Koh Lipe, Thailand
18.04.2010 - 22.04.2010
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The locals all look like Cap’n Jack Sparrow on Koh Lipe hehe! So off we go, up early on Langkawi to catch a boat to Thailand for a bit of Island hopping. First stop, conveniently just over the border from Malaysia, is Koh Lipe. All this ‘guard your passport with your life’ advice and they scarily whip it off you at Langkawi port and say you will get it back at the Thai immigration on Lipe. OK then fingers crossed I guess. The guys running the ferry were parading up and down with a handful of our assorted passports, teasing us with them, checking out our passport pics etc.. Myself and a Swiss lass decided to tease them back about the boat running late and it being ‘Thai time’ etc.... So this turned into a bit of fun to pass the time. Then it was like being back in India as they wanted their photo taken with me, so I took one back! When I finally got my passport back on the Island YES I got it back all fine, I found a slip of paper with a phone number on it from one of the guys on the boat I’m guessing!!! Friendly people the Thais..
First impression of Koh Lipe, wow what a stunning place. A local Chao Ley (sea gypsy) meets you at the ferry to transfer you and luggage to the land by longtail boat as the ferries cannot get over the coral reefs that completely surround the island and there is no pier. The sea here is just an amazing bright bright blue, the sand is soft soft white. My camera struggled to take photos as everything was so bright, definitely not a place to forget your sunglasses. Unfortunately, like everywhere with such natural beauty and no restrictions on development, the main beach of Koh Lipe has become a bit of a tourist strip, particularly popular with Japanese tourists it seemed. Prices by Thai standards are pretty high too for accommodation and food. I managed to find a bungalow on the main beach, Pattaya, for 500 Baht, around £10 a night (this was a challenge) but it wasn’t too great. Put it this way, i dreaded needing to go to the bathroom, eugghhh grim.
Ahhh anyway who cares, its only somewhere to sleep. Off to the beach with my book and to admire the scenery. Thirty minutes later and I am CURSING those damn longtail boats. When I first got there it was like ‘ahhh the chugging of longtail boats, I am in Thailand’, fantastic memories come flooding back to previous visits to this incredible country. Thirty minutes of trying to read my book over the constant noise though and I am getting annoyed. Koh Lipe is a TINY island, no proper roads and no pier. The only transport around is by foot (pretty easy) or longtails. Many lazy tourists and 50 Baht (£1 )rides for anywhere on the island means constant noise of boat taxis. Bah had enough of this, if you can’t beat ’em join ‘em, so i jumped into one of them and got them to take me ‘somewhere’. Well, we chugged around the island until i saw somewhere i fancied and told him ‘stop here please’. This is what I came up with, I FOUND IT, Karma beach, on the North-East of the island somewhere, otherwise known to me as paradise. See photos for explanation, I felt like a kid again was so happy, practically had this beach to myself for the afternoon. Views across to another island in the marine park, Koh Adang, and very few boats passed through. Bliss.. Walked back to my beach at sunset through the gypsy village and watched the locals for a while going about their daily lives. Apparently the Thai government gave Koh Lipe to the sea gypsies as a gift and allowed them to live there where before it was prohibited. I heard that they then sold off much of the land privately hence opening up the island to tourism.
I fancied a bit of snorkelling so joined a tour by longtail to some nearby islands. We visited around 4 different islands, including one made of weird but beautiful black shiny stones! No-one offered an explanation but is something I must google as intriguing why everywhere else around here is white coral sand. I enjoyed the snorkelling, diverse fish including many clownfish and angel fish. The coral in places was reasonably intact and colourful but in other parts was mostly dead. Not sure if the tsunami may have affected the coral here, although Koh Lipe was barely affected by the tsunami so i am guessing people are the cause. There were many people, too many, out snorkelling the same areas. The best thing about the day though was the company. I met Katrin from Germany, another solo traveller, and we got on really well. We had some fun taking underwater photos together while snorkelling and spent most of the day, and then into the evening too, gossiping. It was so nice to have some like-minded company, as I am missing friends back at home. Katrin had actually just spent a week in hospital in Penang with dengue fever, she was still not completely over it Yikes! We ended the evening in one of those fire bars they have on all Thai beaches and ‘skolling’ (toasting) the joys of true freedom and of meeting friends on the road.
I stayed on Koh Lipe for four nights and ended up not really wanting to leave. If prices were a bit lower i probably would have stayed longer, but time to move on, plenty more islands to hop to and explore.