Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sun, Sea,Sand and Thai food

Escape to Koh Lipe

This year instead of our yearly routine family island trip to Redang Island, we decided to try out new island since we noticed Redang island was getting overly crowded and so commercialised that the nature of the island was deteriorating quickly each year and it was no longer as secluded as our past experience.

A few years ago, we started to hear about Koh Lipe, one of the islands in the Tarutao National Marine Park located in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Satun Province of Southern Thailand. At that time the island was still pretty deserted and the accommodation choices were limited, not so suitable for family with small kids. Last year when JS’s Canadian residing sister and hubby spent a holiday there and came back with good comments highlighting to us that the island had since been developed with various choices of lodgings from budget to lavish to accommodate family travellers, it prompted us to reconsider this option again.

With the island only a stone’s throw from Langkawi Island in the North of Malaysia and within easy reaching distance in the high season from May to October, we decided we would give it a try this year. Hence we planned the trip to coincide with our half marathon race at Penang Bridge International Marathon on 18th November which was also in the North of Malaysia. We made the journey to Langkawi island the day after we completed the race by travelling on a 3 hours ferry and spent a night at Langkawi. The very next morning, we embarked on another 45 minutes high speed boat ride at Langkawi Telaga harbour across the Andaman Sea to Koh Lipe.

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Telaga Habour @ Langkawi


The weather in Koh Lipe for the 4 days we were there wasn't very good but we had luck. Weather was sunny on the day we arrived, 19th November. Our resort was located at a pristine beach (Pattaya Beach) just next to Satun Immigration Check point.

pattayabeach
I was thrilled to find out the resort was well above my expectation, with modern air-conditioner, water heater for shower and satellite TV channels (albeit only one channel HBO in English, the rest in Thai). The power supply wasn’t stable and we experienced frequent power trips but overall I would say it was very decent accommodation for family stay.

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Bundhaya Resort

 
We spent 4 days 3 nights with 2 full days of chartered snorkelling trip on our own.

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On the 2nd day of the trip, when we started our first daily boat trip, it was a gloomy morning. But luckily the weather slowly cleared up as the trip went on. We had good time the whole day. Sunlight could be better for underwater photography in the morning but in the afternoon it was excellent. At the first snorkelling spot we anchored, it was really wavy; I hesitated to dive in. But once we got in the water, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the underwater world we saw. Lots of sea anemone and soft corals, I would say much healthier marine life than in Redang that we admired so much before.

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Anemone and clown fish
That night, it rained heavily from 3am. It was still drizzling the following morning at 8:30am when we were about to start our second daily boat trip. The weather looked really bad out in the sea, with many patches of dark clouds in different parts of the horizon, some of which were heavy rainfall we could tell. The only spot that was still clear with sunshine was the first spot we were heading towards, Koh Hin Sorn. It was a 45 minutes boat ride and we were traveling in the only sunny spot in the entire horizon, really weird! Throughout the entire morning, as we moved from one spot to another, we were chased by rain clouds left, right and centre. The good thing was that it was never really windy and the sea remained calm all the time.

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Rain cloud

 
We had light drizzle for a short while having lunch on the beach of an uninhabited island but other than that we had pretty good sunlight surprisingly the whole day. Near Koh Hin Sorn somewhere in the middle of the sea, we saw the best snorkelling spot - a site with patches of stunningly colourful and healthy soft corals. It was wavy and the current was strong but we still spent a lot of time there enjoying the rare underwater sights.

soft corals
The corals garden

 
coralsurchins

Our auntie remained on the boat while we snorkelled and she would only get down when we were on beaches. Sometimes she fed fishes with some left over rice from our lunch packs. Surprisingly, she seemed to enjoy very much too for the 2 days of boat trips. I reckoned she must be one of the oldest Asian tourists at the Island. clip_image001[6]

Ming Ray was impressive for his age to say the least. He handled the current and wave so well it seemed like second nature. He had totally no fear even when he choked at times and at places where we had a bit of concern. He had so much fun we almost always had to reprimand him every time we wanted to move to the next spot as he was always unwilling to get back on the boat. It's very difficult to find good mask/snorkel/fin set for his age. The set JS got him was not very good in quality but he still managed to handle well.

On the second day, he just ditched the mask for his swimming goggles instead as the mask just kept leaking due to poor workmanship. This was also the first time he used a snorkel. And for a first timer, he could skin dive to a depth of 13 feet to mess with things underwater quite naturally with his snorkel and still managed to clear his snorkel easily when resurfaced. We were a bit stunned with his ability to be honest. Whenever he found something interesting in the water he would be so proud and excited to show to me and JS.
 
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Ray the Stingray 

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Other than snorkelling, we had great dinners every night. Seafood was fresh and relatively cheap. And for a family who loves Thai food, it was just great.
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BBQ fish, Thai fish cake and squids


thai food

Besides the food, we enjoyed so much with the drinks too. We enjoyed fruit shakes every day. They came in a wide variety of fruit choices including mango, banana, watermelon and coconut. Not only it satisfied our taste buds but kept us cool for the day, a big thumb up clip_image002[4]

drinks

We left Lipe to return to Langkawi in the morning of the fourth day. We were drenched by heavy rain when we were boarding the boat. Our luggages were also wet. Nevertheless we were pleased it didn't happen to us during our 2 days of snorkelling trips. The high speed boat left the rain behind within 10 minutes of the boat ride. Turning back we could see Lipe totally devoured by rain clouds. We left with a pleasant memory of the experience we had on the island, some serious sunburn marks on our bodies, the kind blessings of the weather and dozens of great photos for sharing here. clip_image001[7]

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