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Posts Tagged ‘Sairee Cottage Diving’

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

(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.







Scams & Dangers:


  • 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



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


  • 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.


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