Life In Koh Tao, Thailand

Sairee beach, Koh Tao

Hello all from the sunny, tropical island of Koh Tao.

A little bit about Koh Tao

Koh Tao is small-ish island off the eastern coast of Thailand. There are two primary activities on Koh Tao. Diving and drinking (most of the time in that order). But don’t let people tell you shouldn’t come here unless you dive. We’ve found plenty to do.

Lookout point Koh Tao

Koh Tao beach bar

Our Koh Tao Lifestyle

Clay and I are renting a fairly large bungalow near Sairee Beach. We are just up the hill, off the beach and main road. We’ve got big bedrooms and a kitchen (which is a rarity in these parts). We’ve also got the fastest internet on the island. We pay 16,000 baht (~$500 US) plus 1,200 baht for internet.

Our Koh Tao bungalow

Our kitchen is pictured below. “It looks like a healthy frat had a party and left their water bottles and egg cartons strewn about,” David Walsh.

Koh Tao bungalow

A typical day goes a little something like this:

  • Wake and breakfast. 3-4 eggs and some pork belly (really thick bacon) pictured below.

Pork belly

  • Work for 1-2 hrs on our veranda. Clay’s developing a product and I’m working on several as well as setting up a publishing company. More to come on both of our projects later.

Koh Tao bungalow veranda

  • 30 minutes in the gym using Clay’s awesome workout program. The gym is a dream for the ‘pump’. No shirts or shoes are required and you can grunt as much as you want.

Monsoon gym, Koh tao

  • Next is a delicious post-workout meal courtesy of Tik restaurant. We opt for the cashew nut and pork or sweet and sour pork. And it’s always accompanied by a big vegetable salad.

Tik restaurant Koh Tao

Tik restaurant Koh Tao

Tik restaurant Koh Tao

  • More work, often in New Heaven Cafe (which has the best coffee I’ve found on the island)

New Heaven Cafe Koh Tao

New Heaven Cafe Koh Tao

  • I go for a nap on the beach at some point in here.

Lotus Bar palm tree Koh Tao

  • More work and a quick look at the sunset

Koh Tao sunset

  • Dinner is normally a couple beef skewers from the lady right next to the 7-11 on the main road in Sairee beach.
  • Join friends for drinks/food or more work until bed.

Koh Tao bar


  • It gets sweaty. Real sweaty. I sweat at least a little bit most of the day. Bring Icebreaker shirts.
  • Mosquitos love it here. They feed on drunk tourists all day long.
  • Mostly whiteys. If you’re looking for Thai culture this is not where you want to be.
  • I’ve never seen more people walking around with bandages for their injuries. People get injured on scouters, step on glass, and god knows what else.


  • Most people who stay longer term get scouters. They’re dirt cheap to rent but I’ve heard you have to be careful about scratching them or pay heavy fines.
  • Smile!

Derek and Ray Ban


Top photo courtesy of Sean Ogle and

Published by

Derek Johanson

The personal blog of Derek Johanson.

34 thoughts on “Life In Koh Tao, Thailand”

  1. Glad to see that Live Uncomfortably isn’t dead after all! Third Place just isn’t the same without you guys…

    Hope all is going well down there and looking forward to catching up back in the states at some point soon (ish)!

    And btw, did you see the paparazzi on the beach?? I thought we were being so discreet…

  2. Sean I think I caught a glimpse of them. One was definitely Irish. The other was big and ripped. I should have known they weren’t tourists by their lack of tan skin.

  3. Looks beautiful – and sounds like a great place to be for someone who is trying to begin a location independent lifestyle. The bungalow looks pretty comfortable for $500. Could you find something liveable a bit cheaper or is that the going price?

    Thanks for sharing and stay hydrated!

  4. Nate –

    Depends on what you eat. Most people love pad thai and can find it for super cheap. I lean more towards meat dishes and vegetable dishes.

    If you’re cooking your own meals the prices in the USA (especially food from Trader Joe’s) are cheaper. But if you’re eating out, then it’s definitely a bargain.

    Flat of 30 eggs in store: 120 baht – $3.75
    Big veggie salad in restaurant – $1.90
    Big plate of sweet & sour pork or pork cashew nut – $1.90
    Delicious beef skewer on street – $1.25
    Coffee 12 oz – $1.90

    Sean Ogle might have a different perspective on things. Ask him as well.

  5. Ben – I’ll give you an update on Clay’s plan here in about 2 weeks. I’ve never had better results in my life and I’ve never felt better either. It’s kick-ass. It’s incredible what you can do in 12 weeks.

    Anyway, I’ll let you know soon.

  6. hey man-

    are you still on Koh Tao? I’ve been here 3 days now, diving and carrying on with a rowdy bunch of English kids.

    Your blog is def. one of the reasons I’m here right now, and not getting up for work back in Las Vegas. ha!


  7. Derek – Nice. Can’t wait. I’ve been doing HIT once or twice a week for a while and it’s really efficient, but I’m not sure on the results. (Specifically, I follow

  8. Just a tip for long or short term scooter rentals and scratches. Depending where the damage is, get it fixed yourself rather then paying the outrageous fees by the rental company. (Esp since you will pay the fee and they won’t bother to fix it. Just pocket the cash.) Brand new scooter parts are cheap and the probability of replacement parts being on the island or getting sent over the next day from a bigger neighbour island is quite high. Just ask around where you can go to fix a scooter. You might spend the whole day trying to find a place with broken english, and possibly have to extend your rental period, but it’s well worth it!

  9. First time commenting here. Wicked website Derek, I’m digging your style. I used to live on Koh Tao about 8 years ago. Interesting you point out the motorbike thing. I always see travelers with the bandaged burned leg of the tail pipe (gotta be the most common accident). Another trick you can do with motorbikes is if your staying for months before now I have bought a second-hand scooter before, can scratch it and bust it up as much as you like then sell it before you go (often not much lower than you bought it for). Although I have smashed up so many bikes that I try to avoid them now, I go on the idea that if you don’t ride the motorbikes then you can’t have an accident. I live up in Kanchanaburi and am coming down to the islands for a visit soon. I may just bump into you. Sweet Post Man, keep it up.

  10. Koh Tao is sweet, except when these Brit 20 year old girls convinced me to drink a bucket. After puking off the side of the bar to the ocean I drove (quite drunk) on my “big bike” back to my hut and resumed barfing until I passed out.

    Driving to the other side of the island and snorkeling is a blast, also up to the highest point for the panoramic views.

    I’m in Medellin right now. Found you looking that up on the google. Great blog, keep it up.

  11. Cool write up – I’ve been living on Koh Tao for some years and reckon that’s a pretty nice, succinct summary of life here. Looks like you stayed at Pi Daeng’s? They’re actually putting in their own air conditioned gym in the near future.

  12. Oh yea – and by the way the tip about fixing your scooter prior to taking it back might not work here – the Thai’s have a cartel and call each other as soon as a rental bike turns up in one of the mechanics.
    Better to not drink and drive really – especially the Sangsom buckets!!

  13. Hey there,
    So apparently we have a ton of mutual friends in the online and actual world. I wonder if I met you. I lived on Koh Tao from September ’09 to May ’10 playing live music at Lotus bar. My friend Mark Powers ( and I have been chatting about you. Let us know when you get into the USA and maybe be can fly somewhere and meet up. We can chat all things Location Independent!
    Benjamin Cloyd

  14. To me, those photos sum up Koh Tao perfectly. Beautiful place. Lovely people. Amazing food… and plenty of diving to be had!

    Sunset at Fizz bar has to be my favourite time and place… ever.

  15. Hello, looking for an information about staying in Koh Tao – could you tell more about the house you rented (was there a/c, internet, warm shower?), maybe you still have contacts of the owner? My husband and I with our son (9 months) going to Koh Tao for a month.
    Any information would be appreciated!

  16. He mate, how did you go about finding your apartment there? Im looking for monthly rental, heading there in the next couple of months and im having trouble. Any help would be appreciated.
    Good read by the way….

  17. Hey Derek,
    We stayed in Koh Tao last year for $150 per month, for a double room with fan. I love it there.. Look forward to getting back later in the year..


  18. Loved your pictures, we traveled around Thailand in 2010-2011 and Koh Tao was our first stop efter Bankok, I loved it, beautiful place, lovely people and very good food. I went back to Thailand in 2012-2013 but didn’t make it back to Koh Tao but I’m going back next year and I will be visiting Koh Tao again.

  19. Hey! absolutely loved the pictures, definitely makes me anxious to go! A friend and I are looking for a place to rent in Koh Tao for January-May 2014 and are having trouble finding a cheap place. How’d you go about finding your place?

  20. Hi, great article!
    I was on Koh Thao last year and ever since I am thinking about coming back. We are planning to be there in June next year and one of the things that is vital for us is good internet connection. You wrote that you had the best internet on the island. How fast was it , were you able to have a skype call?

    All the best!

  21. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell someone!

  22. Hey,

    Whats the name of these bungalows and where exactly are they?

    Also how fast is the internet, we have found internet on koh tao to be pretty rubbish but need good internet for work.



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