Happy New Year!
Kav and I landed in Cambodia this morning (3rd Jan), and so while he's off taking photos of the sunset at Angkor Wat, I'm going to tell you about our week on Koh Tao.
After the awful journey over on the overnight train and rocky boat we were met at Koh Tao's Mae Head Pier by a driver from our hotel, the Koh Tao Resort. See, months and months ago when we were only going on holiday for a few weeks we booked an amazing room at this resort in their Paradise Zone, booking a room with incredible views and an indoor hot tub on the balcony. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised with the view and the room and most importantly, the hotel seemed very quiet which suited us fine. The problem with Thailand these days is that it is so crowded with tourists and younger travelers that it can sometimes affect your visit. We wanted to make sure that didn't happen by booking into a nice hotel and on a quieter island compared to others such as Samui, Phuket and Phangan, but because it was Christmas and New Year, the island was still quite crowded.
The hotel had two areas - the Beach Zone which was down on the beach and the Paradise Zone which was up in the hills overlooking the island and sea. Like I said in my Sirocco blog, it's very difficult to describe a view, but let me just say that once again, this was one of the most incredible views I've ever had on holiday and I'll try and upload some photos soon. The island itself is 60% forest with not a lot of sandy beach area so most of the view is green from the trees, brown from the rocks that form the coastline and the blue sea. Like most islands, all you could see for miles was sea up to the horizon with a wonderful array of Thai boats taking divers and snorkelers out to their sites and the less daring out for boat rides around the island. Also dotted around the coastline are the many different hotels and resort bungalows, restaurants and bars which look serene during the day but light up at night and pump loud music until the early hours.
The first couple of days we spent lazing by the pool trying to get some colour on our pasty skin - being in Bangkok, you're nearly always inside so it's very hard to get any sun. We took walks into town to have lunch and drinks, I was ill a couple of days and then on our last day we decided to venture up in to the hills for an adventure and so that Kav could take some photos of the view, and I'm not going to lie, you nearly lost us both! We booked a taxi and for those of you who haven't been to the islands, everyone drives pick-up trucks which you sit in the back of - no seat belts, no roof, just a bench to sit on and a small bar to hold on to. Uncomfortable at the best of times, but this was a ride in a league of its own! The drive started off on the usual island roads and we took in our surroundings and enjoyed the ride but then suddenly it took a literal turn for the worse as we sped off onto a dirt track which led all the way up to the view point at 313m. There was no road, just a rocky, pot-hole ridden track that at some points was narrower than the truck and right on the edge of a sheer drop. I was not happy at all and genuinely feared for my life and once we got to the top, I contemplated walking down behind the truck instead of riding in it back down to safety. Luckily we made it down alive though and stopped for a beer on the way home to calm our nerves which was an adventure of its own! We stopped at what we thought was another resort, but turned out to be a strange bar owned by one of the strangest women I've ever met. She called herself Mama, was about 50 years old and she owned the bar. As soon as we walked in she offered us some dope, as well as the beers we ordered and made us wear cowboy hats while we sat and took in the view and talked to each other so she wouldn't talk to us! But she persisted and kept kissing and hugging us and rabbiting on about her bar, what our faces meant and how our taxi driver was taking us for a ride with what we were paying him! We were so scared we downed our beers in about 3 minutes and got the hell outta there!!
New Year's Eve was interesting as we were already booked into their gala dinner evening with entertainment, fireworks and lantern releasing. The evening was pleasant enough with a huge buffet, games, local dance shows, friendly staff, a table right on the beach and even a Whitney Houston lookalike drag queen but it just wasn't the same as celebrating with your friends or family, and I think we were in bed, asleep by 12:30am!
On the 2nd January it was time to leave the island, by doing our nightmare journey over in reverse. However, this time we had an extra leg to our trip and that was a flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap, Cambodia, making the whole journey roughly 24 hours long! By the time we arrived here we were exhausted but very happy and excited, and Cambodia hasn't disappointed!!