The train was definitely my worst in Thailand. There was a Thai family occupying the 3 beds around me, and their 5ish year-old daughter was playing games on the iPad until after midnight, with the sounds on, and the parents got mad at me when I tried to ask them to turn off the sounds (through a language barrier, which didn’t help). With ear plugs in, the sounds of kids’ electronic games still permeate. I didn’t sleep much.
At 4:30, I got off in Chumphon with everyone else who was headed to the main islands in the Gulf of Thailand. There are 2 ferry companies, and I’d saved money by buying a joint train-ferry ticket, so that was good. We waited until 6 for the bus to the ferry, it poured rain on anyone not sitting under the station’s overhang, and then the bus arrived just after sunrise. It advertised karaoke on board, but it was much too early for that.
At the ferry port, disorganization is something you wouldn’t expect from a company that does this daily, multiple times a day. The boarding process was chaotic, to say the least. However, I did see 2 people in line that I recognized from Vang Vieng, in Laos, so I talked to them for a bit. We’d gone tubing together; now, they were headed to Koh Phangan for the famous “Full Moon Party.” Everyone asked if I was going. What makes people think I have any interest in being around thousands of people drunk out of their minds, high on mushrooms, covered in body paint, and dancing to bad techno until sunrise? Nope.
My mission in Koh Tao was to do a bunch of scuba diving, and a guy from the Big Blue Diving Resort was walking around on the ferry, talking to people, and giving out info. I didn’t need reservations at a “diving resort,” but I was interested in diving. Their resort was also in the next town up (Sairee) from where the ferry would stop, so he said I could just ride in their free taxi from the pier, get some info, and book something or not. Seemed like a good plan, instead of paying for the taxi.
By taxi, they meant “sit in the back of a pickup truck.” This became a staple of time in Koh Tao.
At Big Blue, I got some info, and was glad to see a dive shop actually talking about the impact of the seafood industry on the oceans (for every 1 pound of fish they catch, they catch 5 pounds of unintended other animals, like sharks, dolphins, squids, wrong types of fish, etc.). The meat industry is the #1 polluter, also, but that’s not popular to talk about.
From Big Blue, I walked over to my hostel, Spicy Tao. This place was…interesting. The guy working morning shifts at the desk was from LA, and we had some decent conversations. The hostel was laid-back, some nights left the whole dorm for just me (when everyone left for the full moon party), it was the cheapest thing on the island, and it had a decent vibe for the first few days. However, they had constant problems with power & water, I never got a running shower while I was there (only using a bucket to wash up), they had issues with overbooking certain beds, and I finally left when they gave away my bed to someone else one night. Really fun to come back late at night, exhausted, just wanting to sleep, and there’s someone else in your bed + no employees there to provide answers.
However, the hostel did recommend that I check out Mojo Divers, which gives discounts on your first dive, if you’re staying at Spicy Tao. Solid.
I walked down to Mojo, signed up for the morning boat, and then walked around the town. The next morning, I was on the boat for sunrise, hit the water shortly after, and did some decent dives while meeting some great people.