Koh Tao (also known as Turtle Island) is one of the smallest islands that form part of the Chumphon Archipelago on the western shore of the Gulf of Thailand. You can fly directly into Koh Samui and then take a 2-hour ferry to Koh Tao, or get into Surat Thani city (by plane, bus or train) and then take a ferry out.
I knew it was the monsoon season so I was slightly prepared for the rough seas. The best advice I ever got is to always sit in the middle of the boat, the lower the better, and always stay out in the open where there is fresh air, and look out to the horizon. I did not take any seasick tablets and was perfectly fine as long as I stayed out on the open-air decks.
The sea was rough. I had to hang on to my seat as I was constantly thrown off it!
Yes it was that bad and I was on a 3-deck catamaran and a big one too.
Safe to say I got to Koh Tao safe and sound. From the pier its only a 15-20 minute walk to Sairee beach following the 'yellow brick lane' (or rather a grey brick lane). I stayed with Sairee Cottage Diving as I took on the 6 fun dive package. With that I had a free room for a night and a discounted standard orange room for 400B per night. As long as you dived with them, the room is on a discounted rate. Nice basic room that sleeps 2, cold showers plus fan and it was a bungalow. It was decent and comfortable to an extend for the price.
Two days later I did a morning dive at Chumphon Pinnacle. To think that the weather would get slightly better... It was just the same as the time I first landed!
On the boat, fine; briefing, fine; geared up, fine; did a deep 30m dive, all fine. 5m, 3 minute safety stop... NOT fine. Its strange as normally one would get into the water to not feel seasick, but for me it was the other way around. And it wasn’t the first time.
Managed to keep it all in but I was cold and squirm-ish. I had to sit out the second dive. Doubt I missed much as the dive group came out saying that the visibility got worse plus everyone was cold!
For this time of the year, I didn’t realise how windy it would be on the island. It was very windy in the evenings that I had to put on a long sleeve top. So being wet on a cloudy day on a dive boat wasn’t exactly ideal. (This might be a one off incident as we soon read that the weather is Asia has gone a bit crazy thanks to global warming. The temperature has dropped considerably for this part of the region that's it's a bit unreal)
I fell in love with this place. There are also zip lines to go on plus, the walk around this marine park is absolutely wonderful. Looking onto the water, you'll see the fishes swim by. It's that clear during the dry season.
I remember staying at Shark Point, beautiful bungalows on a slope where you’re welcomed by tranquil waters at the end of the trail. It's rocky and deep without a sandy beach, but when I was there in May, the waters were calm and crystal clear.
From the last time to now the island has grown a fair bit in development. But The Queen's Cabaret bar is still there, just off the main brick lane. This particular lane is closed during the evenings and is bustling with people during peak season. It’s filled with little pop-up shops that adorn the existing restaurants and bars during the evenings and it’s worth a visit.
There is one little home restaurant that serves some of the best Thai food on Sairee Beach located just off the main street. Get to the 7-Eleven on the main street (not the brick lane) and walk towards Parnee Guesthouse. This little Pud Restaurant is just on the right, and mind you its really small. Get there an hour before you think you will get hungry as the food takes time to get to the table. One stove, one cook and one wok! But its mouth watering and made with fresh ingredients. Trust me when I say you can really tell the difference in quality.
Its been a rather short 3 days on the island and I was here mainly for the diving and to spend Christmas with my friends. Although diving wasn't the best, I had a wonderful-chilled-out Christmas. Koh Tao is definitely a place you want to be after the long parties on Koh Phangan!
Next up: New Year's Eve on Koh Phangan!!!