Playing Tour Guide on Koh Tao: Snorkeling, Songkran, and Sunsets
Confused on where we are? I’m taking this moment while my travels are grounded to care for my mom to catch up on my black hole of un-blogged content. Here, I’m covering my time in Thailand from March through May of 2017. My apologies for any confusion with the timeline, and thanks for sticking with me.
Ask anyone who lives in an appealing vacation destination: you get your best tourist-ing done when friends come to town! Still, hosting can be full on. When my bestie Kat came back to visit Koh Tao from London, it was the best of both worlds: she was a past resident who now makes an annual sojourn back to her old island. All the fun and none of the stress. But don’t think I didn’t consider hiding her passport so she couldn’t leave!
Päivi had kept her pregnancy under wraps and literally announced it by showing off her baby bump when we all reunited in the terminal — it was so much fun! I’m pretty sure everyone on our flight hated us for our non-stop yapping, but we were having such a good time we decided upon landing that we weren’t ready to return to the “real world” and share each other’s company with anyone else just yet — so we skipped our ferry and spent a night in Koh Samui.
Dinner at Wine Connection, drinks by the pool, two of my best girls by my side — this is happiness.
Eventually we made our way back to Koh Tao, where Kat and I had an obvious first stop — the dive boat!
Our friendship was forged back in 2011 when I was grappling with homesickness and culture shock after making the drastic move from New York City to a tiny island in Thailand, and Kat was doing her divemaster training. I think she pretty much took pity on me, declared me her friend and made me her pet project — and she’s been one of my favorite dive buddies ever since.
As you can see from Kat’s underwater miming below, they weren’t the most thrilling dives we’ve ever had — but whatever, we were just happy to be underwater together.
And our underwater adventures were far from over. We couldn’t help but dress up as mermaids for our favorite holiday together, Songkran, which I’ll be writing a full post about this edition of. Kat has often timed her visits back to Thailand to align with Songkran, a tradition I may pick up someday in the future, too.
Yet as much as I love our traditions, my favorite of our adventures was a fresh one. I’d been hearing about a secret snorkel spot in Mae Haad for months but hadn’t gotten by bum in gear to get down and actually look for it. I was eager to write about it in my guidebook, and Kat being in town was the perfect excuse to go research.
The spot in question is a “shipwreck” — well, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it is some underwater wreckage — in a very shallow spot south of Mae Haad beach. We left our stuff with our friends at Master Divers, walked as far south as the sand allowed, and then snorkeled along the coast until we found the spot. It was so cool, and completely free — I can’t believe I lived on Koh Tao so many years without knowing about it.
We didn’t let our aquatic adventures end there. With sunset looking like it was going to be a banger, we headed straight to Maya Beach Club and hopped on boards courtesy of our friend Si at SUP TAO (remember, Alex In Wanderland readers always get a discount there by mentioning the blog!)
Living in Koh Tao, every time I went paddle boarding at sunset, I would vow to make it a weekly event. While I never quite reached that goal, I did savor every second on those boards.
How could I not, with views like this? I think I could set a resolution every year for the rest of my life to watch more sunsets, and I still wouldn’t get enough of them.
Kat’s visit literally flew by, and soon it was her final farewell. The day of her departure coincided with Easter, and just our luck, Viewpoint Resort’s new monthly brunch. Brunch is not a meal that’s really caught on in Thailand, we were pretty thrilled by this addition to the island’s social calendar. I’d been trying to attend one for ages and was thrilled to have such a great crew to cheers to the experience with.
While I know it can seem like all I did in Thailand was beach hop and have fun, in reality, most days were spent at my desk — doing a job I love, of course — and my friends all worked hard at their own gigs as well. So it was still special to get so many of us together and have an excuse to spend a day in the sun, playing tourists on our own island.
We sent Kat off to the ferry both of us tipsy and teary-eyed and already plotting our next reunion.
Of all the things I have to be grateful to Koh Tao for, this is perhaps the most poignant one: some of the best friendships of my life have been forged on this island. Whether we see each other every day or once a year, whether we now live near or far, we’re always connected by the time we spent on this little rock in the Gulf of Thailand.
Next up from the Thailand archives: a look at sustainability and Songkran!