At this time of year, all we can think about is endless sunshine and azure seas. In essence, Koh Lipe. A tiny tropical island with fewer than 1,000 full-time residents and no cars to speak of, Koh Lipe is in the Adang-Rawi Archipelago of the Strait of Malacca, southwest Thailand. It’s accessible only by sea, was originally settled by the Chao Ley (which roughly translates as ‘people from the sea’), and falls within the perimeter of the Tarutaro National Marine Park. The park helps protect local marine life, but has outlawed the original peoples’ way of life – fishing. A bit of a catch 22 then, as locals are forced into the island’s only other main industry, tourism.
Koh Lipe is a visitor’s paradise: all three main beaches (Pattaya, Sunrise, and Sunset) are exactly as you’d imagine: palm-fringed golden sands lapped by glass-clear waters. It’s the kind of place that invites you to spend several weeks just lounging lazily on the beach with not a care in the world. Or, if you’re feeling a bit more get-up-and-go, there are forest hikes, sailing courses, kayaking expeditions, fishing excursions, yoga on the beach, and batik classes, along with dozens of coral reefs (perfect for amateur divers), and even a tiny Buddhist temple (Hantaly).
Of course you’ll need to sustain your hedonistic Koh Lipe lifestyle with a few meals here and there. The cuisine being predominantly Thai, you’ll be getting the best of tom (boiled dishes), yam (spicy salads), tam (pounded foods), and gaeng (curries). There’s the usual slew of rice-based everything, but the island’s proximity to the sea means a fresh fish dish is always on the menu, and the giant prawns are said to be among the best in the world. There’s also a fair bit of pork around: pork neck slices and stir-fry water spinach (kangkong) is a popular dish at roadside restaurants; curried pork belly is a local favourite; and pork butter on a pork sausage is apparently the perfect post-prandial snack.
The island’s resorts obviously serve up a storm of high-end, Thai-based delectables, but it’s the street vendors who have nailed true Koh Lipe cuisine – Thai banana pancakes drizzled with condensed milk, deliciously icy coconut ice cream, and fresh curried crab are the order of the day.