Yesterday I was halfway there. Today I made it all the way — I've landed in paradise, on the scuba-mental island of Ko Tao. Only took two nights, two buses, and a 5-hour ferry: and let me tell you, it was worth it. My second night bus left Bangkok yesterday evening — after my little pre-bus adventure had concluded — and the ferry from Chumphon to Ko Tao departed at about 6am this morning. Now that I'm here, I've got a feeling that I won't be leaving for a while.
My brief stint up in northern Thailand is now complete. Trekking and elephant riding are all well and good for a time — but let's face it: romping through tropical jungle is bollocks, when compared with lying on a gorgeous tropical beach. And if it's beaches you're after, then the direction to go is south, and the place to find (and there are plenty of them to be found) is a nice, idyllic island. My destination is one such island: Ko Tao. And after the overnight bus that I caught last night, from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, I'm now halfway there.
Everyone's dream is to find a bar where you order one drink, and where they insist on refilling that one drink for free, all night long. Tonight, that's exactly what I found: I ordered one whisky and coke; and the lady behind the bar just kept topping it up again and again. Not a bad deal! The place in question was the "quintessential dodgy Thai bar" — quite a sight in itself. Deplorable Thai pop music playing non-stop. Ladyboys hanging out on the benches. Rickety old pool table with awkward legs and chipped balls. And to top it off, a z-grade horror-slash-porn movie on the TV (monsters exploding out of the stomachs of naked women, every 2 minutes or so). Why don't we have places like this back home?
I've been eating plenty of kebabs here in Europe, and I've been doing so with generally good results. They're cheap, they're filling, they're everywhere, and most of the time they leave you feeling fine. But today, I pushed my luck too far: the kebab platter that I had for lunch clearly contained some questionable meat; because for the rest of the afternoon, I was either asleep in bed or sitting on the toilet. Seems that I've had one kebab too many. Gotta keep a discerning eye on those incredibly dodgy-looking spit-roasts that they use.
This morning was my first-ever experience with Ryanair, Europe's favourite and most dodgy discount airline. I thought the easyJet flight was basic; but it was nothing compared to this. Flying with Ryanair is a joke, end of story. They're cheap, they're no-frills, and they get you there. It's best not to think about the rest.
When I returned to my old Rome hostel this afternoon — Gulliver's House — I hadn't yet checked in. And it seemed unlikely that I ever would. After my time down in Sicily, I haven't just grown careless about guarding my personal possessions: I've also come to be slack about making advance reservations. I have no booking; and Gulliver's (along with every other decent hostel in Rome) is completely full for the next two nights. Eek! Had I not stayed at the place before — and had I not happened to run into some very nice and sympathetic staff, who are working there at the moment — I doubt that they would have even tried to accommodate me. But I had been there before, and I'd just been robbed, and I was desperate: so they worked something out for me.