Living on Koh Tao

Now that I have moved on from my tropical island paradise I have had a chance to reflect on my time there. I thought I would write a little guide to the place for anyone who might visit in future, especially those staying for a while.

#1 – Motorbikes and Scooters.
If you are going to be on the island for any substantial length of time and want to ride a motorbike (most people do) then buy one from one of the many people leaving the island. More than likely you will be able to sell it when you leave for what you paid in the first place. If you just want to rent one approach the dive shops and ask if any of the staff have bikes for hire. This way you will avoid being fined 10,000 baht for a minor scratch on a shop rental.

#2 – Koh Tao Trader.
This is a Facebook group where people sell loads of stuff but usually dive gear and bikes. It can be a good place to pick up a bargain.

#3 – If you need me call me…
If you have a cell phone make the effort to get a thai sim, credit is cheap and it is so much easier to keep in touch over there with a phone. The other benefit is being able to call for delivery! Everywhere on the island delivers and you can have a hangover fry up in your lap without leaving the house. Wifi is also readily available but not always reliable. Cafe Corner on Chopper’s Street is one of the best places to connect, they are used to people nursing a can of coke for two hours while they Skype home (guilty).

#4 – Make the Party Party.
If you have a Big Chang in your hand it is time to go home! Chang is the budget beer for a reason, you will have a very sore head the morning after if you don’t switch to something else before 10 o’clock. Popular bars include Lotus (the meat market), Maya and the Office Pool Bar. When you hear American Pie played at Lotus that is closing time, from here many people wander down to Maya which is a nice club on the beach that has lots of specials and is the spot for day drinking too. If it’s 3am and you are still on your feet (just) then head to the festering chlorinated horror that is Office Bar. When you make it here you have won the night no matter what anyone (including your liver) says. Jump in for a swim to sober up but leave your belongings with a sensible friend who isn’t getting in, sometimes things left on the side go missing here. As you stumble from here toward your bed swing by the 7-11 for a ham and cheese toastie, a pancake from Mr Ali or a Fatboy burger, these treats make great stodge for soaking up that extra Chang.

#5 Noms.
There is a vast array of things to eat on Koh Tao but these are some of my picks…(Mainly in Sairee Beach as that is the place to be)
– Taste of Home: The swedish meatballs are really excellent and they do a cheap schnitzel sandwich at lunch time.
– Big Blue Restaurant: Attached to the dive school, it has a really good bar but also does some of the best pizza on the island (136 Cacciatore is my pick). The paneng curry is also excellent as well as the BBQ which starts at 6:30pm.
– Su Chilli: A cheap and cheerful favourite, no wifi but always full which is saying something (Sneaky Tip: You can use the wifi from a restaurant over the street called Farango’s). Lots of classic thai dishes and reasonable prices.
– Zest: For a great sandwich, Chicken ABC and the Sail Rock. I recommend the salads (huge and tasty) and the Very Berry smoothie is a crowd favourite. If you order poached eggs make sure you ask for them to be firm because they can tend to be a bit under-done. If you want good bread get the healthy toast from here.
– Greasy Spoon: For a good hangover curing fry up.
– Bang Burger: Mainly a delivery joint but you can eat in. They do great chips and reasonably priced burgers with fresh ingredients and home made sauces.
– Banyan Bar: Their deli has a great selection and their big breakfast is incredible. The ultimate chips with cheese and gravy are delicious as well as the bangers and mash. Proper European food if you are feeling homesick and a roast on Sundays!
There are many many many other places to eat but these are just some of my tried and trusted favourites.

#6 Going Exploring.
There are lots of little bays and beaches around the island which make a nice day trip. My two favourites are:
Shark Bay – Nice place to go snorkeling and see some black tip reef sharks, and if you are REALLY lucky, a turtle. To get here you head past Mae Haad until you hit a T junction, turn right, then in about 50 metres turn left up a concrete road. This road will turn into dirt and you will come to a fork, go right (left will take you to another nice beach but not Shark Bay even though the sign says Shark Island) Then you have some steep ups and downs – make sure your bike has enough power and good brakes if there are two of you – eventually you will see a parking spot on your left full of bikes. Park here and walk down the steep driveway to the beach. The best place to snorkel is on the left side of the bay staying relatively shallow (5 metres) and not too far out, just beyond the resort is fine. Keep still in the water and let the sharks come to you, 2pm is a good time to go snorkeling and increase your chances of seeing one.

Tanote Bay – Unless you have a good bike and are a confident rider I would not recommend taking a scooter out here, and definitely not with two people. Taxis will cost around 150 Baht per person but you will be glad to spend it once you see the road, which is dirt and has been compromised by heavy rain. This bay is beautiful and there is a bar and restaurant there. In the middle of the bay is a huge rock which you can jump off (worth it). Take a GoPro if you have one because there are lots of fish and things to film around the rock.

#7 Diving.
I am biased but there is no where better than Big Blue, great place to dive, awesome instructors and free accommodation every day that you dive with them. If there is a full day trip to Sail Rock then jump on it.

So those are the basics when it comes to Koh Tao. It is a great island and fun place to spend 6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months – but be aware! however long you book for won’t be enough. Be prepared to extend your time here.

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