August 9th, 2006

Day 16: Chumphon to Koh Tao by Catamarang, Day 1 on Koh Tao

We got up early in Chumphon and wandered into town for some food and to see the place. Our pickup truck to the ferry port wasn't until noon, so we had some time. We got some cheap food, but unfortunately we got lost in town about a half hour before we had to be picked up. Mateo has a pretty good sense of direction, though, so we were back in track by 11:45, so we didn’t miss the pickup truck.

Pickup trucks with two rows of covered seats in the rear seem to be the primary mode of transportation in these parts. It isn’t a bad way to travel, but as always, you have to be careful about people charging too much. Our transportation to the dock was taken care of by the guesthouse we were at, so there was no problem there.

As we climbed into the back of the pickup, Mateo and I noticed something: There were three extremely attractive European couples in the pickup with us. The women were hot, but so were the guys. I mean Land’s End model quality, over here! (that’s a little in-joke there. I’ll explain if requested) And when we got to the port there were a LOT more very attractive white people. Then our boat pulled up to dock and tons of attractive white people, so with very handsome kids, walked off the boat.

My god! THIS is where the rich white people go when they go to Thailand. The two weeks up to now, one in Cambodia and one in Thailand, have seen us meet few tourist types. That isn’t to say we didn’t meet our fair share, but compared to here it seems that those other tourist-populated areas have been barren in comparison.

The Lonely Planet describes Koh Tao as the undiscovered quiet island of the Thai islands. Mainly a place for diving fans, but few others. …that is just a lie. I mean, we haven’t been to Koh Samui yet, but this place is the most tourist-oriented place we have been yet, and that is including Bangkok. This entire island exists for, it seems, upper-middle class European couples. Koh Tao is renounced as the cheapest place in the world to get your diving license at about 8000 baht (less than $300), and as such there are a lot of diving people here. If Signe’s and my experience in Palao is anything to say about it diving is an activity for the well-to-do and this island seems to confirm that whole-heartedly. I think one day I will come back here and get my diving license myself.

But this trip is not that time. This is a money-saving trip, and as such I was a little shocked at the prices here. Mateo was more prepared, and not surprised at all, but it is still pricey here. We found a place to eat and bought simple sandwiches for 80 baht each. We usually eat for around 30-40 baht per meal, so that was up there, and then when off to find a place to sleep. We didn’t want to pay the 200 baht (about $6) for the pickup to the place we were thinking about staying, so we decided to walk. Unfortunately, the place we were thinking about staying was over 2 km of up and down hills away, and quite far from the beach. …but we didn’t know this at first, so we walked the distance, and when we got there (a place called CFT) they showed us a room for 150 baht that contained a single bed and nothing else. Mateo didn’t want to sleep next to me AND it was way too far from the beach, so we took our bags on our backs again and went back to the beach, sweaty and tired as smug rich people guffawed at us on their rented motorbikes as they zoomed by.

At one point we got annoyed at their smugness, so we started saying “hello” to them as they drove by. Most people find it rude not to wave and say hello to someone that is doing the same, so even though people looked very confused as they did it, we found them returning our greetings.

After wandering around like the darryls we are (A “darryl” is a nice way of saying “derelict” that originated at the theater that Signe used to work at in San Jose, the Camera Cinemas), we decided to stay at a place that was twice as expensive as the first place (but still cheaper than our guesthouse in Bangkok). But this place is right by the sea. We still have to sleep in one bed, but Mateo doesn’t seem to mind much any more.

We have been acting like darryls a lot this trip. Mateo mentioned that he might write a “Darryl’s Handbook” and make millions. I’m fine with that, as long as I get a cut. :)

I haven’t mentioned the boat we went on yet. It is a catamaran. The ride was nice and smooth, and we even watched a bad movie on it, “Underworld: Evolution.” The sound was bad, though, so I couldn’t understand most of the movie, but it wasn’t the type of movie that really needed understanding, anyway.

In any case, the trip was good and the island is great, if a bit expensive. Although I don’t think it will be too bad. We had dinner for 30 baht at a Thai place. And the water is the temperature of warm bath water. This is going to be a nice place to spend a week.

Until next time, take care.

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