Select Page

Called the ‘turtle island’ because of it’s shape (even though it’s pretty hard to form that exact mental picture when seeing her for the first time), Koh Tao is about 50km east of Thailand’s south-east peninsula and the north-most & smallest of the famous Tao + Phangan + Samui trio of must-see islands in the Gulf of Thailand. There are many more islands dotted across the region, but many of them fall under protected marine areas, most of which are uninhabited.

After the morning’s journey from Bangkok, riddled with a series of tiny mishaps, we made land-fall on the ‘turtle’ at 14:30 and immediately started dodging touts. We walked through the masses and straight into the center of the small port town of Mae Hat. We checked into a small guest house, above a massage parlour, after spending some time checking through a few different options and getting all hot & bothered. We thought that since we had a few days to burn here that we’d just check-in, chill for a while and then get a bike to explore and pick out a really nice spot for the rest of the time.

That afternoon we rode up the west coast to scour the area known as Sai Ree Beach, just north of Mae Hat and hand-picked our bungalow accommodation for the following days out of a vast range of choices. The next morning Jan carted each of the big back-packs individually the 3-odd kilometers to the new abode on the measly little scooter, and finally came back to fetch Marizanne to finish the trek.

Our bungalow was in a lovely tropical garden environment with only the basic necessities – i.e. no air-con or hot water – but that’s all you need here. It was only after our first evening that we realised our piece of paradise wasn’t so idyllic.. This entire strip of beach only has one noteworthy nightclub, and even though our resort was a good 400m away, the sound seems to somehow bounce off palm-trees, buildings and shrubbery in a mysterious way to somehow find a route to us and resonate in and around only our little bungalow. It was a strange acoustic phenomenon indeed, as during the nigh Jan walked around and standing even a few feet away from the bungalow, the sound was completely muted, yet inside it was a disco of sorts.

After enduring one more night of this we booked into a different resort about 500m further north and this time it really was the paradise we were hoping for. We stayed in 3 different places in 4 nights on Koh Tao, so we naturally rate ourselves experts on the accommodation options of the island.

Despite having the scooter for 2 full days we never ventured further afield than Chalon Baan Kao, one of the southern bays and only about 15min away on the bike. Instead we focused all our energy and time on intimately familiarising ourselves with our strip of beach-front estate, enjoying all that the local restaurants had to offer and trolling over the reefs just off the shore-line with our snorkel gear.

It was an absolute pleasure to finally pull our snorkels and dive-masks out of the dark and forgotten corners of our back-packs for the first time since leaving London. We knew that they were in for an initial lonely few months, but that they would prove invaluable towards the latter half of the trip. And they are!

As one would expect, the days on Koh Tao drifted by almost unnoticed and before we knew it our ferry transfer to Koh Phangan was upon us.