I flew from Vientiane (Laos) to Surat Thani (South of Thailand), and after cycling the first few kilometers, I was already completely drenched in sweat – as if I’d just taken a shower with my clothes on. Yes, cycling in the North of Thailand and Laos had also been hot. But, there’s a significant difference between sweating in the North versus the South, and that caused by the humidity.
Near Surat Thani, I took the ferry to the island Koh Pha-ngan, where I cycled some more of the steepest roads I’d ever seen. After every 50 meters on a climb, I had to stop, catch my breath, and drink some water. I didn’t know the humidity could have such an impact.
The island was beautiful though: stunning beaches and lots of tropical forest is protected and thus remains untouched. I saw monkeys, squirrels, snakes, spiders, and a dragon lizard, and none of them bit me. I did check my shoes every morning.
Workaway at remote resort
I relaxed for a week: reading, swimming, meditating and eating good food. When I just planned my journey to the next island (Koh Tao) I got a message from a guy called Jonas via Workaway: “are you interested in some work?” I actually did look for Workaway here, but hadn’t found anything interesting. Jonas told me he was renovating a resort which had been left to rot for 10 years “in the jungle in the middle of nowhere”. That sounded good to me. I cancelled my hotel for the next island and met my Workaway host a few days later.
At the remote resort
Jonas – a tanned Swiss man in practical work wear – told me the road to the remote resort was really rough. We’d better go by motorbike and hike a piece. I was happy I agreed and it was an awesome adventurous ride getting there.
There was one other volunteer already: Adam, an eager 24-year old from Hungary. He showed me the bungalows with jaw-dropping views of the ocean. I immediately had the impression we’d get along well, and luckily we did, because we were roommates for a week.
Our jobs ranged from cleaning to gardening and painting – all physical work. I was happy to finally find a decent kitchen too, and after having cooked the first meal for everyone, I was declared chef. I organized the kitchen and made most of the meals, which I enjoyed.
Jonas warned us of the monkeys: they usually come at night, and if you leave the kitchen open, they will make a big mess out of if. But they can also pose a threat to your personal safety. They never come alone, and if you’re outnumbered, you’re fucked. To fight them off, Jonas had a pot of firecrackers. We didn’t have to use any and never harmed a monkey, but we found some skulls near the resort.
A few days later, a German-Moroccan couple would join us. Jonas warned them of the condition of the road to the resort, but they insisted to come with their own motorbikes. The German woman quickly slipped and had to go back for medical care for her bleeding legs. They still joined the next day, but the woman’s legs didn’t look pretty.
Two lost Germans and the police
A few days later two German tourists got down to our resort with their motorbikes. They were hoping that after the extremely rough ride, going deeper and deeper into the jungle, they would somehow end up on a normal road again. Any map clearly shows there isn’t, the resort marks the dead end, so they could only go back the same way. After half an hour, around 4 pm they were back again. They couldn’t get back up. They were tired (especially the chubby German) and thirsty, and were afraid they couldn’t get back at all. Besides, in a few hours, the sun would set.
We were just with the volunteers at the resort, so there was nobody with a pick up truck who could help. In a slight hurry, Adam called the police to ask for help. They would come and the Germans were relieved. The chubby one said he would remove the joint he was hiding in his helmet before the police would be there. Smart. Then Adam called with Jonas who said “You called the police!? Nobody calls the police here. They’re corrupt and you’ll have to pay for help.” His advice was to sent the Germans up the road so just they would run into the police, and we would not be bothered. We executed the plan and never saw the police. Also, to our relief, when one of us went to town the next day, he ran into the Germans. They were fine, and didn’t have to pay anything. A good ending after all.
The Workaway experience
Despite the potential unwanted police visit, we had a great time together. We worked a couple of hours each day, made the garden look better, fixed some bungalows, improved the water supply, and cleared a way to the ocean. We chilled and had great laughs too. Adam and I also raised our adrenaline levels one afternoon by rock climbing to a spooky former Russian mafia (so we heard) secluded beach.