Southern most of Thai islands, and in close proximity to a national park, Ko Lipe with its crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches is a postcard island. It's beauty sells many a keychains and fridge magnets.
Beauty however can also also be a burden and that's the sorry state of Koh Lipe. Tainted with unplanned development, over run by tourists, heaps of trash, jaded locals and little room to breathe it's only a matter of time until Koh Lipe trips over its own shoelaces.
Film crew on Pattaya beach.
During the low season Pak Bara is the only port running boats to Koh Lipe. At 1100Bht accessible from Koh Lanta by minivan and boat, it's certainly not cheap to get to. At one point when I had zoomed in on google maps, I was surprised by the sheer number of POIs that popped up. I should've caught it then. We had avoided Koh Phi Phi for the very same reason only to fall into the clutches of Koh Lipe.
Most places shut down for the low season and those that remain open leave little to be desired. The minimum bar is quite high and it is one of the more expensive islands with very little to offer. For 500Bht expect the most basic bamboo hut, with holes everywhere, sharp nails sticking out, no power outlets, cold shower and built for midgets. At 5'3″ even I kept banging my head everywhere.
Walkable by foot, the island can be covered in less than an hour. The walking street that runs from sunrise to pattaya beach is your best bet for budget accomodation and food. Menu options and prices range from affordable baguette sandwiches at the pancake shop to 400Bht burning a hole through your wallet tofu soup at Rak Lay.
Stopping for a game of impromptu footie on the way to walking street.
Owing to the lack of a pier, you'll have to get long tails to the shores of Koh Lipe for about 50Bht per person. These drop you off at Sunrise beach which is also where you'll find them anchored. With clear waters there's some amazing snorkeling here if you are willing to battle it out with the increasing long tail traffic.
Until I turned around and witnessed the harsh reality. Ok- so may be its the low season, or may be the tides brought them in and the trash collectors haven't had a chance to clear them yet. But wait, you see this inland too!
The popular choice for getting rid of garbage seems to be to burn them. Thick clouds of black smoke rising in the air and choking your lungs out as you cross the roads is a common occurrence on the islands.
The plight of this jewlled paradise and longevity was the topic of our coversation when it happened. One minute we were on our way to get our tickets out of Koh Lipe and the next, I was down on my knees in a puddle of squishy, dirty mud made worse by the recent rains. Struggling to get back on my feet, clinging onto to Brad for support, I managed to hop towards a makeshift platform holding an electric pole.
The sorry accident quickly turned into one of the worst experiences of our trip. Soggy pants, drenched in filthy mud, busted knee and rivers of tears from the pain there were no offers for help. Instead, we were appalled to see locals sitting next to the pole laughing at us.
Earlier in the day, close to where I had my fateful fall. I would like to remember it with better memories.
It would be unfair for me to paint a dreaded picture of the beautiful strip of land in the far corner of the Andaman sea that has so much to offer. After all, it was where my search for crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches were rewarded. But it did come with a price.
Left unchecked and without drastic local and government effort we might just have left our future generations with nothing but a postcard to hold onto of what was once a paradise called Koh Lipe.