Ko Lipe: The Biggest Month in All my Travels


In November 2006, I used to be five months into my (intended) yr lengthy travel around the globe. Whilst emailing my oldsters to allow them to understand I used to be nonetheless OK, I noticed a message in my inbox:

“Matt, I’m caught on this positioned referred to as Ko Lipe. I’m now not going to satisfy you as deliberate, however you will have to come down right here. It’s paradise! I’ve been right here every week already. In finding me on Sundown Seashore. — Olivia”

Olivia, a family member from MySpace, used to be intended to satisfy me in Krabi, a vacationer vacation spot famed for its limestone karsts, rock hiking, and kayaking.

I appeared up Ko Lipe on a map. There used to be just a small point out of it in my guidebook. It used to be actually out of the best way and will require an outstanding day of trip to get to.

As I appeared across the crowded Web café and onto the busy side road, it used to be transparent that Phi Phi used to be now not the tropical island paradise I had expected. The crowds have been coming again, the seashore used to be stuffed with lifeless coral, boats gave the impression to ring the island, and the water used to be polluted with a skinny movie of…smartly, I don’t need to recognize. A quieter, calmer paradise held nice attraction.

“I’ll be there in days,” I spoke back. “Simply allow me understand the place you’re staying.”

days later, I took the ferry to mainland, an extended bus to the port town of Pak Bara, after which the ferry to Ko Lipe. As we handed abandoned, jungle-coated islands, I wandered to the highest deck the place a man used to be enjoying guitar for the few other folks going to Lipe.

After he completed, we struck up a talk.

Paul used to be tall, muscular, and skinny, with a shaved head and mild stubble. His female friend Jane used to be similarly tall and athletic, with curly brownish-pink hair and ocean-blue eyes. Each British, they have been meandering round Asia till they have been in a position to transport to New Zealand, the place they deliberate to paintings, purchase a space, and ultimately get married.

“The place are you men staying?” I requested as we lounged within the solar.

“We discovered a hotel at the some distance finish of the island. It’s intended to be reasonable. You?”

“Now not positive. I’m intended to stick with my family member, however I haven’t heard again but. I don’t have a spot.”

view from the bow of the boat arriving in Ko Lipe

The ferry neared the island and got here to a prevent. There used to be no dock on Ko Lipe. Years prior to, a developer attempted to construct one, however the venture used to be canceled after protests from the native fishermen who take passengers to the island for a small rate, and the developer mysteriously disappeared.

As I were given in one of the crucial longtail boats, I dropped my turn-flops into the sea.

Gazing them sink, I yelled, “Shit! That used to be my most effective pair! I am hoping I will be able to get a few at the island.”

Paul, Jane, and I went to their lodge, joined by way of Pat, an older Irish man, who additionally lacked a spot to stick. The lodge lost sight of somewhat reef and the small Dawn Seashore, which might turn into our primary hangout spots all through our time at the island.

I made up our minds to bunk with Pat in view that I hadn’t heard from my family member Olivia and splitting a room used to be a extra price range pleasant. Again then saving a couple of hundred baht used to be the adaptation of 1 kind of day at the street. Paul and Jane took a bungalow overlooking the sea. (Their terrace can be some other of our little workforce’s most well liked hangouts.)

We headed out to seek out my family member, who had stated she may well be discovered on Sundown Seashore on the Monkey Bar.

local fishing boats in Ko Lipe

As we walked to the opposite aspect of the island, I may just see Olivia used to be proper: Ko Lipe used to be paradise. It used to be all stunning jungles, abandoned seashores, heat, crystal-transparent blue water, and pleasant locals. Electrical energy used to be most effective to be had for a couple of hours at night time, there have been few inns or vacationers, and the streets have been easy filth paths. Ko Lipe used to be where I had dreamed of.

We discovered Olivia lovely temporarily. Sundown Seashore used to be now not large, and Monkey Bar, a small thatch-coated shack with a cooler for chilly beverages and a couple of chairs, used to be the one bar at the seashore. After fast introductions, we ordered beers, requested the standard visitor questions, and sat round chatting approximately not anything.

Pat became out to be a snorer so, after nights, I moved right into a bungalow in the course of the island for one hundred baht ($three USD) an evening. Nestled at the back of a cafe that served the most productive squid round, this hardwood construction painted pink, with a white roof, small porch, and close to-barren internal — a mattress, a fan, and mosquito web — gave the impression to be constructed via the circle of relatives for a wave of tourism that had by no means come.

I gave up looking for new turn-flops. There used to be not anything I favored or have compatibility. I’d wait till the mainland and simply pass barefoot within the intervening time.

The 5 folks shaped a center team that grew and shrank with the arriving and departure of alternative vacationers. Rather than Dave, a tender Frenchman, and Sam, a weathered British expat who were at the island each and every season for a decade (having as soon as been trapped there after the final boat left), we have been the one everlasting Western furniture at the island.

the group playing soccer on the beach in Ko Lipe

Our days have been spent enjoying backgammon, studying, and swimming. We turned around seashores, although we most commonly frolicked on the seashore through Paul and Jane’s. Inside of swimming distance used to be a mini-rock with a sheer drop that supplied very good snorkeling. We’d every so often depart the Ko Lipe to discover the abandoned islands within the local nationwide park, fish, and dive. There’s not anything fairly as pretty as having an entire tropical island to your self.

one of the uninhabited islands around Ko Lipe

At night time, we’d rotate eating places: my guesthouse proprietor’s eating place, Mama’s for recent squid and highly spiced curry, Castaway on Sundown Seashore for massaman curry, and Coco for the whole thing else. Afterwards, we’d transfer to Monkey Bar for seashore video games, beer, the occasional joint, and extra backgammon. While the facility turbines have been switched off, we’d drink by way of flashlight prior to going to mattress.

The times gave the impression to cross through ceaselessly. My unique 3-day talk over with got here and went. I misplaced any idea of time.

“I’ll depart day after today” turned into my mantra. I had no explanation why to go away. I used to be in paradise.

new friends in Ko Lipe

Paul, Jane, and I turned into shut pals as time went by way of. We shaped a mini-team inside the team.

“What are you men going to do while you get to New Zealand?” I requested.

“We’re going to paintings for a couple of years and construct a lifestyles there. We’ve got not anything that’s pulling us again the United Kingdom,” stated Paul.

“I’m going there in this commute so I’ll discuss with. It’s my ultimate prevent at the approach house,” I responded.

“You’ll be able to stick with us. Anywhere we’re,” stated Jane as she handed the joint to me.

Sitting at the seashore in the future, I had an concept.

“You understand what can be cool? An eco-pleasant hostel. New Zealand will be the best position. Wouldn’t it’s cool to possess a hostel?”

“Yeah, that may be a laugh,” stated Paul.

“Shall we name it The Greenhouse,” responded Jane.

“That’s a perfect identify.”

“Yeah, critically.”

Paul stated, “I guess shall we do it lovely simply. Eco-pleasant puts are all of the rage, and there’s a large number of area there. We’ll have a lawn, sun panels, and all of the different bells and whistles.”

We have been part-occupied with our hostel, discussing the main points on a daily basis: what it might appear to be, how we’d get investment, the selection of beds. It used to be a pipe dream — however goals like this helped us cross the times at the seashore.

We was acutely aware of time once more while, at some point, our invoice at Mama’s used to be all at once double.

“What’s happening? This fish used to be part the cost the previous day!”

“It’s Christmas! Extra Europeans this time of the yr, so we raised our costs.”

Ahhh, capitalism at its very best.

sunset in Ko Lipe

Christmas additionally intended one thing else: I must depart quickly.

My visa ran most effective till simply prior to New Yr’s, so I must depart to resume it sooner than heading to Ko Phangan for the vacation.

I didn’t need to depart.

We have been in paradise. Paul, Jane, Pat, and Olivia have been staying and I felt like I used to be being ripped aside from my circle of relatives, by no means figuring out once I might see them once more.

However the visa pressured my hand.

Paul, Jane, and I made up our minds to have personal our Christmas in combination. It used to be best installing. We wore our highest blank shirts and wandered over to Coco’s for its luxurious Western dinner.

“I were given you men a present.”

I passed Jane a necklace I noticed her eyeing a couple of days prior to and Paul a hoop he had widespread.

“Wow. That’s superb, mate! Thank you!” stated Paul.

“However that is humorous,” he endured. “We were given you one thing too.”

It used to be a hand-carved necklace with a Maori fishhook on it. It used to be their image for tourist. I wore it for years later on, a logo of our friendship, my time at the island, and of who I used to be.

Christmas dinner in Ko Lipe

Touring accelerates the bonds of friendship. When you’re at the street, there’s no previous. Not one of the luggage of house is with you or someone you met. There’s handiest who you’re at this time. There’s not anything to get in the best way of the now. No conferences to wait, errands to run, expenses to pay, or obligations.

I as soon as heard that the typical couple spends 4 waking hours an afternoon in combination. If that may be actual, then we had simply spent the similar of 4 months in combination, however it felt like triple that due to the fact that there used to be not anything to stay our minds off the “now.”

I’ve by no means been again to Ko Lipe. The improvement that’s sprouted may burst my symbol of absolute best. I’ve noticed the pictures of the concrete streets, the massive lodges, and the mass of folks. I will be able to’t undergo to peer that. Ko Lipe used to be my seashore. The very best tourist group. I would like it to stay that approach.

I might run into Paul and Jane once more years later in New Zealand, however I might by no means see the remainder of the crowd once more. They’re in the market on the earth doing their factor. But for that month, we have been the most productive of pals.

the abandoned teddy bear in Ko Lipe

As I packed my luggage and placed on my footwear for the primary time in a month, I stated just right bye to Plick Undergo, the raggedy teddy undergo I discovered on my porch that become our mascot, and I was hoping that the adventure in advance can be as just right as the only I used to be leaving at the back of.

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