Thailand

Koh Tao: not just for divers

After one week traveling in the Andaman Sea islands we decided to go east to the Gulf of Thailand; the cheapest way was to take a boat to the mainland, then a bus to Suratthani  and then another a boat. At the beginning our plans was to go to Koh Samui first and then Koh Tao. We wanted to spend the night o n the ferry and there were no night boat to Koh Samui. That and our will to enjoy more days in a single island instead of hopping from one to another lead us to change our plans and we go straight to Koh Tao.

We shared this 21 hours trip with Lara and Silva, two Spanish girls that we had met in Koh Lipe while we were buying the tickets. They saved us to be scammed when we arrived in Suratthani: our driver left us far from where we should take the boat. The only touristic agency nearby was selling a combined ticket taxi+boat for 200Baths more expensive than if we have gone straight to the Pier; once we realized the arrangement between the driver and the agency we left the place. We had to take a taxi of course, but just for 20Bath each. However the taxi driver also tried to scam us bringing us to the wrong Pier to pay 50Baths more for the tickets to Koh Tao. It’s not much if you consider in Euro, but the feeling of being scammed is very bad in any level. In 4 we managed to avoid paying more and made the taxi going to the right Pier. At the end everything was fine, but it took us much more time and energy to get in the right boat.

Once in Koh Tao, enjoying a warm sunrise and a real coffee, we forgot that adventure and we found a place to stay. We are spending more than we planned in Thailand, so we have chosen a room with shared bathroom for 300B/night which was clean and at the back of a nice green garden not far from Sairee Beach (for us one of the best of the island).

Koh Tao is famous all over the world for the huge amount of diving schools where people can get their PADI certifications. It makes a very competitive market and one of the lowest prices in the world; around 300US for a 3 ½ days course with 4 dives plus accommodation. We thought a lot on doing it because it was a very good opportunity and everyone says the underwater here is amazing but finally we decided not to do it because we planned to spent just 3 nights in Koh Tao (we still have a lot of places to visit!) and it would be a kind of water marathon we were not willing to do. We will probably try to get the PADI in Philippines in June.

Koh Tao is relatively small and it can be easily seen in a day os two with a scooter. The roads are a combination of dirt tracks and concrete paths with, sometimes, very steep slopes so who drives has to do it very slowly and who sit at the back (guess who?!) has to hold really tightly.

We visited Tanote Bay, Aow Leuk and Thiang Og Bay: it’s crazy how they are beautiful and how different one from each other: Tanote is more rocky and the sea is dark blue and green; in Aow Leuk the sand is white and the water turquoise, it’s a very good spot for snorkeling because the crystal clear water is deep near the coast; Thiang Og Bay (or Shark Bay) is the relaxing one, there are not many people because the public access is more hidden, and the water has the perfect temperature.

As one of our passions is food (it seems we are the only backpackers who do not lose weight during the trip) we missed the sunset that day because we passed in front of a school festival with a lot of food stalls. Tasted and approved: fish cooked in banana leaf with coconut and chilly; very spicy dry noodles with egg, soy beans sprouts, cucumber, carrots and a bitter small round still unidentified vegetable; and for dessert: sticky rice with a kind of coconut pudding.

The rental of the scooter is for 24h. So we still had the chance to use it in the next morning. We got up early to explore the north of the island before returning the scooter. We had breakfast (yes, again food!) on a panoramic terrace in Hin Wong Bay (very quiet and isolated, ideal for peaceful lovers) and then we rode to Aow Muang (better known as Mango Bay). We parked the scooter on the top of almost 400 steps and we went down to discover that there is another access closer to the beach. As Hin Wong Bay, this place is highly recommended for snorkeling and for really calm vacation; there are probably some boats that do the island tour which stop there during the day but in the morning and in the evening it must be amazingly quiet.

We spent the hottest part of the day in a nice restaurant on Sairee Beach planning the rest of the trip and trying to write the blog which it’s not easy when we are not in a bus station or in a hostel like now.

The third day we had the brilliant idea to go to Koh Nang Yuan, the most famous (and touristic) spot of Koh Tao. We could see traffic jams of boats bringing people here to dive and see the fantastic Japanese Gardens. It’s been told to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand and it’s probably true except the fact that we were treated in a very rude way by the people who work there and by the organization in general. Paying a fee in some island is normal in Thailand, but they took also all the bottles of water. We left 20 minutes our stuff in a bar and they asked us 100B to get it back, ALL the places in which you can find some shadows are private… Anyway we suggest going there but really early in the morning to avoid the heat or, even better, to wait the sunset: the island practicaly “closes” at 5pm, after that time only few people stay there, the noise stops and the island becomes enjoyable.

After this boat trip we went back to “our” place in Sairee Beach, the bar of ACT2 resort, to enjoy another sunset and another green curry with rice.

Life is easy in Koh Tao!

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