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Archive for August, 2018

Thailand Travel Tips: Koh Tao in particular

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 25, 2018

2018

You have to bring:

  • Make sure to bring your prescription medication and a doctor’s note.
  • Everything else can be bought here if you are staying in or starting out in a highly touristed area.

If you’re going to Koh Tao:

  • Deodorant/ Antiperspirant
    • On Koh Tao you will only find Nivea brand roll-on deodorant.
  • Bring everything you can, either from your home country or from mainland Thailand.
    • Things are more expensive on Koh Tao.
  • But, don’t bring the things that will make your journey to Koh Tao too inconvenient.
    • You can still get everything you need on Koh Tao, even if it’s at a higher price.
    • The price difference isn’t worth over packing.
    • Bring what you can, buy the rest.

Things you can buy here or bring with you (to Koh Tao):

  1. Luggage:
    • You can use a suitcase or a backpack.
    • If you use a suitcase, you might want to hire a taxi to take you to or from your hotel.
  2. Clothes:
    • You can buy tourist clothes here.
      • You can find things like sarongs, Tiger Beer t-shirts, long drapey dresses, swim suits, and the like; basically, anything that makes you look like you’re on vacation in south east Asia.
      • If you want running shoes or clothes that look unique, you will have to, at the very least, visit Koh Samui.
  3. Towel:
    • Travel towels (Nabaiji brand to be exact) can be purchased here, for a not very high price.
      • But, maybe travel towels are cheaper on mainland Thailand.
    • Bring your towel if you are staying in a hostel or going to the beach.
    • Or, you could just buy a beach towel here if your hotel doesn’t lend you one.
  4. Shampoo, conditioner, body wash and lotion:
    • You can buy all of these at any store.
      • It’s mostly Nivea brand products and some other brands I’ve never heard of before.
  5. Deodorant/ Antiperspirant:
    • On Koh Tao you will only find Nivea brand roll-on deodorant. So if that’s what you’re into, you’re set.
  6. Sunscreen:
    • You can find some of the major brands here like, Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic.
    • And, of course Nivea.
  7. Over the counter medicine:
    • No problem.
    • It’s best if you know the generic or chemical name of the drugs you need.
      • Instead of asking for Bufferine, ask for ibuprofen.
    • I would still bring some medications for basic illnesses like diarrhea, fever, and constipation.
      • Don’t run out of these.
      • It’s tough to look for medication when you’re already sick.
      • It’s easy to find what you want if you have a label of the drug you are looking for.
  8. Other things you should bring:
    • Sunglasses
    • Flip-flops
    • Swim-suit
    • Sun Hat
    • Dry bag
    • bug spray
  9. If you need to buy groceries:
    • Visit Pod.
      • They sell the best brownies I’ve ever bought outside the US and for only ฿50.

General Tips:

Transportation:

  • You can hire taxis to take you around the island
    • but, it’s cheaper to rent a scooter for a day than to pay for a one-way taxi ride.
  • Rent a scooter.
    • If you’re going to stay here for a few weeks or more, it’s cheaper to buy a scooter then sell it before you leave.
    • Many sell their scooter for the same price they bought it.
  • Walk
    • Most things are within walking distance from Mae Haad and Saree Beach.
    • There are some interesting things and nice beaches that are about a 90 minute walk from the main area, but the blazing hot sun and lack of sidewalks make it a very unpleasant walk.

Language:

  • Most people speak enough English to do their job.
  • It is easy to learn a few basic Thai pleasantries and polite words.

Food:

  • Try:
    • papaya salad
    • green mango salad
    • Panang curry
    • Pad Thai
    • Tom Yum
    • Cashew Chicken
    • All the shakes
    • No Name Chicken and No Name Vegetable are popular dishes here.
      • They are essentially fritters make with chicken and/or vegetables
  • When you get tired of Thai food, try:

Money:

  • Get money from the bank or ATM
  • Just about every shop has an ATM nearby.

Scams :

  • Not many scams on Koh Tao.
    • Just be careful when going out drinking. This is when you’ll most likely to be taken advantage of.
    • Don’t rely on people you’ve just met to take care of you when you’re drunk.
    • Drink responsibly.


Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Map:

Posted in Koh Tao, Thailand | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Visa Run 2: 20 Minutes in Myanmar

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 20, 2018

March 27th-28th, 2018

Mark and I took an overnight boat from Koh Tao to get to Myanmar to renew our visa. This (border run) visa run did take a long time, but it was very easy. All we had to do was buy a ticket for a Myanmar visa run. Then we showed up in time for our boat. After that, all we did was wait at various periods and not stray too far from the group.

10:30PM

Around 10:30 on the night of the 27th, Mark and I made our way to the area where the night boats dock. We checked in with a lady playing on her smartphone in front of the boats. We ticked our names off a list on a sheet and then boarded. We climbed the stairs and found our bunks. I fell asleep right away while Mark watched a movie. We were both woken up early the next morning when the boat pulled into the dock at Chumphon.

4:00AM

At Chumphon we waited for an hour before our vans came to pick us up. By then most of the people from the overnight boat had left. There were only 15, or 2 vans worth, of us doing the visa run that day.

While we waited, some old French guy kept going on and on about the free coffee available in the waiting area. No one was really interested. He couldn’t understand how free coffee from a questionably dirty coffee pot had no appeal to anyone. He had about 3 cups while complaining about the snobbishness of the people around him.

He struck up a conversation with some French 20-something-year-olds who had the misfortune of sharing a language with the scruffy old man. “Blah blah blah… café,” the old man complained. I imagined the younger mens’ response to be something like, “Oh, no thanks. We’re from the part of France where people don’t drink terrible coffee from urns that have never been washed. We like our coffee to not taste like mud.”

The old man asked the boys something and one of them fished around in his pockets. The young guy held out his well manicured hand to the old man, holding a cigarette lighter within his grasp. The old man picked his nose and then took the lighter. “Oh, by the way,” the old guy asked in French, “blah blah blah?”

The guy who had just handed over his lighter gave the old man stink eye. His friends laughed and turned away from the old man in disgust. The young man took back his lighter and joined his friends leaving the old man on his own.

I looked down, not wanting to make eye contact. I don’t speak French, but there was a chance that the old man spoke English just well enough to harass me during the whole visa run. Just in case, I got up to “check on something”.

The old guy moved on to another group. They were speaking in English, but they had heavy accents. “Where you from?” the old guy asked. “Quebec,” one of the young ladies answered with a smile. Within 20 minutes the old man was chattering away in French as the Québécois sat around him being quiet and unhappy. The man had bummed a cigarette off of one of them and was asking for another when the first van pulled up.

5:00AM

All the Canadians jumped into the first van, leaving no space for the old guy. He would ride with Mark, me, and the French boys in the other van.  With his filthy feet up on the wall of the van, he snored the whole ride to the border. But, maybe that was better than him talking all the way.

Everyone slept for most of the ride. It wasn’t too bad as long as I closed my eyes and tried to forget about the old man’s grotesque feet perched at eye level.

7:30AM

The van parked outside of a 7-Eleven and we were rushed by a mob of Thais. They brought us over to their food stall. They kept barking words at us. “10 Baht cappee!” Most of the tourists had no idea what was going on. I wanted some iced Thai coffee, so I handed 10THB over. Then some lady yelled at me. “Passpoor!”

“What!?”

“Passpoor for cappee!”

I realized that I would get no iced Thai coffee. I gave the woman my passport for her to make a photocopy. Mark and the others did the same. After which, Mark and I crossed the road and stood in line at the Thai boarder control.

It’s not “safety time” right now.

8:00

With our exit stamps from Thailand in our passports, we all got on one of two long tail boats. I sat in front of Mark, who sat next to the French old man. The man asked Mark if he had any cigarettes, but Mark didn’t have any. Neither did I.

We were on the boat for about 10 minutes when the guy controlling the boat, the “captain”, yelled something. “What!?” many of us asked. The captain pulled at his shirt, like that was supposed to mean something, but no one understood. Then he cut the engine and climbed along the outside of the boat to make his way to the front. Standing at the front, he pulled at a life vest that was hanging from the top of the boat and said, “Safety time!” He dragged out the word “time” and cocked his head to one side to let us know that he thought we were stupid.

I pulled on the vest closest to me. It was ragged with a tear all the way down the side under the arm. Most of its stuffings were coming out or had fallen out a long time ago. There was no way this life vest was better than wearing no life vest at all. It couldn’t even work as a pillow.

Once everyone had their life vest on, the captain started the motor and we passed the border police. When the cops were behind us, the captain told us we could take off the vest. Safety time was over. I was glad to be rid of my vest; it smelled funny.

8:20

We got off the boat and entered Myanmar. We walked to the immigration office. In the photo above, it’s the building on the right closest to the water. We spent a good 10 minutes there. Everyone handed over their passports and a 10 dollar bill. Someone turned in all the copies of our passports we paid for in Thailand; maybe it was the captain.

When we got our passports back, we were given 10 minutes to do whatever shopping we liked before getting back on the boat. Mark and I ran to this park next to the immigration office for a few photos. This would be the shortest time we’ve ever stayed in a country so, we wanted to make the most of it.

8:40

We got back on the boat and headed for Thailand. This time Mark and I sat towards the front of the boat. Behind us was the old French guy, shirtless, and with a bottle of beer in each hand. During the “safety time” on the return journey, the captain asked him to hide his beer. He hid the beer in his belly by chugging both beers and mumbling French nonsense to himself.

9:00

We got through Thai immigration with no problems. Even the old drunk French guy had an easy time of it.

9:10 

Everyone went to 7-Eleven for toasties, drinks, snacks, and cigarettes (to give the old French guy). The French guy went MIA. I didn’t see him in the 7-Eleven with everyone else.

When it was time to head back to Koh Tao, we got into the vans. Not everyone returned with us; some stayed. This meant that there was now room for the old French guy in the van with his new Canadian friends. So, that’s where he went, though I didn’t know this at the time.

I thought we had just left him behind. It wasn’t until the driver stopped for a smoke and a pee, that I saw him get out of the other van. He walked over to our driver and asked for a cigarette.

13:00

By the afternoon we were on a fast boat back to Koh Tao.

15:30

We were back on Koh Tao by 3:30 that afternoon.

Seasickness pills for when the fast boat is a rough ride and butter cookies for when it’s not

If you are staying on Koh Tao and need to renew your visa you might have some questions. Just remember to check government websites to make sure your information on the process is up-to-date. Things change often. Also, make sure the day you travel is not a holiday in either Thailand or Myanmar. Now, let’s go over some simple questions you might have about doing a Myanmar visa run from Koh Tao.

1. When should I buy my ticket?

If there’s a holiday coming up, tickets might run out. In this case, I advise that you get your ticket as soon as you know you need to renew your visa. Other than that, you can get your ticket right before the travel agency closes on the day you want to go. But, don’t push your luck.

Let’s say your visa expires on the 10th. I recommend, assuming there are no holidays involved, going to a travel agency on (or before) the 8th and buying tickets for a night boat leaving Koh Tao on the 9th. This will have you at the Thai Immigration office on the 10th, renewing your visa when it expires wasting no days with overlapping visas.

You need to renew your visa on the day it expires at the latest, to not have to pay a fine. The fine is only 500THB per day past the expiration date, but it’s best not to live life too far on the edge.

2. How much does the ticket cost?

About 2,300THB per person as of March 2018. Prices are about the same no matter what travel agent you go to. That said, it doesn’t hurt to shop around if you have time.

3. How long does it take?

The night boat is scheduled to leave at 22:30. You will return to Koh Tao by 15:30 the next day, assuming everything goes well.

my passport, 10 bucks, and a brand new arrival/departure card

4. What should I bring to get my visa?

  • a pen
  • Your departure card (or 100THB to get a new one)
    • This is the form you get when you arrive at the airport. You’re supposed to keep it, but if they don’t staple it in your passport for you, it will get lost.
  • Your passport
  • A photo copy of your passport photo page (or 10THB to pay for a photo copy)
  • Money for your Thai Visa
  • passport photos
    • I don’t remember now if we needed them. We had them and they took them, but they never asked for photos. So, they might take a photo if you have it.
  • A shirt and decent pants/ skirt.
    • Of course there was a “that guy” who had to be told to put a shirt on.

5. What else?

  • a book, mp3 player, smartphone… for entertainment
  • snacks & drinks (or money for snacks and drinks)
  • light jacket, towel, scarf, or fan… for when the van is too cold or too hot

6. What do I not have to bring?

  • 10USD for your Myanmar visa.
    • This is included in your ticket, so there is no need for you to bring any US dollars.
    • Do not fold the10-dollar-bill. The government of Myanmar do not like folded bills.

Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Myanmar

Visa Information

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • I don’t recommend going to Myanmar.

Map:

Posted in Koh Tao, Myanmar, Thailand | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

What you should bring to Koh Tao

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 15, 2018

January 1st – May 31st, 2018

Beach Yoga

If you’re going to Koh Tao, you might want to know what you have to bring and what you can just buy there. So, I will explain that here. First off, realize that Koh Tao is an island that takes a while to get to, so everything will cost more when you buy it on Koh Tao. But, it’s not a huge difference in price.

If it’s convenient to stop off at a Big C or Tesco Lotus before going to the island, then do so and buy some basics. Get your bug spray, shampoo, sun block, and so on. On the mainland you will have better prices but importantly, more brand choices.

Don’t have to go over board. You don’t need to bring everything or a 3 month supply of anything. You can get everything you really need on Koh Tao.

Water Mark

You can get all your scuba gear on the island.

There are many dive schools and dive shops that sell everything you need or want. I don’t know about brand selection, but I’ve never heard anyone complain about it. You can also buy (or sell) used stuff online at Koh Tao for Sale or Koh Tao Dealerz. Both Facebook Groups offer more for sale than just scuba gear.

1. Off!

You’re going to need lots of Off!. If you’re out and about after 16:00, make sure to coat your arms and legs with it. Don’t forget to wash your hands after putting it on. You don’t want to accidentally ingest the stuff.

On Koh Tao you can buy Off! in just about every shop from 7-Eleven to groceries or pharmacies.

2. Sunscreen

If you want the best sunscreen, as evaluated by Consumer Reports, then you should bring some from your home country. If not, you can find plenty of sunscreen here.  Stay away from the brands you’re unfamiliar with. I have heard bad things about Samui Rum Leuk, the sunscreen made on the neighboring island of Koh Samui.

Be careful. Don’t buy any of the sun screens that contain skin whiteners. I’m not sure what it does, if it does anything. But generally, skin whiteners damage the skin and may cause cancer

Brands like Nivea, Banana Boat, and Australian Gold can be found at 7-Eleven, pharmacies, and grocery stores.

4. Rubbing Alcohol

Everyone gets cuts and scrapes on Koh Tao. It can be from something small like a bug bite or more serious like an attack by a triggerfish. (Those fish are an abomination of nature and knowing that fact makes them really angry.)

It’s cheaper to buy rubbing alcohol from a grocery store than the pharmacy. You can get a small bottle for 15THB.

5. Travel Towel

You can buy a quick dry travel towel from many of the dive shops on the island. Nabaiji is the main brand that is sold on the island. Mark and I both have one. They came with something we bought. The most common sizes are XL and L, but you can find XXL, M, and S. The XXL will cost about 450THB on Koh Tao, which isn’t bad at all for a quick dry travel towel. You might be able to find that same brand for cheaper on mainland Thailand. But 450THB (14USD) is so low for a travel towel, it might not be worth it to go out of your way for it.

I found the XXL Nabaiji travel towel for 450THB at a convince store along Sairee beach.

6. Ibuprofen and Paracetamol (also called Acetaminophen)

Ibuprofen is the generic name for Brufen,  Advil, and Motrin. Paracetamol, also known as acetaminophen or APAP, is the generic name for Tylenol and Panadol.

The Ibuprofen on Koh Tao, comes only in double (400mg) or triple (600mg) dosages. Usually ibuprofen capsules are 200mg. Most people take 2 pills at a time, so the double dosages might not be a problem. Just remember this and don’t accidentally take 2 of these bigger pills. Remember not to take more than 1,200mg in a 24 hour period. Taking too much Ibuprofen can damage your stomach lining.

As for paracetamol, taking more than 4,000mg in a 24 hour period can cause liver damage. It’s very important to read over the counter drug label’s properly. Many cold medicines contain paracetamol, like Thera-ful and Nyquil. This makes it easy to overdose on paracetamol without realizing it.

Pain killers are cheapest when bought from the grocery stores. They are a bit expensive at the pharmacy. If you only need one or two pills, then buy a packet of Tylenol (paracetamol) at 7-Eleven. If you want the ibuprofen in liquid capsule form, you will have to buy it at a pharmacy.

 7. Tissue

You never know when the bathroom is out of toilet paper. When you run out of tissues, pick some up anywhere.

8. Hat

There are shops everywhere selling clothes, hats, bags, and flip-flops. They look nice, but they’re not exactly top quality stuff. They will last the length of your trip, but not years. It doesn’t matter, nothing is too expensive. The main downside, is that you will look like everyone else. All the tourists are wearing the same thing.

9. Swim Suits

I recommend bringing your own swim suit. If you want to buy a swim suit here, then let it be a secondary swim suit. That way, if you don’t find one that you like or in your size, it’s not a big deal.

10. Hydrocortisone Cream

Some days you will forget to put on your bug spray. Hydrocortisone Cream will help your bug bites stop itching. You can buy this at the pharmacies.

11. Flip-flops

The flip-flops sold on Koh Tao are Havaianas or random generic brands. No Crocs…

12. Cloth bag

You might not care about having one, but I hate collecting tons of plastic bags every time I buy something. I try to bring my own bag to cut down on the number of plastic bags kicking around on the island.

13. Antibiotic Cream

You might be able to find fucidin ointment on mainland Thailand. But once you get to the island, antibiotic cream is harder to find and expensive when you do find it.

14. Schick Intuition Head

Bring one head for every month you will stay on the island.

15. Dry bag

On Koh Tao, they sell mostly name brand dry bags. Buy yours at home or from mainland Thailand, where they are much cheaper. The one in the picture is a generic dry bag I bought in Malaysia for less than 8USD. Get a heavy duty dry bag for kayaking and water sports. They keep your things dry even if it falls into water, assuming you’ve closed it properly. Do not get a camping dry bag. Those keep your stuff dry during a light rain but are not recommended for use at the beach.

16. Plastic Fan

It’s kind of hot here. Get a plastic fan you can use at the beach. I bought mine at Daiso in Japan. There is a Daiso in Bangkok

17. Reflective Band

If you’re walking around at night I recommend getting some kind of reflective band. Not every street has a street light. Also, you should bring a flash light or use the flash light app on your phone. Never go anywhere without your phone for this reason.

deodorant

You can buy antiperspirant/ deodorant on Koh Tao. They sell products for both women and men. They are limited to the roll-on type and to the Nivea brand. If you like something else, get it before going to Koh Tao.

Some more information:

A. There is plenty of Tiger Balm.

Though, I’m not sure if it actually does anything. It’s an interesting souvenir…

B. Go through the grocery/ hardware stores before you buy anything.

There are several grocery stores on the island that sell all sorts of things. They have far better prices on drugs than the pharmacies do. Buy your ibuprofen and paracetamol there. Also check these place out first when looking for stuff to buy. If they sell the thing you want, they might sell it for less.

C. Check out many pharmacies for the basics before you buy.

They’re prices vary for different items. Some have cheaper hydrocortisone. Others have cheaper antihistamine.


Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Koh Tao

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s pretty inexpensive, but you can rack up quite a bill for just about anything if you’re a chump.

Notes:

  • Koh Tao means “turtle island”. There are no turtles on the island, but the island is shaped like a turtle. Well, at least the person who named the island thought so.
  • ◊Koh Tao has the nickname “Murder Island”. Some people think there is a serial killer on the loose. Maybe there is.  I don’t really think so but, I could be wrong.
    • Many of the people who were “murdered” were very drunk at the time. Some of them jumped into pools and drowned.
    • A lot of the “murders” were incidences of parents of 20-somethings who couldn’t believe that their kid would get so drunk and fall into a pool, run off into the jungle, or whatever.
    • There are some cases that are clearly murders and the authorities have either found no suspects or they might have imprisoned the wrong people.
  • Many people rent scooters here and then crash them.
    • Some are just bad drivers.
    • But many are driving drunk.
      • Everyone either has a drunk driving story or knows of someone who does. (I have met 2 such people who openly brag about their drunk driving adventures with pride.)
      • It’s scary how common it is for tourists to get drunk then jump on their scooters and end up in the hospital.
  • DO NOT walk around in the early hours of the morning when the drunks are likely to be driving home.

Map:

 

Posted in Koh Tao, Thailand | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Visa Run 1

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 10, 2018

March 2nd, 2018

How to get to the Koh Samui Immigration Office

Mark and I were in Thailand for 2 months and we needed to extend our visa. We had an extra day to play with, because of a tiny loop-hole. Our visa expired on a holiday. That gave us 1 extra day to get a new visa. Getting a visa renewed on the day after a holiday also means that the immigration office is very crowded.

So, the question was, “How do we get to the Koh Samui Immigration Office?”

The easy answer is that you can buy a ticket from any travel agency. That same place where you get your boat ticket to Koh Samui and back, is where you can get a van ride to the Immigration Office. If you do this, from Koh Tao, you will set out on the first boat in the morning (6:00am) and be back to Koh Tao sometime after noon. Easy peasy.

There is a KFC that sells delicious egg tarts somewhere inside.

That’s not what we did.

We wanted to go shopping in the afternoon. There is very little non-dive related shopping on Koh Tao for people not interested in purchasing genie pants or Beer Chang t-shirts. We wanted to do things we couldn’t do on Koh Tao like shop and eat fast food. So, we just bought round-trip tickets to Koh Samui. We left on the first boat and returned on the last boat.

At the dock on Koh Samui we were rushed by taxi drivers quoting us 500THB for a ride to the immigration office. That’s 15USD for a 22 minute drive. “What is this, Miami?” I thought. “There is no way we’re paying that much for a cab in Thailand.” It might have been worth it, if we had 2 other people to off set the cost. This is what the taxi drivers seemed to be going for, since they all had SUVs or minivans.

It was just the 2 of us, so we started to walk. Mark thought that we could catch a cheaper taxi from the main road. He was wrong. All the drivers we stopped wanted us to pay more than 500 THB or they flat-out refused to take us. So we kept walking as the day grew hotter and hotter.

Mark paying for a songthaew ride to the mall

We tried to keep in the shadows of buildings as we made our way. Then we heard someone yelling at us from their car. As we turned around to see who it was, the man pulled over. “Where you go? I take you, yes! 50 baht, come on!” It was a songthaew driver. We didn’t bother to argue with the man. He was smart enough to know 2 tourists that needed him when he saw them and he quoted us a fare price. We hopped in, thankful to be out of the sun.

A songthaew is like a bus, in that you share the ride with many people going to different places. But, it’s also like a taxi, in that it will stop whenever and wherever you want it to. It’s a modified pick-up truck with 2 side benches and handrails installed in the back.

On Koh Samui the cheaper songthaews stick to the main road. They costs 50THB for short trips, like the dock to the immigration office, the mall, the Big Buddha, or Chaweng Beach. But, longer trips may cost more. To get a songthaew, just wave one down or, like in our case, be found by a driver who demands you get in his truck. Just make sure you tell the driver where you want to go and settle on a price before you get in.

When you near your destination, tap on the glass and the driver will stop. Get out and go to the front passenger window. Here you can pay and thank the driver, like Mark is doing in the photo above. He just saved you a bunch of money on transportation costs.

Another thing to note, is that many songthaews on Koh Samui have destinations painted on them. This is a general idea of where the songthaew driver is willing to go. But this is Thailand. If you pay more, he will take you anywhere, especially if he has no other passengers. He will still stop to pick up other people though.

If you have a big enough group, it might be better to take a taxi. With about 4 people going a far distance, it might even be cheaper than a songthaew. Plus, they have air conditioning. The problem with taxis on Koh Samui is that they all have signs that indicated that the car is a metered taxi, but the drivers never want to use their meters. We found a metered taxi to take us from the Central Festival Mall to the dock with his meter turned on, but he was the 10th guy we asked.

How to extend your Thai Visa on Koh Samui

  1. Get these documents/ items together.
    • Your passport.
    • 1 passport photo
    • A copy of your passport photo page
    • A copy of your visa. If you have one.
    • A copy of the entry stamp in your passport. (It’s usually on or next to you visa if you have one. So, these can be in the same photo copy.)
    • A copy of the immigration card you received when you arrived to Thailand.
    • 1 filled out extension application form

If you don’t have any copies, an application form, or the passport photos, you can get them right outside the immigration office for a fee. (The application form is free.) On a busy day, you will have to stand out in the blazing sun for over 20 minutes, so it’s better to have these before you go.

2. Check the website to find the best date for you to go there.

One common problem that tourists have is not being aware of Thai holidays before setting out on their trip to Koh Samui.

3. Don’t forget a pen!

I was surprised at how many people asked to borrow my pen while I was at the immigration office. It was a very crowded day and there was a short line to use my pen. Save yourself lots of hassle; bring a pen.

4. Bring 1,900 THB.

Or whatever the amount you need after you’ve checked the website to make sure you have the most up-to-date information.

5. Bring easy to take off shoes.

There was one lady who wore gladiator sandals. You have to remove your shoes before you can enter both the immigration office and the photo copy room. She fell a good 10 places behind in line because it took her so long to get her shoes off.

When you take your shoes off, I would recommend either placing your shoes in your bag or finding a shady spot to put them. If not, your shoes will be too hot to put back on when you’re done if there are really long lines.

6. Stand in line.

If you don’t have all your documents, stand in line at the little room in front of the immigration office and get your things copied, ect. If you have everything, go straight to the immigration office by entering via the stairs on the right. Go through the door and stand in the line on the right side of the room. Read all the signs to make sure you are in the correct line. You can waste hours of your time, if you are in the wrong line.

7. Once you’ve paid, take your ticket and wait.

Remember to ask, “How long will this take?” You can then sit in the nicely air-conditioned office, have a coffee at the cafe, or go back to the main road to find a restaurant. Remember to come back in time to pick up your passport. It will be on the left side of the room.

8. Pick up your passport.

Make sure the dates and everything is correct. Leave.

heading back to Koh Tao


Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Samui Immigration Office

Basic Information

Website

Downloads:

Cost:

  • Visa extension: 1,900 THB
  • Photo copies & passport photo: 100 THB
    • You can get this done somewhere else to save yourself money.
  • Overstaying your visa – 50THB/day up to 20,000THB for 40+ days
    • Overstay more than 90 Days –   1 year ban from Thailand
    • Overstay more than  1 Year  –    3 year ban from Thailand
    • Overstay more than  3 Years –   5 year ban from Thailand
    • Overstay more than  5 Years – 10 year ban from Thailand
    • The above fines and ban above are only for people who voluntarily go to the immigration office. If found by authorities with an expired visa fines can include arrest and detention.

Hours:

  • M-F 8:30 ~ 12:00 & 13:00 ~ 16:30
  • Closed on holidays
  • Busiest Days:
    • Fridays & Mondays
    • The day before a holiday
    • The day after a holiday
    • Mornings tend to be busier than afternoons
    • (Tuesdays are the least busy days.)
  • Always check their websites for their hours before you make plans to go or not go.

Notes:

  • Always check the official website. Laws and policies in Thailand change often.

Map:

Posted in Ko Samui, Thailand | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Finding a Restaurant on Koh Toa

Posted by Heliocentrism on August 5, 2018

January 1st – May 31st, 2018

A great place for fruity drinks

Here are the main points about eating establishments on Koh Tao:

  1. It’s really inconsistent.
  2. Don’t assume you know what a dish is by its (English) name.
  3. If you want better service, you might have to pay more.
  4. Almost every restaurant is more than just a restaurant.
  5. The closer you are to the beach, the more you will pay and the less delicious the food will be (unless you are really paying more).
  6. If a restaurant is good at making Thai food, 95% of the time it will be bad at making western food.
  7. Street food is delicious and cheap, but many of them cannot be counted on.
    • I mean that just because a stand was in a spot yesterday at 17:00, doesn’t mean that it will be there at 17:00 today.
    • Sometimes a lady selling spring rolls from a cart one day, will be selling soup the next.

Keep in mind that I’ve only ever gone to restaurants that I can walk to from the Mae Haad area. I don’t do scooters. Also, this is just my opinion based on observation and my tastes. I could be wrong or things might have changed by the time you read this.

Pad Thai from Simple Life Divers

1. Restaurants in Flux

There was a little shack restaurant I would visit almost daily. I loved their Crispy Pork with Kale. The pork was crispy on one side and fatty on the other. There was so much dark green leafy kale with this dish, it probably counted as 2 of my 5-a-days. It was so delicious that I would stop by and pick up an order anytime I was in the area even when I wasn’t hungry. I would just eat it later. Yes, the dish was great even when it was cold.

Then one day the lady changed the recipe. The pork was no longer crispy and fatty, but tough. Now I could count the number of measly cuts of kale on one hand. The dish had become just rice with a sprinkling of tough pork and a hint of kale. I never went back.

I’ve also had a some-what opposite experience. There was one restaurant where I thought the service was okay. But, there was one guy that annoyed me. He might have been the owner’s brother or husband. He seemed to be the fix-it guy and errand boy. Most of the time, he talked with people walking by or he would start yelling into his phone. The part that got my ire up, was that he would do this while standing on my shoes.

Like most restaurants on Koh Tao, you enter after taking your shoes off. Shoes are left by the entrance or first step. Most people, when walking into a restaurant would step over or around shoes, but not this guy. He stepped right on them. I would move my shoes out of his way, thinking he was just not looking where he was going. But then he would walk over to the new spot and step on my shoes again. I kept putting the shoes in different spots where shoes might be kept and he would keep finding them and standing on them.

At first I thought it was just a coincidence. But now I think he just didn’t like his feet touching the floor. He stood on the nearest shoes he could find. It’s like he was playing The Floor is Lava, but with the shoes of customers. My moving my shoes around just gave him more options of places to stand.

I stopped going to this place for a while. Then, one day it rained that end of the world rain that happens every so often on Koh Tao. I needed food and this restaurant was less than a minute’s walk from my hotel. This time, I kept my shoes under my table. The guy found some other people’s shoes to stand on. With my shoes next to me, I could enjoy the restaurant.

I get more chicken at Koh Tao Chicken & Rice when I eat with Mark. When I’m alone, I don’t get this much chicken in the soup side dish…

2. I ordered fried potatoes, but this is a croquette!

Many restaurants put their menus out near the street so people can look through it and decide whether or not they want to go in. One such place had “fried chicken” on their menu. I wanted some fried chicken so I took off my shoes and went inside. I ordered my food and waited.

When it came I was sure they had given me the wrong order. “Excuse me,” I waved down the unenthusiastic waitress. “I ordered fried chicken. This is more like stir-fry.”

“Yes. That’s fried chicken.”

“Oh, I thought it would be, um, breaded and fried… like KFC.”

“No, that is deep-fried chicken. We don’t make that.”

I went to another restaurant a few days later and order their deep-fried chicken. It was un-breaded chicken fried until 10 seconds before it burnt. It was dry and stringy.

There is fried chicken being served on this island, but about 50% of the restaurants don’t know what it is. You just have to go through trial and error or pay close attention to the dishes that other people are ordering. But, do not assume what a dish is based on its name written in English.

Breakfast at Cafe del Sol is always a treat.

3. Only some are paid well enough to be friendly

If you want great customer service, you have to go to the restaurants with more expensive menus or smaller places where the owner or co-owners make up the wait staff. Outside of that, you could just hope you’re interacting with people having a good day.

From what I’ve learned about Koh Tao, some of the people you see working hard day in and day out with no holidays are from Myanmar. They are immigrant workers. I think we all know, generally speaking, how well immigrant workers are treated by their bosses and by their new country of residence. So, with that in mind, it’s easier to cut some workers slack when they aren’t too happy to see you.

For the most part, the rudeness Mark and I have experienced has never been enough for either of us to never return to a restaurant. We might not go there as often as we go to one where we always get friendly service, though. There are days when I don’t feel like dealing with sulky waiters. That’s when I go to a pricier restaurant, like Cafe del  Sol, to get a warm greeting as I’m lead to my seat. It’s not great for my wallet, but it’s great for my soul.

I thought I was lucky to find such a short line at Da’s that day. Then the guy in front of me ordered 8 sandwiches.

4. Get food, a place to stay, a taxi, and diving lessons.

Da’s Sandwiches is one of the few places on this island that only does one thing. She only sells sandwiches. She has a storage room and an umbrella under which she cooks. That’s about it for her establishment. Da does one thing and she does it well. That’s what draws the long lines of hungry divers.

But most restaurants, even the fancy ones, are restaurants and something else. Most restaurants are also hotels, though many only have 1 or 2 rooms to rent. Some also have a taxi service. Many are, or are connected to, dive shops. Many also rent diving equipment. A few rent scooters, do laundry, or sell tickets for boats, trains, and buses.

Sun set, beach, and dinner at Sairee Cottage Diving

5. You will pay for that view

When I first got to Koh Tao in January, I picked restaurants based on how close to the beach they were. I love a good beach view, especially at sunset. The dishes were pricey, but it was worth it, right?

I had to be honest. The food at many of these sea-side restaurants were at best okay, at worst terrible. Their food was overpriced and tasted like a bland version of what their competitors across the street were serving. And yes, I mean literally across the street.

Restaurants on Koh Tao are a dime a dozen. Across the street, they don’t have a great view. They have to keep the tourists coming in by some other means. Since many of them don’t have cheery dispositions, nice wall paper, or air conditioning, they have to cook good food. That’s all they have to offer.

My advice is to eat delicious food at dinner time at a nice cheap restaurant. When you’re done, cross the street and sit at the beach to watch the sunset. Then leave before the bugs start biting.

There are exceptions. Sairee Cottage Diving, a restaurant, dive shop, and hotel, has a really great BBQ set menu that’s not too expensive. It’s 120THB for 2 skewers and a potato (baked or French fried). That’s a very reasonable price and it tastes really good. They have other items on their menu, but the skewers bring in the crowds.

Café Culture Coffee – Burger-wise 2nd only to Hippo Burger

6. Great Thai food = Terrible Burgers

Burgers on Koh Toa are expensive, costing something like 250THB. There is a huge temptation to just walk into the nearest pad thai place and order the 110THB cheese burger on their menu. This only leads to heart-break and anger when you realize that the chef had only a vague idea of what a hamburger is. Common missteps are a sweet burger, a huge bun and tiny burger, not having real ketchup or mayo, adding curry to the burger, using cabbage instead of lettuce, or using sweet buns. Pook, on the Mae Haad side of the island, is the only place that had both good Thai food and decent burgers.

The best burgers are made at Hippo Burger Bistro. The second best are made at Cafe Culture Coffee. Both are in the Sairee Beach area. Cafe Culture is on the beach, but they are close by 22:00. Hippo has the more expensive burger. And, they have buffalo wings, which they call hot wings. Their “buffalo wings” are just BBQ wings. It’s confusing.

Street food along Sairee Beach

7. Street Vendors come and go

Try the street food. There are many little streets where vendors hang out. They usually start setting up around 15:00 or 16:00 after the hottest part of the day has passed. Some vendors will be there at the same spot everyday at some given time. Some have their grills attached to scooters, allowing them to move around the island. Others are even harder to pin down.

Some vendors are there some days and not others. There is one lady, that I know of, that sells spring rolls sometimes and fried things other times. So, if you see something you want to try, get it. It might not be there tomorrow.

Mark’s thinking about getting the fish of the day at Seafood by Pawn.

8. Other things

Don’t worry about getting food poisoning. I don’t know of any tourist on this island who has come down with it. Mark and I eat anything that catches our interest whether it be restaurant or street food. We even ate sushi a lady was selling from a cart the other day. (The sushi was kept in a cooler with ice. We checked first.) Just use common sense. If other people are also buying from that vendor, it’s most likely okay.

Wash your hands. The food on the island is most likely not going to get you sick, but everything else will. There are stray dogs and cats everywhere. Tourists pet them, then shake your hands. Now you have stray dog germs on your hands. Wash them!

Wash your hands after you use the bathroom. Wash your hands before you eat. Wash your hands after you put on bug spray. Wash your hands every time you get the opportunity. You will cut down on so many illnesses by simply washing your hands.

The shakes aren’t that healthy. Many people think that the shakes you get here are soooo good for you. They are not. Okay, there are a few shake shacks that make their drinks with just ice and fruit. But most places add syrup; lot’s of syrup. The shakes are delicious, but keep in mind that they do have a lot of added sugar.

Don’t forget 7-Eleven. There you can get toasted sandwiches, cup noodle (the hot water dispenser is in the back of the store), cold drinks, fruit, snacks, and microwave meals. It’s not my go to choice since it’s not that much cheaper than a nice cheap pad thai shack. But, it’s always open and the toasted sandwiches are really good when you want something familiar that’s not too expensive.

The Lemon Thai Iced Tea is so good it can ruin your life. I started drinking the lemon Thai iced tea at Koh Tao Chicken and Rice. I was hooked on the stuff very quickly. I got up to 2 or 3 cups a day. The stuff is so good. But then I stopped sleeping. I felt so tired and sleepy, but I could not sleep. I got jittery and I could not stop shaking. I had to quit. I still get a cup of ice tea, but I limit myself to 1 cup a week.

Mark never had this reaction to the tea, so it might just be me.

Try something new. You never know what you’ll find.

Cha Payom Tea Stand


Thailand
(ราชอาณาจักรไทย)
(Ratcha Anachak Thai)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, boat, bus, or train.
  • Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to Thailand. But, you will need a visa to stay longer than 1 month or if you been to Thailand for at least 3 months already in the past 12 months.
  • People of most nationalities will get a 30-day visa at the port of entry.
  • To be completely sure, check with the Thai embassy in your country.
  • Visa laws change frequently.

Phone:

Data:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Scams & Dangers:

Notes:

  • Do not say anything negative about the king or anyone in the Royal family. And definitely do not write anything bad about the king or royal family. This offence could land you in jail. You don’t want to go to Thai jail.
  • Don’t use the city ferries in Bangkok during the peak hours. They fill those things past capacity and sometimes they sink. Use them during non-peak hours when they are not crowded.
  • Never eat female horseshoe crabs in Thailand. The roe of the horseshoe crab has tetrodotoxin (TTX) which is toxic to humans. It makes people very sick and some people have even died as a result.

Koh Tao

Basic Information

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s pretty inexpensive, but you can rack up quite a bill for just about anything if you’re a chump.

Notes:

  • Koh Tao means “turtle island”. There are no turtles on the island, but the island is shaped like a turtle. Well, at least the person who named the island thought so.
  • ◊Koh Tao has the nickname “Murder Island”. Some people think there is a serial killer on the loose. Maybe there is.  I don’t really think so but, I could be wrong.
    • Many of the people who were “murdered” were very drunk at the time. Some of them jumped into pools and drowned.
    • A lot of the “murders” were incidences of parents of 20-somethings who couldn’t believe that their kid would get so drunk and fall into a pool, run off into the jungle, or whatever.
    • There are some cases that are clearly murders and the authorities have either found no suspects or they might have imprisoned the wrong people.
  • Many people rent scooters here and then crash them.
    • Some are just bad drivers.
    • But many are driving drunk.
      • Everyone either has a drunk driving story or knows of someone who does. (I have met 2 such people who openly brag about their drunk driving adventures with pride.)
      • It’s scary how common it is for tourists to get drunk then jump on their scooters and end up in the hospital.
  • DO NOT walk around in the early hours of the morning when the drunks are likely to be driving home.

Map:

Posted in Koh Tao, Thailand | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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