Jumping off the boat at Koh Lipe into waist-high water really made me appreciate my waterproof bags. As I watched fifty-something business types slowly fumble their Samsonites towards the beach, I started to get the first sense of the con I’d been pulled into.
The island had been recommended to me by my sister and her husband, who’d spent time there a little under a decade ago. Promises of clear blue waters and untouched nature sounded all too appealing to pass by, and the island was on my ocean-route anyhow so why not give it a go, right?
To my horror, the island turned out to be one of many ruined by fervent tourism along the Thai islands. Paved roads, nightclubs and a 7-11 where there’d once been pristine jungle. Concrete trucks rushing about the place. What a bummer.
Luckily I’d been hinted towards finding shelter at the Fisheries Department on the other side of the island. This turned out to be a blessed refuge in the mist of rowdy middle-aged Chinese ready to get their groove on an island on the Indian Ocean.
And a night spent in my bungalow surrounded by two beaches did brighten the mood somewhat. After a bout of decent snorkeling, swimming and getting to know the small and marginalized local population, I was able to leave the island with a tentative smile on my face.
A night or two more, and I was ready to leave Thailand behind. All and all, out of all the countries along my route, Thailand perhaps matched my preconceptions the best. A thoroughly beautiful place with still much left for exploration, but at the same time tarnished by the very activity I was involved in. A tourist complaining about tourism, is what I’ve turned into I guess.
Nevertheless, a quick border formality and a hop along the ocean in a terribly smelly and probably, most likely, seaworthy quick-boat towards the Malaysian island of Langkawi. A very short and uninteresting day and night there, and then onward yet again for Penang.