May 172012
 

Every place we visit, I like to post photos that I think capture the everyday magic in the place.  Here are my picks for Ko Tao, enjoy!

Fire Dancer

Watchful Lizard

Sand Ridges

Tightrope Practice

Left by Sand Worms

Sunset Silhouette

Okay, and then I couldn’t resist, I have to post this because it’s just that good.  Good and awkward.  Mike caught this one afternoon–two dogs going at it while one is pinning a third dog down and a little boy wondering what’s going on.

Awkward

 

 

 

 

 

May 172012
 

For our last night in Ko Tao, we decided to splurge on a “fancy” seafood restaurant.  This was probably the most we spent on a meal in Thailand, around $35 total. =)  It’s a lot considering that’s 3 times as much as we usually spend on dinner!  We went to Barracuda which is ranked #1 on Tripadvisor.

We ordered the special seafood platter for two, which is a monster plate of grilled barracuda filet, barracuda fish cakes, tequila lime shrimp skewers, prawns, baked mussels, and whole steamed snapper.

Ko Tao Barracuda Restaurant

Gigantic Seafood Platter

My god, it was a lot of food!  We couldn’t finish the plate, not even close.  The grilled barracuda filet was the best, really well cooked and tender.  As for the rest of the seafood, the conclusion is that everything was really well cooked (tender) but generally lacking flavor.  We were a bit bummed.  But, glad we gave it a shot!

 May 17, 2012  Posted by at 10:00 am Food, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 172012
 

 After we got over our wariness in renting a motorbike (some girl ran over Mike with one!), we finally got one for the day to explore the eastern side of Ko Tao.  We went on a dirt road to Tanote Bay—the road was pretty rough, now we know why they rent ATVs in town!  Tanote Bay is a beautiful secluded bay and we heard it had great snorkeling.

Beautiful Tanote Bay

The water was so bright turquoise that day, it was incredible.  The snorkeling turned out to be one of the best we’ve ever done—St. Lucia (where we went on our honeymoon) probably wins for #1 so far.  The coolest thing we saw were a swarm of reef sharks patrolling the area!  There were about 5-6 and they were around 3-4 feet long.  Mike saw them going at a fish head, ick.

Reef Sharks!

There are a bunch of rock formations in the middle of the bay so we swam in a big circle around them following the reef.  Tanote Bay was much deeper than Jansom Bay on the West side, so it was neat to see different scenery and sea life.

Giant Pod of Tiny Fish

Brightly Colored Christmas Tree Worms

One of my favorite things to spot were these sea-slug like animals called nudibranch.  They are in between sea snails and sea slugs and are usually brightly colored, although we did see some cool black and white polka-dotted ones.

Nudibranch!

Mike is king of spotting camouflaged flounders in the sand.  This was his second on our trip.  You can usually find them in the sandy areas and waving your hand to disturb the sand and expose them.

Camouflaged Flounder

Love the Pink Skunk Anemone Fish

Old-Looking Grumpy Fish

Ko Tao Crab Trio

Trio of Crabs

We ended up spending over an hour in the water, just marveling at all the sea life!  Mike liked tormenting the flounder; he kept disturbing the sand around it to make it swim.  It was pretty complacent though, didn’t even flinch when Mike poked him!  Reminds me of when Mike was ninja-striking the fish in Jansom Bay—shooting out his hand and poking fish.  Tsk, tsk.

Mike Ninja Poking the Fish

Beautiful Tanote Bay!  I think if we were to ever come back again to Ko Tao, this is where we would stay instead.  Very quiet and secluded with amazing snorkeling.

May 132012
 

Overall, Ko Tao is more of a party place than we expected.  The guidebooks definitely painted Ko Tao as the most laid back out of the 3 island chain with Ko Samui and Ko Phangan.  Ko Phangan is supposed to be the party island, known for its crazy full moon parties.  We arrived on Ko Tao two nights after the full moon, and apparently Ko Tao is where all the Ko Phangan partiers go to “detox” after the full moon party.  There are a bunch of groups of all guys or all girls walking around and it’s a like a meat market!  Hilarious.  It’s like we landed in Spring Break.

One of Many Beach Bars on Sairee Beach

Every Mon, Wed, and Fri, one of the bars here organizes a pub crawl where everyone carries around buckets filled with mixed drinks and wears the same tank top.  We saw the crowd pass us by one night and there must have been 50 pub crawlers!  Haha.

Sairee Beach, where we are staying, is definitely the middle of the action.  The plus side is that there are a ton of restaurants to choose from and very convenient.  It’s got a cute vibe with open air restaurants jamming the Bob Marley and Jack Johnson.

Sairee Beach, Looking Towards Mae Head

But I think were we to come back again (and maybe with more to spend), we would stay at one of the smaller beaches like Tanote Bay or Jansom Bay.  Sairee Beach was a good spot for our first time here and the beach has great, soft sand.

Beach Swing on Sairee

The low tide during the day makes it so you can’t really swim though, mostly you can only go as deep as your knee and then you just sit in the bath-warm water. =)  No relief from the heat!  One major plus is the sunsets here are really nice and usually we just sit in our hotel’s open-air restaurant with a beer, watching the sun slip into the ocean.

A Sunset with a Turtle Shaped Cloud! Fitting for Ko Tao which is known as Turtle Island

 

 

 

May 132012
 

We’ve been eating decently cheap here—usually no more than around $10 for the two of us for a meal.  With the money we saved by not going for an AC room (and also to treat ourselves for suffering through the humid heat), we had a nice dinner at Sensi Paradise, a nice resort on the southern end of Mae Head beach, south of the pier.  One of Mike’s old coworkers highly recommended the restaurant, so we decided to try it out.

Our Fancy Dinner at Sensi Paradise

We haven’t let ourselves get the fresh tiger prawns here as they run $5 a prawn!  Pricey when we’ve been paying $5 per person for dinner.  Sensi Paradise was nice, white tablecloths and all.  No breeze or fans though, so it was still stifling hot.  Mike got baked tiger prawns and I got prawns in green curry.

Baked Tiger Prawns - Great Flavor

Tiger Prawns in Green Curry

Both dishes were really good and the prawns in my curry were melt in your mouth good. =)  It was tough to stomach paying over $30 but then you put it in perspective with how much a meal costs in the US and then you don’t feel so bad.  It’s funny how quickly you’re expense tolerance adjusts to your surroundings.

 

 

 May 13, 2012  Posted by at 7:42 am Food, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 132012
 

There are tons of motorbike rental places in Ko Tao, so we decided one day to rent one to explore and maybe go snorkeling in some of the bays.  While we were waiting for the motorbike rental guy, a group of four girls pull up in their motorbikes.  While one of them was turning around on the sidewalk, she all of a sudden lost control and revved her bike and slammed straight into Mike and the motorbike guy!  It was INSANE!  We couldn’t believe it.  She basically ran over Mike’s foot and slammed into his knee.  He got bruised and it was sore for a day but thank god it wasn’t more serious.  We couldn’t believe that the motorbike rental guy just let her go after that.  We were so upset after that incident that we decided not to get the motorbike and just walked instead.

The walk to Jansom Bay on the southern side took us about 30 min, not too bad.  There is a really nice resort there called Charm Churee Village—where maybe we would stay if we were rich!  They have private access to Jansom Bay and you can pay 200 baht each to use their beach chairs.

Ko Tao Jansom Bay

Jansom Bay

But free to go snorkeling!  It’s nice to go snorkeling there because everywhere else on the island gets really affected by the tides and the beach outside our hotel gets really shallow.  Jansom Bay is a bit deeper, great for snorkeling.  As soon as you get in the water, all these fish already start surrounding you.

Jansom Bay - Eager Fish

We saw tons of fish and a school of needlefish that were circling around us.

Mike with Circling Needlefish

My favorite are the blue iridescent giant clams that are everywhere!  The colors are amazing.

Iridescent Giant Clam

Glowing Reef Fish

Pink Skunk Anemone Fish

Intricate Prints

After snorkeling we hiked the “Jax Trek” to several other beaches and ended up at Chowlok Bay.  The tide was really low there, so the bay itself wasn’t great, but the hike to get there was really nice.  It was so hot so we were dying by the time we were done.  Originally we were going to take a taxi back, but by the time we had a celebratory mango shake, it cooled down a bit, so we just walked back instead of paying an exorbitantly high fee for a taxi.

May 132012
 

Diving is the main attraction in Ko Tao, so we signed up for a 6 dive package with Sairee Cottage.  The dive packages are a pretty good deal and cost about half what dives normally cost elsewhere.  So instead of ~$100 for 2 dives, you pay ~$50 and the days we dive we have free lodging.  Not bad!

Visibility is usually better in the morning, so we opted to do morning dives for the 3 days we went out.  6:30am call time is rough!  Usually we’re not really awake until we’re on the boat.  Diving on Ko Tao is a bit more of a DIY kind of spirit.  In Ko Lanta, all our equipment is set up by the dive shop, but here you set up and rinse your own gear every time.  It’s actually good to do it yourself once in a while to remember.

Chumpon Pinnacle was by far our favorite dive site and we went on two separate dives there.  The pinnacles are entirely covered with sea anemones that it looks like one huge carpet swaying in the current.  Magical.  This morning we saw humongous Malabar groupers and these fish were probably half the size of me and as wide around!  HUGE.  Schools of barracuda and batfish were some of the highlights along with moray eels.  Mike and I have been interested in getting our Advanced Open Water certification and this would have been a good site to have it.  With Advanced, you can go down to 30m whereas we are limited to 18m.  We mostly stayed around the tops of the pinnacles.

White Rock was a nice dive and the major highlight there was we saw a whale shark!!  It was only a baby whale shark but even then it was about 10 feet long and really thick around.  Still seemed HUGE to me.

Ko Tao Whale Shark

HUGE Whale Shark!! Photo taken by our dive shop, Sairee Cottage

It had all these cleaner fish attached to it.  When it was spotted in the water, all the divers went crazy and swam over to where it was.  It was chaos in the water with everyone trying to get close to get a good look—maybe 30 divers or so in one area!

The other dive sites were nice but Chumpon Pinnacle and the whale shark outshines them all.  We did a swim through at Green Rock where you go underneath these crazy overhangs and into a small cave and out the other side.  Overall, we think the Andaman side and Ko Lanta was a bit better scenery wise, but Chumpon Pinnacle was fantastic.

f a DI�� n � � �h&.  In Ko Lanta, all our equipment is set up by the dive shop, but here you set up and rinse your own gear every time.  It’s actually good to do it yourself once in a while to remember.

 

Chumpon Pinnacle was by far our favorite dive site and we went on two separate dives there.  The pinnacles are entirely covered with sea anemones that it looks like one huge carpet swaying in the current.  Magical.  This morning we saw humongous Malabar groupers and these fish were probably half the size of me and as wide around!  HUGE.  Schools of barracuda and batfish were some of the highlights along with moray eels.  Mike and I have been interested in getting our Advanced Open Water certification and this would have been a good site to have it.  With Advanced, you can go down to 30m whereas we are limited to 18m.  We mostly stayed around the tops of the pinnacles.

White Rock was a nice dive and the major highlight there was we saw a whale shark!!  It was only a baby whale shark but even then it was about 10 feet long and really thick around.  Still seemed HUGE to me.

 

May 082012
 

After twenty hours of travel, we finally arrive in Ko Tao.  Twenty hours seemed excessive, since it was only a 14 hour overnight bus ride from Bangkok to Ko Lanta.  But in order to coordinate bus and ferry times, our journey to Ko Tao from Ko Lanta turned into 3 different layovers that were about 2 hours each.  We had some time to kill in Krabi before we got on the bus to Suratthani, so we had some lunch in a cute café with A/C (!).  Our requisite drink on this trip has been mango shakes and we average 1.5 a day.  Kind of like what milk teas were to us in China.  So far Easy Café in Krabi wins for best mango shake so far. =)

Best Mango Shake!

The green curry fried rice there wasn’t bad either—good spice!

Green Curry Fried Rice

After a 3 hours bus ride from Krabi to Surratthani, we have two hours to kill before the night ferry leaves for Ko Tao.  There is a decent night market set up next to the ferry and looks like a lot of the locals eat there.  There was a nice breeze blowing and they even had a TV on, broadcasting a soccer match (with Thai announcers!).  We sat at a table and got some good cheap grub.

Surrathani Night Market

Hmm, so night ferry.  Wonder what that’s going to be like?  We have no idea whether we’ll be in seats? Beds?  The night ferry takes a whopping 7 hours to get to Ko Tao.  There is a faster express boat, but there was no way to catch it with all our transfers from Ko Lanta.  So, we walk into the ferry, and it looks like this:

Small Beds on the 7 Hour Night Ferry to Ko Tao

Ha!  Everyone gets a narrow pad on the floor and you are assigned numbers.  Mike doesn’t even fit on the pads, so his feet stick out into the walkway.  It’s pretty hot inside and we just sleep on the pads with our clothes and drape our jackets over the pillows.  Not comfortable and if you pay too much attention to the boat swaying, you’d probably make yourself sick.  There were some beds double-assigned too, but luckily there were some empty ones so everything worked out.  Whew!  We arrive at the Ko Tao pier at 6:30am, and hail a taxi to our hotel where we wait two more hours for reception to open.  So tired!  Good thing we planned on doing nothing the rest of the day!

 May 8, 2012  Posted by at 10:06 am Ko Lanta, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  No Responses »
May 062012
 

That’s it for Ko Lanta! We are headed on another overnight trip, this time it’s bus plus night ferry to Ko Tao. Ko Tao is north of Ko Lanta, and off of the Gulf coast (the east side) versus where we are coming from, which is the West Andaman coast. The Gulf coast is usually less affected by the wet season, so hopefully we’ll get better weather there. It’s been raining for the last couple of days in Ko Lanta.
Ko Tao is known as the diving island and gives out more diver certifications than any other place in the world. We have a package booked with a dive shop/hotel for 6 dives (3 days of diving) so far, but we may do up to 10 dives over the 10 days if the conditions are good.
More to come once we get to Ko Tao!

 May 6, 2012  Posted by at 8:16 am Ko Lanta, Ko Tao, Thailand Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »