Friday, 22 April 2016

A walk around the island

Our last full day on Koh Lipe. The following morning we were leaving for Hat Yai and then Bangkok for our last night in Thailand. We were sad we were leaving, but we wanted to use the day to the fullest. Apart from packing, we did a lot of fun things, too.

We spent the morning on the beach. The weather was perfect. Hot (but not unbearably hot) and sunny. We went to Pattaya Beach for a change. The reef there was so much different than the one on Sunrise Beach! I might say that it was even better. I was really sad than we didn't discover that earlier. But everyone kept saying that Sunrise Beach is so much better. Sand quality-wise - I agree. Views - I agree. The reef - not so much. Plus, we were there in the rainy season, so the ferries were arriving to the platform by Sunrise Beach, not Pattaya. So Sunrise Beach was also louder...

Anyway, it was so beautiful. We kept swimming around, nobody was disturbing us. There were many different kinds of fish to observe. Plants and formations I can't name (I suck at that. I've spent my whole life living by the sea... But, in my defense, we don't have coral reef in Poland. At least not to my knowledge ;)). I was really amazed. I didn't take any pictures, cause I just wanted to enjoy the moment. And not focus on trying to capture things I wouldn't be able to name anyway ;)

After delicious lunch, we decided to have a walk around the island. Ok, maybe around is too much to say, but we simply decided to go for a walk. Wherever we want to go, wherever our legs take us.

We walked by the temple.

Before we finally got to the third of the main beaches of Koh Lipe:

In order to get to the beach, you have to walk down a flight of stairs. But before you do that, you can have a first glimpse at the beach and at the sea. In between the huts, you can see the marvellous colours of water, sky and sand.

When we got there, we were the only people on the beach. As if it was made purely for the two of us. Birds flying high above us from Koh Adang to Koh Lipe. Crabs walking on sand. And the sound of sea... A perfect place for an afternoon nap:

or for simply chilling, walking around, doing nothing, thinking about nothing. Just looking around. Taking in the beauty of the place. And the quietness. Magical.

Then we walked across the island. They're either preparing for building a road or they simply made it available to get from northern to southern parts of the island.

We ended up on westernmost end of Pattaya Beach. White sand, warm water, and hardly anyone on the beach. A paradise on earth?

We got to Walking Street and got back to our hut. We had to finish packing.

We spent the sunset on Sunrise Beach again. Its northernmost part. We wanted to see the last sunset in Thailand, cause it's not that pretty in Bangkok. The water level was extremely low. Boats were parked on sand. And people were partying. Full moon. That's what it was (I guess).

The clouds and sun were dancing together in the sky. A colourful performance. And from the east, an evening storm was approaching. Again, very beautiful. I miss those evening spectacles.

The reef sticking out of water (water was knee-deep at that place):

We ate delicious dinner (I love Thai food) and went back to our hut. We had to get ready for our morning departure. We got up early, ate breakfast (took some food for later as well) and went to Sunrise Beach. There were many people waiting there for the taxi boats to get to the floating platforms already. We got into the line. A guy came up to us, wanted to see our ticket. We showed him our voucher. He said we should get out of the line, that we should first talk to some guy (he pointed at him). Before we got tu that guy, he got into one of the longtails and we never saw him again. So we got back to the line and that same guy (the first one) had no objections anymore. We got to the floating platform. Got a ticket (same thing as they were distributing in Pak Bara, only this time our numbers were thirty something) and had to wait for the speedboat. I could feel that this platform was floating... Oh, my sea sickness kicked in a little bit. Though focusing on the last views of the island helped a bit. Then the speedboat came. It was much, much smaller than the ferry that brought us to the island. We were lucky to have the low numbers, at least we had seats. Many people were standing. When I already though no one else could get on board, more people were jammed... Oh, boy, that was scary to see them getting on board, and with small children. Kids were getting sick on the way again, but this time in the toilet. We finally (and luckily) got to Pak Bara. We could leave the speedboat (through the ferry!). We got to the van that was already waiting for us. The van took us to Hat Yai airport in time for our flight back to Bangkok. For our last night in Thailand.

But more on that, later.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Exploring Tarutao Marine National Park

I'm in the midst of planning our next two trips (cause planning one at a time is, apparently, too little for me). But, at the same time, I'm still looking back at our adventures in Thailand. I still have a few posts to go to finish that off. Once I'm done with Thailand, I'll let you know what I'm planning next.

Today, I'm taking you on an island-hopping trip with a lot of snorkeling on the way.

But first things first. What are the options for trips from Koh Lipe? We are not divers, so diving trips were not for us. We also didn't want to learn to dive. But you can easily do that. There are trips both for advanced divers and for beginners.

We wanted to see the sea life, but in a more approachable way. So snorkeling was an alternative for us. We were offered three trips. Two snorkeling trips (A and B) and a sunset trip. All three programs shared some of the stops. The two snorkeling trips included also lunch (apart from the equipment, water and fruit). You could choose from one of the three options: chicken, seafood or vegetarian.

1. Sunset trip was the cheapest of the three. Price (as of October 2015) - 450 THB/person. Time: 14:30 till 18:30. All the equipment (mask, snorkel, fins, life jacket) plus water and fruit included in the price. Program? Jabang - snorkeling by a pinnacle rising from 16 metres to just underneath the surface. It's covered with soft corals. Koh Hin Ngam - an island built of thousands of smoothly polished black stones. Koh Yang - a snorkeling stop near of the the smallest islands of the archipelago. Koh Adang - watching the sunset from one of the beaches of Koh Adang.

2. Program A - The trip covered the islands and reefs closer to Koh Lipe than Programme B. Price (as of October 2015) - 550 THB/person. Time: 9:30 till 16:00. Program? Jabang. Koh Hin Ngam. Koh Rawi - lunch and relax on one of the sandy beaches. Koh Adang - you can snorkel right from the beach, explore the jungle or relax on the beach. Koh Yang.

3. Program B - This trip covered the most distant islands of the archipelago. Price (as of October 2015) - 650 THB/person. Time: 9:30 till 16:00. Program? Koh Hin Sorn - strange rock formations housing a wide variety of soft corals and marine life. Koh Lugoi - a snorkeling stop at the edge of the marine national park with interesting corals and fish. Koh Dong - a stop for lunch and for watching monkeys. Koh Pung - swimming, snorkeling or relaxing on the beaches of honey island. Koh Bulu - a tiny island around which you can find beautiful corals and tropical fish. Koh Hin Ngam. Jabang.

The prices above do not include the national park fee. If you arrived to Koh Lipe from Pak Bara (as we did), you already paid the Tarutao Marine National Park fee and it's enough to take the ticket with you (so that you don't have to pay it the second time). If you came from Langkawi, Malaysia, you have to pay the fee either on Koh Hin Ngam (park rangers come to the island, but they don't have a station there) or on Koh Rawi (they have a station there).

We were thinking and thinking and discussing and dwelling on choosing either Program A or Program B. Since they shared so many points, we didn't want to do both of them. Plus the weather wasn't too perfect either... Finally, we decided to choose Program A. We liked the option of exploring the jungle on Koh Adang (there is no stop near Koh Adang in Program B). And we were not that keen on seeing monkeys anymore.

We ate a quick breakfast, packed our snorkeling equipment, put on water shoes (just in case, neither of us uses fins) and we were ready to go. We met our guide on Pattaya beach, got onto our longtail boat and off we were. There were just seven of us plus our guide (the two of us, a pair from Sweden, a pair from Malaysia and a guy from England). The sky was covered with dark grey coulds. We were terrified that it might start raining any minute and spoil the trip for us. Spoiler here - it wasn't raining at all and, at times, the sun was shining beautifully.

Our first stop - Jabang. That's a stop somewhere on the sea. Like in the middle of the sea, surrounded by islands. Nothing special at first. If it hadn't been for the ropes stretched from one buoy to another, you wouldn't have noticed the place. But once you put your face under water, you sea a whole lot of things. First of all, a lot of yellow, striped fish.Thousands of them. And the rock formation itself is amazing. We had to stick to the rope, though. One of the guys from our group let go of the rope and after a few second he was ten metres away from us. And he was just floating, looking at fish, not moving at all... I have no idea if it looks like that always, but our guide warned us that we should stick to the rope. It was much better, much more colourful than my pictures show (it was dark and I don't have a go pro or any other special underwater camera. I don't use PS either). And it was really hard to stick to the rope and take pictures at the same time...

Next stop - Koh Hin Ngam. First, we stopped for snorkeling right off the island. Again, a rope stretched between buoys marked a parking place for longtails. A funny view, come to think of it. This time there were no tides, so we could swim around watching the sea life. There were some fish swimming around, but not as many as by Jabang. And they were swimming around much faster, so it made it almost impossible for me to capture them. The reef formations were beautiful, though.
Having seen what we wanted to see, we were back on the boat and headed towards Koh Hin Ngam for a quick stop on the beach on the black stones. That's where we met the rangers who checked our national park entrance tickets. Those of us who didn't have them (aka everyone else from our group) had to buy their tickets. Since they didn't have enough change, in the end they bought the tickets on Koh Rawi. We took a few pictures with the name of the island and a few pictures of the stoney beach and we were yet again back on our longtail.

Parking place for longtails.
The rangers and the tourists. The one talking to tourists spoke perfect English.
The following stop was by Koh Yang. A typically snorkeling spot. We spent quite some time there - enough to see all the beautiful fish and formations. Plus, there were moments when the sun was shining beautifully! Such a change after Koh Hin Ngam, though so close one to another.
Yes, that is me in the picture...
Our guide!
This purple fish had neon orange mouth! It was beautiful! Abd really fast swimming away from me ;)
This was all shells. I have no idea if there was a rock under the shells, but on the outside...shells, shells and some more shells.
Finally, we got to Koh Rawi for lunch. We got our lunchboxes and could find ourselves a place to sit, eat, chill out, enjoy ourselves. That was the longest of all stops. There was a picnic place on the island, right by the beach, but shadowed by trees. With tables and all. And there were toilets on the island as well, right next to the picnic spot. Pretty decent and quite clean.

Our last stop was by Koh Adang. Unfortunately, we didn't get to the beach. So we also didn't get to the island. The water level was getting low and our guide was scared that the boat would either get stuck or will destroy the reef in the area. I was bummed, but I couldn't do anything about it anyway. Jungle on Koh Adang still has to wait for me. We got to see some more fish though. And this reef was also pretty and diversified. I just didn't feel like taking any pictures. I just wanted to enjoy the view and nothing else. If you want to see what it looks like, you have to go there yourself (or, most likely, googling it will also show you...).

Have you ever been to Koh Lipe? Have you done any of the trips? Do you enjoy snorkeling? Can you recommend any good places for snorkeling?
Travel Tuesday