Women and children chao-ley. Koh Lipe. Thailand. March 2009.

Koh Lipe, heads and tails


  Thailand: Islands - February 2009

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

Goodbye Koh Lipe! I left my bamboo bungalow on Sunrise Beach this morning, with regret. If I found the diving a bit disappointing, this island in the south of Thailand is nevertheless really pretty and deserves a stop for a few days of relaxation.

Koh Lipe: one island, three beaches

Koh Lipe is roughly shaped like an elongated triangle. The sides are formed by the three main beaches.

Map of Koh Lipe.

Pattaya Beach...the busiest in the southwest; Sunrise BeachThe most beautiful (in my opinion) stretches all along the east coast; Sunset Beachthe most "isolated" one, forms the northwest side. You can walk from one to the other in a few minutes.

White sand and turquoise water

It's very small and very cute, Koh Lipe. The first impression is one of wonder.

The sand is white, the water turquoise and translucent.


A small cove just south of Sunrise Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand, March 2009.

The sandy tongue north of Sunrise Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

I see myself, the day of my arrival, on the ferry from Tiger Line Travel..., opening the eyes in front of the incredible spectacle of this island as if it came out of a dream. Those who, unlike me, are lucky enough to have a camera in working order, are shooting from the sea.

While the ferry moors in Pattaya Bay, waiting for the long-tail boats cabs that will transfer us and our luggage on the sand, I look enviously at my neighbor, a German mother, armed with a sparkling SLR that she uses in automatic mode. What a frustration!

But OK. As you know, I caught myself then. ????

On the beaches of Koh Lipe, we go crazy hallucinating at the moment, so it is moist and hot, so the sun bangs.

The sun is beating on Sunrise Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

But we survive. All you need is a quick dip in the water at 29-30°C and/or a mango-shake break as soon as the sunstroke threatens.

The most pleasant is to walk on the sand at the end of the day, or better, at night, under the billions of stars and the silver light of the moon which was quite round a few days ago. Or even very early in the morning, from 6 am, in the cool of the sunrise.

At this time, no long-tail boats are blasting. There is only the soft lapping of the surf and the whisper of the wind.

Sunrise on Sunrise Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

When there is no wind, it is really very very hot... Mid-March, we are already in the pre-season of rains. Sometimes thunderstorms break out in the evening. But always in the distance, in the clouds on the horizon, never on Koh Lipe itself.

At most we get some refreshing gusts of wind at dusk and a short shower in the evening.

The next day, the same clammy, heavy heat sets in again. Fortunately I am in the water almost every day with the dives and the Rescue.

A more authentic island

But, I said in my previous post I have mixed feelings about the island.

It is very pleasant for a short stay, but not very authentic anymore. All those I met here in February 2009 who have known Koh Lipe for several years told me the same thing: the island has changed very quickly in the last two or three years.

Rows of bungalows have sprung up like mushrooms along the beaches. A hard road now links Sunrise, Pattaya and the village of the Chao-Ley, the "sea gypsies" established here.

The local mafia of real estate entrepreneurs and hoteliers has swept away all the land. The Thais and Malays are, it seems, more numerous than the Chao-Ley, now ...

Varin Resort, Pattaya Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

Bungalows Andaman Resort, Sunrise Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

This small road on the picture above is very recent, it did not exist until a few months ago.

Along the road, there is everything you need for the comfort of the tourist: clothes shops, mini-markets, internet centres, travel agencies, massage and tattoo parlours, pancake and ice cream shops, restaurants, bars...

I was warned: Koh Lipe is in full "Koh-Phi-Phi-sation".

Heaps of ferries and speed boats arrive every day. There are now antennas for mobile phones, high-speed internet and wifi, as well as some chic resorts.

No ATM yet (ATM) but I guess it will not be long.

On the mini-road, only the motorcycles of the Chao-Ley are currently in use.

Their village is located in the east, roughly in the middle of Sunrise Beach. A handful of shabby stoves, made of corrugated iron, flanked by henhouses and a few TV parables.

In the village of Chao-Ley. Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

Women and children chao-ley. Koh Lipe. Thailand. March 2009.

Behind the scenes

After the initial amazement at the turquoise waters, we discover the other side of the coin, at the bend of a path, a rock, a tree: small piles of garbage, badly burned waste, abandoned plastic bottles.

Of course, there are places that are "cleaner" than others, cleaned regularly, with garbage cans available, in front of the beach portions of some resorts and bungalows, as well as along the hard road. But the garbage scattered in every corner breaks a little the charm of the island.

When you follow the few dirt paths that still cross Koh Lipe, you come across one of the big dumps, between two noisy generators hidden in the jungle. Dogs are foraging in the garbage bags, birds are flying away. It stinks.

Two big barges loaded with construction materials docked a few days ago in the middle of Pattaya Beach. A backhoe goes back and forth between the blue water and the flinty sand so soft under the feet.

Two large barges laden with building materials docked on Pattaya Beach. Koh Lipe, Thailand, March 2009.

Anyway, anyway. How shall I put it?

I wasn't looking for a desert island, and I really appreciate having mango shakes and wifi, but I don't really like what the tourist business is doing to Koh Lipe.

Still. The arrival of a more sophisticated and demanding clientele will perhaps contribute to improve the cleanliness of the island and the respect of the environment, in a few years. To be continued...

Forra Diving

As for me, I was happy, staying in a huge bamboo bungalow at Forra DivingIn Sunrise Beach, away from the noise, the hustle and bustle, and not overlooked. While being just a few steps away from everything.

My huge bamboo bungalow at Forra Diving. Sunrise beach, Koh Lipe, Thailand. March 2009.

The comfort is rustic: fan, bed with mosquito net, shower in an open-air bathroom where a bougainvillea branch is swinging, electricity from 7:30 am to 1 am. But frankly, for a farniente and diving stay, I don't need much else... To be ready in the morning, I just have to put on a swimsuit and a pareo!

I often spent quiet evenings, far from the bars and parties of Pattaya, daydreaming on my terrace, lulled by the sound of the waves and the crackling of insects in the surrounding vegetation. I tried to type on the computer in the hammock, and quickly gave up, it is not practical at all!

Diving disappointments

I had a great time in Koh Lipe. Met nice people at Forra Diving.

But frankly, I would not recommend the island as a diving destination (I did not find the bottoms exceptional). Nor would I recommend this diving center - which I really liked - to beginners (during my stay, it was more or less disorganized, to say it nicely).

Diving spots around Lipe.

So yes, except for one or two dives, where I met some new small creatures, the dives I made were rather disappointing.

Very often, it's a rotten sight. As for the reputation of a site like 8 Mile, it is completely overrated, in my opinion, if you are not lucky enough to see a whale shark. As far as "big" sharks are concerned, you can see the shadow of three unfortunate barracudas in the pea soup and that's all. Not much.

My main regret is that I didn't have the time, with this very busy Rescue courseto make a small tour of the nearby islands, Koh Adang and Koh Rawi, which are superb views of the open sea, neither on Tarutao, nor on Bulone, further on... It will be for another time!

Koh Lipe is far away now. I hit two and a half hours on the boat and nearly five hours of driving back to Phuket. 😱

The culture shock is a bit violent. And the usual melancholy, which precedes the return flight, is setting in.


  Thailand: Islands - February 2009