There is nothing Thai about Ko Tao, the tiny 21 km² island in the Gulf of Thailand. The main road runs about 5 km long and hugs Sairee Beach, the longest beach on the island that runs a short 1.7 kilometers. You basically go to Ko Tao for the following reasons:
During our first night we enjoyed drinks at a beach bar and watched in awe at the local fire dancers. Our favorite show involved a young Thai man poi dancing on a floating board that bobbed against the waves close to shore.
We spent our three days in Ko Tao scuba diving, scuba diving, and scuba diving. Scuba shops are competitive, with an average rate of 700-800 baht (~$22-25 USD) per drive–probably the cheapest place in the world where you can get certified and dive.
If the tide was high enough, we would just cross the street (from our bungalow scuba resort), walk across the fine white sands, and hop onto a boat taxi. Early morning dives were the best, starting at around 7am.
After spending 6 days in Ko Phangan and 4 days in Ko Tao, I could not wait to get out. Beaches and scuba diving are fun, but paradise is a luxury empty of culture and valuable life-enhancing challenges. As many of you know, I’m pretty terrible at relaxing.