Did you know I have a barnacle beacon? Well, neither did I, until we went to Thailand. Yes, it was a case of Sarah swims in the ocean, Sarah sees cool fish, Sarah accidentally swallows some salt water, and just as the fun is starting, Sarah kicks a barnacle encrusted boulder with her bare foot.
Let's back up a little.
As I mentioned, we decided to take a week's vacation and travel to Thailand. As luck would have it, our original plan to go Thanksgiving week fell through because of David's work, so we went the week before all the protests went down in Bangkok. Whew. The stars really aligned on that one. So, after a 5 hour flight we were in the capital. We stayed the night there and left for Koh Samui in the morning. This is one of 3 islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the only one with an airport. Koh Samui is much more developed than the other two, and we were on a mission to take it easy and get away from all the hubbub, so we immediately boarded a boat bound for Koh Tao, the most northern of the islands and the smallest. And the farthest away, I might add, as I didn't thoroughly enjoy the long, choppy boat ride out there. I was having flashbacks of the diving boat incident in West Palm Beach last February, which was not pretty, believe me.
We arrived and were immediately solicited by every taxi driver on the island. We got away from the crowd and found our own taxi, which was a pick up truck with benches in the truck bed. Brilliant. Even though I kept a white knuckle grip on the bars the whole time, I enjoyed the unique view of the island as we made our way to our resort.
It looked so prehistoric, like a dinosaur was about to waltz across the street.
Thailand is very affordable. We could have found a bungalow for 10 bucks a night. I would have been game. However, the cheap prices also mean that the really nice places, while expensive for Thailand, are quite a steal in comparison to most resorts found on tropical islands. I figured we should take advantage of this opportunity for at least a couple nights, so I booked our first two nights at a place called Thipwimarn. I was smitten the first time I looked it up and it didn't disappoint in person. Lovely little cottages on the side of a hill in the jungle, overlooking the sea. Relaxation personified. It turned out to be so nice, we stayed there the whole week. There were definitely other places that would have been fine, it was just easier to stay there. Plus, we were getting a fine work out going up and down all those stairs all the time...
View from our own little porch
So back to the barnacles. I have never snorkeled before. Gimme a break, I grew up in Ohio and I'm not the best swimmer. So we borrowed masks and those snorkel tube thingies from the resort and went down to the little bay directly below our room. We had the place to ourselves. So David gave me the basics and we went out. Koh Tao is quite popular for snorkeling and diving. Actually, the island is the number two place in the world to get certified to dive. There were tons of dive centers and tons of young people there to get certified. Myself, I have trouble with my ears, and I mentioned my poor swimming skills, so diving really doesn't appeal to me. Snorkeling is more my speed: float lazily on the surface and look at pretty things.
And what pretty things. It was so cool to swim in this clear, turquoise water and hang out with these brilliant fish. Yellow and bright blue, purple, orange. Real, live coral on the bottom with some urchins and wild colored animals that look like plants and suck themselves in when you try to touch them. Fantastic. I also enjoyed watching the little crabs above the water line on the rocks scurry in there little sideway manner away from David as he approached them. Actually, this is probably what I was preoccupied with when I sliced my foot open. Fantastic. Fantastic pain!
My first thought was, If I see my own bone I'll pass out. After I actually looked at the damage, I thought How does one tell if one needs stitches? David came over, looked at it, and proclaimed that it didn't look too deep and I guess that was enough for me. I continued to swim around, wincing as the salt water swished through my cut. I cursed all the barnacles I passed, staying far away from all rocks.
Swimming turned out to be easier, because walking hurt quite a bit, especially on the sandy beach. The stairs were now a double challenge. But luckily for me, David had rented a motor scooter, so we were able to explore the island fairly easily while sparing my poor foot. I had to get over my irrational fear that two wheeled vehicles cannot possibly stay upright, but after that it was quite fun. Half the roads are dirt and thus a bit wild to drive on. (Evil Knievel, eat your heart out!) We spent a good deal of time just riding to different parts of the island, eating some really tasty food, getting strawberry smoothies whenever possible (this might have just been me...), and taking in the nice views of the beaches, jungle and ocean.
We got some fins at another resort and went snorkeling again. This was uneventful on the boulder bit, thankfully. A pleasant evening swim. The next day we traversed to the southern end of the island and spent a good deal of time trying to get to Freedom Beach, because it had the most potential for calm waters that day. Beautiful, secluded beach, with hardly any other people. More beautiful sights. David tried to teach me to dive to the bottom. It didn't go so well. Swallowed a bit too much water and then dog paddled too hard and wore myself out. And as we made our way back to shore, I kicked a rock. I couldn't believe it! I think I hit pure rock this time, so not so much slice and dice as just scrapes to my foot and my pride. I ordered a strawberry smoothie the first chance I got to make myself feel better.
We were pretty chill this trip, so not too much action to report. We did hang out at a beach bar one night and got to see some cool fire dancers. There's quite a hippie vibe here, perhaps because of the large number of backpackers here. I enjoyed it. Much different than the city vibe I've been surrounded with for months.
That's hot. ;)
Our last day, we took in some more sights, but mostly chilled on a beach for the afternoon. (Lemon shake this time!) David had burned his back earlier in the week, so he did not want to risk getting in the water. After a while I decided I needed to take advantage of my last chance to snorkel in this really lovely water, so I went in by myself. David watched from the shore. As I tried to make my way through the jostling waves, I promptly stepped on a rock...covered in...BARNACLES! More like I stepped on, slipped on, and then again, stepped on a rock covered in barnacles. Absolutely ridiculous. It was a small rock in really shallow water just feet from the strip of sandy beach, so I wasn't thinking rocks. I couldn't see it anyway since the water is cloudy at the shore.
I had a Why me?? moment, but then I went out anyway and I'm glad I did. Fairly shallow water meant that I could try diving amongst the parrot fish and such, this time successfully. Pretty awesome. Too bad I didn't have an underwater camera.When I came out, I discovered that I had at least six cuts on my foot, with one on the bottom running the length of my arch. Pathetic. I must have bad karma or something.
We weren't the only ones taking it easy...
Despite using an obscene number of band aids, I did enjoy the trip. We couldn't have asked for a more relaxing place. I know David needed it and I think it did him a lot of good. We both agreed that we would come back to Thailand if given the chance. Friendly people, beautiful place, good food. Get rid of those crusty devils of the sea, and I would be tempted to call it heaven.
For more photos, click here.