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

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  1. What a pity I didn't go to Koh Butang, the water was still very clear last week..................

  2. @FunnyWorld: But if, I will continue, between two trips. I still have pictures and anecdotes in stock ...

    @Alain Michelena: Yes, we went diving near Butang (which also goes by another name). But as I explained earlier, while the water is indeed very clear on the surface, close to the shore and the rocks, and even translucent, it's not so clear a few meters further down. There are plenty of good spots for snorkelers, but as you go down, the water becomes very green, particle-laden and murky. As I'd just come from the Similan, where the view was much better, I was surprised.

    1. for fifteen years i've spent five months a year in lipe,i've seen the tourist invasion disfigure the island and despoil the chao lae,the fauna of lipe,adang,rawi and koh dong disappeared,(eagles,varans,pythons,otters,fish and coral),all that's left are a few chao lae with no resources,seven eleven,resorts with swimming pools and monstrous piles of garbage,more than five tons a day;it's the inevitable price of tourism, and it's us farangs who are responsible!

    2. I am currently on site
      Level dirty tourists Asians (especially Chinese) are not the last ....

  3. Thank you for your blog full of riches and beautiful images. I enjoy reading your tickets ... it feels good a bit of tropical sun even if Brittany is sunny at this time.
    Keep on making us dream. I love...

  4. I've just written a post about the excitement preceding a trip... The opposite is also true when you feel the return trip approaching. Fortunately, there's always the written word and photos for when the going gets tough!

    There are always good and bad sides to a destination becoming more and more fashionable. I don't think we should reject everything. Everywhere on the planet, we hear the same thing. "It was better before, when there weren't so many tourists...". I've often said that myself. At the same time, I like having wi-fi... I think you've had the best of both worlds: peace and quiet and the good side of development.

    In any case, your photos make you dream. Thanks for the escape 🙂

  5. Welcome back with spring!
    🙄 I'll be at CDG tomorrow, Sunday morning,... we might miss each other ! if you see me... jump in my bag and come... !

  6. @Cathy: And thank you for your very nice little comment, which I discovered during my stopover in Dubai for the return flight. it makes me very happy!!!! Well, arriving in Brittany will be easier for me in a few hours if there's sunshine! Ouf!

    @ Marie-Julie: Oh well, I'll go and have a look at Taxi-Brousse right away... I quite agree with you: I don't like the "it was better before" rhetoric. But all the same, there are quite a few places where the tourist business has really messed up the landscape. Harmonious development that respects the environment is undoubtedly utopian...

    @Manta: Oh yes!!! I'll jump in your suitcase! But my editor won't agree. I'm supposed to be back at work this week...

  7. Ah well, you're back, about time... 👿
    I've been back for a few days now 😡
    Well, I was going to take a trip to the south of Thailand in a while following your "clearing", but I don't really feel like doing another Koh Phi-Phi (tourist + diving not great).
    For authentic and beautiful diving, you have to go to the Papuans. Raja Ampat is sublime 😯
    For CDG, you need to be prepared for the shock. Here's a tip: On the plane, watch a Korean horror film, then a Japanese Z series, and finish off with the Chinese version of "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" with English subtitles 😀

  8. @Alimata: Yes, I got back to Rennes this Sunday... What do you mean, it's not too early??? 😈

    Indeed, given the quality of the dives that you have already done in your life as a diver, I would not advise those of Lipe. The sites around Phi Phi are better, IMHO. And those of the Similan are always worth it, especially Richelieu Rock, really top.

    As for Lipe's atmosphere, there's nothing really authentic about it. The island isn't quite Phi Phi yet, but it's clearly getting there.

    I've been thinking about Papua and Raja Ampat for several years now, I must say... And my "long" summer vacation trips are pushing further and further east. So I'm bound to arrive in PNG one day soon. Maybe as early as this summer? I'll have to check the seasons...

    Finally, on the plane (brrr, it's scary, your cinema program), I prepared myself by treating myself to the film with Angelina Jolie as the grieving mother (a fine performance from the pretty lady, but too maudlin for my taste), the latest James Bond movie, which bored me to tears, a rewatch of "Working Girl" in VO (too cute, young Indiana Jones) and another rewatch of Mary Poppins in VO, a childhood film I saw over and over again in VF when I was a kid, and there, a nice nostalgia sequence, I was singing all alone in front of my screen, stuck in my seat...
    That's what classics are all about!!! 🙂

    As usual, at CDG, there were only two guys to dispatch the passports of an entire plane. Fortunately, I ran up most of the aisle to get to the head of the herd, and waited less than many others, thus managing to catch my return train...

    Now that I'm home, I'm thinking about my next departure ... : Mrgreen:

    @Nono: Yes, it's going to be a lot of work... But the pre-sorting is already done, thanks to my little technomade computer. I've unloaded and sorted my photos as I went along.

    It's cold, but sunny. It's a bit strange to be back in Rennes... I'm starting again tomorrow. I think I'm really going to feel funny now. I'm going to do what you're doing: I'm already looking after my plane ticket for this summer. Still haven't decided where...

  9. And you're going to have a lot of sleepless nights with all your photos to sort through, and your fish to sort by size and color.
    Good luck with that. It's cold again. 🙁
    I have my ticket for Pondy but it will be in August. 8)

  10. Welcome back from Lipe so 😉 ...

    Lipe... well yes, two and a half years ago, the tin shack was located along tall grass and a dirt road, there wasn't much light at night:
    The island's only Buddhist monk was still giving morning alms:
    Not much to do, but the most beautiful beaches in Thailand and always a regret to leave the island. But it's all a bit over... like a taste of the day after a party 😡

    I'm disappointed that you didn't enjoy the dives at Lipe, which, although not at the level of the Similans, is to my taste pleasant for the variety of small fauna and its alcyonari... provided that the center chooses its spots at the right time. For some reason, I don't understand why some centers insist on the Adang pass in particular, whereas Ko Yang, for example, is a magnificent shallow dive.
    8 miles is double or nothing: I've already had to tell you about a dive by a p.com snorkeling member who got spooked by a mini school of sailfish and a few bulldog sharks on the prowl.

    Now that I've absorbed all my reading backlog on your Thai journey, it's true: I share the idea that you're going to have to relocate even more to the Southeast.
    ...for my part, I also have a Lonely Planet Papua New Guinea - Solomon islands that I've been working on for a month 😀 , you have to plan ahead for August... 8)

  11. @ Wet & Sea I really like the photo of the monk... 😉
    Yes, the beaches at Lipe are magnificent, I agree. The diving can indeed be interesting for the little one, but it's still not the best in Thailand, far from it. I agree with your assessment of Koh Yang, which I really liked. As for PNG... considering how much it costs to go there and dive in good conditions, maybe it'll wait until I find a way to put together a bigger budget. That'll give me something to dream about in the meantime!

  12. Yes, I spent last night "leering" too... Madang? I'll look into it. You never know.

    But I'd also have to find a nice golden parachute and a small package of stock options that nobody would want any more, to invest in a new camera, with the optics, flashes and housing that go with it. Not very "democratic" either...

  13. PNG: I get the impression that it's "democratizing", well... not really the term for this month's unfortunate 79,900... 🙄

    First you have to pay for the trip to Australia, but then Australian low-cost carriers (Pacific blue) provide connections to Port Moresby at fairly reasonable rates... I think you can find accommodation and wordclass diving at a decent price in Madang (I'm actually looking at that area 😛 ).

  14. I just returned this morning from the Philippines ... I'm catching up on your site!
    Ah... unfortunately 😉 , I must confess that I have made 3 attempts to go swimming with whale sharks... and this year... they have been present every time... I have photos and videos of them to sort through in the coming months!
    You still don't want to come to Raja Ampat? 🙄

  15. @Manta: Grrr... don't start provoking me with your whale sharks!!! First, I'll wait to see the pictures, to believe it, na!
    Well, yes, I would like to go to Raja Ampat. But my editor's schedule doesn't agree (sigh...).
    Right now, I'm preparing for July. I found a great deal on KLM, Paris-Kuala Lumpur return at... 540€!!! So, I'm planning to go back to Sipadan, and maybe couple it with Derawan on the Indonesian side, and maybe even go as far as the little Sunda Islands to discover Alor... I'll have to study that more closely. But I'll tell you more in a few days. What are you doing in July?

  16. 😡 I knew you were going to say "Grrrr"!
    ➡ I'm going to start sorting photos and videos ... I'll send you a first picture!
    We will end up finding a common trip ...
    At the end of June, it will be Egypt for me, as every year... As in 2008, a week in Safaga and a week of cruising, on a boat that seems very nice to me, the Nautile (see Anthias plongée website).
    Your future trip seems very nice!

  17. @Manta: Grrr... and re-grrrr!!!!! 😆
    I want to see your pictures!!!! I can't wait for the "little picture".
    Come on, we'll end up doing well together, one day!

  18. Hi Corinne,
    I should have come across your blog before my 2nd stay in Koh Lipe in March 2010, because it's worse NOW.
    The first time I went there, in March 2007, there was nothing.

    In any case, I love your blog!

    Small question: do you recommend me Sulawesi or the Philippines? For diving and landscapes?
    Would you have liked Sulawesi, even without the cremations?

    Thank you
    Aurélien, crazy about Asia.

  19. @PEPS: Welcome to my Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs!!! Glad you like it.

    Yes, Lipe has changed a lot and very quickly. For my part, I do not think to return.

    For Sulawesi and the Philippines, super hard to recommend. I really enjoyed both!!! And both offer a variety of interesting landscapes and dives... Maybe in terms of organization and ease of travel, the Philippines, where everyone speaks English, and where tourism is more developed, is simpler.

    Finally, a word of clarification: in Sulawesi, funeral ceremonies are not cremations, but burials (well, in a manner of speaking, since the coffins of the dead are "buried" in holes dug in the cliffs and rocks). Yes, I would have loved the trip, even without the funeral ceremonies. You'll get a great welcome from people everywhere, the scenery is stunning and the diving is top-notch. The thing is, you need to have a bit of time on your hands, as the island is really huge... In any case, it's a destination I highly recommend!!!!


  20. Hello,
    Your comments are nice, I liked them... I'd like to ask you for some tips, because we're going to Malaysia and Thailand in February, and we'll be spending 3 days on Koh Lipe.
    Do you know if there are ferries between Koh Lipe and Trang?
    Secondly, can you tell me how easy it is to disembark on this island with heavy luggage, as we'll be loaded up and I'm afraid I'll look like an idiot with our big bag and wheeled suitcase stuck in the white sand... Is there any help to get to the hotel? I'm reluctant to leave the luggage at a hotel in Langkawi or Sanun, but that would mean going back that way...
    Have you visited the Sanun area, especially the forest park? If so, what do you think ???
    Thank you, if you have time, to answer me.
    Good next trip!

  21. @ Patt8484: As for the Koh Lipe - Trang boat connections, I don't know, but I think they exist, yes. I'm not sure if it's year-round, though, it depends on the season. You should be able to find updated information, and maybe even timetables, on websites dedicated to Koh Lipe (by doing a little research on Google or similar).

    To disembark, it's true that it's easier with a backpack... But I've seen lots of people arriving on Koh Lipe weighed down with large suitcases! In fact, the ferry or big boat stays moored at a distance, and smaller longtail boats come to pick up people and their luggage, and unload them on the beach of your choice. Usually, if you let the hotel know in advance, they'll send a guy to help with the luggage... And at worst, if there's no one there and there are two of you, one stays with the luggage on the beach, while the other goes to the hotel to get someone to help. And at worst, for a few bahts, there's a guy who's willing to act as porter if need be. In short, it's not that difficult to find a solution!


  22. OK, thank you Corinne ... We'll do that with all the luggage, slowly but surely ...
    Do you know whether the neighboring island of Koh Lipe has a beautiful primary forest, or do you need to spend a night in Satun for a tour of the national forest park?
    Thank you.

  23. @ Patt8484: Sorry for the delay in replying again. I didn't visit the neighboring islands, I ran out of time, as I was passing my Rescue level for diving. I didn't really get around to trekking and walking in the forest at the time... So I can't really advise you on that. You might find more info on the Internet. I believe there are a few sites devoted specifically to Koh Lipe and its archipelago.
    Good preparations!

  24. I stayed 8 days on Koh Lipe last August and I agree with you a little, when we land there we are overwhelmed by the beauty of the place: fine white sand, turquoise water to die for!
    And then there's the other side of the coin, i.e. a lot of stray but not aggressive dogs (unlike in Bali), bits of glass and plastic bottles here and there on Pattaya Beach, but I was told that this was because the wind always brought the garbage to the same place on the island, and also that in the low season the cleaning wasn't as regular as in the high season.
    I found the dive sites very beautiful without being exceptional either, sorry that you were disappointed by the diving, having said that I'm less of a diving specialist than you so my opinion is probably not very objective.
    Like you, I wanted to stay at Forra Diving but it was closed at this time of year, so I opted for another dive center (not sure I'm allowed to advertise here, so I won't give the name but I can give it in PM) which took us to some magnificent sites off Lipe.
    At the time of my visit, there was a construction site on Pattaya Beach right next to the military base, and another on the heights of Sunrise Beach. My diving instructor told me that 2 or 3 years ago, there were only 2 shuttles a week to the mainland in low season, compared with 4 a day now.
    All in all, I'd say it's an ideal destination for a beach break or snorkeling trip of 3-4 days max, beyond that you'll end up in trouble!

  25. @Eric B: Yes, Koh Lipe is a very pretty island, but the truth is I didn't fall under its spell. A question of atmosphere, perhaps. The rampant construction doesn't explain everything.