Desert Islanding on Koh Tao

After two weeks of hustle bustle sight-seeing and travel, I could’ve cried over how excited I was to be in Koh Tao. When I finally arrived I kept looking at the GPS map on my phone and zooming out to see this little dot in the ocean. I’m on this tiny island. I’m so far away from everything.

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The previous two weeks were exhausting. In addition to getting used to a 12 hour time zone change, I had been sweating through religious temples, historically significant mountains and assorted ancient ruins, and now I was in Koh Tao, where there was absolutely nothing I was supposed to do. And since I didn’t plan on diving like 90% of the visitors, this was undoubtedly my time to do just that: nothing. I already had arranged to meet up with one friend on the island, an Israeli named Tal that I’d met in Phnom Penh (hi Tal!) so I wasn’t worried about having a bunk experience here like I had in Chiang Mai. People can change any destination from ‘blah’ to ‘boom!’ and the islands were definitely the latter. Well, mostly.

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Koh Tao I quickly pronounced “the laziest fucking place I’ve ever been”. I stayed in a backpacker’s building that wasn’t strictly associated with any particular diving school, so the majority of people I encountered there weren’t far off from me – people who ended up here one way or another and didn’t really have any set plans.

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I arrived assuming that if nothing else, I could explore the island alone. What I had pictured Koh Tao’s landscape to be was something of a flat island, or at least flat around the edges with one ring road connecting the areas, making accessibility to several beaches easy, thus exploring the island solo an optimal idea. Koh Tao, while beautiful, is nothing like that. It’s not even remotely flat and not only is there no ring road, but the roads that do exist beyond the main beach are not in great condition. Hiring a motorbike is not advised, and bicycles? Ha. They don’t exist. I would tell you all about this island I spent 5 days of my life on, but I can’t. Sairee Beach, what’s up.

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Koh Tao is its own kind of experience though – the power goes out everywhere sporadically throughout the day, and internet access is broken more often than not. Who cares about WiFi on a tropical island? People who aren’t diving on a diver’s island. My whole hostel. The laziest people you’ve ever met.

I kid. It’s not fair to really say “lazy” about people on holiday.

First there was Taka, a Japanese guy who seemed to be comatose for days on end. No one really knew what was wrong with him, and his English was “nah so gud” so for all intents and purposes, Taka was dying. I didn’t know any differently. I just hoped whatever was killing him, he didn’t give to me.

Also in my dorm were these four English chicks. I never got around to remembering their names, but they were young and fairly friendly, so I didn’t mind having them around for this total lazy fest. If I had to choose one word to describe them, it would be “Wooooo!” because that’s what it seemed like they were in Thailand for – screaming “Wooooo!” at beach parties with their hands in the hair, probably a bucket of booze or wine cooler in at least one, if not both of them. I’m not even judging. I’m just sure everyone has a better mental picture of them now, right?

Then there was Sal. A buff 30 year old from Leeds, the first time I met him it was the middle of the day and I was confident that he was drunk. I later told him that was my first impression of him and he asked why that was. At the time I couldn’t put my finger on it, but in retrospect it’s because Sal doesn’t really have an indoor voice. Here Taka the Japanese guy is visibly dying in the room and Sal was talking to me at about an eleven and sitting on the edge of Taka’s bed while he was in it. My eyes bulged out of my head a little at the time but truly it’s not all Sal’s fault that I thought he was drunk – he wasn’t diving here either, and with little else to do on Koh Tao during the day I just assumed the bar is where he’d been instead. Turns out, Sal is pretty freaking deaf. Not like, sign language deaf, but definitely repeat-everything-you-say-twice deaf. And don’t ever mumble. Sorry, Sal. I “get” you now.

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Sal and I forged a unique friendship over the next few days, one where we would wake up late to get breakfast, drop off laundry that we couldn’t be bothered to do ourselves, and ask each other favors like “Can you go outside, take a picture of the weather, and then text it to me?” Sal and I stuck together like two peas in a pod. Or rather, two non-divers on Koh Tao.

The final addition to what would become our supergroup was Julia, a lovely young lady from Germany. Like Taka, she arrived dead, and I had no idea what she even looked like for the two days she spent in our room with her face in a pillow. With Sal pulling all kinds of mortifying drunk antics like hopping in her bed with a wet swimsuit on at 4 in the morning, it’s any wonder she talked to us at all, but once she was feeling better Sal somehow charmed her enough that she joined us for drinks and dancing on the beach and accompanied us to lazy late breakfasts as well.

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An eclectic mix of personalities, from several corners of the earth. This certainly wasn’t going to be so ‘blah‘ after all.IMG_8167

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