My first big island adventure on this segment of the trip is to Koh Tao. KT is one of three popularly visited islands in the Gulf of Thailand, off the east coast south of Bangkok. The other two are Koh Phangan (scene of the infamous full moon beach raves) and Koh Samui (which has been described to me as Bangkok on an island). Koh Tao is definitely the smallest and most laid-back of the three. It is located about 75 km offshore, requiring a 1 1/2 hour catamaran ferry each way. KT only got started as a diving resort destination in 1984, before that serving as a penal colony and then coconut plantation. Today it is crowded along Sairee Beach with many, many dive shops and boasts the world’s largest amount of diving certification training annually. It has intrigue, as well. Supposedly the island is dominated by a group of five families that have been described as Thai mafia. Some make the number 6 when you add in the police department. Not a single element of business on the island takes place, not even down to the simple street food vendors, without arrangements made with the boss-man family of that district. This influence racket came into the international news two years ago with the gruesome murder on the beach of two young UK tourists, which happened coincidentally just about 100 meters from the resort that I stayed at. It has developed into a major incident with the bungling of the crime scene by the local police and the subsequent arrest and prosecution of two young Burmese laborers that many feel were straw convictions to cover the son of one of the local Thai boss-men. The two kids were given the death penalty in December and protests have erupted all over Myanmar. You can Google “Koh Tao Murders” if you care to learn the details. Anyway, the island is generally idyllic and I spent the time chilling out in between dive trips. As I write this post, it is the first day of Chinese New Year and there have multiple bursts of fireworks going off all over the island.
Here is Koh Tao:
More spirit rocks.
My resort, Simple Life
Notice the Thai calendar year is different from ours on this temple sign