Tag Archives: koh tao

Koh Lipe Trash Hero!

While on the island of Koh Tao, I’d volunteered to be Trash Hero on several occasions and was tickled to see that Koh Lipe had their own Trash Hero organization as well!

Koh Lipe has amazingly beautiful clean and clear waters surrounding all its edges, which honestly was surprising seeing how many longtail boats (easily over 100 with petrol run engines) were parked along the shores and the amount of trash that could be found washed up along the beaches.

Yes, this was my only critique of this otherwise lovely island.  Trash could be found everywhere on the beaches.  Generally the trash was washed up fairly high along the coast line so you could easily find spots closer to the water free from trash to lay on, but still seeing all the waste was disconcerting.

The Trash Hero chapter on Koh Lipe thankfully is quite well organized however.  They meet every Monday at the start of the Walking Street along Pattaya Beach (if at other locations, someone at the Dive shop there will direct you).  Along with the weekly trash pick-ups on Mondays they offer full day and even week-long trash volunteer programs where you can be dropped off on an island for up to 2 weeks, camp and eat there, enjoy the nature and pick up trash for 4 hours a day!  Had I the time to stay longer, I would have signed up for that adventure, but alas…

I showed up along with 2 other volunteers at the end of the Walking Street on a Monday morning, and we were directed by one of the Dive Shop employees that the meeting location had been moved to the north end of Sunrise beach.  So we headed off and were joined with another 5 people waiting to volunteer.

From there, we hopped on a longtail boat and headed to a nearby island (Ko Adang) to get started on picking up trash. To my surprise, when we arrived, there were at least 5 other longtail boats already there, each carrying at least 5-10 people!  So in total, between the organizers (about 5) and the volunteers, there were probably about 30 of us!  It was amazing to see such a great turnout!!!

We spent several hours picking up trash, then enjoyed a nice break with fresh watermelon and beers!  Volunteers even enjoyed a nice swim at the end some even did some snorkeling 🙂  The amount of trash picked up in such a small amount of space was astounding!!  I would venture to guess over 50 large trash bags worth!  Absolutely unbelievable as the stretch of beach we picked trash from was no more than about 50 meters long.

Once the beers were consumed and the swimming was finished, we loaded the trash into the boats and headed back to Koh Lipe.  From there, the group went to a local bar for some lunch and socializing.

A few things I’d recommend for anyone out there wanting to volunteer for Trash Hero on Koh Lipe: First, bring a camera because you never know where you are going to go and the beauty to be seen!  Second, wear your bathing suit so you can join in with the swimming!  Third, bring money and don’t make any plans after the fact if you are wanting to join the others for a late lunch after volunteering:)

But most importantly, if you are going to visit Koh Lipe, please do your part.  Don’t litter while there, and join in to be a Trash Hero!!

Picture courtesy of Google Images 🙂

On to Don’t Mess with Thailand!

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Monkey Beach Adventure

After having kayaked to Ko Nangyuan on Koh Tao, Anna and I were hooked and made a pact of sorts to make sure and do it again!  Ko Phi Phi Don provided yet another fantastic opportunity to do so.  On our second or third day there, we got up bright and early (around 10am-ish?) and headed out for food and coffee to quench our slightly hung over bodies.  It was probably about noon or one by the time we made it to Lo Dalam beach to rent a kayak so we could paddle our way to Monkey Beach.

As soon as we stepped foot on Lo Dalam we were approached about renting kayaks by a local shop worker.  The price for the day was 600 baht.  This price wasn’t out of the realm of what we were expecting to pay, but being the bargain seekers we were, we tried a couple more places first.  The third place we stopped by was the winner.  The woman (whom I’d guess to be the boss) had that feisty vibe that reminded me of Mol from Mol’s beach bar on Hin Wong Bay (Ko Tao).  We asked her how much the kayaks were, and she said “200 baht per hour”.  We replied that we wanted to rent one for the day, to which she gave us a quizzical look, checked her watch, looked back at us and said “for the day??”.  Lol!  We had to laugh and give that one to her!  I’m sure most people renting kayaks for the day would have in fact rented them in the morning, but alas there we were mid-day.  She gave us the kayak for the bargain price of 400 baht and away we went.

The crystal clear water of Lo Dalam bay was so calm and almost lake-like that the paddle just around the corner to Monkey Beach took very little effort and time.  Once there, the only thing to really watch out for was the boat traffic!  Dozens upon dozens of tour speedboats were coming and going with numerous tourists aboard, all coming for the snorkeling and monkeys.  A quiet beach this was not!!  The snorkeling was also ok, but not the best of the bunch really.  The monkeys of course were adorable and lovely and amazingly patient as tourist after tourist shoved their phones and iPads toward them on selfie sticks.

After several hours of literally baking in the sun, we decided to try to get to yet another beach that was located across the Lo Dalam bay.  We skirted around tour boats and out into the open sea we went!  While the sea looked to be quiet and calm from our perspective on Monkey Beach, it wasn’t quite the correct story once we were actually out there…  Lets just say that Anna started to feel a little sea-sick and we both started to question whether it was really smart of us to continue on.

We opted for the “Safety first” route after making it probably 3/4 of the way.  But seeing how the waves were crashing violently against the cliffs ahead and not wanting to potentially be part of those waves doing so, we headed back toward the sanctuary of the bay waters.  We didn’t quite make it until sunset on the kayaks, but instead simply went to the Sunset bar for drinks to toast the setting sun. 🙂  Anna took a picture of a kayak in the sunset (while we sat comfortably drinking) and we pretended that was us in spirit. 🙂

On to Ko Lantaaaah

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Favorites from Koh Tao

Favorite coffee shop: Through the Looking Glass

Favorite beach: toss up between Ao Luek, Hin Wong and Koh Nangyuan

Favorite island dog: Am (Through the Looking Glass)

Favorite beach bar: Mol’s Beach bar Hin Wong

Favorite sandwich shop: Through the Looking Glass (chicken, bacon & mayo!!)

Favorite Monthly Rental: P’un House (in Sairee. If you are a light sleeper, do bring some ear plugs to drown out street noise!  Another great place to check out too is Sabai House or the Bottle House.)

Favorite view: The View bar

Favorite gym: Island Muay Thai

Favorite Italian food: Thaita

Favorite Thai food: Mint Kitchen (I specifically recommend the green curry!!)

Favorite homemade booze: Baileys from Taste of Home

Favorite night out entertainment: Lady Boy Cabaret

Favorite place to relax: Chalok Bay

Favorite sunset bar: Fizz (Sairee)

On to Koh Phi Phi Don

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Leaving Koh Tao

All good things come to an end, and after over 2 months on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, it was time to say goodbye.  After a lovely farewell dinner and late-night drinks with Deb and Rick, Anna (a longtime friend from Scotland visiting Thailand for 5 weeks) and I headed off the following night for the island of Koh Phi Phi Don (pronounced pee-pee, not fee-fee!!).  Koh Phi Phi Don, located in the Andaman Sea, just south of Krabi on the mainland is the larger of two islands there (the Phi Phi islands) made most famous by book “The Beach” by Alex Garland.  Well, more specifically Maya bay on Phi Phi Ley (south of Phi Phi Don) was the filming site for the movie of “The Beach”.  The book was written after the author visited and was inspired by the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park, south of Koh Tao in the Gulf.

We traveled on the night ferry, which left the dock around 9pm.  Before boarding however we stopped in to 7-11 to stock up on some booze and snacks (of course!) for the journey, then after dropping our stuff of at our beds in the dorm room of the ferry, we headed to the top deck for some fresh air and to properly wave Koh Tao goodbye.  We were one of only 3 people on the top deck but seriously had the best view and air quality there than any other place on the boat!  We hung out for several hours on the top deck watching the stars as we lumbered along, sipping on Smirnoff Ice and chatting away.  Around 11pm we started to pass the Mu Ko Ang Thong National Park (inspired the book “The Beach”!), watching the scattered islands appear in silhouette forms lit only by the moon.

A little after midnight we headed to the dorm room for some sleep (we were due to arrive on mainland again at 5am, so sleep was necessary!!).  The beds were decently comfortable but at first I had a very hard time sleeping as the smoke from the engines smelled like it was being pumped directly in the dorm room and it felt like I could barely breathe!  I almost took my blanket and pillow back up to the top deck so I could sleep without being choked by the smoke, but ended up passing out nonetheless in the dorm.

A little before 5am we arrived at the Suratthani mainland dock and were escorted to a local eatery.  We hung about there for several hours, then were picked up by a mini-van for the 4 hour journey to Krabi.  I don’t recall much of that part of the trip as I was mostly passed out (though we were pretty tightly packed in!!) but once we arrived in Krabi we were once again dropped at a local eatery for more food or drinks if desired.  From there it was another hour until we were taken via tuk-tuk to the Krabi dock for the almost 2 hour ferry ride to Koh Phi Phi Don.  By far this was the longest stretch of traveling I’d done so far in Thailand to get to the next destination; over 14 hours in total.  What we arrived to ultimately on Koh Phi Phi Don was, well…. Interesting to say the least!

On to Favorites From Koh Tao

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Ao Luek & Chalok Bay

On the south side of Koh Tao, the beautiful beach of Ao Luek and the quiet hippy town of Chalok can be found.  I hadn’t spent a great deal of time on this part of the island during my stay on Koh Tao mainly because it was “so far away”.  I put that in quotes of course because Koh Tao is only 21 square Km (21mm- inside joke!) so really, not getting to that part of the island simply came down to laziness and being cheap!  However, if ever on Koh Tao I would NOT miss going to Chalok and Ao Luek!!

Ao Luek features stunning crystal clear waters with unbelievable snorkeling visibility, several delicious and reasonably priced restaurants, and is one of the hotspots to check out for potential shark spotting!  A baby whale shark made an appearance there one morning and several other fellow snorkelers mentioned spotting many other baby shark species (all harmless!!).

Chalok bay has an amazingly calm and quiet hippy vibe that is a breath of fresh air compared to the party atmosphere of Sairee.  Freedom beach, at the tail end of the bay is a nice spot to chill out with an easily accessible walkway along the rocks of the ocean that leads back to the quiet and serene bay.  Best of all, the New Heaven Dive School (located in the heart of the bay) offers marine conservation projects.  Every day at 4pm they allow random passing volunteers to engage in the daily activity of treating and feeding injured sea turtles!!  The turtles are released (once all better) into the wild and are the only turtles I’d seen on “Turtle Island”.

Chalok bay was recommended to me by a husband and wife team who also frequented my favorite coffee shop and bakery (Through the Looking Glass) who own a bungalow rental property in the area.  It was definitely worth the visit and had my Muay Thai gym and favorite coffee shop not been located in Sairee, I could absolutely have seen myself staying in Chalok for an extended time soaking up the chilled vibes.

On to Leaving Koh Tao

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Through the Looking Glass

I was first introduced to the local bakery and coffee shop called ‘Through the Looking Glass’ on Koh Tao by an acquaintance I’d met while volunteering for ‘Trash Hero’ (a volunteer group that got together weekly to pick up trash on the island and beaches).  After one particular volunteer session, the fellow volunteer suggested we get some lunch, so we wandered into ‘Through the Looking Glass’ for a nibble.  While I honestly wasn’t very hungry at the time, I soon discovered why the little bakery was a local favorite.  Their coffee was REAL (fresh ground!!!); all the breads and baked goods served were made and baked FRESH on the premises (seriously, finding baked bread is a treat all by itself in Thailand, but to also find cakes, brownies and other goodies??? Pinch me now!!); and their chicken, bacon & mayo sandwich was to die for!!!

Though I didn’t know anyone there (except the fellow Trash Hero volunteer) it was easy to see (apart from the delicious food and coffee) why this place was so popular.  Everyone said hello to one another whether they knew them or not.  The owners (Deb and Rick) engaged with customers and treated everyone as good friends.  The location itself (being off one of the main roads in Sairee) was a delightful spot for people watching.  And best of all, everyone was greeted by Am.  Am was once a street dog who adopted Deb and Rick.  While she stays true to her street dog nature by bounding off and visiting her street dog friends daily, she also enjoys the loving attention and care of her adopted owners.

Perhaps it was a week or two that had passed since first popping in for a bite at the Looking Glass when I got to thinking that I needed a routine.  When staying in one place for a while, it’s important to develop a good routine that also gets you out and about.  So far my only real routine had been to go to Muay Thai training but then after I’d want to chill out the rest of the day at home and would find myself not engaging with the outside world so much.  So I decided I needed to inject a social routine, and the Looking Glass was the only place that popped to mind when thinking just how to get it done.

The new routine went as such: Muay Thai training in the morning, home, shower and then to the Looking Glass for coffee.  It was no time at all before I practically knew every person on the island!  As I chilled out at the Looking Glass consuming (admittedly) a ridiculous amount of coffee (up to 6 cups a day, but on average only 4) I met numerous new people, got caught up on all the goings-on of the island, spoiled Am with lots of loving, and chatted with Deb and Rick whom I grew to consider as family.

For the rest of my time on Koh Tao (over a month) not a single day passed that I didn’t stop by for a visit (except for their day off).  It was quite a bitter-sweet moment when it came time to leave the island.  Once Anna arrived, while we did spent another 10 days or so exploring Koh Tao together and enjoying daily coffees and sandwiches at The Looking Glass, it was time to move on and explore more islands of Thailand.  For our last night on the island we went out with Deb and Rick to A Taste of Home (delicious German food and homemade Bailey’s!!) and drank and ate and laughed until the wee hours of the morning.  I miss Deb, Rick and Am terribly but am blessed to have known then at all.  It’s friends like them that you meet along the way that make traveling all that much more special!

On to Ao Luek & Chalok Bay

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Night with the Ladies

I have to start this post by pointing out that while traveling it’s hard to find an occasion to really dress up for.  Since being on this particular journey I can only think of a few times that I’d made any real effort in dressing up or even in trying to look good.  Putting on makeup seems ridiculous to me as the heat would just melt it off and even shaving legs or plucking eyebrows sometimes goes longer than needed because there isn’t anyone to impress.  The only times I did make an effort on Koh Tao (i.e. put on some earings or wore a clean top with my jean shorts) was when I went to Fight Nights because it was the only time I ever went out at night on Koh Tao (pre Anna visiting…).

This all changed the night Anna and I went to the Lady Boy Cabaret on the Koh Tao walking street however… It wasn’t just me but Anna as well… For some reason we felt compelled to make an effort to look good at the show knowing full well that just about every (and I mean EVERY) one of Lady Boys in the cabaret show would look a million times better than us!!  And the kicker??  Yes, they are all MEN!!!

Lady boys in Thailand do not carry the stigma as they do in other parts of the world.  It is perfectly accepted by the society that a man would rather be and live his life as a woman.  Of course, while it’s accepted socially there are apparently a few kinks in other ways as I’d recently been told about (lady boys can’t hold certain jobs and in general have difficulty getting hired in “normal” positions and have to be registered as male making it impossible for them to leave the country since their ID says “male” yet they show up as a female, etc).  But in general they at least seem to be more accepted by people of this country and not as people to shame.  Yet another lesson to learn from Thailand!  Alas, baby steps…

Going to the Cabaret was another on my list of things to do when Anna arrived so after our kayak to Koh Nangyuan, several pre-party beers, plucking eyebrows and fussing over the best dress to wear we headed out to the walking street for some Lady Boy entertainment.  Neither of us wore any makeup though because again it’s just too hot, even at night in my opinion, to bother!

From previous walks past the cabaret bar I’d noticed the place was always packed so I rushed us out of the house 40 minutes early to make sure we got a seat.  Turned out we were the first to arrive (go figure) so we had the pick of the place and were seated by one of the staff members (who funnily enough is an awesome Muay Thai fighter!!) in the second row center stage.  The first row was reserved apparently… Drinks were ordered and for the first 20 to 30 minutes it seemed that perhaps I had been a bit too hasty in shuffling us there so early as the crowd really wasn’t gaining in numbers.  However by the time the show was due to begin (about 10:30) the place was absolutely packed!  And the people who had reserved the front row didn’t show, so the staff moved all of us from the second row onto the first!!  Yay!!!

I tell you what, those ladies put on such a fun show and looked amazing doing it!!  They really do put most real women to shame in their beauty and though I know that some are surgically helped along, they still are absolutely stunning!  In fact, there was one Lady who if put next to Ariana Grande, I would seriously have a VERY tough time figuring out which was the real Ariana!!  And I swear that at least two of them could seriously be Victoria Secret models!!  The show was fun and energetic with the crowd getting into each song, singing along, clapping and hootin’ and hollerin’!  The lead ladies in each number were spot on in their performances (especially the “Christina Aguilera” lady who not only “sang” perfectly but had the attitude and moves to match) and it was impressive to watch them dancing their hearts out in 6 inch stiletto heels!!

The show consisted of about a dozen or so songs being “sung” (lip-syncing) by a lead Lady with her accompanying dancers but at one point a brave young man was plucked from the audience, sat on a chair, blindfolded and had some naughty acts “performed” on him.  That act REALLY riled up the audience with laughter and cheers!  It was seriously a great show and honestly better than the show I’d seen in Key West during my time there.

When the show was over the Ladies offered the crowd to take pictures with them for 100 baht a pop (a girl’s gotta make a living!!) so of course Anna and I had to get ours taken with one.  This show is definitely one I would absolutely recommend to attend!  Admission to the show is free but they require one drink purchase per person which is quite a bit more pricey than other places, but then again their pour is nice as well.  I can’t tell you how long the show went, but when we left it was energizing enough that Anna and I ended up staying out till 3am sipping “Pink Ladies” poolside at one of the pool bars called ‘The Office Bar’ (the only one open at that hour in honesty!) not far along the walking path from the club.  Ah, such fun nights!!

On to Through the Looking Glass

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Kayak to Koh Nangyuan

Off the North West of the island of Koh Tao, there lies another much smaller privately owned island of Koh Nangyuan.  Since being on Koh Tao for the past couple of months now, I’ve always thought to go visit Koh Nangyuan as I’d heard spectacular things about it.  Of course it has popular spots for diving and snorkeling, but it also has a bit of hiking and provides beautiful views looking back on Koh Tao.  To get there however one must either go on a snorkel/diving tour or hire a taxi boat.  Since I was on my own I couldn’t justify paying the price for a taxi boat, however I knew that Anna (my neighbor in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica and whom I’d visited in Scotland and she’d visited me in Italy) was coming for a 5 week trip to Thailand.  So I waited for her to come to do some of the activities that aren’t near as fun solo as with a traveling buddy.

When Anna first arrived we were absolutely lazy.  I stopped doing Muay Thai, we slept in until 10 every day, had cocktails nightly on Sairee beach and generally lounged about.  When I’m on my own I’m in travel mode which means saving every penny and taking advantage of every day.  But when a friend arrives who is on vacation mode, the spending increases and the relaxing skyrockets!  Isn’t that what people do on vacation??  After the first week however we snapped to and started actually planning activities that extended beyond reading books and napping on the beach.  Afterall, there is literally so much to do and see on this teeny 21 square km island that it’s impressive!

One of the activities I saved for her visit was to visit Koh Nangyuan.  But instead of going there the “conventional” way, we opted to kayak there :).  Deb and Rick (friends I’d made on the island who own my favorite coffee and sandwich shop on the island, Through the Looking Glass) suggested where to go to rent the kayaks.  So semi-early one day after a couple of cups of coffee, Anna and I made our way to Wind Beach for the kayak rental.  For 600 baht we rented a double kayak complete with life jackets and a dry bag for the entire day.  We were supposed to give something as a deposit for the rental (passport- though recently I heard it’s actually illegal for people in Thailand to hold your passport, monetary deposit, room key, something!) but as we didn’t arrive THAT prepared, after a few minutes the guy simply said, “no problem, just write your name, where you stay on the island and where you from”.  Good thing!

We packed the kayak with our stuff and a large plastic bottle of water, snapped on the life vests and headed out to sea!  I’d only done sea kayaking once before in my life and that was years ago in Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica in a single kayak to boot.  Riding in a double kayak is a teeny bit different.  First off communication is KEY!!  For if one person is paddling right and the other left, well no one would get anywhere!  Since Anna is similar in nature to myself however, even when we did goof up or get out of sync, we simply laughed it up and got back in communication.  It did take probably the first 10 minutes or so for us to completely organize ourselves with our respective duties on the kayak (Anna in the back would call out commands- left, right, steering!!- and I in the front would look out for obstacles) but once we did we rocked it out!

The morning sea while not insanely choppy did have quite a few waves to overcome.  The channel between Koh Tao and Koh Nangyuan is often frequented by passing dive boats, tour boats and taxi boat traffic which added to the waves, but we took it all in stride.  Currents were another thing to contend with as we found ourselves often being spun toward land so we had to paddle to the left much more than to the right, which of course exhausted that side faster.

We crossed the channel safely however and then were faced with a new question… Where are we supposed to park this thing over there??  We weren’t given any instruction when we left so who knew where it was appropriate to land… The first little bay area we reached, just next to the pier where the boats came in, was where we decided to go and we very slowly and carefully navigated our way to shore.  I say “slowly and carefully” because just beneath the surface were tons and tons of coral and sea slugs/cucumbers!  We had to paddle very shallowly as well so we wouldn’t knock any corals and navigating became a bit trickier to avoid the living marine life.  We thankfully made it to shore without incident to marine life however and pulled the kayak to dry land.

It just seems that each beach that I’ve been to in Thailand just gets more and more beautiful than the next.  Koh Nangyuan is no exception!!  The structure of the island is essentially two small island connected by a sandbar which on either side exists beautiful ocean bays full of a ridiculously lush array of sea life!  We immediately had to get in the water to cool off and do a bit of snorkeling.  The snorkel didn’t last terribly long that first time however because the fish in that particular bay kept nibbling at us… Guess they knew we were new to the island, lol!!

As we emerged from the first “dip in the pool” we were approached by a Thai gentlemen who obviously worked on the island.  He asked if we were the ones with the kayak and then said we had to each pay 100 baht to be on the island…  It was then that we were told that this island was privately owned and hence there was a fee to walk about it and play in the waters surrounding it… We did come with plenty of money, but it would have been nice to know in advance of this extra charge.  So I’m sharing it for future travelers!  Also, I don’t know if for the taxi boats, if the charge to get there includes or not the 100 baht fee to be on the island… In any event, just be aware of this additional cost.

Moving on.  The small island bit to the South had a walking trail that led around the edge of the island to a beautiful viewpoint, so we headed off on it to check it out.  Mind you, it is possible to sleep on the island so as we skirted along the very shady (i.e. sketchy) barely still standing wooden plank path, we were passing several pleasant-looking bungalows.  We went to the viewpoint that was on the southernmost tip of the island and then had to turn back as the wooden path was falling apart and almost demolished in bits beyond a point, and headed up the trail that led to the top of the island for another viewpoint.

Though it was very hot and the walk was completely uphill, it really wasn’t a terrible walk by any means and not terribly high either.  The only struggle really was competing for space at the top on the rocks to be able to take pictures without other in them!  There seemed to be quite a few impatient people really who wanted to simply scramble to the top, took ages getting “just the right shot” with them in them and then hauled down.  So needless to say it took us a bit of time to get some shots, and once completed we leisurely made our way down.

At this point it was time for a nibble of food and as we sat down at the only restaurant on the island with our plastic water bottle in tow, it was then we noticed the signs just about everywhere that read “NO PLASTIC BOTTLES”…. Ooooppsss!!!!  Apparently plastic containers are NOT allowed on the island and all beverages from the restaurant are served in glass containers.  Again, just another little tip for future travelers:)  We were never yelled at for having the bottle however and we made a very big point of being sure to carry the bottle home with us, regardless of it being empty.

After the nibble it was time to check out the North end of the sandbar to see what kind of snorkeling action we could get there.  Don’t worry mothers we did wait about a half hour after food to go swimming 😉  The North end of the sandbar was lined on both sides with umbrellas and beach chairs and seeing as the sun was out in full force, we opted to pay the 150 baht for the set-up.  This part of the island was by far my favorite and it as quite evident it was the favorite of just about everyone else there too.  The water was crystal clear and reminded me of the waters I’d seen at some of the beaches on the Island of Elba off the Tuscan coast.  I lovingly started to refer to that bay as the “kiddie pool” as the waters were very calm, quite deep, but so clear you could simply stand on the edge and see all the marine life.  All sorts of fish (including puffers!!), sea urchins, anemones an cucumbers could be found in a relatively small area.  The bay was large enough however to accommodate several dozens of snorkelers and several classes of divers working on their refresher course.  It was absolutely spectacular snorkeling that I spent at least an hour exploring.

The rest of the day was simply spent reading under our shade, dipping in the kiddie pool to cool off, snorkeling and generally relaxing.  Around 4 we decided to head back to Koh Tao to turn in the kayak and though the waters were calmer in the afternoon, we did have some harrowing moments as the boat traffic (we must have hit rush hour) was a bit on the ridiculous side!  But after about 45 minutes and dodging about a dozen boats or taxis, we made it safe to shore and headed straight to the Wind Beach bar for a nice cold beer.  We watched the sunset while sipping on our beers (though it was quite cloudy at that point so not the best sunset sadly) and I even bought a beach dress from a traveling sales lady.  Though we were both exhausted from our day of activities, we had plans for the night as well… It was time to check out the Lady Boy Cabaret!

On to Night with the Ladies

Back to Thailand

Koh Tao Fight Nights

Muay Thai Fight Nights… Is there any better entertainment possible for an evening??  While I’ve seen fight nights in Sangkhlaburi over the New Year, it wasn’t until I started training in Muay Thai Kickboxing that I really started to not only appreciate, but also notice so many more details of the action.

On the lovely island of Koh Tao, fight nights take place every 10 days at the Island Muay Thai training gym.  And every 10 days I would stay up past my normal bed time of 10pm (hey, I was trying to stay healthy and get in shape so early to bed and early to rise was my schedule then!  That was until Anna arrived… but that’s another post!) and join in the fun of the fights.

Being a solo traveler does have its perks, as does training at the same facility where the fight nights are hosted, but in truth if the owner and trainers of Island Muay Thai weren’t as nice of souls as they are, I would never have had as much of a great time as I did in each of the 7 or so fight nights I’d been to since being on the island.  Why do you ask?

Ring side seating!!  Sitting beside the owner (Patone) in his elevated judges chair literally right smack on the edge of the ring.  The scent of deep heat oil was thick and awakened the senses, you could feel the sweat from the bodies fling your way as a punch or kick hit and ice was potentially flung your way during the round breaks as the assistants iced down the fighters.  There were even a few times where the fighters pinned each other against the ring and were pressing so hard against it that it seemed they may fall into my lap if the ropes didn’t hold!  All the action could clearly be seen and it just added another level of thrill to the sport!

Of course I never expected to be able to sit ring side.  But when I showed up for the first fight night and picked a spot in the top row of the bleachers sitting on my own I think the owner felt bad for me and invited me to sit with him, even offering to buy me a beer.  And again though I figured it would only ever be a one-time thing, after about 3 times it seemed to just be the way it would be.  It was a generous gesture and one I won’t soon forget for sure!  I also wasn’t alone in being ring side as others were also invited for the up-close fun, but I was just tickled to have been one of them 🙂  Though admittedly I do wish sometimes I would forget watching the fighters spit and (sadly) shed blood over the ring surface knowing that the next day I would be sprawled on the very surface doing my cooldown stretches or sit-ups, lol!!

Speaking of blood… Yes, Muay Thai is obviously a contact sport and there is always the chance for skin to be split apart and blood spilled.  I’ve never seen fights in Bangkok, but I’ve heard that aside from featuring (no doubt)the best fighters and having to pay a pretty penny to see a show, that the fights are quite brutal in that blood is often shed due to them being “glove-off” fights and the fights aren’t near as often broken up by the ref.  Here the fighters wear gloves and the ref often intervenes if it looks like an unfair hit (striking someone when they are on the floor) or stand-off (the fighters are locked into a hold where neither can really make a move) and skin breaking injuries only occur if an elbow has made contact.  Surprisingly most of the fighters don’t even wear mouth guards!  And while most fights I’ve seen result in the usual bruises, one fight night in particular resulted in a cracked tooth, 2 split shins, and 2 split skulls!!  Ok, obviously the skulls weren’t cracked (I hope!) but at least the skin on their skulls were.

Each fight night featured 7 fights in total, each going a max of 5 rounds or 3 rounds if women were fighting.  Winners were chosen within the first 5 rounds if they knocked their opponent out (or did enough damage that the opponent tapped out) and if the fighters made it all 5 rounds then the winner was chosen by the judge based on points they’d earned from each kick, punch, elbow, etc.  I still haven’t a clue how the point system works really (i.e. how much a kick or punch is worth in points) but perhaps one day I’ll get into that nitty-gritty:)

Pictures as you can tell are quite a bit hard to take in great focus… Of course that depends on the camera AND the user… But honestly while many more could have been taken, I found that my focus was diverted from the fight while snapping away because I kept trying to get that “perfect shot” and I didn’t want to miss a potentially great knock-out!

Sometimes the final fight would feature a falang (foreigner, i.e. non-Thai) fighter who had come to the island just to visit or continue training and they would be asked to fight in the upcoming event.  Those fights honestly were not my favorite to watch because they seemed quite poorly matched.  It always seemed the falangs were either really tall and ripped or just muscled to the hilt and they were up against a Thai fighter who looked at least 50 pounds (whether in weight or muscle) lighter and a foot shorter.

Probably my favorite of the fights was one that was cleverly fought.  It was against two Thai fighters and while one was getting in lots of punches and kicks, the other would either endure the hit or miss it by avoidance.  Into the third round it looked like the one fighter was going to eventually get pummeled over but he kept avoiding hits just enough to stay active and in a single split second when the intimidating fighter let his guard down, the other fighter let out a swing kick right to his head and knocked him out.  Ding, ding game over!!  It took several minutes to wake up the knocked out fighter too!  Overall, if ever in Koh Tao and looking for a fun night out, I highly recommend going to the Muay Thai fight night!!

Back to Thailand 

Unique View of Muay Thai Training…

I’m too cheap to pay for the upgrade to allow enough media space for video clips, so instead of simply uploading a video of some of my recent Muay Thai training from the beautiful island of Koh Tao, I thought I’d simply write out what a typical training round “sounds” like.  Plus, I also thought it may also be a bit more entertaining this way 😉

After stretching, several minutes of jumping rope, shadow boxing, 100 front kicks on the bag and my hands wrapped and gloved up it’s time for training.

Before getting into it, I gotta admit a funny on my part.  I would hear throughout the training that the trainers would say “ma” quite a bit.  “Ma” in Thai has several meanings (dog, horse, come) and since I was most familiar with “ma” meaning “dog” from working at the animal shelter, I kept wondering why the trainers were calling us dogs, lol!!  But then I recalled it also means “come” so that made more sense!

Round 1 (written as I hear it from the trainers with accompanying translations and/or my inner thoughts as the round goes along…)

  • Ma, Ma (come, come)
  • Jeb, pap (left front jab, right front jab)
  • Pap (right front jab)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Pow-wer again! (more power needed in the punch, again!)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Jeb (left front jab)
  • Ubber cut, ma (right upper cut, come)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch, come)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • One two, pap-pap (front punches, left first then right)
  • Oh-oi! (trainer is taking a swing at my head that I must lean back to dodge quickly or get hit)
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch)
  • Again ma!
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch… again!)
  • Pow-wer!
  • Jeb jeb, ma (Ugh, punch harder!)
  • Yees, goud (yes, good!!! Happy day! 🙂 )
  • Ubber cut ma (right upper cut punch)
  • Four ma: one, two, three, foor (4 alternating front jabs)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (whoa, I almost got hit that time!)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (hee hee, missed it!!)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust right knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust left knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Elbow (step forward, smack right elbow in the pad)
  • Elbow (remember to step forward first!)
  • Up Elbow (step forward, thrust elbow upward into face)
  • Ehy-uup (trainer is holding pads at his head signaling for a swing kick: right leg)
  • Oh-ehh! or Oi-ish-she depending on trainer (heard if the kick was powerful or good enough)
  • Ehy-uup (another right leg swing kick)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (yay-yaah!!)
  • Jeb (you get it)
  • Pap (more punches)
  • One-two, pap-pap (pretty much with every hit on the pads the trainer makes an accompanying noise, hence the pap-pap)
  • Block! (trainer is trying to kick my side, so I block his kick with my shin and fore arm)
  • Ehy-uup (swing kick again… Man this is getting exhausting!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Sweech keek (this means to avoid his low kick to my left leg by changing my stance of left foot forward, right back to right foot forward, left back so I can then easily kick the pads at his head with my left leg)
  • Oh-ehh!/oi-ish-she (oh man I’m really getting exhausted…  Just gotta breathe!!)
  • Ma, ma ( really it isn’t break time yet?!?!?)
  • Jeb
  • Pap
  • Foor: one two three foor (4 alternating front punches)
  • Elbow ma (strike with elbow)
  • Elbow ma
  • Ehy-uup (oh God another swing kick, BREATHE!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day!!!)
  • Ehy-uup (I can make it, I can make it!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day again!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick right, come)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (seriously is he just trying to make me feel better about my dwindling energy?!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick left, front kicks aren’t so hard really)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Jeb, elbow ma (left front punch, swing behind with right elbow and strike, then back to original position)
  • Pow-wer, again ma (not forceful enough, more power, dang-it!!! come)
  • Jeb, elbow (Ugh, that powerful enough??)
  • Yees, good (yay!! Happy day!!)
  • Ten: one, two, three, foor, five, seeks, seven, eight, nine, ten (10 alternating front punches at rapid speed… Energy, energy!!)
  • Again! (Phew, breathe, ok, again…)
  • Yees, again! (Seriously?!?!?! UGH!!!  Breathe, I can do this!)
  • Yeeah-pap! (final right front punch… Thank goodness!!!!)
  • Five ma ehy-uup (ok, ok, breathe, just 5 right swing kicks)
  • Five ma Ehy-uup (OMG now the left leg… I may vomit…Breathe, breathe, BREATHE!!!!)
  • Break! (Thank.Goodness!!!!! Can I go die now?)

Nope… 4 more rounds to go….

On to Koh Tao Fight Nights

Back to Thailand