Towards the end of the Thai new year, Songkran, we decided to take a break from the Bangkok craziness and head to the relaxed island of Koh Lipe, south of Phuket. The night before we left, I found myself curled in the fetal position with an aching body and an intense fever. Songkran had gotten the best of me. I downed tea and ibuprofen and vitamin C like it was my job and sweat profusely for the three hours of sleep I got before we left the apartment at 4 am for the airport. Our day of travel consisted of a taxi to the airport, airplane to Hat Yai, minibus to the dock, ferry to a floating dock, longtail boat to shore, weird converted motorcycle cab to our bungalow…by the time we made it to the island, I think I had fully sweat out my fever. Hooray!
One of the less touristy islands in the south, Koh Lipe is still inhabited by chow lair, or sea gypsies, who now live in a small village on one side of the island. The island is made up mainly of two stretches of white sand beaches, separated by jungled hills. The surrounding atolls are surrounded by protected coral reefs full of tropical fish.
We stayed at Mama Bungalows, only a short walk to Sunrise Beach. We were greeted daily by a cheery little Thai baby and the happiest little dog, whom John dubbed “Mark Scruffalo.” Each morning we woke early and watched the sun rise from the beach. Sitting on those white sands with a beach dog next to me as the sun turned the blue clouds to pink and orange was probably the highlight of my trip.
If you’re ever in Koh Lipe, you must eat at a place called My Papaya. Some of the best Thai food I have had since being here. Garlic chicken, green curry, som tam (papaya salad)…we ate there twice.
The second day consisted of an early morning sunrise, a nap, and then kayaking to a nearby tiny island and snorkeling around its circumference, surrounded by schools of colorful reef fish. I received my first jellyfish sting on my ribcage and a gnarly sunburn, but it was a glorious day. We ended it on Sunset Beach, playing with four sweet puppies as the sun set. Ok…can I change my mind? Maybe the puppies were my highlight.
Our last day on Koh Lipe began with another beach sunrise just before a morning downpour. We spent the rest of our day volunteering – picking up trash in the central part of the island. SO MUCH TRASH. It was roasting and the bugs were ravenous. We started at ten and were promised a free meal…at five. Our last task before grub was moving these two giant trash bins from off the beach up into town so they could be picked up…but these things hadn’t been touched in a long time. The trash in 3/4ths of the bins had actually solidified. We tied a rope around the bin, the boys pulled and I pushed. Pretty sure people pay good money to push weighted sleds around a gym and call it a workout. I used to. Although, you don’t have to worry about giant cockroaches, angry that their home is being moved, crawling on your hands or flying into your hair, I know that much.
A bunch of the local kids realized all these big white guys were perfect for piggy back rides. There were more kids than men though, so John had three at one point, and one even picked little ‘ol me! The girls were a little sweeter – they preferred to grab my pinkies and gently lead me around to show their friends. I intend to improve my Thai for the sole purpose of communicating with the children here.
I loved Koh Lipe. It’s a quiet retreat that still feels like your own little secret. We only spotted one bro with a backwards baseball cap and muscle tee…hopefully it stays that way for awhile longer. While it may lack the dramatic beauty and jutting cliffs and islands of say, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lipe’s uber relaxed vibe it beautiful in itself.