Koh Tao to Bangkok, the Journey’s first part

The day before my departure was an uneventful one. I did some final travel planing and tidied up my stuff, getting rid of gear I never used in hopes to make my backpack a bit smaller and lighter. It’s the third time I did that in Thailand but every time I end up with a heavy and bursting backpack not much later. No idea how that’s physically possible, must be some special backpacker law of physics.

Koh Tao accompanied my evening beer with a nice sunset. After all that time on the Aussie east coast I saw the sun rising over the ocean countless times but never did I see it set there.

In the morning I have to leave my room at 10:00 which is quite early for Thai standards. I asked them if a later checkout would be possible and was told I’d have to pay 100B per hour. Considering that the bungalow cost me 500B for the whole day that’s a blatant rip-off.

They do offer to store my backpack though and as I trust them I gladly accept. Carrying 20kg of luggage on a 35°C day is something Continue reading Koh Tao to Bangkok, the Journey’s first part

About to leave

For the last couple of days I mostly rested my lazy bum on the beach and when I moved it, it was to go to the restaurant, to the 7-eleven (ice cream and cold drinks) or the massage house. As much as I enjoy doing that it is unfortunately burning my funds much quicker than expected.

For the rest of my time in Asia I have another adventure on my list: Cambodia. Initially I planned to take a plane from Bangkok to Phnom Phen but as I failed to make an early booking the prices are pretty high by now. Taking the plane costs more than twice of what it takes to get there via land and being a poor backpacker every dollar counts for me.

Getting into Cambodia via a land crossing is a bit of an adventure. It is a way lined with begging and stealing kids, touts and more touts. There is some solid information on the internet though so I expect to make it to Siem Reap without getting cheated too much. I’ll leave Koh Tao tomorrow afternoon, take an overnight train to Bangkok and get on a bus to the border there.

The local travel agent who sold me the ferry and train ticket was unique to say the least. He’s from Hong Kong and basically running his office to pass the time till the evening when he can go out fishing. We were chatting for at least half an hour and he told me about his various trips around the world, how he gets lost all the time and how he’s not really interested in selling me anything cause his wife is taking all the money anyway. Better than the movies.

Have to make some travel preparations now and say goodbye to the restaurant. And the beach. That’ll be a longer goodbye.

For an entertaining tour booking head to a small agency on the northern end of the main road, somewhat across the Simple Life Resort. There is a sign saying ‘we speak German’ in the window.

Thoughts on Thais

One of my favourite places on Koh Tao is a small food shop on the main road.

It doesn’t look like much but they serve really nice and authentic Thai food. By my experience those places often have the best deals, the food is good and the prices are low. The regular restaurants catering more for westerners usually have mediocre food for two or three times as much money.

Anyway, I don’t just like the place for the food but also for the friendly people. Their smile is as genuine as their dishes. Today I felt like trying something new and had a look at the curry pots they have standing around in the morning. I ordered some potato curry and the friendly lady asked: ‘Are you ok with spicy?’. ‘I’ll give it a try.’ was my ambitious response.

There is something special about the spiciness in Thai food. In the beginning the food is just tasty. Then it is tasty and somewhat hot. And when you’re done eating it keeps burning. And burning. And burning.

When the lady saw my empty curry bowl she said ‘Oh very good, you ate all. Was not too spicy?’. I was busy with sweating and getting pictures of molten lava out of my head so my response was a short ‘Hmm, aloi!’ (Hmm, yummy!).

Not all people on Koh Tao are that friendly and the same goes for other touristy places I’ve seen so far. The more tourists, the fewer smiles. I was wondering why that is and I think it is for a couple of reasons.

One reason is the huge gap in money between the Thai and western people. Some days ago on the dive boat I saw the boat boy store an underwater video camera away. These things are so expensive that the one he was holding easily represented ten years of income for him. Maybe even a whole lifetime considering he’s sleeping in a hammock in the engine room at night.

Now for a tourist it’s easy to say ‘Oh these poor people, what a pity’. But how do you feel when you are on the other side? How do you feel when there are people around who have amounts of money at their hands that you’ll never even get close to?

In addition these people with the big money aren’t always modest and nice. Many of them like to show they have money and all too many also enjoy the power that comes with big money. Some tourists show an attitude towards Thai people that makes me feel ashamed I have the same skin colour they do.

Almost unnecessary to mention that summer tourists inevitably clash with a culture that doesn’t approve of nudity in any form and emphasizes on saving face instead of getting loud and angry.

Taking all that into account it is almost surprising there is still smiling Thais out there.