After a good night's sleep in a beautifully cool room, we were up, dressed, repacked and dropping off laundry by 10:30. We sat in a humid office whilst a man sat behind a desk and simply said "Yes" to everything we asked for. Could we do some laundry? Yes. It is weighed out on a big scale and we are handed a number. Could we book tickets back to Chumphon for tomorrow. Yes. We are handed a slip of hand written paper as a ticket. Could we stay a night? The place had rooms advertised on a board outside. Yes. It all fell apart when we asked for twin rooms. Just the tickets and the laundry then.
In searching for breakfast we pass a newly built café, there is music, good looking coffee and a bank of bread and pastries. This'll do just fine. in the continuing vein of disappearing Thailand, it was like a small venue from Shoreditch had been dropped on to this beautiful island. Croque Madame it is then. It hit the spot. There are a surprising number of French people on this island. The strip where we stayed last night is largely variations around French themes, my favourite being the French Kiss Diving School making some wonderfully bad plays between kissing deep and deep diving.
After breakfast I try pretty much every cash machine in sight to extract some more money - something has gone awry and it won't complete a transaction. Last time I was in Thailand I had to find a certain brand of cash machine. Note to self, extract more money at the airport next time. It'll all work out in the end. Once you're here, Thailand is extremely cheap to live in. We're living well and skimping on nothing. Koh Tao is expensive and remembering you live somewhere new when you want and eat out for almost every meal in one way or another, it averages out at about £200 per person a week, including all our travel up and down the country.
We ended up booking into the Sunny Guest house, also part dive school. It had a few dodgy reviews but on the whole was a bit of a bargain. It took us a while to find to the point where we had been fleeced through the online booking system. In the end it all came good and we were shown to a comfortable and clean enough twin room. There's a lot of brilliant 'high-end' accommodation on Koh Tao and you really pay for it. I think The Sunny had been victim of trying to do cheap and cheerful.
After I had made sure there was no way to hack the air con for the night in this room, we popped over the road to the supermarket to stock up on the essentials (read more gin and tonic) and allow Sarah time to mooch around the supermarket. It was beautifully air conditioned so not a problem. Once we had hauled the loot back to the room, we decided to trek up to a beach on the back of the island. The map reckoned 40 minutes to the end of the road and a little way on after. Loaded up with a big bottle of water, we set off.
It was ALL uphill and I mean steep, stop for a swig in the shade and hear your heart pound in your head as you catch your breath. I was impressed watching 100cc scooters wind their way up the tracks avoiding the pot holes, even more impressive were the ones that could make it to the top whilst still carrying a passenger. We come to a turn in the road. A sign is labelled view point. I offer up the choice. The view point it is. We must have climbed for another hour up steep tracks, a mix of crumbling sand tracks and laid concrete roads. A bar and guest house appears towards what might be the top. We sit in the shade of the bar's canopy, panting and share a bottle of water. With a little dread, 'how much further' passes my lips. 'Long way'. We decant what is left of the water into the bottle we have carried this far and push on further. Another sign. Two viewpoints, a bar at each, By now we are propelled by the need of a cold beer and a beautiful view. The 100 BHT we are relieved of each just for the privilege of looking seems unimportant and finally we round one giant boulder to see the view back across the bay and a bar that looked like it was run by a Thai pirate and his good looking girlfriend.
The beer was worth it. It soothed nothing other than the parched throat and as I sat in the shade, sweat continued to pour off me but it felt well earned. And pockets of people in scooters turned up, walked up to the edge of the terrace on the bar, took a photo and left again. I could understand a little why now they simply charged to get up this far.
Walking down was quicker, but harder on the knees. I could no longer be bothered to check out the beach or the second view point and wanted to fall in a heap. Our second session of entertainment came from watching more people ride up these slopes and thankfully no one took a spill but perhaps I had a better idea now of why there were so many Europeans walking around Koh Tao with a limb in some kind of dressing.
We had some time before our laundry was ready and so stopped back in at the guest house. The beer was cold in the fridge and we sat on the small balcony and sipped away. Lacking my wash kit was not enough to stop me from standing under the cool shower for a while, rinsing and turning it down further and further until it was ice cold, only to spot the small complimentary shower gel as I got out. My calves had started to hurt already.
As it grew cooler and approached 5pm we walked down to rescue our bags and laundry. Once we had both we checked out a place for dinner. There was a pizza bar around the corner, wide open and the choice of outside tables. All the restaurants here offer something and then usually 2-4 pages of Thai food at the back of the menu. Another cooling beer and some delicious spring rolls won me over whatever the food choice for later would be.
We chilled at the room again after taking things back up to the guest house. Clean clothes and a proper shower all round, and in the dark amongst weaving car and bike lights headed back towards the sea. We landed at the same restaurant and obviously look tired enough both times to be recognised by the waitress. Turns out they do an all you can eat pizza deal for less than the cost of a single pizza. From what we could see coming out of the wood fired oven they looked pretty good. You didn't get a say in what was made, they simple walk around and offer you a slice of whatever the chef has prepared. Sounded like an interesting take on all you can eat.
All there is to say about this is that we were stuffed to the eyes when we walked out of the restaurant about an hour later. I had had an unpleasant reminder about the quantity of Europeans that were on Koh Tao when a man bolted into the cubicle as I walked to the loos to bring his dinner up for a second viewing. I got a second as I stepped into the 7-Eleven on the corner to get some water to take back for the night. The place looked like it had been ransacked. It was like a scene from a Festival. Sunglasses, fluro, clothes you could never wear anywhere else, scary quantities of skin that you could feel the heat coming off and a total disregard for anyone but themselves. The poor staff had the weary look of experience that showed this was not some one off, but a nightly occurrence.
As we walked off the main drag things grew quiet quickly. Koh Tao wins for beauty so far on our trip for me. It's absolutely brochure making material. But you can see that it's a cash cow for the locals, rather than something they enjoy doing. This isn't to put too big a downer on the place, it's stunning. I can see why it draws people in. I can see why there's a sign outside one of the dive schools that says 'Dive here so I can buy more meth', it has all the things that would trap people here for their stay, but to me, there isn't the warm welcome I have experienced everywhere else in Thailand. As we stepped in to our room we are hit by a wall of still heat and have the fan going on its highest setting. It might be a long warm night.