Koh Lipe: A beautiful prelude to Thailand

Just a little over a month before Christmas, Hali booked a ticket to visit me here in Malaysia. He was perfectly happy to stay at my home, but I was restless since I hadn’t traveled much the last few months. I talked him into spending the holidays somewhere else… And that’s how we found ourselves in Koh Lipe in Thailand.

To be honest, I’m not really familiar with Thailand. Unless you count what little I got about Bangkok from playing Mafia Wars years ago or reading backpackers’ complaints that the islands, although lush and beautiful, are now crawling with tourists. You can say that this is not a great impression, but I’ve learned that places are not always what people describe them to be. I was hopeful.

Koh Lipe.

To give you an overview, Koh Lipe is one of the many islands in the southern part of Thailand. Unlike Krabi, Koh Samui or Koh Phi Phi, it isn’t as well known. It’s still a budding tourist destination, with some calling it “Thailand’s last secret island” or more commonly as “The Maldives of Thailand” (Of course, I think labels like this are unfair to both places being compared. I’m pretty sure that Maldives is great and all that, but Thailand also deserves its own recognition.)

Koh Lipe is close to neighboring Malaysia. From Langkawi, it is accessible via a 1.5-hour ferry ride.

Koh Lipe: First impressions

I found Koh Lipe endearing starting on our first day. I love the artsy bars, the unique clothes and beachwear, and the chill beaches.

Fresh coconuts.

Cat in one of the shops in Walking Street.

In particular, Walking Street, a long road full of shops and other establishments, gives off strong bohemian vibes. There are cool cafes and restaurants. There are shops where you can buy dyed tops, crochet bikinis, long comfy pants in different fabrics and other souvenirs. You can also get your fill of Thai cuisine and other unique concoctions (I heavily favor coconut ice creams).

We also liked the fact that there are so many cats (and dogs) in the area. There’d be a cat sitting on a table, in coffee shop seats or just around the corner. We love animals (who doesn’t, right) and think it’s a good sign that they are plentiful here and looking well fed and happy.

We’d go to Walking Street everyday and we would always discover something new.

Sunrise Beach, Koh Lipe.

As for the beaches… Koh Lipe is small that it’s possible explore the three main beaches by foot. Pattaya Beach and Sunrise Beach are used as docks by tour boats, but there’s still plenty of space to swim and relax. Moreover, even though we visited during the holidays, I find the crowd size to be moderate. It wasn’t Boracay crowded. To give you a bit of a background, in the Philippines, when it’s a holiday or long weekend, thousands of Filipinos go out so everywhere is congested — main roads, resorts and beaches, and malls.

In Koh Lipe, it was easy to relax, to lie down on a beach towel all day.

Thai food: fruit pancakes and delicious curries

Coconut ice cream — a must-try!

Residing as an expat in Malaysia, I’d like to think my standards are high when it comes to food. I wouldn’t easily be impressed. Thailand, you proved me wrong.

Thai pancake with strawberry and banana filling.

Hali like the various curries and iced Thai tea. I like the fruit pancakes and it was a staple on our breakfast — strawberry and banana with a drizzle of chocolate syrup. We would also stop by shops selling streetfood — various meats in bamboo skewers and pan-fried pastries with sweet fillings.

Of course, pad thai is also a must try, as well as grilled fresh seafood.

Island hopping: something new to offer

I’m proud that I’m a citizen of the Philippines, a country with 7500 islands. We have countless of great beaches, we’re island people.

When we’d island hopped around Koh Lipe, I initially had these thoughts: “Well, this is okay. We also have this in the Philippines,” or (to other people in the tour) “You should see our beaches in the Philippines.” In fact, the first few islands we’d visited reminded me of El Nido, Bulalacao and other great places back home.

But the islands here are also different in that (1) they seem to be well preserved, (2) tourists aren’t that many compared to ours, (3) they are beautiful in a different way.

Boats used for island hopping.

Another thing we’ve noticed (and Hali would like to give emphasis on) is that boats used for island hopping have a curious built. The motor is not attached to the bottom of the boat but to a pole, which can then be shifted to different directions or lifted out of the water as necessary. This way, it’s easy to maneuver the boat and avoid corals or huge rocks in the water.

Koh Adang.
Koh Dong or Monkey Beach.

In our first tour, Koh Adang was my favorite (I hope I’m getting the island name correctly). It has rich corals and the beach is a clear green… more so, there aren’t any establishments in the area or signs of human intervention, except for a lovely swing tied in a tree.

In our next tour, both Hali and I enjoyed our time in Koh Dong, which is also called the Monkey Beach. Again, it’s a great place for swimming and the monkeys are fun to observe. Before we left, one woman in our group tour did a thumbs up and said, “Best beach ever!” and a part of me agrees.

Thailand, we will visit you again soon

This is the first time we’d visited Thailand, and it certainly gave us a great impression. We’re already looking forward to see more in this country. Koh Lipe, thank you for being a beautiful prelude to Thailand.

P.S. If you also want to explore Thailand beyond its tropical beaches, head on to Phuket.


Have you heard of Koh Lipe before? Tell us in the comments! 🙂

Next up: Travel Guide to Koh Lipe, Thailand


  1. Looks great! It kind of reminds me of how Boracay used to be, before all the over development (just watched some YouTube videos of the place).

    I’m planning a visit to Langkawi soon, and probably will be paying a visit to Koh Lipe now also. Thanks for the tip 🙂

    My route for now is Langkawi > Koh Lipe > Penang > Kuching > Kota Kinabalu. Then I’ll decide if I want to stay in Malaysia for living, or return to the Phils.

    Any places in Malaysia that you feel would be good to add to that route?

    Also, do you know if you can use the Langkawi to Koh Lipe ferry trip to do a visa run for Malaysia?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Route looks good. Actually I haven’t been to other places here yet, so personally don’t have more to recommend. Some of the recommended ones are in Sabah.

      Re: visa run, I don’t know. 🙁 Because we have a Philippine passport we don’t need visas in most countries that are in ASEAN.

      For me, the quality of life is much better in Malaysia, although you’ll have to deal with the absence of tropical beaches that are everywhere in the Philippines. Malaysia also has a few islands for swimming and diving, but most are closed during monsoon season. Waiting for March actually to visit some myself. Good luck!

  2. wow.. i got this koh lipe go-to-vibes when i read that it’s only 1.5 hours by ferry from langkawi. i’ve never been to langkawi either, but now that i know about this, maybe i should totally consider to go to langkawi with koh lipe as my next stop. 😀

    1. Ikr? Btw, you can also go to Koh Lipe from other islands in Thailand. It’s just more convenient for me to do the Langkawi route because I am staying in KL and it’s just a bus/short flight away. 🙂

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