Two-timin’ Tao Taxis

 

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Taxi fares on Koh Tao are a total rip off. It’s a minimum of 100 baht per head to go anywhere, and the drivers pile people on the back of an open pickup truck then drive like complete madmen with no regard for if you fall off the back or not. Payment is collected before passengers get in the truck, so who cares if anyone arrives in one piece anyway? They’ve already made their dime.

On my second day in Koh Tao, the talk of Sairee beach had been all about “Castle Party”. I’d explain what it is but I’m not even sure – we never got to go to it. Or rather, we arrived, but were told the power was out (the recurring issue on Koh Tao) and nothing was happening. I’d traveled a whole 3 minutes down the road with 10 of my dorm-mates and now we all needed to go back. “100 baht each,” again demanded the driver. In plain English, this guy was about to make $70 for a max 5 kilometer drive. Sorry. No.

We climbed back into the truck and demanded our return. Unfortunately the driver wasn’t about to take us anywhere without a fare. He stepped on the gas and quickly threw on the brakes, sending us flying off our benches and gripping each other to not fall off the rear. Then he stormed away, leaving a truck of 11 party-goers, arms folded, cranky, drunk, yelling for anything to happen. Nothing did.

The driver was fine with waiting, but our group, not so much. Several people ran off to haggle with other taxis, but I would’ve rather walked an hour than give anyone any more money. I’d been ripped off enough times in Thailand, and this whole thing seemed like some scheme for cars to take people out to a party that wasn’t happening tonight because of the power, and they knew it.

In what felt like a split second and a complete “fuck dis shit” moment, the four English girls and I completely bailed on it all. We jumped off the truck and hopped on the back of the motorbikes of 5 Canadian guys who had just arrived at the party and were heading back to Sairee upon seeing the party was closed, speeding away from the scene with not much more than a “toodles!” wave goodbye. When all else fails, jump on a stranger’s motorbike? Sorry to everyone else who still got stuck paying those dirtbags. Sorta.

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Island in the not-much-sun

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The weather on Koh Tao after the first few days wasn’t the greatest, and beyond a 30 minute sunburn I got on the afternoon I arrived I hadn’t spent any time on the sand. Divers can dive when it’s drizzling, but vacationing backpackers have to wait it out. So I can’t say I felt particularly bad about being a contribution to the laziest place I’ve ever fucking been – besides sitting around and eating with Sal or napping, I took walks, got my nails painted, and tried to come up with ways to make the minute things I did sound more interesting for when I’d converse with divers later in the night. “You saw a SHARK on your dive? Oh, me? I investigated the insides of my eyelids while it rained.” Basically, I sounded really fucking boring on Koh Tao.

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The evenings made up for the dreary days though as they were filled with a myriad of nightly hangs, ranging from rum and Red Bull on the front porch of our hostel, to beach parties where cheap drinks and good vibes flowed in equal parts. Lotus was a place about a 30 second walk from my hostel and seemed to be the center of all the haps on most nights, beginning early with flame-spinning shows and turning into balls-out dance parties on the sand with the baby-sized waves lapping at everyone’s feet. These are the kind of picturesque island parties I’d only seen in photographs or reruns of Full House when the Tanner family goes to Hawaii. To finally be there and hearing Daft Punk “Get Lucky” for the sixtieth time while staring out over the ocean felt like a dream. I really started to feel like I was on vacation afterall, and the broken-English note Sal received from an admirer had me belly-laughing far into the next few days. You look better in the photo, Sal.

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Even when the nights seemed said and done, the pool bar across the pathway from Lotus was open late and cannonballs into the deep end at 4am were a surprising reality. I kept wondering when the camp counselors would appear and tell us to get to bed. We’d drag ourselves back to our sheets and coat them in kilos of sand. A bunch of big kids in adult bodies. A group of strangers turned friends.

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