Friday, March 11, 2011

Turtle power

Turtle Island, Thailand

There are more than 80 islands in the Gulf of Thailand, and I had to visit at least one on my pointless pilgrimage. With some being too small or undeveloped to visit, and others like Koh Samui and Koh Pha Ngan being too much in the other direction (unlike Michelangelo, I'm no party dude), the lean, green Koh Tao was the obvious choice.

The fact that its name translates as 'Turtle Island' sealed the deal, as I've clearly never grown out of the fixation I developed for the amphibians at an early age, since being corrupted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

I didn't think I'd actually see any mutated juvenile shellbacks in Koh Tao or anything. I'm not an idiot! They live in the sewers of Manhattan (and they'll be in the late thirties by now. Master Splinter's probably dead, even when you account for the combined human-rodent lifespan). But on the bumpy catamaran ride to the island, I did see a few people turn green at least. (This joke is itself copied from a TMNT episode).

Charmingly rickety Chumphon Pier

I haven't been on a boat since Egypt in December, and despite being spoiled slightly by a soundtrack of other peoples' dry heaves, riding the choppy waters from Chumphon to Koh Tao was a hell of a lot of fun. It was like taking a 75-kilometre log flume ride, even down to the guy trying to sell you overpriced photos. These were of a snorkelling trip some passengers were involved in - I'm thinking of doing it too, to make the most of being on an island famous for its clear waters. Maybe I'll even see more turtles in the wild.

Though if I don't see a turtle, especially after this week already had monkey disappointment, those dive instructors will pay. This turtle boy won't cut 'em no slack! I'm just referencing the theme song for the sake of it now. On to the photos.

Koh Tao by day

Ghoastal town

This island's pretty small, and doesn't take long to hike across. Best of all, once I got away from the one road in the west, I saw just one human and one reptile for the rest of the morning.

Try driving your loud, unregulated bikes across this! I hate you

I tried to get up there, but my sandals aren't exactly all-terrain

I set a new record for sweat patches today.
You're only seeing the work-in-progress here: by the end, it was all one shade

Spot the snake?
I almost didn't, but learned to tread more carefully after this.
I'm pretty sure the best defence against snake attacks is to stand around taking photos

The last guy wasn't so lucky

Koh Tao by night

Sairee beach at sunset

Koh Tao by night isn't as bad as I feared (though I haven't been here for the weekend yet).

I should clarify that what I mean by 'bad' is probably your idea of 'good' - free-flowing alcohol, loud parties and all the loose women you can pay a soiling charge on behalf of when they throw up in the taxi. But you have to remember that I've aged prematurely, and am not down with the kidz (do they even spell it like that any more?) It must be that mutant rat DNA reducing my human lifespan, I knew I shouldn't have drunk that mutagen.

In fact, I hardly drink [alcohol] at all, which is why modest Koh Tao was more appealing than neighbouring islands like Koh Pha Ngan, home of the awful-sounding Full Moon Party. I think this sign near my hostel puts it most succinctly:

I was shocked by that sign at first - not because I'm an old man who doesn't like swearing, but because a fleeting glimpse led me to believe that it said 'FUCK FULL NOW,' and was doing away with the flimsy subtlety that massage parlours usually pretend to exhibit that helps me keep my sanity. Worse, it would mean an end to me finding accidental double entendres in foreign signs amusing. The joke that was barely amusing in the first place would no longer be a laughing matter.

When I passed it again I realised my mistake, and saw that these guys were just trying to be rude and cool (like Raphael). So, with subtlety intact, I can still get a hoot out of things like:

Ha ha ha!
The 'Australia' towel adds another layer to this already sophisticated joke

I made another rash judgement when I saw these 'ladies' seeking the attention of passing men. Can't they wait in dingy hotel rooms injecting their memories away while their abusive pimp deals with admin like this?

But it turned out they were advertising some sort of 'Cabaret,' and not recruiting openly for sex. Whew!

Okay, they're still probably prostitutes, but it's the flimsy veil of false decency that keeps our society together. Let's never stop lying to each other and everything will be fine.


  1. I notice from the photo of the shoes that there is no camera in sight. This can mean only one thing (unless the snake ate that as well as a full human being) - your theory about photos is right and that's why he perished.

    Remember to take spare batteries with you!

  2. Fittingly, it was Monty Python that taught me dead people only leave shoes (usually with a wisp of smoke coming out of the top).