So, we wait at the entrance to our villa complex for our driver who is due to pick us up and take us to the ferry port at Thongsala. And we wait. And we wait. When it becomes clear that the driver (who we stupidly had already paid for our ferry transfers) is not going to show we jump into the nearest pickup and hurry to the port. We needn't have bothered. Let me explain about "Thai time." If time were a person, in England he'd be an uptight businessman. In Thailand, if time were a person he'd be a dope-smoking rasta. There is simply no importance attached to time here. When Thais say the ferry leaves at 8.30am, they really mean that they'll start to think about leaving at around 9.15am, and will probably actually leave at around 9.30am. They would be sacked for tardiness within a week should they take up employment in London, not that they'd want to, obviously.
The ferry finally lurches into action after 9.30am, grossly overcrowded due to the fact that all ferries had been cancelled the previous day because of rough weather conditions. Liam and I just managed to get a seat, squeezed between two Japanese guys,whilst Kirsten and Louise wedged themselves down the other end of the boat. Then the fun began - the ferry took off at an alarming rate, bouncing off the oncoming waves with such force that every window was being soaked with spray. I had wondered how the "express" boat could do the journey in 1 1/2hrs, whilst the regular crossing took 3 hours. Now I knew - by zooming along, listing dangerously from side to side and with the front of the boat going up at 90 degree angles when it hit particularly large waves. Within minutes everyone on the boat had turned an unflattering shade of green, even several Thais. Children were throwing up their breakfast into carrier bags that their mothers had thoughtfully remembered to keep handy. Looking out of the window I saw sea, sky, sea, sky... and decided closing my eyes would be the best option.
A white-knuckle ride is not what you need first thing in the morning and by the time we reached Koh Tao we were all seriously fearing for our lives, even a group of tough-looking German guys looked terrifed. (Since that ferry ride Liam heard on the local news that a similar ferry had capsized in Indonesia, killing all 240 passengers).
I don't know if it was just that we were grateful to see dry land, but our first impressions of Koh Tao were all good - white sandy beaches, blue skies and neat little bungalows. We took a pickup to Sai Ree Beach,the area of Koh Tao famous for diving schools, and began our search for accommodation. It was very busy, being peak season, but we managed to find a couple of bungalows right next to the beach for 800 baht per person per night (16 pounds each, which wasn't as cheap as we'd hoped).
Koh Tao was beautiful and we quickly settled into a blissful routine of breakfast, sunbathe, lunch, sunbathe, dinner, cocktails and bed.
To our relief the sun shone brightly and the sea was warm and inviting. Finally we were able to work on our tans after the clouds of Koh Phangnan...
Days were spent lazing on the beach and meeting the various stray dogs on the island (by the end of our stay they all had names and different personalities) and by night we would go for a meal at one of the beachfront restaurants.This would be followed by cocktails at one of the many bars, our favourite being Lotus, which was a chilled-out bar on the beach with a DJ and some flame-throwers entertaining the crowd who reclined on embroidered cushions on the sand.
One evening we went to a party at The Castle, an open-aired club with all different areas and pumping house music. After several buckets (plastic bucket containing a gallon of Vodka, Red Bull and sometimes Sansong whisky) we were up for continuing the party so took a pickup back to Sai Ree Beach and joined the throng of people at Bann's, a plush resort and diving school near our bungalows.
Desperate to make the most of the sunshine we got up relatively early the next morning, despite having gone to bed after 5am. A full English breakfast soon sorted us out and we soaked up the rays whilst all the grease from our brekkie soaked up the alcohol.
That evening we enjoyed one last Thai meal, had a few caipirinhas and left Kirsten and Louise to continue partying whilst Liam and I took the lightweight option and went to bed, ready for our ferry to take us to Koh Samui bright and early the next morning. If it was anything like the last one, we'd need a clear head and a strong stomach for the journey...