Backpacking in Thailand – Koh Tao & Koh Phangan

The last few days of my backpacking trip have been amazing and some things I experienced amazed me in an other way. Spending a whole week in Koh Tao was the right amount of time for me. I have met new people, challenged myself to try something new and talked a lot about the purpose of traveling with my new friend Febrian!

Day 14 Koh Tao: Take the plunge

As some of you might know I started my Open Water diving course on Tuesday. The day after it was time for the first two outside dives in the sea with team Benelu(uks)x. Our course group came up with that name, because two girls (including me) are Dutch, one is from Belgium and our Dutch instructor carries the name Luuk. After we took the PADI exam it was time to go.

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Follow the bubbles

The first dive was very scary for all of us. We had only practiced all the techniques in a swimming pool and not at sea with big waves. All very nervous we jumped from the boat and tried to get down the line for the first time.

The waves felt rough holding on to the line and my mask slowly filled with water, which didn’t happen before. Besides that I became dizzy, which scared me a little, but I remembered to do the opposite of what my first reaction was. No panic, just keep breathing. Turns out the dizziness might have been caused by disorientation when holding on to the line. Now I’ve learned by googling ? I can look at the bubbles we breathe out. They’ll always go up and that way I’ll know the difference between up and down.

The second dive went way more smooth. Fear made place for excitement. I was ready to try it again, even though I was anxious to get dizzy again. At that point I had not figured out yet what it might have been. The water was less rough and this time equalizing went fine. I was happy I didn’t let the tension of the first dive be a deal breaker for the next one.

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A moment of zen

Back at Mae Haad pier I didn’t have to get back to the divingcenter, which meant I didn’t have to walk all the way back to the hostel this time. To reflect on my day and take it easy for the rest of the evening I headed over to Sairee beach and watched the sunset.

These particular moments calm me down like no one can. A light breeze, waves in the same pace you breathe, watching something as beautiful and amazing as the sun. Like with watching the stars on the sailboat near the Whitsunday’s I felt small. You worry about so many things in daily life, while the real life could be just simple and out here. I live my life to really live. We ourselves make it complicated.
After a snap back to reality from my stomach I got up to get food. All of a sudden I started thinking about going to the full moon party after all, so I contacted Puj, a really cool guy from the Uk I met at Samui, again. He’d love to hang out and so my decision was made.

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Getting ready for a Full Moon

Knowing bringing my backpack to Koh Phangan wouldn’t be a could idea, I started looking for a small bag to put in the necessary and leave all the rest behind at Koh Tao. I brought a visit to the local business man I’d spoken to before and he gladly wanted to help me out. He advised me not to take a little bag with a shoulder strap like most girls do, unless I really had a desire of ending up poor the day after. Apparently they can cut that strap and take your bag. He wished he’d have a pouch for me, but unfortunately he didn’t sell those. He told me to go to the 7/11 further down the street where they’d might have one for me, not too expensive too. Eventually I found one, allthough not at the 7/11.

Back at the hostel I went straight to the owner of the hostel to book me a ticket for a return boat for the party. She also warned be to be careful about who to trust over there, since I was alone. She wanted me to only take some money and a copy of my pasport. She’d look after the rest of my belongings.

While she tried to book my ticket I couldn’t help but notice how nervous she was. She apologized and told me she had to deal with unfriendly packers that day, while she tried so hard to do her best for them. She told me her small business here is her life and all she wants to do is please the customer, but sometimes they have no empathy and act like spoiled brats. Working in hospitality I’m all too familiar with that. So we talked a bit and I tried to comfort her. She was so happy that there are some travelers like me who are kind and understand her way of life. People who are open, friendly, willing to learn, chat a bit.. People who also know the difference between a hostel and hotel. Luckily talking with me helped her to calm down and she was very grateful for it.

Discovering, connecting and learning

I noticed a lot of people who ‘travel’ who are only here for the parties, the drinking and the touristic activities. They have no interest whatsoever in the people, their culture or the environment, which I think is a shame. I’m still having a good time, but I’m also thoughtful and eager to learn a thing or two. Helps me develop my own person and my perspective on the world. And I could really recommend to be open and step out of that comfort zone bubble you might have.

Connecting with others is a beautiful thing and can bring you a lot. I’ve been open and kind to the people of the hostel and in return they’ve arranged many things for me, but not because they had to, because they wanted to. Start with a simple hello and a smile and the world will greet you back with the same smile. Appreciate other people! Take the plunge, open up!

Day 15 & 16 Koh Phangan and Koh Tao: Dark Necessities

Mission accomplished!

My last two dives! Again at the Twins and the Japanese Garden. On our first dive we had to do some last exercises, but on our last we could actually enjoy everything we had learned. This time there was more focus on our surroundings. I must say not as beautiful as The Great Barrier Reef or apparently Indonesia, I’ve heard a new friend say (*puts on list), but the circumstances where perfect. Mission accomplished! Our team now officially can call themselves Open Water divers!?

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Full Moon Party

Around 5pm I had to catch the catamaran of Lomprayah to Koh Phangan, but ofcourse it left at 6.30 ? Still a bit woozy of diving earlier that day the more than an hour passage wasn’t a pleasant one. Trying to keep the horizon in sight while it became darker and darker was quite a task. Fortunately I didn’t throw up! Allthough I had a hunch I’d regret taking a boat the next morning.

When I finally got near Hat Rin I really had no clue where I was. There were so many streets, people (already smashed) and bucket sellers. With some pro Google Maps help from Puj I made it to his hostel where people were already partying.

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Here I met some of his new friends and with them I hung out all night. Beerpong, bodypaint, buckets.. It all comes with the package. Around midnight we headed to the beach and tried to get a clear view of the whole beach and then hopped some stages. At 3am I already had enough, due to some quarrels. Let’s just say girls are easy pray on parties like this, especially drunk.

I decides to sit it out until the shuttles came at 5.30 am. I thought about what I had seen and why the Full Moon Party was a one time thing for me. Somehow these parties get out the worst in people. With mostly only Western packers who have a “I’m gonna have the time of my life”-mindset, the party seems to be more about “there are no limits to my behaviour”. I had a good time ofcourse, but it was a bit too much for me.

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Hades on earth

The day after I named it a huge middle finger to any form of decency?. It all came to me when I wasn’t busy trying to have fun. It came to me when I walked off the beach and started to look around me. I’ve seen guys trying to grab every drunk girl around them, girls peeing against eachothers legs.. People lying in coma on the beach and guys fighting. Drugs sold everywhere. Let’s just say, not really my cup of tea and maybe because I wasn’t around people I really knew. An experience it was, yes?.

I must say I have these kinds of things often. While I’m having a good time going out I always notice too how people lose all their boundaries.

The boat, ah yes. I thought I’d regret that decision and yes, I did! With some alcohol still in need to be processed the waves made me seasick just by looking at them. Luckily when the boat finally left at 8.30 in the morning I fell asleep.

When I woke at the hostel the owner was so glad I woke up. She said I was sleeping so long she even tried to wake me up once, wanting to know if I was still alive??. And suddenly it came to me that the room had filled up with 20 people! So crowded! When I got back from the party I was the only customer.

Instant connection

When I took a first step outside someone looked at me with eyes pinched together “where are you from?” I answered with The Netherlands, but when he told me he and his friend are from Indonesia I told him I was a halfbreed.

Before we knew it we had a connection and planned on doing stuff together. Febrian is even willing to teach me Bahasa, so I can use it when traveling in Indonesia and in communicating with my family. We talked a lot about traveling alone and the purpose of it, perspective on life and music! The three of us listened to a lot of music while together. Also here music (metal too) has proved to be a great connector. Dark necessities (RHCP) is our travel-soundtrack now?. Besides that I exposed him to some great music from Gojira and Textures!

If you have any interest in Indonesia, the Islands and diving, check out his Instagram. The pix are awesome!

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Day 17  Koh Tao: Twin rocks!

We decided to spend our last full day on Koh Nangyuan. We took a longtail boat to the islands and arranged to be picked up at 4pm.

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When you get there you’ll notice there is a lot you can’t do. It’s both about preservation and earning money at the same time. For instance: you’re not allowed to lay on beach towels or take bottles of water with you. You can hire sunbeds for 150 bath and drinks you can buy at the restaurant. There’s also a free of 100 bath when you arrive. For a minute they thought we were Thai, but that’s all over when you speak. Everyone, Thai and foreigners, think Febrian is Thai, which caused a lot of funny moments.

Of course, like everybody does, we climbed up to the viewpoint on top of the first island. Only Febrian is a real daredevil, although he thinks he’s not, and climed up even further on the rocks. Don’t ask me how he does it, but I got up half way with his help and encouragement, but then I really started to shit my pants.

My balance and strenght is shit compared to his and Nico’s?. Normally I wouldn’t even have tried, but he wanted me to experience something new. Small heart attack later I knew what he meant, because the rush is just wow. The rest of the afternoon we spend chilling out with music.

In the evening we went to Sairee beach and watched the sunset (and everybody trying to make a picture with the sun in their hands or jumping?). While Nico stayed on the beach we took a swim in the sea, which was surprisingly warm!

After some fresh fish for food we headed back to the hostel, talked with a Colombian packer who lives in Russia and listened some music. It was a good day. Not only did I have fun with new friends, I also received messages from people who are waiting for me back home.

Day 17 Koh Samui: Almost home

The last day on Koh Tao I shared my American breakfast with Febrian and hung out with him until our boats left from the island. We’re planning to spend the day before we leave Thailand in Ayuthaya, which means I’ll meet him again in Bangkok. I only have a flight from Samui, while he had a ferry and the bus. To Nico we said goodbye. He went back to Indonesia.

Here in Samui the owner of the hostel turned out to be Belgian, so I can conversate in Dutch. Besides that he is so kind to take me to the airport Tuesday early in the morning.

No clue yet what I’ll be doing today. Met nice roomies from Italia and Canada. Let’s see what it will bring me!

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