It all started initially as a trip to freshen ourselves for the coming, extremely rigorous year of high school. The prospect of college entrance exams, college applications, passing examinations coupled with the previous tightly packed year of 11th Grade had left us wanting a get away. The first thing that came to my mind was a trek. We actually narrowed our choices down to Stok Kangri, a challenging 20,182ft peak. It would be the best and most demanding trek we had ever been to. Our excitement was short lived as we were told that the month of May is actually Winter in the Kashmir region and that there would be lot of snow, rendering the summit unreachable. It was really disappointing. In the midst of this letdown, we were given a choice to go to Koh Tao, Thailand for a week and have an experience that was in all ways, completely opposite to what we had in mind. Images of snow, dirt, mud and majestic mountains had to be replaced with palm trees, tropical weather and a stay next to the beautiful, blue sea in our heads. To top it all, a scuba diving course during that one week stay left us eagerly looking forward to the second week of May for a whole month. This fun-filled trip certainly filled the void created by the Stok Kangri disappointment.
May 17th 2014
We left Bangalore late in the night of 16th May 2014. The plane landed in Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport at 6:00am in the morning. We were immediately greeted by warm, humid gusts of air that would stay with us throughout the trip. A long drive to Chumphon from Bangkok awaited us.
We stopped for breakfast at a small cluster of shops. Our quest to find vegetarian food was unsuccessful. We had some extremely juicy fresh fruits like mango, pineapple and guava and then an iced chocolate milk (they do take the ice seriously here in Thailand!). Arriving at Chumphon in the afternoon, the weather looked pretty good. As we got into our rooms, as if on cue, it started pouring heavily outside. Really heavy rain!
Lunch was an amazing introduction to Thai food. Nothing can actually be as good as sipping hot, sour and spicy mushroom soup tinged with the fresh fragrance of lemongrass while it rained outside. Rice with the most amazing spicy coconut curry completed this amazing meal that would set the tone for the rest of the trip.
May 18th 2014
An early morning high speed boat ride to Koh Tao awaited us at the Chumphon pier. As we got closer to our destination the dark blue ocean water turned to a transparent, aquamarine blue. We could see deep into the crystal clear water. Shouts of “Look at that!” directed us to different schools of fish that swam synchronously, their scales reflecting the sharp rays of the sun.
We reached Koh Tao at around 10:00am. As for food, we were spoilt for choice. Koh Tao, mainly inhabited by scuba diving instructors from Western countries, had a wide range of cuisines: from traditional Italian pizza ovens to North Indian food. We finally chose Porto Bello for our breakfast. Good old bread and butter!
We were then whisked off to our villa. This greeted us:
That day was spent admiring the beauty and perfection of this island. It certainly did not lack the attributes necessary for a tropical paradise: Tall palm trees, lush green rainforest, huts and villas tucked away in the hills, and most importantly, sandy beaches kissed by waves of crystal clean water in the joyous sunshine.
Our villa was inconspicuously hidden in the dense jungle, accessible only by a hard uphill trek or a powerful 4×4. The short ride uphill on the back of an open Toyota Hilux was a journey on its own. The gradient was easily 30 degrees and probably reached 45 at certain points. Near the port, where most of the shops and restaurants were located, bustling activity marked the streets. Most tourists rented bikes to get around this relatively large island so the roads were mostly full of these tiny bikes.
I had already started loving this island. The numbers were reducing: only five more days in this paradise! Man, I wish we had more time…
Pictures taken by a friend: Partha Kadambi