10 Things to Know Before You Go: Koh Tao

Mr. Ahmin’s banana pancakes are the only dessert you need on Koh Tao

Located on the corner next to the Lotus Resort pool on Sairee Beach, Mr Ahmin’s banana pancakes became a staple part of our Koh Tao diets. Every night, Jo and I would venture forth with banana and Nutella pancakes smothered in condensed milk firmly on our minds. At 40 baht per pancake, the price is standard, but it’s Mr Ahmin’s flare for his job that kept us coming back. Whenever a new customer arrives, they are met with a boisterous “Hellooooooo! What you want, my friend?”. Once he finishes cooking the delicious pancakes, he cuts them up, and ceremoniously throws a skewer into the pancakes before handing them to you. It was by far the best dessert that we had on the island, and always added a bit of joy to our evenings.

A Su Chilli’s meal a day keeps the food depression away

Not enough positive things can be said about Su Chilli’s. The Green Curry was the stuff of my dreams and the Chicken Cashew nuts was the best I’d ever had. Su Chilli’s is one of those rare eateries where you can close your eyes, point to anything on the menu, and get something delicious every time. It was so tasty that we started getting Su Chilli’s withdrawals. Jo and I often joke that the worst thing about leaving Koh Tao was that we were also leaving our favourite restaurant behind. RIP Su Chilli’s, you will be missed.

Mmmmmm... Su Chili's
Mmmmmm… Su Chili’s

Cat’s and dogs rule the island

They… are… everywhere. Koh Tao is covered in cats and dogs. It was heaven and hell for me. Heaven, because I love animals, and can never resist trying to pet a fluffy little kitty. Hell, because a lot of them are injured, and they don’t seem to have a home. What surprised me was how friendly all of the animals seemed to be. Despite some of them limping or being flea-riddled, most of them will either completely ignore you or act like your best friend. I never saw an aggressive dog or a hissing cat, and I pet and cuddled many.

The cats of Koh Tao
The cats of Koh Tao

We even adopted a white and black spotted cat called Toof. He spent all day at our bungalow with us and would come running as soon as we came back from a day out. He was ridiculously annoying because he never shut up, but I loved my little Toof. If you’re nervous about interacting with a dog or a cat, my tip is to hold out your hand. If they come over and sniff it, you’re okay to pet them. I employed this tactic when we left Australia and have yet to be bitten, scratched, or barked at.

Our Thai kitty, Toof.
Our Thai kitty, Toof.

Hire a long tail for the day and go snorkeling

Koh Tao is known for it’s fantastic snorkeling and dive sites. Although there are many tours that take you to different bays and beaches, Jo and I decided to hire our own personal long tail boat. This cost us 2,500 Baht for a whole day. It ended up being one of the best days of our trip so far. Our captain (who looked exactly how I imagined a Thai pirate would look) knew which areas were calm and had the best visibility. His savant-like knowledge of the reefs was of great benefit to us. At one point, he singled out a specific area where we could see Black-Tip Reef Sharks (we saw two in ten minutes). We went to four different locations where he would anchor down, drop a small ladder over the side, and we would swim and snorkel to our little hearts content. Even if you’re not into snorkeling, it’s a great way to see Koh Tao as the boat can take you around the entire island in a single day.

Thai Pirate/Boat man
Thai Pirate/Boat man

An hour or two on Koh Nang Yuan is all you need

Koh Nang Yuan is amazing above the water, but underwhelming below it. The island was absolutely teeming with Japanese tourists, of which there are very few on Koh Tao. There are signs everywhere telling you what not to do, and you have to pay for pretty much everything including the shower by the beach, a chair, an umbrella, a tap to wash the sand off your feet, and entrance to the island itself. You’re also not allowed to bring fins with you. I assume this is an attempt to help protect the reef. Too little, too late. Koh Nang Yuan was by far the worst snorkeling spot we’d seen. Most of the coral was dead or bleached, and even walking along the beach was painful in parts due to all the broken coral fragments underfoot. There is one single reason to visit Koh Nang Yuan, and that is the view. There is a look out on the most southerly tip of Koh Nang Yuan that is simply stunning. The island looks beautiful due to the dark and light blues of the water below, and all of this can be viewed whilst sitting on large and seemingly impossibly placed boulders. The climb up and down can be done in about an hour, but when it’s not crowded, you could easily spend longer casting your gaze over the sublime landscape.

Koh Nang Yuan from the look out.
Koh Nang Yuan from the look out.

Fresh fruit is the best breakfast you’re going to get

I’m not fond of making broad, sweeping statements, but Thai people just don’t do good breakfasts. Now, maybe our standards are too high (Australia does amazing breakfasts), but if you’re wanting eggs, bacon, sausages, hash browns etc., Thailand just doesn’t get it. I ordered a full English breakfast once, and it came out to me with eggs, boiled potato, and bacon all mixed together into a lump on my plate. It’s fine though because Thailand has ridiculously juicy and tasty fruit. You might even find, if you’re a human being, that you really enjoy a nice healthy breakfast, and that it actually makes you feel good about yourself. Who knew…?

If you rent scooters, you’re almost certainly going to get ripped off

This is pretty common around most parts of South East Asia, so it didn’t really come as a surprise to us. Usually there are a few reputable places where you can rent from, but nobody on Koh Tao seemed to be able to recommend anyone. I asked a staff member at Apnea Total who had lived on the island for three years. He said that there wasn’t anyone who wouldn’t try and rip us off. It was so rampant that he actually bought his own scooters and rented them out to Apnea Total staff. I even saw an American guy arguing with a Thai man about a scooter that he was trying to return. The Thai man kept pointing at dents and scratches while the American was saying that they were there before he hired the scooter. If you really want to hire scooters, I’ve heard that the company next to Sairee Cottage is usually ok. Even so, make sure the people you’re hiring from see you taking pictures and videos of the scooter, and never give them a valid passport.

Get used to limited power and a cold shower

Koh Tao doesn’t have enough power to last the whole day. If you’re staying somewhere nicer, you might have your own generator. Unfortunately, our bungalow was budget, and didn’t have a backup power supply. This meant charging everything we had when the power was on, even if the battery wasn’t low. Make sure you take advantage of the electricity when it’s on. Having a camera or a phone with a flat battery can be really frustrating. The lack of consistent power also means that wifi throughout the entire island is unreliable, at best. Try not to let it ruin your day (it did for me a few times). Also, most places will not have hot showers. It’s a small adjustment, but when you realize how refreshing a brisk shower is, you start to enjoy the experience.

The footpaths are not footpaths

As a rule of thumb, if it looks like a pedestrian walkway, it’s not. Even narrow paths have speed bumps to stop scooters and cars from going too quickly. Do yourself a favour, stay on the far left when walking. I saw many people nearly get sideswiped by speeding bikes and cars. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine.

Dinner at Lung Pae restaurant is the perfect way to end your stay on Koh Tao

On our last night, we decided to head to the highest restaurant on Koh Tao, Lung Pae. The restaurant can pick you up from designated stops, or you can catch your own cab up there for 400 Baht (you’ll get a free cab back down again, courtesy of Lung Pae). The food was the closest we got to fine dining on Koh Tao, and the cocktails were creative and delicious. However, it’s the view that has made Lung Pae famous. Perched on the side of a mountain facing the beach, we were treated to luxurious views of dense palm forests and the ocean. We were lucky enough to go at sunset, and as the light faded throughout the evening, it seemed like the perfect end our stay on Koh Tao.

The view from our table.
The view from our table.

Did you enjoy your time on Koh Tao? Are you planning a trip there? Do you have anything else to add? Feel free to leave a comment or email us at Dirtypawsblog@gmail.com

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5 thoughts on “10 Things to Know Before You Go: Koh Tao

  1. Love this! I remember now you commenting on my koh tao post. So true about the scooters and I think I atr at a very similar restaurant if not the same one!

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