A Travellerspoint blog

Looking back at Koh Lipe

semi-overcast 30 °C

We just arrived in Malaysia after a couple great days in our last island in Thailand called Koh Lipe. Internet was next to non existent in that remote spot, so I hope I can get on a good connection here now that we are on the bigger island of Langkawi, Malaysia. Koh Lipe was, by far, our favourite spot in the three weeks we explored Thailand. It was very minimally developed, from the lack of a dock for the ferry to the grass hut we found for the three nights, we knew we were in for a unique experience.

After we dropped our bags we went to explore the island. The beach is soft white sand and everywhere you look is lush greenery. There are more islands within arms reach that comprise a national park, so many places to explore, above and below the water. Koh Lipe is not much bigger than a few square miles and includes simple hotels spread around the shoreline, a walking street through the centre with shops and restaurants and some residential areas throughout the interior where the locals live. We watched the sun go down before we went and found a bbq restaurant for some dinner.

We had no plans for how long we were staying here or what we were going to do while we were here, but the next morning I found my answers for that. There primary activities to do here are sitting on the beach or swimming, snorkeling or scuba. Right next to our resort was a dive shop that had a two day course in free diving (no air tanks) so I signed up for that. Nat was happy to spend a few days catching up on some sun and a book or two so it worked out well. My instructor was a french fish that could hold his breath for days and I had a great time learning his techniques. I have a lot of practice to do before I can dive to the 200' depth he can get to, but 70' was a good start.

Our nights were spent on the beach as well, the bars on the other side of the island came to life with bonfires, live music and crazy cocktails. Nat had a massage or two that always make for a great end to a hard day. If we ever go back to Thailand, Koh Lipe will definitely be worth a repeat visit. This morning we got up early and caught the two hour ferry ride to Langkawi, tomorrow we will explore and see what we can see

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Posted by colincampbell 07:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

48 hours in Koh Lanta

sunny 28 °C

Our original plan was to explore some of Southern Thailand and then head back to Bangkok on January 12th to catch our flight on the 13th to Bali. I'm not sure what we expected of Thailand or what we hoped to find, but the hordes of tourists and the 7-11 on every corner was a little disappointing and we were dreading heading back to Bangkok as it would mean seeing the same stuff all over again. Nat's friend Dave gave us the idea to island hop south checking out some smaller islands along the way, then cross the border into Malaysia and fly to Bali from there.

We headed out from Aonang to take the 100km ferry ride to our next stop, Koh Lanta, we are counting our blessings that the seas are so flat here as that could have been one miserable trip. The crew left all the luggage on the top deck without tying anything down so you can imagine how smooth it was. The cabin was air conditioned, seats were very comfortable and the bar was fully stocked with Singha beers, my new local favourite so it was a great trip. The Thai people seem to be good at underestimating everything, whether it is the length of a bus or ferry ride (always twice as long as advertised) or the spiciness of the food (don't ask for medium unless you are ready to sweat!) So it was mid afternoon before we were ready to explore the island. We rented a scooter and went to find some lunch. The boat ride had worn us out more than we thought so we saved the island tour for Sunday.

Sunday morning we organized all of our flights from Malaysia to Bali and the hotels, before we put some gas in our "hog" and went for a ride. Almost every tourist here seems to be sporting bandages or scabs from some kind of scooter incident so I made sure we looked both ways before we crossed the street. I don't even know how far we went, but we covered every kilometer of pavement on the island. It was beautiful, lush and green with pretty smooth roads that were made for scooters, we didn't see many other vehicles so that works out ok. There are still some remnants of the tsunami and beach front is still available and pretty cheap on the one side of the island.

As good as the road trip was, we did not have a perfect time in Lanta as our hotel was a little rough. I won't dwell on except to say it was the worst hotel we have seen so far on our trip. If you ever happen this way, sleep on the beach before you ever give any of your hard earned cash to the Moonwalk Resort, we left feeling royally robbed. On top of the under construction room and horrible food, we were there for the full moon which we found out at the last minute would mean an all night trance party...super duper...

Today we moved on to Koh Lipe, apparently a three hour ferry ride. We are getting far enough south that the ferry's don't just go from one point to another, it is more like riding a bus that pulls over at every corner or island. The trip was twice as long as planned and this time we hadn't booked anything after the mishaps of Lanta. I was a little nervous as the internet would have us think that everything was either booked or $400/night. We found a place without too much trouble all in all looks pretty amazing, not sure how the internet works, so we will get some pictures posted as soon as we can.

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Posted by colincampbell 02:51 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Offshore adventures

sunny 30 °C

Aonang is all about the beach and the long tailed water taxis so on our second day here we jumped on an all day tour to see some of the outlaying islands. The Ko Hung National Park was a 40 minute ride on flat seas, I can't get over how calm the water is here. At our first stop we grabbed a kayak and took it for a lap around the island and into the lagoon, I kept Natalie up front to make sure she was doing all the hard work. The tide was going out as we explored the lagoon and as it continued to get more shallow it was easy to see the starfish that covered the sandy bottom.

The upwind finish was a bit of a workout so we were ready for some lunch when we got back. Spicy stir fried chicken and steamed rice were on the menu followed by some fresh pineapple and watermelon. I think Nat was ready for a nap but I dragged her onto a trail I found, I was sure it would lead to adventure and probably buried treasure...or at least a beach with less tourists. We found a memorial for the 30 people that died on the island (Ko Hung) eight years ago in the tsunami and the pieces of a few boats that didn't make it either. We also found a huge monitor lizard (a little over 3 feet) that was hunting ants on a log. Later we would see him and a friend cleaning up the left over rice in the picnic area, our guide pointed at the smaller one and told me that he would go well with green curry. I started to wonder if we really did have chicken for lunch....

At this point we were starting to turn pink and ready for a nap but there was no rest for the wicked. We loaded up our boat again and headed to the next island in search of epic and untouched snorkeling spots. The second stop was anything but untouched, but I managed to grab a snorkel and get into the water ahead of the coconut oiled masses so that I could check out the reef in peace. The tide was still low so the reef was shallow and the water was pretty clear, it was amazing. The fish aren't shy and most of the time I was completely surrounded...bad day to not have a waterproof camera. The coral was in pretty good shape for the number of people that must trample it every year so it was well worth the swim.

Now we were definitely ready to head back, but Gill had other plans. One more stop with even better snorkeling and, for a change, no other boats in site. That was the gem of the day as the water was teeming with life of all shapes and colours. Good times had by all, a few beers and some food that night and an early ferry to Koh Lanta tomorrow.

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Posted by colincampbell 17:21 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Where's my kite when I need it!?

sunny 30 °C

We arrived last night in the dark so we had no idea what to expect when we woke up this morning. Although the hotel staff was great when we arrived, it didn't look like much of a spot. We went to breakfast to find that our backyard was a tropical garden with some amazing huge rocks hundreds of meters high, things were looking up. We enjoyed a buffet of fruits, cereals and pancakes with honey (don't worry, there was plenty of fried noodles and stuff too!)

Nat had suffered a bikini mishap in our last laundry fiasco, so our first mission today was to find her a new one. We figured it would be easy so we set off for a walk around town. The shopping here is rated as quantity not quality as we struggled to find something that would work, but by early afternoon we had managed to find one and some lunch. The beach was a short walk from our hotel as well, but this area has so many beaches with water taxi access that we thought we would go and explore. Two tickets to the next beach cost a couple of bucks each and we were off to Railay Beach. It wasn't a long trip, but it was fun and the water was super flat making it very easy. The rock formations along the coast are really amazing, I can only imagine what it looked like before the beaches were packed with people.

We weren't in the mood to sit in the sand so we went for a wander to see what we could find. I can only imagine what this place looked like back when the tsunami swept through here, it must have been a mess. There were plenty of high end hotels on and around the beach that all seemed to be pretty busy, so I guess business is back to usual. We skipped the rock climbing lessons and the beached boats selling fried noodles and went for a swim.

Another day or two here and we are going to start ferry hoping south to try and see some more of the coastline.

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Posted by colincampbell 08:36 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Back to the beach...it's not supposed to be raining!

rain 25 °C

Happy New Year everyone, we hope your holidays were safe and happy. All the best for 2012.
We had a great night in Chiang Mai, it turns out it is a town full of pyromaniacs that really enjoy fire and fireworks in all shapes and sizes. We had a very early flight to Koh Samui on January 1st and with every idiot with a beer in one hand and an explosive in the other, we got off the streets shortly after midnight.

The party was just ending when we got our cab around 5:30am so it was easy to grab a pick up truck taxi to the airport. It was only a domestic flight so the security and check in was very easy. As the plane descended to Samui the clouds closed in and it looked as if we were in for a bit of a shower. It turned out that we were in for a monsoon...or 3 days of monsoon!! Natalie had a friend, Dave, on the island so we caught up with him at a little guest house in Chaweng. It was written up as the busiest and most popular part of the island and that seemed pretty true as it was hectic despite the rain. Plenty of Russian and English tourists looking as if they were auditioning for next season's "Jersery Shore" packed the bars and restaurants along the strip. When the rain eased up a little we would go out to grab a bite or try and explore but without much success, it was more rain than we have seen on this whole trip. Dave kept us entertained, but eventually we gave up hope and decided to make some plans to move on.

This morning we got a bit of an island tour as we headed to the ferry to get a lift to the mainland and our bus. Our next stop is Aonang Beach which is a bit south and on the west coast of the country. Today we will travel by bus, boat, two more buses and a van before we get to our hotel. It was the local bus so left little room for comfort and was not a non-stop route, we took numerous breaks along the way for people and packages to get on and off. The countryside was very green and beautiful despite the obvious signs that this falls serious flooding has hardly receded. The locals all seem to be back to business as usual.

We were initially going to tour around the south a little and then head back to Bangkok around the 13th of January for a flight to Bali, but we have made a change of plans. Now we are going to make a road trip all the way south via boat and bus so we can see lots of little islands and parts of Malaysia that we would have just flown over. Should be interesting, stay tuned...

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Posted by colincampbell 07:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Back to Chiang Mae

sunny 29 °C

After a disappointing night in Pai, we packed up and got back on the road to Mae Hong Son. We knew the roads weren't getting any straighter, but maybe the sites would be better. It was only 130 kms on day two, but it was equally as rough as the day before. The good news was that there was no traffic to speak of and we saw some amazing landscapes when the clouds cleared a little. We checked into our hotel and immediately went into town to find a travel planner that spoke a little english and could arrange our trip to visit the hillside tribes and to the long necked ladies from Burma that now live in this area. The town is pretty small with a little lake surrounded by a market, some restaurants and a few temples. We explored that, booked our trip and found some food before we went and crashed out for the night. The lady that organized our trip was very impressed that we had driven ourselves and asked if we knew that there were 1864 corners on our road trip thus far....we hadn't counted...but we had felt every one of them.

We got up early and noticed how close our room was to a temple, it made for quite the sunrise. There were two other couples on our tour for the day, one from Quebec City and one from Chicago and it was great to have fun people that spoke english along for the ride. In the morning we toured a few local villages to see how the people in the hills lived. It was the first time we have done a tour with no crowds, in fact, we were always the only tourists wherever we went. It made for a really great experience. In the afternoon we took a speedboat down a river to a village where we spent a few hours with a village of Burmese refugees that moved to Thailand generations ago so they could live in peace. I'm not sure Nat is going to need a 20 pound gold necklace for her birthday, but it was amazing to see for sure.

As we finished our day we both agreed that we had had enough of our road trip adventure and we were going to cut it short and get back to Chiang Mai. Really, we want to get back to the beach but our flight isn't until the first so we may as well see some more of the town. Our new friends from Quebec were having similar thoughts so we offered them a ride and we decided to drive the rest of this loop we are on. Maybe it wasn't a great idea to try to do all 270 kms in one day, but we really wanted to be back in the city. The rumors had promised us that it would be smoother and technically it may have been as I did see three small straightaways, but the rain had done way more damage in this area and we found a lot of rough roads. We both were pretty sick, I'm sure the Quebecois couple was wondering how they got stuck in the back seat of two people that could produce so much vomit. They did have a very good sense of humor though and kept us going with their endless funny stories.

We were almost back into the city, driving through the five o'clock bustle, when I ended up rear ending a big pick up truck when he braked to avoid a guy signalling left and turning right. The next thing I know there is a bald, tattooed, giant white guy getting out of his truck and coming towards me. I hear Nat say, "oh great! he's going to speak english" and all I can think is "oh shit, he's going to kick my ass!" To make a long story short, we have a new friend named Stu Skversky, a guy from Philly that went from being a chef in LA to starting his own charity here in Thailand helping kids of the hill tribes. It was not the ideal way to meet, but no one was hurt, it only cost us a couple bucks in repairs, and I'm really glad we did. He is doing some pretty inspirational stuff, his website is www.hilltribeinthecity.org if you want to check it out.

So now we are recovering from our trip and resting up for a big new years eve. Sunday morning we get on a flight to Koh Somui so I think some rest and a few massages now is just what the doctor ordered.

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Posted by colincampbell 14:26 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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