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The Travel Diaries: Koh Tao, Thailand

By Charlotte Rick

Koh Tao was the island that had been most recommended to us by friends when we’d said we were coming to Thailand, and immediately as we pulled up to the port in the ferry I could see why. The water here is the clearest I’ve ever seen – which makes it no surprise that Koh Tao is one of the best spots for diving in the world.

Much smaller than the previous islands and a bit further out, Koh Tao is made up of masses of green hills alongside beautiful beaches. Unlike Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, the main tourist beach is on the west of the island, meaning it also had the most incredible sunset. It’s a lot less developed, with only a few actual roads, and a lot of paths that only bikes can go down (not cars). Food wise, we did find it was a bit more expensive, but as a smaller island it made sense that it was.

We got off the ferry and walked into the little streets where we hired a bike for the next couple of days. As Koh Tao is so small, the journey to our hotel was only a ten or so minute drive, so we didn’t see the point in paying for a taxi! We lugged all our big bags onto the bike with us and set off to find our hotel… which didn’t exactly go to plan. We were staying in the Sairee Seaview Hotel, which was up a little road into the hills (hence the name). However it took us 4 or 5 times of driving up and down the main road to work out what little road to head up! Once there, we checked in and got taken to our room. It was up about 5 flights of stairs! But was worth the effort – it was a huge room. It was really nice weather so we put our stuff away, got our swimming stuff and headed back out on the bike down to the beach.

We went straight in the water, which was crystal clear! The beach here was a lot nicer than the previous islands, mostly due to the amazing colour of the sea. Like Koh Phangan, the water was quite shallow and very flat. We both had a swim and just lay in the water, relaxing and taking in the beautiful surroundings. Another thing that was amazing about Koh Tao – the amount of dogs! They were literally everywhere. There were three that we were watching chase each other around the beach, through the water then back. One dog was on its own in the sea, just staring at the same bit of sand and occasionally pawing at it like it had lost something! It was so funny to watch – so far all the dogs out here have been hilariously weird! We lay reading our books as the sun started to go down. The sunset here was absolutely incredible!

We wanted to carry on watching the sunset so got dinner at the AC Beach Club which was right on the front, overlooking the beach. After finishing dinner we had a wander up and down the little street than ran behind the beachfront. It had amazing jellyfish lights! We then had a wander around the shops and little stalls in the area before getting an ice cream and heading back to our hotel.

The next day was our only full day on Koh Tao, so we decided we’d spend it on a day trip to Koh Nangyuan. This is a fifteen minute boat journey from Sairee beach, which cost us 300 baht each. We got into one of the classic thai fishing boats with a few other tourists and went across, getting quite wet in the process! The boats are very shallow, so the water splashes up over the edge a lot – be aware of this as I got soaked! The next mission was getting off the boat onto the island. We were the fifth in a line of fishing boats, and to get off we had to walk across the boats then climb up onto the pier! This was a real test with my clumsiness, but I managed to get across in one piece without losing any belongings (a miracle!).

The water here was even clearer than it was back on Koh Tao, and you could see so many fish just looking down from the pier! We walked through the entrance (which cost us 100 baht each) and were greeted with white sand beaches and pale turquoise waters. It was like heaven! We headed up to the viewpoint, which made James nearly pass out with all the steps in the heat! Once up there though, the view was worth it. You could see down to the other part of the island and the crystal blue waters around it. This is a picture I’d seen a lot on Pinterest etc but it was even more amazing to see it in real life. It was a bit hectic up here with people trying to get pictures on the rock and queuing, but luckily it seemed to get much busier after we had been up!

We spent the rest of the day lying in the sand or swimming in the sea. Koh Tao is famous for diving, and Koh Nangyuan had lots of people snorkelling as the waters are full of amazing fish! We didn’t snorkel ourselves (I’ve got a bit of a fear of fish), but James had his googles with him so spent his time seeing all the fish whilst I read my book.

Koh Nangyuan closes at 5pm and we’d arranged to get a boat back to Koh Tao at 4pm, which gave us 4 hours on the island which was enough! We’d eaten before we went, though there was a restaurant there. In an attempt to keep the island clean you can’t take any plastic or cans with you, so you’ll have to buy water there (which is a glass bottle). We didn’t get any food but spent our last half hour or so in the shade of the restaurant rehydrating after being in the sun all day! We got the boat back to Koh Tao and went back to our hotel to plan the rest of our trip.

We’d been recommended to go to ‘High Bar’ for sunset, so drove down to the south of the island to catch the sun go down. This bar was high up in the trees with incredible views over a bay. We got a drink here before heading back into the town for dinner.

At dinner we discussed our route again, as for the first time in our travels we didn’t have a concrete plan of where we were going next! We walked around and spoke to some of the travel operators about ferry and bus costs to weigh up our options. We went back to the room to look into this further and pack, ready to leave the next day. The following morning we checked out and headed for breakfast and to decide where to go as we were still unsure! We decided we’d get the 2.30pm ferry to Chumphon, so hung around looking up our travel options until the ferry. Where to next?!

Koh Tao was by far our favourite out of the Samui side islands. It was the smallest, least developed, meaning that it was naturally the most beautiful and the water was so clear. It was also nice to be on the west coast and get such an incredible sunset! The island was filled with younger people such as ourselves, but had a relaxed party vibe to it. I’d definitely recommend anyone going to Thailand to make the trip over! The day trip out to Koh Nangyuan also won me over – it was all amazing!


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