Exploring Thailand's east islands: Koh Tao
Ahh, the lovely Koh Tao. As the second (and probably most favourite) destination of my Thai adventure, it's one of Thailand's smaller, less developed islands. Famous for its tropical sea life, snorkelling and diving hot spots, not to mention the cluster of surrounding islands which are an Instagrammer's wet dream, it boasts stunning scenery and a laid-back vibe.
Day 1: Jungle-resort, exploring the island and ladyboy shows
Arriving into Koh Tao off the ferry from Koh Samui around lunchtime, we gathered our backpacks and headed to our hotel by jeep transfer, relieved that our bags had made it in the chaos, all the while shouldering past hollering locals trying to flog tourist bus tickets and overpriced taxis at the harbourside. A short journey later, we arrived at Charm Churee Villas. Like the name suggests, this charming accommodation was the most deluxe from the trip - the independent villas were set amongst palm trees in a mini forest, overlooking views of the piercing blue sea and brimming with noise from tropical insects.
Both the setting and the room were incredible. Plastering on the deet spray was a must, but it was a small price to pay for a gorgeous room with a four poster bed, wet room and balcony.
With only two days booked on the island, we definitely made the most of the activities on offer. First up, we took a stroll around the local area on an orientation tour, lead by our Contiki tour manager, to suss out local cafes, bars and eateries. It was then back to the room for a freshen up before heading out to dinner and drinks, followed by a ladyboy show. YUP. After days of sampling the local cuisine, it was nice to mix up the menu with a tasty burger, before knocking back a couple of cocktails in prep for the big show.
It was honestly so entertaining and some of the ladyboys were BEAUTIFUL - the boys didn't know what had hit them. So much confusion, but so much fun and some of the sassiest, diva performances I have ever witnessed. It was definitely tacky, but in a fabulous kind of way - only sadly we couldn't go wild on the bevvies due to our scuba diving sesh the next day.
Day 2: Scuba diving, jelly legs and power naps
Dragging our butts out of bed for an early start after the night before, some of the group headed off for our first ever scuba diving experience. We hopped on the boat, got the low down on the sealife and equipment, and got kitted up. It was a love hate thing for me. I was kinda nervous I won't lie, because once you're down you can't suddenly pop back up. But it was an awesome experience and I'm glad I tried it - our scuba dude was really profesh and made sure everyone was comfortable and aware of the safety signals and equipment before heading down to the depths!
They had to strap weights on us so we didn't float up to the surface and though getting used to the breathing apparatus was weeeiiiird, our group managed to get down to 11 metres! (12 being the max for beginners). We saw some beautiful tropical fish and even a puffer fish (oo-er). I chilled out on the boat, caught some rays and took some snaps while the guys went down for another dive - (because basically I had the willies and felt a bit adrenaline-y from the first dive #jellylegs).
In the afternoon we headed back for a long, hard nap (scuba is really exhausting!!) before grabbing dinner at the beautiful resort restaurant.
Day 3: Boisterous chinese tourists, snorkelling and lifejacket nappies
We packed our bags ready for the afternoon ferry ride to the third island, leaving them in the trusty hands of the hotel staff whilst the Contiki group jetted off on a snorkelling adventure... (aka getting pissed on a boat and looking at some fish). It was a SCORCHING day and everyone was betting their swollocks off, so we appreciated a dip in the sea and a nice cold bacardi breezer or three #HardcoreBeverages.
We also injected a little culture into the trip, by making what turned out to be a pretty stressful and brisk hike to the viewpoint overlooking Koh Nang Yuan. The scenes were like something off of a postcard, but behind the glossy, white sandy mirage was a bunch of impatient, sweaty chinese tourists, all battling to get the perfect island shot (and not waiting in the queue like us stereotypical Brits.) What looked like a calm and serene place was in fact fives minutes of sheer carnage - but did we show that in our selfies? Heck no! We smiled in our dreamy pics like the true insta-celebs we'll never be.
At the bottom of the narrow stone staircase up to the viewpoint, lay the blissful (yet really warm) sea. Crystal clear, we ran bare foot - with the sand legit burning our feet - into the water for a dip to cool down. I tried to fashion some sort of wet turban from my sarong, for fear that my skin was burning on my scalp like a piece of hot sizzling bacon. It wasn't a good look. I just looked like a total nob really...
Then it was back to the boat for some more drinks at the second snorkelling spot. We even fashioned some inflatable nappies out of our life jackets to sit in so we could float about and drink in the sea. Of course ensuring that we didn't share our bevs or litter with the fishies - (responsible tourism all and that).
We begrudgingly headed back to the boat to collect our bags from hotel staff at the harbourside - (we didn't want to leave beautiful Koh Tao!) and we hopped on the ferry to the next destination!...