Koh Lipe... Seriously, this is getting ridiculous. Just when I thought it couldn't get any more beautiful, any more picture-perfect, Koh Lipe comes along and once again blows my mind. Having been to countless beaches in the past few weeks, I can say with some certainty that this is perhaps the best beach we have encountered. I'm talking fine, white sand, perfect warm aqua-marine blue water that has clarity like I have never seen. Something like 40 meter underwater visibility, like I said...ridiculous!!
The speed boat to Lipe was efficient and uneventful aside from encountering periodic rain patches which left us cold for the first time since leaving Munich. We arrived after about a 2 hour boat ride and were left on the beach with our bags, tasked with finding accommodation for the next couple of nights. We had read about a reggae-hippy-esque bungalow hideout on one of the small Lipe beaches, Bila. I had emailed and called this place a couple times with no answer/response, but having learned several times the concept of Thai time, I assumed they hadn't gotten to it, but that it was, 'all good'. We climbed the mountain, meandered through the dirt paths, through palms, and down the opposite hillside to finally stumble upon the oasis that was Bila Beach. Cool, good looking, young people were scattered about the lodge and beach, Bob Marley was playing, assuring us that "Every little things gonna be alright" as the dreadlocked bar man approached us asking how we were. I mentioned that I had called and emailed and was looking for a room for under 800 Baht. He stood in silence for a moment and with a half smile, he broke my heart with the simple words "All Full". I made the futile attempt to ask once again about my emails and phone calls, but quickly ceased, after all the man, "just worked there". So as sweat poured down my face and with a nearly exploding bladder we heaved our bags on onto our backs and trudged back up and over the mountain.
On the other side of the hill the first place we came to was the Daya Resort which we had also read about, mainly that it was cheap. We had also extended this knowledge to the cold, German tourists from Koh Muk, who had joined us on the boat to Lipe. We chatted to the lady at reception, who had never appeared to be confident with one word that came out of her mouth. She told us there were only 400 Baht rooms left. I was a bit nervous, but decided to take a look. The room was basic at best, it was a bit reminiscent of what I would think a room in a Thai insane asylum would look like. Clinical looking white & light blue tile floors, rock hard bed, dirty, crumbly white walls, and a bathroom with the one hose to wash yourself and the other to fill up the bucket in order to flush the toilet. However, it was 400 Baht, half what we were planning to pay, and there weren't any critters, or atleast any that were obviously visible, so we figured, "what the hell?"
Our first immediate instinct, we need a beer! So we left our lovely quarters and went out to the communal dining area and order two big Chang. Just then we saw the same German tourists walking towards our place. Being the kind people we are, we flagged them down told them not to go to Bila, told them what we payed and what it would get them. Armed with that info they checked out a couple other spots before deciding on ours. The only real difference was that miraculously the two best beach-front, ocean-view, adorable little bugalows were suddenly available and for a mere $3 more then ours and they snagged them. Ugh!!
After learning of this information, we approached another employee who appeared to have a bit more of a clue and told him the situation. He answered, "Sorry, All full now, maybe tomorrow" we answered, "Fantastic... Well, I think this calls for a couple more Changs, can you take care of that for us? Thanks."
And so we proceeded to get rather drunk on cold Chang as we played cards and googled such phrases as "Why are there so many Germans in Thailand?" and "Why are Germans so Cold?" - this was in response to the Germans taking our rooms, not thanking us, not inviting us sit with them, and only speaking in German to one another right next to us, intentionally leaving us out, even though they all spoke perfect English. "Spreche ze Dick?"
We spent the evening in this fashion, consuming several too many Chang, and by the time we had gone to bed we had even befriended a different German couple at a local watering hole. They were cool, and it turned out had been on our scuba boat in Lanta a few days earlier.
The next morning was a touch rougher than what I've been used to, we haven't had much in the way of booze since being in Thailand and those 6.4% alcohol Changs can sneak up on you. We grabbed coffee at a local cafe called Elephant that was run by a sweet young woman from San Francisco. We delightfully feasted on Egg Sandos and deliciously Americanized (read: not instant) Iced Coffees. We were in heaven. As we dined, we took in a friendly game of Scrabble, where I proceeded to whip Adrian's ass. Seriously, Adrian "Neard" as in, Neck Beard, is NOT in any dictionary I've ever read.
We decided it best to recoop from our lingering hangovers with a decent beach session. And so finally we got in our lazy beach day, spent reading, getting hot, jumping in the water, cooling off, then back to beach, and repeat. Perfect!
We found another amazing dinner of morning glory and cashew shrimp. It was tasty, but as the chiles simmered in my belly I began to think to myself "ok, think I might be getting over Thai food for a minute". And, as the chiles continued to burn a hole in my belly, we took a long walk around the island and hit the hay early.
The next morning we woke at 6:30 am the plan was to partake in the 7-8am beach yoga session on the opposite side of the island. We made our way over there to find out homie wanted to charge us 900 Baht for 1 hr of yoga = $30 USD. Is this L.A or something?? That certainly wasn't going to happen, so we declined and headed back to our side of the island where we went for a beach run and called it a day!
We bought two more iced coffees from our American friend; it's funny after a while you really miss American accents, I think I went back again mainly to listen to her speak.
We were properly caffeinated and so we stopped at the tourist shop to organize our transport to the mainland and north. We ran through many options and settled on making our way via speed boat to Pak Bara, transferring to a minivan for 2.5 hour trip to Hat Yai, where we would board a 6pm overnight train to Hua Hin.
Once we felt properly organized we rented a kayak and a couple of snorkels and took to the crystal clear waters to see what there is to see. The sun was scalding so we made sure to slather up on the sunscreen. We paddled until we were tired and sweaty and jumped in to cool off and take in some of the best snorkeling either of us have done. It was really a sight! We stopped at three or four spots and had a rest at a beautiful deserted beach. We saw a sea snake and a couple large Spiny Lobsters amongst about a million other colorful, tropical fish and sea creatures. After a few hours we both had about our fill of the sun and so made our way back to the island and returned our gear.
We escaped the sun and rinsed our salty, slightly burned bodies in our prison shower bathroom and headed into the village. By this time my guts and I had had about enough spicy Thai food and felt like I needed something a bit more "normal". Mercifully we found a bar and grill called 'OMG sports bar' that served veggie burgers. Thank you! They even showed a 7pm movie and it just do happened to be 6:50, it was fate! Seated on the ground with back and bum pads we dined over the cinematic masterpiece that is, Transformers 3... Because the first 2 were just oh so amazing! Upon watching this film I noticed something: while I expect this work from the likes of Shia LeBouff (Er whatev), Josh "Mr. Fergie" Dumahl (Er whatever), or Tyrese (ha ha, Tyrese) - because well we don't really expect anything. But honestly Frances McDormand & John Malcovich??? Shocking, just shocking.
Although, I was entirely captivated and enthralled throughout the film, the real show was what was happening outside, or rather right next to us. The restaurant had an open, no walls, type of set-up and the lightning show that we had seen earlier had developed into quite a little weather system. As the war between the Autobots and Decepticons raged on the screen the sky decided to incite its own rage in the form of howling winds, loud cracks of thunder, and buckets and buckets and buckets of rain, some of which soaked those seated on the outer part of the lounge. The storm lasted a good 45 minutes- an hour. And after the film had sadly come to an end we were left to essentially swim home. The pathways were completely inundated with ankle high muddy water, but in the end we made it back to our little piece of heaven at the Daya resort.
In the morning we headed out to the beach for a little work out and were witness to all the aftermath of the storm. Massive areas of the beach were washed out and three rivers tore a path from the land to the ocean bringing most of the beach with it. The water had gone from a wondrously clear blue to a dirty, murky brown.
We got a little sweat on and went back to the room to discover the same dirty, murky brown was coming out of our shower! The thought of facing a 13 hour train ride dirty and sweaty was looking like a certainty. We decided to walk into town and get breakfast, hopefully by the time we were back it would be cleared up. And thankfully, so it was. We cleaned ourselves as best we could, packed up our belongings, and got to the beach for our 12:30pm boat ride. And, as Koh Lipe faded into the horizon, so too did our Thai Island Hopping Extravaganza.