Letters Home: Koh Tao (the End)

“Do-you-want-to-come-fishing,” the boy’s father said slowly to him as he adjusted his fishing line on the deck of his bungalow.

“Do-you-want-to-come-fishing,” the boy repeated from inside. “Do you want to come fishing,” he said it to himself again and again as he walked through and out of the bungalow and headed down toward the reception area.

He wore a pair of royal blue swim shorts. His pale skin shined with the mosquito repellant his mother had applied.

 “Do you want to fishing?” he confirmed with his father one last time as he passed the deck. “Do you want to come fishing.”

“Do-you-want-to-come-fishing,” the boy started to repeat it softly again as he continued walking barefoot down the sandy pathway.

The little girl had brown skin and straight, jet back hair that fell just beneath her shoulders. She always wore a red dress with tiny yellow flowers all over it. She was watching a movie on a tablet at the resort’s restaurant with her younger sister.

The boy approached them timidly. They looked up at him from the mats on the floor.

“Do-you-want-to-come-fishing?” he said in a high voice.

The girls giggled. The older one got up and ran to ask her mother, who owned the resort, what he was saying. The boy’s father arrived and spoke with her for moment. They decided it would be best if the girls just watched. There were only two fishing poles anyway.

***

The Danish boy in the blue shorts arrived here with his parents the same day I did. Their bungalow is next door to mine. They keep their window open and have towels and sarongs hanging on the side of their deck to dry.

It was a long journey here from Chiang Mai. It took two days, starting with that night train last Saturday, then the 12 plus hour wait at the airport for a delayed flight that took just an hour. I arrived in the port city of Chumphon around 9:30 Sunday night, irritable and exhausted. My plan was just to keep going and catch the night boat to Koh Tao, even though it would have gotten me to the island at 5am. I just wanted to be there already.

I expected to see taxis when exited the airport, but there were none. Instead there were two lines of representatives from tour companies holding up their company signs just outside the airport’s doors.
An older woman, squat and brown, with her black and grey hair tied up in a bun smiled at me and asked if I was going to Koh Tao. That was exactly where I was going. Her sign said “Fame Tour.” I had seen the name online.

“You have a night boat?” I asked.

She hesitated. “Yes, yes, this way.”

“How much is it?” I asked.

“Uh…600 baht for everything,” she said.

Six hundred, I thought, and then realized that I had forgotten to look up what the prices should be for the ferry rides. It was too late. No wifi. I didn’t care. I was tired.

“Ok,” I said.

I walked toward the Fame van, where a small man in jeans and a grey shirt with a little red Fame logo on the chest stood near the trunk. He smiled and took my backpack. I climbed into the air conditioned van with clean black leather seats. A Thai woman got in and sat behind me just before a German couple who had been on my plane climbed in.
“Hello everybody,” the German woman said.

The Thai woman giggled. I said hi under my breath. It was the best I could do. The older Thai woman got in and sat next to me as the driver took his place at the wheel and we were off; to where, exactly, I did not know.

The Fame woman got on her cell phone immediately and spoke to someone, conferring with the driver a couple times in between. I knew what was happening; she was calling someone to ask about the night boat and they were telling her no.

When she hung up the phone, she put her hand on my shoulder, “excuse me,” she said. Here we go. She said the night boat left at 10pm. I didn’t bother to check the time.

“I thought it was at 12,” I said.

“No, 10 o’clock,” she insisted.

“So where are you taking me then?” Helpless.

“We go to hostel and you can take ferry in the morning. 600 baht, plus taxi, 100 baht,”she said, and added 150 baht to the price for the present ride to the hostel.

“You said 600 for everything,” I protested weakly.

She went over all the costs again, assuring me it would be more expensive than 600 baht.

“Yes, but that’s not what you said,” I was defeated as I turned my head from her to look out the window.

The roads were dark and lined on either side with thick layers of trees. We passed just a couple of lit up little shops on the 40 minute ride into town.

When we finally made it to the hostel the woman put her arm on my shoulder again and said we were there. I only nodded and went to take my bag from the trunk. In the reception area, I picked out the cheapest ferry ride, which was 500 baht (taxi to the port included) and would leave at 7am; and the cheapest  room, which was 150 baht and described on the price list as “a mat on the floor.”

Another woman took me up to my room as the older lady joked pleasantly that she couldn’t make it up the stairs. A mat on the floor, it was. The room had a green tile floor and white walls with spots and streaks of brown in some places near the queen sized mattress that lay on the floor in the corner of the room. It had a yellow sheet and a red fleece blanket folded up at the bottom. The windows were both covered with blue sheets that floated with the air from the fan.

It was nearly 11 pm. I was to be downstairs at 5:45 the next morning. I couldn’t wait for the night to be over.

I pulled out a sheet from my backpack and laid it out on the mattress. I puffed air into the blue collapsible airplane pillow I also had in my bag. Then I put all my bags on top of a wooden clothes rack so that the tiny ants that swarmed on the floor wouldn’t have such easy access. I was fairly comfortable then, but I didn’t want to be there. I was frustrated about that woman having lied to me and all but forcing me to stay in this place. But maybe it was my fault anyway, for lack of research. It didn’t even matter; what could I do now? Nothing but sleep.

*

Ten hours later, I leaned against the railing on the top deck of a ferry as it crashed through deep black waters and approached the rocky, mountainous jungle island of Koh Tao. It was surreal. I had made it.

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