But the adventure wasn't over yet. We hopped into the truck, some people and luggage got up in the back. I was wondering why there were so many Toyota Hillux trucks around, and I soon got an answer. The island is made of many very steep hills, and the roads go straight up the hill and then straight down on the other side. Obviously some time ago somebody bought Toyota Hillux and it had all the 4WD capabilities and it was able to drive over the island's hills, so other people just bought the same model to avoid testing the hill-climbing capability of other brands. On Koh Tao main transportation device is actually a motorbike, and while planning our vacation I thought we would rent one for couple of days and do some island exploring. On our ride to the hotel I decided we are not renting a motorbike, regardless how cheap it was. And I also decided we are not going to do long hikes - island is only 8 x 4 km big, and looking at it on Google Earth the distances really don't look that hard to walk. But once I saw the terrain and the shape the roads were in - one part looked like a dry mountain creek rather than the road, I just hoped there is some really good snorkelling near the hotel.
The Pinnacle Koh Tao hotel is located on the slope of the hill (where else) on the S-W side of the island in June Juea bay. What immediately overwhelmed us was the view - it was stunning. Already from reception, and then also from our bungalow - I think I made 100 photos from our balcony.
The vegetation was full of birds, butterflies and squirrels. I could just sit on the balcony and listen to the birds and watch all the small creatures flying and running by. Unfortunately none of them came close enough to make a good photo.
We only had breakfast in our hotel, from our previous holiday in Thailand that was almost 20 years ago, we remembered that food was great and cheap. And we weren't disappointed. Most of the evenings we ate in Chalok village in the bay of the same name, that was the bay right next to ours to the South. On advice of Google Maps one would need to walk over couple of hills almost to the middle of the island and then back towards the cost to Chalok bay. But there was a sign on the edge of the road under our hotel that said: Chalok bay 10 mins. So we followed the sign. We passed couple of houses and found ourselves on the driveway leading to the reception of a hotel. We passed the reception, walked by several hotel's bungalows and some pretty orchids...
... and along the hotel's beach.
Then we took our shoes off because most of the beach was flooded by high tide. Next we came to a wooden pier that led us to a terrace of the restaurant which we crossed without our shoes, came to concrete pier at the other end of terrace, that ended in the water with a gentle slope and after a couple of steps we were in next resort, through which we finally reached the village. Although we walked through so many establishments everybody was friendly and smiled at us.
Chalok village also looks a bit chaotic. Everybody is on the street - from trucks, motorbikes, people, dogs, cats, chicken, different vendors, but it is a kind of "gentle" chaos - everybody is friendly, even dogs, and nobody gets upset or even hurt.
For the first week we ate curry almost every evening. We just walked into a restaurant on a hunch or we asked locals. Everything we ate was super delicious and even when we ate food from street stalls, we never had any stomach issues. For lunch we usually ate the small local sweet bananas and cookies and tea.
One of the complimentary services of our hotel were also shuttle rides to Mae Haad pier and village and back three times a day. We were glad we didn't need to walk there.
This is the Mae Haad port with the covered ferry pier in the background.
These are Thai long-tail boats, all cheerfully colourful and decorated.
We met a lot of backpackers in Mae Haad and saw that most of the hotels were meant for them. Our hotel was of a bit higher standard, and since we're not 25 any more, were glad that we had air conditioning, warm water, power all day, wi-fi and beach towels.
There was also a pool in our hotel, but with the sea like that who needs a pool.
This is how we usually spent the hottest hours of the day - on our balcony.
Our bay was a great place for snorkelling and I spent hours and hours in water. Captain usually joined me, but sometimes swam back before I was done.
This is a Christmas tree worm, here they came in many bright colours. There were plenty of them also in Caribbeans, but I met them already before on my trips to Maldives. There were many similarities between what I saw in Koh Tao and what I already knew from Maldives, after all both are in Indian ocean.
There were many pretty Mushroom corals.
What was most surprising was the abundance of fish of all kinds, especially considering how many fishing ships we saw out at sea every evening.
Fish of all kinds...
This one I haven't seen before, it must be some kind of Butterflyfish.
Also Giant clams came in many bright colours.
The Giant top shell snail really deserves its name - this one was about 15 cm large.
These lovely Groupers were always sitting on a corals and tried to remain unnoticed, but they would turn their big eyes to see if I was coming too close.
This is a Needlefish, some were quite big.
And here is the nudibranch section - this one is probably Phyllidia nigra ...
... and this one is Phyllidia varicosa (I got the names from seaslugforum.net ).
Gobies were rather nervous, this one was surprisingly patient with me.
Another Grouper, striped this time
Afternoon in Chalok village with mango smoothie ...
... and young coconut.
Sunset from our balcony