Sunk Costs

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Nha Trang, Vietnam is a city I spent a few days in back in 2009, and the only one that I really didn’t care for. It was loud, flashy, and resembled what I imagine a beach resort in Cancun would look like; developed primarily solely for tourism, with a facade of cultural authenticity. It held me conflicted between enjoying home-sick food and beautiful beaches, with feeling like I was traveling in a movie set. But due to those beautiful beaches, and being the premier scuba spot in Vietnam, Jen and I decided to make it a four day stop over on our way to Saigon.

It was all about the diving. Jen had really taken to it in Koh Tao, and I wanted to get a few more dives in before our trip ended. We also wanted to take the advanced open-water course which would allow us to dive in more places and situations, as well as increase our competency. It can include skills like underwater navigation and photography, wreck diving, buoyancy control and night diving, though we were most interested in the deep dive, which would increase the depth we were allowed to go from 18 meters to 30. After an overnight bus from Hoi An we arrived in Nha Trang about 6:30am the next day. Completely exhausted but knowing we had limited time, we spent a few hours visiting the different dive operators for someone we trusted and clicked with. Unfortunately, I think we got persuaded more by low cost and a fast talker.

We were told the conditions were not good, but that would make for a great opportunity to do the advanced class. It made sense – you wouldn’t want to waste a day in a class when conditions are ripe for play. Our school picked us up from the hotel at 7am, and we were on the boat heading for the dive site by 8. I was throughly unimpressed by the instructors — one  kept a cigarette in his mouth the entire time, while ours seemed particularly ineffectual. I thought he might be hungover which further unimpressed me. I was beginning to have regrets.

We donned our gear with almost no oversight by the crew or instructors, and then jumped in the water. That whole bit about the conditions not being great, well they had gotten considerably worse overnight as a typhoon was brewing near the Philippines and it was pushing a lot of wind and currents our way. This resulted in some very murky water which reduced our visibility to about five feet, ten feet at best. We were a group of five and I almost never saw everyone at one time, only brown space and vague shapes. My feeling was that we should abort the dive and try again another day but our instructor felt different. We finished the first two skills (maintaining neutral buoyancy while lying horizontal and upside down, and using a depth gauge to find and hold multiple depths), though I don’t believe the instructor could really see if we were completing the tasks. I’m even more sure that he couldn’t because the mask I was given kept fogging, which his solution was that we trade masks underwater. Now my vision was a bit better but his was worse. But we don’t dive and they don’t get paid, so we “finished” our skills (meaning he would have signed off on anything we did) and got back on the boat for lunch.

I was reminded of the basic economic principle of sunk costs. We had already paid for the course, and whether we completed it or not that money was gone. The money was sunk. I toyed with this idea as we sat on the boat waiting to reenter the water. I was unsure if the what we were doing was safe, and I felt resentful of our instructor for not showing the level of concern I felt it merited. In the end I decided I would be responsible for myself and take it as it comes. I could ascend with Jen at any time I felt that we were being irresponsible. I at least thought that I would.

After lunch we got back in the water and performed one of the few skills possible in these dark conditions – drift diving. Basically the boat drops you off near a current, you descend to a proper level along a reef wall, and float along enjoying the sights before ascending and getting picked up by the boat. It was an unnerving experience. We couldn’t see much aside from our own bodies and the current wasn’t a single stream, but a constant back and forth, a sloshing about. It would be nothing but a brown palette before my eyes and then suddenly I was three feet from a reef shelf and attempting to not smack into it. This exercise showed no concern for the health of the environment or any damage we might do to the reef. I could no more tell our direction from our depth. Colors changed frequently and light would alter from hazy bright to dim within moments. Contours morphed from hard lines, when they were within a few feet of sight, to general shades of dark in the near distance. This continued for more than 20 minutes; a dreamy underwater Rorschach test. We finished unscathed though I know I came dangerously close to pressing up against some spiny sea urchins. Dumb luck was with us.

Overnight Jen and I discussed the pros and cons of not going back the next day; did we feel safe, were we getting the experience we paid for? We decided to finish the course just to get our new certifications. We could gain more experience on future dives, and we would not be restricted to where we could go with recreational diving. So the next morning we got back on the boat, headed out 45 minutes, and jumped in the same brown sludge as the day before. But today was our Deep Dive day. What was barely visible at 15 meters became a black void at 25. We dropped down along a sloping wall we couldn’t see, which we kept stepping on most of the way down – I could feel it under my feet but couldn’t see if it was rock or reef. It became necessary to hold hands midway down or else we all would have been separated, even without the current pushing us around. The darkness was so rich that I couldn’t see the color of my own fins, nor the shape of Jen’s body, only the outline of our intertwined hands. The instructor turned a flashlight on which was strapped to his waist; the beam was only visible for a few feet, and even less so when it wasn’t pointed toward me. We hit our depth and waited there in a beautiful black dreamscape. It was silent. I held two hands in mine and swayed with the current. It was new, empty, and calming. It wasn’t the terrifying experience I would have previously assumed it to be. The time down there was peaceful and sweet. A few minutes passed before it was time to ascend. Back on the boat I felt less frustrated/cheated, and more appreciative of the opportunity to experience something like that. Our instructor told us those were the harshest conditions he’s ever dove in, and I can’t imagine them being any worse.

To be clear I still don’t trust our school or the instructor that much. Even if they believed we were safe to dive in those conditions, they showed no concern for the underwater ecosystem. We landed on, stepped on, and ground against reef habitats that are incredibly fragile. Even in communist Vietnam the capitalist need to accumulate wealth supersedes the health and longevity of the very system that feeds it.

The Hard Sell

“Come in, looking is free”

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Sales tactics in SE Asia are brilliant for moving merchandise, but in the US the clerk would be cited for harassment and quite possibly arrested for stalking.

It’s near impossible to freely walk among the markets and appreciate the wares and food stalls. You’re always replying to some hawker that you don’t need one thing or another, or that you are just looking for now. Hands grab at your arms, pulling you in to deeper recesses of the shop, while items you’ve only glanced at are being bagged for your purchase. There’s always a “special price for you”, and you’re commonly their “first customer of the day,”  so you “get a good price”, even though the streets are flooded with tourists eager to acquire cheap goods.

In the West it’s more about casually looking, feeling, trying on, and then shopping for things on eBay. What I’ve really noticed in the last few years is that department stores are mostly staffing the cash registers while the customers treat the clothes section like a Chuck-E-Cheese ball pit. At times I’ve felt like Charlton Heston in the Omega Man while looking for underwear at Kohl’s. In Vietnam every single merchant vies for your attention and potential business. Walking by storefronts the repetitive “come look”, and “hello, you buy something” is what you hear the most. The latter call is a pretty bold pitch— I mean right to the meat of it, no foreplay salesmanship. I’ve even had people cross the street to tell me to come in to their restaurant or bar, or to buy their bananas. Street food vendors have approached me while eating at someone else’s area asking if I’d like some food. I imagine their reasoning goes something like this: Hey, this guy obviously likes food because he’s eating it, maybe he wants to buy some of mine. It’s similar to a taxi driver asking if I need a ride while I’m peddling a bike— actually, I think that one might have really happened at some point in this trip.

And then there are the sneaks. The ones that trick you into thinking their intention lies outside of commerce, and in the realm of genuine interest. It usually starts off with “hey, where are you from.” It’s important to be patient and kind when traveling abroad, but when I hear that phrase I immediately have somewhere else to be . . . quickly. And they’re always so excited I’m American, which I unquestionably find suspect. If they were to squint their eyes and turn their heads in a defensive posture I’d be more likely to stay and converse. I might even buy something for their honesty.

One of the best sneaks got us in Hanoi, and I’ve seen it a few times since. It’s the fruit seller walking the streets, two wide grass bowls filled with fruit hanging from each end of a bamboo pole, balanced on one shoulder like scales. She walks up to a couple wearing a big smile, makes eye contact with her mark, positions the hanging fruit on his or her shoulder and puts her conical hat on their head while telling the other to take a picture. How could one refuse such a chance at looking like a native; especially when there’s photo-documentation to prove it. For the small cost of octople-priced fruit you could look you weren’t afraid of the locals.
Like I said, this happened to us. Jen was the first mark, and even though I knew pretty quickly that this encounter was not going to be free I went along with it anyway. I could even feel the stares and grins of the locals enjoying what was going down, and I can’t blame them; I get a kick out of it every time. I thought that it would just be Jen playing dress up but the fruit seller/ambassador of tourism quickly shifted the balanced fruit bar onto my shoulders and the hat on to my head. And then I felt a plastic bag filled with bananas and pineapple pieces being tucked under my fingers— this was the gift basket to go along with the memories we just purchased, and she was asking about $7 for it. After some negotiating I got her down to $2. Not too low, more than it should cost, but enough to part ways amicably.

Then there’s the shoe repair guy, and he almost got me. Walking down a street in Hanoi a man stopped me, concern on his face. He pointed to my feet, and for a moment I worried I had stepped in something. He dropped down and pulled at a portion of my shoe like it was coming apart (where it was not), then immediately began squeezing super glue in the seam. It was obvious what was transpiring; I pulled my perfectly good shoe away and began walking. I was nice enough about it, but when I looked back he had the same concerned look on his face like I was driving off without any brakes, a serious accident was about to occur, and the future of Vietnamese society would forever be sullied, all because he failed to glue my shoe.

The best was when we passed a couple in Hanoi who were caught in the perfect storm of cons. The man was wearing the hanging fruit scales and hat, and the woman was photographing him while a guy “repaired” her flip flop. We were passing in a taxi and I juts blurted out “Look! It’s happening right now!” like I was witnessing something beautiful and horrific.

But nothing beats the hard sell we got while riding up to Danang from Hoi An the other day. Jen and I rented a motorbike and took it 45 minutes north to check out Danang. The city has some interesting sights, but we mostly wanted to see its beaches and downtown. The ride was a long stretch of road that carried on along the coastline. As we were coming upon Danang another motorbike cruised along side of us and the woman began yelling something at us. I didn’t hear her at first until Jen said in my ear that “She’s saying your’e a good driver.” I was flattered and felt like the local talent scout had noticed a scooter riding prodigy in me. To clarify we were rolling down a four lane highway at about 45 miles an hour – I thought I must have taken some pretty sweet corners for her to want to compliment me at such an inopportune time. And then she was so kind as to ask where we were going, I assumed because she was concerned that we get there safe, and she knew the best route. If this is sounding a lot like hey, where are you from . . . then you have the benefit of reading a post about scams right before her hard sell. She quickly jumped topics from where we were going, and pitched herself as a guide to Marble Mountain in Danang, while making gestures with her hand trying to get us to slow down. It was an epic sales pitch, but we kept out speed yelling “no thank you”, and “we’re just going to the beach”, as if it mattered. A few moments later she was gone, and we were on our way to the market to disappoint some more people. I’ll always remember getting the highway sales pitch.

 

Hanoi > Hue > Hoi An

We’re in Hoi An now with only a few weeks left of our trip. Most of my previous overseas travels have been limited to 3-4 weeks, and it’s never felt like enough. I’m on day 29 and I would be heart-broken if I were leaving now. For me there’s an evolution in thought, where I struggle to be present, and fight the conditioning that demands I be productive, active, and progressing on some sort of retirement goal. I feel consumed by the fear that I’m wasting time (and money – no matter how frugal I am), and I should be working on a resume, building a career, watching my savings, etc. These thoughts are not uncommon, but they do fade. They get quieter the longer I’m gone, and today I wish I were one of those fortunate travelers on a year long journey.

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We flew in to Vietnam 11 days ago, arriving in Hanoi with a plan to head further North, a place I’ve wanted to visit since my last time here. The weather was not cooperating though – temp’s were a bit low, the rain was consistent, the usually lush and beautiful landscape hibernating for winter. So we bused it from Hanoi to Hue, where we spent a few days meandering, eating, and calming. Coming from the noise and energy of Bangkok and Hanoi, we were grateful when Hue turned out to be less congested and easier to navigate. The city was still expansive, and preserved a 200 yr. old city within. We even learned of a hot springs resort about 45 minutes out of town and decided to take an “us” day.

We rolled through some little towns and farming communities to arrive at a fairly posh looking tropical oasis. We payed $6 each to get in, which included a towel, a locker, sandals, and a bottle of water. It turned out to be part hot springs resort, part water park, and it was nearly completely empty except for two couples down steam in the springs. I’m not sure how we got so lucky but within 30 minutes we had the entire complex to ourselves, complete with water slides. It was surreal. The clouds overhead were seemingly about to burst with rain keeping the outside temps cool, and the water kept flowing down a  40 meter rock river in any desirable temperate from mild to near boiling. The park was ours alone. We had the best seats in the springs, could repeatedly ride the slides without lines, and we knew the only pee in the pool was ours.

That was our last day before heading to the town of Hoi An on an overnight bus that was run by a couple of sadists intent on playing out torture fantasies on young travelers. They yelled at passengers, cranked up the AC to freezer-burn levels, would randomly play club music on the “sleeper bus” for short periods of time, and almost left some people at a rest stop in the middle of the night. We were meeting in secret to foment revolution right before my stop or else a mutiny would have occurred. We got off instead of fighting the man.


And now we’re in Hoi An. Another day has passed and I feel my grip on this country getting tighter. I know I could make a life here, but I don’t know if I can abandon the Pacific NW.

 

 

READ ME

So just an FYI, Jen is blogging her own experiences  at Nulla Dies Sine Linea, and if you like my writing but desire something more coherent, poetic, and with better sentence structure, you should check hers out. It also has more pictures of me if that’s your thing.

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Learning to Eat

*this is a draft of something I began to write while still in Cambodia

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So I had given up on learning to eat after the last restaurant in Phnom Penh posted-up a young child to help me feed myself.

We were researching good eats and weird foods in Phnom Penh and a local had written about a certain restaurant that they always take visitors to. It was a locals hang-out, with reasonable prices and authentic dishes. Pork ribs, frogs, tree ants, fish. The author specifically said the ribs were the best in PP, and that “fish on fire lake” was always great. So that’s what we ordered, plus a side of fried morning glory. It was embarrassing from start to finish.

language barriers aside, the Khmer menu needs some serious attention in how it presents itself. I actually like when a menu informs me of more than just the primary ingredient in a dish. Or maybe I just like pictures of my food when I’m unfamiliar with the preparation. I suppose if Western food were foreign to me I might think tomato soup was just an acidic bowl of crushed tomatoes. Hot? Cold? Who knows.

Anyway, the staff laid down some tiny bowls of spices, a milky sauce, and an empty bowl. Later came the sautéed morning glories, which were delicious, though a young girl came by to show us how to mix the accoutrements with the morning glories. Oh, and also to use a bowl to eat from instead of the dish in the middle of the table because we were spilling juices all over like children. Ok, got it, I should eat like I have some self respect.

We did order the Fish on Fire Lake and it arrived like some grand event. First the butane stove and then a metal plate with a fried, whole fish. About the same time came a larger bowl of a different kind of milky soup, some cold noodles (wasn’t on the menu – what do I do with these?), and a plate of raw veggies. I was ready to dig in – or was I? I wasn’t. There were items on the table I didn’t know what to do with. So like any confused and helpless tourist I shrugged my shoulders and made unintelligible gestures until I was noticed.

Maybe some of you reading this (is anyone reading this?) already put the puzzle together but the milky soup was to be ladled over the fish while cooking on the stove, and the veggies were to be cooked in the liquids as well. And that’s just what our little helper friend did for us. It was very nice of her… and she knew not to stray too far our table. Again we were feeding ourselves from the middle of the table, plus we were not combining the elements at our table as they were intended. There was still some prep work that needed to be done by Jen and I, but the meal came with no instruction manual. Our little helper began combing elements in our bowls. Piece of fish, warm milk broth, cold noodles, dry spices . . . that’s all I can remember now, though at the time it felt like I was learning to replace a transmission – should I be taking notes or pictures to refer back to later? The final product was . . . good. Not great, but good. And it got less good when we progressed far enough into the fish to realize that “whole fried fish” was exactly that, complete with guts and other innards pouring out of the carcass.

It was a learning experience, and I realized that cultural relativity extends further than just social norms and beliefs, and all the way to the plate. I wonder how foreign eyes view Western cuisine for the first time. Would someone ladle their soup onto their salad? They do that in Vietnam. A bowl of lettuce and herbs comes with many soups, and they go right in the bowl. Have I ever seen a restaurant employee stationed at one table to orchestrate the meal? I’m imagining a young waiter attempting to explain a knife to a someone who has an entire T-bone in their mouth – “no, no, you do like this”, as they pull the meat from the diner’s clenched teeth, then make a sawing motion with the blade. What if you tried to eat spaghetti like Vietnamese Pho, with your head held slightly above the plate, slurping from the bottom to the top – This might actually be a common sight at Olive Garden, but you get what I’m saying.

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We’re about to eat scorpion, to wash down the grass hopper and grubs we just ate.

There have been a few more food follies in this trip, but also some really kind people helping us to fully enjoy our meals. Many dishes require active participation of the eater, like meat sticks that you roll into your own spring roll, and Ban Xeo, an egg and flour crepe, that has a few more ingredients to assemble per your liking, before inhaling in a delicious fury.

What I’m trying to say is that the food is amazing, sometimes intimidating, and if it weren’t an essential part of foreign travel, I would be far less inclined to leave home.

Our Story Continues…

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I love the travel portion of travel. Meaning, I appreciate the difficulty of getting from one destination to the next while in another country — Navigating new transit systems in foreign languages, releasing control to faith when booking questionable transport, and the discomfort of budget travel that consumes the better part of a day. There is just something both exhausting, and at the same time constitution-building about it.

Since my last post we’ve traveled from Thailand to Vietnam, and Hanoi to Hue. There have been some exceptional travel days, with some being enjoyable and others anxiety causing. There have been comforts and extreme discomforts. These are the travel stories that I enjoy reading about, so they’re also the ones I like writing about.

Getting from Koh Tao island back to Bangkok was a 12 hour commitment, and for the most part relatively painless. It began at  8:45am with a ride to the pier where we stood amongst so many physically wounded, bruised, and wrapped up young travelers looking like a tribal rite of hang-over. We zombie walked into our very large catamaran for a two hour ride to another pier where we disembarked, and waited another hour for the next boat to ferry us to the mainland. To our good fortune there was a 7-11 within walking distance so our Hobbit-style eating habits could continue uninterrupted. The next boat took two hours to arrive at Surat Thani, where we were ushered on to one of three buses depending on where our final destination was. Jen and I were going to Surat Thani airport, which was a 2 hour bus ride, and we got there with 3 hours to spare, since our flight was delayed by an hour. 7:30pm is when we landed in Bangkok – 11 hours since we left the island.

This is where it got interesting. Being too cheap to pay $17 for a 45 min. taxi to our hotel doorstep, we instead opted for a city bus to a general location in a city three times the size of Seattle. As soon as I boarded the bus I felt like I had made a huge mistake. We were maybe going to save ourselves about 1,500-2,00 Thai Bhat ($5-7 US Dollars) a piece by chancing our way across a foreign city, when all I really wanted was a shower and a bed. I had definitely made an error in budgeting when $5 is too much for safe and certain passage.

Once on the bus we were taking up twice our share of space with our backpacks pressing into the standing crowd around us, and I felt like a sore-thumb with a neon sign advertising itself. Unfortunately the city bus didn’t drop us at our hotel. Not that we would have known it was there anyway because we had no idea where we were. We just knew it was in a general area called Sathorn. This is akin to flying in to JFK and saying you need a ride to the midwest, to find your hotel which is called Hotel, and is actually a smaller corn field in the middle of larger corn fields. Fortunately  the bus attendant, fluent in clueless foreign facial expressions, let us know where to depart and that we needed to find the Skytrain.

Ok. So we got off the bus and chanced upon the Skytrain, which is like an above ground subway, which is something the Pacific NW desperately needs to invest in, because it’s awesome. I found a ticket agent and repeatedly mouthed SATHORN, sometimes with actual sounds being made, until he pointed to a stop on the map. Hooray! We could possibly, maybe, almost be there. And then I forgot which stop he said it was right after we boarded our Skytrain, and we just got off where we saw the most lights. Miraculously we saw a sign for iResidences not far from our stop that we recognized as our hotel name.

Salvation! Dinner! Rest! After a confusing discussion with the desk person it became clear that our hotel was iCheck-Inn, and not iResidences, though they did know where our hotel was, and it was not far … by taxi. So we hailed a driver, showed him the map from the helpful iResidence desk person, and exhaustedly stuffed our bags into the trunk of the cab, where I leaned in too far and slammed my forehead on the trunk, cutting it open. Nothing stitch-worthy but it did take some blotting on the map to get it to stop bleeding.

But who cares?! After 13 hours of travel we were on the final leg of our journey, in a cab, the kind that could have gotten us to the hotel an hour prior for only $9 more. yay.

And this is travel. Or “travel within travel” as Jen has been referring to it. Most of the time it’s exhausting yet filled with great sights. You’re committed to hours on a bus, or boat, or just waiting for some form of transport. But there’s no phone in your pocket, or watch on your wrist, telling you you’re going to be late for something. Occasionally the trip is slower than you budgeted for and you’re anxious about getting to your flight, or bus, or boat on time. But mostly it’s about settling in and not fighting it.

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And these are mannequins.

Emotionally-Unavailable-Dog Island

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I love dogs. Like madly, baby fever, giddy inside, love dogs. So showing up on Koh Tao and seeing dogs everywhere was super great. Except it was a twilight zone version of what I wanted out of a dog island. Where my fantasy would include lots of fetching, feeding, swimming, cuddling, and playing in the sand, most of these dogs were detached and unconcerned. They were the depressed, goth teen version of tropical dogs. Kind of like me in high school. And they mostly stunk. It was like being in an aquarium of dogs. I could look but not touch and mostly just hoped to make eye contact so I could feel loved and appreciated.

It seemed like I was always trying to strike up conversation with the animals to no avail. I even tried to feed them a few times, but they were mostly uninterested. Though I did get a cat to hang out for a few minutes (as long as I kept feeding him shrimp tails). DSCN0736

On our last day we woke up early and went to breakfast, walking along the beach. We passed a sleeping hound dog and rustled him awake for a photo shoot. He was abnormally friendly and even bit my butt when I walked away. It was my last few hours on the island, and I finally found a friend.

Full disclosure: These are two different dogs. So I did find more than one non-indifferent dog while I was there.

Koh Tao Island a.k.a. Dog Island

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We’re off the island waiting in the Surat Thani  airport for our flight to Bangkok. We left this morning just before 9, and as of now we’re on hour 9 of travel with a few more to go. 1 taxi, 2boats, 1 bus, 1 plane, and then another taxi to the hotel. For some reason it’s not as bad as it sounds.

Six days on the island was prefect, and enough. Jen got scuba certified and I got a few days of diving in. We rented a motor bike and explored a little bit, but mostly we finally rested like we wanted to. Swimming multiple times a day, walking down the beach to get food, and letting go of the computer. It was really satisfying.

The weather was wonderful the entire time. It turns out that this far south is just starting to get into the rainy season, so we had periods of intense sunshine, peppered by rolling thunderstorms, lighting, and heavy rainfall.  At times we would hear the sound of an oncoming storm and quickly put on our bathing suits to run for the beach and swim in the weather.

Unfortunately it made the small diving boats we went out on really a mess. Jen got sick on her first day out but held it down. On my second day the person who was to be my dive buddy got ferociously ill, puking over the side of the boat, and barely held it together for the dive. We actually passed him off another group after about 20 minutes under because he was going through so much air. He passed on the second dive of the day.

One of my favorite aspects of the island was that it was full of dogs. All different breeds too. They were everywhere, lounging out like they were on their own vacation. It was awesome. I’ll post a whole series of the doggy photo shoots we did. Until then I’ll just leave you with one.

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The Pay Off

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What to say…

We left Bangkok two days ago and are now on Koh Tao island, in the gulf of Thailand. The setting is idyllic. We’re set up in a cheap (but nice) bungalow on the far end of 1/2 mile stretch of sandy beach, bookended by two natural rock jetties. Most of the island hasn’t undergone development (yet) except for stretches of beach access, rough roads, and some inner island hotels and residences.

Getting here was a bit of a struggle while keeping a schedule. We had bought our plane tickets to Surat Thani while still in Cambodia, but had not set up transport to the overnight hotel or the boat dock the following morning. We did find a $3 bus to the town of Surat Thani that dropped us off about a ten minute walk to our hotel, saving us the added cost of taxi from the bus stop. After dropping our luggage in the room we hit the streets again on rickety bicycles to find a travel agent. None were to be found, though we did score some delicious meat-on-sticks for dinner that cost us about $1.60. They even threw in a bag of raw veggies – Nice.

After some negotiating with the hotel staff about early morning transport, the following day we overpaid for a short taxi ride to the bus station, caught an 8:30 bus that took us an hour to the dock, and we still had an hour before our ferry left. The stress of making it in time vanished and it all got a lot easier from there.

Within roughly four hours on the boat we were departing the ferry on the dock of Koh Tao, eager to find our spot and get our first taste of warm salt water. It was completely satisfying.

We’ll be here for six nights, not thinking about fighting traffic or touts. Today was for motorbiking to explore some of the island, finding good food, and a reputable company to go scuba diving with. Rough travels pay off for experiences like these.

 

Damn! Bangkok is kind of great … for a little bit. It had only been a week in Cambodia but it was mildly comforting to to be among cross walks and stop lights again. From certain angles this town can easily resemble Tampa, Fl.

Today we catch a flight to Sarat Thani in the south of Thailand so we can catch a boat to Koh Tao island. Originally we were looking into a train ride but the flights here are so cheap. $40 roundtrip! So to save ourselves the exhaustion of land travel we’re going by air.

We already have a place lined up in Koh Tao for five nights. It’s a bungalow right on the beach, and it’s busting our budget at $45 a night, but sometimes you have to splurge. Jen is going to get her scuba cert. and I’ll get some dives in while she’s doing that. Ideally we’ll have a day or two to dive together when she completes her course.

That’s the plan as of now. Our flight back to Bangkok is on the 1st of Dec. It’s likely that we’ll spend a few nights here again before flying to Hanoi. If we leave on the 4th we’ll still have three weeks in Vietnam. Still not enough time but it’s what we’ve got.

-none of these pictures are from Thailand. They’re just pictures.