It was sad to leave our new friends - travelling seems to have different rules to real life, and you form bonds and become attached to people more quickly than you do back at home, but it was time to head to Koh Tao, where we would be spending Christmas with some old friends from Bristol who had also been backpacking for the last year or so. I couldn't wait to catch up on all their adventures. We had to get a horrible minibus transfer to Krabi where we had a short wait before we could get another transfer to Surat Thani and then the next boat to Koh Tao. There's not much to do in Krabi at all, but we did find a cool pair of Google Crocs for Heather when we went for a short stroll.
If I thought that the boat to Koh Lanta had been rough, the catamaran to Koh Tao was on a completely different level - a level found deep amongst the deepest depths of the seven kingdoms of hell. Within about three minutes of being on the boat, Heather and I were surrounded by vomiting men, women and children. None of whom were attempting to be the slightest bit quiet about it. Very selfish.
My iPod and a shared pair of headphones just about saw us through the three hour journey. We narrowly avoided being covered in sick when a woman stood up with a pale toddler who then proceeded to projectile vomit all over the surrounding people and the floor. I usually love boats, but I don't think I've ever been as glad to set foot on dry land as when the sicky catamaran docked at Koh Tao.
We'd splashed out in a big way (for Thailand, anyway,) and booked into a swanky resort over Christmas, but we still had a couple of days before it was time to check in, so we found a budget double room and got settled there before meeting up with everyone else. It was really nice to catch up with everyone after so long apart.
Typical of our luck, rain and cloudy weather plagued us for the next day or two. It was starting to look like we might not be having Christmas on the beach as originally planned. We had wanted to go scuba diving as well, but knew that if the weather wasn't clear then the visibility would be bad and it might be a waste of money. The only silver lining in the rain clouds above us was that I'd intended to do my PADI Open Water course in Koh Tao, but due to the stitches in my ear, I'd been forced to ditch that idea. At least now I could see that the weather was bad, I could stop moaning about the fact I was unable to do it - I wouldn't have wanted to whilst the visibility was crap anyway.
Instead of exploring the depths of the Gulf of Thailand, we spent the next couple of days catching up with each other and eating burgers. The boys had found a ridiculously good burger place, (and I think I honestly lived on burgers for an entire month after it re-awakend my love for them.) I obviously spent a lot of time making friends with animals too. I think that's why I enjoy travelling so much - you get to spend a lot of time eating and making friends with animals. It's an ideal lifestyle.
Checking into the Koh Tao Royal Resort was like a dream after so many months in hostels. Having not only a room, but a whole king-size bed and my own bathroom to myself was a luxury that I would have appreciated a lot less a few months before. (Even if my room was located practically at the top of a mountain and severely tested my fitness every time I needed to get back to it.)
The weather also decided to start being a lot kinder to us as soon as we'd checked in, and Sarah, Hannah and I booked in for an open water dive on the morning of Christmas Eve, (complete with our Santa hats, so we could truly get into the underwater Christmas spirit...) I wanted to see a whale shark, and though we didn't see a whale shark, we still had a lot of fun, (and I now have a completely valid reason to visit the Philippines, where I have a much better chance of seeing one anyway.)
The staff at Simple Life Divers were kind enough to invite us to their staff Christmas party that night, complete with a free 'all you can eat' Christmas Dinner buffet. We attended and brought all of our friends too. We ate nearly all of their pigs in blankets and stuffing balls, but they didn't seem to mind.
As much as it's nice to awaken somewhere warm and beachy on Christmas Day, it would be nicer still to wake up somewhere with your family. This was my second Christmas away from home, and although the sun and cocktails compensate slightly for the people you're missing, it's never going to compare. (If any of my family are reading, fancy a Christmas in the sun one year!?)
The manager of the resort we were staying in was grumpy and quite horrible, but there was a pet dog which they dressed up for Christmas Day, which sort of made up for it. I ended up spending most of the day drinking cocktails and cuddling the dog, before we went for our Christmas meal. As much as I wanted a Christmas dinner, it was horribly overpriced and I couldn't really justify spending all that money on it after we'd stuffed ourselves on free Christmas treats the night before. I ended up having a starter, a main dish, a dessert and a few drinks too, (and it still worked out cheaper than the set Christmas meal!) My brother would be horrified at the idea of me having a tuna steak for Christmas dinner, but to be fair, a Christmas dinner without my nan's stuffing wouldn't really feel a Christmas dinner anyway...
Boxing Day was a fairly chilled affair. We all got the boat over to another island, 'Koh Nang Yuan.' It was supposed to be paradise, but it had so many rules that I've decided I don't really like paradise much at all. You had to pay to get onto the beach, they confiscated your water upon arrival, and god forbid you try to bring a towel to sit on. Strictly no beach towels allowed. You're allowed to pay sit on the deck chairs provided, but it would probably be cheaper to buy one from a designer deck chair store and get it shipped over to you, Special Delivery. I spent a lot of the day wondering if it was preferable to feel like I was dying from dehydration or to spend three days worth of budget on a bottle of water to quench my thirst.
As much as I'd taken a dislike to 'paradise beach' or whatever it was that they'd called it, the viewpoint was nice. Insistent on climbing right to the top, I nearly broke my ankle, (flip flops aren't the greatest footwear choice for climbing,) but it was worth it for the view.
A short boat ride to Koh Tao ensured we were back to the hotel in time for a beautiful Boxing Day sunset. With my second Christmas away from home complete, it was time to start preparing for New Year!