Ko Lipe - Southern Thailand Paradise
Ko Lipe, is one of our favorite islands in Thailand. The close proximity to Malaysia, makes is possible to see our home port of Langkawi on a clear day, and is the furthest south we are able to sail at the moment, given border closures. Whether you are staying on a yacht or on land, are a boozehound or teetotaler, active or sedentary, there are many ways to find an enjoyable time here. Ko Lipe has been the most memorable island during our year cruising in Thailand. We spent our days exploring new beaches, diving, yoga, fishing, watching sunsets and unfortunately encountering the biggest snake we have ever seen.
Zodiac - The Best Sunset Bar on Ko Lipe
Let’s begin with sunset bars. The best time of the day. Chris and I are self-declared sunset bar connoisseurs, and Zodiac tops our list of Ko Lipe Bars. We also ranked Zodiac in our top ten sunset bars worldwide. To qualify as an amazing sunset bar, there must be suitable sunset view, ambiance, and service. Ideally, there is also a happy hour, however, this may be waived if the other criteria is exceeded. We were happy enough to be there without an announced happy hour.
Zodiac is one of the most popular locations during sunset. On the weekends, there are many sunset enthusiasts gathering on the beach, swimming, walking, and enjoying sundowners. In these strange times, where tourism is so low, and bars and restaurants are typically empty, it is wonderful to see groups of people out enjoying themselves.
There is a nightly fire show with some incredible pyrotechnics. The pyro, Nathan, is extremely talented, and I have never seen him miss a beat or make a mistake. He brings the flames quite close at times, to the point where if he didn’t know what he was doing it could cause some serious damage. I even saw him light a cigarette in somebodies mouth with his fire wheel!
They do not sell food directly at the bar, however, from time to time, they provide some tasty snacks to nibble on. One time they provided us with deep fried pork belly and another time some chicken satay. This definitely gave bonus points when declaring it our favorite bar in Ko Lipe.
Kerita’s Yoga - How to bring your Husband to Yoga On Ko Lipe, there is a fantastic yoga studio named Kerita's. The yoga instructor is Keira, a friendly Irish-American who has been living in Thailand for many years. Keira offers daily yoga classes for beginners and advanced, located in her studio or on a beachside rooftop, and during morning or evening. The morning slot worked better for our schedule, since during sunsets we have somewhere else to be. I think you know where.
When I first attended Keira's class, Chris stayed on the boat to do some manly boat jobs. I enjoy practicing yoga, especially during a beautiful morning on Skylark, and I wanted Chris to experience the same joy. I invited him along, and he strongly declined.
Since I am a woman, and therefor always right, I knew he would enjoy it once he attended, so I came up with a plan. After class, I asked Keira if it was possible to have a beginner class the following day because potentially Chris and Paul would be interested. We are buddy sailing with Paul, and plan to cross the Indian Ocean together, so attending yoga classes together is a logical activity. At this point, I figured Chris was about 10% interested in going and Paul maybe was 50%, since he expressed interested in doing more stretching on his boat. I informed Keira I would get back to her with a confirmation later in the day of their decision. I needed to be a bit strategic on how I proposed this idea, since neither had practiced yoga before, and would be a bit hesitant to start now.
When I returned to the boat, I casually sent a message in a group chat with Chris and Paul.
“Hey!! Back and just had lunch. Chris is busy working on the video so not keen for a waterfall hike. Haha. Maybe we can postpone it to tomorrow or another day?
Also, Today in yoga, I asked the instructor about the min number of students in the event you and Chris wanted to try a lesson. I was telling her that you guys had not done yoga before and that maybe you would like to try but in a more private environment...so it seems it’s possible tomorrow morning if you want to see what it’s all about, it could be just our group. 300 baht each and inside the nice studio.
Chris didn’t sound that interested but maybe if you go he will try. Best case you enjoy it worst case you have another memory. It’s great for stretching and mobility!
Have a think about it, and we can chat more later. Sea la vie later?”
Thankfully Paul decided to give it a try, and once Paul committed, Chris also reluctantly agreed. Peer pressure at its best.
We met the following day at Benny's for a smoothie bowl and walked over to yoga. We arrived to a warm welcoming from Keira and her dog. Chris and I were assigned the mats at the front, and Paul was at the back next to a nice Thai lady who was also a beginner.
Keira’s dog is typically is sleeping, but also roams around sometimes. Keira began the class with an overview of what ashtanga yoga is, and showed a few key postures. During this time, her dog was laying at the front of the class beside Keira's mat, and he was licking his balls. Chris and I immediately made eye contact with each other, and tried to resist laughing. There is nothing like a breaking a little tension by trying to suppress a laugh at something inappropriate while in a serious environment. Thankfully the dog got up and walked away shortly after, so we could regain our composure and begin some asanas! It was physical class in a hot room, and we all felt fantastic after!
Chris and Paul both enjoyed it, and agreed to go again. After class, the boys were rewarded with a boozy lunch to seal in the benefits of yoga. It certainly hit the spot, and we continued the day from there. Detox then retox. Everything in moderation!
Chris and I have completed many yoga sessions together since then, including some on Skylark. I’m pleased to say most sessions are not are followed by day drinking... However, some are followed by a big bacon breakfast instead!
Beautiful Beaches - Island Hopping
Thailands has many beautiful beaches, and some of our favorite have within the Adang archipelago. We departed Ko Lipe for a few days at the end of October, since the weather made all of the anchorages surrounding the island unsuitable for us. We set off to the nearby beautiful island's of Ko Batong and Ko Ra Wi.
This was the right decision, since we left rough conditions, and transported ourselves to calm and beautiful water. We anchored next to Monkey Beach, on Ko Batong, for a couple of nights and enjoyed being secluded. We did not have very good cellular service there, so instead of searching the web, we were searching the sea and found some beautiful fish snorkeling.
We decided to have a change of scenery after a couple of days, so sailed a quick 15 minutes to Ko Ra Wi. The hammock stayed in place, and we were on the perfect tack for lounging.
Once we settled into the anchorage at Ko Ra Wi, we hopped into the dinghy to explore. On the northwest side of the anchorage, we found a beautiful beach less than a 5 minutes from Skylark. This beach had fine white sand and super clear water. It looked like a beach in the Maldives or South Pacific. Shallow and super clear blue water. We were the only people on the beach, which gave a secluded paradise vibe. It was definitely worth the journey over here from Ko Lipe!
Fishing - Our Dangerous ‘Catch of the Year’
Our amazing friends, Justin and Nadia, bought us a fishing rod in January, when they visited Skylark. Justin had previously caught five huge wahoo in Madagascar, and is experienced fisherman in our eyes. During the three weeks in Thailand with us, all he caught was trash. Chris and I have been on the boat full time since March and also caught nothing other than plastic bags, until a magical day in late October. We were told of a fishing area where “it is impossible not to catch anything!!” We were keen to check it out, and imagined catching a beautiful tuna and eating sashimi and sushi. We always keep plenty of Japanese sushi rice, wasabi, soy sauce and nori onboard Skylark incase we get lucky. Well, we caught two fish, however, it definitely was not a prized game fish we could make a Japanese feast out of.
We trawled in our dinghy, and Chris felt a nibble on the lure within ten minutes. I was helming and filming, and Chris began to reel in. It was such a rush to finally catch something! Fortunately it was not trash, but instead a thin looking fish with a pointy mouth and sharp teeth. We had no idea what it was, and assumed the worst. We were concerned it was some inedible bottom feeding fish that hangs out near the boats toilet outlet, that we would have to throw back in. We manhandled it into the dingy, using a thin pair of gardening gloves we found in the bilge earlier and secured him into a large tuperware. A quick google search proved it was both possible and delicious to eat. Sorry fish, you will be lunch today.
We continued to trawl, hoping for a tuna, or something a little more mainstream delicious, and then hooked another fish! It was a needlefish once again, and the hook was deep in its back. He(or whatever fish gender it was) was still squirming around. He had a lot of energy. We were concerned he would puncture the dinghy or bite us, so we dragged him all the way to Skylark, where we would not risk his sharp mouth going somewhere it shouldn’t. Skylark's fiberglass is a little more robust than the dinghy's PVC.
We reeled the fish in over the port side of Skylark next to the stern seat. He was fighting hard and flailing around. His sharp mouth looking eager for something to bite. Maybe a finger? I poured a little bit of rum in his gills to sedate him, and he slowed down his motions. Cheap drunk. We were quickly able to get him onto the deck and complete the kill. It feels so barbaric writing this, but if we are going to be at sea for a while, we have to get used to killing fish to eat. We can no longer pop down to the Yaeko supermarket and buy some pre-cut sashimi. This is the wild.
Back on the boat with our ‘catch of the year’, we researched needlefish and discovered they have killed humans before. Thats right! Killed humans! They can travel as fast as 90km/hour, and jump out of the water up to 1m, and their long sharp nose can penetrate your neck or heart. Recently, a Thai Navy sailor was sadly killed by a needlefish. Thankfully, it was an isolated incident, and the first ever reported in Thailand. You can read more in this article from the Bangkok Post, where it describes a needlefish as having a sword-like-beak. https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/1593614/fish-with-sword-like-beak-kills-sergeant-in-freak-attack
Now that we had two fresh needlefish safely on board, we searched on youtube how to fillet them so we could enjoy them for lunch. In addition to the standard fish insides, needlefish have air sacks in their body, which allow them to skim across the water so effortlessly and quickly, that must be cut out. We gutted them on the lid of a tupperware on the swim platform, to contain the mess. Luckily the swim hose was nearby, and the mess was easy to clean up.
Needlefish have a uniquely green flesh, which isn’t something that enhanced our appetite. Despite seeing a fisherman on the internet enjoying needlefish sashimi, we decided to follow the conservative recipe of fried needlefish. Needlefish has quite a few bones, so we were not able to access all of the meat easily.
Ultimately it was a delicious meal, with our ‘Long John Silvers’ styled fish, and we were thankful we got to kill him before he got a chance to kill us. Basically, it was a self-defense meal. Nobody ever forgets catching their first fish, and although we have caught fish previously in our life, this was our first fish caught on Skylark together. We hope our third fish is something we can make sashimi with. If it is another needlefish, we will know what to do now…cover our necks and cut the line loose. Just kidding, it’s a tasty fish we would be glad to eat again!
A View From Above - Ko Adang
We already know what Ko Lipe looked like from our drone, however, we wanted a bit of exercise so decided to hike to the Ko Lipe viewpoint on the neighboring Ko Adang. We departed Skylark in our beach clothing, flip flops and a lot of sunscreen. We travelled by dinghy to Ko Adang, (you can see the dinghy ride through clear water, and our hike, in episode two of Outside Watch), and lifted the dinghy high and securely onto the gorgeous beach since the tide was rising.
A friendly national park ranger directed us to the start of the trail, and thankfully did not charge us park fees, since we paid in Ko Ra Wi earlier that week and its the same zone. It is 200 baht (USD$7) and valid for five days. We walked over in our flip flops, realizing it was perhaps a silly choice for an overgrown trail. Whenever I am debating whether or not I should wear flip flops for something physical, I rationalize to myself that sherpas in Nepal wear sandals sometimes. I am no sherpa, but if it can be accomplished in mountainous Nepal at 14,000ft while carrying hundreds of pounds on their back, I’m pretty sure I can wear sandals close to sea level to walk up a hill while carrying a water bottle.
It took us about 45 minutes to reach the main viewpoint, hoping there was no poison ivy or snakes. The view was spectacular, and the weather was perfect. Thankfully we brought lots of water, since it was super hot. In addition to my flip flops, I was wearing a long sleeve black top, a stellar choice when walking uphill in the sun. I would have been more comfortable stripping it off and continuing in my bikini top, however, I was far too sweaty to reapply sunscreen and I didn’t want to get burnt. It was essential to drink lots of water, and get to the sea for a refreshing dip ASAP.
On the walk down, we inadvertently wandered off the path. This is an easy thing to do when the path is barely a path, and requires some scrabbling across rocks. Thankfully, Chris had his Navionics app inadvertintly tracking our path, and he was able to see where the wrong turn was. It only added a few minutes, and then we were able to resume the path to the beach in desperation for a swim.
After we reached the dinghy, we cooled off with an essential swim, and then motored to a resort nearby for lunch. Ko Adang Beach Resort, was very peaceful and few guests around.
We decided to have a light lunch, but somehow ordered a deep fried papaya salad (exactly how it sounds), and a spicy squid stir-fry. Not the lightest, but we had never seen this on a menu before in Thailand and wanted to see what it was all about. The deep fried papaya salad was essentially papaya tempura, with the dressing on the side, to dip the crunchy strips into. It was delicious, but we will stick to the traditional papaya salad in the future!
We were grateful we had a successful hike to the viewpoint and could kick back at lunch and relax.
Snakes - A Little Danger in Paradise
We never knew there were dangerous snakes in Thailand until earlier this year, when Chris saw a king cobra in a restaurant bathroom in Phuket. If a cobra bites you, there is limited time to receive an anti-venom before you could die. In Phuket a couple of the hospitals carry king cobra anti-venom, and based on what snake bites you, there are different anti-venoms. Luckily, it is very unlikely the snake will bite you unless you aggravate it.
Our second encounter with a snake, was in Ko Lipe. We just finished an Indian feast, and were waddling back to our dinghy down a dark alley. We saw something large on the road that looked like a branch. Or was it a stray powerline that fell on the road?
Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was a large snake. We stopped to take a photo and plan how to maneuver around it. Thankfully, the flash did not scare the snake and cause it to approach us.
We are amateurs when it comes to snakes, and tried to reference whatever very basic snake knowledge we possessed. We knew it wasn’t a king cobra this time. Perhaps it was only a garden snake? We shouldn’t judge it based on its size…or should we? Should we cross its path? Should we turn around? We didn’t really want to turn around since we just walked up and down a huge hill and did not want to backtrack unless it was actually a hazard. We were weighed down by the best chicken jalfrezi and garlic naan…We also didn't want to track down snake anti-venom on such a small island with limited medical facilities at 8pm.
Ultimately, we decided to hug the other side of the road and walk briskly, but not too quickly. We did not want to startle the snake. We tried not to make eye contact. It remained very still, and we were unsure whether it was trying to hide from us, or getting ready to strike. We made it safely around the snake and watched from a distance, and saw it slither back through its hole in the wall.
When we arrived safety on Skylark, we googled, “large snakes in Thailand”, and “large snake with stripes Ko Lipe”. We finally discovered what it was. A reticulated python. OMG. Upon further research, we discovered these bad boys can kill a human and EAT THEM WHOLE!
According to Wikipedia, “The reticulated python is among the few snakes that prey on humans. Attacks on humans are not common, but this species has been responsible for several reported human fatalities, in both the wild and captivity. Considering the known maximum prey size, a full-grown reticulated python can open its jaws wide enough to swallow a human, but the width of the shoulders of some adult Homo Sapians can pose a problem for even a snake with sufficient size.”
I went from being relieved the snake did not try to bite, strangle, and eat me, to feeling a little bit offended. Did the python size me up and gage I was not petite enough to consume?? What a snake. Oh well, I didn’t want him to want me anyways!
Diving - 8 Mile Rock and Whale Sharks
We were keen to visit 8 mile rock since there were many whale sharks sightings reported. We had previously only seen whale sharks in Indonesia, in Cenderawasih Bay, on a liveaboard dive trip where fishermen feed the sharks from a fishing platform. We wanted to see these magical creatures again!
We invited our friends Paul, Jess and Kris. Paul would leave his yacht in Ko Lipe, and join us on our boat for the trip. We left around 9am, and were able to sail part of the way. It was a little bit rough, but Skylark handles such conditions with ease. I was grateful we were on an Amel, and not a long tail.
When we arrived at 8 Mile Rock around 10am, there was a long tail already on the only mooring. Luckily, there are two lines on the mooring, so we were able to attach to the second line that was very long, and allowed us to be clear of the long tail.
We did not want to all dive at the same time, since we heard the mooring is not in good condition. We decided Chris would dive twice, first with me, and second with Paul. Jess and Kris were snorkeling during this time. We geared up, jumped in, and began to descend at the mooring line to about 15m. Within five minutes, we saw a whale shark! We ended up seeing about three of them in total. It was spectacular to be back with these friendly giants. We spent 25 minutes with them, then went back to the surface.
We were happy to hear Kris and Jess were also able to see the whale sharks while they were snorkeling. Kris managed to get super close to a large whale shark as it surfaced! Paul and Chris went for the second dive about 45 minutes later, and I began preparing spicy chicken quinoa bowls for lunch. Paul and Chris surfaced around 40 minutes later, once again seeing whale sharks!
The condition of the mooring at 8 mile rock was not very good, so somebody definitely needs to stay on the boat. We were fortunate to have Paul on board, so that Chris and I could dive together and have somebody qualified to maneuver the boat should it be necessary. It takes some planning to go on a dive trip by yourself, and we made sure to take all of the proper safety precautions. We are happy to be buddy sailing with Paul, so we can do more diving together in the Maldives.
Leaving Ko Lipe
We left Ko Lipe one early morning in mid-November, since we needed to be back in Phuket to get Skylark ready to sail to the Maldives. We were sad to be going, but happy we were able to experience such a magical place and make many memories, even if they involved some dangerous creatures. Ko Lipe is a must visit destination in Thailand!