Stranded on a Desert Island

We live on a little island in the middle of the Gulf of Thailand, and the only way to get here is by boat.

At this time of year, Koh Tao has a brief but intense rainy season. A lot of locals head to sunnier places, and tourists opt for alternative destinations until the sky cries itself dry. However, we’ve elected to stay on this wet, lonely island, and now we’re stranded.

From our balcony, we’re watching the show unfold. Moody clouds are releasing dark smears over the island. I’ve never seen rain quite like this before.

Darkness has settled in as though it’s forever. Thunder rumbles overhead. It’s both scary and thrilling.

The sound of fat droplets falling on fronds is captivating.

We sit together in silence, watching and listening, hypnotized by the weather.

Sophia, the neighbour’s dog, comes by our bungalow, shaking from the cold. Twenty-four degrees Celsius is bone-chilling for a dog born in the tropics. She curls herself up into a tangle of limbs and tries to get warm.

We take pity on her and wrap her up in a blanket. “I’m also really hungry,” she says with her well-practiced expression of misery. “Bread and butter? Er, no. I only eat chicken.”

There is nowhere else to go until the rain stops. We’re stranded.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.

Leave a Comment

  • Hannah October 24, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Simply lovely Torre. Your photos have something so magical about them, you made me wish is was raining here in Goa too! We caught the tail-end of the monsoon when we first arrived, but now are being blasted by the searing heat every day. A little rain would be wonderful right about now 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche October 24, 2012, 12:36 pm

      Yes, but you have KITTENS. And kittens are so much better than rain.

      • Hannah October 25, 2012, 5:51 am

        I can’t argue with that one!

  • Dyanne@TravelnLass October 24, 2012, 1:34 pm

    I KNOW – the rain here in Dalat lately too, is like nothing I could ever even IMAGINE. Makes my years amid the drizzle of Seattle seem like a trudge through the desert. Incessant, veritable CURTAINS of water, the noise so loud on the roof I can’t even THINK! Makes me wonder where on EARTH all that water is coming from. I mean, surely the OCEANS must be drying up, no?

    So powerful. So awesome.

    And yes. I too, couldn’t be happier.

    (I’m actually kind of dreading heading to the sunshine in Oz next week.)

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 2:57 am

      Whenever I go from the wet tropics back home to Melbourne, Australia, my nose bleeds from the shock of breathing dry air.

  • looloolooweez October 24, 2012, 1:41 pm

    This looks beautiful and terrifying all at once. It makes me think of the spring storms we’d get out in West Texas. The rain was so badly needed, and all of the kids on the block would go out and play in it, and sometimes the school would close because the campus flooded so easily… but the possibility of real serious flooding and tornadoes was always a looming threat, too.

    You are a great photographer! It is rare that I see photos of rain that are so well-done that they bring back memories like that.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:00 am

      Your description of West Texas sounds like the beginning of an ominous book I want to be reading right now.

      Thanks for your lovely compliment. I love my camera but I don’t feel like I really know how to control it. When photos come out well, I thank my lenses.

  • Pernilla October 24, 2012, 3:30 pm

    There is something so spectacular and impressive with a real storm that just washes everything away, to really feel the powers of mother nature. Your post makes me wish for rain, being in Southern California makes it a very rare occasion. And somehow the few times it has happened during my 2 months stay (3) I seems to be the only one appreciating it…

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:02 am

      I’ve never experienced a torrential downpour in California. On the freak occasion that it happens, I guess people’s houses go sliding down mountainsides …

  • Carmel October 24, 2012, 3:50 pm

    That may have been one of the saddest puppy faces I’ve seen. It finally starting raining here in Portland (and will continue for the next 6 months or so…), but right now I’m actually enjoying it. It’s nice to cozy in and not feel obligated to do anything. Just enjoy the sound and the fresh smells.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:04 am

      Yeah, don’t buy into it. She’s a pro at performing the Sad Puppy Face.

      Rain gives you an excuse to do nothing, which is always a sweet relief.

  • Wanderlust October 24, 2012, 4:10 pm

    So beautiful. There is something awe inspiring about that kind of intensity. We sometimes get such a deluge here in the Midwest so that streets flood almost instantly, but then it passes in a matter of hours. But while it’s raining, it’s hard not to just sit and stare out the window and experience it.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:05 am

      Like fire, rain has a way of pulling you into the moment.

  • Pablo October 24, 2012, 4:34 pm

    Beautiful, Torre. The place, the circumstance, the pics and your description.

    Un abrazo,

    Primo Pablo

  • Wanda St.Hilaire October 24, 2012, 5:28 pm

    That’s because all we need is love … and you’ve got it!

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:07 am

      Yes. In the form of one Argentinean and one fur baby. 🙂

  • Antonia Murphy October 24, 2012, 5:33 pm

    I love it! Those shots of the sodden skies look like Chinese paintings on silk. You take such beautiful photographs. (That man trophy sipping a tropical drink looks pretty good, too.)

    I can imagine, though, that after a few weeks of this, the mold will begin to set in. Two words: WHITE VINEGAR.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:09 am

      Oh, I know all about white vinegar. The teak on our boat would grow furry within 3 days. The humidity isn’t as bad here as it was in French Polynesia.

  • Sarah Somewhere October 24, 2012, 6:34 pm

    Beautiful! Love a good rainstorm, your words and photos make me feel like I’m watching the clouds roll in and sipping mate myself (that is what he’s doing right?).

  • Laura October 24, 2012, 8:19 pm

    So intensely romantic…I would have written an epic romance novel during the rainy season.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:11 am

      Quick! It’s not too late to get here for NaNoWriMo.

  • jorge October 24, 2012, 9:34 pm

    for sure no body can be happier like you guys, but you need some croissaints and bizcochitos de grasa to complete the scene.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:11 am

      I agree! (I don’t even know what you’re talking about, but I know it’s food-related so I agree.)

  • Boo October 24, 2012, 11:23 pm

    Hmm I remember the tropical rain and storms when I lived in Singapore. Also good shagging weather I recall!

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:12 am

      The neighbours seem to think so. I didn’t think it was possible to drown out the sound of a torrential downpour with screaming, but it is.

  • Frances Palaschuk October 25, 2012, 12:58 am

    Thank you. This brought a huge smile and a little jealousy 😉 too… I would love to be there taking it all in. Enjoy, and pet that dog for me he is so cute.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:13 am

      I gave her a little scratch behind the ears just for you. Though now I have to wash my hands because she REALLY STINKS.

  • Amy October 25, 2012, 8:51 am

    Beautiful pictures! I love rainstorms! They’re not quite the same here in London, but it’s a nice time to curl up with a book (or a laptop). 🙂 Enjoy the rain! 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:14 am

      Books and rain go hand in hand for some reason.

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad October 25, 2012, 1:46 pm

    I love rainy days because you don’t have to feel guilty for doing nothing. Also, do I spy some mate?

  • Gennifer October 25, 2012, 3:32 pm

    I’m not usually a big fan of rainy days, but this sounds (and looks) lovely. Beautiful photos!

  • Lea Hammer October 26, 2012, 5:29 am

    i am a lurker and a fan who found her way to your website through a link no longer remembered. so pleased that i did. as someone who lived in thailand, your cerulean, five buck a night view made me ache with nostalgia and envy. i am a believer in things that should be too good to be true and, a couple of months ago, when i first started reading, i crossed my fingers that your bungalow in paradise would withstand the rain. seems like it has!!! 🙂

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:17 am

      I must admit that I was slightly concerned about the same thing! After many months here, I’ve learned to relax. The foundation is quite strong – it’s the termites that worry me …

  • Savvy Scot October 26, 2012, 8:14 am

    That sounds utterly perfect… Great photographs

  • erica @ expatria, baby October 27, 2012, 3:46 am

    Oh lovely. Beautiful images, both literary and pictorial.
    The rainy season came late to Indonesia this year; it’s almost November, and we’ve only had a couple of rain storms so far. Usually I dread rainy days; I abhor cold, wet and damp.
    But there’s something about rain in the tropics: the way that the pressure builds in anticipation of coolness rain will bring; the thrill of an equatorial downpour; the vibrancy that comes after the rain.
    When the skies finally opened in a brief deluge this morning, I was thrilled! Now, I’m sitting up on the 22nd floor, far above Jakarta, my view of the city obscured by grey and rain tapping at the windows. I’m drinking a cup of tea, and I don’t want to be anywhere else.

    • Torre DeRoche October 29, 2012, 3:21 am

      We had pressure building for about two weeks beforehand. Perfectly still winds, and an ocean so glassy that you couldn’t tell water from sky. Enjoy your rainy season!

  • Kim October 27, 2012, 1:16 pm

    Beautiful photos Torre.

  • Frankie (Bird) October 28, 2012, 3:01 pm

    Beautiful photos, beautiful words, beautiful doggie… We’ve had a less romantic rainy season over on Phuket but I still find a thrill in those spontaneous yet serious storms that roll in almost every afternoon. Koh Tao is on the list for another rainy season…

  • Charu November 4, 2012, 5:46 am

    Absolutely stunning photos, Torre. I loved every bit of this post!

  • Alana - Paper Planes November 6, 2012, 6:57 pm

    Wow -some great shots – is the weather still doing this now? We’ve (relatively) barely had any rain up in Chiang Mai this year. Definitely nothing like last October/November!

    • Torre DeRoche November 9, 2012, 8:20 am

      You know, we got about 3 or 4 days of heavy rain and now it’s back to normal. I think the monsoon has come and gone already. Sounds like it’s the same for you too.

  • DEK November 7, 2012, 10:50 pm

    I love tropical rain.

    Your photos are beautiful, but your description is beautiful standing alone.

    “The sound of fat droplets falling on fronds . . .”

  • Rease November 14, 2012, 9:51 pm

    This sounds very relaxing 🙂 That dog is adorable!

  • Rahman Mehraby January 14, 2013, 8:41 am

    I don’t know how often you get such rainy weather. While I cannot disagree about the beauty of such days, I love to see the Sun and enjoy its warmth on my body although my country has got plenty of it and many are trying to escape it.

    Your photos are fantastically expressing the condition there. I appreciate them a lot.

    Rahman Mehraby
    Destination Iran

    • Torre DeRoche January 14, 2013, 12:18 pm

      That’s why I love Melbourne. It has rain, sun, and scorching bushfire heat. Actually, scrap that last part.

  • Jimmy Dau March 4, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Beats any good day at the ‘office’!

  • Khushi September 26, 2014, 11:36 am

    Your photos have something so magical about them, you made me wish is was raining here in Delhi too! So awesome.
    This looks beautiful and terrifying all at once…

  • jhummun sandhya May 11, 2015, 3:20 pm


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