I could write a love letter to Ko Tao. Definitely my favorite spot on the trip. We arrived in Ko Tao via our ferry speedboat around sunset.
We found our hotel pretty easily. We were staying in town which was a nice change from our previous stops because we could walk to food, massages, bars, etc. We rented two scooters the first day for around $7 a day each, hard to pass up a deal like that. Most of the “taxis” were guys on scooters, so also made a lot of sense for two people getting around a small island.
Ko Tao is known as a diving island, people come from all over to go to the many dive spots off the island. It also turns out that most of the beaches have great snorkeling right off of them. They also aren’t crowded because most people are diving. We rented snorkeling masks for about 75 cents a day and traveled to the local beaches. The roads were pretty bad and also really steep which was interesting at times with our sub par scooters. However, this also meant there were absolutely stunning views.
I traded my scooter in after one day because the back breaks were shot. The guy tried to tighten them and I had to explain that the break pad was obviously gone, so that wasn’t going to work. Little did he know I am well versed in scooter break issues. Our first night we went to a japanese restaurant on a hill that over looked the bay and it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. We were on a porch overlooking it and it was lit up by the town and boat lights and just gorgeous. Food was great too.
One of the first places we snorkeled was a bit of a disaster for me. A big reason we came to Ko Tao is we were told there were reef sharks you could swim with (from a french dude on our elephant trip). We went to a place called “shark bay” and went to the wrong entry point which required a long walk down and getting in via some rocks. It also turned out to be really shallow which was pretty stressful for me. Try snorkeling in water that’s only a few feet deep and not being able to touch the bottom anywhere. Lots of sucking in and thinking floaty type thoughts. Also great with a somewhat gangsta snorkel set that leaks. I tried to take a break and stand on a harmless looking rock after we’d been there for a while and ended up slicing up all of my toes and some of my fingers. Pretty lame. A. saw some sharks, but I unfortunately did not after all that.
Next beach we went to was more my speed. White sand, easy entry, and deep water to snorkel in with no fear of accidentally touching anything. Lot of parrot fish and the second time we went there we saw about 12 baby reef sharks which was really cool. We also ran into these super creepy little fish with black and silver stripes that were only as long as a finger, but there were hundreds of them. We discovered they will bite you if you stay still, so it gets pretty creepy when you’re being followed by hundreds of them. When you’re treading water to clean your snorkel out, it puts a lot of pressure on you to keep everything moving. Other than that, the snorkeling was amazing. We saw lots of beautiful fish, you could hear coral being chomped on under the water, lots of urchins, sea cucumbers, corals of different types, and about 12 or so baby sharks.
This was one of our last stops and the beginning of the low season so we decided to splurge for a couple of nights. We originally tried to stay at a place on a hill (lots of these) but they didn’t have anything available in our price range. So instead we went there and snuck into their infinity pool which overlooked the water on a cliff and watched the sunset. Pretty sweet and free.
Another fun place we went to was a tiny restaurant on top of a hill that some people we met told us about (never would have found it otherwise). We were the only ones there and it was an amazing view.
Which you can’t see at all in this photo, but oh well. Look how happy I am, must have been an awesome view right?
After this place we headed down into town and sat on the beach at a hookah bar and watched the sunset.
It was pretty much the best hookah bar setup ever. Big comfy beanbag cushions, white sand, perfect weather.
Terrible sunset right?
We then walked around the town which had closed the street to vehicles. Great place to walk around and look at stuff. Lots of restaurants with fresh seafood you could select and have grilled. We were wondering where everyone was though. Then we walked up to this bar that had a pool and discovered everyone and their Mom was on a giant organized bar crawl that included t-shirts (super cool), and some chick was in the pool topless and everyone was cheering. It was pretty weird. Not that people were cheering about the topless chick, because I mean that’s what you do in that sort of situation I guess, but that the whole island had signed up for an organized bar crawl.
Here’s what the non-pub crawl part of the street looked like:
While we did not attend the pub crawl, we did finally stay up past 9:30 and actually go out while on Ko Tao. The second night we were here we went to party at a bar/hostel/restaurant that seemed to have been built by burning man aficionados. There was a tree house, an igloo thing that had a religious style stained glass window and other things inside, bean bags (of course), and other random seating arrangements. They also had a band upstairs that probably has a price on their head based how bad they murdered everything they played.
A couple of nights later we went to the Castle which was another sort of art bar, but this one was made for parties. It had an upstairs and downstairs (three floors in all), a triceratops, at least 4 different spots that were selling nitrous (apparently a ko tao favorite), and multiple bars. We shared a tai whiskey with coke in a bucket and hung out for a while. The DJs weren’t exactly something to write home about, but one of them mixed No Diggity which made me very happy. I think we managed to stay out until midnight, crazy!
The second place we stayed at was this small resort setup which didn’t have a sign on their road to stay exclusive (so fancy). It was pretty great though because we basically had a little house to ourselves, bedroom, kitchen, and living room. It was nice after traveling so long to be able to spread out. There was also a pool that was nice to come back to lay around at.
The only disappointing thing that happened at Ko Tao was our night snorkeling. Two people we had met on our scooter trip up north had told us about night snorkeling, specifically glow in the dark algae that was supposed to be pretty awesome. Ko Tao was the place I found it available on our journey and was pretty pumped on the description (see below).
Worse nightclub ever. The two of us went out with our snorkel guy who promised all sorts of amazing fish and coral. Well the UV Flashlights were pretty weak so you couldn’t see that well and mostly all you saw was some coral (definitely no anemones) that glowed green that was cool for the first 5 minutes and then was like, well, I’ve seen that. We did see a couple of fish, but we were out there for over an hour, so two fish and the same coral over and over again was pretty uninspiring. However, I did get to play with the algae which was cool. if you turned your light out so it was pitch black and moved your hands, the water would sparkle where you touched. A. unfortunately did not hear the guy explain this and I didn’t realize that, so he missed what I thought was the coolest part. Overall though, skip the UV snorkel.
I think A.’s favorite part (besides the snorkeling) was this huge rock that you could climb using a rope and jump off into the ocean. I unfortunately can’t do that because I can’t survive in the wild (more specifically I have some ear thing that causes me a lot of pain if I try to even jump off a diving board). A. does not have this problem so he had a great time. I saw on the beach and counted the slices on my toes and fingers.
Next up was Ko Samui and here are some view photos from the ferry.
Real time update: We’re in Toronto, headed to Niagra Falls and Vermont on Thursday.