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Jan 26-Feb2 – Andeman Islands -Thailand – Stage 1

Stage 1:  Koh Lipe, Koh _________?!, Koh Ngai

On to Thailand…

To go between the islands, you typically go by speed boat, or ferry, or long-tail boat.  This next leg of the journey was to be by speedboat.  Once again the dangers of travel arose.  The day before we were to travel to Koh Lipe, a speed boat had sunk just off the coast of Koh Lipe. That obviously was a concern – we decided to go with a different company.  You will see from the pictures what kind of boat we took.  However, it was a very windy and wavy day – white caps out on the ocean.  The driver was pushing the boat pretty fast compared to what we thought he should in these conditions, but then again, he does do this every day.  Natalie and kids were riding in the deep bow area, though the front was bouncing pretty heavily, but were keeping dry.  I, however, was in the back getting drenched.  I think I got more wet traveling in the boat than if I were snorkeling! When the boat bounced back down from the wave, it sprayed the whole end of the boat.  Everyone sitting in the back looked like drowned rats.  It didn’t feel real safe.  The biggest fear would be to get broadside of a wave – and all in the boat had heard of what happened the day before.  At one time, the driver put on a helmet that had a large visor. When he did that, we all were wondering what we were getting into. It basically helped him see better with all the spray coming in.  Anyways, when we finally saw land, the mood changed for the better.  Most were very thankful when their feet hit terra firma again.

Natalie’s writing now…

We’re just about finished visiting the southern Thai islands, and they are just as beautiful as I remember them, although much busier. What was once a backpacker “secret” (think the movie, “The Beach”) has now, for the most part, become Europe’s Hawaii. People come every year for their 2 week holiday and full-on resorts can be found in most places. Nevertheless, we were on the hunt for our secret piece of paradise. Our first try was Koh Lipe, which we reached by speedboat from Langkawi.  We thought we’d hit pay dirt (or pay sand) when we pulled ashore onto the whitest, softest sand we’d ever seen. After another short long tail boat ride to the other side of the island, we settled into two rustic bungalows just set back from turquoise water. We sat on our little front porch and heaved contented sighs; it was that feeling you get after a long day of skiing, when you first sink into a hot tub – Aaaaaaaaah…We soon discovered that paradise was no longer a secret. The long tail boats passed in front of our huts night and day. At particular times, (e.g. when the speedboats delivered a new batch of people to the island), it sounded like a long tail regatta, with the prize being given to the one with the loudest motor! After a few days, we’d had enough. We waited an extra day for everyone to get over their first bout of the Thailand trots, and happily left for an island we’d heard about from a Danish family.

Another 2 hour speed boat ride allowed some time for Tim to finally have some “alone” time as he sat in the bow listening to oldies on the iPod – Cat Stevens, America, Petra, Enya, etc. with the wind flying through his hair, watching the sea and islands fly by, and Annika lying in his lap reading. We finally found our “secret piece of paradise.” (So we’re NOT posting the name on the blog, unless you ask!) This is a very small island that you can walk across in half an hour. There are 2 resorts on the beach and a couple inland in the hills. By “resort,” I mean a collection of simple, spotless bungalows set back from the beach on a grass, pine and palm-covered field and a open air restaurant right on the beach. The bungalow had a double bed and a bunk bed, so we slept pretty cozy. There was no electricity between 9 am and   6 pm, but you could run your fan at night. Even though the bathroom was the simple joint toilet-shower combo, it was clean and smelled good! The beach is again white sand and fringed by a so-so reef. There’s not much to “do” here, but its quiet – no long tail boats and loud music – and beautiful. The perfect spot to catch up after pretty continual travelling. It also worked out as a place to rest as both girls got some bug and had 102 degree temps for a couple of days. Kids did quite a bit of homework and got into some good books; I tackled Anna Karenina, and Tim got caught up on putting pictures on the computer. We also had a bit of a science lesson when we stumbled across a small rubber plantation on one of our walks around the island. Saw how the sap is collected and heated, and then run through a press prior to shipment for further processing. All this in the middle of a small sea-gypsy village!

It was hard to pull up stakes and leave this island, but the kids were starting to get a bit antsy after so many days of lolling around and homework. We hadn’t gotten any more diving in, so we headed to Koh Ngai for diving. I didn’t enjoy it at all – probably because it wasn’t as pretty, and it was busier and with a weird vibe. Tim and Josh dove, but visibility was bad and it was a forgettable dive. Everybody (except Tim!) had a pretty serious bout of homesickness about now. Left after 2 days and went to back to the mainland and Krabi to deal with our visa problems.



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