As with much of our journey, we are keeping open minds about every place we visit. The children are learning what is actually important in the world and also how some people live and work to survive. Thailand has shown us so many things that isn’t in the tourism guides. The island paradise of Koh Tao, and I suspect most islands out here, has its quirks just like everywhere else. Though, this is the point of travelling. A perfectly polished celebrity resort it isn’t, more a bustling hive of moped rentals and dive trips. But I guess thats the charm of the place.
We kicked our transit with an hour wait at the train station in Chumpon, before a coach collected us to get to the Lomprayah ferry port. This was fine and we all managed to chill and read and catch to the station security officer.
Upon arrival in Tao, first off let me just cover one thing. Avoid using a ferry company called Lomprayah. There are many horror stories regarding this company. But our experience of the staff etc was very good and we have no complaints about any of that. What we do suggest is using another company called SeaTran for the sole reason that they use a normal boat and not a “high speed catamaran”. The design of this boat causes the worst sea sickness known to any seasoned traveller. The approach to the waves was clearly go faster and crash through them. Every member of staff on board was holding a large clutch of sick bags, which were handed out to us almost as we boarded: a bad sign.
As we left the port in Chumpon the kids settled down into there seats inside and sat back watching films on their Kindles. Within 2 minutes of the ferry going full throttle it was clear things weren’t going to be plain sailing. A quick glance across the seats and you could see worried faces everywhere. Some people where standing up and looking at staff as if to say “errr, this is a bit rough is it not?”. 5 minutes later the first person was sick. A few minutes after that you could see a lot of very quiet people handing on for dear life inside the cabin.
At this point Rosie decided she wasn’t feeling well so I agreed to take her up to the outside seating. This was good and managed to keep her sickness away for almost an hour. Other passengers outside were going through sick bags rather quickly. One guy was retching the whole 1.5hrs.
To cut the long story short, use Seatran. Its a normal boat, costs less and takes only a few minutes longer. Please trust us on this.
Once docked we picked once of the heckling taxi men, agreed an extortionate price and headed off to our hotel in Tanote bay on the east side of the island. The journey sat in the open flat bed of the pick up truck taxi was really cool and the kids loved going up and over the island. When the concrete road stopped and turned into boulders and sand I suddenly wondered if the hotel even existed. Thankfully it did and when we were shown our room we felt like we’d lucked in. Our room was 5-10m from the water. Just stunning.
Flat, this island is not. Day 2 in Koh Tao and April was ill with terrible headache and flu’y. We were stationed on the east of the island and the nearest pharmacy was 4-5km on the West of the island. Low on cash and not wanting to pay for a taxi I decided I’d walk it. It’s hard to put into words just how steep the road (dirt track full of boulders) actually was. Its 4×4 vehicles only to get in and out, not so much flip-flop terrain. Dutifully, Ruben came with me to hunt and gather medicine and water, plus Mentos’ for Rosie. Walking was probably the best thing we could have done. It was really hot and steep, but just being able to wave & greet the locals and, in some cases, run away from the dogs gave us a better feel for the place than the taxi did. The centre of Tao is where many of the locals live and seeing how these people live in basic bamboo houses could give Ruben and glimpse of what the island looked like before any of the tourism arrived. Although now some have a satellite dish too and a monkey on a rope.
Half way across the heat and terrain meant Ruben and I finished off 3 litres of water in no time and needed to re-stock. Thankfully we were over half way and on the way down the other side. After successfully getting paracetamol and much needed water we grabbed some lunch in a small cafe before heading back across the island. When we returned April was looking much brighter and we even had time for a swim before dinner. Good day.
Day 3 and the girls hadn’t left the resort since we arrived and since April was now feeling human again we got a taxi into town, arranged through hotel this time. The small town where the ferry port is has many small shops to have a browse in and we managed to find Rosie a small handbag for her bits and bobs. Rubes opted for a shark tooth pendant. The main things going on though are moped/quad bike hire and dive/tour shops. They are everywhere. Restaurants are good and you can get plenty of western style food if you fancy, though you’ll pay more for it. I grabbed a Massaman curry and after I’d finished I joked to the owner it was really spicy. He laughed and said, “no, it only ’bout 10%. For Thai we put 80% spice.”. Put me in my place anyway. Really delicious though.
Once we were done we headed back to the hotel and went for a swim. Our location was a small bay full of coral reefs so we donned the goggles and went for an explore. We weren’t disappointed. I headed out to test the waters, so to speak, and soon discovered that I was surrounded by fish. Sounds stupid, but I was literally surrounded by fish. You couldn’t see them until you look down. Suddenly realised why there are so many dive tours here. Fish life is thriving. The waters are unbelievably clear. I swam back and grabbed Rubes. We’ve always used our trusty rubber ring as a float for snorkelling to help the kids in deep water so they can rest. So I promised Rosie I’d bring it back and pushed a reluctant Ruben further out and ignored his requests to turn back until we reached the clear water. “Right, now look in the water and if you still don’t like it we’ll swim back”. 20 minutes later I went back and got April. Ruben loved it! After April I took Rosie out and she too was in awe at the huge shoals of fish right in front of her face. She could literally grab them. I’ve tried to take some pictures etc, but the GoPro is an earlier model that burls pics underwater (errr design flaw chaps).
The swim was a great end to our stay in Koh Tao. Still, didn’t get much sleep for the last night due to some rain, waves, weird bird sat on the roof (could’ve possibly been monkey, grr), but it left us happier then when we arrived after the horror ferry ride with Lomprayah, more grrrr.
I think Tao is somewhere you appreciate more when you’ve seen other islands. It was our first Thai island experience and looking back its a really beautiful place dying to be explored further. Good thing then that the tyres on the mopeds in rentals shops have all been swapped out for dirt tyres.