After a few days of city life in Penang, I crossed the border again back into Thailand and headed for Ko Lipe. I’d heard it was the picture-perfect island getaway and it definitely did not disappoint.
My transport from Penang arrived early one rainy, dark morning. I hustled to get in without becoming soaked. The drive to the border seemed longer than normal, but luckily everyone got through immigration quickly.
Once in Thailand, the van headed for Hat Yai where I hopped off and waited for another van to take me the rest of the way. The second van went all the way to Pak Bara, where I transferred to a boat that shuttled me and a heap of other tourist to islands in the Andaman Sea.
When we arrived at Ko Lipe, the boat pulled up at a floating dock and staff unloaded our luggage. Then we had to pay extra fees to get shuttled from the dock to the shore by local sea gypsies called Chao Ley. They have a monopoly on water transportation around the island.
Normally, I could’ve taken a long-tail boat directly to my accommodation, but the day I arrived there was a shortage and only two boats worked to shuttle visitors to-and-fro. A inter-island football (soccer) match had claimed many boat captains so we didn’t have much choice.
Once on shore, I asked around for a motorcycle taxi. Ko Lipe is a vehicle-free island, but like everywhere else in southeast Asia, motorcycles and scooters abound. Even on this far-flung island, some residents owned scooters and turned them into a business by charging to transport tourists from point A to point B.
I didn’t have to wait long for a taxi to return from its latest fare. I set my bag in the small trailer-like compartment and got in myself. We drove through the interior of the island, and I saw the real side of the island to which tourists aren’t usually exposed. We passed a few crumbling buildings, homes in need of repair and large plots of land filled with trash.
This was not the introduction to the island for which I was hoping, but it is easy to understand waste disposal is a huge issue for residents. The island is far from the mainland, which makes transporting waste there expensive and inefficient. I assume the garbage is burned and this is why it is collected in these large lots. Thankfully, I couldn’t detect any smell coming out of these trash heaps.
Despite this, a short while later I finally arrived at my destination and checked into my bungalow with fan. I already knew I’d be dying of the heat without air conditioning in the room, but those rooms were already booked. Still, after almost 12 hours of traveling, I was happy to step foot on the beach with a fruit smoothie in hand. As I looked around, I knew this was paradise on Earth.