Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Hop, Skip, and a Jump to Koh Lipe

Wesak Day, or Buddha's Birthday, is a public holiday in Malaysia. We celebrated by chasing white sandy beaches and crystal clear blue water in the Andaman Sea. Just northwest of the Thai-Malaysian border is the Tarutao National Park, which is a small group of protected islands. We stayed on the only inhabited island in the group, Koh Lipe (pronounced "koe lee-pay). Koh Lipe is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Penang.

The hop to Koh Lipe is a short, 30 minute flight from Penang to Langkawi. Langkawi is a Malaysian island right on the border with Thailand. We've visited there before. You can read the post by clicking here. We had a few hours to spend in Langkawi before skipping to Koh Lipe, so we took the famous Langkawi Cable Car to the tall limestone peaks on the island. It's one of the longest and steepest cable car rides in the world. Here is Craig and his friends Katie and Lauren as we leave the base station for the trek up the hill.

From the top of the mountain you can see the surrounding blue waters, tall white sailboats, and Thailand. The rolling clouds and shadowy peaks made for a dramatic view.

Skipping to Koh Lipe is a nice speedboat from Langkawi across the Andaman Sea. The journey took about an hour. We passed by other small islands, fishing boats, and more blue waters.

After a relaxing one hour ride we arrived at Pattaya Beach in Koh Lipe. Now we jumped into a longtail boat to be ferried to the shore. Here is a picture of the longtail boat gathering up passengers and luggage from the Langkawi speedboat.

We squeezed onto the longtail boat with all of the other passengers and our luggage. The boat was so full that one wrong move and we'd all be poured into the blue water for an impromptu skin dive. Can you spot Craig and Jennifer in the crowd?

After jumping ashore, we needed to clear Thai immigration. In true laid-back, beach style, the immigration office was a shack on the sand, about 50 feet from the water.

After clearing customs we picked up our bags from the, er, "beach style" baggage claim.

Now that we had arrived in Koh Lipe we were excited to find our hotel. We stayed at the Serendipity Resort, which is situated on a hill overlooking the sea. Can you see the thatch roofed building poking out of the jungle overlooking the corals with the cotton-sandy beach? That's our hotel!

The Serendipity Resort is a series of wooden bungalows with a restaurant. It's only been open for a year, but it's so popular that they extended their season a couple of months to accomodate all of the interest they've had. After staying there, we can understand why. Here is Craig with fellow travelers Liam and Willa.

The reason Serendipity is so popular is that the accomodations and staff are so much fun. Each bugalow has a view of the ocean, a thatched roof, and is made out of wood and other natural materials. They are set in the forest on a hill, so each cabin feels like a private jungle getaway.

The bungalows are really beautiful inside and had plenty room for the three of us. They were stocked with books, games, candles, flashlights, and a kitchenette. Here is Craig and his friends playing around his bed one morning. Each bed has its own mosquito net to keep any pesky insects from snacking on you while you're asleep.

The staff would stock the in-room refrigerator with food for breakfast, so there was always a nice feast complete with fresh fruits, bread, and yogurt to eat while enjoying the view. We ate breakfast every morning on our balcony. Craig especially loved the Thai oranges, which have green colored skin!

Fun was easy to find, as it was only a few steps away. Craig and his friends spent one morning painting ceramic animals with the hotel staff.

Craig had a great time!

The warm water was fun to float around in, too.

Jennifer and I joined a tour group on a longtail boat that took us to various beaches and snorkeling spots around the large islands to the north of Koh Lipe. Craig doesn't like snorkeling, so he stayed behind to play with his friends and their parents.We stopped at an interesting beach. Instead of soft, silky sand, this beach is covered in smooth, round, black rocks. It's the only beach of its kind in the area.

We also stopped at a very secluded beach covered in white sand and clear waters. Here's Jennifer's feet soaking up the warm water.

Here's a picture of yours truly floating in front of our longtail boat with the national park in the background. We had lunch under the shade of the trees on the shore!

Near to the white sandy beach is the largest waterfall in the Tarutao National Park. We hiked clear to the top of it. Here's a picture with me standing at the top - just to provide a perspective on the size of the falls (okay, maybe the tour guide oversold this one a bit).

The beaches and islands were all beautiful, but there was more beauty to be found under the water. We visited four different snorkeling spots and saw a huge variety of fish. Here is a sea anemone that we saw. We found Nemo hiding in it. Can you?

We also saw Nemo's friend: a Moorish Bannerfish.

I first thought that this large blue thing was a coral, but it's actually a type of starfish.

Craig saw pictures of this blue striped seasnake, and was worried that we got bitten.

After a full day of snorkeling, we went for a walk on the beach in search of a good restaurant to eat at. There are plenty of them - all serving Thai food right on the beach!

After a few days of soaking up sun and fun in Koh Lipe, we headed back to Langkawi. We had another few hours to spend there before boarding our plane to Penang, so we relaxed in style at the Four Seasons resort. Here's Craig enjoying the five-star amenities.

This was a great trip. We all left with smiles on our faces (and for those of us who didn't pack well, a few whiskers too).

Koh Lipe was such a great, relaxing place to visit. The untouched beaches, crystal clear water, and lush jungle surroundings made it feel like we were living on our own private island.


  1. Hi! the pictures look amazing! We are planning to go to Koh Lipe and stay at the Serendipity at the end of the month, do you really recommend it? is the beach as white and the water as crystal clear as in the pictures they show on the website?

    Sorry for all these questions but we just want to make sure we go to the right place :)


  2. We totally recommend it! The water really is crystal clear. We are thinking of returning for Chinese New Year. The food is really wonderful and the staff is very attentive. You won't regret your stay there.