There are bad places to be stuck when travelling. An island in the gulf of Thailand isn’t one of them. Simon, Henry and I had checked out of the hospital and checked into the hostel next door. We would begin our routine of exploring the island of Koh Phangan, all whilst keeping in close proximity to the hospital so we could continue our treatment.
Strange looks followed us as we all hobbled around, jumping from beach to bar to beach to restaurant and so on. Every day we would check into the hospital for our daily doctoring. The three of us were treated in a row in the ward so we could chat and compare injuries, all whilst the Thai nurses would speak and giggle amongst themselves around us. We built up a good relationship with all the staff there, even to the point where we had access to unlimited free cake and hot chocolate throughout the day (a surprisingly enjoyable treat when in the strongly air conditioned environment).
Koh Phangan is around 10km long, with several forested peaks situated around the centre. Roads skirt the perimeter of the island, and a few dirt tracks cut across so you easily reach the other side. Beaches are dotted around, ranging from the endless sandy canvases to smaller hidden paradises. I can’t say too much happened in those following days, but we had the opportunity to explore and get to know the island. Some of the famously remote areas were only accessible by boat or long hot treks over the ridges of the island. Both options were pretty unfavourable; getting to the taxi boats from the beaches risked us getting our bandages wet, and trekking on tough terrain was obviously not a good idea. We decided taxi boats was more advisable, and fortunately the locals were more than happy to help get us to the boats dry and in one piece. The favourite technique was providing us with a piggyback ride between the shore and the boats, which was pretty hilarious (and even more hilarious for everyone else who got to watch three grown men getting helplessly carried to and from the beach).
After 6 more days on Koh Phangan, we were finally ready to say our goodbyes. All of the staff at the hospital came to the send off, as I’m sure we were all fondly known as those weird Swedish/British guys who kept coming back for more hot chocolate (the reputation you always want to earn as a backpacker). After some frantic calls with our insurance providers to clear all of the payments, we were whisked away in the ambulance to catch our ferry. Another kind gesture from the hospital manager, who only asked that we bring some European beer with us if we ever returned. Next stop, return to Koh Tao to meet my oldest friend Toby.
Toby and I were both born on the same on day almost 26 years ago, and in keeping with the annual tradition, we were going to celebrate in style. He and Emily had flown out to Thailand for 2 weeks to explore the country, and we were going to meet up to at various points along the way. That first meeting point happened to be Koh Tao, before we would separate for several days before meeting on the south coast.
We booked a hostel near to the beach, down a 400m dirt road which was encompassed by palm trees. It was comforting to travel to somewhere that was, for once, familiar. We knew the best places to relax during the heat of the day, and the best viewpoints when the sun started to edge towards the horizon. In fact, those last nights on Koh Tao produced some amazing skies through some cloudy weather skirting around the island. On the final night, we gazed into the warm sunset as a lightning-filled storm raged just to the south of the island. It was amazing to watch from the safety of our dry viewpoint, but it was signs of things to come. Wet season was approaching.
Before I knew it, the 2 days were up and it was time to leave for the South of Thailand, starting with Koh Lanta. Despite being 5am, Simon, Henry and William rose to say goodbye. We had been through a lot together, and it was sad to leave the group behind. Still in complete darkness, I left the hostel towards the ferry port. The Sun hadn’t risen yet but the night sky was ablaze with stars, with the looming palm trees silhouetted against a thousand constellations. Down the dirt track I plodded in silence. Back to being a solo traveller. Back to the way I liked it.