02.19.2020 - 03.17.2020
It's been a month since my last post and there are a few reasons for that disturbance in the flow.
Perhaps the primary one is that lately we've been focused on a lot of mundane things like rebuilding our life and figuring out the future. Historically this blog has been about our travels. Sure there is a bit of what we're thinking or feeling thrown in but primarily it's about the places and the people and our reactions to it all. And I suppose that's what those of you that follow us or those who stumble upon us are looking for us to tell you about. But it's also for us to look back on and remember how it felt, what we were doing and thinking, and the challenges we faced. I often go back and read old entries and even just the tone of my writing clues me in to how we were feeling. And right now how we are feeling is changing daily so it's been hard to put into words.
The other, much more practical, issue is that our mornings are now more active and that was my writing time historically. I'm less fresh and more reflective in the evenings so I wasn't sure how much that would change the "tone" and if it would change it too much.
But here we are. If I don't just jump in again I many never and I'm not okay with that. So we'll see how this goes.
LOVELY ISLAND LIFE ON KOH TAO
Of course it's great to lead with a sunset. It's wonderful to have a balcony and beach facing West again. But really I should lead with this one.
Because what we love here is the simple, easy, island pace of life, including that the laundry across the street hangs our clothes out on lines by the beach to dry. It's just off the beach road, at the quiet end where we are, but there is zero worry that anyone will take anything and there's this special feeling about putting those clothes on - weird as it sounds. We've moved back to beach dresses for me and tank tops for Scott. We wear flip-flops or go barefoot, which is easier because you remove your shoes to enter every establishment anyway.
This is a typical "road". There are very few cars, mostly just scooters. And although the young backpackers can be a bit crazy the difference from Bangkok or Nha Trang is that of Manhattan cabbies to the backroads of the Eastern Shore. The traffic that is here may not always do the speed limit but there's so little of it!
This is the view from our "front yard" in Mae Haad, which is a little private area of beach with loungers. Mae Haad is the "bigger" town with plenty of businesses and dive shops but it's also less popular with the backpacker crowd so it has less loud bars and many fewer goings on at night, which we like.
We look out on the docks that bring and take tourists to and from the island and on the dive boats that go out each day. We can sit for hours watching the activity and have learned to tell time by the comings and goings of the different ferries. Our little one bedroom apartment is in a building of just eight units, most of which are empty on any given night, and although we have A/C in the bedroom we only use it at night. It's certainly hot and humid here but we've learned the rhythm of the day: activity before two, rest on the beach or under the fan in the afternoon, evenings on the deck or out for dinner and/or drinks. It's quiet at night and easy to sleep.
We've started walking again. Scott is even going on hikes with me!
We've both started yoga again at a great studio that's not too far away. Just in the next beach town over, Sairee Beach (the party area), that you get to by walking the beach "road". Just a wide concrete path lined with shops, restaurants, and hotels.
Scott has been diving.
There are more dive shops in Koh Tao than restaurants, or at least it seems like it. It's really popular with the backpacker crowd for inexpensive certification classes. It's also has some pretty good dive sites. The visibility here can change from great to murky within a few hours this time of year so it's always a bit of a crap shoot. For example, Scott dove the same site two days in a row and the first day the visibility was less than two meters and the next it was 12-15. The dives are cheap here so you just go with the flow and they have pretty good communication between all the divers on the sites that were poor in the morning so afternoon dives can be adjusted accordingly.
We've been snorkeling from our beach. The water is so clean and warm and there is a great reef that even has a sunken ship just at the other end of our cove.
I've been having fun identifying fish and lizards in my iNaturalist App and birds for eBird. I've identified eight new birds for my life list here including the amazing White-bellied Sea Eagle that flies with the Ospreys in the skies out in front of us and Pacific Reef Herons that perch all along the waterfront on the boats and piers.
I've also been volunteering at an animal clinic with these sweet pups. Nothing glamorous. I help with laundry mostly - haha!
We've made some friends, rediscovered the pleasure of rum, and play a lot more music. We have our local bar next door owned by a hard-drinking Aussie - who also becomes our DJ some nights when the mood strikes him and he cranks the speakers and runs through his extensive music library. There's a favorite Thai restaurant where a plate of Pad Thai, a dish of Penang Curry, and two watermelon juices is $7.50 and just steps down the road. Jun runs our favorite coffee shop and doubles as our entertainment director. There's live music in a few places. Just down the beach they have a nice band on weekends that we can hear from the deck and a place up the road has open mike nights that are good three nights a week. There's lots of good, cheap Western food, grocery stores and produce stands with recognizable brands and options, and a population that speaks enough English to make ourselves understood in pharmacies and stores. Koh Tao is checking all of our boxes and we are way under-burning our budget, which is frosting on this tasty cake!
THAILAND AS HOME DURING THE PANDEMIC
The Thais are a sweet, proud, and honorable people. Some of their government types rival some of ours on the speaking, and occasionally acting, before thinking front - but most of the government seems to us to be forthright and dignified. There is something very peaceful and reassuring about being here in the midst of the pandemic. Cases are very low still, even though they were one of the first countries infected, their focus on tracking, testing, and isolating those affected seems effective and reasonable, and they are actively planning for it to get worse if it should by identifying special hospitals to take the cases. Some foreigners complain about being targeted with border closings but the honest truth is it's foreigners bringing it to Thailand - there is no local spread here yet. And, so far, they are only closed to seriously affected countries - well and also some weird ones like Cyprus and Vanuatu - which honestly seems reasonable to us. We just hope they hold off on the US until we can get our visas settled!
We've spent long days contemplating what to do. Should we go back to the States? Our insurance only allows us to be in the States for 6 of 12 months a year so we need to save that option for an emergency - plus we're not too impressed with the US reaction to the problem, frankly. Should we be in a bigger place with better access to hospitals in case we get sick? We can get medical evacuation from here to Bangkok and, as I know first hand, their hospitals are awesome. At the end of the day, we feel pretty isolated here and are hopeful it may skip us as fewer and fewer other foreigners are let in. Tourism is waaaaayyyyy down here. Fewer and fewer people get off the ferries every day. Also it's an easy place to "self-isolate" if we had to do that and the local population of expats seem like fun people to ride out the storm with.
In short, we've found our home for awhile if they'll let us stay. They do have a retirement visa that we can meet the requirements of given time. We go tomorrow to the Immigration office over on Koh Samui to figure out what it will take. We're relatively confident we can figure it out even if we have to do a border run to Myanmar (Burma). So far that border is still open and Americans can still enter (as long as we haven't actually been in America!) If we are successful we should be able to stay for up to year if that's what it takes to ride out the storm. Wish us luck! We wish you all stay safe and healthy!