Saturday, 27 December 2008

A Fond Farewell To Koh Tao

Well, it was with a heavy heart that I left this place after 3 weeks. Myself and The Jock hadn't thought much of the place when we arrived in Mae Hat, especially as it was chucking it down and there seemed to be No Room At The Inns. We'd also eaten on arrival, enjoying the chicken fried rice immensely; until I visited the bathroom via the kitchen. Swarms of flies buzzing all over every surface, and a cloud of them dancing around a pile of something unidentifiable in the middle of the floor. I'd gingerly pushed the toilet door open with a toe. It didn't flush, and someone's processed dinner was bobbing up and down in the bowl. Needless to say, there was no soap or a towel. I felt sick. Jocky wasn't too happy, either. Surprisingly, neither of us developed gastroenteritis on the spot. Nasty.

Over 3 weeks, you meet some right characters. And make some firm acquaintances. They feel like friends, but you can't really call them that; friends are ones I've been stuck with for 20 years, like Garfield Hodgson. Mates are people I know from work over the years. But these acquaintances are certainly great to hang around with.

Jocky had met a lad on the way down from Vientiene, Dave. On the first day in Bangkok together, he proceeded to regale us with tales of "Rub N Tubs" in Pattaya. Read in a Geordie accent, like Michael from Alan Patridge, to fully appreciate:

"So, like, you picks yer bird, like. An' she takes you into a room with a giant lilo, and starts smothrin' it wi' oil, like. The she strips us off, and gets her own kit off, like. She gi's us a massage all over wi' her body...gettin' all greasy like. Then you have sex, and get washed off in the hot-tub. Only 20 quid, like..." he says.
"Sounds a bit seedy, though? And Pattaya...isn't that where all the Sex Tourists go?" I enquire.
"Aye, well...I kept away from all them lot, like..."
The mind boggles. We were supposed to see Dave on Tao, but (not) surprisingly, he didn't phone Jocky when he got there. Maybe the penny dropped?

So...the first-rate lads on Tao. Red: the Canadian who's obsession with women, and how to lure them in using tactics from "The Game" , bordered on frightening. A good lad, though...despite attempting to kill me on a scooter ride from Hell. He actually said we were almost crashing into things because I, as pillion, was looking at them. I asked if it was nothing to do with the fact he was actually sweating gin, and could hardly see? It always tickled me when I saw him after a party at Sairee Beach, and asked if he'd pulled.

"I got some IOIs" he nodded, sagely.
"What the fuck's an IOI?" I asked, bemused.
"Indicators Of Interest"
"Ah"
"And what about the young Swedish girl you liked?"
"I broke the Three Second Rule with her, it's a goner"
"Eh??"
"Never look at a girl for more than three seconds without making a move. It's Game Over."

Put that book down, mate. You're a nice enough fella...don't scare them off, now.

Then there was Seb. Only 19, but really switched-on, and very good company. He said he appreciated the fact that I carried on speaking to him after I found out his age, as some older people didn't bother. Pretty narrow-minded of them. Their loss, mate. Seb's probably still there at the bar, smoking a joint and stroking Lucky (that's a dog, not a Thai prostitute). I hope he hasn't been for any more massages since I left, though. He told me one woman kept "accidentally" touching his balls. "Result" I said "Happy Finish?" "No, mate...she's about 90." Blecccchh!

Danno's a shaven-headed Canadian. Wears basketball vests and has tattoos of skulls on his arm. Me and him would probably pass each other on the street at home and not communicate much. But when you're away, you tend to see through all that, chat to people and realise you actually have stuff in common. Me and Danno both like smoking weed and drinking beer, and that's enough for both of us. He probably doesn't hang out with fat 38 year olds at home, either. But Heavy Ballads is still a shit genre of music, Danno...remember that.

Luke, an English fella, was good for a laugh. He always got all shiny-faced when he was pissed and stoned. A happy drunk, you could hang out all day with him at the pub back at home. Reminded me of Rowley Birkin from the Fast Show...as he was quite well-spoken. Sprawled out at Eazy Bar, cocktail in one hand, spliff in the other, is how I'll remember him.

Last, but by no means least, are the Eazy Bar boys themselves, all from Burma. Soe, the effortlessly cool one of the bunch and too bloody handsome with it, was always good for a laugh, and full of stories. English really good, just from speaking to the likes of us...and more recently his English wife Sophie. I told her Soe reminded me of Ronaldinho without the teeth. He told me some Burma stories I'll come to later. Yaou was the quieter one in charge of music, and occupied himself with his German girlfriend and rolling joints most of the time. Both important pasttimes. Zo was my favourite. About 4 foot tall with a loveable cheeky face, he had his spot in the bar pit, just behind the door. He was the only one who could fit in there. The other lads, Wan in particular, used to pick on him, with anything from catapults to fake guns. I think he secretly loved it...bit of a masochist. Easpecially when he'd pull his shirt up so they could get a better shot at his arse. A very funny man.

There was an odd chap there who I didn't take a liking to at first after a drunken, stoned encounter on the way home one night. I thought he was being a bit funny with me. Turns out he just gets drunk with the customers, and he was leathered that night. He speaks around 8 languages, and is self-taught in all...amazing. I don't know why he's working in a bar in Thailand?

So you feel an affinity for these Burmes lads, even to the point where we sat back and watched them charge a very drunk middle-aged English fella called Gareth off one night. He'd asked for a few hits of the bong, then wanted to buy weed. Soe had looked at us, then passed him a bag worth around 500 Baht and asked for 1000. Myself, Danno and Seb smiled conspiratorially. I felt a bit guilty, though...the lad was English. And we felt doubly guilty when he was dishing out bongs for us, and left us some grass as he left for bed. Sorry, mate...it was funny at the time. And you were asking for it in that state. Besides, Soe would have pulled his stun gun on me if I'd stepped in.

So I crept away for the 7am boat, a bit of a lump in the throat. Better to leave with no-one around, as I don't like Goodbyes at the best of times. And it's more of a wrench to leave at 8pm when the party's just kicking of at Eazy after the sun's disappeared below the horizon. So a jump into a pickup, a quick grab of some cash before the boat leaves...and it's off to Samui to extend the visa and see what else is out there.

If you ever visit Tao, go to Chalok Bay and Eazy Bar. You won't be sorry. Eat at Tropicana, the Penang Curry is amazing. Stay at Sunshine, and dive with them. I challenge you to leave. It's not Eazy.

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