We are Canadian Snowbirds of a different plumage if you will. We don’t go south… we go west.
In December of 1979 we liquidated and embarked on an extended trip to SE Asia. We purchased a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand. After a month of stops in Hawaii, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong… we arrived in Bangkok. Still a little wet behind the ears, Bangkok was a little daunting. After 5 intense days in Bangkok, we headed for the fabled tropical isle of Ko Samui and stayed for 3 weeks. Continuing on to Penang, Malaysia we immediately began to miss the culture and people of Thailand. So with a new 60 day visa we headed for Phuket. Life was a beach.
In 1988 the pangs of missing Thailand were great, so off we went again. (they say you can never “go back”… but it was just as we had left it) While in Bangkok we we’re told of a great beach… Rai Lay. It’s on the west side of a land-locked peninsula just outside Krabi Town. We happened upon Pine Bungalows, a very basic and inexpensive beach bungalow establishment (grass, bamboo huts and restaurant) on Rai Lay beach. The Andaman sea is an amazing south sea tropical paradise. There are an abundance of tropical white beaches and fantastic monolithic limestone outcroppings that rise up out of the azure waters. The old James Bond movie “Man With A Golden Gun” was filmed in the area.
Returning to Pine Bungalows every winter over the next 8 years, we became good friends of the manager Mr Chung, wife Keow and many other farangs (foreigners like us) that we found to come every year. During that time Mr Chung always talked about having his own establishment one day. He also asked if we would like to have our own bungalow… we said sure… who wouldn’t?
So in January of 1994 while we were at Pine waiting for a friend to go with us to Vietnam… Mr Chung said let’s go pick out your land. Mr Chung had purchased 10 acres of waterfront (500 meters on the water by about 80 meters deep) with some family help and by leasing 18 plots to a few hand picked farangs. We arrived on the beach at Ko Siboya and had a choice of about 8 different plots that were still available. (some of the other chosen folk had arrived in December and had had first choice) All the waterfront plots were spoken for so we chose one in the second tier, slightly elevated with a great sunset water view through the palm trees.
Mr Chung’s dream became reality in 1995. His family moved to the island of Ko Siboya (see-boy-ya) and built Siboya Bungalows. Ko Siboya is about 20 kilometres (1.5 hours by long-tail boat or road) south of Krabi along the coast, half way to Ko Lanta. (if you’ve heard of it) It’s home for about 1000 locals who maintain a simple Thai lifestyle in the rubber plantations or fishing. 5 or 6 small congregations of houses (villages) are connected by dirt roads and trails. There are 2 primary schools that seem to handle students up to the age of about 14 or 15. Aside from the odd stall selling household supplies and petrol, there are no commercial enterprises at all. A government clinic is open 3 days a week on the east side of the island to handle minor problems. Koh Siboya, as you might guess is extremely quiet. Siboya Bungalows has 20 simple bungalows set in a beautiful garden of coco palms, hibiscus, bougainvillea and banana trees. The island has no running water or electricity, so Mr Chung has built a gravity feed water system (for showers) and has a generator that runs from sunset till mid-night to supply light to the restaurant and bungalows.
January 1995 found us picking up the option on the water front plot in front of us. Allan from Australia had decided not to go through with his plans, so he let his option lapse.
In 1996 we built our own bungalow “Coconut Beach” on the waterfront, we enjoyed it so much it’s hard to describe… that first year we really only had about two weeks in the completed bungalow before we had to head home. Over the next six years we truly came to revere it as our second home. It’s quite a story… when we were first asked if we were interested in building a house we hesitantly answered in the affirmative… you never know what other cultures sensibilities are when it comes to where one might want to build a house (cottage)
The food… let’s talk food. The food is fabulous; we constantly met people year that came for 2 days just because they had heard that the food was so good. Their 2 days stretch to a week as they worked their way through the menu. The authentic Thai dishes are mouth watering (I’m salivating just writing this) Everything has been taken care of, fancy serving dishes, unreal menu, absolutely wonderful family staff, spotless etc., you get the picture. Westernized meals will satisfy any and all palates. Mr Chung has designed and built a marvelous kitchen with lots of space and stainless steel, looks like a commercial kitchen you’d find in any big restaurant in Bangkok. During the evening rush, maestro Chung stands in the kitchen and orchestrates most of his extended family.
The beach is very shallow, with the water going out about 100 meters. We tend to plan our day around the tide. If it’s in a low phase (out all day) we often book a long-tail boat for the day and 8-10 of us go out to an uninhabited island, about 1.5 hours, for some very good snorkeling etc. (some basic gear is usually available, we always travel with our own) The kitchen packs a lunch and off you go.
For games of badminton, volleyball or Chung’s favourite Takraw, (spelling) a section of old rice paddies has been groomed and nets strung. At 4:30pm Chung has to have his daily Takraw fix… everyone is welcome and he will give anyone who’s interested a lesson, to the delight of the spectators. Many of the people that used to come back to Pine year after year are now going to Koh Siboya. Chung has quite a following. It has the flavour of a quiet retirement home for mature travelers. There’s no advertising yet other than the Website I built and maintain for him. Mr. Chung doesn’t like using touts meeting the buses, boats, etc. and telling lies to get the people to come, so it’s strictly word of mouth.
In 2000 we decided to see if we could sell the water front plot with the house and build anew on our original land. We had built the front bungalow in such a way as to not impede the view from the rear, we had wanted to keep all contingencies open. Out of the blue comes Allan (remember he gave up his option back in ’96)… his financial situation had improved and he was once again in the market for his dream on Siboya. What a coincidence… long story short… he’s now the owner where he started.
We continue to go back to Siboya and rent one of the now 25 houses built by farangs. It’s really become a reclusive enclave for old travelers.