Sai Nuan has long been my favorite beach on Koh Tao. Tucked into the southwest corner of the island and more or less unreachable by road — I’d certainly never drive that treacherous dirt path some might call a road — you have to either take a longtail or hike a pleasant twenty minutes through a palm tree filled jungle to get here.
When I want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Sairee Beach (that sound you hear is big city dwellers cackling at the idea of me calling that hustle and bustle), this is where I go.
Some of you have picked up on my hints here and there that I was seeing someone again while I was back on Koh Tao — a few of you even took guesses of who in my usual cast of characters it might be! (Love it.) I don’t know why I was keeping mum, exactly, as it is quite out of character for me. But the secret’s out now — because there’s no way I couldn’t blog about the amazing birthday present Bearded Bartender — as my nickname-loving friends back home liked to call him — treated me to.
Not too many are up for making the effort to get to Sai Nuan, and so I was lucky enough to get to be the first one to show Bearded Bartender — or I mean, we could just call him Ian — my favorite beach not long after we met. That day I mentioned how I’d always dreamed of going off the grid and spending a night in one of the little beach huts dotting the bay — shown in the photo above — but for some reason I’d never made it happen.
So, for my birthday, he did.
Saithong Resort is the one and only accommodation option at Sai Nuan. Supposedly you can book online but Ian didn’t really trust the system, so he ended up making two round trip visits to the resort to make our reservation. Even then, things were a little off — he’d specifically requested Bungalow #2, which we arrived to find another couple very much settled into. Actually, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise — Bungalow #1 had better views and more privacy.
But I mean, ocean front with balconies bigger than the rooms themselves? You can’t go wrong.
The rooms were extremely simple — wooden bed with mosquito net, fan, curtain for a bathroom door, clear ocean views from the holes in the wall of the cold water shower. We loved it.
And did I mention the balcony?
In spite of what these photos show, our first day at Sai Nuan was actually super rainy and overcast. That was fine with us. We’d brought in both lunch and dinner takeaway from I Love Salad in Mae Haad (yes, that is the actual name of the establishment and they have my full and unwavering support in that decision) as well as several bottles of the most mediocre wine Koh Tao has to offer, and we were perfectly content to sit on our porch and watch the storm pass by.
With no internet and barely any phone reception, we were truly off the grid. It might have been just for one night, but wow, did it feel good.
The next morning I woke up to the sound of water and thought, oh no! It’s rained all night and we’ll never be able to get out of here. Then I realized it was just the waves crashing on the rocks right below us. A peek through the slats of the wall revealed a perfect blue sky day.
After breakfast at the onsite restaurant with free entertainment provided by the little ragamuffin above, it was all about beach time.
I believe paper-book-loving Ian may have uttered the words, “Burn that photo of me reading a Kindle and never let it see the light of day,” but I’m pretty sure by that he meant please post it on the internets for literally any human on planet earth to see. Right? Right.
In the little bay right next to Sai Nuan — technically I think they are one and the same — lies one of the most scenic and rasta-tastic bars on Koh Tao, Banana Rock. It’s an absolute must to toast to the end of a castaway getaway somewhere as epic as this.
I can’t tell you what a special little getaway this was or how idyllic and dreamlike it felt. As the constant planner for myself, for my friends and for my family when we travel, it was indulgent and sweet to have someone plan something so thoughtful and sentimental all for me.
We still talk about it all the time.
Best part? The guy knows me well — he knew this social butterfly could never go off grid on her actual birthday! So this was more of a warm up, planned a few days before the actual date. And wow, were my friends about to pick up where he left off in the spoiling department. Stay tuned.
Would you rather splurge on a sleek resort or a rustic getaway like this one? I love a bit of both, but I can’t imagine a better two days than the ones we had here…
I’ve always wanted to stay in one of those huts too! I love the idea of retreating to a place that most people find too difficult to reach.
Beautiful! I’m envious. This looks exactly like the type of getaway I could use right now! 🙂
I would say “me too!” but I’m actually currently on another beach right now 🙂 Life is good!
omg alex, you went & bagged the crazy binge-drinking canadian dude! obviously, i approve.
Ha! This comment cracked me up 🙂
He passes the test :). Looks absolutely gorgeous. The beach, I’m talking about the beach now. 🙂
🙂 Thanks Sonja!
Awww, that’s adorable! And it sounds awesome.
I splurged on a beach resort on Koh Lanta for my last few days in Thailand. It wasn’t entirely off-grid (there was wifi near the lobby), but I had no connection in my bungalow or on the beach. I basically just spent two days lying on the beach reading my Kindle – it was bliss!
(Also, I totally approve of a guy who knows you that well!)
That’s the best way to end any trip — taking a little vacation, no matter how short! Good for you, Amanda 🙂
Beautiful, looks so much like Fiji!
Ah, can’t wait to get there someday!
This looks like my kind of place. I would definitely splurge on a night or two there! It kind of reminds me of the huts on Long Beach on Koh Rong, Cambodia. I was just there a few weeks ago and I completely regret not booking a couple of nights at one of the few beach bungalows there. There is just something special about being off the grid in paradise 🙂
Ah, Koh Rong is so beautiful. One of my absolute favorite islands, what a paradise!
Amazing! I remember reading his earning abroad and laughing so hard, then reading it again. Seems like a keeper for sure, those beach huts look incredible.
He’s just as funny in person!
Ahh I remember thinking his earning abroad was so funny! Lucky girl (and guy, duh). Those huts look pretty okay as well.
Yeah, they weren’t awful 😉
Awesome spot, but I’d never call a place with phone reception (however bad) off the grid! 😉
When I say, “phone reception,” I mean that you can stand on one rock and wave an arm in the air and get a text message to send from a cheap Nokia. Not exactly that you can make clear calls or upload to Instagram 🙂
That little getaway sounds (and looks) perfect! Especially to such a paradise. It’s making me want to go on a mini trip!
Do it! 🙂 You won’t regret it!
Alex your blog is my happy place on this sh*tty, overcast, work-filled, office-bound Tuesday in South Africa. Dont ever stop!
I concur. I go to this blog at work too. It is a great escape (like a compulsory break when there is too much goings-on, stress!), Alex.
Makes my heart happy to hear that, Julia. Thank you!
Aw, thanks Sasha! So happy to hear I can bring you somewhere sunny and warm for a bit 🙂
Wow! Wow! Wow! I came back from Thailand just half a year ago and now I want to go baaaaaack!
This island looks amazing. I’d do both. I’d spend a few days at the beginning of the break “chilling” with just the basics and end with out-of-control pampering to prepare for the rude awaking of being back in Europe and the daily commute.
P.S. I love my daily Berlin commute LOL!
Yup! That’s how I like to wrap up all extended trips as well 🙂 A nice transition back to the Western world!
The unveiling of the “secret hunk” has now surfaced. Oh Alex 🙂 Also, I’m sure you noticed/realize that one of the most interesting things on the boat is the journey to the 3 islands (Samui – Phangan- Tao) You can tell the hot guys ratio difference and then the hot ones go to Koh Tao. Ahaha. Even on my first trip to Koh Tao, the return boat journey is already an interesting event itself (People watching 🙂
Why do you think I picked Koh Tao to live on? KIDDING! But only sort of.
Ha, so many cute guys there. 🙂
Looks pretty special — I won’t be able to say which I love more – rustic or luxury – they are both great in their own ways. I guess it all depends on how you are feeling. Right now its freezing cold in Washington D.C. and I could really go for either. Or just anywhere warm, doesn’t even have to be a beach…
I feel you on that one, Jenia! I guess the best trip has a combination of both.
Meh………24 birthday shots in Arequipa was obvs better. 😉
Haha… just wait till you hear about the actual day!
What a fun birthday surprise! I would much rather stay somewhere rustic for my birthday… seems more authentic than a fancy luxury resort, not that I would turn that down either 🙂
Haha, right?! I think I’d be down with any gifted getaways, really 🙂
this island looks magical ! i lived in Thailand a few years ago, and made it to some of the islands although i found many of them really overcrowded – i did enjoy Koh Chang on the east coast a little more as i visited in the shoulder season and had most of the beaches to myself – Thailand really is amazingly beautiful isn’t it <3
Koh Chang has been on my “to visit” list for FAR too long! Can’t wait to check it out one of these days… Thanks for the tip!
As if I needed another beach to add to my list… Now I think I’m stuck picking out of a hat rather then hitting them all.
Oh well, more fun that way I suppose 🙂
You can’t go wrong with a good stretch of sand… I’d start with picking out of that hat 🙂 Good luck, Mike!
That balcony is to die for! So….are the rooms buggy? Major bug phobia here 😉
I’m not bothered by bugs other than spiders so they probably wouldn’t stand out too much in my memory but I don’t recall any creepy crawlies around 🙂 And I can DEFINITELY assure you there were no spiders, ha.
Sigh … what a pleasant hideaway. I’ll have to seek it out when I get back to Thailand!
Let me know how you like it when you do!
I’m heading to Koh Tao tomorrow and I’m so excited! I may check this place out. Thanks!
Enjoy, Angela! Jealous you are heading to my favorite island in the world 🙂
This reminds me so much of a bungalow I stayed at in Koh Rong/Cambodia. It was fairly rustic too and had no electricity, but it was so beautiful. It makes you appreciate the simple things in life, away from all the technology. Every now and then I need that.
I feel ya! Especially now that I’ve hired someone to help me out with behind the scenes blog stuff part time, I can really appreciate those rare days off.
Ah what a dreamy birthday treat….and man alive, in this day and age – yeah, having a slight signal is way off the grid in my opinion. Bravo on the beard too, love a man with a beard!
Ha, anything without wifi is off the grid to me!
I am looking back at this article again and dreaming of this place to chillax. Ha, thanks for these great pictures Alex.
You are so welcome Julia! I can’t wait to return here myself.
Now, this is a place i want to go to in Thailand! thanks for helping me choose. Thailand has so much to offer that it is difficult to pick one.
It really is! I’ve been traveling there for six years and still have a very long list of places to go to…