After two full days of rock-climbing, today I decided to pause my three-day course, and to relax and have a rest day. Three days in a row is simply too much: I'm tired and aching all over just from two; and I can't go on without a bit of time to catch my breath.
Day two of my three-day rock climbing course stepped things up a notch. Yesterday was good fun, but nothing serious: just a few non-technical climbs on beginner runs, where I was teamed up with various people doing no-frills half-day sessions. Today, my venerable instructor Let taught me the most important and the most basic of technical climbing skills: how to perform top-rope lead climbing. It's very different to simply scrambling up carefree, with a rope above your head the entire time: more thrilling, but also far more scary.
After a brief interlude in Krabi, this morning I continued on to what will be my final "real destination" here in Thailand, and for my entire trip: the legendary beach of Ton Sai. I've heard a lot about Ton Sai — particularly from my friends back in Pai — and I think it's going to be a great place to wrap things up, and to have some fun and relaxation.
One last place here on Ko Tao that I've heard good things about, but that I haven't previously visited, is a place called Freedom beach. Since this was my last day on the island, today I tore myself away from yet another trip to Moondance beach, and instead ventured onto new sands. Freedom beach is in the opposite direction from Moondance: it's on the eastern side of Chalok Baan Kao, in a tiny protected bay just in from Chalok's eastern headland. Lovely place, and a great final impression of Ko Tao.
Today was my third and final day on the idyllic Moondance beach, and it was no different from the days before it. More of relaxing, more of occasionally taking a dip, and more of doing very little. I found Robert in his usual nesting-spot, sprawled on the sand next to a big rock; and in the afternoon, we were joined by a friend of Robert's, who's just arrived direct from Austria (and who's not gay — although he does run a bar in Graz), as well as by Iris and Andrea.
Today I discovered Moondance beach, and now I'm officially done exploring Ko Tao. Why keep searching for paradise, when you've already found it? Situated on the other side of the western headland of Chalok Baan Kao — just a 10-minute walk from my pad at Taraporn — this tiny beach is home to just two resorts, called Sunset and Moondance (respectively). Moondance beach (I forget its proper name) is calm, sandy and serene. Today, I spent the better part of the day chilling here: just swimming, reading, sunbaking and sleeping, all day long. Life here on Ko Tao is just getting harder and harder.
I continued my exploration of greater Ko Tao today; but unlike yesterday's adventures, today I just wandered around on foot. From my new base at Chalok, I donned my hiking boots (which I haven't been wearing much, of late), and covered some serious ground. Ko Tao's a pretty small island, and virtually everywhere is reasonably accessible on foot: this makes walking a good option for reaching most places, especially considering how much safer it is than motorbike-riding on those horrific dirt roads.
With the dive course now finished, it's time to get out of Sairee, and to start exploring a bit more of Ko Tao. To kick off the exploration, today Adam and I rented a quad bike, and took it for a spin. A quad bike costs a fair bit more than a regular scooter motorbike to rent — but it's a much safer option, if you plan to tackle the shockingly poor-quality dirt roads that criss-cross most of the island. Short of running them off the road, quad bikes are extremely difficult to crash or to damage — whereas you can easily (and people regularly do) damage a scooter on a poor road, in which case you'll likely be facing a hefty repair bill. As I was still very much recovering from last night, Adam did most of the driving.
Having now finished my four-day diving course, today I said goodbye to Ban's, and to Sairee beach. I've moved down to Chalok, the second-largest beach on the island, where it's much quieter and more relaxed than Sairee, and where accommodation is much cheaper (I couldn't afford to stay at Ban's, without the complimentary room-for-four-nights deal that they gave us). I'm staying at Taraporn resort, where the bar-slash-restaurant looks out onto the gorgeous bay of Chalok Baan Kao, and where I have a cheap room that's right on the beach, as well as next to a mellow nighttime hippie bar. Now that I'm here, it's time to slow things down a bit, and to do nothing but sit on the beach and swallow a few good books.
Ban's hosted a big party this evening, which they held on the beach in front of their bar-slash-restaurant. They put on a wicked show: live DJ; cheap drinks; and an awesome display of fire juggling. Alex and I were pretty exhausted from today's diving, but we somehow managed to stay up for a fair bit of the party. As well as the juggling, they also doused a large hoola-hoop in petrol, and ignited it to form a ring of fire: then, they tied it up in the air, and they invited anyone and everyone to try their luck at jumping through it. Check out the video.