December 30, 2013

Our Favorite Place in Southeast Asia So Far: Koh Lipe, Thailand

Sawatdee Kah and Happy New Year from picture perfect Koh Lipe, Thailand!

A few weeks ago we flew from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai to minibus bound for Pakbara, had an overnight at the crappiest guesthouse ever, then hitched a ride to the pier in the back of a pickup truck, hopped on a speedboat, switched to a longtail boat straight to Sunrise Beach...put our toes in the sand...and we made it: KOH LIPE!

I was looking forward to the Thai island portion of the trip for far too long. The first time we heard of Koh Lipe was when our friend Denis said 'Koh Lipe...they say it's the Seychelles of Thailand!" in in! 

This island is small, yet not too small. It's a perfect mix of touristy, yet not too touristy (enough tours and eateries but nothing is in-your-face). Koh Lipe is surrounded by other, less developed islands too so day trips and snorkeling-island-hopping are easy and common. The sand is soft, the water is so clear and the people are smiley and warm (but I've heard all Thai people are this way). There are open-air bars and chilled out bars such as Boom Boom Bar on Sunset Beach and Longtail Bar on Lipe's Walking Street. And we've come to enjoy plenty of movie nights at Pooh's Bar. There are delicious Thai pancake cafes one after another serving up cheap, piping hot Thai pancakes and fresh plates of chicken with Thai basil and chilis. We even have our favorite cafe which we have frequented for breakfast and dinner on most days! 

To sum up, we absolutely love Koh Lipe. So much so that after we island hopped our way to remote Koh Kradan and to big Koh Lanta, we decided to come right back to Koh Lipe for another week to celebrate New Year's Eve!

We've heard that Koh Lipe is just a smidge more expensive than other islands (and it's true, Koh Lanta was cheaper). Backpackers can still easily make this place fit within their budgets. But it's absolutely worth the trip to southern Thailand to visit this beautiful little island.

*To reach Koh Lipe, fly to Hat Yai with Air Asia, get a taxi to the bus station and get a minivan for the 1.5 hour drive to Pakbara pier (about $10/ticket). Then buy a speedboat ticket direct to Koh Lipe. Or you can take the speedboat or Tigerline Ferry from Koh Lanta (costs about $50/ticket and takes anywhere between 3-6 hours).

*Koh Lipe is small but has several beach bungalows, a few fancy hotels and some guesthouses right off Lipe's Walking Street.

*Snorkeling off Sunrise Beach was incredible! We saw tons of sea urchins, colorful fish and curious clownfish eager to come out for a photo.

*We have been eating the most amazing Thai pancakes and Thai curries at Coffee House, which is at a split in the road at the end of the Walking Street en route to OMG Sports Bar.

{Our highly recommended beach bungalow at Gipsy Resort, $40/night for this beachfront bamboo hut, hammock included}

Thieves in Monkey Forest

Thieves! I mean we did everything right. Or so we thought. We didn't walk around with valuables or things sticking out of our pockets. We left our plastic bags and souvenirs behind the guard post. But it happened anyway: monkey thieves! 

On our full-day tour of beautiful Ubud, we made our way to the small cute town itself and ultimately to the Monkey Forest. We actually almost skipped it. Boy are we glad we didn't.

Monkey Forest is...a forest...filled with monkeys! Walking through the jungle you see crumbling shrines, vines overtaking bridges, dense greenery and on top of it all, there are monkeys running amok everywhere, And these monkeys are menacing little beings! Snatching and grabbing and jumping on everything. Playing and rolling around in the pathways but hey they are entitled to it, afterall it's their home. 

The Monkey Forest was definitely one of the highlights of our daytrip to Ubud...even with what happened next.

So we walk out of Monkey Forest, grab our plastic bag of Balinese wooden bowls we bought literally 5 minutes before and make our way to the taxi. We thought we were in the clear! But a monkey had other plans.

About 10 ft before we climb into the taxi, a monkey runs over to Christian and pulls on the plastic bag (note: this is outside and across the street from the Monkey Forest walls). Christian tries to pull back but then figures he's no match for those fangs and drops the bag so the monkey can see that there is no food inside. Well he didn't find food but he did take one of the bowls hostage and took off running into the trees! 

The monkey chewed on the bowl, fiddled with the bubble wrap and eventually took off the bubble wrap and dropped it to the ground...taunting us humans below. Our taxi driver and some locals were trying to distract him and threw little things at home to get him to drop it. I mean this monkey was pretty high up there. And we were there...ready to catch the bowl at any moment.

In a quick second, as we laughed hysterically and turned our attention away (for just a moment!)...he dropped it. Now this Balinese bowl is not only a half-broken bowl, but a great (and hilarious!) memory from Bali.

Monkey: 1
Christian & Rachael: 0

Now looking for uses for a half-broken bowl....
{The monkey thief himself!}
{And our new half bowl souvenir ;)}

December 27, 2013

Lush and Green Ubud, Bali

We hope you are all enjoying the holiday season! It's a bit weird to be in a tropical place and away from our families this doesn't quite feel like Christmas without a bunch of tipsy family members and green bean casserole in my opinion ;). On the other hand, we are enjoying spending our first official Christmas as husband and wife laying out in the sun, swimming in the sea and zipping through the Thai jungle by motorbike.

A few weeks ago we had our 'honeymoon week' in Bali (cliche right? But the villas are soooo affordable and beautiful!) and Christian booked us a cheap, amazing Balinese villa. For this week, we enjoyed not being backpackers.

More on the villa later. Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali, is almost always every visitor's highlight on the island. It was our highlight, too! Lush jungle, hidden temples, rice fields with rainbows of green, coffee plantations and monkeys. Ooooh the monkeys, I can't wait to share that story. 

We were lucky enough to snag a cab driver/tour guide for a full 10-hour day exploring the areas around Ubud--all for only about $50! 

I'll let the pictures do the talking this time...
{Delicious Nasi Campur dish at Cafe Wayan in Ubud--best food we had all week! Besides Taco Beach Grille in Seminyak...I'm a sucker for carne asada and it was so good)