As I wrote about two months ago (eek! Sorry!), I traveled to Ko Lipe in southern Thailand for a long weekend in December. After my one night layover in Trang, I took a ferry to the island- which is about 2 hours away! I passed the time by dreaming of the tropical, isolated island I would soon arrive to. Ko Lipe didn’t fit my imagination by any means.
Trash and More Trash
After having lived in Thailand for 3 months and traveled the country for another month, Ko Lipe is still the most littered place I have been to. Plastic bottles, styrofoam, straws, and other pieces of trash are everywhere. It’s quite disheartening, honestly. During my time in Thailand, I grew used to the omnipresence of litter wherever I went. Nonprofit Ocean Conservancy estimated in 2015 that Thailand is one of 5 countries that contributes 60% of waste in the world’s oceans.
Nonetheless, the litter is really on another level in Ko Lipe. It’s a cultural issue and an environmental education issue. Piles of trash sit just behind houses, much of it recyclable, with layers of dirt that suggest these piles are years old. British tabloid The Sun even wrote an article– click to read and see pictures- in 2016 about a couple that spent ~$5,000 USD for a trip to Ko Lipe after falling in love with pictures of the island online. However, trash greeted them when they arrived. Tabloids are known for sensationalism, but this couple’s experience isn’t too far from my own.
2016 was my first trip to Thailand, but it’s my impression that the country is progressing to become more environmentally friendly. Trash Hero, an environmental education nonprofit, has a chapter in Ko Lipe and organizes weekly beach cleanups. The group has partnered with local businesses to offer free water bottle refill stations in an effort to reduce waste; there is a list of the businesses at the link above.
As you likely deduced, I’m not a fan of Ko Lipe and will not return. I don’t recommend it as a place to visit. However, loads of tourists love the island! I think no one is neutral about Ko Lipe. It’s a love or hate place. Here’s my review of the hotel I stayed at.
Sleep: Gipsy Resort
I booked my trip to the island too late to have much of a choice for booking a room. Gipsy Resort (yeah, I cringe typing it. Jessica Reidy, a Sinti, wrote a great article about the racist history of “gypsy” here) provided the cheapest private room with an attached bathroom for my weekend. I booked the concrete bungalow with air conditioning for $54 USD a night, or about 1,800 THB.
There are actually two Gipsy Resorts: Gipsy Resort, the original, and Gipsy Resort 2. So the ~whimsically tweaked~ ethnic slur is two times more prominent on the island than originally thought. The two properties are about 5 minutes walk away from each other, so it’s not a big deal to go to the other by mistake. When I stayed at the original hotel and mistakenly walked to the second during my December trip, it was under construction. The original hotel is conveniently located on the water. However, if you’re approaching the lodging from Ko Lipe’s Walking Street you need to meander through a road of residents’ houses and dodge piles of trash.
I didn’t feel entirely comfortable passing through a local neighborhood, essentially, on my way to the accommodation. As I passed kids playing in the dirt on the way to my weekend vacation, I felt like an intruder. I wonder if the original hotel’s neighbors feel uncomfortable about seeing oft-inebriated tourists pass through their otherwise secluded courtyard. Or maybe they simply don’t give a toss; I have no idea.
Anyway, the front desk of the resort is outside. Two Europeans, one British, sit behind the desk. I don’t remember where the other European is from specifically. They weren’t particularly friendly. Not rude, but not quite hospitable. Local Thais sat on a bamboo bench a bit away or stood, waiting for directions. I checked in and the Brit called for a Thai employee to take me to my room. Every time I forgot which bungalow I was staying in- this embarrassingly happened twice- I’d tell the British receptionist my conundrum. He’d call for an employee who would show me to my room.
Wifi is only available at reception. Some hotels indicate this but provide weak wifi in the rooms. This was not that kind of situation- there was weak cell coverage in the room, and wifi is truly only available at reception. It’s outside and overlooks the beach. It’s really a lovely view. But there are no outlets. I luckily don’t rely on a solid wifi connection to make a living, I’m just an American brat who wants to check Instagram and talk to her boyfriend. But digital nomads would find it hard to be productive here without their own hotspot.
My Bungalow and a Centipede
Beautiful flowers and trees line the bungalows, and they all have porches with a plastic chair and hammock. Inside is a tile floor, an elevated bed, shelf, and hanging rack for clothing. There’s a mosquito net over the bed and towels are provided. The bed is a bit more comfortable than the standard hard Thai mattress. The room was clean.
The bathroom has soap and shampoo. There is a pipe that connects the inside to the outside to drain the water instead of an actual drain. After an eventful day, I stripped naked for a shower and saw the biggest centipede I have ever seen. It was at least 6 inches long. I spent at least 10 minutes using the “bum gun” to spray the centipede into the pipe it took on the way into the bathroom and to push it all the way outside. All of this to say, the bathroom doesn’t have a drain. Though I will never go back to Ko Lipe, if I had to go back I would stay at another hotel. I deserved the centipede visitor for staying here.