Nina's Diary- Koh Tao
So Julian wanted to tell you about what it was like from his perspective and since I'm a chatty gal and might have a different perspective, I thought I would write my own narrative to tell you what it was like for me to finally make it to the long awaited island of Koh Tao.
I remember the boat ride being long and beautiful the whole way and as we'd get close to an island we kept wondering if possibly that one or that one, nope.... which of these islands was it? Kind of like "are we there yet?" When we made it to Koh Tao, we knew that we had made it to the prettiest island we would see on our trip to Southeast Asia. We got our bags, hopped into a songtaew (the back of a pick up truck) and made our way to our hotel. During the ride it was bumpy and we noticed that the roads weren't as developed so we were happy to have hired the songtaew and not to have rented a motorbike.
We were greeted with a welcome drink at the hotel while we waited for help with our bags. What we didn't know is that because our room was beach side and the hotel was located on a hill, that we would've had to be in great shape to be able to walk to our room, down steep steps carved out of the rocks, over bridges and across rock formations. This was easily a 5-10 minute walk throughout the resort, but once we made it to our room we were in awe! The view was well worth the walk (hike). Look at what we arrived to below...
We decided to spend the most $$ on our hotel in Koh Tao because we were going to do less running around and spend more time on the resort. This room was about $175 USD (almost all of the other hotels for our trip was an average of $50-75 USD) but it had the best views. I mean, this is totally honeymoon worthy. Imagine a 1 bedroom villa with a separate dining area and a private indoor pool with a view of Koh Nang Yuan (the islands in the distance). The night of our arrival we enjoyed the resort by taking a dip in the infinity pool with seaside views, eating at the restaurant, making friends with a German guy who gave us helpful tips and going snorkeling at the mini beach next to our hotel room.
The next morning we took advantage of the hotel's free breakfast. We had Thai pancakes (which is similar to a crepe back home) with chocolate and bananas. You know, breakfast for champions, ha! Shortly after, we grabbed our things and waited for the Songtaew to pick us up and take us to Mai Haed Peir so that we could catch a long tail boat to take us to Koh Nang Yuan (the island we marveled at from our hotel room). Just a mini tip: it's worth trying to haggle the prices of everything in Thailand. It takes a tough customer to avoid over paying but always bargain with respect and in a pleasant way. Thais don't like to loose face so always be pleasant when negotiating for a better price. I love the game of haggling with the Thais and definitely did so for our long tail boat ride...
What I don't think Julian conveyed enough in some of the previous articles is that I was in a constant state culture shock. For the first week I was in awe. I mean you almost can't believe your eyes. We had done so much research beforehand and you would've thought that we'd be prepared to view all the temples, and gorgeous beaches but I was in awe. It is almost like information overload. It is the other side of the Earth so maybe it's understandable?
Pulling up to Koh Nang Yuan was no exception. I mean, you almost can't believe your eyes. Still in shock and excited to explore, we got off, checked our belongings into their bag check (they don't let you bring your own water bottles or food on the island to preserve the beauty) and paid the entry fee. We walked through the beach to go straight to the path to climb the mountain. This was another test of our physical fitness, we were a bit out of shape, but were able to make it to the top. There was a line to the view point, it took a local Thai and Julian to help me up to the view point, but once we made it there it was totally worth every step to make it to the top. This is definitely a life bucket list item for me. Physically and visually experiencing this was so rewarding and I am eternally grateful that Julian pushed for us to do this.
After marveling at the view from the look out point, we got a bit ballsy and decided to crawl under some boulders (mom this is the part where you stop reading, lol) to get to a more secluded area. We decided that there was a more exclusive view point a bit higher, so we stupidly decided to try and climb higher by helping each other up the rocks. At this point I had reached my physical max and found myself slipping down a bolder, thinking I was going to really hurt myself.
I just didn't have the strength to keep climbing, so I let Julian keep using his military skills to climb up the boulder and make it to the higher lookout point. He enjoyed this view alone, but he said it was just stunning to be there with himself. Below is a glimpse of what he was able to capture from this view. I just wouldn't recommend trying to climb to further heights since it's just so dangerous and I found myself slipping from the rocks. If it weren't for Julian helping me I could've really hurt myself and there aren't any hospitals on the Island so it would've been really bad so... stick to the path that has the locals there to help you.
The experience of seeing these views and achieving a bucket list challenge was so rewarding. And to know that I did it with my best friend, my love by my side who encouraged me to rest when needed, lent me a hand and pretty much saved me from really hurting myself, I am so grateful to be able to share this with him. I would encourage any couple to challenge themselves to make it up to the look out point on Koh Nang Yuan to share the view with someone you love or in solitude to see how beautiful the world is!
Crawling back under the boulder and making our way down was still a bit challenging but it felt a lot easier since we felt so accomplished. We then made our way back to the beach to enjoy the crystal clear water. The thing about the water around Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan is that because it's so clear, it's known for being one of the best snorkeling spots. Just walking into the water from the beaches it was easy to swim with little fish. This was so refreshing after the really hot hike! I can't express how wonderful this island is. It is just so stunning and serene.
Eventually, we had to head back to the main land as I think I remember them having limited transportation as the day got closer to the evening. That evening we planned to go to a pub crawl but we kind of forgot to eat throughout the day so when we made it back to the mainland I started to feel my head pulsating. I didn't feel right so I insisted that we eat in order to recover. It got to the point where I had to convince Julian that I just couldn't see myself having drinks after being overheated from the day. We took a walk to Sairee Beach to see where the Pub Crawl would take place, scouted the places out and although I'm sure it would've been sooooo much fun, I just couldn't do it. So we made our way back to the hotel.... this is where it all went down hill.
So we make it back to the hotel, shower and as I get in my pj's I start to feel cold shakes despite it being warm. I already noticed my skin getting little pimples everywhere and then I started to have a fever in addition to the cold shakes. I have never felt so horrible in my life. (Mom please tell me you're still not reading...) I think to myself "I am going to die on this Island." Julian doesn't know what to do. He tried feeding me snacks, giving me water, putting a cool wash cloth on my forehead but nothing would stop the cold shakes and now sore body. I don't remember going to sleep, but I remember him waking me up with cold water bottles to my cheeks and he even had to get me up in the shower for a cool shower to help drop the fever. In the end, I had sun poisoning and heat exhaustion from all the fun activities earlier. What I can tell you is that this is really scary; especially in a foreign country on an island. So I would tell anyone who is going to hike or be out and about in the summer anywhere: be sure to find as much shade as possible, use a lot of sunscreen, wear a hat and HYDRATE. This was one of the best days but also one of the scariest things that I've experienced while traveling.
The next morning I felt soooo much better and really wanted to make the most of the remaining time on Koh Tao. We picked up some snorkeling gear from a little tourist shop in Mae Haad and made our way to the pier (I would recommend buying, as opposed to renting because it's cheaper and if you are island hopping you can use it wherever you go). At the pier, I negotiated the cheapest rate that I could for a long tail boat to take us on a snorkeling tour for a couple of hours. Here are a couple of photos from the boat ride.
Let me tell you, I had a bit of fear of being under water while snorkeling and I may have had a panic attack a couple of times. I had to calm my breathing and at this point I was really able to let go of my fears and explore. I tried to stay really close to Julian, just in case. This guy, (Julian) man, he would go under water with his snorkel tube. How? I have no idea but he was like a fish. It's incredible that there is a whole other world under the sea. We watched the coral that was open, close up to protect itself when we would get close. We watched schools of fish swimming in a rainbow of different colors and sizes. It is incredibly beautiful under there. Take a look at some of the video:
I can totally see why people snorkel and get their diving licenses there. The experience is truly one of a kind. We stopped off at 4 different locations to see the different under water wild life in each area. The last stop was at this secluded beach that had hammocks, natural water flowing from the huts and little tiki huts for lounging. I retreated from snorkeling to relax in a hammock on the side of the beach while Julian continued exploring underwater. I felt so chill and just melted into this moment of being with myself in such a beautiful place.
I can't tell you how many times I told Julian, "I can't believe this is my life". I don't want to come across superficial. I want to inspire others to venture beyond what they can imagine. We didn't plan to snorkel and it just so happened that we ended up on this secluded beach. I think because we spoke to other travelers like our German friend or the long tail boat driver we ended up making the most of our unplanned time to go with the flow, take better care of myself and to truly fall in love with our last day in this paradise.
We eventually made our way back to Mae Haad Pier to pick up our bags and get ready for our ferry ride to Koh Pha-Ngan for the Full Moon Party! This made for a very long day but I do think that we made the most of enjoying the ups and downs of our visit at Koh Tao. I will forever remember these moments of struggle and over coming, our bucket list adventure to the top of the mountain of Koh Nang Yuan and the underwater beauty of Koh Tao!
P.S. Where is your favorite place to hike and snorkel? I am interested to know where you've ventured to and maybe to fill my bucket list with places I might not have considered? Let me know in the comments below!