It's been a sun-soaked, adventure-packed, super-chilled three weeks I've had here in southern Thailand: first in Ko Tao, and then in Ton Sai. But now, unfortunately, the time has come to say farewell. In just four days' time, I'll be flying home to Sydney; and as such, it's time that I made my way back up to Bangkok. This morning, I said adieu to Ton Sai beach, hopped on a long-tail boat around to Ao Nang, and then caught a sawng thaew (pickup slash shared-taxi) back to Krabi. From there, I was lucky enough to purchase the last ticket on a bus back to Bangkok (via Surat Thani) this evening (my last dodgy Thai "tourist bus"). And after only a few hours of waiting during the day, I was soon on my way, and the return to Bangkok was happening. When I woke up the next morning, familiar (and still overwhelming) Khao San Road was there to greet me.
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.
Today was a hectic day on the road — especially compared with my past week of going nowhere and of lying on the beach. Last night, I finally said goodbye to Ko Tao, departing on the night ferry back to Chumphon. The ferry set sail at 11pm, and arrived on the mainland at 5am. It was a sleeper ferry, fitted with a deck-full of bunk beds — and miraculously, I slept like a log for the entire journey. From Chumphon, I immediately grabbed a minibus (pre-booked) west to the city of Ranong, from where I did a so-called "visa run" over the border to Burma (now called Myanmar), and then came straight back without hanging around. I didn't hang around in Ranong, either: from there, I caught a bus headed south; and by 4pm, I'd made it to the city of Krabi. Lots of bussing and boating to squeeze into one day — so much, in fact, that I had time for virtually nothing else.
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.
Once I finished my three-legged train journey to the southern tip of Italy today, all that was left was to catch a ferry, across the small channel that separates Sicily from the mainland. The ferry goes from Villa San Giovanni — a small coastal village in Calabria — across to Messina, one of the larger cities of Sicily. I don't know why they've never built a bridge or a tunnel over to Sicily: but anyway, the ferry is quite cool; not only do pedestrians ride on it, not only do cars and trucks drive onto it, but they even take the trains straight across on it! As for me, it was just my crazy self and my crazy bike that made the journey.
I've had a really enjoyable few days on Ilha Grande; but sadly, my flight out of São Paulo leaves tomorrow morning, and if I miss it I'm royally screwed. So this morning I had to say goodbye to this island paradise, and to begin making my way back to the mainland, and over to South America's biggest city. It took a full day — a ferry ride all morning, and a bus trip all afternoon — but after a great deal of time spent sitting on these various vehicles, I got to São Paulo. Now it's more sitting, and sleeping, as I wait for my plane.
My mate Tom and I decided to go on a boat tour today. They do a tour once every day, which takes you around the island — on a cool little motorboat — to several different bays and beaches, and which includes a spot of snorkelling as well. We set off at 10:30am this morning, from the dock at Aquario, and there were six of us in all (plus our captain / tourguide): three Argentinean girls; a girl from Bermuda (an island in the North Atlantic, still a British colony); and Tom and myself. We had a very fun day, and the weather was sensational. Lots of cool colourful fishies to see under the water around here!
I've only been here three nights, but I think I'm pretty much done with Rio. I know that I haven't seen all the obligatory tourist sights — e.g. Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, favela tour, etc. — but I'm afraid that I'm just not in the mood to hang around here any longer, and that I can't be bothered to go and check out those attractions. Rio's too big, too hectic, and too dangerous for my liking right now. It's time to do what I came to Brazil for: that is, to find a nice, quiet beach getaway, and to relax on it for my final week in South America. So that's why I scooted out of town today, and headed for the not-too-far-away paradise retreat of Ilha Grande (lit: "Big Island").
The sweetest thing that we did today, at the spectacular Iguazu Falls, was go on a speedboat ride up the river. We started a few k's downstream, and then powered up the water at ridiculous speeds, before we came close to some of the waterfalls. Then, it was time to get very wet, because the boat drove almost diretly beneath some of the falls! I tell you what: that certainly woke me up for the day :P. Great little adventure, and the drivers are utterly nuts. Fortunately, they also give you dry-bags to put your camera and other personal items in, so nothing gets damaged (but your clothes still get soaked). Photos and videos below.
We've done the pampas (three-day trip). Now, we're completing our tour of the Rurrenabaque area, with another three-day trip, but this time to the actual jungle! This morning, our group of four — Chris, Anna, Marie, and myself — commenced our trip to Parque Nacional Madidi, part of the massive Amazon jungle that covers half this continent, and a sanctuary of some of the world's most amazing plants and animals.