Hua Hin was an introduction to beaches in Thailand, but the next stops on our itinerary were the islands on the east coast of the Thai peninsula. Our first stop was the small island of Koh Tao, roughly 60km from the coastal town of Chumphon.
In order to get to Koh Tao, we needed to get a bus from Hua Hin to Chumphon, and then a ferry to the island. We turned up nice and early for our bus, and it did arrive (hooray!). Slightly more battered than the picture on the ticket, but that was ok. The only problem was the other passengers who got on the bus with us. There were two American men in their 50’s, but who acted like they were about 18 – scatty, unprepared and immature, according to their conversation they’d left their Thai wives behind for the week to have a seedy time in Koh Pha-Ngan with other Thai women. So, basically, they were ST’s. There were also a couple of British girls who WERE about 18, and were clearly off to the islands for a good time drinking and partying. It didn’t take long for the two groups to clash – as soon as we got on the bus, the Americans took up a whole seat row each. The British girls wanted one of the seats, and early morning tempers flared as one of the girls called one of the Americans a “fucking asshole” and the American called her a “stupid little bitch” (and a few other things). She kicked his leg, and he got up like he was about to hit her. We were sat two rows up front, mouths wide open – when the whole thing defused and the Americans gave up a row of seats. Phew! By the end of it, the two groups were best friends which was strange, but it just shows you how two different groups of tourists can clash – the Khao San Road bunch and the ST’s!
Anyway, the rest of the bus trip was pretty uneventful and we didn’t get any deep fried chicken this time. We did get a tuna sandwich in a plastic wrapper though, but it looked gross. The transition from bus to ferry was pretty smooth, and the ferry itself was very nice. For once, my expectations on transportation were FAR exceeded – the boat was a catamaran which carved it’s way through the water at a great speed, in air conditioned comfort and with a bar in it no less! After a couple of hours we got to Koh Tao, and looking out the window, saw beautiful turquoise and deep blue water – Hua Hin was pretty, but this was stunning. We stepped out into the afternoon sun, and a lovely refreshing sea breeze picked up – with the light blue water below, and the perfect white sand at the end of the pier, it was a beautiful scene!
We were picked up and driven to our hotel, Simple Life Resort, where we had a room booked for 4 nights for the price of 3. Brilliant value, and an amazing room – possibly the best we’ve had so far. Huge space, bathroom, etc, with a pool outside and WiFi included – it was very comfortable. We quickly decided that we wanted to spend more time on Koh Tao, and ended up staying 7 nights for the price of 5 – it was well worth it for a bit of luxury!
Koh Tao itself was very beautiful, although the beach we stayed on, Sairee, was pretty busy. Still, busy means easy access to amenities, and the beach itself was very pretty. It helped that the weather was pretty good for most of the week – we hardly saw any rain, and the sun just shone and shone. As we were west facing, there were some amazing sunsets too – definitely the best we’ve seen on our trip so far, and I’m not sure we’ll see better to be honest! The beach was good for swimming on, and the water was mostly quite shallow – at low tide you could just sit in the lukewarm sea to cool off. The beach was lined with bars and restaurant, which was great for sitting around and having a drink right on the beachfront. Haad Sairee was a bit of a party beach, so not really for us, but it had a very relaxing side to it too so it all worked out pretty well.
We didn’t just relax though – we did do stuff! We went snorkelling on one day – this involved being taken around the island on a boat to good snorkelling spots, and then jumping off the boat and swimming around. The water was amazingly clear, and there was quite a lot to see in the coral reefs. There weren’t huge numbers of fish, but you certainly didn’t have to look too hard to see them. Mahmoud saw a reef shark, but I didn’t see anything that interesting – although I did see some shark-like fish which I though were sharks at the time! The snorkelling was a lot of fun, and the water was surprisingly easy to float in – the only downside was that there were a lot of people doing it, so it was a wee bit crowded. But still, un-missable.
We also got off the beach and did a walk to the highest point on Koh Tao – Twin View, at 320m above sea level. There were some pretty good views from the top, and you could see distant Koh Pha-Ngan from up there. The difficult part was walking back down to town – the track was really eroded, and we were sliding around on the gravel in our flip flops – perhaps not the best choice of footwear! Once or twice we had to sort of climb down the track, but it was good fun. We were roasting at the end of it – we had to go down and have a mango shake on the beach, and Mahmoud went for a swim and made me take photos of him in the sea!!
We didn’t do a lot else, other than sitting next to the pool or on the beach working on our tans. This was a very successful activity, and I no longer have tan lines carving across most of my body – now just my upper legs are pearly white! Unfortunately, our pooltime was ruined when an enormous (both in numbers and size) British family turned up and started drinking beer in the pool all day. But that was ok, we just spent more time on the beach after that. It’s a hard life!