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Ko Lipe

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ATMs for everyone
For those wishing to visit Koh Lipe, you will be relieved to know that there are at least 5 or 6 ATM...

By Nomad_Lez


About 20 years ago, whispers of an idyllic island far out in South Thailand's Andaman Sea began to surface within the international traveller community. Unlike the rest of Tarutao National Park's protected islands, development was possible on tiny Ko Lipe due to it being inhabited by the indigenous Chao Lay (literally "people of the sea") who retain ancestral rights to the island.

Within five years there were a handful of resorts popping up, and today Ko Lipe has become one of Thailand's premier tourism hotspots, boasting close to 50 resorts suited to all budgets. In high season Lipe is filled with a dizzying crowd of swimsuit-clad travellers who come for the picture-perfect whitesand beaches, renowned diving and snorkelling, nature-oriented daytrips to nearby islands, and relaxed yet lively atmosphere.

With far more foreigners roaming its beaches than locals, Ko Lipe has quickly become an unlikely international enclave -- we met people living and working here from over 20 countries spanning every continent, and that was just in the first day. Due to this eclectic mix of people, Lipe has developed an outstanding food scene.

While several solid backpacker accommodation options remain, Lipe is following an upmarket trend and development is unceasing. New resorts are being built as old ones expand upward and inward to the island's interior. Sadly, most of the pristine jungle in the middle of the island has recently disappeared, replaced by a flat, dusty lot, which will undoubtedly be developed in the not so distant future. Lipe's lush northwestern peninsula remains relatively unscathed, for now.

Despite the increasing development, Ko Lipe has finally begun to plan for a more sustainable future. Thanks in large part to the persuasion of environmentally conscious resorts like Pooh's, Castaway, Serendipity, Greenview and Jack's Jungle, the regional electric and trash collection company now recycles plastics and other materials on a major scale. They've also switched to a highly efficient central generator, and have even set up a large composter. Indeed, these are very positive developments, but with several of the older, larger resorts still running without septic systems and "dealing" with their trash by burying or burning it, Lipe is not in the clear just yet.

The tide does seem to be turning, however, and environmental awareness is prevalent. To do your part, ask resorts if they have environmentally sound waste management systems before booking your stay (the names of all business owners who participate in the recycling and trash collection programme are posted on a sign in the middle of the island, so proof is readily available), take advantage of the water bottle refilling services at Pooh's, Ricci Resort and Castaway, dine only at restaurants that serve farmed fish, and never, ever eat an especially exotic looking fish -- it's almost certainly been caught illegaly from the Marine Park's protected reefs.

Ko Lipe has three main beaches, each with its own distinct feel. Pattaya Beach to the southwest has the finest white sand and is popular with the younger set thanks to its lively atmosphere. With more than a dozen bars, most of which are clustered near the entrance to Walking Street, Pattaya Beach is the place to be for nightlife. To the east lies Sunrise Beach, the longest stretch of sand on Lipe. During high season it's windier and the sea choppier here, but Sunrise still retains a refreshingly low-key atmosphere. The much smaller Sunset Beach lies a 10-minute walk to the island's northwest shore, and here you'll find a funky, chilled-out vibe that's popular with hipsters and skinny dippers. Connecting Sunrise and Pattaya beaches is Walking Street, which is lined with restaurants, coffee shops, travel companies and convenience stores.

There's a small medical dispensary near the Chao Lay village at Sunrise Beach, and visitors with medical expertise are invited to register here in case there's an emergency on the island.

There are still no ATMs on Ko Lipe, but tourist offices on Walking Street will exchange foreign currencies and traveller's cheques for a commission. Many resorts offer internet cafes for guests, and WiFi is free for patrons at Pooh's, OMG! Sports Bar and Harmony Bed and Bakery.

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Text and/or map last updated on 20th February, 2014.

Last reviewed by:
Usually found exploring Bangkok's side streets or south Thailand's islands, David Luekens is an American freelance writer & photographer who finds everyday life in Asia to be extraordinary. You can follow his travails here.

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Reviews about Ko Lipe

ATMs for everyone
By Nomad_Lez, 13 May 2014
3.0  stars

Little paradise
By Gonzalo, 20 October 2013
5.0  stars

Best Beach for You
By tezza, 02 May 2013
4.0  stars

It was ok -- until
By manao, 23 July 2011
3.0  stars

Koh Lipe Review
By neillbarker, 26 March 2010
4.0  stars

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