Paradise Found

We spent our days on the beach and our nights at the bar. I’d lost my flip flops and, in true island spirit, was going barefoot. Life was simple.

Most of the foreigners on the island had come years ago and, captured by this place, returned every season. There was Kelvin the crazy Welshman, Fred the Frenchman, Julie the Swiss girl who seemed to speak every language, and Chris the young, lazy Canadian backpacker.

My plan was to spend four days there before going back to the mainland. I didn’t leave until three weeks later. Ko Lipe had captured me and I was its willing prisoner. I had found my beach. We explored the island everyday- crisscrossing the interior, exploring the town, eating at all the restaurants, and swimming at all the beaches. We left no corner of the island unturned.

We set out to explore the little island near my bungalow. During low tide you could walk to it- as long as you avoided the urchins! During high tide, you could leisurely swim there, letting the current push you. On the opposite side of the island, the shelf dropped off deep and the current kicked in. There was a lot of fish swimming around showing all the colors of the rainbow. Neon blues and pinks darted around us. It was beautiful. We looked continuously for reef sharks but, sadly, we never saw any.

Days passed. I got tanner. My backgammon game improved. We all bonded at the bar each night playing football, jamming to music, and laying out under the stars. We celebrated birthdays and festivals and just being there. It was like the beach and I imagined this was what Thailand was like before mass tourism hit the country.

The locals of the island were native sea gypsies and historically nomadic fishermen but with increased tourism to the island were slowly exchanging fishing poles for bars and restaurants. Being there long term allowed me to get to know them really well. There was the owner of the sandwich shops, Mai, who I visited everyday. She always had my food ready (I’m a creature of habit) and always taught me Thai. Her family and I conversed over breakfast or lunch.

There was also the local soup shop owner, who didn’t speak any English but was always happy to see us come in and always had a smile on his face. The locals took time out to ask us about our day and always waved and smiled as we went by.

But paradise slowly faded as we all began to trickle off the island though. Nothing perfect last forever. First the German couple left, then my friend, followed by Chris, and then finally me. Paul and Jane stayed longer but my visa was expiring and it was time to go.

After Christmas, I reluctantly boarded the ferry back to the mainland; sadden by the fact I’d have to wear footwear again. I never have made it back there. Maybe it’s a good thing. Ko Lipe was my utopia. Any return trip might ruin the dream in my head. Somewhere out there there’s another Lipe waiting to be discovered.

For more pictures from Thailand and the rest of the world, take a look at Matt’s Travel Photos.

Featured Courtesy by jokir


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