Koh Tao…a tourist island south of Thailand where you have anything you want at the tip of your fingertips ~ forest hikes with beautiful views, snorkeling, some of the cheapest diving in the world, other aquatic activities (like paddle boarding), mountains, decent food, bars by the beach and 100 other activities.
It’s a laid back, simple life ~ something I truly admire and desire when I finally choose to retire (talk about rhyming my words in one sentence!) I have dreamt for quite some time now to go to a beautiful island with white sands and a beautiful natural habitat but I can safely say that Koh Tao is not for me. I’ve learnt from coming here and staying with my couch surfing host that this island is a tourist island ~ an island dedicated to tourism; where the inhabitants make a living only through tourism; where you feel more like you’re on western rather than eastern/Asian territory and where the same pad thai you buy in Bangkok for 30 baht costs 70 baht.
At least that’s how it felt for me anyway…so what am I doing about it? I’m leaving tomorrow (a day earlier than I planned).
Admittedly, I’m on a strict budget so any activity here just feels too expensive to do. I’m sure that if I had the money, I’d enjoy this trip a whole lot more, but even if I had the money, I think the sheer amount of tourists which come here would lessen the experience of any activity for me.
Now for the part you’ve all been waiting for:
My first Couchsurf
While I was in Bangkok, I learnt that you could add your planned trips and advertise yourself as a guest so I did. Of course knowing my luck, I received no responses to all the applications I made to stay at hosts houses. Absolutely nobody responded but out of the blue, I got an offer for someone to host me. Like I said in my previous post, I was worried about staying there because I wasn’t sure if he would end up being someone creepy or weird (there wasn’t much info on his profile. He didn’t even have a picture of himself).
My journey to meet my host
After passing out heavily and being woken up on the ferry to Koh Tao, I rushed off to the port and there my Couchsurfing host was waiting for me (I knew what he looked like by then because he sent me a picture). We hugged, said hello, walked to his bike and off we went up the hill to his place with one pit-stop to change his flat tyre.
The journey from Chumpon to Koh Tao after catching a night bus from Bangkok (I was oh SO tired!)
He lived quite far up the hill, far away from the main tourist area so it took a little bit of time to get there (about 15 minutes). I felt nervous because I had no idea what his place would be like. You could tell that he was a minimalist. He lived in a studio-like apartment with a raised area for his bed and not many possessions. I only noticed one bed and wondered if I was going to have to sleep next to him.
Snaps from my host’s humble abode
By the time I chose to walk home, it was very dark, long and scary.
After taking a shower and going on a bike tour around the island with my host, I decided to venture out on my own to Sairee Beach ~ the main beach around the area. I walked and walked and walked and sat somewhere to watch the sun which never set (it disappeared behind clouds and never came out again).
Exploring Koh Tao
By the time I chose to walk home, it was very dark, long and scary. Halfway when I was walking back when the lights for the road started to stop, I started getting scared – I was literally walking through forest land with a small road put in the middle. There wasn’t many people around – except for a stray dog. All I could hear was the sound of insects in the forest. The only light available came from a little shop or a house.
I decided to message my host to ask to pick me up because he offered to do so before I left.
I try calling him. He doesn’t answer.
“Ok maybe he’s busy at the moment for some reason.”
I had no choice but to venture on.
The further up the hill I went, the darker it became and it got to a point where the road started looking extremely unfamiliar to me. Then I started to freak out.
“F***, which turn off was it again???”
I couldn’t remember (curse my sh*t memory).
I stood there for a few minutes looking at Google Maps and couldn’t figure out where his place was – because the roads leading to his place didn’t exist.
then i hear a voice from across the street froma lady working in a tour company
“where are you going”
All I had marked was a nearby guest house, but I wasn’t even sure that was where I was supposed to go.
She points at the closest road to indicate that was the direction I was supposed to go.
I wasn’t sure if it was the right way but I had no idea so it was better than nothing.
It was SO dark – pitch black to the point where you couldn’t see anything ~ I had to use the torch on my phone to see where I was going.
It got to a point where I didn’t recognise anything.
I then start to freak out because I realised I’m super lost.
I try to call my host again – no answer.
Then the magic thought pops into my mind which ends up putting me into severe anxiety and stress:
“Maybe he’s not legit and has taken my things.”
I try to calm myself down:
“it’s ok, you have all your valuables except for your laptop with you – you have your passport and all your cash and can claim the laptop on insurance.”
But then I remembered that I had over AUD$1000 in my bag.
My hand starts to shake and my heart beats at a rapid speed.
“how could you be so stupid? to leave that much money behind???”
At this point, I’m convinced that he took advantage of my naivety and stole my things…and I had absolutely no idea how to get back. I couldn’t see anything.
All I could think to do was to ask for help from the guest house which I was standing at…but even finding the entrance to the guest house was a mission in the darkness.
I start walking up the stairs and following the lights and hear this feint, welcoming voice of a boy
Me: “Can you help me, I need to get around here.”
I show him the location I have on Maps
He and another boy tell me to continue to walk up the road.
I feel so grateful and continue walking…but then the road turns into gravel road.
“Sh*** – this is definitely not the right way”
I quickly walk back down and run back up to the guest house, asking for directions again.
The boys look at the map puzzled and then tell me to follow one of them.
He leads me to this random area and tells me to wait for 5 minutes.
Then…a Caucasian comes out to ask me more questions.
After speaking for a few seconds, I realise that this guy is from Australia.
He asks me lots of questions about who I’m staying with:
“Do you have his address?”
“Which diving school does he work for?”
I couldn’t answer any of his questions. He laughs and at that moment, I realise how stupid I was not to get more details about my host.
I then frantically try a different method ~ I start describing the area where my host lives in.
At last – some luck! He finally recognises the area and tells me to use a different road.
He sees my hesitation and tells me there’s a shortcut through the forest and offers for the boy to lead me to the road.
Of course I happily accept.
Once I get to the other road, I walk up a little bit and see a few familiar buildings.
“Yes! I think this is the place.”
But by this point – everything looks the same and I can’t make out exactly where I am. I walk a little bit further up and see my host’s bike.
There were no words to express how relieved I was to see his bike…but I still couldn’t figure out which apartment was his even though I could tell it was near.
I decide to ask for help again. I knock on the door right in front of me.
A Caucasian guy opens the door.
Me: “Can you help me please, I’m lost.”
Friendly stranger: “yeah sure.”
Me: “I’m doing couchsurfing at a guy’s house nearby here, but I can’t remember where it is. Do you know many people around the area?”
Friendly stranger: “A few, not that many.”
Me: “do you know Frank J?”
Friendly stranger: “no”
I get my phone out and show him a picture of Frank. Thankfully, the friendly stranger recognised him and knew exactly where he lived.
Friendly stranger: “yeah, he just lives down there”
Me: “how do I get there?”
Friendly stranger: “just walk down the stairs and into the house at the bottom”
I follow his directions, see something familiar – yes!!! I found the place!!!
After FINALLY finding the place – I found my host fast asleep – “that’s why he didn’t reply to my messages or pick up his phone”
I felt so relieved but I was still in shock and almost in tears. I went straight to where I put my backpack to find it was still there
My bad luck doesn’t end there ~ after settling down, getting ready to go to bed (including drenching myself in mosquito repellent) and finally passing out, I wake up to a swollen eye! Some cheeky mosquito had a nice meal desipte being drenched in repellent, burning a coil to repel mosquitoes and covering myself with a mosquito repellent sheet!
The very attractive picture of me and my swollen eye – thank you for the kiss miss mosquito!
Reflections on my couchsurfing experience
After living with my host for three days, I’ve concluded that I’ve met a true hippie – a guy which almost completely immerses himself into, and appreciates nature, a guy which opens his door to all ~ animal or man, and a guy which lives freely and accepts people’s differences.
It has been testing and interesting at the same time – and I am forever grateful that I was able to find free accommodation here and see what it was like to live like a local here, but I wouldn’t come back ~ not because there was anything wrong with my host but because I’ve realised his way of living is so hard for me to adapt to because it’s so foreign to me.
Hopefully next time if I encounter a similar environment I will be braver 🙂
The end of my trip to Koh Tao – 14 October 2018
Even though I decided to hire a boat taxi to Koh Nangyuan in the morning before catching a ferry across to Chumpon to continue my adventure at my second workaway in Kalasin, I got persuaded into going to Tanote Bay by a random tinder-date catch up.
Fun fact: pictures of Koh Nangyuan on Google is the reason I decided to come here. It has amazingly beautiful seas, sand and a great viewpoint (and snorkeling).
Credit: Adventure In You – https://www.adventureinyou.com/thailand/koh-nang-yuan-island-everything-need-to-know/
I was so glad I agreed to go! He picked me up from my place, drove me there, kept me company and dropped me back. It was like getting a free tour to a remote bay and he also was a gentleman (he didn’t make a move). It was definitely worth the trip even though it was further away from the main area because the area was beautiful and there was barely anyone around!
In the end, my trip turned out to be not too bad after all 🙂
Thanks for reading!!!
I will upload some videos of Koh Tao soon!