Choosing an island in Thailand

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 10.02.31 amChoosing an island to visit in Thailand can be somewhat challenging, given the number of choices you have. Obviously it is dependant on what you want your experience to be; full moon parties, resorts, diving/snorkelling, nature walks – you name it, there is an island catering for your needs. Yet I will choose this time to rave about one island in particular – Koh Tao. 

 

 

If you’re ever in Thailand, close to Thailand, or generally just existing on planet earth, visiting Koh Tao is essential. About 1/8th of the size of Koh Samui and home to some of the best diving spots in all of Thailand, Koh Tao’s small population, unscathed beaches and friendly locals bring authenticity and meaning to the name, “the land of smiles.”

Getting there: 500 Baht = $16.70
Getting to Koh Tao seemed simple enough – we were to take the night ferry from Ban Don Pier, the main Suratthani ferry dock. Now you’re probably thinking, a ferry dock is pretty standard all over the world – I mean its simply a dock, for ferries right? You are in fact incorrect in your assumptions. Ban Don Pier was spectacular. We arrived from the bus drop off point via tuk tuk at around 8pm, to find the road lined by what at first appeared to be nothing by bright colours and blazing lights. Upon closer inspection, it was a food market.

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After 3 hours and increased abdominal dimensions, we left the sound of sizzling woks and clunking glass behind to board the deceivingly well air conditioned night ferry, sleeping soundly until a 6am arrival at the island.

Snorkelling: 700 Baht (lunch included) = $23.30
Having not done my open water diving certificate (coming soon I swear!), snorkelling was going to have to suffice. After talking to the loveliest thai woman working at our usual breakfast spot (8am Pad Thai became routine), we booked in to do a full day snorkelling trip around the island. Arriving at the pier, we see an old fishing boat parked against the dock. Behind it, were what seemed to be 15 other boats crammed side to side, projecting further out to sea. After being told that our raggedy old fishing boat was conveniently the boat anchored furthest out, with some difficulty and help from the locals, we clambered from boat to boat, picking up the smell of fish residue and salt along the way.

 

The boat anchored at 5 different locations around the island, all with varying coral and rock formations. Yes, I managed to jump off the side of the boat and plunge into the unknown waters of “Shark Bay,”  – a literal translation as to what is lurking beneath. Just as beautiful as the sights above water, life underwater was inhabited by amazing reefs and a vast range of marine creatures. From sharks (a bit too close for my liking), fish that looked as though they had just finished paintball, sea cucumbers the size of my forearm and intricate rocky coves, the snorkelling trip was a definite success. Indeed, it was hard for poor little Koh Tao’s snorkelling trip to live up to my previous experiences of snorkelling off the coast of Fiji, as the Fijian coral and marine life is so impressive its absurd. However, I would still go back to Koh Tao and snorkel (and hopefully see what diving as to offer), any day!

 

 

Night Life: Beer: 70 Baht = $2.30  Cocktails: 120-180 Baht = $4 – $6
The two main areas to stay in on Koh Tao are Mae Head, and Sairree beach, Sairree being the main bar and clubbing area on the island.   At night, the northern stretch of Sairee beach is lined with loud music, lights and flamboyant atmosphere, whilst the more southern end of the beach nearing Mae Head bay, tends to consist of smaller bars, live music and more relaxed vibes. Yes, the bars do have great music and atmosphere, yet the real place to be is on the sand. Each night, sairee beach is lined with fire shows; locals playing with, dancing with and breathing fire (and large amounts of it too!). Get your drinks, grab a cushion in front of the bar facing the water, and prepare to be utterly mesmerised, (verging on hypnotised).

 

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Did this island live up to my expectations? Yes, I would say so. The size of the island makes it easy to meet other backpackers, walk everywhere, scooter everywhere if you are on the lazier side and get to know the locals. There most certainly is touristy areas on the island, yet I never did find an area which I felt was unauthentic or overwhelmingly western. Overall – get over to Koh Tao!
Ps – Another must do are the shakes at the stalls on every corner –  fresh mango, pineapple and ice is reason enough to go there! 

3 thoughts on “Choosing an island in Thailand

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