Whitney's Story Index:
Son in the sky
Impressions of Brazil
Hawaii Fishing News - May 2013
Un lugar para mi
Crossed the border
Quiero mas tiempo!
Perched above Medellin
Yay for a shower!
New coast for me!
The ocean calls
Thick rain, freight train
Time to dry
The next quarter century - on we go!
Rolling with it
Viviendo la vida
Mi misíon por cada día
Me gusta mi linea de trabajo!
Mi primer fin de semana en Ecuador
What a year! 2008 in Review...
One week in Cambodia
Beautiful, happy northern Thailand
One amazing month on Koh Tao
Last week in France
August 08 in Europe
Failed Cape Melville
Day trip to Bowen
Part 3: Volleyball playoffs
Part 2: Ultimate camping
Part 1 of... many: FOLK FESTIVAL!
My weekend of great vistas
A glorious weekend on Magnetic Island
Ugh. I'm exhausted.
New Zealand... ROCKS!!!
It's been awhile...
Sushi night at the house
Thanks for all the letters and mail!
Blues Fest - Byron Bay
The little things I realize I miss
I'M GOING TO THE BLUES FEST!!
So many new animals!
time for school
Whitney saw a wallaby!!
Pictures for my stories
Just some observations
Rain in the tropics
We're finally in Australia!
The Last Supper
One amazing month on Koh TaoWow. My last blog was from Koh Phagnan... that seems like ages ago! I guess it seems like ages ago to Mom and Dad, too, 'cause they haven't been diggin' the long silence from their (awesome) daughter.
There's good reason for my silence, though. I was lost. I was lost in an amazing Neverland of happiness and fun. I was living the life on Koh Tao, and for me to sit in front of this computer screen with the task of "write about your month on Koh Tao," well, that's quite possibly the most immensely intimidating, overwhelming task I've faced in lifetimes. But you know what? There's no possible way I could ever ever portray to you the amazingness that was my month on Koh Tao. So with that fact having been recognized, I can now approach this in a "just write something and it's better than nothing" manner. Much easier to get my mind around!
Koh Tao is a little island off the east side of Thailand, in the Gulf of Thailand. It is warm and tropical and happy - essentially everything you want your standard tropical paradise to be. There's so much to be said about the island itself, and there's so much to be said about my personal experience on the island. But I can't say it all in any reasonable number of days, so I'll break it down like this...
The 5 aspects of Koh Tao that make it what it is, ...or 5 reasons "1 week" turned into a month
1. Diving: Koh Tao is a diving island. It is the characteristic personality of the island. There are about 50 dive shops all crammed onto this little island, most of them located on one beach - Sai Ree. The island is surrounded by world class coral reef, full of hard and soft coral, and marine life in all shapes, colors, and sizes. And it's all right around the island - a 10 minute boat trip to get to a nearby dive site. Townsville claims to be "right on the Great Barrier Reef!" Ha! Several hours on a boat just to reach the near side of the reef... piff. Anyway, yeah, reef all around the island, really accessible, and the water is unbelievably warm! 30 degrees Celsius at the surface, 30 degrees Celsius at 30 meters depth. Word! The visibility is good, although probably much better out of monsoon season. We were there during stormy season, so we didn't get to experience the best that the visibility can be, but even still, we were able to get up to about 15 meters, which is enough to be able to explore a bit on my own without losing track of Nik or our Dive Masters.
So in summary: warm, bright blue waters, reef a 10-minute boat ride away, all sorts of coral, and marine life that included great barracuda, blue-spotted rays, silly looking yellow boxfish, pufferfish, reef sharks, anemones, groupers, moray eels, and if you're lucky, the occasional turtle or whale shark (sad face, we didn't get to see those).
2. Community: Like I've said, diving dominates the island. It is a diver's community, and everyone is living in the same industry, the same vibe, the same pulse. It's a fairly small community, so everyone knows everyone else on the island, or at least knows people that someone else knows. It's all very connected, and it's easy to get sucked into it and become part of it very quickly - a result of the way the diving industry is structured. You visit the island, you take a dive course or do a fun dive through any one of the dozens of dive shops, and you get to know your Divemaster, you get to know the other people on the boat or in your course, you go out for drinks with them after the dive, you meet so-and-so from another dive shop, who introduces you to the people they're with... and so on. The community is structured in a way that integrates visitors very quickly. And let me tell you, it's a fun community to get sucked into! The age range is from about 20 to 45 years old, but everyone is at the same level - everyone is just a big kid, trying to enjoy life to the fullest. It's like Never Neverland, and these are all the Lost Boys. And they are fun people!
So you get sucked in, you meet a bunch of really cool people really quickly, and suddenly you find yourself connected. You are in the community, you are part of it, you walk to 7-11 to buy water and you chat with 5 different people on your way - it's so-and-so's birthday on Thursday, such-and-such dive shop is diving the other side of the island tomorrow and wants you to join, somebody's leaving the island this weekend, so-and-so saw a whale shark on their dive this morning... you're connected before you even realize it. And then you're stuck. 'Cause why would you leave this??
3. Social life: The social life is incredible, as one might expect with such a small, connected community. There's always something going on, and always someone to join up with on any given night. Given that the community is structured around the diving industry - a 7-days-a-week industry - there aren't any "weekends" or "Monday nights." Every night is created equal. Some people may have to dive at 6:30am, some may have the next morning off. So you may choose to plop down and watch a movie in any number of the restaurants (many of them show evening movies), or you can make your way along the bars on the beach, and are bound to run into someone you know (or meet someone new! It's an easy-going, easy-to-meet crowd of people) within one drink... if you even make it to the bar first.
For the most part, everybody - locals and visitors alike - live in simple bungalows: a bed, a fan, maybe a shelf or something, a toilet, and a shower. So people don't get stuck inside all day and night, watching cable TV or doing nothing on the internet or playing video games. They go out. They go out to eat, they go out to watch movies, they go out to use internet, they go out to do their laundry, they go out to socialize. So everyone is out. You see them, you talk to them, you know what they're doing. It's a social community. Everybody bumps into everybody, often several times a day.
4. Simple island life: One aspect blends right into the next. The lifestyle on Koh Tao is simple - it's island life. You live in a bungalow. You have a hammock on your porch. You have nothing to worry about, nowhere to be, no reason to stress. This is what the lifestyle consists of: relax in your hammock, go to the beach, meet up with friends, dive, eat food, grab a drink, sleep... you just do what you want. And it works. Quite well. Go for a hike to the other side of the island, go bouldering, take a nap, go cliff-jumping, float in crystal clear waters. It's all simple, it's all wonderful.
5. Food: This is an aspect of Koh Tao that cannot be ignored. In general, Thailand has amazing food. You are surrounded by really good, really cheap food wherever you go. But Koh Tao has so much amazing food and amazing restaurants crammed into one small little beach village that Nik and I literally wanted to stay another month just because we hadn't tried all the dishes we'd been eyeing. I have to mention Zanzi Bar, the establishment that won our daily patronage without a fight (and still visits us in our dreams, like the Sugar Plum Fairy). We ate probably 10-12 meals a week there, between the two of us, and we still wanted a few more weeks to explore their amazing menu of magical happiness.
I will stop here with the raving about the food, because unless you can taste it and experience it, a) you can't understand what I'm
talking about, and b) you don't care. Why would you care about a 10-minute monologue on food that you can neither taste nor comprehend?
Alright, well I've managed to at least write something about Koh Tao. I wish it could even come close to expressing what an amazing month it was. But as it stands, it can't, so I hope this at least serves to appease Mom and Dad and provide you all with a taste of how much I'm loving life.
Posted by Whitney 10/24/2008