The evening call to prayer is almost drowned out by a sudden enthusiastic burst from the cicada. I smile, who would think watching the sun set on a picture perfect Thai beach could be so noisy?
We have come to Koh Libong, just off the southern Thai coast for a few days R&R. Well it was suppose to be three days but it turned into six! We are enchanted with the simple life here. A short walk across the garden and we are on the beach, perfect for a quick pre-breakfast dip. In the evening we sit on the beach, drink in hand and watch the sun do a slow costume change into a tangerine orb before disappearing into the sea.
Koh Libong is not for everyone. For a large island it is barely developed. There is no nightlife, no lively markets, and a limited number of eating options. Our resort is one of three close together on the west coast. So it is a walk along the beach to decide where to eat at night. But lunch is different. In the tiny village next to the resorts is a little local cafe. Where for AUS$4 we can both have either a rice or noodle dish. Fresh drinking water is provided free on the tables. The simple menu is also in English and after the first visit we become regulars.
The big tourist draw for Libong are the dugongs which feast on the plentiful seagrass surrounding the island. There is a one kilometre bridge out into the ocean with a 5 storey viewing platform to spot the dugongs but sadly when we visit it is being refurbished.
If this sounds just too quiet for you, the lively Koh Lipe might be be your style. A smaller island but a much busier one. The beach where we land is a riot of long tail boats, speed boats, ferries and the beach is awash with holiday makers. The lively Walking Street traverses the island and is jam-packed with shops, restaurants and bars. Shall we just say it is a culture shock to us!
There are a number of beaches on offer but our favourite without question is the quiet Sunset beach. Pristine white sand, snorkelling straight from the beach, shady trees to sit under, a little beach cafe which also rents snorkels and very few other people.
Thailand has many stunning islands. These are just two of them, each at completely different ends of the spectrum!
Tips for visiting Koh Libong
For Libong we flew into Trang and from there we caught a local bus down to Had Yao pier. From there it is a short long tail boat ride over to Libong. At the other end you can easily get an island version of a tuk tuk to your resort. The drivers are mostly women, which is interesting.
Libong is very a much a traditional Thai Muslim fishing island. You will hear the call to prayer over the loudspeakers in the villages several times a day and there are several mosques on the island.
We stayed at Libong Relax Beach Resort in a beach front cottage with fan. But on reflection I would have booked the air conditioned version as it did get quite hot in the afternoon. I also might point out that there is no hot water in the rooms. It didn’t bother us as it was so hot outside but I can imagine it giving some people a shock. Next to us was the Libong Beach Resort which I didn’t think much of, but the more expensive Andalay Beach Resort did look fabulous (they also had the best restaurant!).
There are day trips available to the other island but they are quite expensive.
Tips for visiting Koh Lipe
To get to Koh Lipe our hotel booked a speedboat transfer for us. They just need to know the day before and they sort out all the long tail boat/tuk tuk transfers for you.
We were surprised when we arrived at Koh Lipe and were dropped off on a pontoon, not the mainland. From there we had to pay 200B (AUS $8) each to “enter” the National Park (the island) and then a further 50B (AUS $2) each to get a long tail boat over to the beach. Very cheeky as they speedboat trip from Libong had already set us back 1,250B (AUS $52) each.
Lipe is quite expensive (by Thai standards) and I would not recommend where we stayed in town to anyone! I would say stay on either the main Pattaya Beach at the end or Sunset Beach. Basically just assume you are going to pay top dollar here and suck it up.
On both islands it is better to eat Thai food. If you eat Western food it is going to be expensive, and in our experience usually a disappointment. The same goes for Indian food, not good! And wine drinkers be ware, if you buy a glass of wine it is very likely to come out of a box! And if you do buy a bottle be prepared for a horrible price shock! Stick to the local Chang beer!