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.
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. To summarize, I love the artsy bars, the unique clothes and beachwear, and the chill beaches.
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.
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: sweet fruit pancakes and curries
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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you heard of Koh Lipe before? Tell us in the comments! 🙂
Next up: Travel Guide to Koh Lipe, Thailand