Off-roading in Koh Tao

Our original departure point to reach Koh Tao was Krabi… BUT due to our visa cock-up we had to go via Burma / Myanmar… whatever it’s called!… & then head to Chumphon to catch a boat out to the island. We FINALLY reached Chumphon 15 hours, 2 buses, a boat, a country, a pickup truck & a taxi after leaving Krabi that same morning. We stayed the night at the only open guesthouse, finally shutting our eyes at 1am, ready to rise again at 5.30am for our ferry to Koh Tao.

We docked at Koh Tao mid morning, & after consulting our ‘Bible o’ travel’ (aka the Lonely Planet’s guidebook ‘South East Asia on a Shoestring’) we decided to jump in a pick-up going to the southern tip of the island, the bay of Chalok Baan, avoiding the busiest area of Sairee & opting for the more tranquil & picturesque.

View from our bungalow

We managed to find a small bungalow on the beach, the waves lapping a mere 10 feet from our veranda, & next door to an older Aussie couple who taught kiteboarding in the bay. Di & Sharky steered us in the right directions with some sound advice & soon enough we had our local eatery sorted for the remainder of our stay… a nice little family restaurant called ‘Tukta’ with the most AMAZING curries! Particularly the massaman!! We rented a motorbike & ventured to the numerous bays scattered around the island, each with its own unique beauty, & all boasting the clear blue waters surrounding Koh Tao. Shark island in the distance, murky & mysterious on the horizon, we peered out as dusk approached… & rested… because the hill down to Shark bay was an absolute bitch!!

Tired, sweaty, hungry, angry

So steep we had to leave our bike at the top & take on the vertical slopes on foot for fear of our little moped never making it back up! Cursing the dutch couple who at the top said it was fine we finally got back to our bike & went on our merry way to Tukta… Nicky still cursing & sweating behind me ’til food was devoured.

The next day very little was achieved thanks to our rather heavy drinking at ‘The Castle’ the night before,… which involved many a dance move! Nicky & I did think about trying out some good dance moves but in the end resorted to big fish, little fish, cardboard box for the majority of the night… although ‘garden work’ & ‘high-school girl hair-flick’ did also make an appearance?! We recovered amply enough to venture out on the motorbike again to more bays around the isle. Every bay was different in some salient yet subtle way.

Sandbar in the North

In the north we peered out onto the sandbars of the island just a stone throw away from us & visited the coveted whale skeleton. Hin Won on the east with its rocky outlet to an UNBELIEVABLE mass of coral just below the surface, & then we biked it to Shark bay to finish off our day of snorkeling… by SWIMMING WITH SHARKS!!… yes, that’s right. I said sharks. No cage, no dive gear. $5 snorkel sets in hand! It all sounds very dramatic, but the sharks were only timid reef sharks, 3-5 feet in length… but they did look like sharks,… cos they were,… so it was quite epic! We also tried to get to Mango bay before our shark adventure but to no avail. The roads to EVERY bay we went to were unspeakably steep & with our cheap & weak motorbike we had to ‘Flinstone it’ up, atop the bike, legs running, full throttle, bike screaming like a dog whistle… & usually ending with me dismounting & running up the bloody things while Nicky sauntered past unfazed on the bike. Well, I needed the fitness so no complaints.

We topped off the day with a drink at ‘Viewpoint Restaurant’ for yet another overcast sunset, but stunning views, a meal at Tukta, & some quiet drinks at the bars on offer at Chalok Baan.

Viewpoint for 'sunset'

A brief walk down the jetty from our bungalow, the bar was situated RIGHT on the shoreline. Cold beer & Mojito in hand we basked in the hammocks & took in our surroundings with epiphany-esque awe. Flame torches, hammocks, fire throwers, coconut trees, big colourful lights, chilled out music, good beer & the ocean lapping beneath us. We were in our element. Alas, the dreaded budget forced us to bed to await another day of adventure on a daring tour of Tao

Aboard our ‘trusty’ bike once more we went to one of the larger bays on Koh Tao with our last day approaching. Snorkels in hand once more we floated out above the coral, barely above it in the low tide, & witnessed yet MORE amazing coral & new breeds of fish we had not encountered thus far. The sun was high in the sky & not a cloud to be seen. Beautiful. Made even better by the bay we lay in. Protruding cliffs either side of the beach, stunning bungalows to envy & a rock formation 20m from the shore, about 8m high. I managed to climb up the rock with the aid of a kindly placed rope & 2 random English dudes, avoiding the sharp dead coral, & jumped off into the waters below to escape the baking sun.

Another good day capped off by, yep, you guessed it,… a curry at Tukta, & another day in the offing which would see us leave Koh Tao for the rather more developed & tourist saturated Koh Samui.

 

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