Ko Lipe. The last destination on our trip, but not the last post from Thailand. The island we didn’t plan on visiting at first, but where we stayed for longer, being lazy and gaining strength to go back to Warsaw and to work. The first time we heard about Ko Lipe was on our first trip to Thailand, in the fall of 2012. We met up with Łukasz’s colleague and his girlfriend, who came from Ko Lipe to Krabi. I remember they were amazed by the island’s beauty and peacefulness… Which is exactly what we were looking for this time.
HOW TO GET TO KO LIPE?
If you had been visiting other islands, you will have no problem getting to Ko Lipe – you can take a speedboat from Ko Lanta, Ko Ngai, Ko Kradan or Ko Mook. How long will it take? It depends on the distance – it takes about 3-4 hours from Ko Ngai (other passengers may want to go to other islands on the way). There’s no problem getting there from Krabi or Phuket, but you would have to check the details. There are also some boats between Ko Lipe and Malaysian Langkawi, but most people told us to not go to Langkawi, so we didn’t.
If you want to go to Ko Lipe directly from Bangkok, I guess the easiest way would be the one we chose on our way back. Get a plane ticket from Bangkok to Hat Yai airport, then a transfer to ferry stop in Pakbara and a speedboat to Ko Lipe 🙂 From what locals told us, this is the easiest road to Bangkok, and plane tickets have a pretty nice price.
This is what it looks like in season, which is from November to April. Once it’s over, transport may be a little more difficult.
As to speedboat prices from Ko Ngai to Ko Lanta, we were pretty surprised. We paid about 450 PLN for a boat for the three of us, while there was still no guarantee we would have somewhere to sit since there were so many people 😉 But from what I know, there is no other way to travel between Ko Ngai and Ko Lipe 😉
I think Ko Lipe is the closest Thai island to Malaysian border, so it’s further away from Bangkok than Krabi, Phuket or even Ko Lanta, not to mention islands such as Ko Chang or Ko Samet, very close to Thai capitol. Ko Lipe is a part of Tarutao National Marine Park.
The island is small – its length is about 3 kilometers. There are three beaches on the island: Pattaya Beach, where speedboats from other islands or Pakbara arrive, Sunrise Beach with a lot of hotels with different prices, and Sunset Beach. The road from Sunrise Beach to Pattaya Beach on the other side of the island is about 15 minutes if you choose to walk on the main boardwalk, which is called Walking Street.
Some time ago you could read that there were no cars or roads on the island. Now it’s in the past – sure, we didn’t really see any cars, maybe just a few of them, but there was a lot of motor scooters and local auto rickshaws. You need to keep your eyes open while walking the street parallel to Sunrise Beach with your kid 😉 And although for me this street has a great, Asian vibe because of these scooters, kids playing, fruits at different stalls, it’s hard to call it peaceful.
Right… so this is where things get complicated because Ko Lipe gives people mixed feelings. The views are exactly like the ones you see on postcards – the water is perfectly cyan, which is what we dreamed of while thinking about heavenly vacation. Wooden boats characteristic for Thailand are lazily floating on the surface. There’s also white sand, tons of green plants and if you go to one of the edges of Sunrise Beach, you’ll see rocks in the water, which only add to the beautiful landscapes. These views will be awesome every morning, when you’re on a boat, when you’re snorkeling and when you see Ko Lipe from afar.
But there’s another side to it too. If you get on a speedboat that goes to Pattaya Beach, you will see mountains of trash and building materials. Garbage also appears on the other shore, so when you’re in the water, there are some flip flops or empty medicine bottles around you. There’s also a lot of homeless dogs on Sunrise Beach – you feel sorry for them, but when you’re with a child, you don’t really want them to get close.
The Walking Street is specific too – it’s peaceful by day, and full of people, music, noise and hot air from BBQ places by the boardwalk by night. The boardwalk is typical, just like Krupówki or Władysławowo’s streets. There is no Asian climate that you can feel on the street alongside Sunrise Beach (although there are some small and big restaurants). There are diving centers, Thai massage centers, huge restaurants with huge billboards and Thai pancake stalls at every step. They’re all covered in colorful banners and their menus will remind you of these you can find in fast food joints. The Walking Street is full of pubs for tourists, there are a lot of stores, a pharmacy store and doctor’s surgeries. The infrastructure can be a good thing, but the Walking Street on Ko Lipe is an “everyplace” – a tourist boardwalk that could be seen anywhere else. Stores, pubs, bad restaurants – we only ate on the Walking Street once, but our friends tested 3 restaurants and each one was worse than the previous one. You don’t see what’s going on there by night during the day, but believe me – a walk with a five year old and with a stroller wasn’t too nice in the evening, which is why we never went there again 😉
And here’s an “Asian” street that I liked even though it wasn’t particularly peaceful…
So will we ever tell someone not to go to Ko Lipe? Nope. You can spend some nice moments here, you can get some rest, cut out all the noise. You can find nice and peaceful places. Such place for us was our hotel (Mali Resort Sunrise Beach) and its neighborhood. We spent most of our time in Sunrise Beach Restaurant. We frequently came back there for both lunch and dinner. They have fantastic food – you need to try their pad thai (you will be surprised by the way it looks, but you will love it!), panang curry soup, Thai fish cakes and very thin pancakes with fruits for kids. Sip some ice tea or Singa and you can spend there a good few hours – during the day you can stare at cyan water and then, in the evening, you can enjoy the wind on your face. We fell in love with this place, and we met some cool people there. Gosia, Łukasz, Natalka – cheers! The dinners that we had with you at Gong’s (an extremely nice owner of the restaurant) are one of our best memories from this trip 🙂
You can get to Sunrise Beach Restaurant if you take a walk though the beach. Look for a place like the one in the picture below 🙂 You can also get there from the town, by walking through the street parralel to the beach. If you do that, you will see that two steps away from The Walking Street there’s a completely different world – local kids and plane houses made of sheet tin.
Another place that you should visit if you want some good food is Serendipity Restaurant on the southern shore of Sunrise Beach. The prices are too high, but the view is out of this world! The food is nice and not just Thai, but also western, so Maks ate a pretty good pizza. We chose tropical duck curry and a spicy salad with squids. The salad was great – this and the views are two reasons why you should visit the restaurant!
OUR HOTEL: MALI RESORT SUNRISE BEACH
Our friends, the ones who have been to Ko Lipe in 2012, recommended Mali Resort to us. It was being built then 🙂 But it turned out that they were staying in Mali Resort by Pattaya Beach, and we chose the one by Sunrise. Pattaya Beach is not something we’d recommend if you want to rest, because this is where all the speedboats with huge groups of tourists come. There’s way more of wooden boats there than by Sunrise Beach.
Our Mali Resort was right next to the southern shore of Sunrise Beach, near Serendipity. 5 minutes of walking was all we needed to get to Gong’s or to the Walking Street.
This hotel is definitely not the cheapest one on the island, but after a moist bamboo house on Ko Lanta, that even my computer didn’t survive, we needed something nice 🙂 Mali is charming houses in a beautiful garden right by the beach. The houses are spacious, well cared-for, with huge bathroom, comfortable bed, a crib for a baby and nice staff. The reception, bar and restaurant in one is outside, so breakfasts are eaten while looking at the beach and the water. Breakfasts were delicious, some of the better ones we had in Thailand. There were no buffets, but the food was good and nicely served. There is also a restaurant there, but I admit we have only eaten there twice because we fell in love with Sunrise Beach Restaurant. Maks loved hotel milkshakes with whipped cream. We were proud to see him go to the bar and order them in English by himself. He would say what kind of milkshake and toppings he wanted (kindergarten is useful ;)).
You can read more about the hotel HERE.
So how do I sum up Ko Lipe? It’s an island full of opposites – heavenly views and garbage. Nice family restaurants (Sunrise Beach!!!) and pubs for tourists with bad food and high prices. Ko Lipe is nice, but not peaceful or heavenly 🙂 If this is what you’re looking for, choose Ko Ngai, ko Kradan or Ko Mook instead (we haven’t been there, but this is what people say ;)). Oh, and you can go snorkeling, but I’ll write about it in another post 😉