After two and a half whirlwind weeks through Chiang Mai, Krabi, Railay, and Tonsai, I arrived at the island of Koh Tao… and immediately realized that I wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.
Koh Tao is a tiny little turtle-shaped slice of paradise off the east coast of Thailand. Sandwiched between the much more luxurious Koh Samui and the infamous Full-Moon party destination Koh Phangnon, Koh Tao manages an enviable balance of activities.
When I first arrived, I considered taking diving classes, but ended up deciding to simply to enjoy the island instead.
After so much moving around, I knew from the moment I stepped off the ferry that I wanted to sink into life here: to relax, to get to know the coffee shops and the beaches, and to read and putter about until my visa expired.
So I did. For eleven long, lovely days.
It didn’t hurt that I quickly fell in with a wonderful group of people, who all arrived to the island around the same time and had similar plans to take things slow. Collectively, the ten of us spanned the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, the US, and Germany, so we made for a lively and diverse bunch.
It’s easy (much easier than you might think) to meet people while traveling solo, but it’s a bit more rare to find a group like ours that stayed for a while in the same place and enjoyed each others’ company so much.
Days became about reading by the pool, languishing over long breakfasts, or occasionally gathering ourselves up for a day trip (more on our favorite trip to Koh Nang Yuan later). A “big night out” usually meant trying a new restaurant–which was only a big deal because we had quickly amassed a set of favorites.
It was innocent fun and so blissfully relaxed–the vibe of the island saw to that. None of us had motorbikes, so we would walk anywhere we needed to go. We did everything and nothing, and life was good.
When it came time to leave, our little crew splintered slowly and disappeared to all sorts of new far-flung places. Maybe someday we’ll find ourselves on another tropical beach somewhere, but until then we’ll always talk fondly about those days on Koh Tao.
In my time on the island, I acquired a few favorites. So if you happen to be sailing by, stop in and say hi to these spots for me:
- The banana muffins from The Coffee House
- The baguette french toast at Cappuccino
- Everything, but especially the ABC Sandwich (which is sneakily not listed under Sandwiches… check the ‘Other’ section) and the espresso from Zest Cafe
- The Reef Burger from Reef Bar (or try Bang Burgers if you’re closer to Sairee)
- Pat kra pao moo (Stir fried pork with basil and rice with a fried egg on top) from Su Chili
- Shop for lovely jewelry from A Little Dot and other great (often local) brands at Mixte
- For a fun and slightly adventurous night out, swing through one of two evening shows at the Queen’s Cabaret
- Get a massage at Kaya Massage (no online listing, but it’s the big house with a purple sign on the beach path between Mae Hat and Sairee Beach)
- Take in one of the daily yoga classes at Shambhala Yoga
- Favorite spot that I stayed on the island was Sairee Cottages, which has great bungalows and a lovely pool in addition to a private stretch of beach. Call ahead, as they book up a few days in advance and don’t take reservations online.