Wow. 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!
The reason I haven't written a blog in so long
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
A picture's worth a thousand words... this one should suffice as a substitute for a blog
These 5 things blend together and are sort of interconnected into a big web of wonderfullness called Koh Tao
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
Nik and me, enjoying life underwater
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).
Gorgeous blue-spotted ray! I was very excited to have my camera on this dive.
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.
Nik and me with our friends Mat and Alain, having (another) great night together.
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.
Living the simple island life
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.
Nik is Zephyr-ing his security burrito from ZanziBar
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?
But all you need to know is this: Thai food, Indian food, stone-fired pizzas, big mamma-jamma sammiches, coffee, bagels, bakery
items, more Thai food, curries of all sorts... Koh Tao does it, and they do it well. Reaallly, reaally well. And P.S. I miss Zanzi Bar.
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.