Koh Tao, Thailand
Koh Tao is my favorite island in Thailand. This stunning island offers beautiful sunsets with hidden beaches and secret look outs. You can easily get around on a motor bike or hop on tuk tuks if you don't feel comfortable driving. In South East Asia there are no rules on the road, motorbikes pass by with a family of five on one seat and once I even witnessed a local man transporting a full size refrigerator on the back of his bike. Oh, the things you see in this part of the world.
I stayed at Taco Shack for the eight days. It is in a great location only a five minute walk up the street from the ferry dock. The Taco Shack offers dorm style rooms in two separate buildings. It has a lovely community area, including a pool table and a restaurant that serves tacos and burritos if you want to stray from the typical serving of fried rice or pad thai. This hostel is a great place to meet people and is in the less congested part of the island.
While in Koh Tao I decided to learn to scuba dive even though it was a hobby that scared me my entire life. The ocean is an incredible force, the strongest force on earth and being submerged twenty meters below the surface was enough to make my heart pound and hands shake. However, Koh Tao is one of the cheapest places to get certified and I would never know if I liked it if I didn’t give it a red hot go. I found Roctopus Dive School online and was convinced to book via email by the countless five star reviews and the promise of good looking instructors. Roctopus is off the main street and partners with the nearby resort to use their restaurant and pool for your classes with your instructor. I recommend reaching out to Roctopus dive if you are on a time constraint before getting to Koh Tao because their reputation causes them to be fully booked most of the time. They even arranged a pick up the first morning of my training in a side car of a motorbike. Check them out here!
My instructors names were Pete and Richie, both top lads and great instructors. I did the four day Open Water 20 RAID course which allows you to dive down to twenty meters, two meters deeper than the PADI and SSI certification. The four days include an introduction day, practice dives in the pool and dives in the ocean where they test you on different skills while under water.
I completed my course and met a bunch of friends in the process. After each day session, we enjoyed the delicious cuisine and a cold Chang beer at the restaurant while we studied and watched the sunset over the horizon. (I heard the burger was delicious if you’re into that sort of thing.) While in diving school I decided to retire back to Taco Shack and hang out with fellow travelers before heading off to bed at a reasonable hour. Many people don’t do this and party all night long, I however, didn’t want to be the one to throw up in my mouth piece while submerged in the sea. I completed my Open Water and was addicted to the feeling of being in someone else's world. I decided to do the advanced training allowing you to submerge to thirty meters below the surface, explore wrecks and learn more about buoyancy and marine life. I spent $400 to become an advanced diver including a special dive to Sail Rock where many divers find whale sharks. The calmness and tranquility you feel when diving is unlike any other.
The night of graduation everyone was meeting at Chopper's Sports Bar to view the videos made of the diving trips. You can order infamous buckets or stick with beer while playing pool and waiting for the party to get started. After the viewing we all made our way to Fishbowl where the dancing and partying never stopped. Throughout the evening this very tall guy kept spinning me around on the dance floor. I could 100% tell he was European, standing at a tall 6’3". I was invited back to his bungalow to get more booze, but later found out he had more in mind.
I stood in the doorway oblivious to the situation about to ensue, this man who I will call Francis decides to drop his pants and underwear to the ground while saying, “Sorry I am small, I'm French.” Anyone that knows me personally understands that I do not hide my facial expressions well. My eyes bugged out of my head and I explained how he misread the situation. He quickly hid his junk back in his pants and apologized profusely. I explained to him that I had to wait until sunrise to walk home. That was an hour away so I did what any grown woman would do, I built a pillow wall separating the two sides of the bed and told him to stay on his side and not to touch me. At the first sight of light I quickly tip-toed out of that bungalow snatching some sour cream and onion pringles on my way out the door. As a woman traveling alone it is important to use the buddy system and if you don’t have a buddy, be sure to walk home during daylight just to be on the safe side. Talk about a nightmare!
I loved Koh Tao because it had the most beautiful beaches. You could rent a kayak and paddle out to the island just off Koh Tao. If you arrive by boat they charge you upon arrival. If you go by kayak, you easily sneak around any admittance fees. There is a beautiful look out on these islands that I recommend checking out. The sand is made of little pieces of shells and the beautiful trees offer shade when necessary. I recommend bringing beers and some snacks in your kayak because everything on the island is a bit more expensive.
There is also a beach farther from town that can be reached on a moped. You can park up the hill and venture down to Freedom beach. The water is a clear turquiose and a perfect temperature for frolicking in the sun. You’ll find a pathway that wraps around the massive rocks and parts of land jutting out into the water and brings you to another beach.. We sat under the trees and enjoyed the beautiful view before heading up to the lookout. It cost a total of 50 cents to visit this lookout and it is entirely worth it.
Booking ferries out of Thailand is easy. There are travel agency booths scattered around the island where you can compare and bargain down the prices. I decided to take the night ferry to the mainland of Surat Thani instead of a regular ferry to get out of paying for accommodation that night. The night ferry was basically a hostel on a ferry, with bunk beds filled with locals and backpackers. Another great experience and a perfect place to meet new people. The only downside is they drop you off between 4AM-5AM in the morning and move you to a shuttle bus to take you to your end destination. Just like that we were on our way to Koh Lanta!
What to do:
- Scuba dive/snorkel
- Rent a kayak
- Freedom Beach
- Mui Thai Classes
- Hikes to look outs
- Enjoy the night life & fire shows
- Freedom Beach & Sairee Beach
Where to eat:
- Chopper's Sports Bar
- Black Garlic
- SouthBeach Cafe
- Thaita Italian Restaurant
- Lanta Restaurant
- Up the street from Taco Shack to the main road at the main intersection that takes you into town turn right, walk about 200 meters and you will find a lovely family restaurant with hot pink table cloths. I went to this hole in the wall almost every day while in Koh tao. They had huge portion sizes offering the most amazing curries, morning glory, and pad thai.
Where to stay:
- Taco Shack - $7-$10 per night. Great place to meet people.
- Taatoh Resort & Freedom Beach - $22 per night
- Moondance Magic View Bungalow - $37 per night - On the other side of the island to offer peace and tranquility!