We did it. We finally decided to leave the safety and comfort of our Malaysian paradise in search of not only new islands but also an entirely new country. That’s right ladies and gents, we finally made it to Thailand. More specifically, we made it to the small island of Koh Lipe; when I say small I mean that I took us no longer than 10-15 minutes to walk across the island.
Koh Lipe is a beautiful island filled with A LOT of stray dogs (and anyone who really knows my wife, already knows that she absolutely could not keep her hands off all of them, no matter how dirty or sad); and A LOT of partiers. On several occasions Kristin and I noticed older non-local (white) gentlemen with young local ladies who appeared to be, er… “paid” companions. But nevertheless we had bigger problems to deal with. As soon as Kristin and I arrived on the island we realized that this tourist trap was WAY out of budget for us. Don’t get me wrong, it is very cheap compared to the U.S. but for two broke newlyweds trying to stretch every dollar, it was far too expensive.
So in an effort to save money, we decided that camping was the only accommodation in our price range and with only one camping spot on the island we hiked to Sunset Beach and found a beach bar/restaurant whose owner (A tiny Asian woman that looked like a grumpy, tiny Asian man) said that we could set up camp. The beach was beautiful and very appropriately named after the breathtaking sunsets that could be seen from this location. And to add the proverbial ‘cherry on top’, the water was crystal clear with some amazingly colorful fish. There was even living coral, which was such a wonder to see, especially with so little of it left in the world. And if you look very closely in the video you can see a clown fish swimming in and out of the sea anemone (00:35 in the video). The only downside was that with such an amazing view and hundreds of partiers, every night for sunset the beach fills with people walking all around our new island home. I guess that we should have expected this, considering the semi-touristy location.
Even with the money we saved by camping we realized that the amount of cash we had on us wasn’t going to be enough. No big deal just use an ATM, right? Wrong. When we got to an ATM it told us that there was an error with our bank. Well OK, we will just find a different ATM, right? Nope, wrong again. There is only one bank on the island and all their ATM’s are saying the same thing. We needed to find WiFi, and fast so that we could get tickets and get off this island before we ran out of money and get stranded. In the frantic search for an internet connection we stumbled upon ‘Pooh’s Bar’. This bar offered free WiFi, board games and showed English movies on a projector in front of mats and pillows. By the time that ‘Pacific Rim’ ended we were no closer to tickets because the next island we intended to visit (Koh Mook) didn’t even have an ATM so traveling there looked like it was out of the question. Well we spent the rest of the day paying for internet and international calls only to find out that the ATM hadn’t even tried to send my bank a request. Well long story short we went to a money changer and paid a fee to withdraw our money, so crisis of being stranded on a Thai island averted!
Now that the scary part is over lets get back to the good stuff, like the painted rocks at Hantalay Temple where they have a small shrine to the yellow power ranger or the fire dancers or even Walking street, which is one of five “roads” on the island. It’s actually more of a paved walking path that gets pretty colorful at night and between the hundred or so partiers that make for great people watching and restaurants trying to lure you in by dressing a chubby man up like the first half of Disney’s Mulan; It was hard to not be entertained.
Also on their list of tactics were very catchy songs about their products. Our favorite of these songs was from an old man selling “coconut donuts.” He was out every night singing his tune, which varied a little each evening but it seemed so catchy that we’ve heard many other tourists singing it all over the island just like we have been doing almost every day since we first learned of this magical jingle (which can be seen and heard in the first five seconds of our ‘Koh Lipe’ video.)
In fact, it was on walking street that Kristin and I first saw a sign for ‘Trash Hero.’ A group that meets every Monday morning and offers volunteers the chance to help improve the local environment by cleaning up trash on Koh Lipe and some surrounding islands both on the shores and inland. In exchange for your help you get a longtail boat ride to an island nature reserve and lunch. Well that was more than enough for us! And with around 50 volunteers, the work was not only fun but also went by pretty fast which meant we got even more time to explore and enjoy ourselves on the now pristine beach. We had a great day helping a great cause.
I’ll admit, it took me a while to warm up to this island. I thought that there wasn’t much to do in Thailand for those who didn’t come here to drink but overall a lot of pretty amazing experiences were had here.
See you in Koh Mook!