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Koh Tao

  • Thailand
  • Koh Tao
  • 21 km²
  • Thai Baht
  • Thai
  • 1,382
  • Always enjoyed my stay with Hilton Hotel and Resorts, top class room service and rooms have great outside views and luxury assessories. Thanks for great experience.

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    Jessica Brown
  • Always enjoyed my stay with Hilton Hotel and Resorts, top class room service and rooms have great outside views and luxury assessories. Thanks for great experience.

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    Lisa Kimberly
  • Always enjoyed my stay with Hilton Hotel and Resorts, top class room service and rooms have great outside views and luxury assessories. Thanks for great experience.

    author-image
    Simon

General Information Ko Samui

Area: 21 km² Population: 1,382 Language: Thai Currency: Thai Baht

Location

Our original resort, ‘Koh Tao Simple Life Resort’ is located in central Sairee Beach near Sairee Village – the main focal point of the island. The resort is peaceful and private whilst all the attractions of Sairee Beach are within close walking distance. Within just a few minutes stroll the are many great restaurants, laid-back beach bars and shops. Sairee Beach itself is approximately 80M in front of the resort. Our dive school is situates at our second resort on the Southern tip of Sairee Beach, around 800M away. It’s an easy 10 minute walk along the beach, plus we offer a taxi free shuttle service between the resort and dive school. Koh Tao  is an island in Thailand located near the eastern shore of the Gulf of Thailand. It covers an area of about 21 square km, about 70 km east of the coastline between Suratthani and Chumphon. Koh Tao has natural beauty and particularly its marine life and coral reefs grew, it has become one of the major dive sites in Thailand. With its 11 beaches and 8 km's of coral reef it's a great location for relaxation and adventure.

Get around

There is one main road running north to south on the island that connects Sairee, Mae Haad, and Chalok, with many smaller roads branching off from it. Some roads lead over the spine of small mountains that run along the middle of the island and are all dirt, can become impassable after rain, and can be challenging even to a skilled driver. If you are looking for an adventure, the dirt roads are a good place to find it. Also be aware that distances can be quite deceiving due to the quality and elevation changes of the trail. As of October 2016 many of the roads are actively being replaced with freshly poured concrete, though this has led to an increase in speeding compared to the older worn down/dirt roads. The other main thoroughfare is a pedestrian pathway known locally as the "Brick Road" (or "Yellow Brick Road" despite being gray) that runs along the majority of Sairee Beach from Mae Haad to the main intersection of Sairee. Despite being a pedestrian path there's still numerous scooters weaving and bobbing, so be sure to keep an eye out. You can rent bicycles and motorcycles at many places around the island, though there's an increasing number of rental shops are running motorbike scams where they hold your passport hostage and insist on you paying large amounts of money for non-existent scratches upon their return - primarily shops on/near the "Up Road" from the Mae Haad pier or near the Sairee 7/11. Make sure you note and photograph all scratches and dents when you take delivery of a rental bike, including the underside of the bike as it inevitably will take a few bumps once off the main road (if the shop is charging less than 200 baht/day for a 125cc scooter, chances are they're making up the difference elsewhere). Taking passports as the deposit is standard even at reputable shops, though some will alternatively take a deposit of 8000-10000 baht for a typical 125cc scooter if you ask.

Koh Tao Population

Koh Tao is a fairly recently inhabited island with the first group of people migrating here in 1947 and others arriving mostly from Koh Phangan. The registered population is 2,240 people, recorded in 2016, but the amount of people that actually live here is around 8,000. Koh Tao is a second home for many non-local Thais and foreigners from around the world with most people coming from Asia and Europe. The majority of people here is from southern Thailand and so uses the local southern dialect. Most of the population resides in the three villages of Mae Haad, Sairee and Chalok Baan Kao.

Thai People

Two unique characteristics which are found in Thai people are ‘consideration’ and ‘hospitality’. Consideration means to thinks of another’s feelings and to avoid offending. Hospitality is part of the nature of Thai people who are also friendly, generous and love to help others. Thais are naturally good hosts and at mealtimes will always invite friends or guests that visit or pass by to join them in a meal together. The Thai people on Koh Tao are nice, easy going and friendly. Many people who have settled on Koh Tao have left the busy world behind to enjoy a more simple life and are very happy to be here.

Religion

95% of Thailand’s population are Buddhist with 4% Muslim and 1% being of other faiths. The foundation of Buddhism is a principle which aims to extinguish ‘Dukkha’ (suffering and imperfection) by truly knowing and seeing clearly that there is no self, egoism and nothing be- longing to ‘a self’. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to, there is merely the body and the mind which are nothing but natural processes. Buddhism also follows the logic that one can gain and have thorough knowledge by oneself without having to follow others. Buddhists go to temple to ‘make merit’ every full and new moon. In the mornings, along the main roads, it is a common sight to see monks receiving alms from the Thai community.

Koh Tao Geography

Koh Tao, with Koh Nang Yuan, forms a small archipelago with a total area of 19.2 square kilometres.  At its widest part, Koh Tao measures 3.4 km and is 7.6 km long.  The coastline, which is predominantly steep, rocky shoreline, consists of 11 bays and 10 capes and is 28.6 km long with a surrounding coral reef spanning 8 km.  A large percentage of Koh Tao is mountainous in varying degrees with about 30% of flat land.  Koh Tao is divided up into three villages, Mae Haad and Sairee on the west coast and Chalok Baan Kao in the south.  The eastern part of Koh Tao is steep with cliffs.  In contrast, the west slopes down gradually to the sea and the flat areas where the villages are.  Koh Tao’s highest point is at 374 meters above sea level and Koh Tao’s mountains stretch from north to south. Koh Tao was formed through land subsidence of the surrounding area, which is now the sea floor, making the depth of the sea around Koh Tao and Koh Nang Yuan at the most 30–40 meters.  Koh Tao has a diurnal tide meaning there is only one high and one low water each tidal day.

Koh Tao Climate

Koh Tao can be visited all year round, there is always somewhere calm should the weather be windy on one of the coasts. Conditions are changeable throughout the year, with Koh Tao’s monsoon usually arriving between the ends of November and beginning of December. Heavy rain, strong winds and waves are normal at this time, though it only lasts a few weeks. Boat services usually continue even with waves up to 4 metres high, but they can be interrupted if the conditions are too bad. From October through to March, the tide is high, so it’s better and easier in places for swimming and snorkeling with the beaches and bays full of water. From April through to September, the tide is low during the day making the beaches wider for sunbathing and beach activities.

Koh Tao Annual Events & Festivals

Makha Bucha Day

This is held on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month which usually falls in February. The day commemorates the time that 1,250 Buddhist saints happened to come unannounced, and coincidently at the same time, to see the Buddha. Here, he gave them the Principles of Buddhism: not to commit sin; to do only good; to purify one’s mind.

Vesakha Bucha Day

This is held on the day of the full moon of the sixth lunar month which is in May or June. This celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha.

Asanha Bucha Day

Held on the day of the full moon of the eighth lunar, in July, and remembers the Buddha’s first sermon after attaining his enlightenment. The day Buddhism was announced to the world. On these 3 days, the Buddhists go to temple to make merit and listen to a sermon. In the evening, they will walk around the chapel holding flowers and a lighted candle for a procession called ‘wian tian This is held on the day of the full moon of the third lunar month which usually falls in February. The day commemorates the time that 1,250 Buddhist saints happened to come unannounced, and coincidently at the same time, to see the Buddha. Here, he gave them the Principles of Buddhism: not to commit sin; to do only good; to purify one’s mind.

Vesakha Bucha Day

This is held on the day of the full moon of the sixth lunar month which is in May or June. This celebrates the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha.

Asanha Bucha Day

Held on the day of the full moon of the eighth lunar, in July, and remembers the Buddha’s first sermon after attaining his enlightenment. The day Buddhism was announced to the world. On these 3 days, the Buddhists go to temple to make merit and listen to a sermon. In the evening, they will walk around the chapel holding flowers and a lighted candle for a procession called ‘wian tian.

Ok Phansa Day

The end of Buddhist Lent, held on the day of the full moon of the eleventh lunar month which falls in october. In southern Thailand, the next day after celebrating Ok Phansa, is the Chak Phra Festival where there is a procession of Buddha images carried on cars and boats.

Songkran Festival

Celebrated on the 13th – 15th April each year and marks a time of cleansing and renewal with water. It is symbolizes washing all the ‘bad’ away, to start anew. The 13th is the Thai traditional New Year, where everyone can join in the throwing of water along the main roads.

Loi Kratong Day

On the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, in November, this festival celebrates the releasing of misfortune. ‘Loi Kratong’ means to float a ‘kratong’, an object decorated like a lotus bloom which is laid on the water to be carried away, thereby symbolically taking away any bad luck. Respects are also paid to the spirit of the waters. The festival with live stage performances is held in the evening at the main pier in Mae Haad.

Koh Tao Underwater World Festival

Koh Tao’s own annual festival to celebrate and focus on Koh Tao’s environmental and conservation efforts Held on June 18-19, (the dates aren’t always fixed) the festival goes on for 2 days and 2 nights. There are usually lots going on, with beach and underwater clean-ups, turtle releases, conservation information booths and live performances on stage.

Culture and History Koh Tao

Koh Tao History

King Rama V

On June 18, 1899, His Majesty King Chulalongkorn – Rama V (1853 – 1910) visited Koh Tao, and had his initials carved on a large boulder at Laem Jor Por Ror on the southern end of Sairee Beach.  It is now a place of worship and reverence for local residents and visiting Thai people.

Political Prison

During the years of 1943 and 1944, Koh Tao was used as a political prison with prisoners of the Borawadesh Uprising transferred here from Koh Tarutao.  The prison itself was located in Mae Haad Bay in an area of about 35 rai. There were fifty four political prisoners with fifty other inmates and fifteen wardens. According to the prisoners, Koh Tao was a living hell with its shark infested waters, and daily life was a constant struggle for survival.  Malaria was rife and they were often starved.

The First Pioneers

In 1947, twin brothers, Ta Euam and Ta Oh came to Koh Tao from Koh Samui.  The first ‘pioneers’, they sailed here in a traditional boat with two masts and handmade sails made of woven palm leaves and cloth.  They brought with them a supply of rice, and on arrival, they cleared some land and used what was left of the demolished prison to build a temporary shelter.  Later, they brought their families here and settled on the north of Sairee Beach.  Six years later, others mostly from Koh Phangan arrived here to start a new life.  They lived simply and sufficiently by fishing and cultivating the land for coconut plantations, rice paddies and orchards.  At that time there was an abundance of turtles, so many in fact, that at certain times of the year, the beach became black.

The First Travellers

In the middle of 1977, the first travelers came to dive and explore the undiscovered and pristine underwater world.  They arrived on fishing boats and the boats which then transported coconuts.  In 1984, the first resort on Koh Tao, was established in Thian Og Bay.  Called Niyom Bungalows, the rooms were just 30 Baht per night.  Since then, Koh Tao has changed from one of fisherman and gardeners, to a place of tourism which now offers the infrastructure, facilities and choices of activity to serve about 350,000 travellers each year.

Koh Tao Population

Koh Tao is a fairly recently inhabited island with the first group of people migrating here in 1947 and others arriving mostly from Koh Phangan. The registered population is 2,240 people, recorded in 2016, but the amount of people that actually live here is around 8,000.

Koh Tao is a second home for many non-local Thais and foreigners from around the world with most people coming from Asia and Europe. The majority of people here is from southern Thailand and so uses the local southern dialect. Most of the population resides in the three villages of Mae Haad, Sairee and Chalok Baan Kao.

Thai People

Two unique characteristics which are found in Thai people are ‘consideration’ and ‘hospitality’. Consideration means to thinks of another’s feelings and to avoid offending. Hospitality is part of the nature of Thai people who are also friendly, generous and love to help others. Thais are naturally good hosts and at mealtimes will always invite friends or guests that visit or pass by to join them in a meal together.

The Thai people on Koh Tao are nice, easy going and friendly. Many people who have settled on Koh Tao have left the busy world behind to enjoy a more simple life and are very happy to be here.

Religion

95% of Thailand’s population are Buddhist with 4% Muslim and 1% being of other faiths. The foundation of Buddhism is a principle which aims to extinguish ‘Dukkha’ (suffering and imperfection) by truly knowing and seeing clearly that there is no self, egoism and nothing be- longing to ‘a self’. Nothing whatsoever should be clung to, there is merely the body and the mind which are nothing but natural processes.

Buddhism also follows the logic that one can gain and have thorough knowledge by oneself without having to follow others. Buddhists go to temple to ‘make merit’ every full and new moon. In the mornings, along the main roads, it is a common sight to see monks receiving alms from the Thai community.

Places of Worship on Koh Tao

King Rama V Initials and statue at Laem Jor Por Ror

His Majesty the King Chulalongkorn rama v (20th September 1853 – 23rd october 1910) was one of the greatest and most beloved kings of Thailand. He preserved Thailand’s sovereignty and independence during western colonialism, totally reformed the government and brought the nation together to bring Thailand, formerly known as Siam, into the modern world.

Koh Tao Temple

Located on the main road, 300 metres north of Mae Haad town, Wat Koh Jaroen Santi Dharma, as it is officially known, is where people come to make merit, listen to a sermon, or hold a funeral. The temple is also a centre for the local community and is used for meetings and seminars.

Spirit house of Yaai Mae and Taa Toh

Local inhabitants here revere and worship two rock spirits called Hin Taa Toh and Hin Yaai Mae believing them to be gods who will protect them from natural disasters and bad luck especially when travelling by sea. This spirit house is a place for people to show their respects and worship these rock spirits.

Temple Etiquette

Temples in Thailand are a place of respect. If you choose to visit one, please observe the Temple etiquette as follows: Please dress appropriately. No shorts or sleeveless tops, and skirts or pants should be long enough to cover the knees. Women are not allowed to touch monks. if you wish to give something to a monk, you can place it on a special cloth that will be offered by the monk. In Thai culture, feet are seen as ‘impure’ and the ‘lowest’ part of the body in more than just the physical sense. never point your feet at a statue of Buddha, at monks or other Thai people.

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