It was exciting to have reached Thailand and we wasted no time in tucking into a pad thai and a banana shake. What bliss. At home we both love Thai food and I have certainly been looking forward to the cuisine here. Although Koh Lipe is no longer the quiet, undeveloped island it once was (in fact it’s developing at an alarming rate) it was still a sweet spot. The afternoon was spent relaxing on the beach and swimming in the impossibly blue water, before heading off to explore. We found amazing coffee, followed by amazing green curry. Getting into the spirit of island living, Astrid and I decided it was time to live like pirates and crack open our duty free rum from Langkawi. So we shared a bottle of rum with Jess and Charlotte and the night inevitably ended in a nudie swim.
We still made it to bed at a reasonable time and were up before the heat of the day to go running. Marita, Astrid and I ended up going on an 8km run around and through the island, which was a great way to get feel for the place. After this exercise we were understandably starving but unfortunately chose to go for breakfast at a place that literally took 1.5 hours to serve us. Straight after (finally) receiving our food we went out for a second breakfast. Then it was time to say goodbye to Jess and Charlotte with plans to meet in a few days. The rest of the day was reading, writing and relaxing time.
The following day we went on an early run before packing ourselves up and heading to the port. Island hopping is fun, but unfortunately, like trains in Indonesia, bikes on boats cost more. Usually bike touring is cheap because you save so much on transport (amongst other things) but they become cumbersome and expensive when you use transport. Still, it was fun seeing them loaded onto long boats (no pier at Koh Lipe) and then onto the bigger ferry. They really can go anywhere. The ferry ride to Koh Lanta was about 5 hours and we cruised passed many picturesque islands along the way. On reaching Koh Lanta we quickly organized ourselves and found out where Simon (our friend we were meeting here) was staying. On the way out of the port we saw a couple of cycle tourists get off one of the ferries that had just arrived. Both of us were so excited and quickly waved them down. They were a couple from Belgium, cycling from Phuket to Sulawesi. We ended up cycling with them to our respective accommodation, chatting all the way. They had been to Laos and some other places we are going, so like always they acted as a source of inspiration. Soon our ways parted though and it was time to meet Simon, who waved us down from the side of the road. It was brilliant meeting up with another friend from home, and we wasted no time catching up over beers and food.
Simon had secured us a lovely bungalow, not far back from the beach. After a bit of discussion, the guy allowed Marita to crash on the floor with our camping gear, so the 3 of us could share and save some cash. This was to be our home for the next few nights. After a morning run along the beach and up a few hills, we set out to explore the island. We hired scooters and hit the road. Jungle, beautiful beaches, plantations (rubber) and towns are scattered over the island and it was these that we explored over the next few days. There were always coffee and snack stops and afternoons relaxing with a few beverages.
Although we had planned to meet Jess and Charlotte, they hadn’t been able to get to Koh Lanta on the day they left Lipe and had changed their plans somewhat. However, as we were exploring Lanta, we started getting messages from them about the amazing island they were staying on called Koh Jum/Koh Pu. This was one of the places Simon had originally suggested as well, and after a bit of weighing up of our options we decided it was time to see what this island paradise was all about.
A ferry and a long boat later and we had indeed reached paradise. If you are searching for an undeveloped island, where living is simple and life is slow, look no further than Luboa Hut on Koh Pu. Simple huts are set back from the beach in the jungle, with hammocks and cushions scattered around a communal area for quality relaxing. Not to mention the beautiful clear water to swim in. A few other low-key places were dotted along the beach and ‘town’ was about 20km away (mostly along unsealed road). There were no bars, no seven eleven (wow!) and no night clubs. Most of the island was jungle or rubber plantation, and thankfully the locals are keen to keep it that way. For me, this was perfect. In fact, we were all delighted and so happy that we made the choice to come. It was great meeting up with Charlotte and Jess again as well. We had missed our pod friends. An added bonus was, because they had a long standing booking for the room we were initially using, the owners let us camp out in the day shelter huts for free after the first 2 nights.
The next five days were spent more or less like this: a morning run, followed by a swim and breakfast. Then reading and writing interspersed by cups of coffee and playing 500 with Simon. Some days we went kayaking (free) or explored the island by scooter and bike. Kit, Kirsty and Ben also ended up joining us so we became the ‘mega pod’. It was wonderful to be surrounded by friends, new and old. At 5pm everyday the volleyball net came out and the staff and guests played a match as the sun set over the ocean. Both Astrid and I have a new appreciation for volleyball and really enjoyed playing. ‘Le Chang’ (Simon) encouraged ‘Chang time’ at some point during the late afternoon and thus our days were spent in this delightful relaxed way. I found it especially wonderful to be able to catch up with Simon. Both Astrid and I feel so lucky that we have friends who are willing and able to visit us while we are on this journey. We feel very loved and it makes the time away from family and friends easier.
Towards the end of our time on Koh Pu we were reminded that the tropics come with their own set of unique challenges. Just take a look at a tropical medicine textbook one day. Unfortunately for Jess, it transpired that a worm had decided to take up resistance in her toe. A bit of google diagnosing and a few days of watching the worm move and the toe get alarmingly bigger, it was time to seek medical intervention. Our hosts organized for Jess and Marita to take a boat to the local hospital. Lucky for us, Marita captured the whole treatment (which was rather gruesome) on video. In the evening when they returned, the nine of us watched the entire gory procedure on our computer. All I can say is that Jess is hardcore. Respect.
Sadly, even tropical paradise must end one day. Christmas was coming and most of us had made plans to be somewhere. The pod were headed to Cambodia, Simon back to Melbourne and Marita, Astrid and I to Khao Sok National Park. Our last night together was celebrated in style. We made a bonfire on the beach and shared some local rum. Who knows when we will meet again? It’s definitely been wonderful sharing this part of our journey with so many great people.