Turns out I've been far to relaxed about booking my ticket to Koh Tao and all the night train sleeper carriages are fully booked, my only other options would be A a seat for the entire nights travel or B an expensive flight to Samui island with a follow up ferry. Before we go in I better explain my reasons for wanting to visit Koh Tao. Firstly Ive never been there, secondly there is a dive school here called New Heaven which offers a reef conservation project. I don't really need a good excuse to dive but I figured why not dive and do some good at the same time. Planting chorals, releasing sea turtles and picking up trash from the ocean bed seems like a worthy cause to me. The only problem is I want to spend a month on the course and a thai visa is 28 days, plus I've spanked just over a week already, plus a day to get to the island and a day to get back. Based on this and with me wanting to check out the school itself before I commit to an entire month in there company Ive decided to spend a week or two fun diving with them. I ended opting for the cheap seats on the train...
I take a visit to Siam mall and purchase a super cheap mobile and sim so i can contact the dive school when I arrive, then I take the BTS and Subway to Bangkok train station to await my train. Now a thai mobile might sound like a good idea but I can't get the fucking thing to register the sim and all the instructions and messages I'm receiving my service provider are in thai, not much help to me. As i board my train I make way for a thai girl who smiles politely and accepts my gentlemanly offer of boarding first. Turns out she is in the seat next to me, perhaps this lady can help me with the phone, problem is she doesn't appear to speak much english. After about an hour of stunted communication, hand gestures and attempts to translate I finally appear to have the phone working. great news, the thai girl suggests I check its working by calling her phone. Sure why not and lo and behold the call connects. Success the phone is in fine working order after all. What I didn't realise was that this chick was mental and now she had my number. I managed to grab perhaps an hours sleep on the train before disembarking for my ferry and transfer at about 6 Am and I'm due to arrive on the island at about 8 45. In typical thai fashion the transfer coach is holding about 20 people more than it should and I'm too late to get a seat so I'm sat on the floor with my bags. No biggie its only 30 mins or so to the ferry and they pass in hurried and bumpy fashion.
On the ferry I make myself comfortable and again fall asleep for about an hour, when my phone starts to ring. its the thai chick from the train...I answer but as already mentioned she can't really speak english so I have no idea what she wants to be perfectly honest and after a minute or two i hang up. She calls again, another minute or so and again I hang up. By now I'm at the island and I transfer to the mainland and call my contact for a pick up. Its nearing 9 Am and by the time we reach the dive shop its closer to 10. I quickly organise another very basic room in the resort right next door for 400 baht. Dump my bags and hit my new bead for a few hours kip. Ive had two nights of under 3 hours sleep in a row and I'm toasted and need a few hours kip. Its not to be as crazy thai lady calls me a further 6 times in the space of 2 hours. I wouldn't mind but honestly she can't make it clear what she wants, I have no idea where she even lives or for that matter what her name is, I really don't get why she keeps calling me but I do get that I need to sleep. Phone goes off and I finally manage a couple of hours of rest. That evening I explore the immediate surroundings, sign my life away for insurance purposes at the dive shop, eat a light meal and crash back into bed early.
While diving the next day crazy chick calls me a further 3 times WTF? I decide I'm not going to answer any more calls from my random telephone stalker!
Im pleased to say the guys at the dive school are a great bunch, and in particular two of the guys doing there dive master internship are great fun. Besides some great diving, very relaxed, nothing too deep or into too much current Im meeting some great people here. An american couple are at the same resort as me and doing there AOW cert. There is a swiss girl here also doing AOW and then moving onto the reef project and a british girl also doing the reef project. Evenings are time for chilled out meals with a beer or two and in general I'm loving just how great this island is. What more can you ask for besides good diving, good company and a relaxed ambience? great bagels for breakfast? Koh Toa has it directly opposite the dive school in a place called Koppee (which is Thai for coffee). I have transferred ob day three to a resort up in the mountains for 600 baht along with the american couple. Its a lovely resort and 600 baht is still well within budget but the only problem is its miles from anywhere, and its hard to find a taxi driver that is prepared to take the bumpy and treacherous road up to the resort (paticulary after dark or after rain). Im fine with it to be honest, I'm not here to be pounding beers and partying anyway but on my next visit I will stay more local so I have the option of partying when it suits me. Time is passing all too quickly here and its the first place I've stayed at for more than 4 nights in almost 5 months its also the first place I've felt like I wanted to stay longer. i can only thank New Heaven dive School for making me feel so welcome, like one of the family and for the good fortune I had to meet some other great travellers while i was there.
Last night Syndrome strikes again! On my final night on the island both of my dive master buddies successfully complete there respective dive master courses by going through a stress test, this involved two instructors generally fucking with there gear while they try and exchange wet suits under water. BCD's are inflated to max, air sources turned off, masks pulled off or flooded and all the while they are struggling to get out of and into each others wet suits without loosing there fins or taking in giant lungfuls of water. it was fun to watch and we had set up a snorkel test for the after party. This involved downing a bucket of cheap ass thai booze through a snorkel in one breath. Need less to say it certainly kick started the guys night and we all had a good few beers in the dive shop before hitting up some bars and having a bit of a boogie. Once again I found myself half cut at 3 AM with no way to get to my resort and a full days travel ahead of me in a few short hours. Why o why do I keep doing this to myself I wonder?
I ended up sleeping on the roof of the dive school, seemed like a great idea at the time but when I awaken at 7 AM turns out I have been an all you can eat buffet for the mosquito population of the island. I mean I have been utterly demolished by mozzies its a wonder I had enough blood left to wake up. I have bites on my feet, face, arms, back, ass, neck, stomach and even between my fingers! I was wearing long trousers and a T shirt but these giant special ops mozzies have managed to bite through my clothes. Thank god there is no malaria here or id be a certain candidate for a blood transfusion.
Need less to say the ferry back to Chumporn was uncomfortable and I was looking forward to my bunk on the night train, before that happy moment i had around an hour to wait so I headed to a nearby restaurant and had a good feed to some what mitigate my lack of sleep and hang over. On my return to the station I was informed the train was delayed by unto 3 hours! Well this is Asia right and these things happen. i can over hear a lot of other tourists getting pretty irate about it but personally well I think you have to expect this kind of thing once in a while.
I get chatting to a thai girl who i also waiting for a train that delayed, she speaks far better english than crazy lady and she doesn't try and trick me into calling her mobile so Im more relaxed about this encounter. She tells me she is an mathematics teacher in Ratchuburi which I happen to know is a little north of Bangkok and quite a distance away. Her husband and 3 month old daughter live in Chumporn and she only gets to see them once a month she tells me sadly. She is not too unhappy though as being a teacher is a good job. We have a pleasant conversation but all the while I'm scratching away like mad at my mozzie bites. We both end up laughing at just how badly I've been bitten and she explains that Farrang (foreigners) must be more arroyo (delicious) for Yung (mosquitos). She asks me to please excuse her a moment and off she goes. A moment later she is back and she has bought me some tiger balm from a local store, which she explains, is made in thailand and is the best thing for mosquito bites. it was a genuinely warm moment for me that touched my heart. I can't think of a single instance of a stranger being that friendly or charitable back home and its another great reason why I dearly love thailand!!
My train arrives, actually it was almost 4 hours late but I'm not concerned I have plenty of time to make my fight and I'm just grateful to have a bed for the trip....