After getting an early start on Langkawi, Malaysia, we packed our bags and headed to the marina to catch a speedboat to Koh Lipe island in Thailand. Since we would be travelling internationally, there was some extra time needed for immigration to process our paperwork and clear the boat for travel.
By 9:30am the boat’s outboard motors were chugging to life and we were pulling out into the open ocean. It was only an hour’s journey to Koh Lipe, but travelling by speedboat is rarely a comfortable mode of transport. We tried to sit in the back to avoid the violent slap of waves against the bow, hoping to avoid the sea spray.
Finally, we found ourselves pulling up to Sunset Beach on Koh Lipe. We were transferred to longtail boats operated by the local chao ley sea gypsies to making it the last few hundred yards to the beach. Once on the beach, we sat with our bags, waiting for our passports to be processed by the immigration authorities in a beachside hut.
Since we didn’t have reservations at any place, Heather stayed with the bags by the beach and I went off in search of a place to stay. Koh Lipe is a small island, with no roads or cars (though some of the locals use motorcycles to get around), with a couple “walking streets” bisecting the island.
It was early February, and still very much “high season”, though we didn’t expect it to be extremely crowded.
Well, we were wrong.
Immediately, I could tell this was not going to be the idyllic island paradise the guidebook had promised. The entire island seemed to be packed to the gills with people, and the little “walking street” was almost as busy as Bangkok’s Khao San Road with shop stalls, touts, and Western restaurants.
In addition, it appeared most places were fully booked. The few that were available were expensive tiny huts in busy areas.
On the other side of the island (Sunrise Beach), I finally stumbled upon a nice beachfront bungalow with a killer view at Tarutao Cabanas. It was an extremely basic concrete foundation job, with an outdoor bathroom of the sort that required flushing with a bucket.
Price per night: 800 Baht (about USD $27). A complete rip-off for Thailand, but we were desperate!
Now, before you start feeling too sorry for us, check out the view…
While the shack’s interior amenities might not have been up to scratch, we took full advantage of our beachfront location.
Luckily, this side of the island was a lot less crowded than the Sunset Beach side. Unfortunately, a lot of Sea Gypsies parked their longtail boats out front, which meant our beautiful view was slightly spoiled by the roaring of their noisy motors all day.
Since there are no ATMs on Koh Lipe, we had to make do with the small amount of money we had changed in Malaysia. We certainly weren’t expecting the island to be so expensive, so we tried to economize wherever possible, eating from the cheaper restaurants and stalls.
It was great to be in Thailand again, where we absolutely love the food. While the food wasn’t the best Thai food we’d ever had, it was still better than most Thai food we had tried from surrounding countries!
It’s a shame Koh Lipe was so crowded and expensive. If we had brought more money, we would have visited the nearby Koh Tarutao National Park, which would have been more like the island paradise we were looking for. Since Tarutao and the other islands in the park are protected, there are only a couple park-run bungalows, camp sites, and restaurants. Next time we’ll skip Lipe entirely and go straight to Tarutao!