Koh Tao is a tiny turtle shaped island north of Koh Samui.  Where we stayed in Aow Luek Bay can be accessed from Penang by taking a taxi, a flight, another flight, a ferry and a 4×4.  In other words, remote.  There were no souvenir hawkers pacing the beach, no massage tables, our bungalow didn’t have a swimming pool and there was exactly one restaurant on the beach where we took all of our meals, snacks and late afternoon libations.  It was the perfect spot for catching up with Angel and Craig, relaxing, doing a bit of reading on our insane balcony, and swimming 50 meters off shore to snorkel the colorful reef.  View the full set of photos on Flickr.

We flew out New Year’s morning, on Malaysia’s very nice budget Firefly airline, through KL(Subang), a wonderful new airport,  to Koh Samui, landing in the most pleasant airport I can imagine.  Open air, comfortable seating, free refreshments, we got to enjoy all of this on our return trip.  Our hotel picked us up and we spent one night in Koh Samui at World Resort, where the dilapidated facade gave no hint of the lush flora surrounded bungalows that lie within.  Tim, Miles and I were upgraded to a big family bungalow, while Angel and Craig had a separate romantic (save the mold) one a few steps away.  We enjoyed massage, pedicures, manicures, delicious Thai meals, a massive breakfast buffet and a swim in our short stay before heading off the next day.

Aow Luek was as described above, idyllic.  It’s so much fun to travel with kids.  The owner of our bungalows had a 2.5 mo old, the restaurant owner an 18 mo old, and Miles was adopted by two South African boys, 7 and 9 yr old.  We were on Miles’ schedule, waking with the sun (ok, WAY before it), taking 2 long naps a day and getting to bed early.  We spent three days like this, not leaving the bay until it was time to do the whole travel in reverse, straight through (12 hours transit!) back to Penang.

What was not idyllic was (read on only if you want to be assured that not everything is perfect for us all the time, else remain delusional) being the 4×4 and ferry ride away from the nearest hospital with a sick one year old.  We started to notice something with Miles after our dip in the sea at Koh Samui.  It was a little cloudy, maybe 80 degrees, but there was no reason for him to turn blue and goosebumps after getting out of the water.  Then he whacked his mouth on the corner of my wooden beach chair and started bleeding from the gums near his new tooth.  Concerned that he would lose his front tooth before it even came in and be gappy until he was 6 (in the genes?), I guess I failed to notice his temperature.  He had a rough night, up screaming at 3am, which I chalked up to change in scenery.  We got on the ferry to Koh Tao and he slept 3 hours while in the Ergo.  I could tell he was hot, so we bought a thermometer at the pier at KT and headed off to Aow Luek.  Sure enough, he had a rager – 39.1C (102.5F).  We had packed Tylenol, and spent the next 2 days monitoring his temp and administering the meds when he seemed uncomfortable.  He had some massive sweats and developed a rash.  At times he was beyond fussy, randomly screeching and waking up inconsolable at night.  Needless to say, by the second night, our German neighbors, who were probably enjoying the seclusion and silence before we arrived, were a bit fed up and came out on the balcony where I was pacing with a screaming baby at 5am and yelled at me in broken English “Waa!  Waa! 2 days! We no sleep! Change rooms!”.  Well, I was at the end of a 2 day with a sick infant rope and this dropped me down into the cellar.  I guess Miles sensed my mood because he shut up.  I could totally see things from her perspective, she was sleep deprived and frustrated (welcome to the club, lady!) but what did she expect?  I can’t exactly bind and gag my son into silence.  He was already medicated! Later the lady apologized and I finally felt better.  Also, Miles started feeling better that day, the rash cleared up and I brightened up, too, able to enjoy the rest of the holiday.

I am still a little on the fence about what I should take away from this experience.  On the one hand, my maternal instincts kept telling me things were OK, and I never really had a big freak out.  On the other, I question my decision to take our son into the situation where medical help was not immediately available.  But then I think of the kids living right there (even a 2.5 mo old!  Who spent most of the time in the “swing”, a board suspended from the rafters of the deck outside), they get on without our modern hospitals at their fingertips.  So, will we venture out into the wild again with Miles?  Probably.  I might just pack a much bigger first aid kit.