find things to write about .. a contrast to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.. tomorrow we leave for the next island over.. Ko Pha Ngan.. we have read that it will be similar to here but perhaps a bit more cushy.. maybe get a bit more bang for our buck as Ko Tao is a speciality island coveted for its excellent snorkelling and scuba diving.