11.11.2013 - 18.11.2013
We arrived mid afternoon, docking into a crescent shaped white sandy beach and crystal clear turquoise waters. Nice welcome Koh Lipe! It pretty much impressed from the off.
We had to push the budget for our accommodation, it was either that or stay in a bamboo hut crawling with bugs (no sirree). Comparatively to the rest of Thailand Koh Lipe is expensive - but that's because it's 40 miles from the mainland and of course everything is imported. It's also part of a national marine park.
All of which meant our lodgings (Castaway Resort) were £46 a night. But so worth it! We wouldn't think twice spending two or three times that for a European city break hotel, but when you're away for 9 months (with no income), circumstances are a little different! We were really pleased when we arrived to see tastefully decked communal areas for the reception, bar and eating area. At night, the resort is lit up by candles... very pretty.
So what does just shy of 50 quid get you? Your very own 'treehouse' as I called it! A two storey wooden hut with bathroom below and bedroom above with a small balcony. Very cute and quite homely. No aircon but a fan and cold showers.
The island is tiny, you can walk from one side to the other in no more than 15 minutes. Our resort was right on the best beach on Koh Lipe - Sunrise Beach. The sea was amazing - along with the best I've ever swam in... 30 degrees! Pattaya Beach (the main one) is too busy and overdeveloped in our opinion.
We spent some blissfully lazy days here. We enjoyed the resort's salas - raised wooden lounging areas - reading, swimming and snorkelling as the hours slowly passed. I felt such contentment when occassionally peering over my e-reader to take in the views.
If one picture could sum it up, this would be it
Even the clouds 'like' it here
Wagwan Terry, me feeling vexed... oops wrong part of the world!
Locals area of the beach. Due to its geography, between the two world wars the Thai government moved a population of "sea gypsies" to Koh Lipe to ensure the British didn't claim it as part of Malaysia. The Chao Ley people thrive on the island to this day.
Snorkelling just offshore we saw loads of clown fish! So exciting, super cute little fellas and I've been dying to see one. It's impossible not to think of the Dad in Finding Nemo as they swim a little bit out from their anemones and dart quickly back in again, "be careful, Nemo!".
I mention a few buts in the title. We had decided to extend our stay but thought it prudent to check out a number of other accommodations to see if we could stay somewhere cheaper.
We took a stroll through the middle and up to Sunset Beach, the smallest of the three main beaches. We were saddened to see what they're doing to the island. There's seemingly uncontrolled building going on, the centre is a state. They seem to have little regard for litter, stray dogs, junk just left around... it was pretty shabby and a world away from our resort. It was a bit depressing and definitely took the shine off.
We looked at some alternatives and for £14 less a night you get a hut which is completely open to the elements at the top of the walls, and a fairly grotty bathroom. They suddenly made our 'higher end' hut look like excellent value for money. So we extended our stay. Twice.
As our little two storey hut was already booked out, they moved us to a single storey one which we actually preferred as it was more spacious.
And the other buts? Mosquitos and dogs. We've obviously had to contend with mossies from the off and it's nothing a high dose of deet won't deter. But the mossies here are plentiful, big and when the odd one did slip through, I seemed to react to their bites more than anywhere else. Still, again, nothing some afterbite doesn't soothe. I mentioned the stray dogs too? There's quite a few, including on the beach. They don't bother you and some are well cared for, sadly others not and are woefully thin or mangy.
It's a dog's life...
What else during our week here... we had a couple of film nights at a backpacker bar. Despite appearances from two greats, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, one of the films - Now You See Me - was just plain silly and inplausibly laughable, but it was a joy to lie back chomping Haribo and catching a movie all the same. I have a great love of films and am really missing the chance to curl up and watch some (also not helped by my current read... The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex by Mark Kermode).
We also did a dive to 'Stonehenge', a popular dive stop nearby. It was the epitomy of an underwater garden with masses of soft purple coral wafting in the current. We saw two, yes two, titan triggerfish which gave me the opportunity to do the underwater symbol for them... a 'lock and load' (says it all really), but thankfully they weren't interested in us this time around. Our Dive Master had a scar on her leg from a previous run in... crazy mental fish! We also spotted lionfish, scorpionfish, barracuda and pufferfish. Very awesome.
On a day's boat/snorkelling trip we saw loads of other goodies including beautiful powder blue surgeon fish and a banded sea krait (latter pic thanks to my friends at google).
Its lethal venom packs a punch ten times (!) more toxic than a rattlesnake’s, but thank the lordy they're timid creatures and don't pose much of a threat to us humans. Billy Connolly was right. We don't belong in the sea. They are also alone among the sea snakes in that they are amphibious and able to spend up to ten days at a time on land.
Brightly coloured Christmas tree worms
Pipefish on the bottom - of the seahorse family
One island had tonnes of rocks where people had made small cairns, this was ours...
And they were hot enough to fry eggs on
Evenings spent on Koh Lipe...
My dinner... before...
Our last night coincided with a full moon - the locals came out in their droves to light ornate decorations, pushing them out to sea. It's a big festival for Thai people even if we, as westerners, tend to just associate full moons in Thailand with the infamous all night parties on Koh Phangan. It seemed a fitting end to our time here.
We're a little sad to be saying goodbye to Thailand, it's been a wonderful country to explore and Koh Lipe was definitely a highlight. You can still keep Bangkok though!
So, next stop Malaysia!