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It has been an emotional week on Koh Tao. At one point, my dad reminded me of a from a community recovering from tragedy decades ago. “We will laugh again, but we will never be young again.” This island is dusting itself off from a great blow. For me, the solution to working my way out of the fog I’d settled into since waking up last Monday morning was switching offline and plugging back into the real world. So this weekend, I turned off the news and shut the laptop. I hiked, I dove, I paddleboarded, I went to yoga and to Muay Thai. I called my family. I spent quality time with dear friends. I reminded myself of all the reasons why there’s been a Koh Tao sized stamp on my heart since the first time I stepped foot here in the summer of 2009.

And so as the media continues to swirl with ridiculous stories and speculation, I want to remind the world that this is a special place and a heartfelt community that won’t be defined by the actions of one. Koh Tao may never be young again, but we will laugh again – we’re starting to smile already.

Photo A

Fraggle Rock Koh TaoHiking high over Sairee Beach

Photo B

Magestic Spa Koh TaoAn afternoon pedicure date

Photo C

Jellyfish Koh TaoScuba diving days

Photo D

Scuba Diving Koh TaoBeautiful underwater patterns

Photo E

SUP Koh TaoLocal kids playing at sunset

Which photo is your favorite?

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77 Comments...
  • Shaun's Cracked Compass
    September 22 2014

    Crazy Jelly fish! But my money is on photo E. There’s a cultural essence captured in that photo.

    RE: Koa Tao. I don’t have the words.
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Yes, I’m struggling to find them as well. I’d like to write more about it someday but I’m just not sure where to start.

  • Bethany Dickey
    September 22 2014

    Beautiful words on a horrible tragedy! I’m hopefully visiting SE Asia for the first time in December (solo) and your thoughts have encouraged me despite some worry after hearing about this incident. I particuarly love Photo E in this post – I’m a sucker for sunsets!
    Bethany Dickey recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      I’m really glad to hear that Bethany. You’re going to have an amazing trip — my first solo journey to Southeast Asia changed my life!

  • Justine
    September 22 2014

    I think I’m going to go with Photo A this time…there’s something simple and beautiful about these shots. Love it!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Thanks Justine! My friend who came with me has lived here four years and that was her first time on that trail. We loved it!

  • Katie
    September 22 2014

    Wonderful photos this week! I vote for E, it really hits home on your message about community on the island. I’m still in shock about Koh Tao…
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      It is starting to sink in but I would say I’m still in at least some state of shock as well. It really is a tragedy.

  • Emily from Let's Roam Wild
    September 22 2014

    Sounds like it’s been pretty rough for Koh Tao these days. Not holding me back, though. Love C!
    Emily from Let’s Roam Wild recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Glad to hear that, Emily. Koh Tao has lots of love to give still.

  • Miquel
    September 22 2014

    That was a beautiful sentiment. Glad to see you enjoying a place that is so special to you! So my favorite is E, but I pick B this week because I can’t wait to get a pedicure and massage in Thailand!
    Miquel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      I’ve been hitting the massages pretty hard lately. They are such a treat! And an affordable one, here 🙂

  • Once again, beautiful pictures! I love the jelly fish photo. Any idea what kind it was?

    And I really can’t stand the media, whether my local newspaper or the national news. Urgh, now I’m turning into my paranoid father!

    Stay safe and living your life! 🙂
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Hm, I’m not sure what kind it was. Let me consult Wes, Meihoukai in Wanderland’s resident fish expert for more info 🙂

  • Susan
    September 22 2014

    Eek! Is Photo C a jellyfish?! (And is it a stinging one?) My vote is for E! Those colors are stunning.
    Susan recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      It is a jellyfish indeed! I’m not sure about the stinging status but I tried not to find out 🙂

  • Ashley
    September 22 2014

    That quote seems quite fitting for the current situation and I like the hint of positivity. And I vote for Photo E!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Yes, so much wisdom in a few little words, and reminds us of the perseverance of the human spirit. I’ve thought of it a lot lately.

  • I agree with you – sometimes unplugging from the world can really help!

    As for the photos, this is a tough one between D and E for me, but I’m going to go for E! Beautiful!
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Yes, especially when the news and media are so infuriating, sometimes committing to a detox is the best thing one can do! I know it’s happening, and I have to deal with it eventually, but for now… a little break.

  • Kristen Noelle
    September 22 2014

    Glad to hear that your oasis is starting to smile again. My favs are C, D, and E. Love them all
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Thanks girl. We are working on it.

  • Sarah Somewhere
    September 22 2014

    Beautiful sentiment. I love that quote. I am glad you got grounded after such shocking news. The last one of the kids is my facourite! Take care x
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Thanks Sarah. My dad always knows what to say! The grounding is an ongoing process but I’m working on it x

  • Lindsey
    September 22 2014

    I love photo D. I’m glad to hear that Koh Tao is beginning to recover. I love that little island!

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      It’s such a special place. Glad you agree x

  • becky hutner
    September 22 2014

    You’re not making this one easy, Miz A. But if I must, E b.c. it’s classic Thai to me.

    Your sentiments remind me of how I felt post-9/11. Like we’d lost our innocence… & while there have undoubtedly been many good times since, I feel like we’ll never go back to that feeling of naive invincibility we once had. I’m so sorry for what’s happened.
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Yes, there are a lot of parallels there indeed. I’ve been writing a lot and finding it very cathartic, though it’s not all quite ready to be shared with the world yet.

  • Miriam of Adventurous Miriam
    September 22 2014

    It’s a horrible tragedy and I can’t imagine how it must feel to be there right now. Keeping your mind busy sounds like the right way to move forward and I’m sure Koh Tao will heal in time. It might take some time, but it’s still a very special place that has made a great impact on many people. That won’t change.. not for me at least.

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Thanks for this lovely comment, Miriam! As painful as it is to see the island itself victimized in the press, it warms my heart to hear from people like you who get it. Much love.

  • Sonja at Breadcrumbs Guide
    September 22 2014

    Woah, that jellyfish is crazy! I pick C! I would have been terrified to get that close!
    Sonja at Breadcrumbs Guide recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      The pursuit of an amazing photo gives me some serious bravery I don’t normally have!

  • Ron
    September 22 2014

    Everyone knows the correct answer is D! {:->

    The Murder rate in the USA averages 40 per day. There are vast statistics on this throughout the world, but Koh Tao has a very low rate and is a very safe place. I am sorry there has been no progress on the investigation.

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Glad I could share more diving photos 🙂 Hoping to get back out in the water again this week.

  • Monique
    September 22 2014

    I absolutely love these photos and that quote! Amazing!!! So inspirational!
    Monique xx

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Thanks Monique. I think it summed up post-JFK America so well, even though I obviously wasn’t there to experience it myself. And now it applies over and over again to tragedies all over the world.

  • Martha
    September 22 2014

    Photo E is beautiful.

    Cannot imagine how is has felt to be on Koh Tao this last week. Nature heals.

    “I’ve Never Found Time Spent Amongst Nature To Be A Waste of Time”
    Martha recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 22 2014

      Another beautiful quote, Martha — thanks for sharing.

  • Chris
    September 22 2014

    Always love your underwater shots, but this week pic E is for me!

    I must say, I actually didn’t have any idea about the Koh Tao tragedy until you mentioned it…

    Hope everyone over there pulls through okay and this doesn’t hurt the tourism market!
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Unfortunately the media seems hell bent on making sure it will… but crime sells, and stories of beautiful, peaceful island and life affirming travels do not!

  • Camels & Chocolate
    September 23 2014

    C!!!

    What is that kind of jelly??
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      I actually don’t know! Clearly I need to do more research for my underwater posts 🙂

  • pankaj jani
    September 23 2014

    regarding my work I was in koh samui for three months but I took out a week for me to explore koh phangan and koh tao islands… All these three islands have something different to offer but when I reached koh tao I really felt like I am on an island. After two fun dives at koh tao I rented a bike and explored some parts of island but most relaxing experience for me was seating on soft cool sand next to unique shaped coconut tree at sairee beach and looking at colours changing sky and parked fishing boats… All were making my island evening perfect… It was amazing trip…

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Thanks for sharing these happy memories of Koh Tao, Pankaj. It is a special place and it sounds like you got to experience some of it yourself!

  • 2 tickets to Wonderland
    September 23 2014

    I can’t decide between photo B and C. Love them both. Your pictures from underwater world are always amazing 🙂
    2 tickets to Wonderland recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Thank you so much! I am excited to have more of them to share soon… need to take advantage of the diving while I’m here!

  • Mike
    September 23 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,

    On Koh Tao, just finished Scuba course ! – thanks for all your scuba inspiration 🙂 What has happened is the latest in a series of ongoing law and order issues on Koh Tao and from such utter tragedy hopefully some of those issues will finally after many years begin to be addressed.
    Vote for D – reminds me of a recent dive !

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Hey Mike, congrats on your diving certification! As for Koh Tao, I hesitated to publish this comment but I’ve never censored the comment section here and I don’t want to start now. Still, this made me flinch because this kind of vague commentary on Koh Tao’s perceived lack of safety is exactly what the island doesn’t need right now at this very delicate time. As a long time visitor and some time resident of Koh Tao, I can assure you I have always felt comfortable and safe here. I’d love it if you could be more specific when you mention something like that, otherwise it can just cause unnecessary panic. Again, congrats on the diving and hope you keep returning to Koh Tao for more!

  • Racheal Morgan
    September 23 2014

    As usual I love them all! Usually I go a little more cultural but b is my favorite. Thank you for this great post- I definitely want to go now.

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Thanks Racheal! Don’t worry, Thai massages are a very cultural part of any trip to Koh Tao 🙂

  • Breanna
    September 23 2014

    Photo E. I’m a sucker for sunsets. I love your dad’s quote on the situation, very true.

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      It couldn’t be more appropriate. Who know a quote about post-JFK America could so perfectly sum up what is going on in a tiny island in Thailand right now…

  • Steve
    September 23 2014

    Sorry for the late reply. Currently in Kaunas. I am going for E. Love those sunsets.
    Steve recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      I had to look up where Kaunas was, Steve! Looks beautiful — enjoy your trip!

  • Karen @ Lots of Sheep
    September 23 2014

    Wow – hardest week yet to pick a favorite picture. Really tough choice between C and E for me, but I just can’t resist a good underwater wildlife shot, so it’s gotta be C.

    So sorry it’s been such a tough week for you and the Koh Tao community. It’s actually been an emotional week over here in Virginia for the UVA community, as well. Such a strange feeling when a tragedy rocks a place you love and consider to be home. But it is uplifting when you’ve got a special community filled with great people who can all try to get through it together.
    Karen @ Lots of Sheep recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Yes, in the darkness you learn to squint hard and look for the light. And there is so much of it here. Sending you lots of love all the way to Virginia!

  • Stef
    September 23 2014

    Oh it’s really hard for me to choose between B, D and E. But I guess I have to choose, so I go with B 🙂
    Stef recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Another winning iPhone picture 🙂 Thanks for voting Stef!

  • Christina T Zchyn
    September 23 2014

    Thumb up to jelly fish picture photo C ! Any tips for underwater marine capture ?
    Christina T Zchyn recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 23 2014

      Practice, practice, practice! I look back to photos I took years ago and I’ve improved so much, not because I took any classes or read any books but just because I shoot whenever I can and I spend a lot of time looking at my photos after and analyzing what worked and what didn’t and thinking about what I want to try next time. Also, editing software to sharpen and color correct helps too 🙂

  • Stephanie
    September 23 2014

    Your photos are getting more incredible with every post! I’m going with photo C this time.
    Stephanie recently posted..

  • Caroline
    September 24 2014

    I have never been to Koh Tao, or even Thailand, but thank you for this post. Traveling and especially backpacking seems to be getting some bad rep in the media these days, because of these horrible and tragic killings.
    People fail to understand that this could just as well has happened back in Britain or the US, and it’s good to read an ‘insiders’ take on it.

    Also, lovely pictures!
    Caroline recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2014

      Thanks Caroline. I agree, media sensationalist seems geared at keeping people at home. We know better — fear is no reason not to see the world.

  • Karyn @ Not Done Travelling
    September 25 2014

    Gotta be photo D. 🙂

    And re what’s happened: It’s awful. The locals must be shattered too. But from the sounds of it, there seems to be far more good people on the island than bad. Hopefully they find the perpetrators really soon.
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 26 2014

      Thanks Karyn, we truly hope so. The future of this island will hinge on it, I believe.

  • stephanie
    September 26 2014

    my sister and i are going to thailand for three weeks any tips would be helpful ran into your blog when looking up the tragic incident in koh tao, still plan on stopping by there despite what we have read glad i saw this (: if anyone else will be there in dec (:

    • Meihoukai
      September 27 2014

      So glad to hear you haven’t changed your plans Stephanie. Koh Tao will be delightful in December! You are going to have a fabulous time.

  • Rachel dare
    September 27 2014

    Koh tao is beautiful, by far my favourite Thai island, it will be back on it’s feet, such a shame what has happened, for the families, locals and island in general.

    Photo e is beautiful, love the Thai kids theyr so fun 🙂

    Great blog

    • Meihoukai
      September 29 2014

      Thanks Rachel. Koh Tao definitely has my heart as well. I think these photos show why!

  • labang
    October 1 2014

    Is there a place to get a bikini wax?

    • Meihoukai
      October 2 2014

      I’m not sure if this is a serious question or not, but I will answer in case it is 🙂 Yes, you can get waxes at spas all over Koh Tao. Majestic in Sairee is my go-to spa for massages!

      • labang
        October 10 2014

        Unfortunately it was a serious question!

        • Meihoukai
          October 11 2014

          Well than I’m glad I could help 🙂 Sometimes comment trolls leave me on edge, ha.

  • Andrew Low
    October 6 2014

    Photo E without doubt! ….you definitely have a knack for taking amazing sunset shots Meihoukai …… this photo reminds me of the the amazing time that I had spent in Thailand….truly an unforgettable moment ……

    • Meihoukai
      October 6 2014

      The sunsets just call to me! There have been many cloudy days since I arrived but we’ve been blessed with some beauties.

  • Beth
    December 3 2014

    Are there any places in particular you recommend (anywhere in Thailand) to do Muay Thai. I’m sure they are all over, but I would like to try some of the better spots when I’m there.

    • Meihoukai
      December 4 2014

      Hey Beth! I loved checked out Bee’s Training Camp in Pai. That would be where I’d head if I was going to seriously train. Good luck and hope that helps!