My Response to the Killings on Koh Tao
A week ago I opened up my email as I usually do to see what's happening around the world and came across a posting about the brutal murders in Koh Tao. Now, I've spent some time on the tiny little island over the years and have an affinity to Thailand and especially Koh Tao. As I'm sure was everyone else, I was appalled to read about the murders on the island and decided to share with your readers a little story about some of my time on the island.
I arrived in Thailand for the first time 29 years old and visions of azure water and palm fronds in my head. My journey was to last a year and I was ready for it all! I stayed a week in Bangkok to get adjusted to my new world. I knew exactly what I was looking for and using my trusty Lonely Planet I decided to head down south and look for my own little piece of paradise. I first heard of Koh Tao after unexpectedly staying a week in Chumphon. I left Bangkok on the night train with my plan being to head down to the southern points of Thailand – specifically Trang and Koh Tarutao – and during the train ride I got very sick, food poisoning most likely. With cold sweats and a fever I was vomiting and sh@#ting like never before and I was very concerned for my health. I had to get off the train! The train stopped in the sleepy little town of Chumphon at sometime around midnight and I got off in search of a hospital. Not able to speak much Thai, I managed to search through my Thai phrase book and pointed out the Thai word for hospital to the mototaxi rider. I spent the night in the local hospital and woke up mid morning very weak but feeling a little better, enough to stumble outta there and find a place to recuperate. I found a nice little backpacker joint nearby and decided to stay and recover before heading further down south. After staying a few days in Chumphon, I was so charmed by the locals that I decided to stay a little longer. I also met several nice Westerners and struck up a nice conversation with one guy in particular and he described to me his 3-week stay on Koh Tao. After a 45-minute conversation I was hooked and realized I had to see this island during my stay in Thailand.
It wasn't for another 5 months that I was finally able to land on the shores of Koh Tao. I spent time in Phuket, Pattaya, 2 months in the Philippines and a trip back home to the US between then and now but finally at 5:30 one morning I arrived after hours on the night boat with a friend in tow. We were so tired and worn out but we managed to find the place the friendly stranger from Chumphon recommended and laid our weary bodies down for some much needed rest.
I'll never forget waking up that first time on Koh Tao. The sounds of the island take you back in time and it feels like life is back to its simplest form of being. Walking outside and having my first glimpse of the beautiful azure waters, I've finally found it, I thought to myself, I have found what I came to Thailand for!
My friend Jack is a little older than me. We met back in the USA and decided to do some traveling together. He was nearing that time in life when one is thinking of retirement and with that in mind decided to head for Thailand. Myself, I was just looking for my first real experience of adventure!
At first we budgeted 1 week on Koh Tao, within 24 hours I had pre-paid for 21 days at my bungalow. I was staying for awhile.
My buddy Jack, to my surprise, decided he was never leaving. Fortunately for him he had saved a good bit of money back in America and within a few days he was in talks with the owner of the bungalow we were staying at about a piece of land adjacent to us that was for sale. One day after coming back from a nice swim in Hin Wong Bay Jack says to me, I did it, I bought the piece property! His adventures were to begin!
Jack arrived to the island with a cute little lady named Gae he'd met in Khon Kaen. She worked hard to provide for her family by selling clothing at the local market. Jack was smitten with her from day one and not long after meeting decided to invite her along for our little journey together. I'm sure you all can guess how he bought that piece of property. He put it in Gae's name. I instantly thought he'd lost his mind but then who am I to judge. It's his money and his decision. I left the island after a month and vowed to be back.
Jack stayed as planned.
He decided to build a nice little house and start to set up some roots in Thailand. Gae turned out to be an opportunist and decided to try to scheme with the old man who sold Jack the property. Their objective was to get Jack to build up the property and then get him to somehow forfeit the property to Gae and then she would sell it back to the old man and everyone is a bit better off, except for Jack.
Little did they know that Jack is a pretty smart fella and has a strong grasp of the Thai language. Let's just say he didn't roll over that easy. Nearly 10 years have gone by and Jack is still living on the island. He's had his electricity cut off, water cut off – both by the old man – threatened that if he has Thai people over to his house that they will kill him, you name it. He's still there.
I guess deep down I wasn't that shocked when I read the news about the killings on Koh Tao. After living there through my friends' eyes I've seen and heard how ruthless some of the local islanders can be. It's a hard pill to swallow the way they were brutally beaten and then raped and killed. It really is such a lovely island and this puts it in a very bad light. It's something that never should have happened. I will return to Koh Tao one day, but I wonder if it will ever feel the same for me. Only time will tell. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
I've never been to Ko Tao and have never really had the desire to venture there, notwithstanding that it looks lovely. It has been kind of strange watching Jonathan Head of the BBC report on the double murder from Ko Tao. There he is, commenting on this terrible situation, and behind him there are these stunningly beautiful beach scenes. It looks like paradise but the situation being reported on is awful, talk about a contrast!