Tag - koh tao

Flying Trapeze Adventures

Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures
Flying Trapeze Adventures

There are many different activities to fill your day if you stay on Koh Tao. Most people come to dive or snorkel but you can rock climb, cliff jump, kayak, play mini golf, go 10 pin bowling, take a cookery course or even shoot your mates in the jungle playing paintball.

Recently a flying trapeze rig has been erected which means that for at least an hour you can pretend that you really have run away with the circus. Rather than being a clown or a lion tamer though you can be a powerful trapeze artist yet without a sequin in sight! Located in the popular area of Sairee and close to many bars and restaurants it’s easy to get to and fit into your plans.

The rig is full size and exactly that which is synonymous of big top shows and the basis for a Cirque du Solei performance. Just looking at the rig will give you shivers of anticipation and draw you in.

Flying Trapeze Adventures are offering hourly lessons to those thrill seekers wanting to learn this adrenaline loaded activity. Lessons last an hour, cost 950B and skilled performers from all over the world are your instructors. They teach you techniques that will have you flying through the air and performing tricks in no time.

Instruction starts with a demonstration of a position called a knee hang. The flyer hops off a 10m high pedestal holding onto the fly bar and once at the top of the swing, they hook their legs around the bar, let go with their hands and fly back to the top of the swing dangling from their knees. You’ll be surprised, it’s easier than it looks and really nothing to do with strength but all about timing.

Hit the right beat and the tricks are a simply matter of gravity, or lack of it, because at the top of your swing you are weightless making it simple to master the techniques. Of course you have someone shouting instructions to you while flying but harnessing the laws of physics is up to you!

Your first attempt of this is on the practice bar suspended just over 1 meter high, where you are able with the assistance of your instructors, to have a go at getting this position statically, from there you move up. Ascending, up the ladder, to the pedestal, wearing your safety belt can be a vertigo work out in itself and once there you certainly see life differently. You are well above tree height and look down on the roofs of the surrounding buildings and your mates suddenly look hobbit sized.

Safety lines are attached as you chalk up your hands before assuming your pre-flight position. Leaning forward over the catch net with your arms straight and hips forward is akin to teetering dangerously on the edge of a cliff. This suspension last seconds before you are instructed to fly. Sailing through the air is such a rush that it’s very easy to forget that you are supposed to be trying to get into position, but once remembered, flying upside down is higher octane. You get to practice this a few times, along with a back-flip dismount from the bar which is far easier than it sounds and looks wicked.

Nail it and then you are up for a catch.

One of your instructors will fly from the bar you were just using and get some incredible height from the swing. He’ll drop to the net and use the bounce to grab on to the second trapeze. With some cool-cat moves he’ll slide onto the bar which is called the catchers trap and then time his swing to match yours. You’ll meet mid-air at the top of your swings and he’ll catch you by the wrists and you’ll sail together to the end of the rig. This is the pinnacle of achievement and an awesome feeling that will have you buzzing for days and wanting more.

Trapeze has become popular all over the world with the biggest school located in New York and those Sex and the City addicts may remember a certain episode where Carrie was finding it difficult to let go. Rigs have been part of summer camps and large resorts for some time but the one on Koh Tao is one of the few independent schools and is open to everyone with a little bit of dare-devil in them.

It’s a great activity if you happen to find yourself at a loose end while your mates are off learning to dive and a better kick start to a night out than a vodka-red bull. Beware though as the rush is addictive, the more you fly the more you want to fly and learn more tricks. Flying Trapeze Adventures know this and have a frequent flyer program so that you can develop your skills and learn new tricks.

Your mates will certainly be amazed when they return from diving and a team of videographers are on hand to capture your style for eternity. It’s certainly a video to send home to scare the pants off mum!

If you are the type of thrill seeker who would love to bungee jump or freefall then this is certainly for you but it easier on the budget, lasts longer and has way more style.

Flying Trapeze Adventures is located on the north side of Sairee Beach. It is situated right next to Oasis Pool Bar, directly behind Choppers Pub and Grill. There are two main entrances to Flying Trapeze Adventures, one from the beach front path opposite Silver Sands Resort and the other from Sairee Main road, just next to Sairee Plaza.

Animal Rescue – THE BEACH DOGS

Animal Rescue the Beach DogsKoh Tao is a small island surrounded by the calm expanse of the Gulf of Thailand. This may be a tropical paradise for visitors but for the many ownerless dogs that live there it is far from paradise. Ravaged by mange, hungry and often frightened, they parade the beach in packs each tribe fiercely protecting their self-designated territory. This is a place where the law of the jungle pervades, survival of the fittest. But the only food source is that provided by humans – the scraps from the restaurants. The dominant male pecking order often means that the weakest get no food at all. In fact these dogs at the lower end of the scale are often cast out from the tribe.


Noi’s story

In April of this year myself, my friend Miranda and her eight year old son Jordan visited Koh Tao. On our second day we met a small black mongrel that we later called Noi – which is Thai for little one. She had been rejected by the pack because she had weak back legs and a clubfoot, she was starving and infected by maggots. We fed her up and managed to enlist the help of the pharmacist to procure some anti-biotics from the nearby Koh Samui island. After I jabbed her she ran off and we didn’t see her for three days. We thought she was dead. Then one evening when we were walking along the beach in the sunset she appeared from nowhere. At first we weren’t sure if it was the same dog because she looked so much better. She followed us around faithfully from then on and spent the nights on our balcony. By now we were completely hooked and wanted to take her home with us but it seemed impossible. We would have to leave her behind.

When we came back to the UK we couldn’t stop thinking about Noi. I discovered that there was a Dog Rescue Centre on the nearby Koh Samui island and we made contact with Bridget and her husband Hans who run the centre. After another month of deliberation we decided that the only thing to do was to go back and get Noi. Bridget put us in contact with another Brit who had done the same thing – Roger Cooper. Roger had had a similar experience with his dog Gypsy. He had become attached to her during a holiday and when he and his family returned thirteen months later the dog recognised them instantly. The clincher was when they got into a taxi for a sight seeing trip and the dog ran after the taxi for a mile and a half and then sat in the road howling.

Miranda can speak fleunt Thai which was to be a great help. When we arrived there we took the photo we had taken of Jordan and Noi around to the different restaurants but no one had seen her. There were a few heart stopping days when we thought she was dead. Then she suddenly turned up but she was in a pretty bad state. She was sicker than before and was covered in mange and wouldn’t eat. Over the next few days we fed her up and gave her some anti bioitics and Vitamin C. But now there was another problem. Whilst they were looking for Noi another outcast had attached himself to us another black mongrel who we called Star. Since we’d first met Star someone had thrown stones at him and he was now hobbling on three legs. We decided that we would take him with us to the vet at the dog’s home in Koh Samui, fix him up and return him to the island.

The only way from Koh Toa to Koh Samui is by speedboat and it’s a pretty rocky journey. The journey by jeep to the jetty and then the crossing to Koh Samui with two dogs, a kid and luggage was a challenge particularly as the dogs wouldn’t walk on leads and had to be carried. But probably most challenging of all was the continual vomiting of little Star on the speed boat that reached such a pitch that we wanted to throw him overboard!

Arriving at Koh Samui we were met by the motorbike and sidecar from the dogs home. The dogs were loaded up and Star howled all the way the rescue centre. We had to go between two different vets to get the dogs injected, get their vaccinations and get Star’s leg fixed and then take them back to the rescue centre. By the time we arrived our hotel we were exhausted. We stayed on Koh Samui for the next few days visiting Noi and Star and generally helping out at the rescue centre. By now we had another dilemma. Star was really attached to us how could we take him back to the life of a beach dog where anything might happen? After much soul searching we decided to bring Star home.

To prepare for the next leg of the journey – the flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok, the airline had insisted that the dogs be sedated until they were asleep. The quarantine kennel here in the UK had expressly said not to sedate them because of the danger of hypothermia. A double dose of tranquilliser was administered to Noi because the first one didn’t seem to work.

When we arrived at Bangkok the dogs were actually sent out on the conveyor belt with the luggage!!! Miranda and I went off to sort out some documentation and whilst we were away Jordan, thinking that Noi didn’t look too good, put his hand into the cage and in her drugged state Noi bit him and wouldn’t let go. He started screaming. It took a security guard to prise her off. We came back to find Jordan in tears and blood all over the floor. We had to bundle the two dogs, still in their cages, Jordan and the luggage off to the nearby private hospital where Jordan had to have rabies and a tetanus injection and get his wound cleaned and his arm bandaged. We dropped the dogs off with Tai – the contact in Bangkok that Bridget from the rescue centre had arranged and dragged ourselves off to the hotel.

At nine o’clock the next morning Tai rang the hotel. There was a problem. The excessive dose of the tranquilliser may have caused Noi to go blind. We rushed to Tai’s. Things didn’t look good. Noi’s eyes were completely blue. Thankfully over the next few days her sight returned.

Noi and Star came out of quarantine in February and there were quite a handful – to say the least! But now they are house trained and understand basic commands. Star is very nervous of other dogs and this makes him quite aggressive to them but both of the dogs are great with humans. Soon they are going off for an intensive four week live in training course with Brian from Just For Dogs. He has a fantastic reputation for non aggressive training methods with amazing results.

This experience has led me to start a charity the Noistar Thai Dog Rescue to help the hundred of dogs still on the island. The Noistar Thai Dog Rescue intends to introduce a neutering and education programme to bring the dog population under control and thereby improve the quality of life for both the humans and the canines who inhabit the island. We will involve local people directly in this programme as well as targeting tourists to act more responsibly.

There will be a clinic on the island, which is already running with a bare staff of volunteers, this will be the focus for the medical and educational activities.

Koh Tao should be a refuge for the beach dogs that live there. With help they would be able to exist in harmony with the islanders and the many thousands of visitors that go there each year. We may not be able to change the world but we can change an island.

If you are interested in helping out contact Laura at laura@hummingbird-films.co.uk

Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand

Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand
Koh Pha-ngan, Thailand

Famous for its lively full moon parties at Haad Rin Beach, Koh Pha-ngan has a chilled-out hippy atmosphere that combines nightly hedonism with day time water sports and lazing on the beach. Situated in the south of Thailand 20 kilometres north of Koh Samui in Surat Thani Province, this is an ideal destination for travellers who enjoy less crowded, more private beaches. The best way to reach Koh Pha-ngan is from Koh Samui and the boat trip takes about an hour.

Haad Rin is Koh Pha-ngan’s most popular beach. Lined with beach bars playing a wide assortment of music, the white sands can get pretty crowded. Luckily, Koh Pha-ngan offers many more secluded stretches of white sand for those who prefer a little privacy. Ao Thong Nai Pan is perhaps the second most beautiful beach on Koh Pha-ngan reachable by boat or songthaew from Thong Sala Pier.

Another extremely beautiful and tranquil beach is Ao Si Thanu, whilst the nearby tiny island of Koh Tae Nai can be reached just 5 minutes by chartered boat. This island offers jungle-covered hills, a long stretch of golden sandy beach and colourful coral reefs, perfect for diving or scuba diving.

Koh Pha-ngan has some extremely pretty jungle waterfalls waiting to be discovered including Than Sadet Falls, Phaeng Falls, Than Prapat Falls and Than Prawet Falls. A great way to see the falls and the rest of the island is to take a guided boat tour. Boat trips usually take around 10 people, last all day and include snorkelling and lunch. The boat trips are also a great way to meet fellow travellers and exchange tall tales and travelling tips.

Wat Khao Tham is a cave temple located on the hilltop of Khao Kao Haeng. There is a monastery here that is ideal for meditation amidst the well-preserved nature. The monastery offers 10 days meditation retreats and can be found near the pretty village of Ban Tai.

Another interesting temple is Wat Madio Wan, where a replica of Lord Buddha’s Footprint is enshrined on the hilltop Mondop, whilst jungle trekking up to the island’s largest mountain of Khao Ra is a great way to see the island.

Many people stop at Koh Pha-ngan for a day or two before heading on to Koh Tao, which lies 45 kilometres north of Koh Pha-ngan and is known as the best diving site in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Tao, which means Turtle Island in the Thai language, is very small and covered with palm trees and pristine white sand, the perfect exotic island.

What to do in Thailand

What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand
What to do in Thailand

In this exotically inviting land where the weather is usually hot and sunny, travel is easy and the food is delicious and plentiful, there isn’t really much that you can’t do. No matter what you are into, whether it be extreme sports, sunbathing, exploring, discovering a new culture or pure hedonism, Thailand is the perfect place to do it, whilst getting a tan at the same time.

Thailand’s temples – known as wats – are big, richly decorated and contain an interesting assortment of treasures. Every town has a large assortment of temples, with perhaps the highest concentrations in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya. Some temples not to be missed are Wat Arun on the Chaopraya river in Bangkok, Wat Po, also in Bangkok and Chiang Mai’s Wat Benchamabophit. Whilst in Chiang Mai, climb Doi Suthet to see Wat Doi Suthep, which offers stunning views over the area.

As well as spectacular scenery, Thailand’s islands and beaches offer a good opportunity to take part in diving and snorkeling, the clear blue water offering glimpses of colourful coral and fish. Koh Tao is rapidly becoming the most popular island for diving and snorkelling, whilst Koh Phi Phi and Phuket are also popular. Other water ports available include sailing and windsurfing. At many places, bungee jumping and rock climbing are the order of the day, whilst paintballing offers a good opportunity to let of some steam.

Thailand has some beautiful golf courses, some designed by skilled international golfers. Muay Thai is the national sport and no trip is complete without watching a match or even training and competing yourself.

The amazing landscape makes Thailand a great place for walking and trekking, the hill tribe villages to the north making a great stop over or a three or four day trek.

Many come to this deeply spiritual country to learn about meditation, and there are numerous meditation courses available. Whilst here, you can also learn the ancient art of massage or join yoga classes on the beach.

Thai food is some of the best in the world, and you will find some outstanding restaurants, offering everything from international style dining, dining aboard river cruises or simply eating at a tiny table on the street.

The spas and saunas are also a great place to unwind and be pampered; whilst for many cosmetic surgery and cosmetic dentistry provide the opportunity for self improvement. Also, there are plenty of chances to indulge in a little retail therapy.

Thailand has a great selection of outdoor markets, floating markets, stores and shopping centres. Do not miss Bangkok’s Chatuchak market, MBK, Paragon or the night bazaar at Suan Lum, whilst Chiang Mai’s Night Market draws visitors from all over the world.

For people wishing to take in some culture there are some interesting museums, art galleries, exhibitions and displays of Thai dancing. Thailand also has some interesting theme parks, shows and zoos such as Sri Racha Tiger Zoo.

There is always something to see and do in Thailand, and the numerous festivals can add colour and life to your holiday, especially if you are lucky enough to be in the country during Songran or Loi Krathong.

There are plenty of opportunities to get in touch with nature in the national parks, such as Khao Yai where parts of the movie The Beach was filmed or Koh Samet, where the outstanding natural beauty has led to its being preserved as a national park.

Whatever you decide to do, there never seems to be quite enough time, and it is almost certain that Thailand’s charms will draw you back time and again.

Diving in Thailand

Diving in ThailandSawadee Krap!

Welcome to Thailand the land of smiles. Rich in culture and abundant in natural beauty, this tropical paradise is a SCUBA divers dream. We will take you to the warm clear waters in the gulf of Thailand where you can explore coral infested pinnacles and immerse yourself in shoals of barracuda and batfish or quietly seek out Nemo amongst the flourishing anemone gardens. We will take you to the west coast of Thailand to the Andaman sea where you will find some of Thailand’s most stunning dive sites. Here, the heavily protected marine parks contain luxurious, multi coloured, coral quilts teeming with life. Manta rays, leopard sharks and turtles are not unusual here and in the right season expect to come face to face with gentle whale sharks as they migrate along Thailand’s coastlines feeding on plankton. Whether you are a qualified diver or a total novice, there are experienced, multilingual instructors and divemasters eagerly waiting at PADI dive centers throughout Thailand, ready to lead you into these beautiful waters and teach you new underwater skills.


Welcome to Thailand and the underwater beauty it has to offer!

diving_in_thailand_2 diving_in_thailand_3 diving_in_thailand_4

THE WEATHER IN THAILAND – What’s the weather like? Is it good for diving?

Generally the weather in Thailand is hot, and the dive seasons are dictated by the monsoons. On the west coast of Thailand there is a long monsoon, that runs from May through to October. Dive operations to the Similan and Surin Islands and the Burma Banks cease to operate during this time. Koh Lanta closes down! On the East coast of Thailand, the monsoon runs from November until mid January. Dive operations on Koh Tao will still continue during this period, but the visibility and weather can be unpredictable.

PADI DIVE COURSES – What sort of courses are available in Thailand? 

PADI OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandWelcome to the underwater world! Over 4 days we will teach you basic dive theory and techniques to make you into a safe, happy and competent diver. There are many beautiful, shallow and protected bays or custom built swimming pools ideal for learning all the basic dive skills and adapting to breathing underwater in a gentle and controlled environment. Once these skills are mastered, we will take you into the sea for 4 `open water` dives – the real deal! Prepare to come face to face with cheeky turtles, immerse yourself in shoals of curious batfish and marvel at nature’s treasure trove of colour amongst all the beautiful coral. We will take you to a maximum depth of 18 metres and the PADI open water license is internationally recognized – your passport to the underwater realm all over the world!

PADI ADVANCED OPEN WATER COURSE

Diving in ThailandNow you have your open water license, we want you to explore even more of the underwater world as you make 5 more dives over 2 days to attain another PADI license to add to your collection. We will take you deeper to 30 metres on the Deep Dive to get close to those bottom dwelling leopard sharks. On the Navigation Dive, you will learn how to use the compass, which will allow you to navigate around the vivid red fan coral to the nearby bright yellow table coral. You can also choose 3 more dives from the following – Night Dive – its like being on the moon! Watch everything glow when you turn off the torch and wave your hands about, Photography Dive – learn how to use an underwater camera to take pictures of all your favourite fishes! Multi Level Dive – use the wheel to plan your dives so you can say hello to the giant moray eel at 26 metres, pop up to check out the clown fish dancing in their anemone homes at 16 metres and then glide around at 10 metres with a graceful manta ray! Naturalist Dive – I spy underwater as you get to see and learn more about all the magnificent marine lifearound you ! Peak Performance Buoyancy Dive – practise your underwater balance using breathing control as you cartwheel above the coral and levitate like a leopard shark!

diving_in_thailand_6PADI EFR COURSE (EMERGENCY FIRST RESPONSE)

The EFR course takes 1 day and you will be taught resuscitation and heart massage as well as basic first aid relevant to many different situations. You will learn how to deal with a variety of emergency scenarios including choking, shock, hyperthermia and, bleeding as well as marine life and diving related injuries. This is a recognised first aid course and is valid for 2 years.

PADI RESCUE COURSE 

During this course, we will teach you how to anticipate and respond to problems to take care of other divers and yourself. We will return to the shallow bays close to the islands to learn underwater search patterns for missing divers. If your buddy starts to panic, don’t worry! We will teach you how to rescue them above and below the water. We will show you how to rescue unconscious divers from the bottom and how to bring them to the surface and then how to use different lifting techniques to get them out of the water and resuscitate them. We will teach you to be a confident, aware and prepared diver.Lets keep the sea a safe place for us all!

Diving in ThailandPADI DIVEMASTER COURSE

The divemaster course usually runs as an internship and has unlimited time and unlimited dives depending where you make your course. ou make the DM course at your pace and will have theory lectures on physiology, physics, decompression sickness, skills and the environment, equipment as well as divemastership. You gain experience with instructors assisting OW, AOW and rescue courses as well as with our divemaster guiding certified divers.

You will map a dive site, make swim tests, an underwater equipment exchange, perform a skill circuit and another rescue scenario. Anytime during the course you can make fun dives. It is like being in your very own diving university! There is a great social atmosphere whilst you make the course and there will always be a lot of people diving of some sort and usually a big bunch of divemaster trainees all at different stages of their courses so you are guaranteed a lively atmosphere. Everyone is interested in diving and you are all living in a tropical paradise so you will find that many of these people and the instructors will become good friends for life.

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) 

PADI INSTRUCTOR COURSE (IDC) For the IDC we work directly with BUDDHA VIEW 5 star IDC RESORT on Koh Tao. BUDDHA VIEW has a very experienced course directors- Mark from Brisbane who works with his team of staff instructors to hold an IDC every 2 months and sometimes every month. What makes these guys so successful is that they are very experienced and have been holding IDCs for many years so that whilst you learn in a professional atmosphere they are relaxed and you will have a lot of fun. The big plus for BUDDHA VIEW is that they have their own separate IDC center for the IDC candidates only, with air con lecture theatre, digital projector, surrounds sound and all the materials you will ever need during your IDC. It is the only IDC center in Thailand and means you will not be disturbed by open water, advanced courses etc being conducted nearby. During the IDC you will go through the divemaster theory exams again and you must simply get a higher percentage of questions right than in the DM course.Mark and the team will teach you how to instruct PADI dive courses the way PADI wants you to instruct and you will give lots of presentations so you know how to conduct the academics of PADI dive courses. They will show you how to brief on the dive boat before diving and how to debrief after dives with your students and they will show you how to problem solve underwater.You will also learn how to navigate the PADI standards and procedures manuel or CD ROM that every instructor uses. Well done you are now a PADI dive instructor !

Diving n ThailandEAST COAST DIVING – KOH TAO

Koh Tao (Turtle island as it is otherwise known) is Thailand’s most popular diving island. Located 500 kms south of Bangkok in the gulf of Thailand, Koh Tao is tiny, beautifully natural, charming and most importantly close to a myriad of lovely dive sites. Koh Tao has rapidly developed in popularity since it was ‘discovered’ by backpackers in the late 1980’s. In those days when the first backpackers arrived they were greeted by a few local fishermen harvesting coconuts. The word spread quickly amongst travelers around Thailand about this tiny island with beautiful beaches, lush jungle interior and surrounding crystal clear waters bursting with tropical marine life.

As more travelers arrived so did the first SCUBA diving sets of equipment, the first PADI dive schools commenced operations and Koh Tao’s underwater secret was out! Today, there are now more than 30 dive operations on Koh Tao and the island boast more than 25 dive sites within close proximity that can suit every standard of diver with shallow protected bays for total beginners to deeper world class rocky pinnacles for experienced professionals. Expect to see shoals of barracuda, batfish, snapper and butterfly fish around the coral covered boulders. Small rays, moray eels and boxfish hide amongst the many cracks and crevasses whilst the titan triggerfish graze on the coral. Giant groupers and turtles are not uncommon and Koh Tao is famous for one giant seasonal visitor, the whale shark, which often appear around March and April. We work directly with BUDDHA VIEW dive resort who are based on the quieter Chalok Ban Kao beach in the south of Koh Tao.

Diving in ThailandWEST COAST DIVING – KOH LANTA

Koh Lanta is a bigger island just to the south of Krabi off the west coast of Thailand. Long rolling beaches with a dense vegetative interior make this getaway a nature lovers delight. Koh Lanta is a very tranquil island where peace and quiet is not hard to find and nestled in the Andaman sea is close to some superb dive sites. There are many lovely dive spots close to the island with beautiful corals and teeming with tropical aquarium fish.

Two of the best dive sites near Koh Lanta are the famous Hin Daeng and Hin Mouang which are world class dive sites. Deep pinnacles embalmed in spectacular soft and hard corals, they attract huge shoals of tropical fish and graceful Manta rays. Here, you will find exciting swim throughs and caverns festooned in dazzling gorgonian fans and soft corals. As you quietly drift through don’t be surprised if you come face to face with a giant potato cod. We have teamed up with the excellent Scandinavian run LANTA DIVER who are a PADI 5 star IDC center.

Diving in ThailandTHE SIMILAN AND SURIN ISLANDS

The Similan islands are an uninhabited isolated tropical chain of islands located north east of Phuket in the Andaman sea. Just to the north of the Similan islands are a cluster of superb dive sites including the world renowned Koh Bon, Koh Tachai and Richelieu rock famous for Manta rays and whale sharks. Further north, just before Burmese waters, await the Surin islands. This whole area is nestled like a cluster of jewels in heavily protected marine parks and offers the finest diving in Thailand without a doubt. The turquoise Andaman waters reveal 30/40 meters visibility in high season and contain luxurious coloured blankets of soft and hard corals that hug the rocky outcrops and granite pinnacles.

This whole area is a cosmos of marine life with huge shoals of roving assorted tropical fish. Manta rays are normally seen around the deeper dive sites and whale sharks often feed on plankton around Richelieu rock during March and April. Everywhere you will see leopard sharks, turtles and giant morays but keep an eye out for the small animals like seahorses and ghost pipefish. Diving in the Similan and Surin islands is conducted on specially modified dive boats that operate 3, 4 and 7 day liveaboard cruises. We work closely with 2 PADI dive centers that run cruises to the Similan and Surin island marine park. SEADRAGON DIVE CENTER who are based in Khaolak just north of Phuket and they have 3 boats that run 3 or 4 day dive cruises. WORLDWIDE DIVE AND SAIL who are based in Phuket and operate 7 day/7 night dive cruises aboard their boat the SY Sampai Jumpa that incorporates sailing as well as diving, kayaking and snorkeling.

Koh Chang Notes


Koh Chang, Thailand
koh_chang_notes_2
Koh Chang, Thailand
Koh Chang, Thailand

Koh Chang?

Yes, you know you’ve heard the name before, most travellers to Thailand have.  It’s that big island near the Cambodian border, about 300 km from beautiful downtown Bangkok.

So it’s busy then, loads of tourists?

No, although the name is now well-known most people seem to follow the herd to Koh Tao or Koh Phi-phi  – the backpackers’ Costa del Sol.  Even in high season Koh Chang rarely appears busy.

Why?

No idea. I’m the wrong side of thirty-five (just) so relating to the minds of youthful backpackers who’s idea of a goodtime is to blow their wads of eurodollars on buckets of vodka + Redbull and then boogie the night away to underground dance noise is beyond me. A small Heineken, ‘Sex in the City – series two’ DVD and I’m all set for the evening.   But, to hazard a guess at answering your question,  I’d blame a combination of Leonardo Di Caprio; a love of small, dark bungalows and the allure of well-chiselled Scandinavian scuba instructors of both sexes.

That sounds enticing, I mean the booze, tunes & Scandiavians rather than a sad evening in. . but why should I go to Koh Chang instead? 

For a start you wont be subjected to a screening of the ‘The Beach’ every evening during which the hippy next to you will claim loudly to a) have been paid $100 a day as an extra and b) that Leo is an OK guy for a movie star.  the other islands: decent fruit shakes, ticket agencies, Thai food made for farang palates, real coffee, a wide choice of new accommodation, ATMs, dive schools, a private clinic and the chance to hear the latest Coldplay album in every restaurant on the island.

Plus you will find that all your traveller requirements are catered for on Koh Chang as on You can also purchase souvenirs e.g. t-shirts bearing the still hilarious ‘McShit’ slogan or with the name of your favourite Thai beverage emblazoned in Thai script on them.

The difference is that Koh Chang is a ‘real’ island not just a dot on the map, therefore you won’t be walking around the island or even walking from beach to beach as on the smaller islands.  This means that the scenery is big: big hills, big jungle, big waterfalls.  This also means you can’t see all the island in a day.  Rent a motorbike, you will be able to find a beach, waterfall or fishing village to yourself simply by getting off your arse and doing a bit of exploring. You won’t get lost as there’s only one road. 

That doesn’t sound too bad . . . how serious is that big badly written roadside warning sign on way into Whitesands beach?

When not to go? The ‘Oriental Eden of the East’ welcomes visitors to paradise 365 days a year!  More realistically, high season is from December – April.  But you’ll find that you’ll almost certainly have good weather and no crowds at all in October, November and May.  Unless you have a backpack full of paperbacks; enjoy spending every other day feeling warm and wet; or can find ways to amuse yourself within the confines of your 6 square metre hut, it might be better to stay away during the rainy season which runs from June to September.
 
I’ve heard ‘The Treehouse’ is the place to stay, is that true?

Seemingly for most travellers the choice of accommodation is a toss up between The Treehouse on Lonely Beach and The Treehouse on Lonely Beach – so it was a pity it closed in Aug 2004.  Yes, it was a nice place to stay and five years ago it was a very nice place to stay but there are now plenty of alternatives for anyone wanting to sleep before 4am or who would rather not have to endure their fellow guests, overloud retelling of their riveting traveller’s tales during breakfast.  It’s extremely rare that you can’t find a room on Koh Chang, so take a look around before checking into the first cheap hovel you come across. Unless you’re on a really tight budget, why not choose a bungalow with glass in the windows, a bathroom and walls which aren’t paper thin?  It’ll only cost you 100 -200 baht / night more than a mini version of the Black Hole of Calcutta.

Briefly . . .

On Whitesands beach, cheap beachfront bungalows, 150-200 baht/night, a stone’s throw from a 7-11, are available at ‘KC Grande Resort’ as are aircon bungalows for around 600 baht/night.

The long and almost always deserted Klong Prao beach is home to ‘KP Huts’, an ever expanding assortment of over 30 huts of varying styles, sizes and prices right in the centre of the empty beach. 

Moving on Kai Bae offers a mix of tourist & backpacker accommodation, you wont find too many flophouses but there’s plenty of nice beachfront bungalows to choose from although the price is at the top end of a traveller’s budget (400 baht/night & up) ‘KB Bungalows’ is convenient, friendly, clean and affordable.

If it has to be Lonely Beach you’ll find that you can find a place to lay your head for 100 baht or less/night but you get what you pay for i.e. f&%k all in terms of decor, ambience, location and service.  A couple of decent places to stay are ‘Nature Beach’ has a wide expanse of beach on its doorstep and the clean, airy, cheap and new ‘Paradise Cottages’.

Bailan Bay is the quietest stretch on the west coast and is a good bet if budget peace and quiet are what you’re looking for.  New resorts are springing up here all the time, all within 10 minutes walk of each other and all after your custom as comparatively few visitors stay in this area.

At the very south of the island there are a few hut complexes near Bangbao, but as the ‘songtaews’ (converted pick-up truck taxis) rarely venture as far south as Bangbao you’re forced to hire a motorbike if you don’t want to be confined to your immediate surroundings.

And would it be correct to assume that there’s a veritable host of mid-price accommodation, including some very nicely designed boutique hotels and resorts, for anyone not into skimping and saving in order to stretch out their meagre savings for as near to eternity as possible?

Not surprisingly, it would.  ‘The Mangrove’ on Bailan Bay, ‘Saffron on the Sea’, ‘Keereeta’ & ‘Remark Cottages’ on Hat Kai Mook beach,  ‘Bhumiyama Resort’ on Lonely Beach, ‘Tropicana’ on Klong Prao beach and Bang Bao Sea Huts, beautiful but pricey wooden huts built, as the name suggests in the sea at Bang Bao, to name but a few.

OK, so ‘beaches’, ‘accommodation’, ‘beer’, ‘stuff to do’ . . . I’ve just got ‘culture’ and ‘food’ to tick off my checklist.  Can you help?

Sure.  There are a few temples on the island, none of which merit a visit unless you plan on cremating a close relative.  So culture wise we’re left with modern Thai culture in the form of the karaoke lounge.  The flyers, in Thai, for the ‘Milky Way’ karaoke pub on the outskirts of Whitesands promise visitors footie on a 150″ TV screen.

Being an island, seafood features almost as prominently as banana pancakes on restaurant menus but it’s worth remembering that a seafood meal for two will probably cost the same as a three nights accommodation in a moderate backpacker bungalow.  ‘Cookie’ restaurant on Whitesands beach is deservedly popular as it serves decent sized portions at decent prices.  Down in Bangbao, ‘The Bay’ restaurant is my favourite place for a 40 baht lunch in laid back surroundings.  Wherever you are staying it’s worth venturing further than your resort restaurant to eat as you’ll always be able to find a good local eaterie where you can get a meal for 20-25 baht.  If my missus doesn’t feel like cooking then we always get food from a no-name restaurant in Kai Bae.

As you head into Kai Bae from the north, go past the 7-11, on the opposite side of the road you’ll then pass ‘Oxygen bar & restaurant’ (itself a nice place for an evening meal), ‘Bee’s Coffee’, a tailors shop, a hairdresser’s and then a small open sided restaurant on a corner plot.  Try it, you won’t be disappointed, the menu’s in English too.  Also located in Kai Bae is ‘Papa’s Deli’ – the only place on the island you can get a baguette that not only looks, but also tastes like a baguette, a not inconsiderable feat.

Well, you’ve convinced me.  How do I get there?

Depending on how much of an independent traveller you really are you can either:

Pop down to any travel agent’s office on Khao San Road, say the magic words ‘Koh Chang’, point at the photo of a minivan designed to comfortably seat six but refitted to seat ten, hand over around 250 baht and then return at the day and time stated on the ticket to board the van.  The drive to the ferry pier will take around 5 hours by which time you’ll have probably lost all feeling in your legs.

Or

Find your own way to either Ekkamai or Morchit bus stations, buy a ticket to Trat, it’ll be about 170 – 190 baht.  The bus takes around 6 hours to get to Trat, depending on the number of toilet stops the driver requires.  From Trat, the passenger ferry pier at Laem Ngop is a 20 baht, 20 minute songtaew ride away.  Bus company staff will point you in the direction of the songtaews.

The ferries to the island takes around 40 minutes and once on the island you’ll see the white pick-up songtaews which are the island’s poor attempt at providing public transport.

Thanks for the info.  Can I buy you a beer?

Of course you can, I live on the island.  If you need more comprehensive info on Koh Chang please visit www.iamkohchang.com , or, if spending some of your time clad in a skintight rubber outfit is a prerequisite of your travel plans, you’ll find all you need to know about scuba diving off Koh Chang at www.divekohchang.com.

Triggerfish and Turtles

diving_ko_taoI’m 28 years old in the year of Our Lord and I can say that very rarely do I finish a day on this lonely planet with a smile on my face the size of China. Yesterday I ate my evening meal whilst grinning from cheek to cheek. Why? Because I had become a scuba diver! Koh Tao, about 50 km from the east coast port of Chumphong in the Gulf of Thailand was the location for my first experiences under the sea. Tao is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth. Resident population 2000, 21 km square, main industries: diving, fishing, diving, growing coconuts and er, diving.

Rich with turtles (Koh Tao = Turtle Island) the flat sea around this utopia shimmers with a thousand shades of blue which change as the ever-present sun drenches the white beaches. Once a political prison and for a long time uninhabited, Tao seems like a place not long-discovered and now exploding into a Mecca for self-indulgent divers. Few laws govern this totally chilled environment but no buildings higher than the ubiquitous palm trees are allowed. Under royal patronage, the island’s only tourist attraction is a large rock inscribed with the late monarch’s initials. The Thai population is trying to maintain it’s roots whilst welcoming tourist dollars by accommodating westerners with European cuisine. Hollywood blockbusters and the latest Fat Boy sounds in bars and the 2 clubs mix with the tinkling tunes of the waves on the shore in the evening. In all, a pleasant sense of harmony prevails and I felt as though I had found a special place.

The best was yet to come. Day one of our 4 day PADI Open Water diving course brought us to Ao Chalok Ban Kao, a secluded bay on the southwestern shores of Tao. We dived to a shallow 2m and completed the first job any diver must do- breathe! Taking off our respirators and masks underwater and then replacing them was quite a frightening experience as we felt like humans out of this world instead of fish out of water. And it is another world. Until this week I had only seen the amazing life that flourishes in tropical waters in tanks. In their own environment and illuminated by glowing sunlight, fish all sorts of sea life seem to emanate a beautiful aura which is difficult to describe.

Dives 2 and 3 brought me more confidence in my equipment and abilities underwater until I felt as though I could fly. Adding the 3rd (vertical) dimension reminded me flying and I immersed myself in the joys of swooping up and down from 5 to 10 metres, aiming for stunning coral then chasing my bubbles up towards the bright surface. Looking at my friend Paul, we made our “OK” signals every 2 minutes- as much wanting him to know I was not drowning as much as seeing that he was alright. As our minutes under water stacked up we soon started feeling like Jaques Custeau. We saw a stingray, which expertly dashed away from us when we disturbed it and a couple of triggerfish. These 40cm long fellas are common to Tao and are known for their ferocious defence of their territory. Once a pair of triggerfish (who are monogamous for life) nest, they create a conical exclusion zone with the base of the cone where they spawn and the large circle on the surface. The tactic of the sentinel male is to front you out until you leave his territory. A diver had 4 stitches in his forehead last week as he tried to stand up to the Daddy triggerfish. Happily, the 2 that we saw were happy enough to let us swim on by unheeded.

Our last dive led us to 18 metres and we played football with a rock surrounded by an audience of unbelievable coral, stingrays and Everton mint fish (?) Paul scored an amazing goal with a logic-defying overhead kick which beat the keeper in extra time. I sat on the marine subs bench feeling rather left out. On our way back to the dive boat we saw the captain of our boat with his harpoon in hand and tattoos over every part of his skin. At the surface he was proud to show off a red fish which was easily 2 foot long and would no doubt pay for his family to do whatever Thais do on a Saturday night.

On Thursday night, myself, Paul and 4 assorted Brits (90% of westerners in October are apparently British with the majority becoming French in April!?) took a 4 X 4 roller coaster ride to the top of one of Tao’s two peaks. Venus Park is a nightclub on a cliff face-come-jungle which is as close to Enid Blyton’s Land of the Faraway Tree as I can imagine. Try and imagine this: 1000 westerners and Thais full of cheer dancing until dawn. It was: EXTREME!

And so we had to leave Koh Tao. It was too fun. It was so beautiful. It has captured me and I will return. For now, we have continued on our way to the next adventure.

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.