23 March 2013

The Mellow and the Sleaze - A Week on Koh Tao

 Me and my little Jennifer Grey lookalike in the back of a pick-up truck, on our way to a dive.  

I just left Koh Tao, a little emerald jewel off of the East coast of Thailand, and I am sitting on a coach speeding toward Bangkok, reveling in post-island glow. This was the best short vacation I have ever taken, complete with great food, new friends and the most amazing sunsets in the world. 

I arrived last Friday for my eight-day trip (which explains my absence here, sorry ‘bout it), nearly weeping with joy when I touched down in my beloved Bangkok. A certain amount of weary fatigue had hit me in Kathmandu, and so I decided to make a brief sojourn to Thailand. The flight was cheap, no visa was required and everything is developed and easy. My expectations weren’t high, I just needed some time in a bikini with a bottle of Sang Som in my hand.

My life is probably the best life.  

I made plans to meet up with my friend Jess (you may remember her from Sri Lanka) and we chose to go to Koh Tao based on its proximity to Bangkok, its beauty and its easy going reputation. We decided we would get SSI/PADI certified and learn to dive, something both of us have wanted to do for a long time.

Koh Tao means “Turtle island” and it wasn’t settled until the 1950s. The varied dive sites nearby, beautiful coral reefs and the lack of existing industry proved the perfect conditions for the island to become a diving mecca. You cannot walk 10 metres down the pleasant, pedestrian footpaths of Sairee Beach without encountering another dive shop – only Cairns, Australia issues more certifications each year.

Sunset Singhas. 
 I shouldn’t like Koh Tao. It’s near Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, two “party bro” islands famous for full moon parties and foam bars, and it does attract some of the same clientele. But, Koh Tao has one major difference, a difference that prevents it from being completely overrun with package tourists and drink-til-you-puke bucket specials: diving, diving, diving. People are there to study and try to get the most out of their dives rather than to engage in a hedonistic orgy of booze. Well, that is, until the last day of diving lessons….. ahem.

The nightlife is a solid mix of pubs showing films, beach bars with the pre-requisite firespinners, and casual clubs where djs play drum & bass and house music - but it lacks the exploitative debauchery other Southeast Asian backpacker haunts (my friend Jay would scoff at this sort of behaviour as “amateur bullshit”). The crowd is definitely older than on Phi Phi or Samui, but not too old, at least in spirit.  My diving group and I had one really big night out, and let’s just say that I felt younger (and prettier) than I have in a while. (We can now disregard some of this angst. Huzzah!)

I’ve been to Thailand seven times, and I really thought that I had seen it all, done it all, and that its party-prone beaches weren’t really for me. That’s all changed – I’m in love with Koh Tao. The sun was hot, the boys were pretty, the food was spicy and the drinks were cold – what else could a fatigued Kathmandu expat ask for? It was like a Thai version of “How Violet Dear Got Her Groove Back.”

Me in my Summer Black. Guys, this is how I will dress when I live out my skeezy destiny - but my shorts will be shorter.

I found myself scheming ways that I could abandon grad school and my career and just stay on the island, becoming a dirtbag dive instructor with black hair to my waist, a deep cocoa tan, a mild to moderate drinking problem and a constant Spank Rock/Mickey Avalon playlist. I’d ride a motorcycle and get a dog named Thai-y Tim and have visible abs, carrying out my 30s in a blaze of mildly self-destructive one night stands and recreational drug use. This is hard to resist, but alas, responsibility calls. For now. Until I head back to Koh Tao do the Advanced Course next year….

Barefoot beers. Living the dream. 

1 comment:

Monique said...

*Sigh* I want to go to Thailand. Next year I'll meet you there, kay?