Saturday, January 8, 2011

8th Stop: Ko Tao

So, Ko Tao... In terms of our 'best and worst' competition, it's a runaway winner in two categories anyway, definitely best food, and even more definitely, worst accommodation...! And despite the terrible weather, it was well up there in a few other categories too! All in all, we had a great time here!

Well, after an 8 hour bus journey from Bangkok, and then a 2 hour ferry from Chumphon (it was during the night though so we got plenty of sleep), we arrived bright and early in Ko Tao. When we landed in Ko Phi Phi a couple of weeks ago, we were greeted by someone from our hostel to lead the way and take our bags, so we were expecting something similar here... no such luck. There were people from other resorts alright, just not ours. No matter, we found a pick-up truck that was heading our way so we jumped on that. We arrived at the hostel but when we were checking in, they were charging us for four nights instead of three, even though we had emailed them the day before saying that we were stuck in Bangkok and so would be staying a day less. We had booked the place through Hostel World, and gave them 24 hours notice, as per the website’s terms, but she just said, ‘no, that’s not our policy…’. Well, maybe you should find a different website to advertise on so, ya dope! We wouldn’t have been that annoyed about it if the place was nice, but it was rubbish! Paying for one night there was too much, never mind four! The room was horrible, I could go on all day about the things wrong with the place; It was roasting hot with only a tiny little fan on the ceiling to cool us down, there were mosquito nets covering the windows, which was a great idea, except for the fact that there were holes in the walls, the place felt like it was going to fall apart at any second and the room shook every time you walked across the floor - I’ll just leave it there, but to sum up, it was shit! The Lotus Resort, don’t stay there! It’s shit!

We didn’t get up to much on our first day really. We got some lunch in a place called Zest, which we ending up eating in every day (sometimes more than once a day in fact!). The food was excellent though, huge portions and the couple running the place were so lovely too, the smiliest people we’ve ever met! Afterwards, we organised a snorkelling trip for the next morning and took a walk along the beach. It soon started lashing though, so we had to run back to our crappy room. Even though it was raining, it was still really hot, and somehow it was like ten degrees hotter inside! If only our little fan could do more than just blow the dust around…

We stayed in and watched a few episodes of The Amazing Race (surprise surprise) and later went for dinner in a place that was showing the Villa-Arsenal match. It was a great game, even if Villa lost 4-2 in the end…

The next morning we woke up in our shitty, shitty room, after the worst night’s sleep ever, to find that my legs were covered in mosquito bites. I was in agony! Aisling escaped scot-free too… It’s a good thing we were taking our malaria tablets! (Before we set off from Ireland, we were weighing up whether or not to get malaria tablets, as we had heard that the side effects from taking them were almost as bad as actually having the disease itself. We got them in the end, and to be honest, they were absolutely fine). And even worse, Aisling’s laptop wouldn’t work again! Disaster! Seeing as we were going snorkelling for the day, we put it out of our minds and hoped it would magically fix itself again, like it did in Bangkok.

After breakfast in Zest, we headed off on our day of snorkelling. On the boat, we made friends with three girls, who we affectionately knew as Hazel, Sick girl and the Belgian, (We couldn’t actually remember their real names…), Hazel – because she looked like Hazel McCarthy, Sick girl – because she was seasick on the boat, and the Belgian – because, well, she was from Belgium… We were meant to be going to swim with sharks (not big massive ones), but because the weather was so bad and the sea was so choppy, we could only stay along the coast. Dose! We still had a great day though.

We went to a few different bays along the shoreline, and saw lots of nice and colourful fish. The coral was nice too, even if it wasn't as colourful. There are meant to be really good dive spots on the island, it’s just a shame that we were shackled to the coast. Having said that though, the boat trip itself around the island was enjoyable. From little beach huts popping up from beneath the trees, to the odd phallic rock formation!

Before we finished up, we headed over to an island called Ko Nang Yuan. We didn’t know anything about the place, except that it was privately owned and you had to pay 100 Baht to step foot on it. This was no problem for us, as they had told us when we signed up for the trip (and 100 Baht is only like €2.50). Some people on the boat went mental though when they found out you had to pay! These two French girls in particular. This was the final straw for them. Before this happened, they were moaning when we couldn't go to Shark Island (even though the waves were so big on the way there that we were practically being thrown out of the boat!). Then they were complaining that the coral was “really terrible”, and now this. Next, some Swedish woman pipes up saying that she didn't want to go to the island either cause she was already there the day before! They were all giving out to the poor instructor and were even trying to convince people on the boat not to go on the island so we could turn around and head home. It was like a mutiny! Eventually, we all ended up going cause there was a couple at the front of the boat who really wanted to go. I think the Swedish woman felt kinda guilty afterwards for trying to get everyone to turn around… and so she should! The island was incredible!!

Honestly, this place was paradise! It blows Ko Phi Phi out of the water! (Pardon the pun) It wasn't even sunny when we were there either, so if it was this good overcast, who knows what it would be like with some blue skies! Well worth the €2.50 entrance fee anyway! First, we went up to the lookout point where there was an amazing view over the island, or rather islands. Ko Nang Yuan is actually made up of three small islands, connected by tombolos (I think that’s right, I haven’t done geography since Junior Cert!). It was really cool walking along the sand from one island to another with waves crashing on either side of you.

Because it was overcast too, it was actually warmer in the water than on the shore, so we spent most of our time there submerged. We just didn’t want to leave! There were a few other people from our boat on the beach with us, so we were keeping an eye on them, thinking we’ll just head back when they do… They were probably looking at us thinking the exact same thing. In the end, we all ended up staying there for hours!

When we got back, we were absolutely starving, so went for dinner in a place called Porta Bello. Take note, this is where Ko Tao ran away with the Best Food prize. It was outstanding. I’d even go as far as to say it was the nicest restaurant I've ever eaten in. There, I said it! Between Porta Bello and Zest, Ko Tao was just streets ahead of everywhere else.

After dinner, we took a stroll around and were accosted by some ladyboys trying to get us to come to their cabaret show. We really wanted to go too, but unfortunately we were washing our hair that night... (Oh actually, speaking of washing hair, funny story! The shower in our room was so bad that, one night, poor Aisling had to resort to using the bum hose to clean her hair properly! I think it’s a funny story, although I’m sure she won’t think it’s as funny when she reads this…)

The next morning, we went and booked our scuba diving trip for the day ahead, and popped into Zest, of course, for breakfast. (The night before I was eaten alive again by mosquitoes. This time I even put on repellent and everything to no effect. Aisling thinks the spray smells really nice, she'd make a terrible mosquito...) After another quality breakfast, we headed back down to the dive centre to meet our instructor, Antonio. He was so nice! We loved him! It was his first dive in English too, so we were trying to be as supportive as possible throughout the day. You wouldn't think it was either, seeing as his English was pretty much perfect. He also had fluent Italian (well, he was from Italy so that's not much of an achievement...) and Spanish. Also, his girlfriend was Dutch so he was learning that too! He gave us a quick rundown of the plan for the day and told us to go and grab some lunch as we wouldn't be starting for a couple of hours. Back up to Zest!

As we were tucking into our lunch though, the heavens opened. It was ridiculous. We had luckily escaped any showers yesterday, but this downpour didn't look like it was stopping any time soon. We tried to leave it as late as possible before heading back to the dive centre, hoping that the rain would ease off, but by the time we left Zest, we practically had to swim down the street! We thought there was no way the dive would still be going ahead, well we were wrong! I suppose we were going to get wet anyway...

Although we had both gone diving before (Ash in the Great Barrier Reef, me in... well, Lahinch...), it was years ago, so we both had to do the beginner course. Again, it meant that we didn't get to see the best dive spots on the island, but we still saw some lovely things and had a great day hanging out with Antonio. He was one of our favourite people from the whole journey!

After our dive, we still had some time to kill while we waited for everyone else to come back to the boat, so we grabbed a couple of snorkels and had a paddle around. (The night before, I bought a waterproof pouch for my camera too, so that we could take pictures in the sea. It's a really good little contraption!) Though it was lashing when we set off that afternoon, it soon eased up and we had a pretty rain-free dive in the end. That was until we went back in snorkelling again, and it started bucketing down once more!

It was actually one of the highlights of the entire trip for me though. The rain was so torrential, and the sound was deafening as it pelted down on the water around us. But as soon as you dived under the water, it was like another world entirely, so quiet and peaceful. To quote Fiona Apple, "It's calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion".

And also to quote Sebastian the lobster from The Little Mermaid, "Under the sea, under the sea, darling it's better, where it is wetter, take it from me!" Both equally valid points.

There was only one way to round off that day, back to Porta Bello! (I got a steak this time, it was even better than the night before! Seriously, this place...) And that was pretty much it for our final night in Ko Tao.

The next morning, after brekkie (and lunch!) in Zest once more, we jumped on the ferry back to the mainland, for our 10 hour return trip to Bangkok. (Don't worry, we weren't spending another week there!) We arrived back to Rikka Inn that night, and went straight to bed, wrecked after our day of travelling and with a new adventure in Phnom Penh the next day!

1 comment:

  1. Who knew Fiona Apple and a Caribbean crab would be able to agree on something?