Thailands South Islands

July 17th, 2004

Subject: Same same, but different
Current Location - Bangkok, Thailand
Local Currency - Baht (B40 = $1us)
Language - Thai
Temperature - 90 and hot
Songs defining this leg of the trip - Crash - Dave Matthews Band

Hello all. Sorry for the delay in writing. Its been a bit of a while, but there is much news to tell. It looks like an end to the trip plan may be in sight, although I dont know for sure. Allow me to explain....

After flying back from my Philippines with my dad, I arrived in Bangkok just 2 days before Dave was due to fly out of Bangkok. I decided to hang around until he got back so we could spend a day partying here before he headed home. My two days in Bangkok were rather uneventful. I stayed in Khoa San road, which is probably the most backpackered place in the world. In fact, you could say its a bit too much. I wasnt feeling up for trying to meet people, and the majority of people that I was meeting were just not on the same wavelength as me. They were more along the lines of the 18-year-old first-time-to-Bangkok-so-lets-drink-till-we-pass-out crowd. So I waited until Dave got here to do much of anything at all.

Sadly, we really only had about half of a day to wander around the city a bit, and grab something to eat and drink before he had to take off. However, we were able to catch a show. Bangkok is known for being a liberal city. I had been told by several people that there were some strange types of adult shows in the downtown area. This certainly isnt the type of place you'd want to go to by yourself, and its not the type of place you'd want to ask someone to go if you barely knew them, so Dave and I wanted to see what it was all about just to cure our curiousity. To be honest, it was all just a bit bizarre and not that great. There were tons of other equally curious tourists in there, but people tended to stay only about 15 minutes and leave rather dissapointed.

After Dave went home, I headed back down to Ko Tao. I had left some freinds there and I was eager to see them again. I really like the island of Ko Tao. It has just the perfect vibe, as I've said before. Its a relaxed island paradise. Not too rowdy, but not too calm. People there are mid-20s to mid-30s. Not many of the real youngins, and not many of the older married couples. Yep, perfect vibe.

Another reason I had for returning to Ko Tao was to see Mike and Casey. Mike and Casey were two people that were on my month-long bus tour of Mexico. We got on real well and even hung out for a bit after the tour was over. They've been living in Ko Tao for the past year, but were away in the US when I was there last.

So I headed back to Ko Tao and almost immediately dropped in to a routine. I'd usually wake up at 10am, and my friends and I would head to the Simple Life resturant, right on the beach. I'd usually walk down barefoot as my bungalow was right on the beach as well. After that, we'd usually chill on the beach, go for a swim, or take a bit of a tour of the island. Then we'd all have dinner somewhere, and afterwards head to the Dry Bar for drinks. The Dry Bar was right on the beach, and you had little cushions to sit on. They have a DJ that plays great lounge music at a volume where you can still hear the conversation. We'd get a couple of buckets, then head out to whichever club was having a party that night. Then repeat the next day.

While I was in Ko Tao one of my best friends was a 4 year old. Yes, thats right, 4. Perhaps the people at Ko Tao were younger than I led on. Her name was Ava and she knew everyone on the island. Her parents, Liz and Desmond were freinds of ours, but we saw Ava as much (or more) than them. You'd be hard pressed to find a more fun kid. I also spent a lot of time with Sally and Julie, who I had met on Ko Pha-Ngan. They were a couple of my favorite people that I've met since Dave left and really made my time on Ko Tao awesome. And through them we all met Brett, Jack, Kyle and Poppy. We made a pretty fun bunch, and had a great time there.

Another strange and wonderful thing happened while in Ko Tao. When I sent out a photo of my bungalow, I got a response from Drea saying that it looked like Sairee Beach on Ko Tao. The only way she could have known that is if she was here or has been here. I sent her back an email to find out if she was still around, but before I got a reply, found out that we had a mutual friend who brought us together one night. Drea is my friend from California whom I tried meeting up with in Bali, but wasnt able to because of my visa. Over the course of the few days that we were there together, we got to get in aq couple of dives together, a few drinks, and she even tried to teach me how to spin the firestick one night, although it just ended in a charcoaled-up shirt. :) It was really awesome to be able to see her again after all of this time.

And since the time when I had sent out that photo of the place I lived with my moped in front, I traded up places. Not just a nicer place, but a nicer bike as well. The only problem with the place I was in was that I only had electricty from 6pm to 6am. Which is fine as far as lights are concerned. But when the fan goes off at 6am, and by 6:30 its like an oven in my room, it was just a bit much. So I moved to a place that had 24-hour electricty. But thrown in to the deal was cable TV, a bigger bathroom, and a wet-bar that had the same prices for drinks as the 7-11.

I also traded up mopeds and got an off-road one. An off road moped? Yes, thats right, its a 100cc moped with medium-sized knobby tires. It was an extra $1 per day, making the rental $4 instead of $3. And I needed the off road capabilities to go look at properties.

Yes, properties. In talking with everyone who lives here, and given my general feeling for the place, I think that this is somewhere I'd really like to buy property. The nearby islands of Ko Samui and Ko Pha-Ngan have both had their big booms 15 and 10 years ago respectively, and Ko Tao is just starting its boom. If you want to see more pics of Ko Tao, check out

So I spent the majority of my time on Ko Tao hopping around the island looking for properties for sale, talking with people, and going to look at plot after plot. In the end I did find a nice piece which I have put in an offer and its been accepted. I just have to have a lawyer look over the details and answer some more questions, then I will complete the sale. I am not sure what I would do with the land yet. Perhaps hold it and wait for it to increase in value. Or perhaps build a small house on it and work on Ko Tao as a dive master. I have already had a bit of an informal offer to run a bar. So, theres things I could do if I stayed there, and they're all looking a bit tempting. The thing that is playing on my mind is if I want to live outside of the US for a couple more years. I miss my family a lot, and would like to be back near them.

In the middle of doing all of this, Brett, Desmond, Kyle and myself all took a day off and rented Quad bikes and roamed around the island. The quads are a good way to get to some of the steeper areas. It was fun tearing around the island on the bike all day. The island is only 21sq KMs. I had accidentally gone up a hill in 2nd gear and when I tried to downshift, did it too quickly and flipped the quad back over on top of me. Luckily there was a back bumper which broke the impact of the roll over and only left a tiny scratch on my back, but a slightly larger dent in my wallet.

Unfortunately, the next time I jumped on my motorcycle, I wasnt so lucky. I did the exact same thing, but with Sally on the back. This time, the moped lunged forward in to a wheelie, she fell off the back, and I tried to hang on to it to bring it down gently. Unfortunatly, that pinned my leg against the exhaust and I earned my Ko Tao tattoo. Just about anyone who's been to the island has rented a bike, and while you're getting used to it, you're going to slide on a dirt road, or somehow touch the exhaust pipe and burn off a good chunk of skin, resulting in a scar - hence the name, Ko Tao tattoo. Its almost like a rite of passage. So, I walked around like the handful of other bandaged fools, showing my admission to the club. But after that, I was able to navagate much harder hills with no problem. I was also able to get the bike fixed at a nearby shop, where the guy bent the shifter and footpeg back at no charge.

My time in Ko Tao started to draw to a close, at least for a short while, as I had a friend coming in to visit me. My friend Jane, who I had first met at Burningman at the very start of my trip (it could even be said that she is the first friend I met along the way) and saw again around Christmas and New Years at her home in England has come out to travel with me for 2 months. She was looking to change jobs and was going to have some time off in doing so, so we decided to get together and travel some of the parts of Asia that we both wanted to see. That was about 2 weeks ago that she arrived. I'm going to mail this half of the journal off now so that we can go sightseeing here.

But before I do, just a couple of interesting bits about Thailand that cant fit in the rest of the journal.

- There are a lot of Buddist Monks here in Thailand. They wear orange robes and have shaved heads. Quite like you'd expect them to look. However, they lead quite normal lives. You'll find them in the stores buying their favorite DVDs, or sitting on the back of mopeds with their robes flapping about. I just always picture them meditating, and not getting in to all of the other day to day things.

- The food here is amazing. It used to be a treat for us to go out for Thai food when I was back in the office. A little resturant called Tara Thai was our favorite. The food here is just as good, but the Pad Thai cost $.75 rather than $7.50. And I love me my Pad Thai. I could eat it for every meal of the day. Although, sometimes I do get a craving for a McD's burger and have to act upon it.

- The saying "same same, but different" is actually used here quite a lot. In a nutshell, it means "similar". If you're looking for a hotel room, and they show you one, and its what you asked for, but too dingy, or with a window thats too small, or something you cant describe, and they ask what you're looking for, you can say "same same, but different". Get it? Good.

Hope you're well,


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