As much fun as I was having exploring Bangkok, after a few days, I was longing to go south and see Thailand’s famous islands. My first island stop was Koh Lipe and I immediately fell in love. It was and still remains vividly as the quintessential island of my Thailand fantasies – white sandy beaches, clear blue waters, and a slow, unhurried, and uncrowded vibe.
I started my adventure by flying from Bangkok to Hat Yai airport on Thai Smile. The flight cost the equivalent of $47 US dollars and took a little over an hour. Flying is the only way you can reach Koh Lipe in the same day. But even with a plane flight, my whole journey took the better part of the day. If flying, it is advised that your flight lands by 10 a.m. You still need to drive to the Pakbara Pier, which is about 2 hours from the airport.
From Pakbara, you need to take either a speedboat or ferry to Koh Lipe, which takes at least 1 ½ hours. I had arranged in advance with Satun Pakbara for the ride to the pier, as well as the speedboat to Koh Lipe. After using other companies for other trips, I found Satun Pakbara to be the most organized and so I highly recommend them.
If you didn’t make advance arrangements, you can buy a ride plus boat trip combo ticket at the airport. There are kiosks by the airport exit. Or you can get a taxi and then take your chances once you get to the pier. I strongly urge you to make advance arrangements. There are only so many ferry crossings per day. My speedboat to Koh Lipe was full. Also Satun Pakbara will arrange your transportation from the Koh Lipe dock to your hotel. They made the entire journey super easy.
Once at Pakbara Pier, you might have to wait until your speedboat is ready. There are plenty of places to grab lunch outside of the waiting area. Within the waiting area, there is a snack shop, plenty of seats and restrooms as well.
Once your speedboat is ready for boarding, the boat personnel will first load the front with your luggage. After all the luggage, then passengers can start boarding. There are readily accessible lifejackets over the seats.
The ride itself was very smooth but my favorite part was a surprise stopover at Koh Kai for 15 minutes. Koh Kai is a very small, but charming island that I wish I could have spent more time exploring. As it was, I got a quick, delightful taste of what was to come.
Koh Lipe does not have a dock, per say. One of two things will happen upon arriving or departing the island. The way I arrived was to transfer from the speedboat to a longtail boat for a 5-minute ride to the beach. The luggage arrives soon after from another longtail boat. Passengers were able to disembark from longtail boat onto a blue pier boardwalk. However, upon departing Koh Lipe, with a different company, passengers had to board the longtail boats from the beach, carrying their luggage and getting into the water. It was a more physically exerting and wet experience.
Koh Lipe is extremely walkable. You can walk from end to end in 15 minutes. The only times I used tuktuks were with my luggage.
There are three beaches in Koh Lipe. Pattaya Beach, where you arrive and depart, is very busy and noisy, with boats. Sunrise Beach, as the name implies, is the best place to catch the sun rise, and in my opinion, is the best beach of the three. Sunset Beach is, of course, where to watch the sunset.
One night, I decided to check out Sunset Beach, which is a 15-minute walk from Sunrise Beach. I found the experience to be … just okay. The beach was littered with trash, unfortunately, and I just didn’t get the same magical experience as with Sunrise Beach.
Actually, sunrises and sunsets are pretty spectacular from Sunrise Beach. Let you in on a little secret – you can get the beach almost to yourself during sunrise because although everyone can catch the sun set, not everyone wants to get up before dawn.
But if you decide to catch the sun set at Sunset Beach, there are restaurants lining the road leading up to the beach if you want to stay for dinner.
Every island has a street called walking street and is typically where you will find the highest concentration of stores, restaurants and bars. This is where you go to eat, drink, shop and … to walk, especially at nighttime.
One thing I noticed was that everything was more expensive at Koh Lipe than Bangkok or neighboring islands. Hotel rooms, food, drinks, everything just simply cost more. That doesn’t mean however, that there aren’t bargains to be had. You can still eat and drink within your budget. Just make sure to shop around before buying or consuming anything.
As I stated earlier, leaving Koh Lipe was a different process and experience than when I arrived. I think it had to do with the fact that I used a different company. This time, I used Tigerline, which apparently doesn’t have use of the blue boardwalks onto the beach. Passengers had to drag or carry their luggage on the beach, then carry onto the waiting longtail boats. If anything can convince you to pack light, this will.
One tip I almost forgot is to be at the beach 30 minutes before departure and check in. The staff will confirm where you are going and your hotel at your destination. This is for arrangements once you arrive. My next destination was Koh Lanta and upon arrival there, I had someone waiting to take me to my hotel. This is included in your ticket.
Once you board the longtail boat with your luggage, it will take you to a giant floating platform where you will disembark with your luggage. And then board again the speedboat or ferry to your next destination.