Most mornings, we retrieve our dried swimwear off our wooden porch, eat some breakfast prepared from our small refrigerator and get ready for another day of diving.
The dive master course will occupy us here on Koh Tao for a few months. I find that the longer we stay the more we sink into the rhythm of island life. Slower even than the slow travel we have been doing, life on Koh Tao is a readjustment. After months of subsisting out of our backpacks, it's strange to have a cupboard and drawers, but nice to have space in the bathroom and nice not having that last-minute packing adrenaline rush every other day.
The bungalows where we stay are a laid-back collection of wooden-and-concrete one-room houses on stilts. Ours has a TV and a fan, a hot water heater and two mirrors, a small table and a wooden slatted lounge chair. Mosquitoes generally keep their distance from our sprays and burning coils, but color-changing lizards find their way through the cracks in the board walls and visit us at night to snap up any stray skeeters with their long pink tongues.
As we walk down the hill to the waterfront dive center we can look out over the harbor and watch the first dive boats headed to the dive sites clustered around an outlying private island, Koh NangYuan.
After diving we head up the hill to shower and change and then go out again for dinner. We usually eat Thai food: Green curry soup with chicken and rice, spicy beef, green papaya salad, or just plain barbecued chicken. If we're feeling super hungry or are craving a little Western fare we venture a little farther into the touristy section of four-street Mae Haad town and wolf down hamburgers while watching a movie on DVD at Pranee's restaurant or order a pizza to share at Safaris. If we're tired or short on time, we stop at the restaurant closest to our bungalow, Bam Bam's. It's owned by a friendly local lady who works all day every day turning out spicy rice-y dishes for cheap.
About once a week we take a shared taxi (a pickup truck with two benches along the sides of the open bed) over to the tourist center, Sairee village. Sairee has most of the island's restaurants and shops, and is the party 'scene' we take the dive center's customers to if they're looking for a night out. On Wednesdays sometimes we go watch a lesson at the Flying Trapeze Adventures.
The trapeze school is on a small lot near a busy pool-side bar and across from a backpacker hostel. We buy beer at a 7-eleven and then settle on bamboo loveseats to watch our friends Ayesha, Darren or Chris climb the three-story ladder to a small metal platform suspended above a safety net.
Whoever's flying dusts their hands and knee-backs with powdered chalk, grasps the trapeze and waits for the instructor's shout to fall forward into the air.
Over the next hour, the students learn to pull their knees up over the trapeze, back flip before landing on the safety net, and, if they're doing well so far, fly hands outstretched to the waiting arms of a catcher swinging upside down on another trapeze. I love watching it, but Dan and I are resisting pressure to try it for ourselves. We're keeping our Koh Tao experience to one adventure sport at a time; under the sea is enough for us at the moment.
During the soccer World Cup in June and July we went to a busy Aussie-style bar in Sairee to watch a few of the games our friends were supporting. I don't really care for soccer, and need the rules explained again and again, but I do love watching soccer fans. My favorites were the England games, when dozens of drunk guys dressed in red and white miniskirts and painted flags on their bare chests. High entertainment factor at the cost of a couple of beers.
Other evenings, we stay in the bungalow watching DVDs, petting the landlady's cat or admiring her pet monkey.
Island life is good.