Koh Tao is a hidden gem located off the western gulf of Thailand. Many visitors overlook this small island for the larger neighbouring islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phagnan, for glamorous expensive hotels or mad nightlife. This is a rookie mistake. Many visitors set foot on the golden shores of Koh Tao and spend most of their time away from the beach, underwater, in the depths of the sea, all learning to dive, as Koh Tao’s more commonly known as “The Diving Mecca”. However, myself and my travelling buddy both being students, and in no way, shape or form being flash packers, we decided against doing a PADI for financial reasons. Making this decision meant the beautiful beaches were left quiet and undisturbed, which meant more sand for us to stretch out on and more room for us to explore.
Beach bar after beach bar lines the coasts of Koh Tao. And I’m not talking about Koh Samui’s expensive privately owned bars, or Koh Phagnan’s boozy bars, no. These bars all differ in style and atmosphere. Each bar is personalised with large comfy cushions and various styles of chairs that are easy to sink into and lose track of time. DJ’s play chill out tunes making you easily drift off and day dream, your thoughts descending as high as the clouds above you, aiding the slow process of acquiring a tan much quicker.
There is so much more then just becoming a beach bum at Koh Tao. Hire a quad bike and explore various parts of the island and its many secret coves and beaches. Some tour companies do sell snorkelling trips to these areas, however I chose the cheapest option of hiring a quad bike and buying a snorkel, which means you have no time restraints and you are flexible to stay in a certain place as you wish. I’d really recommend Tanote Bay and Ao Luek bay. Both locations are beautiful beaches filled with large scenic rock formations on shore, and underwater- the most colourful and diverse marine life (no wonder so many people dive here); where sharks and swordfish dip and dive through strange rock outcrops under the sea, where you can try to chase schools of colourful fish with your fake fins and spot Nemo hidden in enclaves of coral.
The small town centre of Koh Tao- Mae Haad, makes it easy and cheap to travel around the town by foot as everything is in walking distance, most guest houses, bars and restaurants are on the beach front anyway, all in a straight line for your ease and convenience.
Exploring small side streets and the main coastal path will lead you to find Koh Tao’s night life. Now the night life here is not as vast like Bangkok’s or Koh Phagnan’s but that’s the beauty of it. Go on the pub crawl starting from Chopper’s Bar and Grill, although pricey it is an incredible amount of fun and an entertaining way to meet fellow backpackers. Lotus bar is another perfect place to sip a cocktail or buy a bucket whilst dancing on the beach, it has free entry and is a huge hit with the party animals of Koh Tao. Walk further along the sea front and you will find many more bars that will happily aid your quench for thirst and your need to move. I leave the exploration up to you.
On the main street in town there is a must do tourist attraction, or experience, one may say. And that is: The Lady Boy Cabaret Show. Lady boys are famous in Thailand, but what is a Lady Boy? A Lady Boy is a male but with all the attributes of a female, apart from the gentilia. These ladies, look, talk and act ladies, convincing most tourists that they are in fact women. These ladies see themselves as women and ever since a young age, have began to act and become a women. All around Thailand you will see these ladies, both charming and repulsing tourists. As well as bringing a large sex industry to Thailand, they also bring a large tourist industry, through cabaret shows, just like the one in Koh Tao. Watching this show you’ll soon see why so many tourists not realize there are lady boys in Thailand…