My flight to Hat Yai was delayed. This seemed to be a common occurence with AirAsia. So where's Hat Yai you ask? Well.... It's at the bottom of Thailand... So I had veered away from my loosely written itinerary in favour of an alternative plan.
Following a free ride (a kind mini bus driver) from Hat Yai airport to the main bus terminal 15 minutes away, I found myself sitting and waiting for the 3 hour minibus journey to Pak Bara. From here I needed to take a fast boat to the island of Koh Lipe. I arrived late, due to my delayed flight and missed the last fast boat. As I booked the first fast boat for the next morning the lady selling the ticket asked if I had accommodation. She recommended Happy Guesthouse and pointed me in the right direction. A grossly overweight and incredibly unhappy host stomped to the tiny front desk. I asked if she had a single room for the night for 200 baht. 'My aunty just called and said you were on your way. She said 300 baht.' Ha! Typical. She showed me my sweatbox and fan, plus bathroom. The bathroom door needed a kick to get inside each time as it automatically locked on closing. It was full of mosquitoes so needed to be kept closed. I showered in the cold water and headed for food.
The next morning I gathered up my gear, pocketed my ferry ticket to Koh Lipe and walked 10 minutes to Pak Bara pier. Here I was charged again to enter the pier, to allow me to catch the boat that I already held a ticket for. Again, this seems very typical of Thailand. As I approached the jetty another charge for something else.
The fast boat ride was lovely. We zipped between islands in the Andaman Sea under beautiful blue skies. Two hours later I was being met by Laura. She arrived the day before, and had slept in a hostel pod. An air conditioned room with double mattress sleeping pods. We decided to take a look at alternative accommodation and settled for a little wooden beach bungalow on the nicest beach in the area. Not only was it the nicest beach, it was a beach where if the sky was clear enough in the morning, the sunrise could be appreciated.
Each morning the old man that rented the beach huts rode around on his little moped and shouting, 'CHECK OUT!?' at every person he could see. It didn't matter if they'd paid in advance for two or three nights the message was the same. This would generally lead in to a brief conversational interaction trying to explain that we had also paid for tonight.... and at the end he would look at you again and repeat, 'CHECK OUT? OKAY.' It made for an amusing few minutes each morning. Koh Lipe is pretty. We relaxed on our beach, swam and ate.
In the evenings we headed to 'Sunset Beach'. Here, you've already guessed it, and whilst doing so we would enjoy a couple of beers whilst sat on the beach.
aura wasn't sure where to go or what to do next. Nor was I. I considered the Cameron Highlands in the North of Malaysia, but then decided that I'd seen plenty of tea growing areas in Thailand and India. And I was also enjoying our time together. I'd read good things about Tioman Island off the South East coast of Malaysia. So after 3 nights on Koh Lipe we departed the shores of this Thai paradise and began making our way towards a Malaysian paradise for a few days.
A boat and then a very long, very icy afternoon and overnight bus journey with a change at around 4am on to a warmer bus with just us on it saw us arriving in the town where the Tioman ferry departs from at 10am. We had missed it. This meant a half hour taxi ride to the next town. The ferry was busy, but at least we were on board. I'd checked out an area on the map where it seemed we might find some affordable accommodation. This was the town area of Tioman. Basically an island beachfront with a duty free shop, a cafe and a road. The interior of Tioman is mountainous with one road connecting one side to the other. The only way of reaching the other communities is via boat. Our stop was the third docking. We had been travelling for 24 hours and were shattered. We grabbed our bags and wandered in to a cafe hoping to find Wifi and source some cheap accommodation. Of course there was no Wifi.