Ko Lipe Walking Street, Thailand

Ko Lipe Walking Street will be everyone's hangout when you set foot on this beautiful island located in the Southwest part of Thailand. Getting here is no easy task as there is much work to be done in getting the times of the ferries and so on. Note - Only ferries go to Ko Lipe, no planes, no buses, nothing. This one-a-backpacker-heaven which has recently opened up to commercial tourism is now one of the must-visit places when you travel to Thailand. I had the luxury of visiting this beautiful place twice in a year, once during the peak season and the other during the off season and found it to be totally different.

Firstly, the walking street will be your everyday hangout unless you choose to just eat, play, love in your room but at any one point, you would need to pass this place. It tends to be very lively in the evenings right till about midnight. Some of the commercial shops would close by about 9-10pm while restaurants, bars and Internet cafes will remain open till about midnight or a little later.

Morning alms giving on the Walking Street

As I have been to Lipeh twice in one year, I managed to catch the best of both seasons - peak and non-peak on different visits. The entire area seemed like a ghost town in June while towards the end of the year, it looks like a 24-hour island festival. Lipeh Walking Street stretches for about a kilometer long from the main Pattaya Beach right to the main junction inland. Branded as the heart of Lipe, everything and anything can be found here making this a must-stop spot for all visitors.

Creative designs seen

From dive shops, Internet cafes, specialty bakeries, foreign run restaurants right till local stalls, you can find just about anything here except the ATM Machines (Update 22 Sept 2014: There is an ATM available now). Yes, there is no bank here in Ko Lipe so you need to come prepared with good old cash. Alternatively some outlets will accept credit card cash advances but be prepared to pay premium prices for this. While the most prominent businesses you will come across are the massage and Internet centers or better still, Internet and Massage in one place.

Best of both worlds

Food is a haven here as you get almost all kinds of local and international food along this street. For the Muslim travelers, there is even Halal Food available here. During my multiple visits here, I saw Indian, Western, Mexican and Chinese food available aside from the many local Thai restaurants. Prices are pretty decent and affordable too. For the budget conscious, there are many local stalls that sell food below 50 Baht too. (Update 22nd Sept 2014, there is a 7-11 available at the walking street now)

Lipeh Walking Street during off peak season

The main street was actually a sand path made by the local Chow Ley people who are the islanders and due to the boom in tourism here, the mainland government got involved and revamped the walking street. A cement road about 8 feet wide was laid all the way here. However, this stole the natural charm of the island away making it look very commercialized so the locals decided to cover the concrete path with heaps of sand from the beach nearby. 'Now it looks authentic' claims one of the local vendors when I spoke to them about this.

Beachwear on sale

For those who are over dressed, you would be pleased to know that there are even a couple of boutiques here selling beach wear of all sorts. Looking closely, the prices were very cheap too. You even get some local souvenirs here while do not be surprised if you see a boutique doubling as a sundry shop.

Pee Pee Bakery on Ko Lipe Island

Getting a Thai Massage

One of the fun things to do is try out the local Thai Massages. I counted on my first trip and there must have been at least 10 outlets offering massages. Prices are really cheap starting from 300 Baht an hour for the small outlets while hotel services charge about 400-600 Baht. Some centers are even combining services such as manicures, pedicures, facial and hair braiding services. During my stays here, I must have went for one massage every night after a long day diving.

Thai Pancake Shop Menu

Thai pancake being made by local girl

A must try for those coming here is the Thai Pancake or Rotee. The cafes or stalls sell them along the street and are absolutely mouth watering. You can have them plain or filled with a savory or sweet filling of your choice. Locally in Malaysia, we call them Roti Canai or in Singapore - Prata Bread. I found a acquired taste with the Rotee and Nutella Chocolate combined with some iced Thai coffee. This became my staple meal for supper.

Wedding on Ko Lipe Island

My highlight of the Lipe Walking Street was during the off season when I visited in June 2010. About 70% of the businesses here were shut therefore the place looked like an island ghost town. As we ventured into the dark street one night, loud thumping music was heard from the start and our curiosity lead us to it. What a surprise, a local Island Wedding was going on inside one of the compounds just off the street. The entire island was there enjoying this jovial occasion. Upon walking into the crowd here, we were instantly invited to join in and without offending the locals, we politely accepted in a shyly manner.

Beer was passed around to us while some dragging us to dance merrily with the rest. Young and old were seen having a joyous time and I ended up dancing with one of the village elders who was quite tipsy. After about 45 minutes here, we politely excused ourselves as the following day, we had an early boat trip back to the mainland.

For those who are planning on visiting this island paradise in the Andaman Sea, you should take note about the logistics of Getting To Koh Lipe as the only possible way here is via boat. As Koh Lipe is the south most island on the west of Thailand, it is the only populated island in the Taruto Marine Park.

Once here, there are three main beaches with accommodations and moving around will be on foot or via longtail taxi boats. This is also one of the last non-fully developed islands in the region so if you dislike heavily populated islands, this is your kind of place. Nothing beats walking barefoot around the island and making daily visits to the Ko Lipe Walking Street.