I was planning to stay for two days on Koh Lipe and I ended up pulling a gigantic effort into finally leaving after four. I have heard of worst cases. Some people arrived for a week and stayed for six months or even six years. This island seems to have a huge magnet buried in its white sand.
Koh Lipe, which is Paper Island in the Chao Lay dialect, is lying in the sun on Thailand’s Western coast, in the Andaman Sea. They often call it the Maldives of Thailand – which, for anyone around the globe, means sub-zero cool.
Looking at the island from a photographer’s perspective I can tell you it well deserves its name. It looks as if it was created for movies and postcards. In other words, perfect – soft white sand, palm trees, coral reefs, turquoise water and a hippy, relaxed and sensual atmosphere spread along all three beaches on the island:
Pattaya (no connection to the city on the continent, as I previously explained) is the main beach where most of the resorts are located, and the small scale action of the island happens. This is where the ferries pull ashore and where you can bargain for a long-tail boat trip. The beach is approximately one kilometer long, overlooking the South. Pattaya means “South-Easterly wind.”
Sunrise Beach. As its name implies, it overlooks the East and offers a superb view on the neighboring island Koh Adang. It is shorter than Pattaya but more beautiful according to my taste. There is a Chao Lay (sea gipsies) village at the Northern end of the beach. Excellent people go visit them.
Sunset Beach is the smallest of the three. Here, you will only find three resorts and two bars.
There are no roads or cars on Koh Lipe. The access from one beach to another is made either on foot or by boat.
Koh Lipe’s consumer audience consists of young men and women of North-Western European origin – the island is becoming more popular among Scandinavians – who spend time chilling, drinking beer on the beach or snorkeling. Snorkeling is otherwise the main activity you can commit to in case you had enough sunbathing. Both resorts and independent operators offer day trips to the reefs around the island. I did not go, but everyone was praising the experience. You can also rent a kayak and explore the large rocks popping up here and there.
Accommodation on Koh Lipe
The only not so cool thing about Koh Lipe is the pricing. Too much for too little. The cheapest bungalow is 500 thb per night, looks a little better than a hermit’s cell, and the resort selling it is usually fully booked. Take out of your pocket at least 1,000 thb if you are in the mood for something decent. Remeber, also, decent does not include hot water. Luckily the cold one is around 60 degrees as the sun heats it all day long.
A few recommendations:
Economic: Paradise Cottage Resort (1,000 thb per room per night), the third resort as you look from left to right on Pattaya beach. The owner is Chao Lay; he speaks English and Malay. The resort has also a small restaurant.
Mid-range: Blue Tribes Garden Beach Resort (1,600 thb). The owner, a friendly young Italian anthropologist, dreams about traveling to Romania.
Hi-end: Sita Beach Resort (5,400 thb) near Paradise Cottage, has a swimming pool, AC, gourmet restaurant and all the necessary luxury.
When to go to Koh Lipe
November to April, during the dry season. The monsoon starts in May – the so-called “green season” during which they say the weather is not that bad. It is worth trying as you will get better prices and less crowded beaches.
How to get to Koh Lipe
By the slow ferry or the fast boat leaving from Thammalang Pier or Pakbara Pier in Satun. The Thammalang boats do not operate during the monsoon. A return ticket is 600-800 thb. You will pay 50 baht extra for the transfer from the anchor point to the beach.