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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Welcome to Thailand

THAILAND | Thursday, 12 March 2009 | Views [2491] | Comments [3]

Ko Lipe (Leepee) is a 1 hour speed boat ride from Langkawi and one of the most southern Thailand islands on the Andaman sea. Ko Lipe (Ko meaning Island) must have one of the best immigration halls we have ever seen. It consists of the passengers sitting on the beach while the Captain delivers the passports he has carried across the border in a water tight bag to the immigration officers, who sit in a bamboo hut on the beach stamping away, very laid back compared to most immigrations we have passed through!

Next we had to search for a place to stay and we usually take it in turns so one person sits and waits with the backpacks while the other investigates all the accommodation and makes a decision. This is much easier than both of us looking with our backpacks on as we usually just settle for the first place we get to just to get the bags off our backs. Searching for a place in the midday heat, traipsing past people lying on the beach isn’t much fun, and after seeing bamboo hut after bamboo hut I was about to stop looking and choose one but thought I would check out the last place on the beach, a set of stilted huts on the cliff side, a bit of a climb up to them nestled in the trees but soon realised it had a fantastic location over looking the whole of Pattaya beach and out to sea. Perfect, well a few big gaps in the floorboard that might let a few nasty creatures in, but I think we will have to get used to that living on islands.

I think this place wins the prize for best bedding we have slept on so far!

On our first day we set off to find Sunset beach on the other side of the island, which was meant to be a 30min trek through the jungle. It was not as dense as it sounded but we couldn’t find the correct path and kept hitting dead ends, until we spied two people who looked like they knew where they were going, so we followed them. We soon lost them too but found a barely trodden track and followed it down to a small beach in a cove, in desperate need for a swim. This would have to do, so we spent four hours there and didn’t see another person in the whole time, we had found a secluded beach everyone dreams of, with just a few fish and longboats sailing past and the odd sea eagle hovering overhead. Well ok, we did find the other two people we lost earlier over some rocks in the next cove along, but after discovering they were naturists, we let them hang out on their own!

All the beaches on Lipe have snorkelling right from the shore so that's how we spent our time, and we returned to our little beach and again had it to ourselves all day, although a wobble of tiny jellyfish (what is the collective for jellyfish anyone?) decided to join us so the swims became more exciting trying to avoid the electric shocks every minute or so!

On our last day we decided to be slightly more adventurous than usual and hired a sea kayak with the aim of circumnavigating the island. Now the island is not very big, we guess about 5km around it, but we didn't account for the strong currents that seemed to hit us all the way, never giving us a break. For every stroke on the right we had to do about 6 on the left to counteract it and keep us straight and from heading out to sea and at some points no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get the kayak to turn so Ryan had to do most of the work, I did try though, honestly! Kayaking is another good way to find secluded beaches as we found a few new ones to try out, although the last one we had to share with a motley crew of hermit crabs that made the beach look alive when they all moved at the same time.

Ko Lipe is part of the Tarutou National Park of about 40 islands, the only one with development and consistent tourism. The Lonely Planet says not to come to Lipe because it will create more tourism and new developments that may risk development on the other islands. However, when the government made these islands a national park, they moved all the community of Chao Leh (Sea Gypsies) to Lipe and stopped them from fishing, so they allowed them to develop Lipe to make a living. Therefore, if you don’t come here, who will support the community? Catch 22 we think. But just to keep this place as beautiful as it is, please don’t come to Lipe. it’s our little slice of paradise, for 5 days anyway! Next stop...

Trang

Our original plan was to spend 3-4 weeks islands hopping and not touch the mainland, but after one island we headed to Trang, a small town on the southern coast, a 3 hour ferry ride from Lipe. We headed here for a few reasons; one, because being on an island felt we weren't really in a new country and wanted go to the mainland to see more of Thailand. Two, we were running out of money and essentials so needed to get to a bank and supermarket and not pay the high prices of Lipe plus there wasn't an ATM there. Three, a bit of sea kayak sunburn and a nasty heat rash for me meant we needed a few days off the beach! There isn't much to say about Trang as there is no tourism here, just a few hotels and markets, but I think that's why we liked it so much. It's a cool town to wander around and see the every day life of Thais without the sightseeing tours driving past, just lots of colourful tuk-tuks instead.

Plus, everything was at least half the cost of staying on Lipe so we had more of an idea of how much we should be paying. We ventured to the night market to sample the local food and managed to purchase from a few stalls with a lot of sign language and only two words of Thai. Sitting down eating our food on the steps of a university thinking I was at last becoming a seasoned traveller, I suddenly went "what the heck, it's an elephant, it's a bloody elephant walking down the street" Ok, I may have used the F word a few times to describe what I saw but I just couldn't believe I was seeing an elephant just walk down the street. It doesn't matter how used to things you think you are, there is always something just around the corner that will shock you. I have only ever seen elephants in zoos before, which is why I was slightly taken aback!

Krabi

Next we headed up the coast to Krabi, about 2 hours by bus from Trang. It was cheaper for us to bus it to the next town and start island hopping from there rather than get straight back on the boat again, plus you see so much more of local life from the windows of a bus then from a boat. Krabi is meant to be a mecca for rock climbers with grand limestone karsts along the coast and river. We did a day trip by long boat to Railey, a climbing hot spot and mainland peninsular, where the karsts looked impressive to climb. However, having spent nearly an hour on choppy seas, with the longboat driver stopping to ask if he could have a cigarette break, whilst the waves pounded us, didn't put me in the best of moods, especially after realising the only way to access Railey is by boat! So we decided to give climbing a miss this time.

Luckily the second longboat ride was much smoother. Again, there wasn't much to do in Krabi apart from eat with the locals at the a great night market with main meals being very cheap, about 50p.

Ko Lanta

Our second island on the itinerary was Ko Lanta, a large island just off the Krabi coast, about a 2 hour mini bus and two quick ferry rides away. I saw my second elephant here but it didn't shock me at all, so over them now. The island was a bit of a disappointment though as the beaches were not as nice as we thought, even though we stayed on the 'best beach' on the island. We had to book our hotel in advance as there are no buses to get around so we needed someone to pick us up from the ferry. It turned out we had chosen quite a 'swanky' place so we hung out here for two days, literally hanging in the hammock, and then moved on to...

Ko Phi Phi

Wow, what can I say. Ko Phi Phi (Pee Pee) is beautiful. We knew in advance this island was going to be very 'touristy' (who are we to complain, we are tourists after all) and can get busy in the high season, but we were so surprised at how lovely it was as our ferry sailed into the bay. There are a lots of people, resorts, hotels, bars and restaurants, but it's mainly all centred in the main village just off the pier, it doesn't cover the whole area. There is something for everyone here from backpackers to the rich list, all night beach parties to quiet hill top retreats, fancy diners to cheap local markets, lazing on busy beaches to secluded quiet coves, trekking, snorkelling, diving and much more. The main village is a maze of alleyways that are fun to get lost in.

Phi Phi is made up of two islands, Phi Phi Don is the larger inhabited island, and Phi Phi Ley is uninhabited and is most famous as the setting for The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio (how excited was I to come here, but don't tell anyone, it's not cool to admit it). Of course we had to take a day trip to see the famous Maya Bay, where the film was set. It doesn't matter though if you recognise the location or not, or if you've not heard of the film, it's still worth seeing, it's absolutely stunning.

Just to fuel my aversion to longboats, the trip to Maya Bay was part of a full day snorkelling trip in a rickety old longboat. Trying to get out of one in the sea while wearing flippers is not the easiest thing to do and the bruises on my arm prove that. The snorkelling was great and we encountered lots of beautiful fish including a school of biting fish, that decided to nip me at quite an alarming rate, enough to draw blood on a couple of occasions, I thought I was being attacked but a shark but when I saw the size of them I felt a bit daft. I wasn't the only one to come away with injuries though as Ryan was unfortunate enough to tread on a spikey sea urchin and still has some blue splinters in his foot to mark the occasion.

Our stay was on the cusp between the dry and rainy season here, so we had a spectacular thunderstorm one night that flooded most of the lanes, and when it rains in Phi Phi it really Pee Pees it down (Sorry Ryan made me write that!). Whilst eating out one night, we discovered the origin to the saying 'Cool Cats'. Don't worry they weren't waiting to be cooked, just keeping out of the heat.

I feel I should mention the Tsunami here. Even though there were many people and areas affected by the disaster all over Asia, Phi Phi was nearly obliterated on that day. The low lying village sits on a spit of land between two bays. When the Tsunami hit it drew back water from both bays and hit the village from both directions. Over 2000 people were killed just from this one location. Today, most of the island and businesses have been restored, but there are still a few reminders around, including ruined buildings and piles of debris. But the locals are still smiling and moving on with life, as they can only do and they helped to make our time on Phi Phi really special, we had a fantastic time here.

Travel observations:

Food - on our trip we have met lots of people who have said we will love the food in Thailand when we get there, but we didn’t want our expectations get too high in case it was nothing different to other countries. Well, everyone we met was right, the food is so delicious. Every meal so far has been better than we could hope for and there is loads of variety from different coloured curries, stir fried dishes to sticky rice, my mouth is watering just writing about it. However, the best 'dish' we discovered on Phi Phi is Snow Ice, lots of sugar, E numbers and condensed milk, just what you need on a hot day.

Bathrooms - I never enter a bathroom now without pausing at the doorway for about 10 seconds to inspect every corner for creepy crawlies so to avoid unsuspected attacks whilst in the shower.

Sea Kayaking - please remember to apply sunscreen to your face before setting off and not remembering to do so over an hour later!

Weather - we’ve stopped checking to see what the temperature is, it’s either hot, or hot, or a bit hotter.

We’ve just arrived in Phuket, where we plan to, erm, head to the beach, what a surprise. I think I need it after writing this epic. I think I can safely say that so far, I LOVE THAILAND!!!

Until next time,

Jo & Ryan

Sorry, most of the pictures are just of beaches, longboats, sun and sea.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157615033865715/

Tags: ko lanta, ko lipe, ko phi phi, krabi, thailand, trang

 

Comments

1

We do love your blog - keep them coming. Went down memory lane in Thailand, not quite to the isolated places you've experienced, but we did go to Phi Phi and loved it too (that was before the tsunami) - now just live on the memories!
Just returned from a month in South Africa, so missed all the snow in England.
In case we are not in touch again before 2nd April - HAPPY BIRTHDAY JO.

  Jean and Mick Mar 13, 2009 9:49 PM

2

So glad it's all going well. You make Thailand sound amazing...except for the creepy crawlies, sea urchins and biting fish!

  Liz Mar 14, 2009 8:53 AM

3

A fluther of jellyfish

  David Kaspar Mar 17, 2009 2:46 AM

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