Now I can finally tell you about one of my favorite things I’ve done on Koh Tao: driving around on my bike! I’ve kept it a secret because I actually like my family and didn’t want to give them seven weeks of worrying about me crashing.
The only cars you see on Koh Tao are the trucks from the dive centers and them some (highly overpriced) taxis, everybody else go on bikes. It’s also possible to rent bicycles but the hills that cover this island takes the fun out of that – Kirsten actually has a bicycle and uses it for short rides but whenever we’ve been going to Mae Haad or Sairee she’s been riding on the back of someone else’s bike. Which was also what I did for the first one and a half week, so sure that I would never ever get my own bike! But then I got tired of asking for rides and I wanted to be able to see more of the island without having to force someone to join me. So one afternoon Tristan taught me the basics, I playes around a bit on an empty road and since then I’ve been driving everywhere.
The first couple of days I was absolutely terrified! A lot of people crash on their bike on Koh Tao which is emphasized by the number of people walking around with bandages and plasters so it was obviously not without a certain risk to drive a bike. After the first few days I started to feel better but I never stopped being a bit nervous driving which I kind of think was a good thing as it probably made me more careful. Despite it being dangerous and unwise (maybe you could even call it foolish) I don’t regret it as driving around the island gave me such an amazing feeling of freedom that I wouldn’t have wanted to be without!
And I have now handed the bike back and I’m proud to say that I never crashed on my bike!
When I finished the cooking class two weeks ago I had almost a full afternoon at my disposal since it was too late to join the afternoon dive. After way too long with crappy weather we were finally treated with a little sunshine and almost no wind that afternoon so I decided to do something I had dreamed of for a long time. I jumped on my bike and set out to find some of the viewpoints on the island. I wanted to share the gorgeous photos with you right away but had to control myself as it would have revealed my secret about the bike.
Koh Tao has quite a few viewpoints but they’re not all easy to get to. The hills are the first challenge as they’re often very steep. The other problem is the roads, the main roads on the island are concrete roads but the lesser used ones are dirt roads which scared me quite a lot.
The first viewpoint I set out to find was Tanote Viewpoint. Looking back that was probably a good choice as the road was concrete most of the way and it just slowly took me up in the air providing me with gorgeous views on the way.
At one point the road turned into a dirt road and after 100 meters I left my bike and continued walking.
Luckily I didn’t have to go far before I got to the most amazing view of Tanote Bay.
I decided to walk down to the beach via the steep concrete road – I saw quite a lot of people on bikes but I was happy that I had left my bike at the top. Although the walk back up was really hard work! Back at the top I took a short pitstop trying to catch my breath, take in the amazing view and decide on where to go next.
I ended up choosing Mango Viewpoint as my next destination. Getting there was quite a challenge with both dirt roads and some very very steep concrete roads! With such steep roads there was no option of stopping halfway and rethinking the decision. I finally made it to the end of the road and left my bike to walk the last 300 meters.
Someone clearly came up with an easy way to make money when they decided to put up a stall and charge 20 baht as an entry fee to the viewpoint. But at least they had the courtesy to put out cushions to sit on while enjoying the great view over Sairee and Mae Haad.
If possible going back down was even scarier than going up – my hand was tightened around the brake basically the whole way down but I made it down alive and without a scratch!
I chickened out on my way to the third viewpoint I had chosen when the road became too scary. I wish I had taken a photo of what I came across but at that moment my mind was so focused on riding the bike safely that the thought of a photo didn’t occur to me until I was back on the main road. Anyways what scared me off from continuing towards the viewpoint was a 180 degrees turn followed by a steep gradient. It wasn’t steeper than what I knew from experience that I could do but the thought of going back down was way too frightening so I decided to leave the viewpoint to its own devices.
The fourth viewpoint was also a disappointment as I didn’t find it. Or well my map did say that it was a private viewpoint but I figured it was worth a try so I drove all the way to the northern part of the island only to find myself at a resort with signs saying that the viewpoint was only for their guests. So once again I chickened out and left.
Both my tired and slightly cramping left hand and my very sore feet very much needed an iced coffee so I took a break at a cafe in Mae Haad. My flip-flops left me about a week after I got to Koh Tao and I never bothered to buy new ones since they would probably also just leave me (in other words get stolen) so I was barefoot the whole time making the hikes to the viewpoints – a little unpleasant at times. It was however nothing compared to the last hike I was about to begin. As I was sat with my iced coffee I suddenly had a great idea of catching the sunset from the John-Suwan Viewpoint at the southern end of the island. It’s supposed to be the most stunning viewpoint and it definitely didn’t let me down. I had read that it required a bit of a hike but I was not prepared for the path that awaited me! The path was very narrow and at some points also quite steep.
At other points it’s actually necessary to climb a bit and I did regret my bare feet a few times. But when I finally made it to the top I was rewarded with the most amazing view! It was absolutely stunning!
I realised that I might not have thought the idea of seeing the sunset up there completely through as it obviously goes dark after sunset and I had a long way down with my combined lifeline and torch (aka iPhone) out of battery. So on my way down I raced against time and luckily I made it to my bike before it turned dark.
Safely back down I considered treating myself with a massage but quickly forgot about that when I remembered exactly how sweaty and filthy I was and instead I went home and washed my black feet only to discover several big blisters underneath them. But with that amazing afternoon in exchange it was totally worth it!