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Koh Lipe

On our last day in Taratao the sky turned dark and it began to rain. Carita and I had just returned from a long walk to Ao Taloh Wow on the other side of the island so we went for a swim while the tropical storm poured down. There was a sudden boom as we walked out of the water as lightning struck a cliff 200 metres away and instinctively we both ducked for cover.

Although the storm only lasted an hour or so it was bad enough that the ferry from the mainland to Koh Lipe couldn't go any further and put all the passengers off on Taratao. That evening we had our first taste of what Ko Lipe would be like.

We hadn't realised it until then but most of the people who visited Taratao were either peaceful and chilled or they couldn't stand the place and would catch the first ferry off the island. Suddenly, the tranquillity which we'd taken for granted was shattered as stressed out people shouted and complained all around us. Why was there no ice? Why was there no power? Why did they have to sacrifice their first born to the monkey god?

The following morning, after a week on the island, we boarded the crowded ferry to Koh Lipe. A French guy with pink beads in his goatee beard told me how he hoped the next island would have, "More enjoy!", rather than a lack of electricity. I tried to point out that it was a national park but he seemed adamant that they should be generating power from oil, or leaves, or possibly a small nuclear power plant.

We arrived in Koh Lipe and checked out the optimistically named Porn Resort for a room. It was scruffy and run-down, like most of the places on the island, and we eventually settled for the Pattaya Song Resort, run by two big, scary, ladyboys, and booked into a concrete bungalow in a building site. Lipe was hard to handle after Taratao. Although it's technically in the national park it's been destroyed by illegal development over the last four years and has something of a lawless, mafia controlled feel to it - a young girl working in a shop had a revolver casually lying next to her behind the counter! The main part of the island consists of a crescent of white sand, but a continuous line of bars, restaurants and bungalows have been built along it's entire length, ruining it completely. Apparently, the national park is unable to do anything to stop the development - they need the government to step in, but the government doesn't.

We spent two nights there, trying to adapt to the sounds of wasted backpackers, but in the end we gave up and escaped on a longtail boat to Koh Adang. Why come to a tropical island just to get pissed and sit watching Sky News in a restaurant?

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