Friday, 21 September 2018 03:41

Daily Weather Reports for Koh Tao

Anyone who’s been living in a cave the last week may have missed out on some of the big news stories that have dominated our TV sets recently – extreme weather! 

With hurricane and typhoon season running from June to November in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico and also a huge swathe of Asia, this time of year is always an exciting one for us weather watchers. Hurricane Florence is currently busy wrapping up its attempted destruction of North and South Carolina, USA and the other big story is Typhoon Mangkhut which had cut a deadly path through the Philippines, Hong Kong and South-East China, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

 

Luckily here on Koh Tao we don’t really get hurricanes or anything even close to what’s being suffered by those affected by Florence and Mangkhut, and it’s only usually during our monsoon rains (mid-November – December) that we can sometimes suffer from flooding – we had some bad ones in 2016 and again one year later – or the occasional super-cool water spout (thanks for the excellent photo of this beauty last November from Andreas Fiskeseth) that appear on the horizon around that time of year.

 

So how can we find out what the weather is like now anyway?

 

The easiest way to get a daily report of the weather here on Koh Tao from a real person who is actually on the island (that’ll be me) is to click right here where I’ve been reporting not just the weather but also information on wave size in regards to snorkeling and diving here, which are easily the most popular activities on Koh Tao, along with boozing.  I may not be as glamorous as those delectable beauties that are so commonly found on the Mexican news channels (if you don’t believe me just Google ‘Yanet Garcia’) but I’m certainly thorough.

 

If you’re looking to check the weather forecast for the next few days, there’s a glut of apps and websites that are available, and to be perfectly honest with you most of them are absolutely shite – it’s very common for these apps to declare the day as being ‘rainy’ even if it only rains for a few minutes in that day, which is pretty misleading. Here at Big Blue we rely on two in particular that seem to be a lot more accurate than other: ‘Windguru’, and ‘Windy’. By taking the information given from both we can usually predict the weather for the next week very accurately indeed!

 

Oh, and today? Hot, sunny, and another bloody whaleshark at Sail Rock. What a time to be alive!

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

Published in September

The Cheap Places

One of the great things about traveling and backpacking Thailand is the sheer amount of great places to eat which won’t break the bank, and Koh Tao is no different than the rest of the country. With new options appearing what seems like every other week (and disappearing too, unfortunately) what we’re going to look at now is what I consider to be the best places to fill your stomach without emptying your pockets.

 

Duck 995, Sairee Village Thai/Chinese, Vegetarian Options

Number 1 on this list for a damn good reason, this small and typically Thai-looking restaurant won’t win any prizes for décor, but has built up an excellent reputation for itself on Koh Tao for delicious, cheap food served quickly with minimum fuss and maximum taste. Always busy, this locals favourite serves what I consider to be the best duck noodle soup I’ve ever tasted (and I consider myself quite the connoisseur of noodle soups, I’ll have you know) and one taste of literally anything from their menu will show just why they’re rated so highly with those who know their food.

Main courses go for between 70 and 150 baht, or if you want the whole roast duck it’ll cost you just 700 baht. The menu is quite heavily duck-orientated but other options are available for those who don’t wish to eat these cute little quacking-machines.

 

Our Choice – There’s no doubt that the Spicy Duck Noodle Soup is a real joy, with an explosion of flavours on the taste buds with every bite. With a delicious broth to die for, noodles of your choice, bean-sprouts, peanuts and the perfect amount of seasoning it’s something you’ll come back for again and again.  Go for the larger 90 baht version, as you’ll no doubt want more.

 

 

 

Da’s Sandwiches, Mae Haad by the Pier and Sairee Walking Street Sandwiches, Fast Food, Vegetarian Options

 

Another Koh Tao local’s favourite, after fattening up everyone by the pier in its original location Da has now opened up a second outlet in Sairee, with exactly the same qualities as the original – massive, delicious sandwiches at a very low price of just 70 baht. Impossible to eat two, these wonder-sarnies are just packed with fresh ingredients making it a perfect pre/post dive bite, but don’t be surprised if it ruins your dinner – they’re really that big.

Not really a place where you’d sit and eat (though the staff are lovely and always happy to chat) I like to order takeaway and stroll down to the beach to munch on mine – just be aware that they usually close at 14.00 though!

 

Our Choice – The chicken breast, bacon and cheese in a fresh white bun is a sandwich that could sustain a man for weeks, and has reached ‘legendary’ status here on the island. Stay away from it if you’re on a diet…

 

 

Seasons, Sairee Village Thai, Isaan, Vietnamese, Seafood, BBQ, European, Vegetarian…you name it

A main-stay of the Koh Tao community for many years now for those in the know, Seasons (also known as ‘All Seasons’ in a previous incarnation) has probably the most comprehensive menu that I’ve ever come across, with pages and pages of Thai food from the far north to the more Indian-stylings of the south, incredible Vietnamese rolls and soups (the phở bò is wonderful), the obligatory European salads, sandwiches and burgers, BBQ mackerel, pork and chicken dishes…if you can think of it, it’s probably on there somewhere.

One of the more rustic restaurants on the island, the friendly owners have over 20 cats and dogs which may put a few people off (the dogs are rather fragrant) but once you dig in to the menu you’ll see why so many locals rate this as one of the best cheap places to get traditional fare on Koh Tao, with prices ranging from 60-350 baht for main courses. It’s also one of the few joints on the island where the food is actually cooked by Thai chefs, rather than using the Burmese cooks most establishments employ.

 

Our Choice – It’s a tough choice with so many excellent dishes on the menu but I’ll stick my neck out and declare their Panang chicken curry as the best on Koh Tao, with fresh spices and that phenomenal homemade curry paste combining beautifully with the sweetness of the coconut milk and citrus of the kaffir lime leaves. Lovely stuff!

 

 

Yang’s, Mae Haad Thai, European, Vegetarian and Vegan options by request

 With a decent selection of Thai and European foods Yang’s is a firm favourite on Koh Tao, especially with the Spanish-speaking contingent here. Famous for delivering extra-large portions at really low prices leaving you with more money to spend on the nicer things in life (like diving), the reputation here is well deserved, with the restaurant often being filled with the more bohemian looking traveler trying to fill themselves up whilst spending as little as possible – try the chicken schnitzel and if you want to eat something the size of a frisbee.

Can get busy between 19.00-21.00 when service can get a bit slow, so best to order direct from the counter when it’s packed out. Mains cost from 60-250 baht, with the most popular dishes just under 100 baht.

 

Out Choice – The fried fish (usually mackerel) with chilli and basil on rice is really quite delicious, with the perfect amount of spices and fish that comes very well-cooked - unusual for cheaper restaurants that just love to overcook fish, in my experience.

Sairee 711 Foodcourt, Main Road Thai, Isaan, European, Japanese

 

Now this one might be cheating a little bit as the foodcourt isn’t just one place to eat but a handful of different outlets, but rules are there to be broken right?

This foodcourt popped up a few years ago, starting with ‘Krua Thai’ restaurant to the left of the 711, and then quickly followed by the fried foods brigade with their deep-fried delights, papaya salads, pad Thai, mango and sticky rice, strange-looking sushi and more…it’s basically a ‘who’s who’ of classic Thai streetfood all at bargain prices from 20 baht upwards.

Personally, I prefer to eat from Krua Thai which has a huge menu with a lot of unusual and classic northern Thai/Isaan food which can be hard to find at the run-of-the-mill Thai joints on the island. Service is always friendly, and they have a beautiful and friendly young Siberian Husky to play with as you wait for your order (which always comes out very quickly much to the dog’s dismay).

 

Our Choice – The fried spicy catfish curry with sticky rice is one of the most delicious Thai dishes I’ve ever eaten, with so many different textures and flavours throughout the dish you can’t fail to be impressed. Highly recommended!

 

 

Published in September

The Slightly More Fancy Places

With so many phenomenal restaurants, cafes and food stalls here on Koh Tao I’m going to delve a little deeper into the wonderful world of stuffing your face with delicious foods, and look at what are widely considered to be the best places to spend your hard-earned holiday funds, from the high end places to the cheaper plastic chair affairs that are so widespread here in Thailand.

Here in part one we’ll take a look at the best places for those looking to splash out a little on their evening meal: 

Barracuda Restaurant, Sairee   Thai, Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian, Fusion, Mediterranean, Seafood, Steakhouse

 

With two locations in Sairee (in the village by the Ladyboy Cabaret and also now found at Darawan, near Bans) this excellent Thai-fusion restaurant seems to be going from strength to strength. Describing themselves as a “laidback and stylish diving alternative” with a menu to suit all tastes, they have delicious options for meat and fish-lovers as well as vegetarians and vegans - their spinach and roasted vegetable lasagne is wonderful!

What I notice every time I go there is the quality of the service from the mainly Burmese waiters employed there – they’re very attentive and not at all intrusive, which can be hard to pull off and is pretty rare here in Thailand!

With mains costing between 250 and 600 baht and a small beer just 70 baht the prices aren’t too high at all, making it a must-try restaurant for all visitors to Koh Tao – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed!

 

Our choice – The braised lamb shank is fit for a king, and always seems to be cooked so perfectly it just falls off the bone. Highly recommended!

 

Breeze, Mae Haad Global fusion, Seafood, Meats, Vegetarian and Vegan options

Found on the beach in Mae Haad this place is one of the newer additions to the list of incredible eateries here on Koh Tao and is proving to be a big hit with locals and tourists alike. They describe themselves as serving “modern global cuisine, relaxed dining right on the beach in Mae Haad and beachside dining with great sunset views” which is a pretty good description, albeit worded a little strangely.

Main courses go for between 200 to 450 baht per person and beers start at 70 baht so it’s well worth every penny, with special praise going for their sharing boards – the Mezze board in particular is proving to be very popular for those wanting to have a light bite with one of their fabulous drink options.

 

Our choice – The Mediterranean style snapper with asparagus is outstanding but for me it’s all about that amazing Mezze board, with Lebanese-style aubergine, grilled halloumi and a lot more!

 

The Gallery, Sairee Gourmet Thai, Vegetarian and Vegan options

Found in Sairee Village the Gallery has been open for over 6 years now, and is always an incredibly popular destination for those wanting to experience Thai food with a touch of class. Described by the owners as a place to “explore a marvellous array of flavours and experience excellent service in our cosy and chic, gourmet, authentic Thai restaurant” it’s somewhere where you can enjoy Thai food in a quaint setting surrounded by some tremendous artwork from co-owner/photographer/Koh Tao veteran Chris Clark, who also has a photo gallery and cute little bar attached to the restaurant.

Prices for the mains start at around 200 baht and go to just over 400 baht, but when you consider what you’d pay for Thai food of this quality anywhere else in the world you’ll see what a bargain this is.

 

Our choice – You’d be a fool not to go for the ‘Trust the Chef’ option, which delivers 4 starters, 3 mains and 2 deserts which the chef chooses based on your tastes; it’s bloody marvellous and an excellent way to experience all the different flavours and levels of Thai cuisine.

 

 

 

 

Baia Burger Concept, Sairee Village American, Breakfasts, Juices, Craft Ales, Vegetarian Options

With quite a few burger places on Koh Tao before the arrival of Baia Burger in 2017 it wasn’t easy to see where they’d fit in, but rest assured there is no burger joint like this probably in the whole of Thailand making it a ‘must-visit’ during your stay. Their forte is of course the delicious Australian Wagyu beef burgers which are accompanied with some of the highest quality ingredients that can be found on Koh Tao, as well as a very tasty line in ‘mac and cheese’, salads and desserts.  Prices may seem high with burgers starting from 250 baht and rising to around 450 baht, but my God they’re worth it.

Staff are friendly and attentive without being too intrusive, and it’s located in a great people-watching spot in the heart of Sairee Village.

Our Choice – For those wanting a bit of spice with their burger the ‘Koh Tao Heat’ is a perfect choice, with a freshly baked brioche bun housing a mouth-watering beef patty, a secret chilli sauce offset with a lovely mango chutney, plus aged cheddar and bacon bits. Comes with regular or sweet potato fries with truffle sauce on the side.

 

Fizz BeachLounge, Sairee Beach European, Asian, Thai, Vegetarian, Vegan & Gluten Free options

 

Right in the middle of Sairee Beach can be found this great bar/restaurant which is always full of locals looking to enjoy the sunset with a bite to eat from their extensive menu. One of the few bars on the beach that isn’t blasting crappy commercial house music, their soulful yet groovy playlists give it a really laidback, chilled vibe perfect for the stunning sunsets Sairee enjoys almost every night of the year.

Whether just for a few drinks (try the espresso martini!) or a bite to eat, there’s not many better places in the area to enjoy the natural beauty Koh Tao has to offer in a relaxed setting. Prices range from around 200 to 600 baht for a main course, and a small beer will set you back just 80 baht.

 

Our choice – The Cottage Pie with steamed vegetables is an excellent choice for those looking for some comfort food both filling and delicious, in a stunning setting.

 

 

 

Published in September

Here at Big Blue (for the first time in what seems like forever) we have a job vacancy here on Koh Tao, and it’s for arguably the best job the world has ever known: Full Time Divemaster!

The role of the Divemaster here at Big Blue sounds almost too good to be true, to be perfectly honest with you all, and certainly not something where you are actually paid real cash money to perform – you have to dive an incredible tropical divesite (with water temperatures not dropping below 26 degrees here) with a small group of certified divers, and located amazing marine life.

Then comes the hard part – you must then raise your arm, extend a finger and point at whatever you’ve found, whilst simultaneously attracting the attention of your group so they too get to look at it.

Yes, that’s pointing at beautiful things for a living, and getting paid to do so. You can see why we don’t often have any openings in such a wonderful job, as not many of our DMs ever want to leave!

 

Of course, it’s not all pointing at whalesharks, turtles and stupid bloody Nemo. Once every four days to give your ears a bit of a rest we get you to do a day in the Big Blue Diving reception. This entails meeting new divers, explaining what our trips can offer, organising the boats, the equipment needed for each, and the divers allocated to the correct boat. So that’s talking to people about diving, counting things, and a little adding up and multiplication for which a calculator is available (if necessary).

 

Let’s summarise the DM role a bit:

  • Dive beautiful dive sites
  • Find stuff
  • Point at stuff
  • Call people over to look at stuff
  • Count stuff
  • Use a calculator
  • Talk to people about stuff underwater
  • GET PAID

 

I’m sure you’ll all realise that competition for this job is likely to be fierce, so anyone interested in becoming our latest ‘luckiest person in the whole wide world’ should come and see us in person (so we can stare at you and judge you) with your CV, or drop us an email via this website, and we’ll stalk you on your Facebook.

 

Published in September
Monday, 03 September 2018 03:56

Things to Remember - Koh Tao

For those of you visiting Koh Tao for the first time there are a few things to be aware of that will really help you get the most out of your visit, and to make sure the time you spent with us on our little piece of paradise leaves you with nothing but fond memories and hopefully a holiday destination that you'll return to again and again. Here I present to you a few things to consider when here:

  1. This is Thailand

It may seem like Ibiza or Cancun at times to some party-goers, but remember that the Thai people are in general quite reserved, and don’t appreciate people causing too much of a commotion. Try not to get into any arguments or raise your voice if things don’t go your way – it won’t help your case at all, and will often make the person you’re arguing with dig their heels in even more so they don’t lose face.

  1. Drink Responsibly

You’ll no doubt discover that Koh Tao is a great place to dive AND to party, but also be aware of just how strong those alcohol buckets are, and how close to being petrol the ’vodka’ or ‘gin’ is that go into them! The Red Bull used isn’t full of amphetamines as the popular myth goes, but does contain a hell of a lot of taurine and caffeine too, a lot more than we’d get back in our drinks in Europe or the US, for example.

  1. Keep an eye on your Things

Tourists can be seen as an easy target for scumbags (like in most of the countries in SE Asia in my experience) and therefore we should be extra careful with our belongings. A great way to lose your purse or bag is to go swimming naked at night, and use the lockers or safe in your hostel/hotel too – backpackers steal from each other surprisingly often too – my one million pairs of missing flip-flops attest to this, as I’m certain there aren’t many Thais out there with size 47 feet! This of course also mean keeping an eye on your drinks when out partying, don’t accept drinks from strangers and don’t leave them unattended at any time – this goes for everywhere in the world, and both men and women.

  1. Be Extra Careful if You’re Driving

Firstly the roads are Koh Tao are absolutely not suitable for beginners, with large potholes, steep inclines to get to the nicest beaches and a lot of sand and other debris on the roads, making them easy to skid on. There are however a large number of scooter rental places here on Koh Tao, and the majority will happily put you on a bike (regardless of being able to drive or not), take your passport as deposit and send you on your way. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen people pull out from the bike rental to immediately crash, and then comes the extortionate fees: small scratch on the paintwork? 5000 baht! Broken light? 6000 baht! Butterfly wing touched the seat? 1 million baht!

If you can drive then stick to one of the reputable companies if you’re planning to explore the island by bike (Oli’s, RPM, Island Travel, Koh Tao GoRent, KP Travel) and if can’t…then don’t try to learn here for your own safety and the health of your bank balance too!

 

  1. Drug Use

Most Thailand backpackers will be well aware of the drug scene in the country, in particular smoking the Bob Marley cigarettes, as me Mam would call them. They’re also usually aware that things like ‘Reggae Bar’, ‘Rasta Bar’ or any establishment with the word ‘High’ in their name is often an elaborate code name for the ganja, but remember this does not mean that they’re above the law. If you really must have a bit of a smoke then even if the place you bought it from seems to be untouchable by the local law enforcement, the patrons definitely are NOT. If you get caught with something, you’ll be facing a court case, a large fine and of course the chance of prison time, which is no fairy-tale! In addition no matter how nice it seems to have a wee smoke on the beach, it’s really not worth the risk of being busted so use common sense and simply don’t take the chance in public at all.

 

  1. Getting Home at Night

Treat your journeys home in Thailand (especially after dark) just as you would back in the real world – get a taxi, or walk/get a lift with friends.  I’m sure not many of you would jump on some random strangers bike and let them drive you God knows where, and here shouldn’t be any different. Yes, the taxis are expensive here but safety when travelling should always be at the forefront of your mind, especially when alone in an unfamiliar place and certainly when you’ve had a few drinks too. Bite the bullet and get that bloody taxi, or team with up friends for the stroll home.

 

 

All in all, Koh Tao can be a truly wonderful place if you show respect, exercise common sense and don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in your home countries, no matter how laidback this extraordinary island appears – by following these guidelines you’ll be assured that your trip to Koh Tao will leave you with nothing but happy memories that’ll last a lifetime.

 

Welcome to our home, Koh Tao!

Published in September
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