Mango bay, Koh Tao, Thailand - a story of how NOT to get there……
Loren and I have been in Thailand for a few weeks now and we finally made it to Koh Tao - a small island of the Southeast coast of Thailand, popular for its lovely snorkeling and diving sites. Our traveling buddies, who we met a few weeks earlier and who we have mentioned before, Felix and Emily also came along which was great news as friends and good company always makes travel even better!
So on a bright, sunny day together, we decided to visit Mango bay - a highly rated, must-see point of interest on Koh Tao. We rented scooters as that’s our primary method of transportation. While there are plenty of taxis on the island, they average about 150 baht per person each way or taxi boats (400 baht/person) so having a scooter is:
1. Cheaper (250 baht per day)
2. It gives us the freedom to see things at our own pace.
It is an easy choice. So back to the story… we jumped onto our scooters and headed towards Mango bay, which according to maps.me was only 2 miles away or around 30 min ride. The roads on Koh Tao are quite bad (construction is happening everywhere - entire roads have been washed out or damaged so they have to be completely replaced, many of them are still dirt roads, you get the idea) so even though everything is in close proximity it takes awhile to get there. We rode on the main road, which is currently the biggest constructionarea and a bit of a pain but then we had to turn and go up a steep and bumpy dirt road. It seemed weird that we had to go up a mountain to reach the beach but as I said the road system is not very developed here so sometimes you have to hike up, go through the jungle then hike down just to reach the beach. I think now is the time to mention that none of us did any research on Mango bay… all we knew was that it had a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor, it was a great place for snorkeling and diving and the water was crystal clear… so It would seem like we were prepared with all the information we needed. We were soooo wrong.
Anyway, we continued riding on the dirt road which was getting worse and worse by the minute - the pot holes turned into giant ditches and the little scooter was struggling to get up the hill carrying both Loren and I or Emily and Felix on their’s together. Emily and Loren jumped off for a bit and walked for quite a ways to make it easier and safer for everyone. We get to a fork in this very steep hill and stop, somehow Felix managed to get ahead of us and we thought we lost him. After he had disappeared for a few minutes he called to us from somewhere deep in the jungle that we are close to the beach and that he had found a parking area. Apparently, someone told him it was only a short walk down a dirt trail to get to the beach from where we parked. We got excited that we were so close as the heat and the stress from driving a junky, old scooter on a scary, dirt road was getting to all of us.
I should probably mention that now it’s 1:30 pm, the sun is shining (more like beating, beating us into submission), the heat of the afternoon sun is burning at roughly 100 degrees Fahrenheit accompanied by 65% humidity. The last thing we wanted to do was take a 15 minute stroll in these conditions but we made it thus far, so how can we give up now? We left the bikes, bought water from a little counter on the side of the road and we continued on foot.
The road was so steep and slippery that even walking was a challenge due to the fact that we all were wearing flip flops… as you can see, we were truly prepared for this adventure. We walked for about 20 minutes but we were still high up in the middle of the jungle with no beach or water anywhere in sight. We met a guy riding his scooter towards us on that same dirt road who informed us that we have at least another 30 minute walk ahead of us which doesn't include the stairs we have to take down to get to the beach… Good news! Yay! No! Not really… We were all so disappointed but at the same time it was too late to give up now, we had invested so much effort into this adventure.
After a strenuous 50 min hike up and down steep hills we finally made it to the dreaded stairs! It didn’t seem so bad, because we could see water - nice, refreshing, turquoise blue water. At this point, we knew we had to hurry down those stairs to jump into that water or else exhaustion or heat stroke would get us. We hurried down the stairs that seemed endless, finally we came to a stop and we had to pay 100 baht (around $3) to get in. Now, 100 baht is not that much money and the money goes to a good cause (it pays to keep the bay clean, etc) but given the extremely poor and intense conditions we just went through, we were a bit annoyed that there was another unexpected snag in our journey. Reluctantly we paid the fee and continued down the stairs. And there it was, Mango Bay - truly a stunning view. Unfortunately, we found out that in order to get to the beach we had to swim a considerable distance or try to climb over giant rocks in flip flops. We were able to dip in the water near some slippery rocks but it was pretty disappointing not to be able to reach the beach.
In our exhausted conditions, no one was wanting to make the swim because at that point we had to soon head back to town and return the bikes. We took a quick dip to cool off, and Loren and I decided to start heading back while Felix and Emily decided to stay and wait until the sun went down a bit. Climbing up the stairs was a challenge to say the least… We are pretty sure we got a bit of heat stroke, because climbing up those stairs, then the trail felt like climbing to our deaths on the surface of the Sun.
It seemed like it took us ages to get back to our bikes especially after we ran out of water… BUT we finally made it back. As we mentioned earlier we left the bikes near by a small counter (almost a shack that was also a bar) so we bought water and sat down to catch our breaths for a bit. We ended up chatting with the woman owning the little shack - she told us that more than 6 people crash their scooters on the way to Mango bay every day, she also said that she lives right behind her bar and she has to drive up that road whenever she needs groceries, does errands, anything beyond work and home. KUDOS to her for dealing with that every other day, and then she offered to get us high. Quite the hospitality but given the fact we had to drive back and make it on time to return the scooter we politely declined and jumped back on the road. Going down seemed easier, maybe because we had seen the road and we knew what to expect. We took our sweet time driving down and luckily we made it in one pice with no scratches to either the bike or us!
The moral of the story? Take the boat taxi to Mango Bay - it’s 400 baht ($12 US) but it is well worth the price as you will not only get there quicker, but you’ll arrive safely and if you’re an inexperienced driver, you also won’t spend more money fixing up a bike or paying for scratches.
Thank you Emily and Felix for enduring that trek with us - it made it a lot more enjoyable and quite the story to tell!