Friday, 23 February 2018

THAILAND - ISLAND HOPPING (KOH TAO & KOH SAMUI)


Lying in the Gulf of Thailand, a short and sweet ferry ride away from the north of neighbouring islands Koh Samui and Ko Phangan, you’ll find the little island of Koh Tao; home to incredible beaches, vibrant marine life and some pretty groovy beach bars. 

Prior to this 2 month Thai adventure, I found myself reading an article shared on Facebook referring to Koh Tao as the infamous ’Murder Island’. After reading it I was adamant not to succumb to the views of those from the Daily Mail (duh) and felt it was only right to base an opinion from my own experience. However as I was writing this very blog post I decided to indulge a little further into these articles like such and this, to get some additional depth and insight into the sort of content you can expect from sites which may alter your perception of the island. As I found myself reading more and more I became a bit startled into how naive I potentially could have been previously - some of the stories are awful! Stories like these rightfully resonate with you and as serious and saddening these stories are, you shouldn’t avoid visiting based on fear as thousands of tourists still visit these islands weekly and personally I had the most magnificent time.  Likewise with any place you are travelling (especially as a solo traveller) having your wit about you and being subconsciously aware of all of your surroundings in order to avoid any type of possible danger is always a must. 

“if you live your life in fear, you will never fully know freedom or breakthrough”  

I thought it was worth mentioning as I feel people could potentially have a preconceived perception of what Koh Tao is like and I can completely see why, but from visiting and experiencing in person I feel its important to highlight how amazing the island is despite the incidents which have happened.



KOH TAO BEACH HUTS
I was lucky enough to have the oppurtionity of visiting Ko Tao twice which allowed me to get a real understanding of what the island has to offer. The first time accompanied with 7 friends from home primarily consisted of a lot of hostel/beach/bar lounging and far too many chang beers - imagine typical brits abroad…*insert cringe emoji*. Since the majority of my friends were only out for 2 weeks, it was treated more like a holiday which meant a whole lot of relaxing rather than the typical cliche active backpacking adventures you would probably envision to happen. 

The first time I stayed for 3-4 days and the second time I stayed for just under a whole week. And it wasn’t until my second time visiting that I really got a feel for and actually discovered more than just the really crappy tourist beach that everyone seems to congregate on. 



CLIFF JUMPING/DIVING
Koh Tao is renown for its diving/snorkelling spots which boast all sorts of marine life including (if you’re lucky) the rare sighting of a whale shark every now and again! A real USP for the island is how cheap it is to get your openwater PADI/SSI diving certificate making it one of - if not the cheapest place in the world to get certified. Nang Yuan Island is only a short boat journey away and has some pretty epic views that are definitely insta worthy and if you long to live your inner adrenaline junkie then the opposite side of the island offers some giant rocks in the middle of the sea which you can jump from - the climb on the way up is undeniably very hard and shoes are recommended. 

There are dozens of different dive centres in Koh Tao so choosing the right one can feel like a mission in itself but luckily we stumbled upon one of the best. Big Blue Diving ensures each group is small and personalised to cater for the pace each individual feels comfortable with, as well as super accommodating if you want to change or alter your diving schedule. The instructors are knowledgable and have an extremely good sense of humour keeping you cackling all day long. But most importantly they are attentive towards both your safety and welfare making sure you are confident with all your equipment before entering the deep blue.

KOH SAMUI
I was originally hesitant whether to make the trip over to Samui after hearing mixed responses from travellers who had been before. A notably common mention of how Samui only caters for those in resorts and it being a little bit more expensive as compared to Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. Despite this I still wanted to check it out however the infamous Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan was happening on the same dates. I feel like the Full Moon Party is one of those things where you kinda have to tick it off the bucket list since you have made the journey all the way to Thailand - even if it isn't your usual type of vibe. But luckily rather than being left in a predicament choosing between the two, its surprisingly common for people to stay on Samui and just get a boat over to and from and I cannot recommend this anymore as it was the perfect mix of relaxation/exploration combined with a bit of partying. We booked through our hostel (The Chill Inn Beach Hostel) where they organise all your transfers to the harbour from the hostel and boat itself. From a solo travellers perspective its perfect for you meet so many people at your hostel and get to know them really well. Boats run throughout the night every hour so you just pick a time which accommodates how ever long you want to party for. 

The hostel itself was everything and more and feel like it was the backbone behind why I fell in love with Koh Samui. It just had everything right. The perfect chilled vibe, prime location, lovely friendly staff and was super clean. Hiring mopeds from the hostel and getting lost exploring the jungle/coastline were how we spent most of our days so didn't spend much time in the actual town itself so as far as recommendations go I can only recommend the Freedom Bar for some live music on the beach. 

Have you checked out THAILAND - ISLAND HOPPING (PHI PHI ISLANDS)?

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