What I’ll Miss About Thailand – The Beaches

Hau Hin a couple of months before the pandemic started

I know I have said in the past that I am more of a mountain man rather than an ocean man, but that does not mean that I don’t appreciate a good beach, and Thailand has a lot of them. It does have mountainous terrain to the north and I do enjoy those places, but it is mainly the beaches that I will remember from my stay of living in Thailand.

Kata Beach on Phuket island

I was pretty lucky also. Most of the time, the beaches in Thailand are crowded with people and it can be hard to stake out a place on the sandy shore. But than Covid happened, and the usual stream of tourists were no longer allowed to come into the country, giving the beaches back to the locals who should have a chance to enjoy them as well.

Rayong! I don’t need to say more

This meant that there were many times we had the beach to ourselves. It is an odd thing to see, a long stretch of sand next to the warm, tropical waters just begging for toes to be dipped in. Most of the time, this was a welcoming sight, but there was a little bit of a down side to this as well. The Thai people usually do a good job making sure these beaches are pristine and free of trash, but with the loss of the tourist dollar, they were not able to keep all of the beaches clean. That meant it was a hit or miss affair where sometimes the beach would be clean, and there were other times where I had to watch where I was walking because I didn’t always know what I would be stepping on.

A monitor lizard on Koh Lipe island

But on those beaches that were clean and the people were still not flocking to them, there was another sight that wasn’t as common in the past, wildlife had returned. Of course, I still saw the crab scuttle along the beach, or the birds flying just off the shore, looking for a quick bite, but I also saw monkeys and monitor lizards just basking in the summer sun. It meant that any time I went to a beach, a new adventure was just around the corner.

Princess Beach on Railay

The beaches were only just a place to walk and lie in the sand, but there were many opportunities for water sports as well. I went snorkeling a few times, and paddle-boarding as well, but my favorite activity had to be kayaking. The rentals of these were still available in most places, and sometimes they were even a free service with the hotel we were staying at. It was a great way to explore the coastline and see other beaches that sometimes were not easy to get to.

Nai Harn Beach on Phuket island

Even if I did not have access to any of these floatation devices, I could still run out and play in the water. During the summer months on the southern beaches, the surf was pretty big on some of the beaches. What surfers that were still in the country made their ways down to these beaches to catch these waves, but there was still plenty of space for people like me who love to jump into the oncoming waves and keep my balance. I know it is not the safest activity in the world with the danger of the undertow, but it is probably one of my favorite things to do on a beach.

A sunrise on Koh Lipe island

And with all of that available, the beaches in Thailand are the perfect place to lay back with a good book and relax. I know that there are many places out there in the world that offer the same kind of relaxation but I really fell in love with this activity in Thailand. The country does really have some beautiful landscapes and I know that they will get overcrowded again as things start opening up all around the world, but I will always look back fondly on the ways that I was able to enjoy the beaches while I was living in Thailand, and it will definitely be one of the things that I will miss from there.

Smiley’s Tale

Smiley does not knw that she is ugly.
She does remember the ruthless children
Who wrapped her muzzle in plastic to see
If she could escape what they put her in.
She was able to survive that cruel day,
But she lost her lips and was disfigured.
Now her fans jut out in a weird display
Like she is growling at what she endured.
She’s found a life under the protection
With the gentle staff on a remote beach.
At the 10 Moons she finds the affection,
And no longer cower from a child’s reach.
Smiley does not understand her sad fate
Because she now receives more love than hate.

10 Moons – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Most of the time I do not concern myself with the places I stay while traveling. I rarely spend time in my hotel and I am usually out and about, so why would I spend a lot of money at a place I would only use for the bed. But there are certain places in the world where the place can make the difference between a great stay and a forgettable one. The island of Koh Lipe is one of the places, and though I cannot compare the place I stayed with other places on the island, I was so pleased with the experience that I had at 10 Moons resort that if I ever came back to the island, I would stay here again.

10 Moons is located on the Sunrise Beach on Koh Lipe just over the edge where many of the other resorts park their longtail boats for the evening, so when you come down for breakfast or hang out on its sandy beach, you do not have this eyesore to look at. Instead you get to look at a clear blues water that stretches out over an expanse of coral reef. And if you get up early enough, the sunrise is worth the alarm clock. I did not do it every morning, but was happy that I had gotten up at least once during my stay there. The mornings are a calm time on the island and the view is just spectacular.

There are plenty of fish swimming around the coral reef which makes it the perfect spot to go snorkeling. 10 Moons have a plethora of snorkels that are free to use if you are a guest there, and they did a great job sanitizing them during this time of Covid, so it made me feel safe to use them.

And if you tire of the scene right out of the hotel, 10 Moons included a snorkeling day trip for us to an even larger stretch of the coral reef with even more fish swimming around it. It was a long day the day we went, but it was worth the effort. The sights I saw while swimming over this expanse of ocean forest was mind blowing, especially for a guy that has spent more time in the mountains than looking out over what nature has to offer in the oceans. If you like more adventure and prefer to do scuba diving, this is also offered at the hotel. Another group that was staying there with us went out every day scuba diving and went on one trip that was organized by 10 Moons itself.

There is a ton of wildlife that is able to be spotted on the shore as well. I came across many crabs, both soft shell, and hermit, as well as a ton of bird including crane, and monkeys and monitor lizards. You also have the soi dogs that can be found anywhere in Thailand, but they are friendly out here and not very teritorial.

10 Moons basically adopted the most famous of the all, Smiley. When I first saw her when we first arrived, I felt sorry for her and the obvious deformity around her mouth, but we were told her story about how a couple of the local boys tied plastic around her mouth when she was young and she lost her lips because of it. Once we learned this, we felt sorry for her, but that soon faded as well. She just became a part of the place, and was always wandering around with her tail wagging. She never really learned about the way she was mistreated because of the amount of love she received from the staff and most of the customers.

The rooms were very comfortable as well. There are a couple of them that are available right on the beach with their own deck furniture, and there are more on the hill that sprawls out behind the resort. Each place has its own patio with amazing views of the beach below though the higher up you get the more likely you are going to lose the view of the sea and the sunrise to the trees. But this is a small price to pay for the comfort of the rooms. The wifi got a little spotty if you left the resort’s reception which was a little annoying, but at the same time, I was not out there to be contacted by work, and this was the best excuse as to why they couldn’t get in touch with me.

The restaurant had decent food as well with option both in Thai cuisine and western dishes. I liked to eat there for lunch because of its convenience, but there are many other places on the heart of the island which served better food. But the staff was friendly and they got to know us pretty well and our tastes as well.

It is a little bit of a walk to Walking Street, the heart of Koh Lipe, and I would not recommend going down there during the heat of the day. But as soon as the sun starts to set, it is only about a fifteen minute stroll down there, and there are a lot more restaurants to choose from down there. You can get any type of food you want as well with restaurants serving Thai, Italian, Steaks, American pub, and breakfast 24/7, but my favorite was the Box. It is a Spanish tapas places with a couple of Mexican items on the menu, and the food is pretty authentic. If you plan ahead and make a reservation the day before, they can even put together an amazing paella dish that would rival some of the best I have had in Spain.

I do think that Koh Lipe is a place that everybody should add to their itinerary if they are planning a trip to Thailand even though it does take a little while to get down there. If you go, do plan on staying for a few days, and I would highly recommend staying at the 10 Moons resort while you are there. It is one of those places that will stay with you long after you have left.

The Three Beaches – Koh Lipe, Thailand

Anytime I find myself on an island, the first thing I ask myself is how are the beaches. Koh Lipe is no different. The island has basically three different sides, and each side offers its own beach, and each beach has its own thing to offer. The first beach I saw was Pattaya Beach. It stretches in a horseshoe on one side of the island and has a couple of docks along it. It is the place where the ferries drop people off and it has quick and easy access to the Walking Street. The sand is nice, and the water is warm, but every time I made it to this part of the island the shore was covered with boats and tourists wanting to get on and off the island with their bags. It is an extremely crowded part of the island, but I also came out here during one of the busier times of the year, the Songkron holiday, and I am sure that if I had planned a little better, it wouldn’t have been so crazy.

Looking out over to the west is the Sunset Beach. This is the least developed part of the island. Part of the main reason for this is that the beach is completely covered up here during the high tide, and the only thing that is left is a rocky shore with a couple of hotels. The beach is wide open during the sunset and there are a couple of ways to get there. You can follow the shore line until you get to the tip of the island or you can head inland and walk down the main road until you get there. It is a great place to view the sun as it dips over the large island just a little ways away from the shore, but it is usually crowded and once again that might be because of the time I was here. The people who stay on this side of the island like the quiet that is offered during the day, and the ability to quickly leave to head out to the many dive sights that around the area.

I stayed on the Sunrise Beach. The tide does take away a lot of the beach, but there is always enough room to find a nice spot to relax on. There are a bunch of resorts that line up and down the beach, and each of them likes to park their longtail boats just off shore during the night. During the day, most of these boats are used to pick up customers from Pattaya Beach or taking people out to the many spots on the other small islands around the area. Luckily my hotel was at the very end of the beach where there was a little more privacy and less boats, and offered what felt like my own sandy paradise.

All in all, it doesn’t matter where you stay in Koh Lipe, all of the places here are great. And if you are not supper happy with the place you find yourself, it does not take much time to move over to another spot, and enjoy the view from there. Koh Lipe is just a great place to be for vacation and I am glad to have been able to make it out here during my time in Thailand.

Dri-Dock, A Review – Koh Lipe, Thailand

It is a common sight to see people walking around the island of Koh Lipe with either scuba diving gear, or on a lesser note, snorkeling equipment. The island sits right next to a huge corral reef, and there are amazing spots to go check out the fish and what else might be hiding in between the nooks and crannies underneath its sea. We were able to go just off shore from our hotel to see some amazing sights, but yesterday we took a trip to another island to check out the reef in all of its majesty.

In anticipation of this event, I made an impulse buy on Walking Street, a phone case that claimed that I would be able to take pictures underwater up to 30 meters down by a company called Dri-Dock. Considering I was only going snorkeling, this seemed like the perfect thing to take out on this trip. I took my purchase back to my hotel and tested it out in the little bay just a few steps away from reception.

First of all, it did keep my phone dry. In fact, it did a really good job of this. I was impressed by the way the slip of plastic would seal up and prevent any form of moisture from getting through. And when it was above water, it did a great job of taking pictures. It did not look like the phone was in any case whatsoever, and the pictures turning out as great as the normally would.

But when I tried to take underwater pictures, it did not work as well. Now, keep in mind that my phone is an iPhone6 and I know that the technology has gotten better over the years since I bought it, so some modern phones might have a better ability to take these pictures. But I would press the button on numerous occasions, and sometimes it would click, and sometimes it would take a burst of photos sometimes up to 275 of them, or it would just not work at all.

When there were no fish in the picture, it did much better, but that is not why I wanted this addition in the first place. This corral reef had some amazing fish swimming around it and I would have loved to have gotten a couple of pictures of some of them. If I did get a picture of a fish, it was too blurry to really see what it was, and I just had to settle of photos of the underwater landscape.

I can’t complain too much though because I was able to get a couple of great pictures that I would have never gotten otherwise. It did do a good job of keeping my phone dry, and I only spent twelve dollars to have this ability. Overall, it was worth the purchase.

I don’t plan on going snorkeling again anytime soon, but I will use the Dri-Dock bag again on one of my many adventures on a kayak or out on sea. It will give me the piece of mind of have been looking for when I go out on these adventures and I worry about taking my phone with me. Now, I can get those shots that I have always hoped of getting. I just wish it worked a little better underwater.

Camera Play – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I have been told that it is no the camera, but it is the photographer that makes the picture. And to a certain extent I agree with that assessment. It is about the knowledge of how to use light and composition, and if you know those two things you can take some amazing pictures even using a disposable camera if you can still find one that is.

And I don’t claim to be an expert photographer and there is a lot that I still need to learn about the craft, but I think I take some pretty good pictures using an iPhone6. It has treated me well during the six years I have been putting together this blog, but I am starting to see some limitations with the device. The zoom features does not work great and cause me to get some pixilated pictures if I zoom in too far. When the sun goes down, the hope of taking a good picture gets thrown out the window, even with its flash feature. And when I am close to water I am afraid of getting it wet, and let’s not even talk about trying to get a picture underwater.

But I have reached a place with my phone that I am willing to take more risks to push the limited capabilities that it does have. Being in Thailand, there are many photo opportunities I did not try for because I didn’t want to ruin my phone. But considering the last time I took my cracked screen to an Apple genius and they laughed at me before changing their expression and saying, “Oh, you’re serious,” I think that it might be time for an upgrade.

This means that I went out and purchased my first ever accessory for my phone, a Dry Dock camera case. It is a camera case that seals up my phone airtight, and allows me to take pictures underwater. It doesn’t have the greatest capabilities and claims to only go down 30 meters. Considering that I don’t plan on going that far underwater ever, and that I will be going on a snorkeling trip to see the coral reefs off of the coast of Koh Lipe, it seemed like a safe purchase to make. I would still a little nervous about how well it would work, so I went out to take it for a spin in the area by my hotel.

The first time worked well. It take a little effort to take a picture, but it seems like I will get a couple of great pictures and my phone my survive for another year of taking pictures for my blog. So here’s to crossing my fingers and hoping for an amazing photo shoot as it becomes more about the camera and less the photographer.

Walking Street – Koh Lipe, Thailand

I know a lot of people think about vacation and they get this image in their heads that all they will is find a hammock somewhere, nestle into it with a good book and ask the closest waiter to bring them another smoothie. And yes, a beach vacation involves a lot of that, but every once in awhile, you need to remove yourself from the hammock and see other parts of what the island has to offer. Koh Lipe has a nice section of the island devoted to this other activity and it is the perfect place to head to as the sun starts to sink in the sky, and things start to cool off, Walking Street.

Depending on which side of the island you find yourself on, it is either really easy to find or rather difficult. If you are on the Pattaya Beach side, there is a big entrance marking the street right across the sand from the plastic dock where the boats will drop people off at. But if you are on the Sunrise Beach, it is a little more difficult to find. First you have to locate the Anda Resort and then walk through its grounds and the nice big pool where everybody is relaxing. You then look for the big entrance to the right of the resort that will indicate you have made it to the bustling part of the island. You will have to watch out for the motorcycles on this street because it is one of the main thoroughfares but if you keep looking to the left, you will eventually find walking street and will be a lot safer.

Walking Street has a lot of shopping opportunities, but more importantly, it has all of the best restaurants. None of these establishments look over the ocean, so in order to attract the tourists that make it to this island, they have to try a different approach; they have to have good food. There are a variety of food options from vegan and vegetarian dishes, to Spanish tapas, American cuisine, Italian, seafood, and of course, a bunch of Thai restaurants. Two of my favorites so far are the Elephant which has a great bar and some really good burgers, and the Box which is a Spanish tapas place with a chef that came from Spain to add some authenticity to the dishes. If you call ahead, you can even get him to make a paella for a larger party.

It is not just the night life that makes it a fun place to visit. There are many sites that will keep you turning your head every minute, and of course, if you pay close attention, you will come across those minor details that prove that you are in a tourist destination. It is always one of my favorite things to read signs that have been translated from the native tongue into English in order to attract more customers. I don’t know if these mistakes are made on purpose in order to bring people in to have a little laugh, or if they discovered the magic of the mistake after it is made. Either way, it is always something to look for, and for some reason these are usually the places that have the most amount of customers.

Walking street is the place to make it to during the nighttime while in Koh Lipe. It gives this small island a little bit of everything you look for when choosing a getaway vacation. You have your beach living during the day, and vibrant nightlife when the sun goes down. It is a site that must be checked off your list if you ever make it this far south in Thailand.

The Slow Life – Koh Lipe, Thailand

It might have been a long day of travel to make it all the way from Bangkok all the way to Koh Lipe, and my first evening here was more to decompress from the travel rather than soaking up the island life, but after a good night’s sleep, and a change of perspective, I really found the groove of this place really quick.

And that is to move slow. There is no reason to rush anything because everything I really need is right within my reach, and even more than I really do need.

I have landed on the far corner of the beach that stretches along one side of this tiny island at a spot they call the Sunrise side. It is supposed to be the perfect place to rise up early and get some amazing photos of the sun rising over the horizon. I am not at the place in vacation yet where I want to set my alarm so I can see the sunrise, but it will be one of the things that I will do while I am out here. It is also nice because it makes this the quieter part of the beach. Many of the people who choose to stay here do so because they know that people will be going to bed earlier because of the allure of that sunrise option in the morning.

But if there is a sunrise side of the beach there needs to be a sunset side as well. When the tide rushes out, the beach becomes wide enough where you can make the walk easily to the other side of the beach and watch the sunset from over there. When I first heard of this feature, I though that meant that I would have to curve around the island to get to the other side, but it shaped more like a horseshoe or a bay with each side looking out over the other side of the island. Once again, I have been only here for a day and have not made it to that other side yet, but it is in the plans to make sure I get in one good sunset while I am here. This one should be easier to do because it won’t require me to set an alarm to make it happen.

In between the sunset and the sunrise, there are all the things one would expect to see on an island. There are great snorkeling opportunities, and I have been out a couple of times already. The fish that hide among the coral reefs right off the shore are amazing and I need to figure out a way to take pictures underwater so I can share some of these treasures. There is a Market Street to explore that has a lot of great restaurants and a night life scene that I will have to participate in a couple of times while I am out here. And there is always the surprise around the corner. I have heard wild boar rooting around underneath my cabin at night, and I have run into a couple of monitor lizards enjoying the beach as much as the tourists.

All in all, now that I have slowed down a bit and am able take in things at a more reasonable pace, the vacation mindset has taken over. It is nice to be a part of the slow life every once in awhile, and it looks like Koh Lipe is the perfect place to take in this slower pace.

The Path of Suffering – Koh Lipe, Thailand

According to Buddhists, the only way to achieve nirvana is by traveling down the path of suffering. There is a lot that can be learned during traveling down that path as long as we are willing to sit down and reflect on those moments and think about how they have affected us. In principle, this sounds like a beautiful thing, but it is really hard to reflect back on those moments and think about how they have changed us or what lessons we are supposed to learn from the experience. Sometimes this is just something we wish to forget all about.

My travels to my Songkron Break location, the island of Koh Lipe in southern Thailand, was one of these experiences that I would love to forget about and I don’t know if I will ever want to revisit the experience to see if I can come up with a lesson that I have learned from the experience. There were a lot of steps that I needed to take on this commute, but one of them hung everything up and turned what should have been nine hour travel day into one that took a little over fourteen hours to arrive at our destination. We scheduled a driver to take us to the airport at five in the morning, and we had plenty of time to get on our seven o’clock flight which left on time. It took a few extra minutes to find out driver to take us down to the pier where we were going to catch our ferry to Koh Lipe, but once we found him, he did a great job of getting us there on time.

It was when we hit this part of our travels where things came to a grinding halt. After a year and a half of getting hit with low tourism, the industry saw a sudden surge in travelers this week. Some of them took advantage of this fact by overbooking certain services. The ferry was one of these services that was overbooked. We were a little late for the ferry we booked a month ago, but it didn’t matter because they were running so far behind that we were not able to get on a ferry four hours later.

There is nothing like sitting on a crowded dock during a pandemic with dreams of a sandy beach dancing in your head. I looked at the people not wearing their masks and wondered if they were going to be packed in my ferry, and I wondered if I would ever get off of this concrete slab protruding out into the sea. It didn’t help that the only shops in the ferry building sold either expensive jewelry or coffee drinks, neither of which would satisfy my grumbling stomach. I might have left to go to another restaurant close by to get a quick bite to eat, but we had to wait around in the hopes of getting on whatever ferry they deemed us worthy enough to join.

It might not have been the worst suffering that anyone had to endure in their lifetimes, but I did feel like I was on Buddhism’s famous path, and I should meditate about the moment in order to reach my Nirvana. And now that I have finally reached Koh Lipe and have a whole week to do nothing but enjoy the beauty of this small island far away from the hustle and bustle of my regular life. Yes, it was a painful day and some of that pain seemed a little unnecessary with a little more organization, but in the long run I made it to Koh Lipe. I am safe. I have a comfortable hotel room. I am surrounded by kind and caring staff. I have choice of excellent restaurants to eat at. I have options of many sea activities to entertain me during the next week.

Maybe there is something to that path of suffering.

Maybe I have reached my Nirvana.