Touring Thailand

 

Koh Tao View and Tracks

 

Koh Tao

Koh Tao, despite being a veritable diving colony also has some mean road and tracks.
Back in the late 1980s and mid 1990s Koh Tao had no proper roads, in fact the only way of getting between the small settlements was by the beach road on the west side of the island.
Nowadays (thanks mostly to the Burmese labourers) a decent enough road runs roughly north to south on the west side of the island. Once you pull off this main road the going becomes more haphazard and mountainous dirt tracks connect much of the east side of the island to the west. The northern and center-east of the island tends to be very hilly with the flatlands located in the center west the south. It makes for some excellent scrambling and offroad action. ATVs and quad bikes are popular as is an offroad version of the honda sonic.

Koh Tao Areas

There are roughly three main settlements on the west and south side of Koh Tao and two smaller ones on the east side. Generally the main bulk of the tourists tend to be at the port town and Sairee beach with the rest spread all over the island.

Mae Haad (which is the main port town) and home to most of the dive and fishing boats boats on Koh Tao. This is one of the places you can get your bike looked at.

Haad Sairee village, which is also known as Sairee beach.
A small but booming area with a concentration of diving shops and schools. The islands main diving resorts are based here. Some bike mechanics here.

Chalok Baan Kao is a small hamlet on the south face of the island in a sheltered bay. Here there are diving centers with a few resorts. Fat Mechanic is considered one of the best, if expensive, mechy's for working on bigger bikes.

Koh Nang Yuan - The tri-pronged islet that is accesible by longtail only.

Road Lore: Here on Koh Tao though, the local police will turn a blind-eye to unlicensed bikes, but periodically the police from Surat Thani will show up and often 'take-over' sections of the road and impound bikes that are not road-legal. Their prime hunting ground is the main north-south island road into and out of Mae Haad, but they sometimes focus on Sairee.

They will threaten to impound and confiscate and remove them from the island if you do not pay a fine.
Whether to pay the fine is your call, but it can be pretty steep some farang have been hit for beyond 20,000 baht at a time. They often bluff about shipping them back to the mainland and when they leave they'll just abandon them at the islands police station for you to pick up when the coast is clear. However some other stories stress that they often do carry-out complete confiscations. You could gamble whether the cargo ferry is due to arrive for when they are bound to leave (usually at the end of the week-end), or do what we do and just avoid the check-points.

Koh Tao Facts

Population: 5600+ (variable due to tourism)

Size: 21 Sq. Miles

Distance from Capital by Air: 250 miles (no airport on Koh Tao)

Distance to Mainland Port by Sea: 50 miles

Distance from Capital by Road and Sea : 340 miles

Seasons and Weather.

Koh Tao is one of the more exposed Islands out of the three and during the rainy season can get flooded with rain. It also gets a rougher sea-state during bad weather because of its isolated position. On a positive note this means that the fresh sea breezes usually bring a cooler touch to the island.

Cool Season - October to February. Avg Temp - 24 C

Hot Season - March to May. Avg Temp - 32 C

Wet Season - June to late September. Avg Temp - 27 C.

Getting to Koh Tao

By Train: The State Railway of Thailand has daily departures to Chumphon. The best train to take is the 2nd or 1st class sleeper trains which travel through the night.

The express (EXP SP 85) train leaves at 19:15 from Bangkok and arrives in Chumphon around 5:00 am. In Chumphon there is a Koh Tao Cruiser office just outside the station where tickets can be purchased to Koh Tao. Prices depend on classes, train reservations can also be booked at our office on Khao San Rd.

From Chumpon:
Alternatively if you fancy spending some time in Chumpon a night boat (aka the slow boat) leaves from Chumpon Pier at 2300 and tickets for the lomprahya catamaran are available at The Farang Bar for 550 baht.

By Airplane: With no airport on Koh Tao the closest one is on Koh Samui. You can take a boat from there. Tickets can be purchased on-line from Bangkok Airways www.bkkair.com. There are daily departures from 6:00 to 19:40. If you want to make the journey all in one day make sure your flight leaves Bangkok no later than 10:00. The price of a one-way trip from Bangkok to Koh Samui is around 4000 baht. At Samui airport tickets can be purchased for the Lomphraya Catamaran which then arrives on Koh Tao around 14:00. Tickets for the catamaran are 550 baht and they provide pick-up from the airport.

From Samui:
Slow Boat: Leaves from Maenam Pier daily at 8:30 in the morning and arrives at 2:00. Ticket is 280 baht.

Songserm Express Boat: Leaves from Nathon Pier at 10:30 and arrives at 2:00. Ticket is 345 baht.

Koh Tao Catamaran

Lomphraya Catamaran: Has two departure times 8:00 and 12:30. Each trip takes approximately 1 hours, tickets are 550 baht and includes pick-up at hotel or airport.

From Surat Thani:
If coming from the south directly to Koh Tao then make your way to Surat Thani. From there a night boat leaves daily at 23:00 and arrives at 5:00 the following morning. Tickets are 500 baht.

UPDATE: There are plans afoot to operate flights out of Bangkok directly to Chumpon. More on this as and when...

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Koh Tao Map

 

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Koh Nang Yuan Mae Haad