Friday, 19 February 2016

Travelling Southeast Asia: Ko Lipe, Thailand

As we headed on the ferry to Ko Lipe I was really excited to get our first glimpse of Thailand; I had mixed expectations for Thai islands, what with their dual reputation of paradise beaches and full moon raves. 

The ferry from Langkawi Island, Malaysia to Ko Lipe took about an hour and a half and cost £18 each. The ferry drops you out at a platform within sight of Pattaya Beach, from which you get in a wooden long-tail boat to take you to shore. 

When we boarded the ferry in Langkawi, we reluctantly handed our passports over to the staff who were collecting them, which pretty much breaks the fundamental rule of backpacking: never let your passport out of your sight. Amazingly, when we got to customs on Ko Lipe (a small hut on the beach), they had our passports ready and waiting. 

Once we'd done the rather sweltering wait in line for customs, we walked to our hotel via the Walking Street, Ko Lipe's main strip. You can walk from one side of the island in 10-15 minutes, so don't be tricked into paying for a lift on the suspicious looking contraptions that whizz up and down the paths across the island. 

Although Ko Lipe is now completely steered towards tourism, none of it has been overdeveloped (yet); there are certainly no buildings higher than a couple of storeys. 

We stayed at The Reef, which ended up being one of my favourite places we stayed on the whole trip. It was fairly small, but super clean with a modern interior and some of the most welcoming staff we encountered. It was a fan room, but this was never really a problem. 

On our first day, whilst waiting for our room to be ready, we grabbed some quick food from Khonlay restaurant, and then headed to Sunrise Beach to see how it compared to Pattaya Beach (where the boat had dropped us off). It was much quieter than Pattaya Beach and very picturesque, but it was also a little more littered, and seemed to be where the refuse collection was for the whole island. 

Once we had been back to our room, we spent the rest of the day on Pattaya Beach, which was perfect for swimming and snorkelling. You could walk out into the coral, and there was a natural sand platform quite far out that you could walk to, which was really surreal.

That evening we went to Leonardo restaurant for spaghetti/ seafood rice which was a lovely little place with really friendly staff.

We had planned to spend the following day on Sunrise Beach, but the tide was almost completely in and the sea was quite rough, so after a pancake breakfast at Tiger restaurant we hired some snorkel masks for a pound each and went back to Pattaya Beach.

We ate lunch at a café on the beach, which felt like being in a treehouse on the ground, and then walked (up a huge hill) over to the third beach on the island, Sunset Beach. Sunset Beach was the quietest of the three but it was covered it rubbish and the sea was a bit too shallow at this time to snorkel.

After a meal at Ja Yao restaurant Tom bought a pancake from Madame Yoohoo, whose pancake stand seemed to be the most popular food establishment in the island – we’re still not sure if it was the pancakes that were popular or her little ‘yoohoo’ at the completion of each order…

The next morning I had a bit of a pancake disaster, when I found out that ordering a cheese pancake meant a thick American style pancake with some processed cheese melted on top. Hint: it’s not a good combo.

Ko Lipe was our island of choice to do our snorkelling day trip, and we could definitely only afford to do one as it cost half our daily budget (which included accommodation and food!). The day was a six-hour round trip on a long-tail boat, which took you to various snorkelling spots in the area, and I even managed to combat my fear of open water, and got off the boat to swim in the middle of the ocean. The snorkelling really was amazing, but unfortunately we encountered some very stormy weather, which made for an uncomfortable and frankly terrifying boat ride, and put me right back off the sea.

Our final evening in Ko Lipe was spent at the Thai Lady Pancake House eating green curry and vegetable cashew rice. Amazingly, this was also the first restaurant we’d eaten at so far on the trip where you sat cross-legged at ground level to your table, and the tables were set up as little separate booths, which made a really lovely atmosphere.

If you’re travelling around this part of Thailand, I couldn’t recommend Ko Lipe more. It was without a doubt my favourite Thai island that we visited, and up there with my top few days of the trip.

I also vlogged our stay which gives an even better impression of Ko Lipe, so give that a watch and subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss the vlogs from the rest of the trip!


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