Our first port of call in Thailand was Koh Lipe. While the most famous islands in Thailand are Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi and of course Phuket, we selected Koh Lipe as we were looking for a much quieter island.
Koh Lipe is part of the Adang archipelago of islands, and the Tarutao National Marine Park, which consists of 51 islands in the Strait of Malacca. The island with its almost white sand and turquoise water is located in the south of Thailand, close to the Malaysian border. The weather in Koh Lipe in March was warm with a spell of rain at different times of the day.
Koh Lipe Highlights
We were in Koh Lipe for three nights for a bit of rest and relaxation as well as to enjoy some of the water activities the island is known for. As a result of my fractured wrist, snorkeling or diving were cancelled and we ended up spending most days taking it easy around the hotel.
The three main beaches on the island are: Sunset, Sunrise and Pattaya beach and due to the size of the island it is possible to walk to all beaches.
Pattaya beach runs along the south of the island, and is the busiest beach with all the main resorts, loads of bars and several restaurants. Boats from Langkawi and Pak Bara arrive at the Pattaya beach floating pier daily.
Sunset beach is the smallest of the beaches and the least crowded. Most people come here to watch the sunset, but from what we saw during the day there was not much else to the beach.
Sunrise beach is the longest beach and is the whole eastern side of the island. The beach is less busy than Pattaya, but still gets quite a bit of longboat traffic. Our hotel was located on this beach on the southern tip in a very quiet location.
Koh Adang is about 6 km from Koh Lipe, and from the northern point of Sunrise beach it appears much closer, but takes at least 15 minutes by longtail boat. To get the best view of Koh Lipe we had wanted to hike to the Koh Adang viewpoint. But unfortunately the weather forecast was not favourable, and therefore we decided instead to stay on Koh Lipe and hike to the highest point of the island. We set off for that one morning and never found it, though we did enjoy the walk into the rainforest.
The main street running through the heart of Koh Lipe is Walking Street. This street is where you will find most tourists and connects Sunrise Beach to Pattaya beach. It is full of restaurants and shops including a 7-Eleven, and we also noted a number of ATMs. This is useful as most places on the island prefer to be paid in cash. The street is closed to motorbike traffic daily between 18:00 and 24:00.
Sleeping in Koh Lipe
Our hotel, Ten Moons Koh Lipe resort, was located in a quiet cove at the end of Sunrise beach. Once we arrived at Pattaya beach, the hotel sent a longboat to pick us up. This was the best way of getting to the hotel, as going through Walking Street, would either involve a 15 minute walk on the beach, or a 10 minute uphill climb to the back of the hotel (after being dropped by a motorbike taxi).
The rooms in Ten Moons are all in individual rustic-style bungalows with thatched roofs. Our room was large with a large balcony overlooking the beach (though slightly obstructed by trees). We requested a mosquito-net as soon as we arrived, once we saw the amount of trees around the property, and on all nights were glad to use both the mosquito spray and the general bug spray provided by the hotel.
Breakfast was by al-a-cart menu style, though we were able to order as many items as we wanted. On one occasion we had lunch at the hotel restaurant, and prices were comparable to other places on Sunrise beach.
The best feature of the hotel is its location. It definitely has the best part of the beach in Sunrise beach. Since the beach is open to the public and there are no areas designated as “for hotel guests only” guests from other hotels often came by to enjoy the beach. The hotel provides items for snorkelling and bathing.
Dining in Koh Lipe
There are several dining options in Koh Lipe, mainly along the beaches and Walking Street. Our restaurant of choice for the 3 nights was Sunrise Beach restaurant located on Sunrise beach not far from Walking Street. We had heard the food was of good quality and affordable. We were not disappointed, and were awarded nightly with great beach views while having dinner.
Getting to Koh Lipe from Penang, by boat
We had decided to cross into Thailand via a land border (as opposed to one of the airports) and from what we had read the crossing at Koh Lipe was one of the simplest. Unfortunately as there are no direct boats from Penang to Koh Lipe, we had to transit through Langkawi.
Departure from Penang
The boat to Langkawi departs from the Swettenham pier cruise terminal in the northern part of Penang. Speedboats leave at 08:30 and 14:00, and take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes. They all arrive at Kuah Jetty in Langkawi. Allocated seat numbers are given and are based on how early you arrive. The first front rows have two seats in each section, the rest have three. The personnel stored all luggage in the last row of seats and so the bags remained dry during the trip, we had heard of some reports that bags would get wet, but on our boat that did not occur.
Departure from Langkawi
Boats to Koh Lipe depart from both Kuah Jetty and Telaga Terminal. Since boats from Penang arrive at Kuah Jetty it is best to catch the ferry to Koh Lipe from Kuah Jetty, or you will be required to take a taxi for a 40 minute ride across the island.
The Kuah Jetty pier is linked to the Jetty Point shopping centre which also has a number of restaurants and ATMs. Telaga Terminal on the other hand is located at the Telaga marina, and there is not much there aside from a petrol station and an Indian restaurant.
We had booked our ferry from Telaga terminal, and it is recommended to arrive at Telega Terminal at least 1 hour before departure so that all forms are filled out timely and for immigration procedures. About 30 minutes prior to departure we went through immigration, and boarded. No seat numbers were provided this time as it was free-seating. Once again bags were stacked on empty chairs.The journey lasted about 90 minutes.
Arrival in Koh Lipe
There is no pontoon at Koh Lipe, as such boats are required to stop about 500 m from shore. We were all transferred to waiting longboats to get to the island, but had to leave our luggage on board for the staff to carry over later. This process was one which unnerved a number of passengers, but was smooth nonetheless. Upon arrival to Pattaya beach, we had to wade through few inches of water from the boat since the longboats cannot be brought completely to shore.
Immigration is located in a small building on Pattaya beach. The crew take all passenger passports and filled out arrival/departure cards and provide them to immigration. At some point, we were called by name to collect our passport and present them to the window. While the time we spent at immigration was short, the time is fully dependent on the number of boats that have arrived at the same time.
We were able to exchange our remaining Malaysian Ringgit to Thai Baht at the immigration counter, since the payment for the National Park fee (THB 200) was required upon arrival.
Getting around Koh Lipe
The main transportation on the island is via longboats or motorbikes, these include motorbikes that have been fitted with side cars thus making it possible to convey visitors as well as their several pieces of luggage.