Our final stop in our Thai island dream was Ko Lipe, an island in Satun province not too far from the Malaysian border. We were reluctant to leave our idyllic spot at Ko Lanta, but were curious enough about what Lonely Planet was calling the “Deep South”, so we got up early, slurped down a last delicious coffee and got driven by the lovely Mango House manager to the dock at the other side of the island.
The speed boat we boarded cut along mangroves and through bright waters, making stops along the way to pick up more tourists who would wade with their luggage from the beach to the boat. Once the ship was full up, we stopped at a larger island and boarded a ferry. A journey of a few hours brought us to a floating dock off the waters of Ko Lipe, where we and our luggage were loaded into long tail taxis.
Another spectacular beach landing erased any regrets I had about leaving Ko Lanta. The sand was nearly white, the water was crystal clear – I could see coral and fish as I peered over the edge of the long tail boat! – and it felt wonderfully refreshing as we hopped overboard and walked onto the beach. I couldn’t wait to get my bathing suit on and go for a swim!
Luckily for us Ko Lipe is tiny, and it took no time to walk to our hotel and get settled.
Long tail boat like the one that brought us on shore
The island and the hotel
Ko Lipe is more “Thailand Pavilion at Disney’s Epcot Center” than authentic Thai village. Unlike Ko Lanta, it seems to exist only for tourism. There’s not much we discovered in the way of culture or places like restaurants that were geared towards locals rather than tourists and the vibe was accordingly different.
That doesn’t stop the island and its beaches from being beautiful, and we really loved the immersion in nature we experienced there, but we were also grateful to be there after the high season. It was clear from the number of hotels and restaurants that the island could accommodate a LOT more visitors than we saw. We were told that during peak season the place is just packed with Europeans – especially Swedes for some reason.
The island has a main “walking street” – a sandy pedestrian path that links the two main beaches and is lined with roti stands (a Thai version of crepes), bars, restaurants, tour operators and convenience stores. Most hotels and bungalows tend to be located on the beaches.
We ended up at a spot that was a bit out of the way (which meant just a short walk to the main drag) at a hotel called The Reef. While it didn’t have the charm and beauty of Mango House, still, it was perfectly clean and modern and we really liked it.
The real highlight was the cats living at the hotel. The place had a lovely open lounge at the front, with low tables and pretty cushions set out on the wood floor. The staff had two teeny tiny little kittens that hung out there during opening hours, toddling between guests legs and getting their little kitten claws stuck on the cloth as they climbed up the pillows. SO cute. There was another cat, young but no longer a kitten, who also lived there and seemed to feel pretty displaced by the little fuzzball siblings. She was also way adorable and took a liking to us and was always trying to sneak into our room for some extra attention. Cute fest! 🙂
Our room at The Reef
Half of cutey cat’s competition, Fuzzball 1
Fuzzball 1 close up
We soon found some favorites for food on the island. Everything we ever ate at the Sunrise Beach Restaurant was delicious – we kept coming back for the curries and especially the fried fish with tons of garlic and green onion. Yum!
Konlay Thaifood on the “walking street” was a bit hit or miss – maybe different chefs for different days? – but the service was really friendly and good and I did have one of the best Pad Thais of our entire time in Thailand there.
I was also excited to find lemongrass salad on their menu. This was something I was introduced to while staying in Ban Krud and I absolutely loved it, but hadn’t found it again since. Any lemon grass I’ve bought in the West is always tough and woody, great to add flavor to a dish but never something I would have considered eating. The lemongrass used in the salads I had was young and tender with a really delicate flavor. The light dressing and chopped onion compliment the flavor perfectly and it makes for a light, addictive salad. I don’t know exactly what was in the different ones I had in Thailand, but this recipe I found online sounds about right, although no version I ate had pork in it and sometimes it had finely chopped lemongrass and cabbage mixed together: http://www.thaifoodplus.com/Thai/Recipes/Salad/Lemongrass_Spicy_Salad_Cooking.php
I broke down and tried a roti for breakfast one day. Thank God it was towards the end of our stay or else I would have been in trouble. 😉 A thin, crispy/chewy crepe filled with peanut butter and bananas and drenched in condensed milk. Disgustingly heavy and sweet and filling and too much and OH SO DELICIOUS. 🙂