Three days at Koh Laoliang wasn't enough time. I only sent one of my projects (a really steep and fun 7b+).
Jonathan and Rachel had to catch a flight on January 6th, and Jeanna had to get up to Phuket. I had four days to get to Singapore so I could fly home. I decided to hop a tiger-lines ferry to Koh Lipe. If you ever have a choice of boats to take in the Andaman sea, and Tiger lines is one of them - don't bother. It's a poorly run business with lousy customer service, boats that are never on time and never look that sea-worthy and outrageously high prices. It did get me to my destination though.
I arrived at Koh Lipe thinking I could just walk around a nice beach, and find a cheap place to stay. Nope. That was 10 years ago. Good luck now. Koh Lipe is as over-run with tourists as any typical beach destination. The prices are fairly high, so book early to find the best deals.
I found an over-priced very large family-sized room for 1500 Bhat per night, as there wasn't much available on a saturday afternoon.
I went snorkeling with one of the local tour operators in Turutao National Park the next day. It was worth it. Great views, beautiful beaches, and good snorkeling. The only downside was that the closer you look at the "pristine" beaches, the more plastic you will find.
On my third day I took a ferry to Langkawi, Malaysia. The ferry was delayed so I had to run through Malaysian border control with a couple of Italians and a Canadian in order to find a taxi to drive us over to the airport, where we were all flying to Kuala Lumpur. Somehow we made it, and that night I was enjoying good Chinese food and good conversation in a downtown night market. I strolled over to the base of the Patronus Towers with a fellow traveler from the Koh Lipe and Langkawi flight. Kuala Lumpur is a modern city with a gritty underbelly. It's a fun city to visit, has great, cheap, transportation, and a sizeable ex-pat population. It didn't really stand out from too many other cities though; sometimes I feel like they're all the same...
On my one full day to enjoy the city, I took a bus to the Batu Caves, where there is a 50-meter-tall statue of the Hindu Deity Murugan stands guard next to the 272 steps ascending into a spectacular example of Karst and chemical weathering of limestone. I took my climbing gear with me (this is western Malaysia's most famous climbing area) but couldn't find anyone to join. So instead I took a few photos, watched monkeys steal food from ignorant tourists, and then returned to Kuala Lumpur downtown on a very cheap train.
I spent my last evening dining out once again, snapping photos of Kuala Lumpur Tower in the moonlight, and then chatting with fellow travelers at the Back Home Hostel. The next morning, a 5-hour luxurious bus ride (don't take the train, unless you want to only for the "romance") to Singapore. I took a nap at my hotel, then embarked on 20 hours of air travel back to my home in Chamonix. October 22nd to January 11th - a great adventure in the southern hemisphere and the Southeast Asian tropics!