Ko Lipe was something out of a travel fantasy. Incredible beaches. No cars. Great food. Friendly locals and tourists. Cheap beer. Coral reefs. And bungalows held together by termites.
Uh. Wait. That's not really a travel fantasy, is it? But it is what we experiences while we stayed at the Porn Resort.
Which needs to be explained in its own right, as well. The Porn Resort was not, as you may have thought, an adults-only resort where the activities include oil wrestling and wearing silk robes. In fact, this wasn't the only place with that word in the title - we'd run into restaurants and guesthouses bearing that ... unfortunate name. Turns out it is a family name in Thailand. But it's best not to try and look up someone with that name in Google. Trust me.
So back to the termites. Ann, Glen and Kyla bargained hard for two bungalows while I ran back to get the packs, and check out of the place we were staying at for the first night. They settled on 450 Baht a night, for five or six nights, which is about 15 Canadian per bungalow. Good price, and the bungalows appeared to be everything we needed.
A nice porch. A mosquito net. A shower and toilet. A rather rustic little nest to hole up in for a week. And it was nice, except for a few eccentricities. The toilet and shower were a step down on a concrete pad at the back of the bungalow, and frogs would occasionally pop up the drain pipe to see what was going on (my technique of turning the shower hose on them didn't have much effect - thinking about it afterwards, I'm sure the frogs were in heaven having a cool jet of water turned on them. They must have waxed eloquently about it to there other froggie friends, which may have explained the increase in attendance).
And the termites. The first I noticed of them was while I was taking a shower. There were a few mud tunnels built along one of the walls. Mistakenly, I leaned a hand against one, and it crumbled, exposing dozens of termites walking within. I felt bad for breaking their little tunnel, but then started noticing - there were mud tunnels everywhere along the walls. I started to think that the mud was actually keeping the bungalow structurally sound. Within an hour, the termites had repaired the break, and I could kind of convince myself that the walls weren't alive with little bugs, walking this way and that on little bug errands.
Until the nighttime, when everything got quiet and dark, and Kyla and I could hear their tiny little termite feet walking in the walls. Every now and then one of them would dislodge a tiny bit of dry mud, and we could hear it crinkle-crinkle somewhere.
We reached an uneasy alliance with the termites - they didn't bug us, we didn't bug them, and since we couldn't really see them, we could almost forget about them, pretending that the tiny noises at night were nothing to be alarmed about. In fact, the songs of the geckos covered the noise well at night, so we didn't think much of it.
The day we were packing up, though, I moved a nice cloth bag that Kyla had been given in Japan. Plain black cloth with two strips of different coloured, patterned fabric. Tasty patterned fabric, I guess, since when I took the bag down from the wall, about a hundred termites came off with it. Oh crap, I thought, I'm glad Kyla is still asleep. I took the bag outside, exterminated me some termites, and surveyed the damage. They had eaten almost all of the red-coloured fabric. And they had industriously built an actual mud tunnel along the wall to where the bag was hanging, so that they could get at the sweet, sweet fabric. In a way, I was impressed. Horribly repulsed, but impressed.
After an indepth search, no more termites were found eating our belongings. However, I did find some mice droppings, which freaked me out. Turns out our bungalow had mice in the roof as well. I guess when you get a beach like that, 10 steps from your front porch, and you pay 15 CDN, you do get a rather ... rustic bungalow. In Canada, we would have called the Health Inspector. In Thailand, we merely shrugged, laughed it off, and were thankful there weren't giant poisonous snakes or something.
First off the boat
As our longtail boat pulled up to shore on the first night, all 12 of the tourists inside were a bit on edge. Talk on the ferry from Lanta had been that accommodation was tight on Lipe - sometimes difficult to find a room in this season. And since we were arriving so late (ferry engine troubles) and in the dark, it might be more difficult. Ann, Glen, Kyla and I had been making plans on how we would get rooms, and I'm sure each other group was doing the same, in hushed tones on the longtail boat.
As we got close to shore, I got up to help the Thai crewman with some of the bags. We were about 15 feet out from shore when the stress became too much for a young German woman, travelling with her older parents. She must have been elected to sort out the accommodation for the three of them and finally snapped under the pressure, since she got off of the bench with a jerk, shoved past me and the Thai guy, lept off the longtail into 3 feet of water, and scrambled through the waves towards shore. As soon as she hit the sand, she started running madly up the beach to the closest hotel. The boat hadn't even hit sand itself before she was gone from sight.
Everyone else got off in an orderly fashion, and people started dispersing to check out hotels and bungalows. There was absolutely no worries. Rooms were plentiful, and we wound up checking in to the same hotel as the Germans - in fact, right behind the old couple and their daughter, her dripping water and sand all over the outdoor lobby of the hotel.
Other Lipe Memories
Some other things we won't forget: (especially now, since they are written down legibly in our electronic journal. My guess is that I will forget everything from this entire trip at some point, so I have to make sure I at least write something down. Unfortunately, my notes are often in poor handwriting and very cryptic, meaning 30 years from now I'll try and reminisce about something, only to stare at a scrap of paper with "Tigers! 30 knots from shore..." scrawled on it, and have no idea what I'm supposed to be recalling fondly. Thankfully I live in the age of computers and typing, so as long as I write it down here, I'll be OK, I hope).
- The full-moon party, and the angry group of Thais who kept trying to insist that I knocked over their bucket of Rum and Coke. Kyla didn't know what was going on, and thought it was cute that I was surrounded by new friends. However, new friends don't keep insisting that you knocked over their bucket (I didn't), and that you now owe them a new bucket (I didn't). I kept saying "Not me!", until we finally left, but I was always a bit wary for the rest of the trip - possibly one of the reasons I grew the Fu-Manchu mustache. "No, that certainly wasn't me. I have a mustache, you see!"
- The incredible snorkelling right off of the beach. There was a reef 10 feet out, in 8 feet of water. We saw hundreds of fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, clown fish and anenomes, long skinny gar-like fish, and even a huge pufferfish.
- Practicing with those spinny things. Ann and Glen got good quite quickly, and even graduated to trying them while they were lit up with fire. Kyla followed them quickly along the path of goodness, while I lingered in the area of hitting myself in the head or crotch. Still, they were a fun diversion.
- The Thai people were incredibly friendly and open, and would tell you exactly what they thought. The script was difficult, though, which made the language unintuitive for us. I learned less Thai than any other language on the trip so far, which seemed OK, since most people had at least some English, and many had even better English than our own.