In spite of fears of election violence, we got through the border at south Thailand with no problems and reached Ko Tarotao safely on Christmas Eve.
Ko Tarotao is a national park of islands in south western thailand. We decided to go to the main island, Ko Tarotao itself, because we heard and read that it is undeveloped and that we could camp at the beach for 30 bhat ($1 AUD) each per night. All my complaints and doubts about having to carry my heavy tent (SG’s idea) vanished as soon as we got off the ferry and saw the shady pandanus and pine-tree campsites opening up to long flat clean white sands and a warm clear green ocean.
I’d not seen such good camping spots so close to the beach since the Mission Beach caravan park and the Cape Tribulation camp grounds. Even the vastly more expensive bungalows and longhouses on Ko Tarutao are tucked way back amongst the trees.
Undeveloped also means that there is only one café and a sparsely stocked shop here – not very exciting but adequate for meals and water. Besides the information office from which one can hire a long tail boat or minivans to get around to other spots on the 12 km long island, there are no commercial ventures or any other services of any kind: no bars, no soundsystems, no touts, no parties.
Over the last few days, I’ve seen boatloads of people going to or coming from Ko Lipe, the only developed island in the Ko Tarotao park. Occasionally, the boats would stop and let between 2 to 6 people off, picking up roughly the same number. So far, the most people i’ve seen in this part of the island (and you can tell from counting heads at the cafe) is around 60 and I’d not seen more than 10 on the beach at any one time. Most seem to spend one night and then move on.
Looking at them get off the boat, run around trying to take it all in and then packing up frantically the next day to go to the next site, I feel lucky that I have the time and the inclination to travel slower and that SG feels the same way.