Tag - deep

Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle’s Pace

Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle's Pace
Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle's Pace
Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle's Pace
Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle's Pace
Koh Tao: Island Travel at a Turtle's Pace
On a holiday to Koh Tao, the scubadiver's equivalent to Mecca, I made the disheartening discovery that I couldn't dive. Blame nerves, claustrophobia, or downright wimpiness; the thought of being deep underwater filled me with panic. And so, while my friends and travelmates had a ball on the sea floor, I sought out other activities to keep busy. Lucky for me, and any other island-bound traveller, Thailand's diving capital is amok with back-up options.

Koh Tao ("turtle island," though I didn't spot any) is the smallest and most northern in a cluster of traveller-friendly islands in the Gulf of Thailand, along with Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. But unlike the hard-partying Phangan, and the touristy-picturesque Samui, Koh Tao is often left off the backpacker itinerary. The bulk of Koh Tao's visitors are scubadiving enthusiasts or curious amateurs, ready to dive and then leave for the hotspots further south. Here, khaosanroad.com shows why Koh Tao merits a visit, even if you never venture past shallow waters.

In the water or on dry land, your itinerary will overflow with things to do. Sairee Beach, Koh Tao's largest and busiest stretch of sand, teems with life and energy at all hours of the day or night. It boasts many options for the curious traveller, with guesthouses, restuaurants and stores as well as many dive and rental shops to choose from. Those looking to escape the hustle of Sairee beach should head to the southern point of the island, where Ao Chalok Baan Kao, Koh Tao's second most famous beach, where a dense row of guesthouses, mellow bars, restaurants and dive shops overlook one of the cleanest beaches around.

The small island is relatively easy to explore, and motorbike rentals and taxis are abundant. While the uneven roads might ensure a white-knuckled journey, the quiet, rocky Laem Nam Tok (at the north end of the island) and the picturesque snorkeler-haven of Ao Leuk (on the eastern side) are well worth the bumpy rides motorbike or taxi. Alternatively, a day of exploring the parameter of Koh Tao by kayak gives an up-close look at the small scenic beaches which are difficult to access by road, but are easy to dock at for some sunbathing or swimming on sparkling clean shores.

Venturing around the island by kayak, swimming in the clear turquoise waters, or snorkelling past the bright green reefs and tropical fish; there are many aquatic pastimes close to land. Meanwhile, in deeper waters, divers from around the world converge to explore the intricate coral, bright and exotic fish, and beautifully unsual plantlife that thrive underwater. Many dive shops on the island offer a full range of dive experiences, PADI courses ranging from beginner to professional, as well as fundives at any of the 30+ dive sites surrounding Koh Tao. My travelmates sung the praises of Carabao Diving School (at Ao Chalok) for their scenic diving experiences with friendly multilingual instructors.

In terms of island dining, you won't fall short of options on Koh Tao, where local fish is served up beside more tourist-friendly fare. The island boasts an oddly high number of Mexican restaurants (music to this North American's ears), bakeries with coffee and pastries, and 24-hour pizza. I would recommend the reasonably-priced barbecue stalls of freshly-caught fish, served with buttery baked potatoes and corn on the cob.

On the western side of Ao Chalok, the View Point restaurant, which you might mistake for the German embassy on account of all the expat divers, has the best food I've tasted on the island. At the end of a late night, Sairee beach is prepared with all-night food options. The old tourist standby of foodstall phad thai and banana pancakes is sold on most corners to keep the hungry partiers happy.

Anne Merritt is Canadian and has an English Literature degree. She has worked as a journalist for a university newspaper. She is currently living in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and is sharing her experience of Thailand with KhaoSanRoad.com.

Future Light Children’s Home

Future Light Children's Home
Many people travel to Thailand in search of a deep, enriching cultural experience, but few seem to find it. If you've already spent time seeing the sights and are looking for the 'real' Thailand, why not visit the Future Light children's home.

Situated in the village of Mae Sot, Tak Province, in north western Thailand, this is is home to 39 orphaned children who come from Myanmar.

Visiting the Future Light Children's home offers the rare opportunity to interact with children, make some memories and learn about traditional life in this part of the world. The surrounding area is intensely beautiful and often overlooked by travellers.

Located 450kms from Bangkok, the Future Light Children's home was started in 2006 after founders Ita and Goin took in some children who were begging underneath the Friendship Bridge in Mae Sot. News of the couple's kindness quickly spread and the home has changed locations a couple of times in order to cope with the growing number of residents.

The Future Light children's home is now located in a large wooden house, which was specially built for the children last year with the kind help of a number of volunteers. It's situated on a large stretch of land near the river complete with 25 vegetable patches, a pigsty with three pigs and chickens running around.

34 of the children at the Future Light children's home attend Baan Ta ad school, and one of the boys is currently the best in English in the entire province of Tak. Thanks to the nurturing environment of the children's home, each of the children is able to excel at school and turn their heartbreaking past experiences into a joyful present, with bright futures on the horizon.

The children love meeting new visitors and learning about different cultures and ways of life. New volunteers are always needed, even if it's just for a couple of hours a day. Check out the Future Light children's home on Facebook and contact either Natasha Whiting or Jennifer Lo to get involved.

Unfortunately, the costs of running the Future Light children's home are quite high as they get through around 400 kilos of rice, 4 barrels of oil and 20 kilograms of fish oil per month. The kids need to be fed three times a day, which means 798 meals have to be provided each week.

If you wish to donate, you can make payments to the following Thai bank account:

Bangkok Bank
Pornpit Karinta (account holders name)

The volunteers at the Future Light children's home are working hard to provide a happy life and bright future for the children of Mae Sot. With your help there is no limit to what they could achieve.

About the author:

Kirsty Turner (Kay) is currently living in Bangkok where she she is a travel writer.