Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Eye candy

with 4 comments

It’s fair to say that Koh Tao can be compared to Catalina Island on spring break. Walking around Sairee Village, you can hear M.I.A., Kid Cudi, and Wyclef simultaneously bumping out of bars with misspelled names. Most of the restaurant and hospitality staff on the island are Burmese or Lao refugees. On the first day we arrived, my friend sat down at one of the cafe tables inside the Big Blue Dive Resort (I wouldn’t call it an actual resort, since a night in one of their bungalows only costs $7 USD) and asked the server (in Thai) whether she spoke Thai. She mumbled something, went into the kitchen, and came back out with a ball of raw dough in her hand saying, “This is what we make our pizza with.” It was actually quite funny.

The island caters to backpackers looking to dive during the day and drink questionable concoctions of Thai whiskey, Red Bull, and Coke out of plastic white buckets at night. I have yet to drink out of a bucket (ironically my first was in a Seattle karaoke bar this summer), but have gone out a few nights hanging out with people from England, Germany, Italy, Canada, and Thailand. I am positive this place is being further developed under the assumption that backpackers want food from their own countries (would explain the restaurants called El Gringo, Portobello, Shalimar, and another at Bans Resort that has an uncanny resemblance to TGI Fridays in the States) and desire to have every amenity available to them, even if it means sacrificing a real Thai experience. 7-Elevens are abundant and sell everything you can think of; they even mail your postcards. Internet cafes charge 1 Baht per minute (that’s less than a cent a minute) and you can do your laundry for 40 Baht per kilo. I can see why some people might end up staying here, but I think I would get island fever after a few weeks and want to get back to reality.
Currently, I’m reading a borrowed book titled Travelers’ Tales – Thailand. It’s an anthology of stories and experiences written by individuals who have traveled through this country as a visitor. It’s amazing how each tale reflects things I am learning about everyday life in Thailand. The themes I find most prominent and affective focus around the Thai ability to “keep a cool heart,” the need to utilize land and water with respect, and the importance of being true to oneself. Aspects of Buddhism seem to resonate in everything I see and hear. I find myself wanting to live more purely and simply, only having been here for a little over a week. It’s always hard when you return home from a trip like this and you try to incorporate what you’ve learned abroad into your normal daily life. Sometimes, it seems like things just don’t apply – no matter how hard you try. I hope I’m able to take some things away with me that I can implement and share with others.
I’m conflicted about where I want to go next. Do I want to take the risk of trying to find a place that will be harder for me to get to but reap the reward of discovering a local culture and custom that I’m not reading about in my Lonely Planet? Or should I at least pay homage to the places that I know people will be disappointed if they knew I came to Thailand and did not visit? I actually don’t have much interest in visiting Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, among the other jewels of Thailand’s southwestern coastline. I feel like I’ve gotten enough reading done on the beach here at Koh Tao. When I first drew an outline of this trip, places like Krabi and Koh Lanta were on my itinerary, but I find myself more and more turned off by tourist attractions and an endless number of dread-locked Europeans sunbathing. I could get that anywhere, really.
I’ve been reading more about Hat Yai and Songkhla, the Muslim communities of which Thais call the Deep South. Apparently, I can take a ferry from Koh Tao to Surat Thani, and then catch a bus to Songkhla. Total trip should take about less than 7-8 hours. Although, considering the transportation system here (unpredictable delays and cancellations), you never know. Hat Yai and Songkhla both hold official bullfights (bull vs. bull, not bull vs. human) during different times of the year that neither many foreigners know about nor attend. If I can secure a way of getting there safely and accommodations for a few nights, that just may be my next destination. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t support animal cruelty nor am I an avid animal rights activist, but because this is a part of southern Thai culture, I would like to witness this for myself and make my own judgments. In addition to that, the origins of Songkhla go back to a number of Guandong immigrants (Guandong being my ancestral province) who settled there and helped develop the city into what it is today. I’d like to see how much of that influence has remained and learn more about the religious history (and conflict) of the region.

Ok, now for some visuals. Here are pictures from my hotel room in Bangkok, the pier at Chumphon (departing for Koh Tao), the Big Blue Dive Resort, the children’s pageant during the annual Loi Krathong Festival (I absolutely fell in love with the little girl in pink and could not bring myself to stop taking photos of her), studying for my dive exam at breakfast, and hanging out with my dive class (and their plus ones). Please forgive me, as the quality of the photos are not great (especially at the pageant since I was holding the camera above eye level and shuffling among the locals trying to get front row standing space).


Written by winniewongsf

November 9, 2009 at 4:24 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. the litle girl in pink is called Goia


    April 28, 2010 at 7:52 am

    • Hi, do you live on Koh Tao? Thanks for the tip, I thought she was breathtaking.


      April 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

      • Hi Yea I live here.
        did you enjoy your stay in koh-tao?


        April 28, 2010 at 11:22 pm

  2. The diving was amazing. That was the main reason why I went. I stayed on the island for a few weeks.

    What do you do there?


    April 29, 2010 at 9:13 am

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