Discover Thailand: Focus on Koh Lipe

Thailand’s secret island? Not anymore… but don’t let that stop you! If you’re travelling to the south of Thailand it’s still well worth a visit.


When we started planning our trip to Thailand we had no idea where we wanted to go. Bangkok, obviously, but apart from that we had nothing. A friend who’d visited Thailand recently recommended Koh Lanta as the unmissable place to go, so that was set, but we had 2 weeks to fill with adventures and weren’t keen on all the real touristy places like Koh Samui et al. Luckily, we had our secret weapon in the form of our friend’s Thai girlfriend (who accompanied us on the trip) who said simply, "If we're going to the south... it HAS to be Koh Lipe!" 


Arriving via passenger ferry and feeling queasy from all the rocking, we were dropped on a wooden landing platform. Due to the shallow water we then needed to be transferred to the island by traditional long tail boats – you couldn't help but feel better, instantly. What a view! The-most-beautiful-place-I-have-ever-seen-in-my-life-ever. 

  • Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe


We stayed at the The Reef Hotel: clean, comfortable and excellent value. It’s situated 3 minutes from “Walking Street” which hosts the majority of the island’s bars, shops and restaurants and around 10 mins from both Sunrise and Pattaya beaches. The Danish (joint) owner, Mikkel, was extremely friendly and made us feel at home straight away. He recommended some excellent places to us including the OMG! bar and the Sunrise Restaurant (more on those later.)


The island itself is very small: around 3.5km by 2.5km which means it’s easy to walk everywhere. Tourism is on the up though and there are lots of mopeds whizzing around – something we weren’t expecting at all – we were told before the trip that the island had only 3 mopeds and no cars! Things are developing rapidly as a result of the tourism boom and there is building work almost everywhere you look. 


The absolute highlight of the trip was a private boating tour around the surrounding islands of Koh Anang, Koh Jabang, Hinngam, Koh Rawi and Koh Yang to sightsee and snorkel. We organised this via the hotel and as there were 4 of us it was just a few pounds more to rent a private boat and captain rather than to go on an arranged group tour. With food, drinks and snorkelling gear included, it cost less than £14 per person! With three snorkelling opportunities and two beautiful islands to explore on foot, it was the perfect way to spend the day. Highly recommended! 


  • Our chariot for the day: Longtail boat


If you’re on a really tight budget, an even cheaper option is to snorkel directly at the beach. Equipment can be hired from various shops in Walking Street for around 50 baht (£1) for the day (plus a 1,000 baht deposit). There are snorkelling opportunities all over Koh Lipe and you don't need to go far before spotting a fish or twenty.  See maps showing snorkelling sites.


Other things not-to-be missed on Koh Lipe are:


OMG! Bar - The owner, “O” is an extremely friendly Thai guy. You’ll recognise him immediately from the long hair, lack of shirt and tribal looking tattoos. O’s brother owns the famous Pooh’s Bar the island’s first bar, opened in 2001. The cocktails and service at OMG! are excellent, as is the food (a Thai family of four run the kitchen). They also have a pool table, table football, a chill out area and a big screen for sports and “movie night”.


  • OMG! Bar


 Sunrise Beach Restaurant – recommended by Mikkel, it didn’t disappoint. Excellent Thai food, great value. 


 Zanom Sunrise Restaurant (& Resort) – We didn’t stay here but we ate here twice. Excellent seafood BBQ. Biggest prawns ever!


 Walking Street – considering it’s name, there are a suspiciously high number of mopeds driving around! Supposedly they’re only allowed to drive there during certain (off-peak) times of the day, but we didn’t see this being adhered to, let alone enforced. Nevertheless, it’s the place to be – filled with bars, restaurants and shops. Plenty of seafood BBQs – some even have a whole swordfish on offer!



  • A whole swordfish on offer in Walking Street


  Shopping – even though Koh Lipe is a small island, there are plenty of opportunities for souvenir shopping at excellent prices. From t-shirts to fridge magnets, notebooks to jewellery and fans to wooden carvings, you're guaranteed to find something special for a loved one back at home. 


Koh Lipe is a stunningly beautiful island... you'll feel as if you're in a dream! Make sure you go snorkelling and take plenty of memory cards for your camera, you will need them! If you get a chance to visit this beautiful island – there’s more than enough to fill a week – don't be put off by its size. So take Marco Polo's advice and stay as long as you can! 


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Hayley Whitlock - November 2013


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