Braving the moped ridden roads of Ko Tao, Thailand

Day 18 – Round the World 2008

Happily we woke up on our first day in Ko Tao to blazing sunshine so it seemed we’d sidestepped the end of the monsoon. What we hadn’t avoided though were the man-eating mosquitos and along with the blazing sunshine I also awoke to itchiness of nightmareish proportions. For some reason the blood-sucking little bastards were

particularly fond of my feet and on that first morning I counted around 20 bites on each one, each a huge raised welt that I spent the rest of the morning furiously scratching. I must have looked mighty attractive, basically two swollen white clubs covered in livid red spots hanging on the end of my legs and me scratching like a dog with a backfull of fleas. Damn, it felt good to scratch though, and I developed a technique of rubbing sand on the bites with my other foot which was far more effective than fingernails. Slightly embarrasingly though my feet came over all silky smooth and soft after a while of this – Cat says sand’s probably a good ‘exfoliant’, whatever that means, so looks like I’m saving money on beauty treatments at least.

We decided to hire out a moped for the day to try and explore the island. Ko Tao’s only about 20 miles long so we thought it would be pretty easy to get around in that time and hoped we could find a quiet little beach to have a good lie-down in. Also, secretly I was harbouring thoughts of acting the cool biker, roaring around the island with my top off, wind flowing through my hai… ears. Unfortunately my daydreams were shattered when we were allocated a little, red, spindly looking machine which would have looked pretty cool in the 60s but now just seemed unlikely to bear my weight without bursting a wheel. Even more sadly, the thing turned out to be pretty new despite appearances and, after paying of course, pulled out a huge list of charges which would be levied were the machine to be returned to her in anything less than absolutely pristine condition. She casually informed us that they couldn’t get insurance for hire bikes so if it was stolen or if we managed to drive it into a wall we’d be charged the full replacement price of around 2 grand. Awesome, I thought. Small consolation was the fact that I’d also just read in the Lonely Planet that Thailand had the highest level of motorbike fatalaties in the world, so at least I’d be lying peacefully in the morgue as she gleefully charged 100,000 bhat to my credit card.

The upshot of all of this was that our carefree razz around the island of Ko Tao turned into a high stress, low speed series of stops and starts as Cat periodically screamed in my ear, “Watch out! There’s a stone!” and I slewed the bike left and right avoiding anything that might put a scratch on our precious little bike and incur a ridiculously inflated charge. Considering the roads mainly consisted of loosely packed rocks and random sandbags this wasn’t exaclty a rare occurence…

In the end we did managed to have a decent drive around though and found a cool litte bar in the south of the island right on the beach where we got a few drinks and nice wee lunch. It had it’s own little swimming pool around the bar and you could just order a cocktail before floating off in an alchohol soaked bliss. Towards the end of the day we went right up to the north end of the island and caught a glimpse of how the other half live by asking to see a few rooms in some of the luxury resorts. The north west resorts sit on a cliff overlooking the sea and some of the rooms we were shown stood right out over the cliff so that you looked directly down on the rocks and reefs of the tropical Gulf of Thailand. It was pretty amazing, but the prices reflected the view, and we sighed, jumped on our peasant-bike and tootled down the hill back to cheaps-ville.

Cheaps-ville was still a cut above home though and that night we just had a relaxed couple of beers in the Lotus Bar, a litte place right next to our bungalow which had bean-bags and benches on the beach. It was lit up by paraffin torches just stuck in the sand and the Big Changs tasted pretty sweet as we looked out over the moonlit sea and contemplated our week to come in Thailand.

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