We’re not exactly blown away when we arrive on the much hyped island of Koh Lipe after hours at sea. It’s a real circus on the main beach, Pattaya Beach. It’s full of long-tail and speedboats with suitcases being carried to the fine white sand. The army of moped taxis is in the background shouting the names of hotels.
Maybe a decade ago, the small island of Koh Lipe may still have been a hidden gem, a treasure far in the south of Thailand. Now, it’s no longer hidden. You can still call it a gem, though, especially because of the waters surrounding it. It’s impossible to find seas more turquoise and clear in Thailand.
In the crowds of the main beach, we’re relieved to know that our accommodation is at the other end of the island, on Sunrise Beach. We get a lift there in the sidecar of a moped taxi in a few minutes.
Our first impression of Koh Lipe was restless, but our worries are gone when we arrive at our hotel. Castaway Resort is a stylish, cosy place close to nature and more than enough reason on its own for coming to Koh Lipe. It’s our favourite place to stay in Thailand, along with Coco Cottage on Koh Ngai Island. A night in the beach bungalow in Castaway cost about 100 euros in November 2017.
The atmosphere is charming, like at a summer cottage. The simple and stylish wooden cottages are two storeys high and located on the sand right by the sea. There’s a hammock on the patio.
When stepping in the cottage, the downstairs toilet and shower are right at the door. There is no warm water because the eco-friendly hotel saves electricity. There’s also no air conditioning, no fridge, and no TV in the cottage.
We climb upstairs to our small bedroom. The bed is covered with a beautifully embroidered throw. The sea view is surrounded by deep green cashew nut trees.
When opening the balcony door, it feels like we’re on top of the sea. That guarantees plenty of ventilation! The Beach Front Breezy Bungalow lives up to its name. Later on we notice that when there’s a proper storm, water comes in from the gaps in the balcony door.
After inspecting our cottage, we have dinner at the Castaway restaurant that offers a good menu with a lot of variety. The restaurant is also aesthetically pleasing.
You can enjoy dinner under the bamboo canopy, relaxing on the cushions and gazing at the turquoise sea. On the second floor, under a thatched roof, there’s a bar and a small library, and the hotel reception is also there. Everything is made of wood that is stylishly patinated by the sea air. The restaurant is richest in atmosphere at night-time in candlelight.
The beach itself, Sunrise Beach, is more peaceful than the main beach, Pattaya Beach. There are long-tail boats parked here too, but there’s still plenty of room for swimming. It’s easy to reach great snorkelling spots straight from the beach that are close to the two small islands nearby.
Castaway also offers a diving school so it’s easy for anyone to start this new hobby. There are yoga classes at the hotel, as well.
On Koh Lipe, everything is just a 10-minute walk away. Behind Sunrise Beach, there’s a small village. We walk on to the centre of the island with a pedestrian zone.
The smell of a fish barbecue reaches our noses. The crowd is gathering at the fish counters of the restaurants. The lively shopping street also has numerous shops for beach clothing, travel agents, diving shops, and street cafes. We sit down to enjoy a cappuccino and a chocolate biscuit.
After walking through the whole shopping street and reaching the main beach, we conclude that Lipe is full. The small island looks like it’s been built to the limit of its capacity. The challenges in waste management are not a secret. The main beach is tainted by a rusty cargo vessel whose enormous waste load is waiting to be taken to the mainland.
On a morning walk on Sunrise Beach, we bump into a taxi boat sign. Around it, locals that are called Urak Lawoi are on call. The fishing village of Koh Lipe has quickly turned into a famous holiday island where tourists are taken on speedboats.
The native people now only have a small village and a strip on Sunrise Beach. They catch seafood for tourists and take people snorkelling and diving in their long-tail boats. Day trips to nearby islands are the best Koh Lipe can offer. The island is a part of Tarutao National Park.
The taxi boat takes us to the best spots for snorkelling in the nearby waters. A swarm of colourful fish swim next to the boat. The water is so clear there really is no need to even dive in.
We have lunch on the sandy beach of Koh Adang Island. There is no one else on the long beach. It feels like we’re on the island of Robinson Crusoe.
Translated into English by Katja Juutistenaho. Original Finnish text by Tuomas Hyytinen and Mila Hyytinen.