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Koh Tao

Tuesday December 28th, 1999 to Sunday January 2nd, 2000
A beach at Koh Tao, Thailand

To get to Koh Tao we took the train south to Chumphon, and then the overnight ferry across the Gulf of Thailand. Not a big car ferry with a huge passenger area, however: in Thailand a "ferry" is merely a boat big enough to travel the required distance. We spent the 7hr trip lying on mats squished against the wooden railing, because we hadn't gotten there early enough to snag one of the prime spots down the middle with head rests and room to breathe. It was a wavy ride, as a big storm had flooded the island a few days before, and throughout the trip large rolling waves splashed 8 feet up, over the railing, and onto us.

We arrived on the island tired, cold, and starving, with an hour to go before Planet Scuba (with whom we'd be diving) opened. We sat on the beach and waited for a while, then wandered into town to find some food: sandwiches (mmmm). Sandwiches are a rare find here, especially good ones. The island was full of them, and for the 1st day and a half that's all I ate. Noah stuck to Thai food because of the seafood available, but I was in sandwich heaven. Anyway, enough about the food.

Around 9am, we checked in to the dive shop and found out that rather than having a day to relax, as we had anticipated, we were booked on a dive for that afternoon. Oh well, we figured we'd try to rest for a few hours (not having slept much on the boat on the way over), and then we'd be ready to go.

Around 1pm we were taxied out to the dive boat on a very unstable longtail boat. Unfortunately the dive boat was packed with 2 dive groups and was very crowded, which made it difficult to get set up for diving. Our 1st dive was to a depth of only 6m, but it was pretty cool to be underwater breathing and checking out fish/coral/etc. for the 1st time. We spent most of our 1st dive practising skills and trying not to bump into the very slow swimmers in front of us.

The port at Pak Nam Chumphon, Thailand

Having been in the tropics for a fairly long time, we have both acclimatized somewhat; with the Christmas cold spell having dropped the water temperature to a frigid 26°, we spent the hour between dives shivering on the upper deck, teeth chattering, lips blue, not looking forward to the 2nd plunge into the icy water. Everyone else (tourists from colder climes) was fine.

The 2nd dive was more of the same, but we saw some more interesting fish. Of course, we froze the whole way back to the island. We were so tired that after dinner we headed back to the dive lodge where we were staying and promptly fell asleep.

We started our 2nd day bright and early, and dove to a depth of 18, where there was lots more to see in terms of fish and coral. Some chick was swimming around with a video camera, and she tried to sell us the resulting video for the exorbitant price of US$50. Needless to say, we passed.

Diving became a lot more fun as we got the hang of it. At the end of the day we were fully qualified Open Water Divers. Proud we were of our wee accomplishment — so proud that we booked another dive for the following afternoon. We spent that afternoon sleeping and then the evening eating; not a bad holiday.

The next dive, without the pressure of being instructed, was a lot more interesting. For one thing, there were only 4 people in our dive group, and we were able to move around a lot more freely. We dove to 18.5m, 50cm deeper than we're officially qualified to go (woohoo, aren't we rebellious). We swam though a tunnel, and saw 2 eels and a multitude of brightly coloured fish. The coral was pretty amazing too. There was rumour of a turtle in area, but it didn't show up during our dive.

The dawn of the new millennium, Koh Tao, Thailand

That day happened to be New Year's Eve, and we decided to go to an all-you-can-eat buffet at one of the beach restaurants. Naturally, we stuffed ourselves silly. After begging off invitations to the big parties at the various bars that lined the beach, we found a 6m high rock in the centre of the beach with a good view of the 2 main parties and maxed with a good view of all the various goings on (we were intentionally and happily elevating the art of "wallflowerism" to a new height). At midnight we had a great view of the fireworks set off up and down the beach. It was pretty amazing to sit facing the ocean and see these huge fireworks on either side of us shooting off over the water. Being lame and tired we headed back to the lodge shortly afterwards and fell asleep.

The world hadn't ended, and the ferry back to the mainland was still running the next day. As very little requires computers or high tech assistance in Thailand we didn't expect much upheaval. The ferry ride back was very calm. We slept for most of it and floated into the harbour around 3pm. We grabbed a sangthaew(?) back to Chumpon and booked 3rd class tickets back to Bangkok.

Now here's the story of the ride home. I had wanted to book our tickets back to Bangkok upon our initial arrival in Chumpon, before we headed off to Koh Tao. Noah said that he didn't want to be pinned down to leaving at any specific time, and I stupidly listened to him. When we went to buy our tickets on our way home there were of course no 2nd class seats left, only 2nd class sleepers and third class seats. It was $30 for a sleeper or $6 for a third class seat. This was a 10hr night train back to Bangkok; I wanted the sleeper. Noah, however, was too cheap. When the train arrived there were no seats left. We spent the entire ride, sitting on our packs on the floor, beside the garbage, with cockroaches crawling all over us. Not the most pleasant trip of my life. Next time I will be ignoring Noah and spending the extra cash on a sleeper, preferably without the cockroaches. Jerk.

More information about Thailand is available on the About Thailand page; you might want to have a look at it if you haven't already.

You might wish to look at the Koh Tao photos in the photo album.

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