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Koh Tao

Travel Expert’s Guide to Koh Tao – (Turtle Island)

Literally translates as “Turtle Island”, Koh Tao is an oceans cape paradise for all things beach related. Ever popular with backpackers and trekkers, the island’s effortlessly cool vibe and rocky scenery has attracted visitors in droves for decades.  Koh Tao is regarded as the best Thai Island for scuba-diving and snorkeling.  If dry land is more of your thing, Koh Tao has you covered, with panoramic viewpoints that can be reached on foot through various hiking tours and rock-climbing sessions.  Eagle Creek or High Sierra Hydration Packs are recommended if you plan to go trekking as the climate is very dry and you will need to remain hydrated throughout your journey.

Don’t Miss while in Toh Tao

Snorkeling – Regular boat trips leave from Chalok Baan Kao Bay to explore the island’s coastline underwater. Trips range from traditional long tail boats to larger vessels, or even luxury speedboats. Bike Routes – Road and mountain biking can be found through the island and hitting them in a great way to discover more of Toh Tao’s glorious scenery. Sai Nuan and Tao Thong Beach – Two relatively undiscovered stretches of sand on the island’s southwest coast, both Sai Nuan and Tao Thong are as authentically locale as you can find, dripping with hammocks and coral wind chimes.

Places to check out

  • Watch the traditional sport of Muay Tai Kickboxing at the monsoon Gym and Fight club
  • Hike your way up to Koh Tao’s famous lookout Koh Nang Yuan
  • Dive under and become licensed as a PADI scuba diver

Where to eat

Hae Head Pier is a great place to start for tasty eats on Koh Tao. Around the clock, you can find locals offering excellent fried chicken or celebrate through the island and find a nearby pancake stall as they whip up sweet and savories with theatrical abandon. The dirt tracks between Lomprayah and Songrem piers is a mecca for cheap street food.   It’s also the stomping ground of one vendor who signals his presence by sounding a horn, and serves up helpings of coconut and sweetcorn ice cream. H Bistro – Fine Dining known for the wine it serves as well as its French cuisine Barracuda – Reasonably priced fine dining experience

Food to try while there

Pad Thai – Rise noodle stir fried with tamarind paste, egg tofu, fish sauce chill and palm sugar. Typically topped with lime, roasted peanuts , beam sprouts and meant of your choosing. Papaya Salad – A crunchy mixture of un-ripened papaya in a mortar with fish sauce, peanuts , palm sugar, tomatoes and lime – many variations exist.

Best Time to visit

November to May – dry and hot average 32 degrees Celsius.   Avoid traveling from June-October when the wet season begins.

While in Koh Tao. Does and don’s

  • Wear modest clothing in temples to respect cultural customs. Don’t touch monks, its considered extremely rude.
  • Take shoes off before entering homes or temples. Don’t touch people’s heads, the head is considered sacred in Thai culture.
  • “wai” placing your palms together and bowing is an appreciated sign of respect.
  • Speak Thai. A little can go a long way.   Thai deeply appreciate it as a gesture of goodwill.
  • “Mai Ben Rai” like “hakuna matata” is a moto most in Tai live by, means don’t worry and don’t think about consequences. While in Koh Tao keep in mind that most people will have a relaxed, worry free mentality and that translates to arriving late, missing schedules and taking long lunches.   If you’re in a rush, you came to the wrong place.

Tipping rules

Wait staff, bartenders and bag keepers require no tips.  Tour guides require $500/Day in Thai Baht (Tai currency ) Culture shock and warnings. ( to avoid acting like an ugly American )
  • Always ask before taking a photo with someone.  Wear long pants and skirt when visiting holy places.
  • Table Manners – Hold the fork in your left and the spoon on the right. Use your fork to push food into the spoon , but don’t put the fork directly into your mouth.
  • Pour drinks for others when their cup is half full and let others do the same.
  • Thai may press their hands together and bow slightly, and you should reciprocate. Otherwise shake hands.
  • Remove your shoes when entering someone’s home and don’t step on the threshold.
  • Haggling is expected at street vendors, except for food vendors.
Keep these basic rules in mind and you will blend into their culture well and avoid looking like a tourist.

Basic Thai you will need to survive.

  • Hello ( sah wat deeee)
  • Goodbye ( Lahh-Khohn)
  • Please ( kah-roon-ohh)
  • Thank you ( Kop KOOHN)
  • You’re welcomed ( Mai – pen-drai)
  • Pardon me ( kah-tohht)
  • English (pah-sah ahn get)
  • Yes (chai)
  • No ( Mai chai )
With these things in mind , enjoy your trip to one of Tai’s Most amazing islands and don’t forget to get your diver license while you’re there.

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