Monthly Archives: February 2012

Update 6: And Then We Never Left Koh Lipe

Monday February 13th, 11:40am ICT, 3:40pm AEDST

We left Koh Lipe yesterday, after almost nine days. The original plan was to stay for two nights, which turned into four nights, which turned into six nights, and then we couldn’t get the train from Hat Yai to Bangkok until the 12th, so we stayed two more nights. I’m definitely going back, I miss it already.

We arrived without having any accommodation booked (surprise surprise), so after a Thai lunch Holly and I wandered up the beach looking for a resort. We found one place that had somewhere free for the night — pretty much the only one nearby that had even a single room. It was really cheap, but so sketchy. The next day we found a new place which ended up being our home for the next seven nights, as well as being much closer to everything. Well, as close as you can be on a tiny island… It mostly just eliminated the walk along the beach in the scorching sun, but it put us closer to Sunrise and Sunset beaches as well.

I’m not really sure how to sum up our stay. We basically ate food, read books, consumed a lot of fruit-related beverages and lay on the beach… Seriously, we did that for nine days. It was bliss. Holly and I discovered a bookshop cafĂ© with a Congkak board, so we went there a lot. The coolest part of being on such a small, contained island is getting to know so many people; the tourists, the shopkeepers, the residents. It was brilliant. Holly and I ate so much roti and drank so many lemon icy things that after a while we’d just show up at this one place that sold roti and fruit shakes, and she’d start making our usual order. It even got to the point where you could tell who had just arrived, because they weren’t as familiar as the other faces you saw wandering around.

One night I couldn’t sleep, and so after a night of waking up every hour or so, I decided to go see the sunrise. No regrets. Koh Lipe is empty until late afternoon, basically; very much a sleep-in-’til-lunchtime approach. I was right at home. Sunrise Beach is a few minutes’ walk from our hotel, and unsurprisingly, I didn’t see a single soul on my way to the beach… Except for a friendly dog that followed me. Ha ha, funny coincidence, except the island is crawling with stray dogs and cats. I wandered up and down the beach with my temporary friend, and watched the skyline go from dark but for the light of the moon to a huge, blood-red sun on the horizon. …then I read my book in a nearby hammock with an iced coffee, because I wouldn’t want to break tradition.

One afternoon Holly and I decided we wanted to go snorkelling, so we hired a mask and fins set for the afternoon for 50 Baht (~AUD$1.70). The first time we went out it was off the rocks on Pattaya Beach, which was cool, but not as fun as when we all went off Sunrise Beach a few days later. The beach is filled with chunks of coral, forming huge reefs that give even the small boats a hard time at low tide. As we were leaving yesterday, we were taken in a tiny little ten-or-so person boat out to the speedboat that would take us to Pak Burra, because nothing else would fit. The reefs make for interesting snorkelling, however; I’ve only done a little snorkelling in Australia, but the difference in marine life was immediately obvious.

TL;DR
Koh Lipe. Bliss. I don’t even. I’m still sad that we left.
I’ll be back.

Meanwhile, it’s the 17th of Feb. and we’re about to leave Bangkok. Maybe I should update again.


Update 5: I’m dead, I melted.

Saturday February 4th, 2:10pm ICT, 6:10pm AEDST

We’re in (on?) Koh Lipe now; we’re officially in Thailand! Time to change from Ringgits to Baht… AU $1 ~ 3 Ringgits ~ 30 Baht. And at least Bahasa uses the same alphabet! We’re totally lost without English translations now. It’s indescribably beautiful here; it’s like a postcard, but about fourteen times more attractive. It basically consists of two beaches on either side of the island, and everything’s built on the beach; brilliant, pale blue water fringed with palm trees and resorts and bars, dotted with small boats and people in hammocks. I’m sitting on the deck of our current resort’s restaurant adjoining the beach, accompanied by an icy glass of mango juice.

Holly inviting death and waving to passing farmers

My updates have missed the entirety of Penang and Langkawi… We arrived by train at Butterworth on the 30th of January, dodged all the people hawking taxis, and got onto the ferry. We met two American guys on their first Asian travels (despite having been to practically everywhere else on Earth) from whom I scored a copy of The Hunger Games. We walked with them almost to their hotel in George Town, and having made no prior plans (as usual) we ended up checking in to a hotel nearby. Our third-floor vantage point was an excellent choice, thanks to Penang being at the high point of its New Year celebrations; we hung out our window and watched multiple displays of crackers and fireworks all across the city.

Coming into Penang by ferry from Butterworth.

Lacking any plans, our first evening in Penang was spent following the coast line to see what was open. Chew Jetty was overflowing with celebrations of the birthday of the Jade Emperor; feasts, markets, music, dancing, everything. After a short wander we headed to the bus terminal, on the advice of an elderly Australian couple — but only after receiving a lecture about young travellers and why doesn’t anyone make plans these days! and you know what, we had you pegged for Americans, because the young people these days all speak like Americans and it never used to be such, it’s the influence of all the American televison, teenagers! I-don’t-know! We caught a bus up to the north coast of Penang, got off at a random stop (the bus was disturbingly full of staring men, so we got off with the two elderly European couples sitting nearby) and chose from a selection delicious-looking restaurants. Apart from delivering unreasonably good Indian food, our waiter, Sunny, asked about our travel plans. We had none, of course, but we asked him the best way to Phuket — he said fly, which we decided was both too expensive at short notice and not very interesting. His advice for the second-best (which we would definitely hold as the greatest) was to travel from island to island up the coast, and then get a boat to Phuket. Thus, Koh Lipe!

The next day we visted the Penang state museum — there are 1.5 million people in Penang! But it’s tiny! It’s also the most densely-populated state in Malaysia, unsurprisingly. The island part has approx. 2300 people per square kilometre, although you wouldn’t think so from just wandering around. I spent the afternoon finishing an essay (the best thing to do on an overseas holiday), and then went out into the thunderstorm with Jas after dinner in search of a cup of tea. We found it — still unsure of what it actually tasted like — and got sucked into eating dessert as well. Brownies and a cup of tea. On the way back to the hotel we came across a spice shop, which we immediately explored. I’ve never seen anything like it. Huge barrels of cinnamon, cardamom, star anise… Chai heaven :D

Eat ALL the food

I don’t even know where the days went in Penang. I think the next day we went to the beach, but didn’t end up swimming; we just drank more juice and ate more food. It was almost as good. Anyway, on the Thursday morning a boat took us to the island of Langkawi, our first stop on our way to Phuket. We spent about an hour looking for somewhere to stay that wasn’t booked out (apparently school holidays were the next day, or something), and finally found one place in Kuah that was available for just the one night. Immediately after checking in we discovered a cheaper hotel just down the road… We booked there for the following night, where they even booked our boat to Koh Lipe for us. That day we spent some time just cooling down in the air conditioned hotel. Luckily everywhere we’ve stayed until now has been deliciously climate-controlled — this weather is absolutely, appallingly, disgustingly hot. It’s okay when it’s overcast, or if you’re at the beach where there’s a sea breeze, but otherwise it’s rather torturous. We had roti for dinner, window-shopped in Kuah’s unreasonable abundance of duty free shops, and had an early night.

Cenang Beach, Langkawi

The second Langkawi day was almost entirely spent at the beach, as soon as we’d switched hotels. Unfortunately this also meant sunburn, some worse than others… My face is pink, but I think I’m comparatively very well-off. I’m planning to stay out of the sun today, which I’m okay with; we’ll probably be in Koh Lipe for a few days at least, and today is of the rare cloudless variety and the sun is scorching. I’ve never loved my sunglasses more, it’s blinding on the beach.

At 8am this morning, a bus picked us up from right outside our hotel (service, anyone?) and took us to the customs building to check in. Arriving at the marina, we spent half an hour or so drinking cold things (I feel like that’s my number one activity — if it’s icy, I’m in) and waiting for the boat. Where our ride from Penang to Langkawi was a large, enclosed ferry, this was a 20-person speed boat. By far a more enjoyable ride.

Boat!

We watched Langkawi disappear behind us, looking forward to Koh Lipe, which is much smaller. Like, a few kilometres in length kind of small. We arrived, waited foreeeever to be cleared through customs, had Thai lunch and went in search of a place to stay — a difficult task, upon reflection. We ended up staying at what is, as far as we can tell, the only place that had space for tonight. We’ll probably do what we usually do and find somewhere new for tomorrow night, depending on what’s around.

If ever an island was beautiful...

Mid afternoon, Koh Lipe

 

I’m waiting out this afternoon until the sun starts going down and I can go for a walk without melting…