Right, leaving Koh Lanta and all the tourists, parties and hustle and bustle for the quieter Koh Lipe in the south where we could fulfill our dream of living on and snorkelling off the beaches.
Not that Koh Lanta was all crazy and wild like neighbouring Phi Phi or Phuket. ‘Ph’ makes a simple ‘P’ sound…. made me giggle for the first little while, especially when we ended on Koh Pu, but I’ll get to that…
Koh Lanta was a big island. We travelled by motorcycle from north to south and west to east. We did a 4 island snorkelling trip from Old Lanta town in one of those friggin’ long tail boats in rough seas – thank God the water’s warm. So it was good, its just that what we experienced later made us look back and wish we had left sooner. Oh well, we were in Thailand!
So, our crazy 3 hour Speedboat trip to Koh Lipe.
When we arrived at Lipe, I couldn’t believe the colour of the water. It was that National Geographic, poster turquoise water, crystal clear. You could see the bottom at 20 feet. We hopped off the boat with not a clue as to where to stay. We weren’t going to make that mistake again! (Have you noticed that our ‘Mistakes’ have been getting fewer and fewer? We were learning) There are 3 main beaches on Lipe: Sunrise, Pattaya and Sunset. Pattaya was where we landed and had boats and resorts all along it’s width with all the beautiful people sunbathing. They obviously didn’t pay attention to the “Please dress modestly” sign as there was a large Muslim population on the island. We obviously didn’t belong there…
So we walked with our packs. (BTW, our packs were very small, virtual day packs – 30L, with our
snorkel gear, couple pair of shorts, couple of shirts, toiletries. We wanted them carry-on when we flew) We followed what they called the “Walking Street” which was a narrow, single lane street with shops and restaurants and dive shops lining either side. Fairly touristic, but great for people watching. The street went right across the island, to It took us about a half hour. We checked hotels and rooms as we went, and they were not too expensive, so we were confident we could find something. When we got to Sunrise Beach, we checked our first resort – Gypsy Bungalows. Voila! A great little bungalow not 50 feet from a gorgeous beach with good reefs for snorkelling. Yes!
So we settled in and walked the island – you could circumnavigate the island in just over an hour. The restaurants served fantastic fresh seafood, laying it all out on ice and you could pick your fish, or squid, or mollusks, all fresh. One stall had a full Marlin proudly displayed and you could have a slab sliced off that and barbecued for 250 Bht. (with potato and salad). Man!
We booked another Snorkelling trip for 400 Bht that took us out to 4 different places and to watch the sunset. Once again, 3 days seemed to be our limit. We could have stayed longer, but there was a lot of tourists, and we weren’t keen on just lying around so we thought it was time for some culture! Lets go inland to a true Thai town – Trang. Another speedboat, followed by a bus trip into downtown Trang. Now to find a place to stay….
We found a great hotel (people called it the ‘Old Hotel’ because it was built in 1952! Really! Not that I’m that old, but close enough….hmmmph) The SriTrang Hotel – 4 floors with a huge fish pond in the lobby, and a fantastic Night market right out front. We hired a Tuk Tuk (Took took) to take us up to a Temple (a ‘Wat’) and a tour around town for a hour. Well, we lasted only 2 days there – we needed the beach! So where to go now? We hadn’t planned for this detour, so we were kinda off the beaten path…. Danielle woke up the next morning, looked at me and said Koh Jum! Which is kind of funny because way back when, when we were doing our initial research, she read up on Koh Jum and thought it would be great… small, off the beaten path (you have to transfer from ferry to a long tail boat in the middle of the ocean to get there) and great snorkelling. But from where we were, we had to take a bus to a little town Nua Khlong, take a taxi to the pier, then a ferry/supply boat over to Koh Jum. From there, a taxi, then a phone call for the owner (Mr. Chai) of the resort to walk up from the beach along a jungle trail to meet us. All very organized! We couldn’t communicate very well, but they seemed to be all over it, so it went without a hitch. This is where we met Mr. Chai!
The Old Lamp Bungalows. 12 Bamboo Bungalows on the beach with a restaurant that has homemade grain bread and a beach that is shared with 3 other small resorts. There is no ATM, shops are limited, 2 small native villages and the best sunsets you could imagine. Unfortunately Mr. Chai, our sweet Thai host and wonderful man, has had to close his restaurant for the season due to staffing issues (does that sound familiar??) so we have to look at the other resorts for food and drink…such a hardship! Great vibes on this beach. We walked, hiked over rocks, found our own private secluded ‘Magic Beach’, but mainly stayed there and hung out. We were finally able to sit still, read and swim. Mr. Chai surprised us one morning with fresh bread, and coffee! We sat with Mr. Chai and talked about business, life, cooking, future plans…what a great guy! And we stayed for 4 days!! We took a boat tour over to Phi Phi, Bamboo Island (a National Park) and Mosquito Island for some snorkelling where we finally saw a Lion Fish! What a treat.
We left the morning on the 31st by Long Tail Boat to meet up with the ferry. A sad goodbye to Mr. Chai and the staff at Ting Rai Bay Resort where we had spent most of our culinary time. We ran into Roger Brooke. Roger had created the website KohJumOnline.com where we had originally read about Old Lamp Bungalows. Being a long term visitor, Roger filled us in on the politics and comings and goings of Koh Jum. If you check out his website, he has some phenomenal photos of the island. We would go back in a heartbeat.
But alas, we’re on our way to Krabi once again to fly to Bankok. We’ve allowed ourselves a day in Krabi for the markets, catch up with people we had met there and regroup. While there we thought we’d fill up on a little more culture by taking a trip to the Tiger Temple. Tiger Temple is situated on a mountain with a series of caves where tigers where said to have lived when men first came. A Temple was built on the top of the mountain and there are 1273 (yes, 1273) steep steps that take you to it. Not for the faint of heart! We made it not only to the top, but we survived the onslaught of monkeys that pretty much act like dogs, play like kids, but steal like little rats. We trucked through the jungle where the monks go to live and pray and marvelled at the trees, vines and wildlife.
We flew out of Krabi the following morning to Bankok on the day of the election. During our stay, we received numerous warnings from the Canadian Consolate about the protests and problems in Bangkok. So we had a few concerns that roads would be blocked, services shut down, but when we arrived, not a word. People had died over the weeks leading up to the election, but we didn’t see anything! Now its a large city (11 million) but nothing. There was a night market right outside our hotel that was apparently serving some insects, but we couldn’t find it (not sure what I would do if we did find it mind you…) and beer! We heard that there was no alcohol being served before the election, but we found it!
In our hotel by 9, in bed by 10; up at 2am to catch the shuttle to the airport for a 5:30am flight; 5 hours to Tokyo; 2 hour layover; 9 hour flight to Seattle; 3 hour layover; 45 min flight to Victoria; 3 hour drive home… 4 hours sleep in 48 hours… we tag teamed driving all the way home. We’re still messed.
So that covers a lot of our trip. I plan on doing a third blog focusing primarily on food, because quite honestly, it was fantastic! (not sure whether you got that from my ranting in these blogs….) But I figured it (and photos) deserves a blog on its own.
Mark and Danielle