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.
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.
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.
And it's called Sairee Beach, Ko Tao. I'm blurting out the secret — so consider yourself privileged. This place is heaven. For our first day on Ko Tao, Alex, Caroline and myself spent most of the day semi-conscious on Sairee Beach, letting the water lap at our feet and the sun pour down on our backs. We managed to fit in some time for shopping around, as well — and after some quick research, we've booked our 4-day PADI Open Water course at what we hope is a good place. It was a chilled evening: just a few drinks at one of Sairee's super-mellow beach bars, sprawled out on the island's ubiquitous cushion-and-mat "seating", before exhaustion overcame us and we crashed into bed. If the rest of my time on Ko Tao is going to be like this, then things are looking real good indeed.
As of today, Marie, Claire and myself have moved out of Mr. Jan's Bungalows (cosy though they are, and nice though Mr. Jan is). Following Sonny's example, we've moved over to the Unicorn I bungalows, where we are privy to what is possibly the deal of the century. For a mere 100B/night, the Unicorn I offers quaint little bungalows (albeit rustic), in a gorgeous grassy field — plus, they let you use all the luxury facilities of the nearby (but much pricier) Unicorn II resort! The newer and flashier Unicorn II boasts such freebies as a private swimming pool, a sauna, and free Internet. If you're heading to Pai anytime soon, be sure to check out the Unicorn thing.
We were a bit hot and worn-out from our wicked motorbike ride; so this afternoon, Marie, Claire and myself cooled off by taking a dip in the Pai public pool. The pool is located up on the eastern hillside overlooking the Pai valley, and it's run by a kind old Thai couple. We met a few other people at the pool, and we splashed around for a bit; but mostly, we just ended up relaxing in the large deck chairs, enjoying the gorgeous view (and the divine sunset), sipping fresh juice, and playing cards. Life sure is strenuous here in Thailand... I don't know how much more of this I can handle :P.
The third and final day of our romping through Doi Inthanon was pleasant, mainly downhill, and all over by lunchtime. We had a relatively early start: we left the Karen village at about 9:30am; and it was more jungle scenery, winding paths, and fairly easy walking for most of the morning. We were followed for some time by a few of the village dogs: the dogs around here are amiable enough to visitors; but they're bloody wild and vicious with each other! I guess that's what happens when none of them are de-sexed, and when they're all on heat 24/7. The morning rest stop was a looong and very relaxing one: we found a lovely natural pool, with a bunch of flat rocks all around, that was perfect for a ½ hour or so of swimming and sunbaking (and reading).