Big Blue Diving - Koh Tao - Thailand - Displaying items by tag: THAILAND BACKPACKER
Tuesday, 19 February 2019 10:19

What to Pack for Thailand? - 10 Essentials

10 Essentials For Your Thailand Backpacking Trip

Packing for your big trip is something very exciting, and also quite stressful at the same time – you don’t want to over pack, but not bringing enough is also a worry for a lot of the more-nervous Thailand backpacker.

I’ve often heard from the more seasoned traveler the mantra ‘bring less, buy locally’ which in fact holds very true when choosing what to pack for your trip to Thailand. Almost all of the things you think you’ll need to buy before jetting off to this amazing country will be easily available to buy here, and the one-hundred million 711s and pharmacies in this country can provide you with all the first aid and toiletries you can imagine for a fraction of what you’d pay at home.

So what essentials should you bring?

Here’s my list of the ten essential things that you should consider bringing with you from your home countries:

  • Packing cubes - these amazing little containers help keep your things separate and organised in your backpack, are available in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can squeeze and fit them into your bag like a game of Tetris, and they compress your clothes so you can get more things in your bag! Once you try them you’ll never go without them again.


  • Sun screen – one of the few things that are actually quite expensive here in Thailand, it’s a good idea to get a couple of bottles from your home country where it should be a bit cheaper. Try to go for the environmentally-friendly ones which don’t harm our friends the coral!  



  • 30% DEET insect repellent – most of the insect repellent available here in Thailand contains a maximum of 15% DEET (the chemical that mosquitoes hate) so I recommend trying to get hold of a stronger one for those places where you’re inundated with the flying assholes – camping stores often hold bottles with up to 100% DEET, but studies say those containing 30% will do exactly the same as the higher concentrations (which can often irritate the skin).


  • A good, thin raincoat – rain showers can be heavy and are quite common, so it’s a great idea to carry with you a raincoat that can pack down to a pretty small size – you’ll definitely need it at least once, and it’ll save you wasting money and plastic on those cheap and nasty rain ponchos that inevitably tear and break within minutes of fighting your way into one.


  • One Travel adapter– Now you can pick these up for pennies here in Thailand, but it’s wise to have one that you can use to keep your electronics charged when in the airport or waiting for your connections. Make sure it’s 220v of course, and try to get one that’s good for all the countries in SE Asia if you’re planning on visiting a few of Thailand’ neighbours.



  • A hoodie/warm top­ – Thai people love their air-conditioning. The trains, buses, cinemas and ferries should come with a government health warning they’re so goddamn cold sometimes, so it’s a great idea to bring just one warm top with you to keep you snug when travelling between places – I always have my hoodie in my hand-luggage for this situation, and if for some bizarre reason it’s not Antarctic temperatures then you can roll it up and use it a pillow; win-win!


  • A decent torch – When finding yourself off the beaten track at night it’s very common to suddenly find yourself having to navigate in the pitch black, with just the lousy light on your phone to help (if the battery hasn’t already died on you, as often happen when situations like this arise). It’s here when your handy little torch will suddenly become essential, and also light up any potential creepy crawlies and beasties of the night that I’m sure are stalking my every step when it gets dark.


  • Good insurance – watching people hobbling down the beach every day tells you one thing in particular – backpackers are experts at injuring themselves, especially when drunk. Medical bills are often extortionately high, so make sure you get yourself decent travel insurance (one that covers scuba diving too of course) so a small spill from your bike doesn’t put an end to your trip of a lifetime. Also tell your travel buddies which insurance company you use, just in case!


  • Comfortable shoes/sandals (not new ones) – Before I turned into a fatty I often would go trekking in SE Asia, and every bloody time there was some idiot doing it in flip-flops or fancy new shoes they hadn’t broken in yet, crying because their feet hurt. Don’t be that person, everyone hates you.


  • A desire to not simply stare at your phone all the time, and to actually experience the country you’re in – Guys, you’re missing out on a lot and I’m sure checking your Facebook can wait a day or two. Traveling is a great way to take a break from the real world, relax body and mind and to meet new friends; not so easy with a phone glued to your hand.


Other small items I like to have stashed in my bag, just in case: 

- a few cable ties for securing my backpack on trains

- seasickness tablets

- assorted sized safety pins

- electrical tape

- a dozen passport photos

- small pair of scissors/nail clippers



Published in February

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
Friday, 16 February 2018 09:42

Things to do on Koh Tao (other than diving)

Every so often here on our beautiful little island we get visitors who, for some reason, don’t dive. Such a life-decision is unimaginable to us here at Big Blue, but to pander to the needs of these surface-dwellers we’ve come up with this handy list of our favourite to do on the island when going underwater is not an option:

Explore the Island’s Beaches

If you’re planning a trip to Koh Tao, you’ll definitely want to know more about the island’s beaches. If you want to kayak, paddleboard, kite-surf, meet fellow Thailand backpackers or check out some of the daytime beach clubs then Sairee Beach is the one for you. The largest on Koh Tao and also the busiest, it offers stunning sunsets over a palm-lined beach every day of the year it seems, and usually attracts a younger crowd then the others on the island.

For snorkeling directly from the beach, Tanote Bay, Aow Leuk and Shark bay are all within a 20 minute drive of the pier, and give the chance to see turtles, reef sharks, squid and all sorts of beautiful corals and typical Koh Tao marine life.

More tranquil beaches that we enjoy include the secluded and cosy Sai Daeng Beach (pictured below) in the south of the island  - the drive down to it has incredible views, and we're also big fans of the sunset-facing Sai Nuan beaches for some good old hammock time with a nice cold beer.



Take a Cooking Class

Take your taste buds on an exciting journey through the fantastic flavours and experiences of Thailand! This wonderful country is famous for its deliciously spicy cuisine, comprising of ingredients that can now easily be found in supermarkets around the world meaning it's well worth taking the opportunity to learn how to cook Thai the real way.Great for singles (to impress future partners!) and couples alike, learning how to cook Thai food is a brilliant idea here on Koh Tao, as we have a number of top-class cooks offering their services for very reasonable prices too – expect to pay around 1500 baht per person to learn 3 or 4 dishes. Our favourites are ‘Idjang Kitchen’ and ‘Thai Cooking With Joy’, both located just minutes from Sairee Beach.



The major party places on Koh Tao are all on Sairee Beach, the island’s busiest and most popular stretch of sand. Head either to BND for the most up-to-date tunes, Fishbowl Bar for cheesy party music and beer-pong, or Lotus Bar for similar cheese, but this time dancing right on the beach underneath Sairee’s famous overhanging palm tree. 

For a more chilled, slightly older crowd Fizz on Sairee beach is also worth a look, and also gives the opportunity to rest those weary bones in an oversized beanbag as the sun goes down. After you're regained a little energy it's essential to go visit the Ladyboy Cabaret on Sairee, which may offer up a few surprises!

Young, solo traveler with no-one to party with yet? Then you need to visit the…

Koh Tao Pub Crawl

Everywhere you turn when backpacking Thailand and the rest of South-East Asia there are people wearing a Koh Tao Pub Crawl tank top.  It’s a really popular activity in Koh Tao, especially since the island is small, and all the nightlife happens around the same areas.  It’s fairly inexpensive, and you get a free bucket and tank top.  They start at the legendary Choppers Bar, then off to Lotus Bar Pool, take you to the Ladyboy Cabaret and finish off with live music back at Choppers. It’s almost impossible to leave it without a whole bunch of new mates, and they get everyone to write their name on their arms in permanent marker pen so you know who you’ve woken up with the next morning.

It runs every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, and is not for the faint-hearted.

Hiking & Viewpoints

A great activity to have on your list of things to do on Koh Tao is hiking. Koh Tao has some amazing hikes to viewpoints with panoramic views, most of which are within an hour or so of your starting point – the beauty of being on such a small island!

As not many people decide to check out our hiking trails and viewpoints, more often than not you’ll have them all to yourself – our favourites are the walk to ‘John Suwan’ viewpoint (which offers a perfect panoramic view of the whole of Chalok Baan Kao and Shark Bay at the same time) and the ‘Two View’ viewpoint, Koh Tao’s highest peak which can be reached from Tanote Bay in under an hour.  We also love the 90 minute trek from Sairee Beach to the abandoned resort at Laem Thian, which has excellent snorkeling and is usually completely deserted if you head there in the morning before the sun gets too high in the sky!


 john suwan

Koh Nang Yuan

Located just 20 minutes by boat from Koh Tao is Koh Nang Yuan, three islands connected by a sand bar – said to be the only one of its kind in the world! Usually featured in all of your guidebooks and a must-see for all visitors to Koh Tao, it’s surrounded by shallow aquamarine waters, white sand, lovely snorkelling and the world class viewpoint - this place will set you up for a perfect day of relaxing and enjoying all the natural beauty that Thailand has in abundance.

Best visited in the early morning before the lazy, or after 2pm when the crowds of visitors from Koh Samui and Koh Phangan start to disperse, a 300 baht boat ride will show you exactly why Nang Yuan continues to be rated as one of the essential trips to take whilst holidaying here on Koh Tao – the viewpoint alone is worth the cost of getting there.

koh nang yuan 0

However you choose to spend your time here on Koh Tao, you can be sure that you're going to have the time of your life and make memories to last a lifetime - just remember to bring your camera and expect to stay here a little longer than planned!

Published in February