Koh Tao was a fairly easy choice for me as a quick getaway, mostly because it’s known for its cheap diving. All my vacations this year have been beach destinations, and it never fails to remind me of how perfect Asia is for that.
I love beach holidays because I’m lazy and enjoy being a slow-moving blob. I love that I can walk around in loose fitting clothes and slippers, with no make up and un-styled hair. I love that meals involve pigging out on seafood while listening to the waves. I love that I can dive into warm waters and experience anti-gravity while floating alongside vibrant marine life. I love sitting and staring out at the sea for unusually long periods. I love that time has no precedence on beach holidays, and wifi is just an afterthought.
And this is how Koh Tao allowed me to tick all of those boxes.
We heard that the island can be pretty packed with divers during the peak season in the middle of the year, so it was good that we visited in September. Shanna and I were surprised at how easily we found an empty beach. This lovely spot is just a short walk away from Koh Tao’s main Mae Haad Pier — where the ferries from Koh Samui off load tourists. We were happy with our discovery, and wasted no time to park our asses at this shabby shack to sip on drinks, while being horizontal.
High Bar offered a different kind of serenity. Nestled in a densely forested area, the cafe’s al fresco section overlooks the scenery from a height, giving you the feeling of being utterly enveloped by nature. The sense of peace was exquisite. It calmed my soul, and I could’ve just float away from the corporeal realm in this bliss if not for a female tourist who was yakking away and trying way too hard to flirt with and impress a local boy.
Our luxe stay at Haadtien Beach Resort was also cradled by trees. While its location is way too secluded for my liking , I was in love with our little dreamy cabin. It was flanked by two other similar huts, but it was still enough privacy for us to fully enjoy the silence and greenery while hanging out on the patio. The stay set us back SGD75 each per night. One downside of this accommodation is that free shuttle service to town is not provided and taxi rides cost a SGD8 each way.
All breakfasts should be enjoyed like this every day! The hotel has little booth seats that are elevated just above the private beach, making it a lovely spot to eat, then lie back and watch the gentle ebb and flow of waves. The food, however, was a disappointment as the flavours were muted, I’m guessing to suit its mainly white customers.
Pirate Bar is another of our favourite finds this trip. It’s located at the very end of Saan Jao beach, south of the island. We almost gave up our search for it, but then realised that it’s hidden from plain sight. You had to walk through a restaurant to get to it, and it thrilled us to no end when we finally made it there! It’s a cute little spot to hide away from… the already quiet beach? Haha. Anyways, it was an achievement to get there. And it was a little scary to walk across the stilted walkway that had no hand rails and only dim, dim lights to guide us on the way back.
The beaches on Koh Tao were nice and chill, but the most photogenic one is on Nangyuan island, a short boat ride away. We paid SGD16 each for the return trip, and spent around three hours snorkeling, snoozing, and soaking up the sun there.
The thing about Koh Tao is that it’s rather touristy. In the sense that the main street is more packed with restaurants with “outsider” prices, rather than shabby local joints which usually serve better and cheaper local food.
Street food is always amazing in Thailand, and the oily nutella crepe from this push cart didn’t disappoint at all! Our random roadside snack made up of way-too-oily spring rolls and nuggets was also sinfully satisfying.
On one hot, hot afternoon while we were on a hunt for Thai iced tea, a kind local pointed us to this stall. The best ones are made with a distinct tea flavour rather than overpowering sweetness, and this one was made to perfection.
The best local food we had on this trip was at Ying Yang Thai restaurant (ranked #7 on Tripadvisor), which we stumbled upon while making our way to Chalok Baan Kao Bay. We had the chicken wings, crispy egg pork salad, shrimp fried rice, and stir fry basil pork, all of which tasted like true blue tasty Thai dishes. Shanna had a short bout of food poisoning the morning after our meal here, but I guess it was worth the runs?
Our next best meal was a surprise. We looked up Tripadvisor one evening when we were craving some Western dishes, and decided on La Pizzarie as it was ranked #6 of 148 Restaurants in Koh Tao. We had to navigate some dark alleys and roads that weren’t mapped on Google to get there, and when we arrived, we had doubts as to whether it was the right place as it was very empty for such a highly-rated place. It looks more like a KTV / bar than a pizzeria. Thankfully, the food did it justice. The parma ham pizza was one of the juiciest I’ve had. Our pizza, salad, risotto, drinks, and two massive desserts cost us about SGD38 in all. Yup. Everything except the diving on Koh Tao is not cheap.
The #3 restaurant on Tripadvisor is a vegan, Caucasian-run cafe called Coconut Monkey. The outdoor seats overlook the sea, and we took our time to enjoy the English breakfast, and washed it down with their signature shake. Quite impressed that they managed to recreate an authentic Western taste on this island. Wonder if they import their ingredients… That would explain the hefty SGD19 price tag for the breakfast and shake.
Koh Tao is packed to the brim with dive centres, and I picked Pura Vida simply because it was near to the hotel, and the instructors look friendly and hot from the website’s pictures. Looks get you everywhere! I did four dives in one day, and it only cost me SGD116 in total. Almost half the price you get around the region!
Here are some of my favourite shots, taken with the GoPro Plus.
School of baby barracudas.
Everyone knows I loose my mind whenever I see cats, dogs, and or any other furry animal. And I lost it many many times on this trip because there were so many friendly cats and dogs roaming the island!
Many of them were just minding their own business, chilling out and enjoying the languid day.
Except for this little fella. Like everyone else, I’m sure you’d think “awwwwwwwwwwwwwww” when you meet such a cutie. It’s exactly what I thought, so I couldn’t help but go up to it to give it a scratch on the head. But after a few moments, this pup began playing way too rough, and wouldn’t quit play-biting. Even when I stood up to walk away, it followed me and kept on jumping and biting at my clothes even as I nudged it away multiple times.
The funniest part was watching other tourists fall into the same trap. Shanna and I had a good time lazing by the beach and witnessing how this innocent-looking pup lures people in with its cuteness and then go ape shit on their clothes. It was endlessly entertaining.
This stray, on the other hand, was perfectly content with lying still beside me as I rubbed its belly. I was very amused at how it uses the table to stretch out further so that I can get to all his hard-to-reach areas. So nice to see animals so trusting of people… They must be treated extremely well here.
Would I return to Koh Tao? Probably only if I were to take a dive course… And also because there are just so many more islands around Asia to visit!