Koh Tao, Thailand

We took an overnight train from Bangkok to Chumphon, where we would catch a ferry to Koh Tao. Our previous experience with State Railway of Thailand went smoothly, so we had no reservations at all about riding again. The train was scheduled to get in three hours before the earliest ferry left. How would we kill the time between 4AM and 7AM in Chumphon? Luckily, State Railway of Thailand took care of that for us. Midway through the night the train’s engine broke, and we had to wait a little over three hours for a replacement train. This got us into Chumphon about a half hour after the ferry departed and changed our 3 hour wait into a 6 hour wait, killing half a day on Koh Tao. As a consolation prize, the ferry’s jetty jutted out from a beautiful beach, so even with our plans ruined we got to spend the day lounging in the sun and swimming in tropical waters. At 1PM, we boarded the ferry and had a relatively smooth ~2 hour ride to Koh Tao.

After finding our bungalow, we strolled up Sairee Beach and settled into beachside bean chairs to take in the sunset. It ended up being one of the best sunsets of the trip. On our walk back we ran into a man named John who chartered longtail boats for snorkeling trips. We arranged to meet him at 9AM the following morning, but wary that we might not show up, he insisted we call him at 8:30.

The following day we woke up early and called John. It was very obvious that we woke him. When we made our way to the pier, a friend of his met us and explained that John was too hungover to drive our boat, so he’d be taking us around. We loaded up the boat and headed out. The first place we jumped in, Shark Bay, lived up to its name. The second we hit the water we spotted a 5-6 foot blacktip reef shark. Unfortunately, we have no photos to prove this, but if we were making it up, we would have invented a much bigger shark. Nevertheless, swimming with a shark as big as us was a huge rush. As the shark disappeared into the distance we were able to relax and focus on the thousands of spectacularly colored tropical fish and coral all around us. We had carried a hefty underwater housing for one of our cameras for weeks, but the effort paid off. We spent the whole day sailing from place to place, snorkeling and snapping pictures of beautiful fish/coral.

At the end of our boat ride, we stopped at Nangyuan Island just off the northwestern tip of Koh Tao. We took a short hike to the top of the highest peak on the island for a nice view over the whole scene. The island was crowded with tour groups who come on day trips from nearby Koh Samui. The beach was littered with signs keeping all the guests in line: no cans, no bottles, no feeding the fish, no shampoo, no soap, etc. We watched as a Chinese family ignored these signs, using a loaf of bread to lure beautiful tropical fish into plastic shopping bags. An island employee came over after the father left and told the children to throw the bread away. The ~9-year old little girl walked the loaf back to her family’s lounge chairs but snuck a piece behind her back before returning to the water. As she neared the edge, Ting put her death glare and her Chinese to perhaps their best use ever. The smug look vanished from the little girl’s face and her day (hopefully her whole vacation) was ruined.

Exhausted from our day of snorkeling, we set out to find a place to sit, eat dinner, and watch the sunset. On our way, Ting got distracted by a sign offering pedicures and Eric got distracted by a convenience store. We decided to put the two together. We bought a few Chang Beers and headed for the spa. They said we could sit outside on their back patio a few feet from where the waves crashed. We sipped our drinks and Ting had her toes painted as we watched the sunset and discussed the logistics of purchasing an island off Myanmar. It was a great last evening on Koh Tao.

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