Greetings from Koh Tao Thailand! (28 Sept – 3 Oct 2017)
My next stop in Thailand was one I added to the itinerary later on while traveling. I always intended to visit Phuket and Bangkok but knew nothing else of the country other then the party islands which I decided I would pass on, as there’s no Jiu-Jitsu there and I don’t party much. I found out about Koh Tao and Game of Rolls from Paul who I met in Paris (The Paris Post) and again in Barcelona (The Barcelona Post). Once my attention was brought to the awesomeness of Koh Tao, the home of the amazing card game ‘Game of Rolls’ I added it to my itinerary and worked out the travel plan.
The trip to Koh Tao from Phuket was an interesting one, at first I tried to call a taxi to drive me around the corner to the bus station but they wanted more than the taxi I got from the Airport. I’m not paying more for a 2 minute drive than what I paid for a 30+ minute drive, especially when it’s not that cheap. So I hiked it to the bus station. The Phuket taxi mafia can suck it as far I’m concerned, this is one foreigner they are not shaking down (before you comment they refuse to haggle a lower price). I now had just over an hour to hike almost 5 km and it was all up hill. I was walking as fast as I could with my 25 kg backpack and computer bag but the continual up hill slope was killing my legs. I had to keep the pace as according to the mapped out course on my phone I would make it just 5 minutes before the bus takes off. So many scooter taxis stopped and asked if I wanted a drive, ambitious enough for my money to try and balance the weight of me and my backpack on their little scooter that probably weighs less than me. Although it normally would have been entertaining to try this out I was on a tight schedule and low on money so I declined every one, waving them off over and over while I hurried up the street.
Covered in sweat to the point my shirt felt like I showered in it I made it to the bus stop on time. Luckily they were busy with everyone showing up last minute and were 10 minutes late before loading so I had a little time to catch my breath and cool off by a fan before getting on the bus to head towards Koh Tao. It was a long bus ride to the ferry as we were going North East and Phuket is down on the South Western part of Thailand, but there were some great views along the way and I could really use the rest after that hike. I think I slept half the way although I kept waking up as my seat kept falling apart every time I lay back. Once we got to the port we waited a short time for the ferry, people were given stickers on which island they were going to which determined which ferry they boarded. As it happens Koh Tao was the last island on the list, so I got a nice long ferry ride watching the sun set on the water. Of course that meant I also had to find my hostel in the dark. That wasn’t too hard with Google maps and also there’s not much on Koh Tao, pretty much one main road through the whole island.
Once I found the hostel and checked in I joined the other few guests on the balcony. The hostel was a big 3 floor building but only the top floor and only our room was used, the rest was empty. There were four of us, a woman from Peru, a woman from Australia, a guy from Iceland and myself. Three of us, all but the woman from Peru, decided to go for food and some drinks. First we went to a cheap restaurant that was just around the corner from the hostel. I ended up there throughout my stay quite frequently. Then we moved to a chilled out bar that was on a hill and pretty much in the trees, it had awesome smoothies and a good view. We talked about our travels, sharing experiences and adventures, tell each other how we decided to come to Koh Tao and recommend places to see. My new friends moved along on their own journeys in the next coming days and although I made new friends almost daily there I was left to roam the island alone for the remainder of my stay. It was a great first night on the island with the other travelers, I could easily see how people fell in love with this place.
There’s not a lot of sights in Koh Tao but at the same time it’s all a sight to see in itself. There’s two small towns on either end of island and a waterfront where the bars are. Koh Tao is a major diving island with over 70 diving schools so there’s a lot of tourist life down along the shores.
I did find a wonderful surprise in town as I was walking around, a Canadian restaurant with all kinds of Western food, including the amazing Canadian french fry dish Poutine! I was overjoyed to find Moose Knuckle Koh Tao and ate there a few times.
Most of the small island shore is a series of beautiful beaches and one large hill in the center on the island, Viewpoint Hill, where as the name states you can get the best view of the small towns, beaches and surrounding ocean. One day I hiked up the hill to take some pictures and enjoy the views. There’s two ways to the top, the old path that’s been mostly washed out by storms and is quite the long steep hike, and the new road that goes almost all the way to the top. I took to old path up and the new road down. I got some great shots of the island and sunset along the ocean but paid for it in being eaten alive by the bugs up there, having to find my way down in the dark and being caught in an evening torrential down pour. Still worth the adventure to tell about and pictures to remember this visit by.
As usual you can check out more of my pictures from this and all my other adventures over on my Flickr Account. There’s some great panoramic shots I got while hiking up Viewpoint Hill.
10th Planet Koh Tao (Monsoon Gym)
I messaged 10th Planet Koh Tao early to talk about options for finding a place to stay and soon found a cheap hostel. When I first got to Koh Tao I was burnt out from the hike I had to do to catch the bus so I had to rest a few days and just enjoy the island life. Once I was ready for training I checked the schedule and headed over to the Monsoon Gym, where 10th Planet Koh Tao is located. The gym is set up just like the gyms in Phuket with the main training area with padded floor, punching bags and a ring under a roof but no walls. There’s also an air conditioned weight room off to the side and behind it all are the stairs that bring you up to the newly built Jiu-Jitsu room, a padded floored room with a huge diagram of the 10th Planet grappling system on the back wall.
I showed up early and hung out on the stairs until the room was opened up, that’s when I met Stefan an american who like everyone visiting Koh Tao fell in love so decided to stay there. He’s a brown belt with some great teaching methods. The class was small only about 5 people one day and a few more the next time with students ranging from new students trying it out to experienced 10th Planet players. non of them were locals with all seeming to be visitors to the paradise island, and of course most of them seemed to have some surfing experience with their balance. Stefan started class with some pummeling, neckties and arm drags as warm up drills. His details for the footwork, body movement and control was top notch as they would be the theme for the class for the techniques. We moved into some takedowns, lazy takedowns as Stefan called them, simple techniques like grapevining the leg after the arm drag or just hugging the arm and sitting down. Stefan’s classes were an eye opener to what’s out there and has been in front of me all this time.
Rolling with the guys there was another eye opening experience. First class I worked with a smaller younger guy who was pretty quite so I didn’t learn much about his training experience or where he was from but I did pick up he was a surfer. When we got to rolling I found out he was quite experienced in the ways of the 10th Planet and liked to do really unexpected shit. He had really good balance and I had a lot of problems getting the upperhand for a takedown. At one point I got a necktie and wrapped his arm for a snap down only to have he pop back up and do some sort of cork screw jump over me and land on my back, quickly stinking his hooks in. I sat there and looked up at the guys on the sidelines with a big “What the giant fuck?!” look on my face, they must’ve seen it as he all seemed to be enjoying the show.
Another night I rolled with Stefan and another instructor Darius where I worked mostly on leglocks, or rather leglock defenses, as well as learned Stefan’s sneaky guard retention from a pressure pass attempt. Most of my rolling with the guys I was just trying to defend or falling into traps and figure what happened. With all the cool techniques I picked up from the classes my leglock game grew exponentially, that is to say I now have a some defense from none. It was an awesome time training with everyone and learning some great techniques and details for my game. The whole vibe training and rolling with them was very chill, even when trying to escape imminent heelhook death. I shot the classes on my GoPro and put together a training montage video, check it, and all my other videos over on the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel. While there share some love, like, comment, share and subscribe!
Game of Rolls
What makes 10th Planet Koh Tao so unique, other than the awesome club itself and being on an island paradise, is the positional training card game the head coach Victor came up with, Game of Rolls. When I first was introduced to the game by Paul in Paris I was blown away by both the concept of the game and the awesome artwork on the cards. I have carried around the pack Paul gave me ever since but only a few times have I actually been able to find people to who will play it with me. It’s absolutely fun and a great way to work positional sparring, I recently brought it to me at a BJJ Globetrotters camp and had a number of rolls using the cards, everyone loved it and wanted to know the site for it. By now you must be wondering ‘What is this Game of Rolls he’s speaking of and how does it work?’ rather than write out a huge paragraph to try and explain here’s a video with Stefan, explaining how he ended up teaching and training in Koh Tao and how this awesome card game works. The video is in the the link below, remember to show some love on this and my other videos while you’re over on the Panda’s Odyssey YouTube Channel.
After an all too short visit to Toh Kao I was off to Bangkok to finally meet Vara. The morning I headed out I noticed my left calf was starting to burn though, a serious problem was about to hit me..
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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