If you just want to see the photos, scroll to the bottom.
Being in Thailand during the low season definitely has its advantages. The top of the list are huge price reductions (50-70%) on hotel rooms and huge tourist population reduction (percentage undetermined). The flip side to those positives is that various options for getting around southern Thailand don’t exist. For example, I was trying to get from Ko Muk to Ko Lipe (if you haven’t noticed a theme, “Ko” means Island). 9+ months of the year, there is a straight ferry line between the two islands. Low season unofficially begins on May 1st (only a few days before I wanted to go) and that same ferry line stops running. I knew that low season would make a few of the easy routes between islands a bit more difficult.
Overall, I don’t hate the extra steps of getting from one stop to the next while being a traveling wanderer. I would rather NOT have to utilize multiple vehicles to get from point A to point B, but they can also provide some unexpected fun. In this part of the world, it is not straight forward how to get from one place to another- especially when you don’t speak the language. My mastery of Thai consists of “Hello” and “Thank you.” Ben don’t speak Thai. Ben don’t speak Thai real good at all.
So instead of a single multi-hour ferry from Ko Muk to Ko Lipe, I would need to first get to the mainland and the city of Trang. Then from Trang I need to get to the port of Pak Bara, and from there I can get a boat to Ko Lipe.
Ko Muk was a really incredible location. Partly because it is low season, the island was nearly devoid of tourists. It was extremely relaxing and really cool to have an entire beach to myself. My last day on the beach even featured 3 topless sunbathing Swedish girls. You shall hear no complaints from me about that.
Other than topless girls, the pack of dogs continued to roam around, with Lebron, D Wade and Mike Miller coming to hang out with me when they were wrestling or searching for food. I felt bad for Mike Miller, who had a huge knot/ wound on his head. Seeing these wild dogs would likely be much harder for someone who is a bigger dog lover than me. Dogs are cool, but I don’t love them near the level of other people I know. If you want a nearly deserted island, save for a pack of wild dogs and local Thai people, put Ko Muk on your list.
So to get to Ko Lipe in high season, it would pretty much be a 1 step process:
1. Get on ferry in Ko Mook, get off ferry in Ko Lipe.
In low season, it became a 9 step process:
1. Side Car Scooter from my hotel to the pier
2. Sketchy boat ride from pier to mainland. This boat was hardly a ferry, and definitely made me nervous. Everyone else seemed perfectly calm, so I took their relaxed nature as a good sign. After checking out the bottom deck and seeing the only seat was inches from the exhaust pipe, I opted to sit up at the front in the open air. There were guys sitting on the front of the boat with me who were chain smoking and chewing some sort of green leaf. I was unsure if it was tobacco or khat (the plant made famous in Black Hawk Down and Captain Phillips). They offered me some, but I politely declined. Under normal non-boating circumstances, I would be interested in trying it. However at that moment, I did not need to be either high or sick while on the Sketchy Boat ride.
3. Mini-bus from the port to the city of Trang. This was my first time on the mainland at any point in Thailand so far. Phuket and Ko Lanta are huge and don’t really feel like islands, but they are. It was completely unclear to me that there was going to be a mini-bus picking me up. Luckily, one of the workers from the hotel I stayed at was going the same route and flagged me over. I had been wandering around like the totally lost tourist that I was. The bus ride was over an hour, so fortunately I didn’t hire my own taxi or start walking.
4. Got dropped off in Trang, and immediately swarmed by a few tourist salespeople. I told them I wanted to go to Pak Bara (and Ko Lipe) and within minutes I had a boat ticket ($650 bhat- about $22). I had just missed another mini-bus ride, so my other option was to take a 2 hour city bus to the city of Langu. Fine with me.
5. Hopped on the back of a scooter- the tourist shop lady gave me a ride to the bus stop. The tourist shop lady told me to wait 10-20 minutes for an Orange bus. Eventually, an orange looking bus drove by and honked. I waved and ran on. Is this the right bus? I have no idea, but will find out soon. This was definitely a bus for locals. $70 bhat (about $2.25). Not bad for 2 hours.
6. Fortunately I did get on the right bus, which after a bunch of honking and people getting on and off over the next 2 hours, arrived in Langu. As soon as I hopped of THAT bus, a man with a scooter asked if I needed to go to Pak Bara. Yes, in fact, I would like to go there. So I then got on the back of a scooter to go the 20ish minutes from Lagun to Pak Bara $80 bhat ($2.75).
7. Got lunch and waited in Pak Bara for my speed boat that was going to leave about 2 hours later. Also bought myself a $4 Thailand Red Bull shirt. Pretty sure it is not officially licensed Red Bull merch. About 3 hours later, my speed boat left from Pak Bara.
8. 90 minutes later, the speed boat gets to a mini dock. I am pretty sure this is just a tourist scam, as we then need to pay another $70 bhat ($2.50) to THEN get on a longtail that will take us to the shore.
9. I hop from the long tail onto the beach, and end my day like it started- in the side car bench of a scooter. For another $50 bhat he takes me to my hotel, and few minutes later I arrive.
Final total: 4 scooters, 3 boats, 1 bus, 1 mini-bus, about 8 hours, roughly $30 and about 9 hours.
While I would still have chosen to simply take a single ferry (and then the longtail and sidecar scooter, really making it 3 steps), it was an enjoyable day of experiencing a new, small part of Thailand. Having all the steps pretty much back to back to back (the only time I waited was about 30 minutes for the city bus and 3 hours for the speedboat) was entertaining. If I had to do something similar at home I would have been miserable, but out here in new territory it was fun. Also needing to constantly change vehicle kept it interesting. One 8 hour bus ride would not have been nearly as good.
I decided to splurge a bit for the hotel in Ko Lipe- $50 a night! I mainly wanted AC, as it gets so hot and a fan doesn’t often do much cooling off. The hotel is legit nice- the best I have stayed so far in the last 3 weeks. It is crazy that $50 is “expensive.” Having a nice place with solid walls that blocks mosquitos and provides Air Conditioning is a huge luxury.
The Ko Lipe hotel (called The Reef for anyone stopping through) is well furnished, clean, and is run by an awesome Thai family. On my first night they invited me to join them on the hotel deck for their massive BBQ dinner. Yes, please! There is also the unexpected bonus of 4 kittens that are only about 5 weeks old.
Ko Lipe is a cool island with one main “walking street” that is open at night- filled with bars and restaurants and connecting to Pattaya beach. Then on the beach itself are more bars and restaurants. The walking street is nearly empty during the day, so I am not sure if most people are out snorkeling/ scuba diving/ on day trips or just sleeping away the day. The beaches are nice, although has more trash than it needs, with super fine grain white sand.
Another Thai island (Thaisland?)- the 5th of this trip so far. It hasn’t even been a month of travel yet, which is incredible. It feels WAY longer- in a good way. There are times I miss easily watching Game of Thrones or having a gym or a car. Overall, this trip is exactly what I needed- a long break from “normal” life back home in the good ol U S of A.
Tomorrow I depart Thailand and head to Malaysia. The first stop is the island of Langkawi. Time to learn how to say “Hello” and “Thank You” in Malay.