Peace out Andaman Sea, hello Gulf of Thailand!
Koh Tao, aka Turtle Island is an itty bitty (21 sq. km) island with an itty bitty population (1,300ish) shaped like a….wait for it…turtle.
We started off by staying on the east side of the island and checking out Ta Note Bay:
Next we checked out the south side of the island at a resort called Pinnacle Hill.
The east and south side of the island are peaceful and beautiful but remote. The upside to life in the east and south is that there are some nice beaches that are not crowded. Peace and quiet can be found. We ended up settling on the west coast (funny how that happens) in Sairee beach.
Sairee Beach is really a little beach towntons of places to eat, buy groceries, pharmacies, 7-11s etc.. There’s a reputation of it being filled with loads of young ‘uns partying. This was true but…like..whatevs. Soak up some of that youth! I ended up having a great time because it turned out to be fairly easy to find cheap accommodations that are within walking distance of everything but still quiet.
There are quite a few Westerners who are residents as well as tourists. Many who have lived here a while describe Koh Tao in general as a bubble. It’s easy to move here from English speaking countries and Europe because you can make connections with other people and there’s a real community here. If you’re looking to really soak up Thai culture Koh Tao may not be the best place to hang.
What we’ve been up to the last few weeks:
- Learning how to swim.
Swimming is a great life skill to have because drowning is not the coolest thing. Upon arriving to this island our swimming ability was as follows:
Jean: could not go in the deep end of the pool because there was a legitimate chance of drowning happening. Not comfortable and super tense in water.
Joey: Able to keep himself alive in a pool but “swimming” consisted of flailing arms and legs with great fury and verrrry little actual forward movement. Could not figure out how to breathe while swimming.
Just a few days ago, we both swam…in the OCEAN…from the shore to a boat and back thanks to a dolphin in human form named Nicki, of Splashdance ‘n’ Swim.
If you’re planning a trip to Koh Tao and your swimming ability (or lack thereof) is holding you back from doing watersport-y activities (scuba diving, surfing, not drowning, etc) , contact Nicki. She is a miracle worker! One of the people she taught how to swim recently completed a SIX HOUR SWIM from this island to another island.
Thanks to her we were able to pass the swim test so we could….
2. Learn to Scuba Dive!
This place is a diver’s paradise: dive shops everywhere (seriously, everywhere) , some of the best dive sites in the world and oddly enough, some of the lowest prices you’ll pay anywhere to both dive for fun and get certified to dive.
We got out PADI Open Water certification (allows people to go 12m/40 feet deep) in a few days with a great group of blokes and ladies @ Roctopus Dive.
Roctopus has small classes. We got to meet some cool people from the UK and Germany who were in our dive class of four.
Under the sea. Under the sea. Down where it’s wetter, that’s where it’s better. Take it from me.
It was such a blast that we decided to also get our Advanced certification as well so we can go even deeper (30m/98 feet!) if/when we hit Australia. Great Barrier Reeeeeeeef.
There are no temples you have to visit. No museums to check off your list. No world renowned chefs whose food you HAVE to try. So what do you do?
Walk over to the bountiful beachside cafes/bars/restaurants and watch the sun set…everyday.
Undisputed cheap eats champion of Koh Tao
Directions: On the main road in Sairee Beach in the parking lot of the 7-11 (by Ban’s diving resort) next to the pizzeria are a bunch of stalls. Most of the stalls are grouped together in front of 7-11. If you face 7-11 there’s a separate stall on the left, on the side of the pizzeria. The husband-wife team who run this place are performing magic on a nightly basis. If you see this giant thing of pork cooking over hot coals you’re in the right place:
Order “pork leg on rice” or “crispy pork with morning glory” and you will not regret it! Two mains with two complementary bowls of delicious soup were less than 200 THB ($5-$6) total.
kthat’sit. Hug your friends. Call your mother. Peace.