We are currently in the city of Ayutthaya, a few hours north of Bangkok, after spending a couple of weeks on the islands Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. I thought I would review the islands a bit and tell you guys more about what we did, give you tips on what to do, what to think about and other good stuff about the location. I will start with a post about Koh Tao and then follow up with Koh Phangan.
Koh Tao, to explain Koh Tao with a few words, I’d say that it can only be described as a true diving paradise. Koh Tao apparently means Turtle Island, from what the locals told us. You can barely walk 5 minutes without seeing either a dive school or a dive shop. It’s an island with a real island vibe, it’s cozy, calm and everything rolls at its own pace. Of course there is some partying and other stuff going on, but mainly around Siree Beach, and only during the evenings/nights. If you’re celebrating New Year’s Eve on Koh Tao, Siree Beach is the place to be. Let’s just say, it was quite the party.
We stayed at a place called Koh Tao Royal Resort, very close to Mae Head Pier. It’s the pier you will arrive at by boat. We stayed in a giant cozy bungalow and the hotel was right by a picturesque little beach. However, I have to point out that the beach had such a position in relation to the island that it was only sunny there later in the afternoon. So if you are looking for a hotel right by the beach, and want to lay in the sun just outside the hotel all day, then this is not the place for you. However, the island is very small and it’s easy to get around to other beaches.
The bungalow we stayed in had a private bathroom, hot water shower, a fridge, fan (not AC but we have managed without AC the whole trip so far), mosquito nets and free wi-fi. You also get both shower towels and beach towels for free. The bungalow also had a very spacious balcony with outdoor furniture and a hammock. If you want to sit outside in the evenings, I recommend wearing mosquito repellent because there are a lot of mosquitoes in Thailand during the evenings.
The bungalow cost us around 35 USD per night.
You get anywhere on the island by taxi, tuktuk, scooter and by just walking. Taxi drivers are everywhere so you won’t have any trouble getting a ride if you need it. Something to think about is to always research the taxi fares on the internet, they will overcharge you if you’re not careful. Always check the fares online, bargain their prices, be determined and if they do not agree with your price, just proceed to the next taxi. Because, as I said, there are plenty of taxi drivers everywhere.
When we travel around islands, we usually never travel by taxi or tuktuk. We love to hire scooters and to be able to explore on our own. If you’re like us and you love to explore, renting a scooter is a must. Costs usually range from 250-300 Baht per day. In some places you can also add full insurance on the scooter, which means that you won’t have to pay extra for scratches or other damages. If you decide to rent a scooter on Koh Tao, we recommend Oli’s Motorbike Rentals. NEVER leave your passport as a deposit if you are renting, check for places that accepts a copy of the passport together with a cash deposit. Oli’s takes passport-copies and a deposit of 3000 Baht which we got back as soon as we returned the scooter. No problems what so ever.
You can get to the island by ferry from Chumphon. We came from Bangkok and bought a joint ticket with a bus ticket and ferry ticket through the company Lomprayah. You can buy tickets online through a website called ferrysamui.com. Highly recommended, everything went very smoothly. We took a bus for about 6-7 hours from Bangkok down to Chumphon where we then took a ferry to the island which took about 1.5-2 hours. Bangkok to Koh Tao by bus and ferry cost us about 30 USD per person.
We explored a lot around the island while we were there but on our “beach days” we spent most of our time on Siree Beach. As I mentioned before, there is quite a lot of partying going on there in the evenings but nothing at all during the daytime. Other nice beaches are Freedom Beach and Shark Bay but they are quite difficult to reach without a scooter. Siree Beach is more easily accessible and we walked there from Mae Head in about 20 minutes.
There is an incredible variety of restaurants on the island. There is everything from Thai food to Swedish food. Generally, all food we ate was good and none of us got sick or anything on the island. To save money I would recommend you to eat the local foods. It is usually more expensive at places on the beach. We usually eat away from the beach and then move down to the ocean in time for the sunset. And look for bars that have happy hour, places often have a “buy one get one free” thing going on a couple of hours in the afternoon/evening or just a discount on the drinks.
Things you need to do/see
Rent a scooter and go to the south part of the island. There is so many beautiful places to see. Go down to Freedom Beach and follow the signs to John Suwan Viewpoint. It’s a bit of a hike to get up to it, and it may get a little rough at times, but it was one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes and to bring lots of water. And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Good to know
1. You can buy sim cards for your phone at 7/11 for about 400 Baht and get unlimited data usage.
2. You can not flush toilet-paper down the toilets in Thailand.
3. Bring your own toilet paper in the bag you carry with you during the day. A lot of places don’t have toilet-paper in their bathrooms, and in some places they charge you for it.
4. Many places like restaurants, small shops and hotels will ask you to take your shoes off before you enter.
5. If you go to Koh Tao to get your diving licens, look for dive schools that offer accommodation as well!
6. There are 7/11 stores everywhere that are open 24 hours a day. So you don’t have to worry, they have everything!
7. Learn a few simple phrases in Thai like Hello and Thank you. It is very appreciated by the locals.
8. Pack an extension cord with multiple outlets. Often the hotel rooms have just one outlet, especially the bungalows.
9. If you need to get skincare products or shower products, look for the word WHITENING on the packaging. A lot of skincare stuff contains bleach in Asia.
10. There are ATMs everywhere on the island, so do not worry about not getting cash.
And as always, if you have any more questions, just comment down below!