Koh Tao, Thailand
Left Luang Prabang after an early lunch and flew down to Bangkok and again stayed in the Novotel at the airport. Unlike international fights, domestic ones, mean you can land and be out of the airport in 15 minutes. Even though I not the greatest fan of Suvarnabhumi airport it is growing on me – corrupt officials, arrests etc not with standing. We had the now obligatory Sushi for dinner proceeded by a wonderfully girlie cocktail for me. We have a habit on holiday, where I always order the most girlie cocktail of the two of us. So the waiter always brings it to Elly.
This time I discovered one made of banana liqueur, triple sec and mashed banana. Basically a 40 proof smoothie – bring it on girls! Next day the traveling proper started. Up at 6am to catch the 8.30am flight to Koh Samui on Bangkok Airways, reputedly ‘Asia’s Boutique Airline’. They aren’t bad but painting parrots on a plane doesn’t guarantee boutiqueness, it just makes your planes look mad. I was listening to technology podcasts and so was chuckling way. Arrived in Samui for a 3 hour wait and found a great coffee shop outdoors where we could read and chill out. Samui used to be a hellhole of an airport but has recently been rebuilt and is now voted South East Asia’s best.
The last time Elly and I saw it was on a hot night 4 years ago and it was dire. As efficient and charm laden as Gatwick during an air traffic controllers strike but 100th of the size and 50 times hotter. Now it is all open plan and generally very pleasant. Shame the same can’t be said of the rest of Koh Samui which has suffered the fate of so any Thai resort islands and is basically Benedorm with coconut milk. Had lunch and then the flashpacking began. Elly’s original plan for the holiday was to do backpacking at worst and flashpacking at best. The concept behind flashpacking is that you stay in hideous hovels and guest houses and then parachute into somewhere grand and luxurious from time to time. My plan was to lounge around some pool or beach and have charming Thai waiters feed me fruity drinks every few hours for as long as the money lasted. We compromised some where in the middle. The first stage was to get onto an open sided van with a bunch or 20/30 somethings and bounce off to the docks to catch the Seatran ferry to Koh Tao.
Elly was hanging on like a seasoned professional as the 10 of us and our luggage bounced down the road to the boat. The journey to Koh Tao/Koh Phranang is great. It only cost $40 return and takes about two and a half hours. We were in our pool by 4.30pm. I felt a bit like Mum and Dad on a boat with 200 kids. We we the oldest by at least 15 years. ‘Now Nigel I think one Singha in this heat is quite enough’……’Mary that is a very small bikini and if you don’t use suncream they’ll be tears before bedtime’ We arrived t the docks in Koh Tao and wresteled our cases onto the qquayside and were met by Ann and the humped our bags into a pickup togeter with some Norwegian kids and perched on our ags bounced off down the road eventaually finding our villa. The villa description and photographs online don’t fall foul of any trades descriptions legislation but are, to use the famous phrase from the 1980, ‘economical with the truth’. The KohTao Beach Villas are on an attractive horseshoe bay. The villa is tiny and quite well furnished with a fridge (thank God), gorgeous little plunge pool and open sided living room with TV. I have to say that initially i had to recalibrate quite hard but after a night under a mosquito net with the A/C on full belt I am very fond of our little beach hut. Koh Tao is underdeveloped as a resort island and that’s why we came. It is only about 5 miles long by three wide and the main reason people come is diving. There are hundreds of dive shops. There are no temples worth seeing but if you like marine ecology, snorkeling or diving this is your place. It’s even your place if you just want a reasonably unspoilt island full of young kids having a cheap holiday. The choice of restaurants in the main town Sairee is larger than where we are in Chalok Baan Koa. Here we have a great coffee shop called Koppee (as in “you want kopee or tea?”), a tattoo saloon called Rasta’s and 15 dive shops some with or without bars attached. Down the road we have a 7/11 with a freezer where we buy ice and other essentials. It’s open 24 hours a day which is handy if we run out of spicy squid crisps at 2am (who knows it could happen). We had dinner at the Koh Tao Tropicana Resort – sounds grand but isn’t. They have a huge menu that consists of the words rice,squid, beef, pork and vegetables arranged in endless combinations. I suspect that they have about 5 dishes and everyone get the same thing. Never the less, very good and cheap. Crashed early after a very long and tiring day.