In contrast to Koh Samui, I feel like I got a very good overall sense of the smaller island of Koh Tao and what it has to offer. Mostly because we rented scooters and hit up a different beach every day. I stayed right on the beach at Chalok Baan Kao in a modern little bungalow that I loved. And by this point I knew to be grateful to start my day with real espresso (instant coffee reigns supreme here).
Amy and I again went for a dive together – so fun to have a good friend for a dive buddy! But the dive sites in Koh Tao were the most crowded I’ve ever seen. I spent more time trying not to collide with other divers while simultaneously keeping track of my own dive group than admiring the sea life. The most excitement was when a trigger fish (with his trigger fin up) was guarding the buoy line on our decent on the second dive. You hear so much about how to avoid a run-in with one – they are apparently the only aggressive fish out there that will actually attack you. I was amazed that none in the crowd of divers got attacked by that one. I again noticed a lot of plankton in the water and again felt it biting me – in Samui I ended up with so many bites from these “sea fleas” that between those and the mosquito bites I had started to look like a leper – but I thankfully didn’t notice the hair floating in the water that Amy later commented on. That there was so much hair in the water isn’t a huge surprise given the number of people diving in the same few spots. I did observe that dreadlocks don’t really move under water. Several of the guys on our boat had them and when I saw them underwater, their hair looked exactly as it had on land. I tried not to think about how many sea fleas got stuck in their tresses on a daily basis.
My adventures on the scooter were mixed, but overall super fun! We rented scooters in the evening of our first day. I have never driven one before, but in exchange for my passport and 200 Baht (like $6) I was handed the keys. Right off I nearly crashed trying to avoid the potholes in the dirt road. I was apparently giving it way too much throttle. We decided to ride around a bit to get me some practice, even if in the semi-dark. Of course Amy used to drive a Vespa around SF (and I have fond memories of zipping around with her) and Maite also owns a scooter at home – so I was the only novice. All was going okay until we stopped at a crossroads and I was going to take the lead in our scooter caravan. As soon as I tried to pull out I (of course) gave it too much throttle, skid on the gravel at the side of the road, and the bike went over. Miraculously I was unscathed except for a chip out of the middle of the nail polish on my left big toe. A local – who from his boxing shorts and layer of sweat shine looked like he had just come from a Muay Thai gym (and here I thought the fighters covered in sweat on the boxing billboards were faking it with oil) – runs over to help me get the bike up and says in perfect English (with a British accent no less) that I should be careful of the sand and the bumpy roads. Thanks, will do!
My confidence shaken, we decided to drop off my scooter and have me hitch a ride with Amy for the night. Over the following 3 days I become more confident on the bike, the most challenging ride being the one up to Mango viewpoint. On the steep roads you are grateful for pavement (no matter how narrow the road – some are only one car width wide) but make due when soft dirt is all there is. I don’t fall again, but after dark decide to rely on Amy to get me around safely. That little fall did cost me, as the owner claimed she would need to replace every part on the bike that was even barely scratched. I could talk her down a bit, but when your passport is held for ransom you have to pay. So, my first time on a scooter included a $400 learning curve!
Most of the beaches on Koh Samui and Koh Tao have good sand and a slowly sloping shoreline that makes it difficult to get more than knee deep without wading out a hundred yards. The snorkel spots are generally the exception – there the reef is close to shore and the land drops off more steeply. They make for good swimming and good snorkeling. One of my favorites was Hin Wong Bay, where we had an amazing lunch and I saw an impressive coral garden with some of the most colorful burrowing clams I have seen anywhere (one was florescent green). I did cut myself on the coral once, which is healing very slowly. The dive master in Samui had an infection from a cut on his foot and told us that every cut he’s gotten in Thailand has ended up infected. So of course I have been applying Neosporin liberally and keeping a closer eye on this than I’d usually bother to. So far, so good!
After so many days on the beach with Amy and Maite I am ready to venture out on my own. So I’m off to Krabi on the other side of the Thai peninsula. Without Maite around I’ll need to carry my own “mosquito arsenal” – since going out after 5:00 p.m. requires a dousing of “Mosquito No. 3” (i.e., deet)!