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As many of you may know, two days ago, Koh Tao woke up to to its core. Almost anyone that calls Koh Tao home works in the tourism industry, as I once did during my year here in 2011. For us, it is a joy to show our slice of paradise to those that come to visit it as tourists, just like so many of us were the first time we stepped on the rock. So it goes without saying that we as a community are in mourning over this horrific crime against two of the island’s visitors. An unthinkable tragedy has occurred and our hearts break for the victims and their loved ones.

The media is currently swirling with sensationalist speculation and flat out mistruths, which I hope to address in the near future when the official police investigation is complete and I have had time to process the emotional events of the past forty-eight hours. However, considering my inbox is already flooded with messages from travelers now hesitant to come to Koh Tao, I would like to offer those with travel plans here a confident assurance.

The close-knit community on this small, tranquil island is what has always made it so special for me. The fact that we along with the world are so shocked by this tragedy is a testament to how peaceful Koh Tao really is, and how unheard of something like this is here. As a woman traveling alone and once again temporarily settled here, I feel as safe and welcomed as I have since I first came in 2009. One isolated crime does not change that. This kind of brutal violence could happen anywhere in the world. We are beyond heartbroken it has happened here, but it will not change our love for this island — and as we heal, we look forward to sharing that love with the world, as always.

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It doesn’t really feel appropriate to post photos of anything else right now, so this week’s photos are from various memorials that have been held on the island as locals and expats gather to pay their respects to the victims. Their families and friends remain in my thoughts.

Koh Tao Memorial

Koh Tao Memorial

Koh Tao Memorial

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57 Comments...
  • Jason
    September 16 2014

    Well-written post on a sensitive, tragic subject and event. My thoughts are with Koh Tao and the victims’ loved ones.

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Thanks Jason. I hesitated to post anything at all right now but it would be impossible to put up my typical, chipper Photo of the Week update under these circumstances.

  • Lucy
    September 16 2014

    I was, and still am totally shocked by this news. Being a fellow Brit, and a recent and future Koh Tao resident I am so pleased that you’ve addressed the scaremongering in the media. Great post!

    L x
    Lucy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      We are in absolutely shock — though I suppose that is naive — over how this island and the general state of safety in Thailand is being portrayed in the media. It is just heaping salt on a gaping wound.

      • Lucy
        September 17 2014

        Totally, and the out of context statistics are pointless too. Hopefully people will see past this, and still come to Koh Tao and Thailand in general….which statistically, is much safer than London (where one person every day is killed by London buses). I know I’m preaching to the choir anyway.
        Lucy recently posted..

  • Kristen
    September 16 2014

    This is my first time learning about this…how awful. My heart goes out to the victims’ families and to everyone who holds Koh Tao so dear to their heart. Praying authorities find answers.
    Kristen recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      As am I. It seems all resources are being directed at this — I hope they find results soon.

  • Andi
    September 16 2014

    So beyond awful. I hope they find the person responsible for this soon. šŸ™
    Andi recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I know that would bring a lot of peace. I hope so too — and soon.

  • Sarah
    September 16 2014

    When news broke of this, my heart broke for the families of those involved. Two young people who had a lot to give to this world had their lives dramatically cut short – it’s gut wrenching.

    I am a British girl who will be in Koh Tao this time next month. This horrific event will not put me off an experience of a lifetime.

    I have had a lot of people speak to me about going to Thailand in general, and even South-East Asia (thinking of the attacks on the medial students in Borneo) – concerned about my safety. I refuse to let some terrible, terrible people put me off such a wonderful part of the world.

    A wonderful memorial Meihoukai xx

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Beautifully put, Sarah — we can’t let our lives be ruled by fear. And gut wrenching is the perfect description šŸ™

  • Sonja
    September 16 2014

    Hey Meihoukai, I’m a first time commenter but long time reader. You are right, tragedies like these can happen anywhere and we can’t let that stop us from traveling and seeing new places. I’ve had my eye on a trip to Thailand and Koh Tao for a while now and I’ll certainly be thinking of them when I’m there.

    Love your new site by the way – I may be stealing some ideas for my own!
    Sonja recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I hope you’ll love this island as much as I always have, Sonja. It’s a seriously special place and I think you’ll feel it when you arrive x

  • Steve
    September 16 2014

    The whole story just left me feeling sad. Your post is a fitting tribute.
    Steve recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Thank you Steve. These are always the hardest to write.

  • Carla Turun
    September 16 2014

    A lovely post Meihoukai… one of my first thoughts was you over there….Stay safe which i’m sure you will x

  • Hannah
    September 16 2014

    I am so sad to hear about the untimely deaths of two of Koh Taos visitors; it’s a horrific, tragic event which has happened on an island so close to my heart.

    I used to live on Koh Tao, soon to be returning and I can’t stress enough that the island is a safe place to be. The Koh Tao community stand together as a united family, in the past, in the present and in the future. My thoughts are with the victims, their family and friends and the community of Koh Tao.
    Hannah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Beautifully said and my sentiments exactly. Would be lovely if our paths cross x

  • Katie
    September 16 2014

    When I heard the news, I thought surely there must be a mistake – something like this just doesn’t happen on the little piece of paradise of Koh Tao. I’m shocked… we were there not too long ago…. it’s so tragic…
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I know how you feel. When I hear of (very rare) violence in other parts of Thailand I always think, “Well that would never happen on Koh Tao.” What a tragic day that it now has.

  • Ron
    September 16 2014

    Very very sad. Lets hope the police solve this. Considering 500,000 people visit annually Koh Toa has a much lower murder rate vs. the US.

    I hope the reason for this tragedy is uncovered. My thoughts go out to the victims family and loved ones. Such a tragic end for two young adults.

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I know they are similar ages to me but when I look at the photos I think, those are just babies. It’s a tragedy, through and through.

  • Sarah Somewhere
    September 16 2014

    Read the shocking news and immediately thought of you, but knew you would be inundated. Sending love and prayers to all the family and friends of the victims, and also to the island residents who will be negatively impacted by this tragedy xoxo
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I was indeed, but I appreciate so much that I was in your thoughts. We are beside ourselves. I can’t even imagine what the families are going through.

  • Ameliah Stimson
    September 16 2014

    Well said Meihoukai, first person I thought of when I saw this ā€“ so tragic! I will still be planning on visiting! xx

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Tragic indeed. There are many broken hearts around the world this week. Koh Tao will welcome you with open arms when you get here x

  • Lindsey
    September 16 2014

    I was devastated to hear of this, particularly for the impact it will have on tourism to Koh Tao. I loved my time there in 2013, and I desperately hope that the island will recover.
    Lindsey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Thailand tourism is suffering already indeed due to the political fallout. It is a sad time for anyone who’s livelihood relies on tourism dollars here.

  • Justine
    September 16 2014

    I couldn’t believe it when I switched on CNN yesterday and saw this story. My heart broke for the victims’ family and friends and I just couldn’t imagine that this had happened in a place like Koh Tao. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the media is sensationalizing this event. I’m interested to hear what your experience has been like, but it’s definitely smart for you to wait until the investigation is complete and you’ve emotionally processed what’s happened. Beautifully written post Meihoukai and I’m glad you’re able to confidently encourage tourists to still visit the island.
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Thanks Justine. I was hesitant to speak out but after hearing of many cancelled trips and seeing the concern in the reader emails I was already receiving I know it is the responsibility of those of us on the island to let the world know we are grieving but it is still safe to come and we are waiting with open arms.

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    September 16 2014

    Keep your chin up! When I saw the news (well, when Ben saw it and told me) I said you were there & thought about e-mailing but knew you’d be getting flooded. It’s a shame what happened and I hope they find out who did it and give the families and islanders closure.
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      Thanks Rachel, I appreciate you thinking of me. It has been like a dream the last few days and I’ve accomplished close to nothing while my brain tries to wrap itself around this, and of course communicating with family and friends back home. Finding the person responsible will be a massive step towards closure.

  • Amy
    September 16 2014

    I am shocked and stunned when I heard the news myself. And thought of one of my favorite bloggers. I really hope they can investigate this tragedy and prayers to the victims loved ones.

    I am planning to go to Thailand (again) for 2 months this time instead of 2 weeks. I am thinking of going to Koh Lanta by myself for a week and getting an apartment in a remote area….and a little bit nervous about my safety but I know Thailand is very very safe.

    On a brighter note, I wanted to let you know that I wrote this post a month ago and quoted you. šŸ™‚
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      It is indeed! I haven’t made it to Koh Lanta yet but have always heard such lovely things. Thank you for sharing that post with me — made my morning to read it.

  • Amy
    September 16 2014

    Such horrendous, tragic news. I hope that the person responsible is found and everyone can heal from this.
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      I think that will be a huge step towards healing. Hoping for the same every day x

  • I was shocked when I heard it too, despite never having been there Koh Tao certainly doesn’t sound like a dangerous place. From what I heard in the news, they think it was another backpacker that did it, not a local. Hopefully they will find the culprit, and soon, because to do something so horrific and brutal to other human beings is pretty psychotic and its scary to think they are still on the loose.
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 17 2014

      There is so much information swirling around, I am trying not to speculate until the investigation is complete. I know Thailand is putting all their resources towards this and we are all hoping for a resolution soon x

  • Erin of No Ordinary Nomad
    September 17 2014

    So eloquently written. My thoughts are with you and the community there, it seems such a shocking thing to happen in a lovely peaceful place.
    Erin of No Ordinary Nomad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 18 2014

      Thank you Erin. This kind of violence is unheard of here and we are in absolute shock.

  • Joella in Beijing
    September 17 2014

    I was so shocked and saddened when I heard the news. I don’t know you personally but I immediately thought of you. Thanks for the sensitive post on the issue and I hope they manage to find out the truth of the matter. My thought go out to their families.
    Joella in Beijing recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 18 2014

      Thank you Joella. I can’t even begin to imagine what the families are going through right now. It is too much to even think about.

  • Angie Away
    September 17 2014

    Thanks for such a sensitive & thoughtful post. Have been thinking of you since I heard the news. Please do keep us all posted.
    Angie Away recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 18 2014

      Thank you Angie. I really do appreciate it x

  • Kyla Steeves
    September 17 2014

    Meihoukai. Thank you for your words and pictures. When I heard the news here back home, it was devastating. After living on Koh Tao for two months, my heart is with that island. It is a beautiful place with beautiful people and it breaks my heart to hear the tragic news. Unfortunately, horrific events like this take place all over the world, even in paradise. My thoughts go out to family, friends and everyone on the island at this time.
    Kyla Steeves recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 18 2014

      Thank you Kyla. There are so many people that love this little island all over the world and I know it has been an unthinkable shock for all of us. I know horrific evil exists in the world but I never thought it was here.

  • Nadia
    September 19 2014

    Very well said. I grew up in a small, affluent, resort town and, unfortunately, know first hand that violence, brutality, and tragedy do not recognize zip codes or borders. Thank you for reminding people of the beauty of this place and for recognizing that one monster’s actions do not define a community.

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2014

      No, they do not, though sadly when tourism is the cornerstone of the local economy, everyone will suffer on some level from that one monster’s actions. Here’s hoping Koh Tao can rise above.

  • Janice Stringer
    September 20 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    I found out about the murder from my daughter when she rang to let us know she was safe, and that it wasn’t her. We too have been shocked and saddened by our english media coverage and the responses at times of the Thai Government to the island and the incident.

    It is so important to me that others know this island is relatively safe(the biggest danger for tourists normally being the scooter accidents) and the relationship you can build with the local people and Burmese workers on the island is very special and can also be rewarding. Nobody can really explain why it draws you back but I have visited 3 times and my daughter is there on her fourth visit. No place is immune from tragedy – not even this little slice of paradise.
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2014

      I emailed my parents right away as well to let them know I was safe and sound. It must be very difficult as a parent to know something so terrible has happened where your child lives, and you are so far away šŸ™

  • Jade
    September 21 2014

    It’s so scary how much the media can stir up terrible events like this. And it is awful too that the crime was so mishandled from the start. Like we said to you in Koh Tao, it almost seemed like nothing had happened when you were walking around, even close to the scene, so it doesn’t surprise me at all to hear that the crime scene was contaminated.
    Let’s hope they do find out who did it so that the families, and the island, can find some peace.

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2014

      Yes, being here while this is going on has given me a shocking look into how the media works. It’s pretty eye opening, and not in a good way.

  • Caroline
    September 21 2014

    They definitely need more police on Koh Tao … I remember hearing that there were only 4 officers for the entire place when I was there. Clearly this needs to change.
    Caroline recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2014

      Honestly I don’t know if a bigger police presence would have stopped this from happening. Look at the violence that happens in major cities all over the world with massive police forces! This is such a quiet, peaceful island — with this one tragic exception — I don’t know what more police would do to keep busy all day.

  • Miriam of Adventurous Miriam
    September 21 2014

    I just heard about this tragedy today and instantly thought of you. I’m glad to hear that you are okay x

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2014

      Thanks Miriam, I appreciate that x