Since leaving chiang Mai, I caught a plane down to Bangkok where I had an 8 hour layover before heading down to Surat Thani. During my layover, I headed back to Khao San road where I wandered around the markets for a little while and chilled out at an internet cafe.
I arrived at Surat Thani at approximately 7.30 at night, caught a bus to the pier where I bought a ticket for the night boat over to Ko Tao. The boat didn't leave until 11pm so I had ate some dinner at the markets by the pier and waited until then. The boat itself was an interesting experience. I didn't particularly sleep all that much - even though I was lying flat! Think it was because the "beds" were physically just too small for westerners to fit onto , definitely designed with the thai in mind! They were mats about 30-40cm wide all jammed up next to each other, and max only about 1.6m long so if you had your bag up the end (which most of us did) then you ended up having your feet hang off the edge. On the boat I was sleeping next to 2 girls who were travelling on their own as well.
We reached Ko Tao at 6am and caught a "taxi" to Sairee beach. A taxi in ko tao is either a) a ute with seats on the tray or b) a motorbike with a sort of attached side car thing to sit onto. We got to the beach where main town is and had to wait a while until the shops started to open which was abit after 8 or 9, so we had abit of breakfast at a cafe. After 8 we went to a dive shop that I had heard about that was open and 2 of us ended up joining PADI dive courses. With that, we ended up with a nice little package that involved us getting 5 nights of accommodation included at a beach front resort so that was a definite bonus as well!
So most of my time at Ko Tao was spent diving and a little bit of swimming on the side. Ko Tao is a definite diving island to go to if you like scuba! The water is crystal clear and lots and lots of colourful fish and aquatic life. I did my advanced diving while I was there which means I can now dive to 30metres. It was alot of fun, I got to dive through a cave at one of the dive sites we went to, also did a night dive where there were barracuda fish hunting and stingrays. I did one of my dives with an underwater camera that I borrowed so got some pretty cool photos from that dive.
I managed to meet up with Scott again a couple of times while I was in Ko tao which was nice. We had some good conversations about travelling and ministering to others as a christian, being a good influence and role model of sorts. On my last day in Ko Tao I had some free time in the afternoon (as I had completed an early morning dive from 6am) so decided to go and explore a bit of the island. I ended up going on a bit of a bush walk, starting from sairee beach over to the main pier then finding random tracks to go (the long way as it turned out) to another little beach that I had seen on the map. It took probably an hour and a half to get there, going up and down hills through the jungle. I spotted quite a few of these squirrel-type looking critters which were having fun jumping through all the trees.
On the way to the beach I walked around the edge of the island for a bit and there were some thai guys building new bungalows and various resorts in different levels of construction. It was interesting to note the difference in the construction of the resorts compared to the way that the locals themselves were actually living. For example there would be this really nice resort with all conveniences, everything fancy and out the back living in the dirt and hut would be the people who actually ran the place. Interesting to observe.
When I got to the beach I was pretty hot so jumped straight into the water, which in itself was surprising. The beach at Sairee only goes about mid-thigh deep during the day d yu can't go much further than that without stepping on the coral. This beach was significantly smaller and the coral went right up to the sand. I walked out carefully over some of it (avoiding all the sea cucumbers and rocks) and was amazed to be completely surrounded by fish of all kinds - zebra fish, parrot fish etc etc. They weren't shy at all and came right around me. One fish didn't seem to like me and would nip me a bit if I got too close!!
I left there in the late afternoon -obviously just in time as I arrived back a sairee beach just as the sun went down for a beautiful sunset. I took a different route this time which took 40 minutes. I also got the biggest fright I've had all trip as well! While I was walking down the path I turned a corner and there was a MASSIVE monitor lizard walking away from me the same direction was going along the road! It must have been at least 1m long, but probably more. It was huge! I immediately stopped and started digging in my bag to find my camera which was hiding down the bottom somewhere. The lizard continued to walk down the road and around the corner. I found the camera finally and kept walking but only managed to get a photo of the lizards' tail as he walked into the long grass by the path. My next challenge was to cautiously walk past, but I didn't know exactly where the lizard was and if he was dangerous or not! I slowly started to walk past and the grass all started moving in a frenzy so I got a bit of a fright from that thinking he was going to charge and attack me. That definitely got the adrenaline pumping!!
On Wednesday I packed up my bags quickly and caught an early boat across to Ko Phangan with Deborah one of the girls I had been sharing with. We found ourselves a nice hotel to stay at where met a group of Israeli boys who treated us to lunch before we all went to the beach. The beach at Haad Rin (sunrise) is really nice - this is the beach where the full-moon party is at every month. The beach is long, white soft sand and its deep so you can actually swim. The only thing it lacks is surf! That night was the half-moon party which is in the jungle. Went to that with Deborah, 3 of her friends and the israeli boys. The boys had bought paint at the 7/11 so we all painted each other up (turning into a painting fight) and caught a taxi to the jungle. It was pretty cool - lots of black lights which the paint glowed like neons from. We stayed out there till the early hours of the morning until we were tired of techno trance music and headed home. I'd managed to catch up with my Finnish friend Aku who I worked with during the day at Vang Vieng, but unfortunately didn't find him again at the party at night before he went to Nepal.
Thursday I spent most of the time around the beach and exploring some of the town. I went for a long walk and watched the sunset on sunset beach which was nice and then had dinner with the girls before hitting the beach for some partying. I find that I continue to surprise people with the fact that I can stay out so late at night dancing completely 100% sober. Last night was great - dancing at the beach with one bar having a massive foam machine going off so we danced in the foam and also in the ocean. Pretty much drenched all night but its not cold at night still so you wouldnt get sick!
Today the girls and I went on a boat trip which took us the whole way around the island, stopping off at various beaches along the way. It is a massive island!! We did a bit of snorkelling which went alright (considering I often don't cope well when snorkelling). Lots of friendly zebra fish. Not as nice or clear as Ko Tao, but still quite good.