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Day 18: Raining Cats and Wild Dogs

Ko Tao, Thailand

By midday, I thought I would have nothing to write about. After two days of relatively uneventful traveling, I was slightly disappointed. However, by the time I returned to my hostel at 4:30 a.m., walking past a wild dog on the floor in my dorm, this prediction had already been proven way wrong. The dog was only one part of this strange day on the Thai island.

To begin many hours earlier, our ferry dropped us off at Ko Tao's pier around 9 a.m. We had been traveling for two days to move from Laos to the southern tip of Thailand, taking a several-hour break between night buses and trains at a coffee shop in Bangkok. We hadn't slept horizontally in too many days for my liking, but our trip had proven successful. Every single person we interacted with along the way treated us with kindness, the Thai workers in particular portraying graciousness.

We received free food on our first bus ride from Laos to Bangkok, which was completely unheard of during our trip prior. Usually the offered food during transport cost money and wasn't nearly as tasty as this chicken/egg/rice mixture we received in little Styrofoam boxes. We also met with a (scheduled) kind woman at Thailand's border, who shipped both our luggage and us in the back of her pickup truck to the bus station. There, we had to remove our shoes before entry, and a monk sat watching TV -- so Thai.

There were plenty of other nice souls with whom we interacted, and their obvious generosity really left an impact on Roxanne and I. It definitely made the uncomfortable trip on buses, trains, cars, foot, and a ferry much more pleasant.

Anyway, by 9 a.m. the next day, we had completed the international journey to land on the beachy island. Except there was one problem: this supposed paradise was filled with thunderstorms galore. Even when not raining, the town was overcast and threatening. It wasn't exactly the tropical paradise we had hoped for, in which we had intended to spend the time swimming, snorkeling, and tanning. The island is also known for its great diving, but for us "oddities" without a diving license, that was knocked out of the itinerary immediately.

Roxanne and I spent the morning wandering around the seaside town, shopping, and people watching. By late afternoon, I thought the most exciting thing I would be able to write about was the Thai foot and shoulders massage we splurged to buy. However, an hour later when I dropped a showerhead on my freshly rejuvenated foot, the collapse of all calmness began, and several hours later when I found a mysterious and horrifying rash on the back of my less freshly rejuvenated legs, it just seemed like an ironically perfect ending.

Don't get me wrong, the Thai massage was incredible. Thai massages are very different from Western massages, the former applying pressure, pulling at toes until they crack, and forcing the body to stretch in seemingly unnatural ways. While less comfortable during the process, the outcome is more than worth it.

Maybe the night took a shift when Rox and I ordered crepes at "The Best Pancake in Ko Tao in all of Thailand," which is a cart located on a side street, one block away from another cart advertising its product as "The Best Pancake in Ko Tao in all of Thailand." This, too, is a block away from another cart titled "The Best Pancake in Ko Tao in all of Thailand," and it continues.

While deciding our orders, an unknown girl just walked up to us and started talking about our favorite subject, food. The topic being crepes specifically, the girl, a solo traveler named Maria, got along with us very well. And just like that, Maria joined our duo for the rest of our time in Ko Tao. Really, there is such a simplicity involved with making friends when traveling. I wish the whole world were like this.

Roxanne and I had decided to buy tickets to a pub crawl right before meeting Maria, and by the time she came back with us to sign up, there weren't any more available spots. This is crazy to think about... because we had unknowingly signed up for the biggest pub crawl in all of Asia.

I understand that I recently lectured travelers for going out more than sightseeing, but I also admit that sometimes it's fun to relax all day and then have fun at night. It's all about proper compartmentalization and balance.

With the trio dilemma, we decided that Maria would just tag along and we would give her part of all our free stuff. However, this proved to not be very much: the crawl was definitely a scam, as it took way too much of our money and offered very little free anything. In fact, in rebellion, I made sure I didn't buy any drinks myself. They weren't getting more of my money. Ha, once again, no scamming Elena Cruz -- the consequences are just too crazy.

It was still a fun experience, though, and I would even recommend it to other young travelers (especially when it's rainy on the island). This is just because the atmosphere was better than the loss in money. It's also important to know what's in store: some touristy events, and some louddddd foreigners.

We started off the night watching a fire show. Performers waved flaming sticks and chains every which way. It was incredible to observe until they brought out a flaming jump rope, and the incredibly daring/dumb (description depends on you) drunk onlookers all ran up to jump inside it. This might have been worse than drunk archery.

Who comes up with these ideas? Are they some forms of artificial selection to weed through tourists when the country becomes too populated? Really?

From there the hoard of people -- or those of us who survived the flaming jump rope challenge -- moved on. Together, we went to The

Queen's Cabaret. Here, kathoeys, translated to ladyboys, danced onstage for a cheering audience. Those girls could dance! The overall encouragement from the crowd was also great -- it's awesome to see such support for a third gender, especially when it is often stigmatized against in the U.S.

When the show ended, we piled back into the original pub, where a kind guy taught me traditional Austrian dance and talked about its culture in his home of Salzburg. I might have stepped on his feet about 10 times, but I can officially follow the 1-2-3 rhythm and even throw in some little turns. I wish this type of dancing were still the norm.

When we moved to the next location, mysteriously called the fishbowl, basically all culture was lost. It was just a large party on the beach, and I don't think there was even enough room to try partner dancing Austrian-style. This was okay because I immediately lost sight of the Austrian pal, which was also around the same time everyone else lost their dignity (haha).

While different, this was also a fun experience, and I met a lot of travelers from different corners of the world. My favorite part of the night occurred on the beach outside of the madness. At first sitting on stolen beanbags, and then a large rock (because we aren't the best thieves and were discovered), and then later the beach, a German guy in particular taught me several words in his language, and I helped him with English. The cultural exchanges on this Asian island during this particular night were unexpected but welcome.

After this whirlwind of a night, I must have still had a lamer time in comparison to The Hangover Wolfpack staying in my dorm. These rambunctious 30-year-old men drunkenly brought a wild dog into our room, and with the light of my phone flashlight, I almost stepped directly on its sleeping body. A wild dog. In our room. Someone get these guys to the flaming jump rope challenge stat.

Luckily, I was sleeping in a top bunk, and I was able to go to sleep while the mond was still out.

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