After spending 4 restful days at the Sanctuary we made our way by longtail boat, songtheaw and ferry to the smallest island, Koh Tao. As soon as we arrived we realized that this was what we had been imagining when we planned to come to the Thai Islands.
The least developed of the three islands, Koh Tao is mostly a haven for scuba divers. We had considered getting our scuba licenses when we visited, but in the end decided it wasn’t in the budget. We compromised by taking a snorkeling tour on our second day on the island.
Luckily, many of the dive sites on Koh Tao (of which there are probably over 25) are also great snorkel spots. Our tour picked us up from our hotel and took us on a tour that looped the island, bringing us to such picturesque spots as Shark Bay, Mango Bay and the Japanese Garden. We also made a stop at the small island of Nang Yuan. This tiny treasure is essentially two hills linked together by a sand bar -which only appears at low tide. The Japanese Garden dive site is located here, and there is just one hotel operating on this island. Unfortunately, you have to pay a fee to simply enter the island, so Eric and I chose to just enjoy the snorkel site, which turned out to be one of our favorites.
We stayed at a bungalow resort called Sairee Cottages, located right on the main beach-Sairee Beach. We had our own fan bungalow for just $13 a night. The grounds of the resort were super lush with lots of tropical flora.
Such is life that when we finally arrived in Koh Tao, we found a place that would have been great to stay at for another month. This island is certainly the most laid back, and has a lot of small details going for it. You can stay very inexpensively, there are several really good food options, and the whole atmosphere of the island is the most relaxed out of the three. It’s nicely counter-balanced with the passion that most people there have for diving, so it’s not only a spot where people are lazing the days away.
One of the places we ate at a few times was the New Heaven Café, which looked straight out of San Francisco (actually more like Encinitas :D). It featured lots of fresh healthy food, some organic and real coffees and espressos. Some of the food was not what I expected when I ordered, but Eric did have an awesome stack of pancakes for about $2 so there you go. The whole island was full of surprisingly delicious restaurants. Much better quality and selection than all the other islands we had been to.
We didn’t regret how our trip played out, and we were also excited to begin the next leg of our journey when we left Koh Tao. We definitely connected with this island the fastest and would happily come back for an extended stay. I wouldn’t say that about the other islands necessarily, and if you are ever coming to Thailand for the first time and need to pick between the islands, I’d say that Koh Tao is what people are really envisioning when they think of Thai Paradise.
After 3 days there, we started our long journey back to Bangkok via ferry and bus. We were sad to be leaving the slow and easy beach life behind, but very excited for the next leg of our journey: Europe.