It took a couple of ferries and a bus to get from Phi Phi to Koh Tao..
But all connecting trips like this are run extremely efficiently in Thailand.
When you check in for your first ride your receipt (which you are given when you book these long haul journeys) is exchanged for 2 stickers and a number of tickets equal to the number of transfers you have to make. One sticker is for your bag and one is for your self. The stickers are colour coded so that your end destination can easily be determined by any Thai employees who see you, and you can therefore be pointed in the right direction very efficiently, without having to struggle with any language barriers. The colour code system also means, that like fish in an ocean looking for the right school, you can group together or follow others with the same tag as you if your unsure of where to go…
And the tickets are taken off your hands as you board each mode of transportation, so that everyone knows you’ve paid.
What is not brilliant however, is the way that large bags are stowed on ferries in Thailand.. Because, they aren’t really ‘stowed’ at all… They’re just piled.
And this isn’t a problem because I fear that the possessions I’m carrying around in my back pack will be damaged in said pile. It’s a problem because it makes the disembarking process a painfully slow one…
All of the bags will be stacked in a tall pile along the wall at one end of the ship. And there’s very little chance that you know or can see where your bag has been placed in the pile, unless you are one of the last traveller’s on to the boat, and your bag is on top.. AND there are no staff appointed to the task of unloading the bags once the ferry has reached it’s port.. Its just a giant free for all..
So, every time the ferry docks, a huge crowd of people surge forward to try and dig their possessions out of 1 giant, overcrowded pile.. and it’s anarchy.
But, despite this one recurring issue, our journeys have all been smooth within Asia – once we’ve figured out where we’re going and how we’re going to get there that is (usually through online research and asking around at tour shops).. which is something that we generally leave until the last minute, to give us maximum flexibility.
But anyway!!! We made it to the island of Koh Tao – which lies just off the coast of Thailand. And we stayed for five nights there, riding around on a very cheaply hired scooter and doing A LOT of snorkeling.
It was beautiful. It was amazing. It was fun. It was super nice to be spending so much time in the water, saved from the heat. And! we got to stay in our very own bungalow.
Within our first 2 days on the island we had sorted out a cheap scooter hire (at 150 Baht, or about NZ$7.50 a day) AND a cheap snorkel hire (at 100 Baht, or about NZ$5 a day). So with the help of an extremely comprehensive guide book, we immediately set off to see some fish!
We spent our first full day on the island (after the night of our arrival) zipping around on our hired scooter to as many beaches as we could find and fit in. We somehow managed to navigate the roads despite a poor map which only showed half of the roads which actually existed.. and we made it to a good number of snorkeling spots as a result!
Little fish were present there, swarming at our feet curiously as soon as we stepped into the ocean. And they were the same friendly blue and white stripped fish that I had already come to love at Phi Phi. But with these ones swimming so far into the shore and in such clear waters, it was hilarious just to stand and watch them as they swarmed over to each new visitor who entered the water, to suss them out. And one of them was even brave enough to take a nibble at me! Although I do think it was just going for the dead skin around one of my itchy bites – so they remain a friendly image in my mind.
And there were also LOTS of big, black cucumbers about as well, and some larger, beautifully coloured, almost fluorescent fish as we swam out deeper. AND there was one rock which was covered in these really cool little anemones! Which were about the size of a thumb nail, and looked kind of like short, thick pipe cleaners. They came in every colour possible! – red, orange, purple, yellow.. There were even green ones with white tips that looked like tiny Christmas trees! and whenever something swam too near.. they would retract back into the rock they were fixed on in a fraction of a second, leaving no trace of their beautiful selves behind.
They were my favourite find for this location.
Our second stop was at a much bigger beach called Chalok Baan Kao Bay and from this one we waded out to sea and then climbed over a hill to reach Cape June Juea and June Juea Bay. Although when I say “we waded out to sea” I mean, Sam walked though the shin deep water, dragging me (floating, with a snorkel) behind him.
There was nothing to see at Chalok Baan Kao fish wise. It was just super warm, shallow waters and weird sticky, slimy feeling sand.
And Cape June Juea was quite rough, and also really shallow – far to shallow to snorkel comfortably over the sea bed which was littered with sharp, broken coral skeletons and slick black sea cucumbers.
BUT the best must’ve just been waiting for last, because at June Juea Bay we got to swim with a huge school of sardines!
And at first I have to admit, they terrified me… So many of these little fish had packed themselves so tightly together in a school, that there was no way that you could see through to the other side of the crowd. All that was visible was a thick wall of fish that disappeared gradually into shadow.. and initially I thought that they might be schooling around something bigger than themselves – which was a terrifying concept considering how close they were to me. But as it turns out, we may just have been that ‘something bigger’ because they soon began circling around us, and I even felt a few attempt to jump over my back. And it was incredible. Suddenly the whole ocean was hidden from us by this living wall, which darted and swayed and rearranged itself constantly around us. And every move we made would cause a new rearrangement, so that the fish were always outlining our form from a safe distance.
But of course they soon had to move on.. and without them, the bay suddenly felt empty.. So we watched giant crabs crawl over rocks above the sea for a while. And then began the walk and the wade back to the shore of Chalok Ban Kao Beach.
We managed to spend an entire day snorkeling between these beaches and bays. And ultimately we returned home, satisfied with a full days touristing.