When I read cliched phrases like 'breath-taking' I usually raise a cynical eyebrow and turn the page. The following blog may cause offence - if you don't do cliches, click away now...
Thankfully I am a teacher and I am able to really enjoy the school holidays. So more often than not, we head off for an adventure. Now I am assuming you are all beach lovers like my little family and me and whilst I do really want to get to Pai, Issan and Sukothai, I find that after a long term teaching, I crave the beach.
We have a criteria that we mentally score and compare islands with: Ease of travel, cost of food, the beaches and accommodation.
Where's Koh Li Pe?
Our latest trip was to Ko Li Pe which is nestled in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago in the Andaman Sea. It's closer to Malaysia's Lan Kwai than Thailand's mainland - expect jaw dropping scenery and the most awe-inspiring sunsets!
In terms of beauty, this island outstrips the others we have visited. The turquoise seas are breathtaking and sublime for swimming and snorkelling. We took a day's excursion which cost 600Bht and visited several smaller islands in the archipelago. It was by longtail boat which is such a romantic way to traverse the Thai oceans. Our son delighted in the cheeky monkeys which 'stole' his watermelon and gasped at the tropical fish which tickled his feet - the water so clear, he could enjoy snorkelling from above.
The journey to Li Pe was epic - an hour by plane (try Tiger Line for the cheapest fares) and then bus and a three hour boat journey. Take food, drink and cash with you (as we found out, there is only one ATM on Li Pe which sometimes ran out of cash). The three hour boat journey was fine but there is no on-board facilities except toilets. Our early flight from Bangkok meant we slept most of the boat journey.
We booked accommodation in advance but only book one or two nights so you can find something else if you don't like it (check the cancellation policy as many of Lipe's hotels will not offer you a refund). We found the budget and mid-range accommodation expensive and didn't offer the minimum standards we had expected especially when compared to other islands like Koh Phangan and Koh Chang. The higher end resorts on Li Pe definitely offered the quality and service which came with the higher price tag.
Food was a definite highlight on Lipe. We found some great little places on 'Walking Street' and prices ranged from 100Bht for fried rice with chicken to 150Bht for a massaman curry. The quality of food was superb but for me, the best surprise of all were the little bakeries serving up freshly baked breads and sandwiches. We were able to pack a little picnic of fruit and sandwiches and head to Sunrise beach for the day. My advice is to take a cool bag with you because the remote beaches are among the best.
It's an island and we always expect to pay a little more for items because of the transport costs but 7/11 doubled everything. M+Ms usually 25Bht in our local branch were 50bht, apple juice cartons 27Bht compared to 18Bht here in Bangkok and don't expect the 7/11 offers either. If you can take some of the toddler's essentials with you like juice and cereal, it will definitely help to curb the doubled-daily spend. Some of the western-inspired restaurants charged 100Bht for a cup of coffee and 350Bht for a continental breakfast so it's worth checking the menus carefully before sitting down.
There are no cars on Li Pe but a network of longtail boats and adapted motorcycle taxis ferry you everywhere for around 50Bht per person. It's only a small island and very easy to navigate. We took the number of a local taxi driver, Phat, who we called to collect us from our hotel. The island is small enough to walk around but we had the toddler in tow and after dinner or beach bathing, neither of us wanted to carry him home.
The main beach is Pattaya beach and was perfect for bathing, the beach is cleaner at the furthest ends so walk 10 mins in either direction to enjoy it at its best. At night there are a range of beach bars for you to enjoy a sundowner or a BBQ dinner.
"A nice atmosphere"
There's a nice vibe to Li Pe, every Monday there is a volunteer beach clean up in which helpers are paid by way of a free lunch. The islanders are tuned in to their environment and respectful as much, and as far, as tourism allows. There are signs everywhere to save water and to put rubbish in bins.
My standout memory will be the purple-magenta skies as Lipe descended into darkness, the white sands of Sunset Beach mirrored the hues and every night a magical feeling dances on your skin as you breath in the natural beauty of such an amazing little island.
We definitely fell in love with Li Pe!
What are you favourite islands and why?