How we learned about Songkran in Koh Tao
When while planning our Thailand trip, we knew nothing of Koh Tao or Songkran in Koh Tao. It is funny how things just seem to work out, especially while traveling. When we were in line for Little Miss BBQ in Phoenix, AZ, we were talking about our upcoming trip to Thailand, and the guy in front of us turned to us and said, “I just got back from Thailand!” He proceeded to tell us that he visits there frequently, and gave us suggestions on where to go, where not to go and his favorite spots. He said his all-time favorite island was Koh Tao. And that is how we ended up in the small, diving island of Koh Tao!
This was one of my favorite places we visited for many reasons, and I wish I had the guys contact info to thank him for the suggestion! One of the coolest things was that we got to celebrate the Thai New Year, Songkran in Koh Tao! A few reasons why I loved this place was that we stayed in a great resort, everything was walk-able, it had a chill, surfer vibe similar to Rincon, Puerto Rico, except instead of surfing it is diving, and there are a lot of Americans and Europeans who have settled here.
Journey to Koh Tao
Like I mentioned in my last post on Koh Phangan, after getting back to our place at 4am, sleeping terribly, and waking up at 6am, we decided to hail a cab, and purchase our tickets for the 8am boat. This worked out well, because the later boats probably would have been full and we were able to rest with all the other neon painted zombies on the boat. The ferry ride from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao was about 90 minutes for about $7.59 each and when we arrived, we were unsure of how we were getting to our hotel. Noticing a trend of us winging it everywhere we go?!
As we grabbed our bags and walked off the boat, we saw a sign up above on the dock with our hotel’s name on it. We went to him and he led us to the complimentary shuttle, in the same safari style as the ones on Koh Phangan. We pulled up to the Simple Life Resort after a very short ride, they took our bags for us, and we got settled into our room.
The Simple Life Resort
This place was night and day from the last place! Cold A/C, giant King bed, towels, shampoo, a really nice pool, super friendly staff, and we were able to walk anywhere! Since we were exhausted, the first and most important task was to take a nap! When we woke up, we took a walk to the beach area, found the Lotus Bar which is part of the Lotus Paradise Resort, and had a traditional Thai lunch and coconut shakes right on the beach. We took a walk along the beach and went swimming., where the water was still shallow and warm, but it was better than where we were on Koh Phangan. As we walked around, we saw signs for parties for Songkran in Koh Tao everywhere, and decided that the next day would be dedicated to having some Songkran fun, whatever that was!
After the beach, we chose to go back to our hotel pool to swim and drink from our mini bar. The awesome thing we found, was that the mini bar at the hotel was pretty much at cost. You get a beer for 40 baht at the 7-Eleven, or $40 baht in your own fridge. Nice!
Night out in Koh Tao
Once we showered and got dressed after the beach, we made our way back to the area we were at for lunch, and found a super chill place next door called Fizz Lounge, where we got a snacks and drink to watch the sunset. As we sat in the bean bag chairs, sipping our drinks, enjoying the sunset and listening to Brazilian jazz, we noticed they were setting up lots of seating on the beach with mats and triangle shaped pillows meant to prop you up, and small tables.
We weren’t sure what these were for at first, but we quickly realized after the sun went down! The beach totally transformed! Every beach bar had neon or blue lights, deep house music playing, and fire dancers! This was a MUCH different vibe than the Full Moon Party, because it was less of a rave atmosphere, and more of a chill, more mature, relaxing party. I enjoyed this a lot!
After a few drinks, we decided to go get massages! Hey why not? I opted for the oil massage for a change up from the Thai massage, and Tiago did the foot scrub. We were so relaxed! Since we were still hungry after our snack, we made our way to the Black Garlic restaurant. This was right near our hotel, and had a much more American feel to it. We were still pretty pooped from the activities the day before, so we turned in early.
Songkran in Koh Tao
After talking to some locals, we learned all about Songkran in Koh Tao. Songkran is the Thai New Year that lasts for 3 days, and the work literally translates to “astrological passage” meaning to change or transform! Since the Thai New Year fell RIGHT after the full moon party, hotels were a bit more expensive and harder to find, but we got a great deal on Booking.com!
Thai people usually start the day pouring water over a buddha to represent the cleansing of sin or bad luck, then the day turns into a full on water festival. Somewhere along the way, this has transformed into a fun water fight in the streets all day long, including squirt guns, tubs of water where people fill buckets and pour on people driving or walking by. You will certainly be a big target if you are not equipped with a water source! Don’t plan on being dry all day! Luckily we brought our water proof phone cases!
But first, breakfast and a massage!
We woke up, got dressed and had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel. We also dropped our laundry off to be washed for about $1.50/kg. Sweet! Breakfast in Thailand was just so so, but the fresh fruit was excellent! Their bacon and sausage (chicken hot dog really) had absolutely no flavor! This was the same everywhere we went, so I was happy with eggs, toast and fruit each morning. As we sat finishing our coffee, we saw the Songkran festivities start to begin!
The restaurant for the hotel was outdoors, so we could see a guy down the street pouring water on people driving by with a bucket, and our hotel set up sort of a sprinkler on the roof, which people were surprised to see when they got wet driving by. It was fun to watch at first, but we had no idea that this was just the beginning! After breakfast, we each got a foot massage at the hotel massage place for about $6.80 each, with the 10% off coupon! While we were getting the massages, the craziness continued to build outside and the ladies working on us kept giggling. There were taxis full of people getting sprayed by hoses, super soakers, and buckets, people screaming and running, and smiles all around! We couldn’t wait to join the fun!
View from breakfast, as Songkran was JUST getting started.
Let the water games begin!
When we were done, we walked around to see the madness, got ourselves a water bottle and poked a hole in the cap so we could keep refilling, without wasting money or plastic on a whole squirt gun we would never use again. **TIP** Do this if you end up celebrating Songkran in Koh Tao! Your “gun” will be more effective, you save money, and put a lot less plastic into landfills! Not to mention, the squirt guns all broke mid-day….!
We walked around for hours before we even had our first drink, and I have to say, it was some of the most sober fun I’ve ever had!! There were DJs set up outside of 7-Eleven which was on a major street corner. So many smiling faces on visitors, locals, kids and adults, as we got each other wet, people putting wet talcum powder on your face, and lots of dancing and fun had all around! We made it back to the Lotus Bar because they had a DJ, foam party, and buckets! After the full moon party, we were not keen on the buckets, so we stuck to beer and cocktails.
We met a really fun, young couple from England, celebrating the girl’s 21st birthday. She was having a bit too much fun, but they were awesome! We walked down the beach to the other parties, where we found a pool party at the Roctupus Dive shop as well as DJL pool bar. Lots of dancing, mostly EDM music but some top 40 music from all eras, and debauchery.
Enjoy my dump of some videos and photos I had from this super fun day!
Lady putting some wet talcum paste on our face….ok!? Sawadee kah!
Being sick for Songkran was not so fun…
Let me remind you, I got sick 2 days prior, and was battling a really bad sore throat, headache, and body aches, but I was pacing myself. Eventually after the sun went down, my body was ready to crash. I sat down for a bit, but needed to go back to our room. Tiago stayed to party some more, and I walked back to our hotel. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be walking around alone, but really, at this location and this holiday, there were people everywhere having fun, and I did not feel unsafe at all. To be extra safe, I even followed a group of people to make it look like I wasn’t alone just in case.
I fell asleep, and then woke up to let Tiago in. We were both hungry, and unfortunately all restaurants were closed, but what was always open was 7-….ding ding ding! 7-Eleven!! We had a nice noodle bowl, grilled ham and cheese, and seaweed snacks to hold us over until the morning.
Diamond Tours Snorkel Trip
In the morning, I got breakfast while Tiago slept, grabbed our laundry, and then booked our snorkel trip! For about $15 each, we had a 6 hour snorkel trip around the Island! Seriously, what a great deal! This island is known for its scuba diving, but since we were not certified, and did not plan on a 4 day certification, we opted for snorkeling. If you ARE looking to get certified to scuba dive, this is the place to go! It is super cheap compared to getting it done in the US, there are tons of great places to get your license, and the sites are amazing.
When we arrived, we had to wait for a bit for the crew to get situated, but eventually we got on the boat, found our seats, and we were off! First stop was Koh Nangyuan, which was an absolutely gorgeous island, where they really work hard to preserve the sand and land, and only allow diving trips to stay on the island. There was a gorgeous view point to hike to, so we did that first. It was SO damn hot, and there was a line to get up there on the narrow staircase, but we got some nice pictures at least!
When we got down, we put on our snorkel gear and swam around a bit. When the time was up, we made it back to our boat. This process was insanity. There were so many boats that would tie onto one another, and we had to climb through other boats to get to ours and other boats were climbing through our boat to get to the dock. Since this took so long, they extended our trip an hour so we could see everything.
More stops on the snorkel trip
Next stop was kind of unnecessary. We didn’t see much snorkeling but got a good workout swimming! Next stop was the BEST! We saw SO many fish! Literally millions of fish in a huge school, plus many other individual fish and coral. Check out the uncut video we took from our waterproof cases! It was so relaxing and fun! Our tour guide was awesome! He was so full of energy, had us call him Mr. Tao, and helped us find where the schools were. He even helped drag the Chinese family out on a raft that couldn’t swim!
We stopped at shark bay, which I didn’t get into the water, but the people who did didn’t see anything. This side of the island was too windy and choppy, so were not able to see the little island and we stayed longer at shark bay. We got to see a pretty sunset on our ride back to the dock, which was just the icing on the cake!
Last Night in Koh Tao
When we returned from the snorkel trip, we were starving! We got dressed, walked around, and explored some side streets away from the beach a bit. On our walk, we found the Koh Tao CrossFit and some diver bars with hilarious signs. We ended up at Su Chili which was a huge, busy restaurant. We were so happy to eat because we were starving, but unfortunately the service was sooooo slow! At least the food was good! By the time we were done with dinner, it was about 10pm and we went to bed. Our taxi would be arriving at 5:30am for the 6am ferry.
Leaving Koh Tao
Our taxi arrived, we picked up a few other people prior to sunrise. We made our way to the pier, and boarded the boat. This would be a 7 and a half hour ferry and bus trek to Krabi town, so I made sure I napped as much as I could! The boat made a stop at Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, then the main land, where we got off, and right onto a bus. The bus ride was about 2.5 hours, arrived at the Lomprayah station, and then we got our taxis to our hotels. As the boat pulled away, the sun was just starting to rise. I walked outside to get some fresh air, take some pictures, and with a tear in my eye, say goodbye for now to Koh Tao.
So, if you are looking for a fun, cool, but chill island experience, Koh Tao is the spot! If you want to learn to Scuba Dive, this is a great place to do it! Or you can do what we did and take a snorkel trip! I feel like we only scratched the surface of what Koh Tao had to offer. I would go back in a heartbeat to really take in the culture, meet ex-pats and explore the foodie scene!