I finally know why all my travel or friends always said the best plan when traveling is never to plan. I just spent 4.5 days in Koh Tao, and I was absolutely NOT ready to leave. It seemed like I had just arrived, and I was just getting started before I had to pack up my bags and head out. But I had already booked my flight to Chiang Mai, and I only have 10 days left in Thailand before my Visa runs out. So on I went…I know I still have so much to see on this trip, but Koh Tao will alway have a piece of my heart. The minute I arrived on that ferry I just felt an energy about the island. It’s a fairly small island-maybe only 7 or 8 miles? And has the most beautiful mountains, bright green water, and picturesque landscape. The island has small beaches, but just enough, great snorkeling, hiking, partying, shopping, relaxing, and of course, a HUGE scuba diving presence. There are 80 some diving schools on the island.
I stayed at Summer Hostel in Sairee Beach, and I highly reccomend it for anyone traveling to Koh Tao. It’s clean, a little ways off the beaten path so it’s quiet, and Nicky, the manager, will help you with literally anything you need. I stayed in a dorm with fan (no AC) with 5 other people, and only one night was it really unpleasant. I have to say that even because I stayed in a hostel in Bangkok, this was my first REAL hostel experience, because my hostel in Bangkok only had 2 other people in the 20 person dorm. This one was always busy with other travelers hanging out, reading, checking facebook, eating, playing cards. Its like a small community. And as soon as you just say hi-you make instant friends.
I didn’t spend too much time in my hostel because I met up with a couple who actually lives on the island. Jason and Ruth are friends of a friend of a former colleague of mine and we all connected on facebook. They were so kind and generous and helped me with anything and everything I needed to know on the island.
They both work for dive schools and introduced me to some of their favorite people, restaurants, and bars.
The island has a nice combination of Thai food and also upscale Western food. Beautiful beach bars with a classier and fancier atmosphere. And typically I would be all about this, but those places were usually more expensive, and I am trying really hard not to blow all my money too fast.
I did take advantage of some of the cute beach lounges and would order one small dish and a drink-just to get my basic white girl fix.I quickly became a regular at Su Chili, Ruth and Jason’s ‘go-to’ Thai restaurant, as we ate there almost every day. Always ordering a different dish every time. All the food was always so flavorful-tons of spices and herbs and lots of Thai heat! I tried the beef and vegetables in oyster sauce, the fresh spring rolls, the Red Curry wth Peanut sauce, which was this delicious thick curry with minced chicken and it came with rice noodles, bean sprouts, and other vegetable, and the Pad Cha (spicy stir fry with young green peppercorn) which was so hot it made me sweat.
I was also introduced to these crazy little street bars on the island and had the best vodka sodas since I’ve been here. C You Bar is their local spot and the bar tender sets up shop every night, plays some music, and you can just ride or walk up and get a drink. They had a few of these around the island as well, but this one is apparently the best.
I took advantage of bringing my running shoes, and did some hiking up the mountain and running on the beach.
All I want to do here in Thailand is eat all the food. I love trying new dishes and new foods, but it is still a struggle balancing it with not spending too much money and exercise even when I’m walking every day. All of the food is so interesting and really delicious, and I want to try it all.
Thailand loves a good Western breakfast-eggs, toast, sausage, omelets, pancakes, but I’m still enjoying some lighter fruity breakfasts. I haven’t been brave enough to try a true Thai breakfast (rice soup), but I will before I leave Thailand. You can usually find fruit and yogurt carts and stands on every corner all over the island.
And I’m still on a Papaya Salad kick. Trying it everywhere I go. Although I hear Chiang Mai’s Som Tum game is strong, so I’m excited to try it there. I’m also digging spicy glass noodle salad with veggies or chicken. When I’m trying to keep it light and fresh-these have been my go-to.
I fell in love with everything about this island. Well, almost everything. Besides almost being killed by scooters every 5 seconds, everything about this island was great. Yes-everyone gets around by scooter here and there are literally no rules so they just zip in and out of pedestrians constantly. Although full of tourists, mostly European, I loved hanging out at the beach bars listening to music or hanging out with friends. The second night I met up with one of the girls from my trip and her hostel mates. We hit up the beach party, which happens to be a trend on these islands.
I noticed a sign for Paddle Boarding at the Maya Beach Club, So after relaxing at the beach all day, I met up with Ruth and another solo female traveler I met on the beach earlier, and we did the hour paddle board session for 250 baht ($7) and although expensive, it was worth every penny.
Standing out there in the crystal clear green water looking at the island from afar while listening to the Maya Beach Club beach music was one of my most memorable moments from the trip thus far. It really hit me that I’m actually doing what I never believed I could. And I’m taking advantage of every opportunity. It was such a beautiful day and I was soaking it all in. And then the clouds rolled in and it started to pour buckets on us. And that in and of itself was spectacular. Just being out in the water while it was pouring was extremely peaceful. The rain didn’t last long, we finished up our session and headed back for drinks with Jason and his coworkers. I’ve switched my drinks back over to wine, even though it is a little more expensive and Thailand does not have a wine scene what so ever, but at Maya-they had house wine for 100 baht (the cheapest I’ve found yet), and served it with ice in a beer glass. When in Rome…
I could spend every day here watching the sunsets. They never got old.
The last day in Koh Tao was by far one of the best. I decided to conquer my fear and try scuba diving. I did a try dive through Chic Diving, and got to practice in the gorgeous Tarna Align resort pool. Even though a part of me just wanted to lay by the pool and sip mojitos all day, I knew I needed to carry on.
We headed out for 2 dives with a group of other divers and a great German couple who were in my group. Also new to the diving experience, our worlds were changed under water.
Hundreds of colorful fish, big and small, huge coral formations, and beautiful sea creatures I had no idea even existed. It was an eye opening experience. And although my ear is cloggied and it was pretty painful, I couldn’t be happier that I faced my fear and did it. This really is a trip of firsts.
My last night on the island was bittersweet. Even though I planned on spending some time alone and just relaxing after diving, the social butterfly in me came out and I organized a group from my hostel- a few guys I had been chatting with here and there everyday and a new female roommate from London-to go out later that night. I met up with Jason and Ruth for dinner and then the entire group met up at Choppers, a dive bar, in town. My new female roommate had met up with 2 guys she met in Koh Phangan, and as we were all sitting around drinking-beers for them, and half carafes of chilled red wine for Ruth and me- I felt the happiest sensation come over me. Maybe it was the alcohol, but like that first night out in Bangkok, I was so incredibly happy and shocked that a group of 8 males and females of all ages from all over the world who had just met were sitting at this bar in Thailand hitting it off like we had been friends forever.
My hostel mates and I walked home on the beach and we may or may not have snuck on a junker boat in the amazingly calm water and just laid there, drinking Leo’s, looking up at the stars taking it all in. We ended up playing drinking games and the night ended up in ridiculous singing and lots of laughs until 2:30am.I can’t get over this feeling when traveling and how every single person I meet along the way has affected me and influenced me in some way and it’s the most amazing feeling.
I can’t thank Ruth and Jason for all the fun times in Koh Tao. My experience was so memorable because of them. An American and a Welsh who met in Cambodia, picked up their lives and moved to Thailand. And I can start to see why. I hope to be back in Koh Tao someday, either on this trip or another, but that place will forever be a part of me.