Once a serene tropical paradise, Ko Lipe is now a poster child for untamed development on Thailand's islands. Blessed with two beautiful wide white-sand beaches separated by jungle-covered hills and close to protected coral reefs, the centre of Ko Lipe has been transformed into an ever-expanding maze of hotels, restaurants, cafes, travel agencies and shops. The biggest losers have been the 700-strong community of chow lair (sea gypsies, also spelt chao leh), whose ancestors were gifted Lipe as a home by King Rama V in 1909, but who sold it in the 1970s.
Despite all the development, there is still an awful lot to love about Lipe: those gorgeous, salt-white sand crescents for a start, sensational dive sites, a jungle interior, chilled-out reggae bars, a contagiously friendly vibe and a good few inhabitants keen to minimise their environmental impact. Just don't expect to have it to yourself.