12 October 2012

Koh Tao

As I was turning 30 in October and S also had his birthday, he had booked a surprise trip for us to Koh Tao, the neighboring small island. This was the place where I originally fell in love with Asia five years ago, so it was interesting to see, if it would be anything like I remembered.

...which would be something like this. Tanote Bay, east side of the island

Quess what? It really wasn't. The resort we chose, Sea Shell, was just a small dive shop with some bungalows back then. The room was great though, much bigger than the house we're living in, and with comfy pillows! (which are sooo hard to find here). And the view wasn't too shabby either:

The almost undeveloped stretch between Mae Haad and Sairee Beach was now full of buildings, mainly resorts which had grown, and grown again. There was a whole strech of new bars catering for the diving and drinking tourists, leaving the old Sairee beach road almost deserted, except for the part that's been swallowed by Baan's Diving resort, which had also grown exponentially since our last visit.

Busy Mae Haad where the ferries dock

Lots of shops, Sairee beach

Sairee Hut, the lovely resort we stayed at 5 years ago was unrecognizable with it's new, fancy concrete villas and a completely redone restaurant and pool area (who needs the pool when there's an ocean 10 metres away?). Only one of the old bungalows was left, and it seemed to be used as storage space. The restaurant, like also almost all of the other great seaside spots, was empty in the evening as the westerners preferred the loud bars and pizza buffets (!!) along the new main road.

More new shops in Sairee

So yes, development had certainly happened, and like is so often the case, it had transformed the once beautiful, small, laid-back and quiet place to a holiday island with loud masses of people and services catering for them. It's of course not all bad: where there're tourists, there's money for the locals running the shops and services. There were nice spas, and the pancake carts were still there. And some of the expansions to the resorts were done in good taste. But still, one can't deny that the old vibe is gone. Sad, but inevitable, I guess. I'm just glad that the wheels of progress seem to be turning so much slower on Koh Phangan.

Nice views over Ao Leuk / Hin Ngam Bay

Don't get me wrong: we still enjoyed our time there with all the good food and plenty of massages plus an hour spent sweating in a sauna. We also had an exhilarating (and sometimes downright terrifying, with my driving skills) time with our scooters, exploring some of the view points of the island. But the fact is, that the island is now just another Samui for younger people, and no, I don't think we'll be going back. So let's drink a toast to the old paradise island and leave it to the hands of the diving factories and their customers. We like it here on our island (even more).

The cluster of buildings is Sairee beach

Yes, lots of new tall buildings

No monsoon yet. Reservoir up on the hills was super dry.

Beautiful Tanote Bay

Foot on holiday

Tourists waiting to board Lomprayah

And yes, there were also a lot of Germans here, like also on our island. But come on, maybe they're exaggerating just a little bit with the sticker...? ;)

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