Ko Lipe...paradise found (well, almost!)

Trip Start Feb 11, 2008
Trip End Jun 30, 2008

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Where I stayed
Pooh's Bungalows

Flag of Thailand  ,
Saturday, March 1, 2008

The following day we gathered a few essentials such as toothpaste, sunscreen and something to take the sting out of the multitude of mosquito bites we were both suffering from, bought our ticket and caught the minibus to Pak Bara, where we rode in a speedboat to the tropical, sun kissed white sands of Ko Lipe. There, after an exhilerating ride for 1 1/2 hours across sun dappled, blue, blue ocean we finally saw a grey haze in the distance growing nearer and more distinct - Koh Lipe! The speedboat pulled up next to a steel platform about 200 yards from the white coral sand beach at the southern end of the island. From there, we (that is nearly 20 of us) climbed aboard a long tail boat which could not have been more than 15 ft long and which was very low in the water because of the number of passengers and luggage (I measured 2 inches from the edge of the boat to the water with my fingers!) After a shaky and somewhat rocky ride we hit the beach with a thump, were thrown off our seats and then had to jump over the side into the clear, warm water to collect our bags. Once we were stood on the sand we decided to walk into the centre of the island, through the many expensive resorts which are right on the beach, to find a cheap hovel in which we could get out of the sun and rest for a day or two.

The LP guide had recommended a few establishments, all of which were reasonably priced at about 600 baht. One bungalow resort was called Pooh's Bungalows and this is where we headed to find they were full. So was the next place, but we resigned ourselves to marching on down the narrow dirt road (there are NO metalled roads on Lipe, only sandy, dirt tracks winding through the jungle, connecting the various resorts and restaurants and bars) to seek out a place to crash for the night and explore the island the next day.

We were hailed by a young Thai couple from their restaurant.
"Bungalow? You wan' bungalow?"
"Oh God yes!" I replied. "How much?"
"400 baht!" We were sold!
The wooden shack in which we were to spend the next few days was clean, with a western toilet, cold shower and had no sink, but at 400 baht on an island (we were soon to discover) was damned expensive, we were lucky to have found it!

After a cold and invigorating shower, we took a stroll to the nearest bar as the heavens opened and rain drops as large as a babies fist fell in a torrent! We made it to the Pooh's Bungalow resort without drowning and were sat on the floor resting ourselves against Thai cushions (which are triangular affairs and perfect for lying outstreched and resting your head against) drinking ice cold Chang Beer in Pooh's Bar watching the not-so-great "Four Chords Blunt" warble on about subways and such like on the wide screen TV, waiting for the rain to stop.

The island itself is quite small, about 2km by 1 across, with 3 beaches - one to the south, one to the west and one stretching from the east to the north of the island. There are loads of bungalow resorts around the island, about 20 I guess, varying from ramshackle cheap affairs like ours to more expensive places at (easily) 1000-2000 baht a night. The island attracts a lot of Europeans, as well as other tourists who enjoy it's pristine (read littered) beaches and good restaurants and bars. You can hire a long tail to take you to some of the other islands in the park and fish, scuba or snorkle your day away, or simply lounge on the beach and soak up the glorious sun. It is heavenly, but...

Here comes the lecture! Koh Lipe is an island paradise rushing headlong into the tourist industry, providing excellent snorkling, swimming, topless sunbathing (not always a bad thing), drinking, eating and general "Farang" merrymaking which depletes the natural habit through causing new resorts, businesses and restaurants and bars to be built, which in turn increases the litter, plastic bottles, beer cans, broken glass and general consumable rubbish to be scattered throughout the island (especially in the areas where the Thais live) and even amongst the pristine coral reefs off shore, on the beautiful white coral beaches and being washed up in the tide line! However, having been there and discussed the problem with other visitors (some of whom have been to Lipe a few times and have noticed the increase of tourism on the island and the number of new bars, resaturants and resorts each year) I feel that if you want to see Lipe, then go NOW before it becomes another Ko Samaui or Ko Phi Phi. In this, I may be wrong (it wouldn't be the first time), but we went there because the LP guide said it was the last bastion of a decent island paradise amongst the natural beauty of the National Marine Parks (so I guess we are just as much to blame as any body else) and i bet most of the other tourists were there for a similar reason - to saty on abeautiful tropical island paradise and relax for a time. Jo reminded me that if there were no restaurants or bars and just a couple of beach huts than people would still flock there looking for the same thing, which creates the jobs for the locals and goes on to create more places to stay etc. Here endeth.....

Four days later, we left Lipe on the same speedboat, but this time the sea was not so calm and as the boat was packed to the gills, we were huddled in the front, which was open to the elements, crouched as low as we could with a Canadian couple and loads of Thais, getting soaked to the skin by the heavy waves breaking over the front of the boat as it leapt across the water for 2 hours until we reached dry land back on the mainland (where I fell to my knees and kissed the ground once I'd got off that damned boat and thanked every God there is we'd made it alive!)
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