We decided against throwing ourselves directly into a 12 month backpacking trip, after all, we’d just spent the previous month organising our wedding, packing up everything we own and moving out of our flat! We were wrecked, physically and emotionally, and needed some time to chill out and watch the world go by!
So we chose Koh Tao, Thailand. Small enough to get around and get to know, but big enough to have plenty of things to do in Koh Tao. We took the bus and ferry option to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao, and when we arrived we found Koh Tao to be a little rough around the edges, which we absolutely loved.
We decided to stay close to the main beach (Sairee beach) where restaurants, bars, wooden shacks and dive schools share the coastline with palm trees and assorted exotic plants. No boulevards along the beach here, simply wooden restaurants and bars spilling out of the palm trees onto white sands.
Sairee beach is the busiest it gets on Koh Tao (which isn’t very busy) but you can get away from it all by going to one of the coves on any side of the island. We didn’t want to be completely cut off or at the behest of a resort and its pricing, we also didn’t want to stay in the heart of the action, so booked with the Amanjirah resort about 15 minutes walk from the beach.
Koh Tao appealed to us because we hate the noisy, western style party places of other Thai islands (we’re still young, but not that young). That’s not to say there aren’t bars like that on Koh Tao, there are a few which are busy with young westerners getting smashed, but they’re all concentrated in an easily avoidable area a couple of blocks back from the beach. How old do we sound?
Things to do on Koh Tao
We were spoilt for choice of coves and beaches to visit on Koh Tao. We visited Freedom beach on the south coast of the island, spending a morning walking in the shallow turqouise waters and marvelling at just how quiet it was. We must have seen about 10 people that morning on the beach, June is a good time to go if you like it quiet! We also visited Ao Leuk bay on the east coast which was much smaller but equally beautiful, and the north west coast of the island looking out at Nagyuan island.
After a hard day of looking at beautiful beaches and coves, we sat on Sairee beach and had a well deserved beer before sunset!
It’s hard to come to Koh Tao and not do what its famous for, diving! So we took the plunge (quite literally) and booked a one day diving experience with Scuba Junction. You’re spoilt for choice on Koh Tao for diving schools, and the prices for the courses are pretty much standard so pick the school you feel most comfortable with. We went with Scuba Junction as we’d met one of the instructors in Bangkok, and liked the fact that for our first dive we would be in a small group of four people with one instructor.
For anyone interested in a one day taster, we started around 0930 with an introduction to the equipment and how to communicate under water until about 1100. We then had a break for lunch until 1200, when we got wet suited up and headed out on the boat to our dive site! There were three other groups on the boat with us that day, so the bike was loaded up with the gear for everyone and off we went. Nothing is impossible on Koh Tao.
It all went swimmingly well, except for when we seemingly entered the neighborhood of a rogue blue and yellow fish who took a particular liking to my ear! Once it realised there was nothing of interest in there, it left us to enjoy the calmness and serenity of the corals of Koh Tao.
As usual, after a hard day of adventuring, we kicked back on the beach and watched the sunset, reflecting on our incredible diving experience.
Koh Tao is an incredible place to stay. Seemingly on the tipping point of development, it remains quirky and interesting without the over development and commercialisation of neighbouring islands. You can go there and dive, of course, but if you want to relax and discover small coves of pristine white sands and turquoise waters, this is the place for it. It was a great springboard for our round the world trip, recharging our batteries ready for the beginning of our adventure!
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