Ko Lipe – The Maldives of Thailand

Ko Lipe is often overlooked by tourists due to the fact that it is a lot further South from the more well trodden Thai islands of Phuket, Phi Phi, and Pha-Ngan. However, it is one of the most picturesque places that I have ever been to; as soon as we saw pictures of it we were eager to visit and it did not disappoint.

Where is Ko Lipe?
Ko Lipe is the southern-most island in Thailand . You’ll see from the map that it is right on the Thailand/Malaysia border, which was perfect for us as we were arriving from the Malaysia island of Langkawi nearby. You’ll therefore see why a lot of tourists miss it out, as the main route here from the North is via a boat from Koh Lanta, which is about a four hour journey even on the fast ferry.

Crossing the Border
Crossing a border by boat is a bit of a novelty that I haven’t done too often in the past, but getting through immigration certainly feels a lot less stressful when you are lining up barefooted on a beach. The journey from Malaysian Langkawi here is a common one and the officials on the island were very good at getting everyone organised.

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The island of Ko Lipe is part of a National Park, so on arrival we had to pay a 200Baht National Park entrance fee which was valid for seven days. This was good to know in advance as we made sure we changed enough cash over at Langkawi before we set off. Strangely, our Australian & English passports were stamped with a 30 day VISA on arrival; seemingly every blog I read online had said that we’d only get 14 days. We plan on spending three weeks across Thailand so it was a good relief when we saw the stamp that we didn’t have to extend it or do the dreaded ‘VISA Run’.

Getting Around
The island is incredibly small; we stayed on Pattaya Beach on the South but the walk through to the beaches through the middle of the island took about fifteen minutes; in fact you could probably walk the entire island in a couple of hours (although we were too lazy to attempt it!)

Beaches
The beaches were white and sandy and the water was a turquoise blue and some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen. For our accomodation, we splurged a bit here and went for a bungalow on the beach (A$70 a night), but this was well worth the money as we could just pop in to the sea for a quick swim whenever we felt like it. There were a lot of fish in the shallow waters which made for some good snorkelling as well.

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Island Hopping
On our first day we wandered into town and booked an all day trip for the next day. There were plenty of travel agents offering this so we didn’t need to book any further in advance.

Our day tour was one of the highlights of our last couple of months on the road, and only cost us 850Baht (A$35) each.  We first went to the nearby island of Ko Adang, and embarked on a fourty-five minute hike to the top of a mountain which gave a great view of Ko Lipe and the nearby waters. The hike was hard work in the heat and we got through plenty of water but the views at the top were amazing.

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After a delicious lunch of chicken fried rice, we spent the whole afternoon island hopping and snorkelling in a number of spots. We then visited a couple of deserted beaches, and got a great view of the sunset from another beach on Ko Adang. Our final stop was a night snorkelling experience where we got to see some glow in the dark plankton. This was a bit sketchier as we couldn’t see what else was in the water so I didn’t stay in for too long!

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On the tour we met another couple, Kenny & Sarah, and quickly found out that we had a lot in common with them. Like us, they were recently married, and had been living in Brisbane of all places for the last few years (like us), before deciding to take a gap year and travel across Asia to some of the more off the beaten track places like Sri Lanka (like us). Kenny was even originally from the UK and moved over to Oz around five years ago when I did!

It was great to share experiences with them and we arranged to meet up the next night for a few beers to watch the football. They were an awesome couple to hang around with and a big reason why we enjoyed our time on Ko Lipe so much.

Costs
Before I finish, I will briefly touch on the costs on Ko Lipe. I haven’t been to enough places on Thailand yet to fully compare but from what I heard and understood, it is a little bit more expensive here than on other Thai islands. Having said that, Thai meals were still available in restaurants for 120-150Baht (A$5-6), and beers were still pretty cheap at around 80Baht (A$3). There were also lots of street food options for about even cheaper, a chicken skewer was about 20Baht (A$1).

From what I hear of Thailand as a whole, the days of it being dirt cheap for travellers look to be long gone; however we found our first foray onto the islands in Ko Lipe to still be really good value by Western standards and the cost is certainly not a reason not to come here for a slice of paradise.

Overall, Ko Lipe was probably our favourite destination of the trip so far; being in a place so compact made it feel more like a real authentic island experience and we can’t wait to come back next time for more snorkelling and beach lounging 🙂

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