After the madness and oppressive heat of Bangkok we were quite desperate need of a new location where, at the very least, we could be outside during the day.
Fortunately what we found was a little better than that.
Koh Tao is the smallest of three neighboring islands in the Bay of Thailand about 500km south of Bangkok. It took us about 13 hours via night train and then another 4 hours on the ferry to arrive – but oh was it worth the journey.
Here’s our first view from off the boat…
We had booked the first couple nights at a hostel in the main area of town so we plowed our way through the swarm of tourist hawkers who had descended upon our boat and made for the center of town.
The first couple nights were pretty typical of a tropical backpacker destination – we ate overpriced food, drank (too many) cheap liquor drinks with some new friends and sought out the beach for recovery.
Nothing out of the ordinary and we were ready to write off Koh Tao as nothing special until we took a stroll to the other side of the island. That, as we found, is where paradise was hidden.
After a hot, frustrating 45 min walk down the dusty roads leading to the south side of the island we stumbled out onto the first beach we found and were greeted with the following scene:
It was stunning.
Nothing had ever, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, embodied the term paradise more than this awesome landscape.
The small bay was filled with bright turquoise water lapping gently up against bright white sand beaches encircled by towering coconut trees. A dozen small, colorful boats bearing the flag of Thailand bobbed gently in the lazy surf while a few local dogs playfully chased fish in the shallows.
The mediocrity of the main part of the island faded away. This is where we needed to be.
So after an hour or so of laying in the shade on the beach (laying in the sun is way too hot) we wandered into the dive shop just off the beach called New Heaven Dive School. After chatting for a few minutes with the owner we found out they offered rooms just up the hill from the beach for $15/night.
Ocean view, 2 minutes off the beach in a quiet paradise? For $15?
I think you can assume how we proceeded. So after finishing that night at the hostel we packed up camp and moved it to the other side of the island.
But not before an interesting incident. Which Mom does not know about yet – until now. (Sorry Mom!)
After booking our stay with New Heaven we decided to rent a motorbike to tour the island which, while small, is still too big to walk with any degree of comfort.
We rented from a shop recommended by our hostel and set off along the roads. Having been warned by a local to always wear a helmet regardless of how slow you’re doing simply because the roads are below par and the other drivers are even further below par, we buckled our heads up for safety.
It ended up to be a good decision.
Wanting to investigate another little bay which was hidden away on a different part of the island, we cruised on over to where it lay on the map and found that we could see it – it was just down a 30 degree decline hill. I quite literally was holding the break as hard as I could the entire, slow drive down this slope but to our relief we made it no problem, hopped off and enjoyed some snorkeling in the beautiful little bay.
Once finished we hopped back on the bike and began making our way back up the hill. The motorbike began to struggle and just as we ironically passed a sign which read ‘Only 1 Person on Motorbike on This Hill’ it stalled and started to fall backwards.
That is not a good feeling.
Our first instinct was to get off as fast as possible and Jenna was able to but as I was trying to prevent the bike from zipping backwards down the hill by holding the brake, the careening bike fell into a ditch on the side of the road and took me with it.
Fortunately the damage was comparatively limited to what it could have been – to both bike and body. The bike damage ended up amounting to $200 dollars mostly from the cracked and scratched body casing plus a broken mirror, a snapped brake handle and a broken foot stand.
Jenna (being the more athletic and therefore able to jump off) got away without a scrape. I was not quite so lucky although, as I said, things could have been much worse.
It was just a bunch of bad scrapes, one burn on my shoulder and a couple bruises. Worth the story though right? I hope…
But back to paradise!
The next week we ended up staying at New Heaven was a slow blur of diving, sleeping, reading, writing, coffee and amazing curry. I’ll let these photos do the talking.
By the time our 10 days on the island had finished our batteries had been fully recharged (minus the throbbing in my left arm…) and we were ready to continue our trip south towards Indonesia.
It’s hard to imagine we won’t see this paradise again in the future.