Friday, December 07, 2012

Koh Lipe 2012, The Southern Experience

And so I had yet conquered another island in the sea of many surrounding Thailand, now back to working life in Bangkok. Looking forward to yet another, plans drawn for months ahead in 2013. Such is life in Thailand, where there are always places to go to, places to explore, places to dip in tranquility where there are crystal clear seas. A life that stand out against those of folks back home, where casinos and vibrant lights permeates their souls, where their existence had infused with the city and the life-blood of all is just money.

Now one thing I liked about my trip to Koh Lipe was how systematic the boat ride was organized. Think of Thailand and the word chaos will naturally come into mind. Well not always as I had experience. On arrival at the operator, I was handed a card with a number on it. Number 1. I arrived two hours early. At the pier we left for Koh Lipe, a number of food outlets serving roti and the morning coffee. So that occupied our time till eleven when the boat was scheduled to leave. No hording mad tourist pushing their way onto the boat, no screaming kids falling into the sea. We were lined up according to our numbers and I was able to pick the best seat up front. So, do arrive early to board first I highly recommend.

There are two main beaches on Lipe. Waters will be clam depends on the season and the winds. October, Sunset beach was churning most of the time and therefore the waters a haze of sandy brown and green. There were however periods of calmness in-between offering postcard perfect scenes of glassy waters set against dark blue skies. The breeze was on strong, though marring the waters, was actually a welcome in contrast to just the blazing heat scorching our salt marinated skin wet with perspiration, typical of any island holidays. Before the occasional downpour, seen at a distance before they dark clouds encroached onto land, their million fine tentacles of rain. The draft turned chilly and the distinct refreshing smell of ozone accompanied the prelude of rain. The sight was dramatic, of darkness far back, of sunny brightness and shimmering pearls the foreground.

Idyllic resort is set on the far southern tip of the island. That’s where I stayed. It is reputed to be the best on the island. Further proof of this reputation denoted by the Malaysian wedding held while I was there. Lipe is popular with Malaysians, many have been there since it is not too far away from the border, offering them a change in cultural diversity as a holiday destination. Most of the resort's rooms had been taken up by the forty or so wedding guest chatting away in Chinese dialects and Singlish like English. Not only is the place great with weddings, but also great for affairs - matured Malaysian men with pretty young things will be a common sight. Idyllic offers several styles of accommodations to choose from, give their website a go and discover. Amenities were up kept and beach up front was pleasantly clean. They have a pool but disappointingly the water was murky. Sipping beer by the pool bar sprawled on the ledge of the infinity pool would have been great but I gave that a miss. The wedding party goers however did not seem to mind as they jumped into the pool after a few rounds of beer, their laughter pierce the clear night skies dotted by glittering stars.

Meals in the hotel was eating art, they were all well presented and the price tag matches the serenity of the settings and the well mannered, very friendly and smiling staffs. Fortunately they do not employ neighboring foreign workers and so there were no linguistic challenges when ordering our food. The staffs were walking information centers and they could tell you heaps of what to do on the island. One even shared his life story with us, mentioned that he had fallen in love with working on this gem of an island and can never adjust to life back in Bangkok. Breakfast was perfect and with the breeze going on, it was just so flawless with the postcard spectacle of long tail boats moored on the white sands, the rocky outcrop of an island set against clear blue skies just opposite the resort.

There are canoes for the guest to explore the surrounding islands. The waiter said he once had to rescue and hull back tourists who ventured too far out. During certain times of the year, the currents would be too strong. So make sure you are physically fit before trying to impress your sweet young thing with testosterone driven acts of heroic “i-strong-can-paddle-round-the-island” display that could turn out to be alpha lion in distress. They have snorkeling gears for rental at very cheap rates if you want to waddle the waters when it is clear and clam. Just watch out for that sea urchin. A bikini clad guest learned that sea urchins are not hairy, they have hard spikes. The hotel staffs were busy performing first aid on her foot, bashing the spot with beer bottle so as to disintegrate the fragments of spikes lodged stubbornly in her sole. I however was just a witness drooling at her bikini lines.

The long tails boats operated by the sea gypsies can be for rent at below 2000 Baht. They could take on six guests. We went on one, joined another three Thai guests from different resorts. Depending on the season, depending on the currents, they will bring you to different islands and snorkeling spots. The sea of Andaman is definitely better then in Ao Thai. Visibility was excellent and I could see a group cuttlefish about five meters down displaying their kaleidoscope of color changes. Some of the snorkeling spots however can get quite crowded. It was an out crop of undersea corals in the middle of nowhere we were dropped. The current was too strong so we had to hold on to ropes. It was a disaster as the many streams of ropes from the many anchored boats let off their many guest of all ages that trashed about the water. It was sort of like the movie Titanic, minus the iceberg. After the ordeal, our guide told us he promised to take us to places where we will see more fish then feet, we were relieved. And true enough every other location burned into his mental map he took us matched his promise. We had the included lunch on Koh Ra Wi that was abundant with food robbing aggressive monkeys. Walking around with plastic bags of food was a bad idea, the monkeys attacked the tourist attempting snatch robberies. Even the dogs on the island were afraid of them tree climbing thieves.

We spent the third day in the resort. Early morning, watching sunrise from the hidden beach further west of the resort was just such a captivating experience. There was a small trail that leaded me past the home of natives and onto the very private beach next to Serendipity resort erected on rocky hills. Taking the wooden weathered stairs up into the resort and just sitting on the viewpoint platforms or the restaurant overhanging the cliffs offered breathtaking moments where I awe in admiration of nature. Serendipity was under renovation, we had the whole place to ourselves during dawn.

Deckchairs sprawled the shoreline front of Idyllic, we sun tanned throughout the day and the few Caucasians downed beer, read books and let their kids loose terrorizing hermit crabs and small fishes in the water. Zanom restaurant, a few resorts away, was a perfect place for dinner during sunset, lobster dinner at reasonable prices. We had them tasty crustaceans to accompany the dusky skies, we sat on the upper deck. In the night, the street that leads to Pattaya beach on the other side of the island was an abundance of activities. Shops and restaurants, you will be spoilt for choice. And there was a good restaurant popular with many which I could not remember the name. It had good seafood that you get to pick fresh from the ice laden tray, which then you tell them how you wanted your pickings cooked. This place offered amazing Thai food as well. To get there, from Sunset beach, you will have to travel up the slopes. On the downhill of that street towards Pattaya, the restaurant will be on the right. It should be filled with many customers, both locals and foreign, during dinner times. It’s famous, the price reasonable. The only thing I could not understand was that those common roundish white clams were five times more expensive then in Bangkok. I asked the locals and it seemed ironically, there were no clams to harvest on the island shores. Do beware however, pick the wrong restaurant without many patrons and you will be dining on chemicals. The BBQ fish we had on one of the not so lucky nights was so heavily soaked in formalin I could distinctly taste it.

The journey back to mainland for many of us would begin sadly in the early morning hours, our trip was 9 am. For many locals who came from Bangkok, our flight from Hat Yai to Bangkok would be in the afternoon. We need to have ample time for travel in order to make for our flights. Booking a flight that leaves around 3 pm would be perfect timing. After the self controlled do-not-eat-too-much breakfast, we again headed early for the departure point located quite a distance away. I got the queue number card 1 again, oh yeah, best seat on the boat again we choose. By evening of the same day I was in my apartment allowing for ample rest to ready for work the next day. Dozing off watching television, my mind was still set to the vision and pace of Koh Lipe, an island endorsed by me worth a next visit again in time to come. I shall visit Koh Lipe next on a low season as recommended by the island folks, where hotels are cheaper, the crowd a minimal and to different sheltered spots of islands I shall be dipping.


klaespit said...

Thank's for the information!
I read your blog for a long time already and enjoy a lot.
Next timeI'm in Thailand I'll go to Koh Lipe too!

Greets from Germany


Jewie said...

Thanks Klaus,.. it’s a great island really. Hope you get to visit it and enjoy as I did.

Sbipk said...

Thank you nice article.
your next trip…Phuket is the best choice for you!!
I love here Surin Beach Phuket This hotel is very nice clean and the people are friendly. VERY nice hotel with helpful staff.
And I really love white sand, crystal clear waters at Surin Beach too.
Thank again.