Happy New Year! We spent our New Year’s on Ko Lipe. Ko Lipe, a very small island in the Tarutao National Park island chain, reminded me of Gili T, except with motorbikes. It’s touristy, but the sand is soft and the water is teal. There is a community of chao ley (sea gypsies) living on Ko Lipe, but most of the island is dominated by little shops, cafes and bars.?? One of the first things I noticed are the motors of the narrow, wooden longboats.?? The propellers are attached to the end of a very long pole and someone has to stand at the back of the boat to turn the motor on and steer by maneuvering the pole around.?? I’m assuming this somehow helps them navigate, but it’s a little strange to see the propeller blades swinging all around both in and out of the water.
On New Year’s Eve, we went down to the beach where everyone was hanging out, drinking, talking, cheering and laughing. The bars along the beach had all sorts of lights strung up and were playing happy dance music. Best of all, tourists and locals alike were lighting paper lanterns and letting them fly off into the distance. As midnight came closer, more and more people were releasing lanterns. There was no big countdown, but at midnight fireworks exploded everywhere–over our heads, up the beach, down the beach, over the water, even a few unfortunate ones by our feet (luckily everyone was okay!). We just sat there, wiggling the powdery sand between our toes and watching the lanterns drift away and form new constellations in the sky. It was one of the best moments of our trip.
The next morning was quite different. It was one of those gray, rainy days that are perfect for sleeping in late, but we had to get up early and catch our boat to Ko Tarutao. We huddled under our umbrella on the beach for a while before a longboat could take us to the more modern speedboat. Once on board, I saw the guy in front of us put his lifejacket on and I kind of smirked at him. Nobody wants to be the dork in the lifejacket, you know? Five minutes into the boat ride and I had my lifejacket on, too. The waves were huge and our boat was flying off of them like they were ski jumps. Women were screaming, water was splashing everywhere and the boat was getting tossed around like it was a toy. I was holding on to my seat and my knees kept smacking the seat in front of me. I was sure the boat was either going to capsize or just sink. I even found myself mentally preparing for what I would do (kick my shoes off, drop my bags, help Brad put his jacket on…) when it happened. After a particularly bad drop, when the boat was freefalling through the air for a solid four or five seconds, the driver slowed down and we went pretty slowly the rest of the way. The waves were still bad, but at least we weren’t being painfully knocked around. It was one of the most terrifying moments of our trip.
Ko Tarutao was also very pretty. It kept raining the entire first day, but the next day was sunny and we spent the whole day walking. We saw many monkeys, butterflies, tropical birds and a few large lizard-type things. We also tried to hike to a waterfall, but the trail was very challenging and everything was slippery (probably from the rain). After we had each fallen twice, we decided to turn back. Two days later and I’m still bruised and sore.
Now we’re back on the mainland, in Trang, a small, nice, but not especially interesting town. (The ocean was as smooth as glass on the boat ride here.) Next we’re planning on island hopping until we get to Phuket. I’m really looking forward to doing some snorkeling and possibly kayaking and diving. I know we haven’t been here very long, but I already like Thailand a lot! So stay tuned and check out Brad’s pictures.