The cool kids on the Internet rate Koh Lipe's Western beach Pattaya higher than Sunrise, but not me - head East people. Where Sunrise really scores over Pattaya is the lack of Longtail noise-pollution - it's just a nicer strip of sand to lounge about on than the bustle of the busier bay. For my visit in mid-November Sunrise was flotsam-free, though dotted with the odd piece of glass - by all means stare lovingly into her/his eyes as you wander along this romantic idyll, but do remember to look down occasionally.
For an established resort island, Snorkelling is also surprisingly good on Sunrise. I'd expected the combination of longtail diesel leaks, pollution and anchor damage to have turned the bay into a marine desert, so it was great to see that almost every boulder had something of interest in residence - those with kids will be happy to learn that locating camera-tart “Nemo” anemonefish is super easy - just look for anything soft and wavy on a rock and they won't be far away.
Look just a little deeper and the snorkelling gets even better - just a hundred metres or so off the Southern end of Sunrise sits the islet of Koh Usen, with a bunch of cool stuff to see – lobster and small boxfish, plus a bunch of pretty bannerfish swimming over healthy mountain coral, anenomes and spiky urchins. My swim across to Koh Usen was current-free, but keep a lookout for the longtail taxis continually crossing the channel, even though their awareness of swimmers in the water was excellent - I put my head up each time one approached and the boatmen all indicated they’d seen me.
Accommodation on Koh Lipe - my choice
Arriving in mid-November as Koh Lipe resort owners start to catch the first scent of high season, 750 baht a night gets you a smart concrete bungalow at Travelfish standout Gipsy Resort, one of 10 or so in two facing rows set back from Sunrise Beach. Bucket flush only, but spotlessly clean with airy bathrooms and bright LED lighting available 24hrs (remember that not everywhere on Lipe does round-the-clock power). Gipsy also has a phalanx of classic bamboo budget beds if you don't mind a slightly murkier maison.
In my home-for-120-hours several classy details sealed the satisfaction deal - foot-level tap at the front of your porch to wash the sand off; brush to keep the tiles clean; comfy hammock; solid mosquito net sans bug invasion routes; entirely redundant toilet tissue (what with there being a perfectly serviceable bum gun) and surprisingly non-threadbare towels.
There's Higgs-Boson WiFi in the beachfront restaurant - the signal has been proven to exist on a theoretical level, even if practical applications are limited - you'll be able to taunt your friends back home with the odd status update, but forget 1080p HD Skype fun.
Gipsy is Spanish-owned, with Nespresso on tap for the caffeine cognoscenti, plus excellent 30 baht filter coffee served in funky mid-90s chic Friends-style shallow earthenware. The restaurant is beachside at the front of the resort and all the basics are on the menu - from pad thai through tuna on wholewheat to the ubiquitous traveller favourite – banana pancake, Euro-blinged here with the classy touch of both vanilla creme and honey on the side. Roberto, the owner, is friendly and helpful, as are his staff. Just normal chairs and tables in front of the restaurant sadly - a couple of lounging platforms with cushions on the beach and the place would be pushing perfect.
Laundry is on site as well - sameday service if you drop it off after breakfast - ready at 5pm, rain permitting. Primo priced at 70 baht per kilo though, so the time-rich/cash-poor crew will be able to find 50 baht elsewhere without too much hassle. That said, the in-house people always rounded weights down - no complaints from this happy customer.
On my third day on Lipe I did the decent thing, crawling out of my bed at stupid o’clock, before wandering down to the shore in the darkness with just a hangover and a camera - if you’re going to stay somewhere called "Sunrise Beach" then you have to pay your respects at least once. A surprisingly large number of fellow tourists had the same plan and we were treated to a B+ display - low clouds reflecting the sun's light as it rose above the moored longtails - a peaceful way to start another peaceful day on a cracking little holiday island…
- Pick your budget people - in November Lipe has something for everyone.
- Look right as you walk up to immigration on Pattaya Beach and there's a sign offering beachfront at 5750 baht a night if your perfect Crusoe-esque desert island experience isn't complete without the reassuring whisper of a Samsung A/C unit.
- Look left instead and you'll just see a glimmer of Daya Resort at the far end of the bay. Local owned and run - second row bamboo darkness comes in at 300 baht per sleep, with part-time power and bathrooms which, I was reliably informed, might aspire to one-star standard if they had just been cleaned, an occurrence which is apparently rarer than a quiet longtail.
- For a full overview of Koh Lipe snorkelling, take a look at the superb "what's the snorkelling like" blog.