Our favourite Thai Island: Koh Lipe

My memory of arriving on Koh Lipe will always be that of landing in paradise.  Our packed speedboat from the mainland pulled up between the long tail boats and we jumped into the knee deep crystal blue water and I never wanted to leave. Lipe is a small island, with no real roads or vehicles, just a lot of bungalows and a walking street lined with pancake stalls, massage parlours, and cafes. We received a tip to come here from our diving instructor in Malaysia, otherwise we may never have even heard of this gorgeous island.

We had originally planned to stay here for 4 days and do a couple days of scuba diving, but we extended our stay as long as possible, staying until the last day of low season pricing at our gorgeous resort. We stayed and dived with Castaway resorts, and I can’t recommend them more highly.  Our hut was right on the beach, cost $25 a night, and was absolutely gorgeous. It even had two wonderful hammocks on the porch.

When we weren’t Scuba diving or sitting in our hammocks, we found a nice coffee shop, enjoyed cheap massages and pedicures, watched fire dancing on the beach, got lost barefoot on the many island paths, went swimming, and read many many books.

Of all the islands we have visited on our trip, Lipe remains our favourite and I can’t wait until we return someday.

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A week in paradise: The Perhentian islands

After our short stay in  Kuala Lumpur, we flew to Kota Bharu, took a taxi to Kuala Besut and a boat to the Perhentian Kecil, or small perhentian, where we settled in for a week. We had originally had planned to stay here for 4 days and get our Scuba diving qualifications, but we fell in love with the peaceful and beautiful island and kept extending our stay.

We signed up for the Scuba course with Quiver Diving, on Coral bay, and we absolutely loved it. Coral bay is very small, with a few resorts, some beach front restaurants and a few dive shops, but you can easily access the larger long beach with a ten minute walk across the island. Our timing was ideal, a week before monsoon season started, and while the weather wasn’t great, we had the bay almost to ourselves. Our diving class was just the two of us and we had an absolutely fabulous instructor.By default we stayed at the Shari-La resort for about $13 a night for a private room with cold shower and AC. It’s right off the jetty and adjacent to Quiver, so it was extremely convenient, but a little dirty, and we were pretty sure that a rat shared the room with us.

Other than Scuba diving, our days here were filled with reading books, delicious BBQ and fruit shakes, snorkelling, and waiting out the early monsoon storms in our only slight sketchy hotel room. Of all the islands we have visited on this trip, this was one of our favourites. We loved it because it was quiet, no vehicles, no touts, and no partiers and the diving was amazing. You could walk right off the beach and find coral in a five minute swim. It was the perfect place to learn and I hope to return someday and check out the dive sites when I’m not so concentrated on remembering to breath.

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Facing our (my) fears

We’ve done a lot of scary things this trip, not the least of which are the upwards of 15 flights we’ve taken so far, but the first non airplane one was scuba diving. We were given a free dive for booking last minute on our sailing boat in the whitsundays, but I almost didn’t go through with it. First of all there was an intimidating questionnaire which you can not answer yes to a single of their very comprehensive questions. One of the girls on our boat was disqualified for her childhood asthma. After filling out the sheet, mostly truthfully, we were given an extremely short lesson on scuba diving gear, learned about the regulator, how to find it if it falls out, and how to clear our mask. We learned the two most important rules of scuba diving – always breathe, and don’t forget to equalize.

Then we were off. I was nervous as I got into the tiny boat, scared as the instructor pulled me backwards into the water, and terrified as we practiced losing our regulator and filling up our mask with water.

As soon as we started swimming, all my fears disappeared.

It was amazing.

I’ve always been a big water person and could swim for hours. When we were kids my brother, sister and I would spend all day swimming, holding our breath and looking for old tires on the bottom of lakes, pushing water balloons as far as they could go, and catching them before the floated back up, rolling around in canoes and kayaks, and so on.

Now I could stay under forever! Well, atleast for 45 minutes.
 It was incredible. I felt weightless, despite the weight belt, and after a few moments of “I shouldn’t be able to breathe underwater” panicking, it felt completely natural. Immediately after we surfaced, Scott and I looked at each other and said “We’re doing that again!” A week later we had signed up to get our scuba certification in Malaysia.


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Sailing in the Whitsundays

Scott and I pulled into Airlie beach with plans to go on a one day tour of the whitsunday islands, a group of more than 70 islands surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef. Half an hour later we walked out of the tour office with tickets for a 2 night sailing adventure, complete with a free trial scuba dive. Whoops.
We sailed out of Airlie that afternoon on a boat with 30 other people, 20 of whom were German, and headed for Whitehaven beach. That night we dined on delicious fried fish and the best mash potatoes I’ve had since we left Canada. Granted, they were also the first, but super yummy!

The next morning we took a shuttle to Whitehaven beach. After a short hike we were directly over the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen.
 The sand is 98% silica and bright white, and the water is a wonderful turquoise. We spent a few hours frolicking on the beach, watching sting rays and crabs, and even braving a short swim in our stinger suits. The water was cold, but the beauty of this beach was breathtaking. It will be the beach I compare other beaches to for a long time. When we got back to the boat we found out that one of the other couples on the boat had even gotten engaged on the beach! Awww…

After our time at the beach we were back on the boat for more sailing, snorkelling, and even some scuba diving. The boat had a plank you could jump off of, and plenty of room for chilling on deck, or playing cards, and we spent most of the rest of the day between these activities.

My favourite parts of being on a boat were the gorgeous sunsets.

We went on New Horizon, through True Blue Sailing, an absolutely beautiful wooden boat. At first my budget conscious mind was hesitant to spend about $600, plus the cost of a box of wine, for the two of us to go sailing, but in the end I’m glad we did. It would have been a shame to travel here and not see the beauty the Whitsundays have to offer, and our foray into Scuba diving convinced us to get certified, which changed the direction of our trip.I would definitely recommend the 2 night cruise, and I had a lot of fun on our boat, but next time I might pick a bigger, less rocky one.  The food on our boat was pretty good, at least for dinner, but the lunches and breakfasts left a little to be desired. Scott might say I’m just bitter because we had my most hated food ever, hot dogs, for lunch.

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While my recent posts may lead you to believe we are enjoying the beautiful west coast of New Zealand right now, we are actually relaxing on a beach in Malaysia.

Malaysia was a last minute addition to our trip, added after a friend who lived here for two years gave us some excellent advice. We’re currently taking our scuba diving certification here and enjoying the sun, beach and abundant fruit shakes. We can’t believe how lucky we are.

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