Photo: Classic Lipe.

Introduction

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Travellers venture to Ko Lipe from around the globe for vast reefs and powdery sand in water like polished emerald and sapphire. The tiny island has developed rapidly since the 1990s, as dirt paths turned into crowded roads lined by concrete stacks. Ever-evolving Lipe still has a lot to offer, even if the drastic changes will shock those who haven’t visited for a while.


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Both of Lipe’s longest beaches -- Sunrise and Pattaya -- rank among the finest in Thailand. The food scene is exceptional and a clutch of bars present a more mature nightlife alternative to Ko Phi Phi, without the seediness found on parts of Phuket. You can still score bungalows for less than 1,000 baht and there’s a strong selection of midrange to upscale digs. Group or private boat tours make it easy to snorkel and dive around 21 other islands in the surrounding archipelago.

Not that Pattaya. Photo taken in or around Ko Lipe, Thailand by David Luekens.

Not that Pattaya. Photo: David Luekens

Lipe was virtually unknown in the 1980s and drew only trickles of adventurous Western travellers through the turn of the millennium, when forest blanketed almost the entire island. Mainstream tourism finally caught up in the late 2000s—and from then on Lipe developed remarkably fast. Large numbers of visitors now come from China, Malaysia and Thailand itself, with big groups of moneyed Thais filing in on weekends. On a single day you’ll encounter all sorts of people from dozens of countries.

Often clumped under the Thai term, Chao Lae (“Sea People”), the Urak Lawoi were Lipe’s first inhabitants after arriving more than a century ago. Tourism brought them income but also damaged their home environment, undermined their traditional ways of life and pitted their ancestral land claims against powerful business and government interests. Check out Lipe-based Project Urak Lawoi to learn more about these ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,100 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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