Koh Lipe and the Opposite of Cynicism

Koh Lipe and the Opposite of Cynicism

What’s the opposite of a cynic? Maybe an optimist? Whatever it is, on Koh Lipe, I found it again.

Now, this isn’t my first trip through Thailand. I know the score. It’s a place of acute natural beauty and of smiling sanguine people. Of which both, unfortunately, are being tamed by the tide of tourism. And Lipe is no different.

I’ve come in October, at the start of the season – hoping to avoid the crowds. And it’s worked. I’ve found private beaches, oases of sand, no more screaming Asian babies and their screaming Asian mothers. But there’s a catch. For every two tonnes of tourists there’s ten tonnes of rubbish. The cynic rolls his eyes.

Ok, so I’ll just go snorkelling. But no joy there. The coral is brown, and the only fish left are those too small, too spiny, or too poisonous to eat. Clearly the locals haven’t worked out how to serve an echinoderm – a secret the sea urchin community has done well to keep under wraps.

The next day was fishing. Turning up at the boat, I yelled at the captain “are we going today” and gestured to the sky – my voice useless under howling wind and clapping thunder. “We go, we go” he said, eager to get paid. So, out we went – in a wooden canoe strapped to a lawnmower engine. I eyeballed the crew. When we get shipwrecked, who will I eat first?  As the seas rolled, the hot Indian ocean sluiced over the railings. A Chinese couple, my fishing companions, went from yellow, to, well, yellow. Then I caught some fish! And King Mackerel no less – a fish fitting of its place atop the piscatorial monarchy. And, as a bonus, we made it home alive. Things were looking up.

Then, that night, the redeemer. I went back to the reef to see the weird glowing plankton. Underwater, I busted dance moves in a forbidding black abyss – excited clouds of electric blue embers went sizzling off my fingertips. I giggled like a debutant. It was surreal. The cynic had gone silent. My inner child won out.

That was Koh Lipe. It’s well worth a look. Just don’t be too cynical. And, hey, as my story shows – you can’t do much in Thailand and not finish with a happy ending…