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space.gif (52 bytes) Going to Koa Tao

February 16-17, 1999

Josh on March 15th will be going to surf in Bali, and Robbie (our buddy from LA) will arrive in Thailand. We (with Robbie and Rochelle) will be going to scuba dive in southern Thailand. Jeff and Mike decided to go to the island of Ko Tao to get PADI certified (professional association for divers), and Josh went to meet, the by now famous, Uncle Jon and Aunt Joy (see the Agra to Dehli story in the India section). While in the Cheap N' Smile travel agency, we had been convinced that a V.I.P bus was the way to travel. Ignoring other travelers advice that the train was cheaper and easier, we decided to go by V.I.P bus.

After getting massages and shaves (face and head) we walked over to the bus stop. Our bus was due to leave at 6 pm and arrive in Chumphon around 5 am. In Chumphon we would catch a speed boat to Ko Tao at around 7 am. We were surprised to find no other tourists at the bus stop but by 7:15 when about 100 backpackers had arrived, 4 buses pulled up and we all piled on.

We had traveled about 15 minutes when they popped a video tape of Rambo: First Blood onto the video screen and we settled in to watch "Sly" kick a little redneck ass. As we sat back to enjoy the luxury of travelling in Thailand, the bus suddenly pulled over to the side of the road. The driver and his assistant climbed underneath with some tools. About 10 minutes later we started off again, thinking well.......? OK. 15 minutes later we pulled over for our 2nd repair. We started to regret our decision to bus it 1/2 hour later on our 3rd repair stop at a truck stop gas station. It appeared that we may be in jeopardy of missing the 7 am boat. We had been on the road about 3 hours and were only about 1 hour out of Bangkok. As Rambo ended and we pulled over for our fourth repair, most of the bus was asleep. Fortunately, this turned out to be the final repair of the trip. After an hour, however, we pulled over again. This time to a small cafe/rest stop for a quick meal of Tom Yam soup. We got going again and we both fell asleep. At 3 am, Mike was groggily awoken by the call of the driver "Ko Tao!" After waking the assistant and retrieving our bags, we were left on a dark empty corner with two others as everyone else sped away on the bus. We noticed a flat bed truck with several benches in the back. The driver said, "Ko Tao?" We nodded, and he pointed to the back of the flat bed. We climbed in and waited about 1/2 hour for another tour bus to arrive and were joined by several more travelers. We were driven to a nearby travel agency where several more backpackers slept on the cold, hard, tile floor waiting for the morning boat.

About 30 of us piled on the speed boat with all of our luggage and we took off for Ko Tao. We were a bit impressed and surprised when they began handing out life jackets, but soon understood why. Our boat was knocked around and skipped across the choppy sea for 2 hours.

When we arrived on the island we were bombarded by touts offering us dive courses and hotels. Wanting to get away from the traffic and tourism, we agreed to go with a man whose pictures of a rustic bungalow and a beautiful beach convinced us of his authenticity (You would think two months of India would have "learned us good.") The 20 minute walk, he informed us, wasn't necessary. His boat would shuttle us there in 5 minutes.

His bamboo shacks and rocky non-existent, beach were bad, but when the room prices suddenly doubled from his original offer we had to balk, and unfortunately the boat was gone so we also had to walk. That's right, and the 20 minute walk was actually closer to 40 with backpacks up and down hills.

On our way back to town we passed through the Sense Paradise Resort, one of the swankiest places in Ko Tao. Kob, a worker there, told us that they only had the expensive "Phat living" bungalows left. But if we were interested in signing up for a 4 day PADI course (which we were), we could stay in a free room for the three nights of the course, and get half price for the first night. It appeared our luck was changing. We went and met Bob at Master Dives and liked him, his facility, and their prices, so we decided to do it. Three free nights made it a great deal, since all the shops offered about the same price for the PADI course.

The next morning Kob came to our room and told us proudly that since our first night was not included in the deal we could get 20% off and the other nights would be 750 with the discount.

Us: "But you said FREE."
Kob: "Yes, a room with no bookings."
Us: "But yesterday you said free 3 nights."
Kob: "Oh, sorry, English not so good, you talk to Bob."

It turns out Kob meant an empty room, not a room for free. So, after a bit of confusion, we moved into a very nice bungalow in a less secluded area, for 250 bhat per night. We stayed with Bob and Master Diver because, as we said before, the price is about the same everywhere and we liked his shop.