review

Eating My Way Through Thailand: The Gulf Islands

HOLY SHIT. I’M QUARANTINING IN A CABIN IN THE MIDDLE OR RURAL QUEBEC. A week ago I had no idea that I’d leave my apartment in LA and drive 42 hours back to Canada, but here we are. I’ve been trying to write this blog FOREVER.

Here was the initial intro:

“It’s pouring rain and cold in LA. Coronavirus is in full swing. Tom Hanks has it. Idris Elba Has it. Everything is cancelled. Travel bans are being enforced. I’m worried about my late 60’s parents in Canada. I’m trying not to go crazy during this quarantine. People keep posting that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during his quarantine and I can barely write this blog. I did really hurt my wrist hoisting my limp body off my couch yesterday, so typing has been difficult! As the world is in chaos and I fight the urge to pour a glass of wine at 2pm I’m reminiscing about my trip to Thailand. It was one of those “fuck it let’s just go on a trip cause we never do!” things and boy am I glad we did. Things change fast and nothing is certain. We spent 3 blissful weeks in this magical country during the Chinese New Year and literally didn’t hear about Coronavirus until I landed back in LA, January 22nd.”

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HA! Oh, how things have changed. I was supposed to write this blog weeks ago, but life happens. Now that I have to be stuck inside, I literally have no excuse. Travel is out of the question so at least I can reminisce about frolicking around Thailand. If you haven’t read part one of this blog (how dare you) it was about my time in Chiang Mai. Part 2, (this blog that you’re reading right now) will focus on the Gulf Islands. Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

After the most magical time in Chiang Mai (read the damn blog already!) my husband and I headed to Koh Samui. We decided to stay on the Gulf side because the thought of adding a full travel day to get to the sea side islands seemed daunting. After all, this is a vacation and spending a total of 12 hours or more on a ferry/bus/van combo isn’t great for two people who get major motion sickness.

LET’S BE HONEST. Some of you are just going to skim this blog. Others will look at the pictures. If you’re crunched for time (even though I know most of you are at home going stir crazy) here are the coles notes of this blog:

KOH SAMUI
Expensive-ish island. Lots of dumb white tourists, one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, cool neighborhoods, go to Treehouse restaurant on Maenam beach.

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Bophut Beach, Fisherman’s Village

KOH PHANGAN
Don’t go during the full moon party if you don’t plan on attending Full Moon Party! (oops!) Mostly Russian people at our resort who watched things full blast on their iPhones, no headphones and had intense screaming fights while we tried to read. Saw a Russian man put a spider the size of my first in his mouth. Take a day trip to Ang Thong National park.

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KOH TAO
Cute little island with more laid back, diverse tourists. Lots of good restaurants and beaches. Splurge on a villa or get something cheap by the water. You won’t be disappointed.

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Ok, if that peaked your interest, read on! We took a plane to Koh Samui and after almost shitting my pants, we checked into our hotel in Fishermans Village. There are a ton of cool neighbourhoods on Koh Samui but after some solid research, I settled on on the village. Would I live to regret this decision? Read on to find out!

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My first impression was WOW! This place is so cool! It’s one main drag and some cute side streets lines with restaurants, bars, cafes and boutiques. There is hustle and bustle and it’s right next to the water. We checked into out hotel where the french owner told us he gave us the BEST room in the place for our honeymoon. BOOM! We unlocked the door, awaiting our paradise and WOW! Not what it looked like in the pictures! Aside from the view (which was spectacular) the rest of the place was a bit of a dump. It felt like a shitty airbnb with water that sometimes didn’t work.

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The view from our hotel. Bophut Beach.

I won’t lie, this tainted my initial impression of Koh Samui. I wish I was a chill “go with the flow” kind of gal but my OCD kicked into high gear and I couldn’t shake it off. Mostly because, DON’T FRIGGIN LIE TO ME. I don’t like a bait and switch and this is what it felt like.

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That being said, Fishermans village is a very cool area. It’s quite touristy and you definitely feel like you’re constantly being “sold” to but I wouldn’t definitely recommend it for a night or two. The first night, we decided we wanted a break from Thai food and treated ourselves to a fancy Italian restaurant, right on the water.

Gusto Italiano

Word on the street is that this place is run by a lady who moved to Koh Samui from Italy! We shared a prosciutto pizza, hand made pasta in tomato sauce with prawns and a bottle of wine. Wine is pretty pricey in Thailand. I mean, it would definitely have cost me more to buy a bottle of wine at an Italian restaurant in LA, but compared to everything else in Thailand there is definitely a mark up! It was worth it though. That night we went back to our shitty hotel and as I was covered in soap because the water wouldn’t turn on, I heard it. The bar across the street BLASTING music. They went until 2 am and I cursed myself to sleep.

Scooters

In the morning we planned on having a quick bite to eat before renting a scooter and exploring the rest of the island. I read so many articles about scooters in Thailand. Apparently there are a lot of scams and a lot of accidents. We were extra cautious and got an international drivers license in case we got pulled over. If you were to get into a scooter accident without having a proper license, your travel insurance probably wouldn’t cover it. We had a hell of a time finding a scooter to rent because A) it was Sunday, and everything seemed to be closed and B) everyone wanted to hold your passport. Apparently this is pretty common, but I read NIGHTMARE stories about tourists being blackmailed and forced to pay tons of money to get their passports back. We ended up finding the nicest lady ever at Samui Fisherman’s Travel Agency who only required a photocopy of our passport. Make sure to take tons of pictures of the scooter before (as you might do for a rental car) to ensure you’re covering your ass. Wear a helmet and don’t be an idiot. Most accidents happen because tourists are being idiot morons. Riding a scooter is scary as f*ck but kinda of necessary if you want to easily get around the island. It’s very fun but be smart about it. We chose not to ride them after dark.

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A beautiful boat on Bophut beach, Fisherman’s Village

Chaweng and Lamai Beach

I had heard great things about Lamai, Chaweng and Coral Cove. Apparently Chaweng is one of the busiest beaches because there are more accommodation options and a bustling nightlife. We specifically didn’t choose this area initially because we wanted a more laid back vacation. The bar across the street had different plans for us! If you’re one the younger side and looking for more hostels and a party atmosphere, go here! But I didn’t find the beaches as beautiful. Lots of people and more garbage than I’d care for! Did I mention that tourists are ruining Thailand? Be responsible and clean up after your damn selves! Definitely worth a day trip though.

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Coral Cove

Coral Cove was really neat! It’s a small cove that you have to get to by sneaking through a few resorts. It didn’t say that it was a private beach (some of them do) so we decided to check it out. The waves were definitely more intense but it’s quite majestic and secluded.

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Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem

Another reason to head to Chaweng and Lamai is to see the sights alone the way. The 12 meter high Golden Buddha and the 18 arm Goddess of Mercy. There is also a massive white Chinese Buddha next to her. It’s quite impressive to see such grandeur on a relatively small Thai island. Koh Samui really has something for everyone. You could spend all day at a beach resort or you could scoot around and learn about Thai culture and history. We did both! A reminder to pack a sarong and/or scarf so you can cover up when you visit temples. There was a woman in a neon green sports bra. Not cool!

Hin Ta and Hin Yai Rocks

If you feel like seeing rocks like look like a giant penis and vagina, then this is the place for you! I’m paraphrasing, but Koh Samui folklore states that an old couple died at sea while on a journey to ask another families daughter to marry their son and they were turned into his and hers rocks to show their true intentions? I’m not sure if it was worth the extra stop, but how could a turn down a chance to see a massive penis rock?

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Day 3 we ventured out by scooter again, renting from the same lady and checking out a few beaches in the opposite direction. Maybe it’s because the sun was shining harder but WOW, these beaches were incredible.

Maenam Beach

This is by far my favourite beach on Koh Samui. It’s picture perfect and not too busy. There are a few restaurants and bars along the way if you want to stop in for an iced coffee, beer or bite to eat.

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We just walked and walked for what seemed like forever and then I forced Matt into a photoshoot. It was just too pretty! If I were to come back I’d stay in this area because it’s close to Fishermans Village if you want to go for the evening and a lot of the resorts even offer shuttles to Chewang.

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A nice thing about Koh Samui is that it offers a range of different food because there are so many people from all over who visited and then decided to stay.

Sasatorn Coffee

We ended up coming here a few times for breakfast. We ate in one time and other times just got a pastry and coffee to enjoy on our beach front patio. I can’t stress enough how good the coffee and pastries are in Thailand. It’s a wonderful way to start off your day!

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Red Moon

One night we had dinner at a delightful French restaurant that offered French and Thai options. The owner is French and couldn’t have been more kind and accommodating. I opted for the menu which included an appetizer and entree for 290 baht, which is very inexpensive for Koh Samui! The islands are definitely more pricey. I ordered lemongrass mussels as an appetizer that were quite questionable and swapped it out for delicious chicken satay, no problem. Matt had red curry beef for his main and I had a thai fish dish that was delicious. The southern Thai cuisine is known for their seafood so I planned on getting my fill! After dinner there was live jazz and the place was bustling. Highly recommend!

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The Hut Cafe

On our last night we went to the Hut Cafe on the outskirts of Fisherman’s Village off of a recommendation from a friend. When we arrived there was nowhere to sit and they offered us a sad table that was literally in the parking lot, in the dark. Luckily a nice older Australian couple let us join them at their table! I don’t know what it is about going on vacation, but Matt and I always bond with people who are 50 plus when we travel. We ended up having a 2 hour conversation with them over some of the most delicious Thai food I’ve ever eaten. I ordered the seafood Tom Yum soup and it’s maybe the best one I’ve ever had. And it was HUGE. I also ordered thai green curry (I was so hungry) and that was excellent. The food takes a while to come out and they let you know that when you sit down because it’s a small family operation and everything is made from scratch. Again, one of the more affordable places in fishermans village. There are lots of fancy restaurants and steakhouses on this strip that will cost you a pretty penny, mostly because of location and a spectacular view.

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Bob Color

It was our last night at the sad hotel across the street from the loud bar and we finally decided “If you can’t beat em’, join em!” We were going to bed relatively early because we had been waking up early to seize the day but this night, we powered through. We went to the loud bar to discover that there is Karaoke most nights hosted by a man named Bob Color. Mr. Color is a white man who not only hosts the night but SINGS. ALL. THE. SONGS. Apparently you request a song and instead of you singing it…he sings it? The bar was packed with a rag-tag group of 40 plus tourists and expats who were drunker than a leprechaun on St. Patty’s day. After about 30 minutes there I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I despise Bob Color. We went back to our hotel around 1:30am and at 2am Bob was still wailing into the night. LUCKILY we were checking out of this dump and heading to a fancy resort for our last night on Koh Samui.

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The Coast Koh Samui Resort

OH BAYBEEEE. This place is nice. Was it double the price of the last place? Yes. Was it worth it for a night of bliss? YES. From start to finish, this was one of the best days we had on the islands. We arrived early because we wanted to get the hell away from Bob Color and get our moneys worth at this beautiful resort and were greeted with hot towels, a glass of champagne and early check-in. We immediately went to the pool and ordered some lunch and then had a fresh young coconut and cocktail in the pool from the swim up bar.

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We digested in the sun with a good book and then went paddle boarding on Maenam beach. It was truly paradise. For dinner that night I found a place within walking distance that had happy hour Mojitos and great reviews. This resort comes with breakfast included and it’s definitely the best “all inclusive” breakfast buffet I’ve come across. They had a so much variety. Eggs, thai food, fruit, bacon, smoked salmon, fresh mango juice, pastries and more! I might need to take a break and made breakfast now because I’m drooling…but more about our dinner!

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Treehouse Silent Beach Restaurant

This restaurant is on silent beach, about a 15 min walk from our resort on Maenam. Walking there when it was still light out was fine but walking back on the beach in pitch black was a bit tricky! Did I cut my foot on shells? Maybe. That was after I fell down the stairs at the restaurant and collapsed at the feet of a Swedish couple who stared at me like I was a zoo animal. ANYWAY. This restaurant was top 5 of the entire trip.I got a mixed seafood panang curry which was incredible and Matt ordered the Massaman curry. The Massaman was life changing. It’s a creamy, spicy thai dish with Muslim influences. Slightly sweet and tangy with earthy peanuts, chicken and potatoes. Holy shit. It’s crazy good. Did I mention the Mojitos yet?? I got a strawberry one and then a passionfruit one and hands down the best tropical cocktail of my life. If you find yourself on Koh Samui you HAVE to go here.

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Seafood Panang Curry

KOH PHANGAN

We took the Lomprayah high speed ferry to Koh Phangan, excited for the next party of our journey! I prayed that the hotel was better than the first one of Koh Samui. Getting off the ferry in KP can be overwhelming. There’s not really a cab service so you’re pressured into just taking a red car for whatever price they set. A bunch of tourists flood off the boat and then drivers recruit you for their cars. After A LOT of chaos we crammed into a truck with 8 other people and headed to our respective hotels.

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The view from our patio.

We came during the full moon party, even though we didn’t plan on attending the full moon party. A drug filled rave on the beach with thousands of tourists doesn’t really tickle my fancy. We stayed on Mae Haad beach, a 40 minute drive from Haad Rin where the party happens, thinking we’d be away from the craziness. We were kind of wrong. About 90% of our resort were Russian tourists who were going to the party. Maybe it’s mob mentality, but it felt a bit like we were intruding on a Russians only party.

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The beer chugging chain smoking neighbours that shared our patio.

We had a beautiful beach front room that unfortunately shared a patio with our neighbours. This would have been fine if our neighbours didn’t start their trip with a the screaming match of the century followed by chugging beers and chain smoking. The next morning when the angry couple emerged I said “good morning” (seeing as we’re neighbours) and the man grunted at me like a caveman. COOL.

By noon they were gone and were replaced by a Russian thrupple who loudly watched things on their phone, NO HEADPHONES. 1st of all, YOU HAVE A BEACH FRONT ROOM. ENJOY THE VIEW. Furthermore, you have a SHARED patio. and 3rd of all (is that a thing?) people who listen to things full blast in public are a menace to society and should be fined. Why people think that anyone around them wants to hear their shitty music, youtube video or podcast is beyond me. Get some headphones and go nuts.

Ok, back to this beautiful island and all the POSITIVE things about it.

Mae Haad Beach

We stayed at the Koh Ma Beach resort on Mae Haad and it’s actually a really nice place despite the obnoxious tourists. The beach offers some pretty decent snorkelling. There is also a thin cord of sand that connects to a small island and you can walk along it during low tide. At high tide, it’s completely underwater. Because of the rich coral reef and aquatic life, I’d suggest wearing water shoes! There were sea urchins everywhere and my husband stepped on coral and some got lodged in his foot. The sunsets were absolutely beautiful too and this part of the island is the place to see them!

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Treehouse Bar and Viewpoint

There are lots of bars called Treehouse in Thailand and none of them disappoint! We found a bar near our hotel and decided to walk to it because it was only 17 minutes. Well, after 17 minutes up hill in the craziest humidity, WE MADE IT! And oh boy was it worth it. It’s a literal treehouse in the mountains, overlooking the water. I sat on the ledge with my feet dangling over the edge while I drank a cold Chang and felt the mist from a quick rainfall on my face. This place was incredible. It’s cash only and we didn’t bring enough so Matt had to trek all the way down to an ATM and all the way back up because he’s a good man. So if you go here, bring enough baht! We had massaman curry again and while it was good, it didn’t hold a candle to the one we had on Koh Samui. I’d recommend sticking to the deep fried treats here and a cold beer.

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View of the fishing boats from Treehouse Bar

Bubba’s Roastery

On our 3rd day on Koh Phangan we rented a scooter and decided to explore! It’s all a blur now. The beaches we visited didn’t stand out to me like the ones on Koh Samui (I think because it was a bit overcast) but the food we ate was top notch. Our first stop was at a super hipster little coffee shop/breakfast joint called Bubba’s. I sat next to a white man with dreadlocks, a feather earring and multiple rings who had his bare feet up perched up on a stool and sucked his fingers so loudly as he ate it prompted me to ask “Is it good? Sounds like you’re enjoying it!” with the biggest fake smile I could muster. Old suck fingers aside, this place was cute as hell. Matt got eggs benedict and I got some sort of egg and potato chorizo bowl. The cappuccinos, as usual, were delicious. 

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Top Rock Bar

After venturing to Salaad beach and secret beach (where I almost shit my pants) we headed to Top Rock Bar. Like treehouse bar, this place is wayyyy up hiiiigh. And if you like being up high *wink wink* you might like this place?? Walking up the steep steep stairs is not for the faint of heart or the unfit! By the time we reached the top we were so tired and parched that for once in our lives we DIDN’T order a beer. Instead we got a fresh coconut and enjoyed the view. Yes there were people enjoying being up high (if ya catch my drift) but we decided against it seeing as there was more scootering to be done. Gotta stay safe out there, folks!

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Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar

Afer that, it was time to eat again. Duh! My friend Sonia had recommended Fisherman’s Restaurant and bar and I would give my left tit to go there right now. It’s definitely more high end but totally worth it. I got a gin and tonic with a homemade ginger syrup and a seafood curry that could have fed a family of 4. Matt got his beloved massaman which he said was almost better than the one he had on Koh Samui. This place, from service to food and atmosphere, was off the charts. We were there for a late lunch but I bet it really comes alive at night.

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They have a pretty extensive wine list which is pretty rare in Thailand, and lots of string lights, indoor and outdoor tables and great tunes. But back to the curry. It was HUGE. Big chunks of fish, calamari, crab and a prawn the size of my head. I ate all of it. It probably cost about $12 USD which is absolutely insanity. If you find yourself on Koh Phangan, treat yourself to this place.

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ANG THONG NATIONAL MARINE PARK

Ok, this isn’t technically on Koh Phangan, but we took a day trip tour here and it was hands down my favourite part of the Koh Phangan chunk of our holiday. “Mu Ko Ang Thong is a marine national park in the Gulf of Thailand in Surat Thani Province. It covers 42 islands in a total area of 102 km², of which about 50 km² are land and the rest is water. The park was established on 12 November 1980.” -wikipedia. 

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We got picked up at our hotel bright and early and then took a small high speed ferry with a bunch of other tourists for about an hour before we reached our first stop; snorkelling! As you’re approaching the area it looks like something out of a movie. It’s so breathtakingly beautiful that I can’t quite put it into words. We got to jump off the boats at our first stop that was rich with aquatic life for some much needed snorkelling. Mae Haad beach is supposed to be great for snorkelling but we didn’t have much luck the day we went out so this was perfect! There was so much beautiful, untouched, healthy coral and huge schools of fish. 

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Next, we made another stop at one of the islands and went kayaking. It was definitely a workout considering I had been spending the last 2 weeks eating and drinking and not lifting any kind of weights! We had a delicious buffet lunch (remember buffets??) and then went for a swim. After kayaking back to the drop off point we got back onto the boat and headed to our next stop, Koh Mae aka MOTHER ISLAND. This island is home of the beautiful emerald lake! You walk some pretty steep stairs to a view point and there it is. A stunningly beautiful emerald green masterpiece just begging you to dive in! But you can’t of course. They say not to go in because of “fish that bite” which I’m sure is true, but I’m sure they also don’t want a bunch of sticky tourists ruining the lake. 

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We made one last stop to Koh Wua Talap to do one final hike. This day is pretty exhausting to be honest! Lot’s of physical activity. The hike is broken up into viewpoints, and we didn’t make it to the top. It was SO hot and humid that day and I felt like my legs would have given out on the walk own. Apparently from the top you can see all the islands. Even if you only make it 3/4 of the way, the views are incredible. The best part? MONKEYS!

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There are so many monkeys cheering you on as you hike! Well, not so much cheering as they are just chilling in the trees, BUT STILL! What fun! We befriended a young American couple who made it all the way to the top and took pictures for us. Also, I almost forgot to mention the spider guy? He deserves his own heading.

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SPIDER GUY

While waiting to get back on the boat at Koh Mae, Matt and I waked past a giant rock and saw a HUGE spider crawl out of a crevasse. He pointed at it and a few tourists noticed and shuddered. Then a Russian man waltzes over, picks up the spider by one of his giant legs and PRETENDS TO PUT THE SPIDER IN HIS MOUTH. Like, mouth WIDE OPEN, and spider REALLY IN THERE. Without even missing a beat, his wife starts taking pictures. You know when you see an instagram model posing and her sad boyfriend dutifully taking dozens of photos? This is what it felt like. Like she had been trained to snap photos of this crazy man for the gram. His chubby little Russian son cheered him on as the rest of the tourists watched in horror. This went on for quite sometime and is still one of the craziest things I’ve ever witnessed.

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Simple Bar

We were exhausted and hungry after a long day trip but it was our last night and we wanted a final good meal. I found a place “nearby” that had excellent reviews. After walking down a pitch black highway for 20 minutes, we were there! and we were the only ones! the owner/server greeted us and immediately handed us a bottle of bug spray. Uh Oh. This place was clearly where all the mosquitoes came to hang out. She put on a fan close to us to blow them away and once our food came, I didn’t give a shit about the bugs. The papaya salad was maybe the best one we had had thus far! So spicy and flavourful and fresh. You could hear her in the back cutting all the ingredients and mixing it together with a mortar and pestle. We also got a yellow noodle dish that was so simple and comforting. I felt like I was being cooked for by family. This woman also happened to have 2 of the worlds cutest dogs and she was so good with them! At one point some other tourists stumbled upon the place asking for smoothies (it was almost 8pm, but whatever.) She explained they didn’t have the fruits they wanted but then sent her teenage son out on a scooter to get the ingredients and make these people some damn smoothies! That’s the kind of service she gives! There was a pool table that would have been nice to use but ya know, the damn skeeters!! 

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That nest morning we left Koh Phangan to head to Koh Tao. The Loomprayah high speed ferry ticket we bought for 9am had been cancelled and rescheduled to 1pm so we ended up making the most out of a shitty situation and got brunch and a massage. WE ARE FANCY LITTLE BABIES. 

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KOH TAO

This was our last “island chunk” of the trip. Koh Tao is known for the excellent snorkelling and scuba diving and it’s one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI certified. We weren’t going to get any kind of scuba certification but now that I’ve been it’s definitely something I’d like to consider if I ever go back! Since this was our last stop we wanted to make it count so we splurged on a villa up in the hills overlooking the water. Upon arrival they showed us to our villa which was arguably the smallest and worst one there. They then showed us a beautiful 2 bedroom villa with a way better view and said we could have it for an extra 2000 TBH (which is about $60 USD) for all three nights. Considering these villas are normally about $400 a night, it was too good to pass up!

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These villas are wayyyy up a mountain and they have a shuttle service that runs a few times a day to bring you in to town. Each villa has their own private little pool and a view of Shark Bay. I felt like a celebrity on vacation. I’ve never been in such a beautiful place. Even in paradise, tourists can manage to ruin things. After remarking about how quiet and perfect it was, a group of Russian boys (I say boys, but they were probably 19 or 20??) started blasting the Two and a Half Men theme song on repeat whilst singing along. I can’t make this stuff up. 

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Other than the rowdy Russian neighbours (who thankfully kept it down at night) the place was perfect. We wanted to spend most of our time up here to really enjoy the place. Each villa comes with some pantry and fridge staples (bread, eggs, wine, beer etc) and it works like a mini bar. You pay for what you use upon checkout. They also include a variety of takeout menus of places that will deliver right to your door! It’s so nice to sit out at night, look up at the stars and hear the screams of the flying foxes (giant bats) as they swoop above you. This might sound terrifying (it was) but it’s also exhilarating. They’re harmless…at least that’s what I told myself…

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Lotus Bar on Sairee Beach

After ordering Thai food and spending the night in,  we had a lovely sleep at our villa and woke up refreshed, ready to explore Koh Tao! I made a quick breakfast of leftover Thai food and eggs (why the heck not?) and then the shuttle dropped us off near sairee beach.

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We got some delicious iced coffees and headed to the water. Sairee beach is full of life and energy. Lots of bars, restaurants and modest accommodations line the beach but it doesn’t feel tacky. It’s busy, but not crowded or overwhelming. There were arguably more tourists here than any of the beaches we had visited but it had such a great vibe. It wasn’t one group of people being annoying, it was everyone just co-existing and have a great time. I loved it so much. You can walk the beach for miles, stopping for a cocktail, a swim or a bite to eat. After some fun beach time we ventured inland to get some food. It had been a while since we had “American food” and were craving burgers. 

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Baia Burger Concept

Luckily Baia Burger Concept had a killer lunch special! A burger, fries and lemonade for a very reasonable price. Never in a million years did I think I’d be ordering a burger with mushrooms, truffle aioli and 3 kinds of cheese in Thailand, but here I was! Goddamn these burgers were good. They had the classic smash burger patty, delicious bun (either a potato bun or brioche) and some quality toppings. Before heading back to our Villa we picked up some rations for dinner. Booze, baguette and BBQ.

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Flaming Hog BBQ

This place offered a ton of BBQ options including a whole roast chicken and 2 sides. We ordered it to go and ate it later on for dinner while naked in our private pool. I ATE CHICKEN IN A POOL AND IT WAS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE. Not to mention, the chicken was incredible. AND some of the best potato salad I’ve ever eaten. Did the pool make it better? Probably. But I bet I could have eaten this in a porta potty and it still would have been delicious. We ran into some dudes we had met in Chiang Mai who loved this place so much they ate there 4 times in 4 days. That’s how good it is! 

On our final day in Koh Tao we did some research and rented a scooter from a reputable place. 

Red Power Motor RPM

This place has excellent reviews and the owner was very kind. We said we’d only be renting it for a few hours so instead of charging us the flat fee for a full day (which most places would charge, even if you don’t use it the entire time) he gave us a discount. 

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That being said, riding a scooter on Koh Tao seemed to be a bit scarier than the other islands. Yes it’s a smaller island, but it’s also more rustic and there are a lot of hills. I dragged Matt around from beach to beach, feeling like I needed to see more of the island. Here’s the thing…after a while, all the beaches start to look the same. Yes, some are better than others but it can feel like you’re chasing a high and are never quite satisfied. We went to Ao Lewk and Ao Tanot Bay because we heard they were great for snorkelling. Yes they were fine beaches but getting there was quite stressful and the water was so choppy, snorkelling sometimes felt like you were fighting for your life.

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Can you spot the Matt on the rock? Ao Lewk.

When travelling it’s easy to think you aren’t doing enough or seeing enough because every asshole who has travelled there before you is like “YOU GOTTA GO TO THIS PLACE AND IF YOU DON’T YOU’RE AN IDIOT.” Don’t listen to these people. Don’t even listen to me! Yes, I’ve made some recommendations but it’s up to you to decide what you want to do. And if that includes staying on the same damn beach the whole time, then so be it! SO BEACH IT. 

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Ao Tanto Bay

After we dropped off our scooter we walked back to Sairee beach and flopped around the water until the sun set. It was relaxing and perfect. We had pans to meet up with the dudes we met at the elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai who wanted to take us to a super authentic Thai place run by an old granny in an ally. Walking to this place certainly felt like a trap. 

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Mama Piyawan’s 

You walk down a long, dark alley and it really seems like you’re not supposed to be there. After a while it opens up to what look like a small parking lot, and there’s the restaurant! It was packed. The 4 of us ended up sharing a table with 2 Australians who were kind enough to oblige when the old Thai lady ordered them to move over. I ordered spicy thai basil chicken and it was everything I had hoped for. It absolute destroyed my body but it was worth it! When you meet people during your travels and then end up seeing them 2 weeks later, it feels like you’re seeing your best friends. We barely knew these guys but we laughed and drank like we were old college buddies, reminiscing about the past. As I said in my Chiang Mai blog, most of the best food in Thailand is served from places with little plastic tables out on the street. Obviously I had some incredible gourmet thai food at more upscale places, but a place like this just feels right. 

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After dinner we headed back to our villa to have one more night of luxury before heading to Bangkok. So, if you made it to the end of this blog, GOOD FOR YOU. I know it’s long, but what the heck else are ya doin?? Here are some final thoughts and then you can go back to binge watching Ozark or whatever. 

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1) Knowing what I know now, I would have spent more time on Koh Tao. It had the best vibe and felt like a good place to meet people and connect to other like minded travellers.

2) Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to see everything. It’s your vacation. You’re in a beautiful place. It’s all incredible if you just let yourself enjoy it. Don’t worry about what you’re not seeing. Focus on what’s right in front of you!

3) Don’t plan ahead too much. If you find you don’t like your hotel, you don’t want to be stuck. For example, we might not have stayed at our place on Koh Phangan. 

4) Don’t go during the full moon party if you don’t want to attend the full moon party. That was another mistake! Other people who have gone said they weren’t bothered by it, but if you’re looking for ultimate quiet and relaxation, avoid if you can!

5) Quiet places are often the loudest. What do I mean by that? If you’re in a secluded place you’re going to hear every noise. If you’re in a more energetic, populated area, everything becomes background noise. So until I’m rich and famous and can be on my own private island, I think next time I’ll choose some locations where I can join in on the noise!

6) Be grateful for every moment. I know that I’ve bitched about all the annoying tourists but now that we’re all quarantined a group of Russians blasting their music and singing along doesn’t seem so bad! Don’t get me wrong, it was the trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful that we were lucky enough to do something like that. But as I sit in this cabin it’s crazy to think that just 3 months ago I was galavanting around Thailand without a care in the world except for almost shitting my pants and getting annoyed by tourists. Perhaps if I have known about the impending pandemic it would have changed my attitude. Hindsight is always 20/20. But even in this moment, I am so grateful to be in this secluded, quiet cabin in the woods. Yes we are all in this together but others have it much, much worse. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring but in the meantime we can be smart, safe and kind to each other. I hope this blog brought you some joy. and I hope that when all of this is over you can go on the trip you’ve always dreamed of. Thanks for reading. Love to all!

PS: There are a lot of waterfalls on the islands. Check one out!

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