Monday 26 March 2012

Koh Lipe, Thailand

Information about Koh Lipe, Thailand
Sunrise on Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe
About Koh Lipe: Koh Lipe is a small Island, about 1hr 20min ferry crossing away from Langkawi and pretty close to mainland Thailand. The Tarutao National Park is close by and it is situated in the southern part of the Andaman sea. It is famous for it`s clear water and sandy beaches.

Beaches on Koh Lipe: There are 3 main beaches, Pattaya Beach, which is where you arrive and the busiest, Sunrise Beach, quiet but close to all amenities and Sunset Beach, very tranquil and a bit further away from shops and restaurants.

Transport on Koh Lipe: Ahhh there isn`t really any.. just a few Mopeds around. We saw 1 Mini Cooper, a couple of Golf Buggies and 1 shop where you could hire Bicycles. The Island is so small, you can walk everywhere within 15 minutes and when you arrive, you can change onto Longtail Boats which take you to the other beach resorts, price was 50TB. When out and about at night, remember to bring a torch light.

What to do on Koh Lipe: Snorkelling, either off the beach or with an organised trip, Kayak, boat trip to nearby Islands, relaxing, eating good food, reading, getting a sun tan and if you are adventures go for a scuba dive course. They (5 of which we know) all offer a free dive, to check out whether you like it. The PADI course for example lasting 3 days, cost 12000TB (with book). Party in the evenings on Pattaya Beach, lots of Bars and Restaurants to be found there. Although out of season, (mid December to January is high season) the Island has a very relaxed and peaceful atmosphere.

Our own experience of Paradise:
Here we might be able to give you a feel of the place.
Love the colour of the sea 
We arrived after a bit of an exciting journey (see post below) around midday on the Island and as there are no Jetties for big boats, we had to change into a Longtail to take us ashore. We were guided to Immigration and someone tried to sell us a room for 2000TB which we declined and made our way by foot slowly to Sunrise Beach. It was just a sand track and we knew we had to bear right to get to the beach. We had read it was like the medium (see above) of all 3 beaches and accommodation should be easily found, without prior booking. We stopped at a place which Fiona had researched on the Internet called "Gipsy Resort" quite appropriate for the kind of life we are living at the moment and it turned out to be the right choice. The room was small but clean, reasonable in price and the staff were really friendly and helpful. 
View from our bungalow at the Gipsy Resort
First thing we had to do was get changed (after a quick cold beer) and try the water out as it was so inviting with it`s turquoise colour, running into a deep blue further out. It was so much clearer than Langkawi and snorkelling proved to be a lot of fun. (Watch our Video of a Clownfish Family here) Apparently the water was crystal clear in February, but it was still very good in March. The water was warm and the beach not crowded at all. Evening came and the hunger started to tell us to find somewhere to eat. We had never been here and it came as a bit of a surprise there was only one real street called, wait for it, "Walking Street with shops and restaurants on either side.
Food on Walking Street
 The food on the Island is really good and fairly cheap. After a few days in the Gipsy Resort we decided it was time for a change and as next door was not only cheaper, but offered the opportunity to sleep in a Bamboo hut we decided to try it out and I have to say: It was great. Clean, nice bathroom, quiet and airy as the breeze in the evenings can penetrate through the bamboo. The Mosquito net is definitely a must use (provided) and mozzie repellent in the evenings recommended. There were many different nationalities staying here and we met quite a few nice and interesting people. 
Our Bamboo hut at Varin Resort
We read a lot, snorkelled and explored all over the Island, and instead of staying the planned 3 nights we stayed 7 and still did not really want to leave. There is no ATM there, changing money is possible and if you use a credit card in the tourist office it is between 3% and 5% extra charge. If  night-life is what you want, go to Pattaya Beach in the evening. There is something for everybody here. We shall come back for sure and maybe even learn to dive. One thing I ought to mention: We were lucky enough to see the fluorescent plankton. When we walked along the beach at night it got washed up and looked like little glow worms. We then went into the dark water and when you moved, everything around you glowed and it was like creating stars in the water. It illuminated your hands and feet when you swam and looked absolutely fascinating. I think this was one of the nicest experiences of my life, because you felt so close to nature and saw the beauty of it. Everything around us was dark and quiet, but the sea was alive with little lights. 

There is so much to see under water

Friday 23 March 2012

Journey to Koh Lipe Thailand

Koh Lipe, also known as the "Maldives of Thailand" was the destination of our next Visa Run. A beautiful Island about 1hr 20min ferry ride Northwest of Langkawi. The boat leaves Kuah port at 9:30 a.m. daily from October until April. The cost is 118 RM p.P. one way, the return ticket 100RM. We  packed two small rucksacks intending to go there for 3 to 4 nights and thought we would soon be there, not realising we were to encounter some minor problems on the way.

1st part: The Immigration
We have to leave Malaysia every three months (we thought) for at least 72 hours, before we can re-enter Malaysia to qualify for another 3 month visa, so after a walk to the Jetty we went to pass through Immigration, to catch our boat. I showed my passport, the girl looked at me, then at the passport and started talking to a colleague in Malay. Next came a big, not very friendly looking officer and just said: "Follow me! Come, come along!" I just managed to say to Fiona to come as well and we ended up in an office, feeling rather uncomfortable, not knowing what the problem was. The Ferry was leaving in 20 minutes and we were stuck here....
The Officer explained we had overstayed our Visa by one day and as it worked out he was right. We thought the Visa is for 3 months, i.e. date to date, but this is not the case. It is valid for 90 days, so entry and leaving date is not the same. In Thailand if you over stay it costs 500Baht per day, but luckily in Malaysia we only had a warning given.

2nd part: The Ferry

Finally, we made it to the boat and now it was only 1hour and 20 minutes away before we could cast our eyes on an Island with white beaches and clear turquoise water. The ferry was late leaving, but that`s nothing unusual, and when we set off it was great. Beautiful sunshine and we were able to go to the top deck to enjoy the breeze. We had to keep changing from a freezing cold air-con inside, to boiling hot temperatures outside. when about an hour later (so nearly in Koh Lipe) the boat slowed down. We thought it might have to do with going past a National Park (Koh Tarutao) or perhaps a whale close by? It was really strange though when we turned around 180° heading back towards Langkawi. We were then told, one of the engines had decided to go on strike and we had to meet a replacement Ferry and change somewhere in open water. To cut a long story short, we met the replacement boat nearly back in Langkawi and had a good 2.5hr trip. We definitely got our monies worth of boat ride ;) and a suntan!
The arrival of our replacement Ferry, followed by changing boats 

3rd part: Koh Lipe
We made it!

When you arrive in Koh Lipe there is no Jetty at the beach, so you change on to Longtail Boats in order to get there. Make sure you do not arrive in something which should not get wet as we met someone who fell right into the water on arrival. What a way to get greeted by such a fantastic place. You will see all about Koh Lipe in my next post, including some nice under water shots and info about the Island.