The 2000 film: ‘The Beach,’ based on the book by Alex Garland – starred Leonardo Di Caprio as Richard, a young backpacker told of the secret location of the most beautiful beach in Thailand. During my travels around Southeast Asia, I didn’t think for one second that part of my journey would mirror that of Richard’s – but I was mistaken…
After traveling for about 3 months, my partner and I arrived in the North of Thailand working our way overland to the Southern Islands. We reached Bangkok in October and chose to spend some time in the hedonistic backpacker district of Kho San Road. Finding a busy bar to rest our well-traveled feet, we ordered some beers and talked about our next destination.
Over the noise of the distorted Thai pop music and the rumbles of conversation one voice shot into our personal space like a thunderbolt: “I know where the best beach is in the whole of Thailand!” We glance up to see a very drunk westerner in his late thirties wearing the obligatory backpacker uniform; fisherman pants, white vest, a string of wooden beads and a hemp satchel. I stared back at my boyfriend intently trying my hardest to pretend he wasn’t there and continue my conversation. It doesn’t work. He plants himself uninvited next to us and begins to tell us of ‘the secret island’.
“Its more beautiful than Kho Phi Phi Don (the location of the film The Beach) and you’ll see the most beautiful sunset and the most beautiful beach you will ever experience in your life. I’ve been to all the islands and Ko Lipe tops the lot, no one really knows about it and it’s hard to reach, but if you really want to know I’ll tell you. But don’t go telling everyone alright?”
We agreed - partly to get rid of him but we were also both curious about the man and, of course, the island. We got another round of beers and took down the directions. Phuket was our next stop, but straight after we took a gamble on this strange encounter and hopped on the 8hr bus journey to the southernmost province: Satun.
From Satun’s Bang Pak Pier we caught the 4½-hour boat to the secretive Ko Lipe. There were only 3 European girls on our boat, the rest of the passengers were locals taking supplies back to the island. The boat crossing alone was worth the long bus journey. There were bright blue skies with the sun beating down and shimmering flying fish skipping across emerald green waves. We passed by Kho Petra National Marine Park, where conservationists and tourists can stay and get back to nature, and it wasn’t long until we were in calm open water. After an hour or so, tiny little uninhabited islets began popping up and the captain of the boat slowed down as we passed these mini paradises where ecosystems and wildlife have never been disturbed. Ko Lipe hadn’t been reached yet- but I knew this was going to be something special.
Anchoring a little way from what seemed like a desert island, the captain shouted “Ko Lipe!” and it hit me for the first time how remote we were. Out of nowhere-about half a dozen wooden long tail boats with brightly colored silk scarves wrapped around the helm snaked their way towards our boat. We precariously hopped in, backpacks and all and made our last short journey to ‘The Beach’. The sea around Ko Lipe is crystal clear and you can see the coral reefs and the fish below. As we approached the shore, the sun reflected on the powdery white beach so much that it was almost blinding. As we moored, little white bungalows with bright blue roofs came into view - this would be the Andaman Resort and our home for the next few days.