Life is a funny thing, really. If we hadn't realized it before, we certainly all have now after these last 2 years of global hysteria. However, here we all are; maybe not where we had hoped to be (for better OR worse), or maybe exactly where we imagined. What is more important, though, is that we are where we need to be. At least that's what I think.
Without trying to sound like too much of a 'spiritually inclined, self- proclaimed, shaman hippie universe whisperer,' I must admit that I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Cliche, perhaps, but it's true. Even down to the simplest of things like tieing our shoes or eating breakfast this morning; everything we have done has lead us to where we are now, and everything that we do will lead us to where we will be tomorrow.
So, here I am, back in Lipe 5 years later. Now September 2022, I will soon celebrate the 5th anniversary of my Thai Baptism. An extraordinary life event that would change everything. Previously I had been traveling for a little over a year before arriving in Thailand. The West Indies of the Caribbean and the Cyclades of the East Agean Sea, to be exact. But little did I know what was in store for me in this wonderland known as the Royal Kingdom.
Immediately I encountered a people like I had never experienced before. A culture so different from my own or like I had ever seen; yet, at the same time, something that I had longed for without realizing. I think that most people who visit Thailand can say the same. What most people CAN'T say, though, is that they also experienced the Lipe Life.
Lipe Life is predictably unpredictable. That is to say that we usually have a pretty good idea on how the day is going to go, UNTIL the island gives us a little, or not so little, surprise. From a diver's point of view this can be anything from unexpected half-moon current that turns us into diver flags on the descent line, or an impromptu soiree to celebrate a Wednesday. It could also be a brief encounter from the Angel of the Far Islands, an all-white oceanic manta ray seen once or twice a year in the deep waters of the far west portion of the Butang. It could even be the satisfied hope of finding the behemoth whale sharks gently navigating the top of the 8 Mile Rock pinnacles followed by their entourage of robust giant trevallies, athletic horse eyed jacks, and elusive cobia. Or 30 meters of visibility through pristine blue water on top of the immaculate soft coral garden atop Stonehenge, with the orbiting school of yellowtail barracudas effortlessly casting their shadow from just overhead as the yellow fusiliers engulf the dive group, making them almost disappear from view.
Life on Lipe, life at Forra has been something of a drug for me. At first taste, I became addicted to it. In less then 10 minutes you'll lose your flip flops, and not care. A moment later your t-shirt is gone without you realizing. A scooter attached to a small side-cart screams down the road hauling a tower of milk crates full of dive equipment with what appears to be a deranged American Divemaster screaming 'Born to be Wild' from the top. And no other word better describes the scene: wild.
A group of 70 - 80 people mingle in front of the dive shop on walking street, all impatiently waiting for today's surprise. Some look a bit more tired than the rest. Some are asking many nervous questions, anxious of their first plunge into the blue. Organized chaos. The stage is set. A moment later, indistinguishable shouting begins and the herd starts to move towards the beach. Obediently they trudge trough the sand behind their barefoot instructors and eagerly jump into the green longtail waiting for them in the surf. People of all ages, nationalities, and creeds, gathered in one place hoping that they too can get a taste of The Life.
I have met a lot of people over the past 5 years. Some good, some not, and some exceptional. Most of the people that I have ever met here in Koh Lipe tend to fall into the latter of the three categories. All very different from one another, yet all sharing the same love for this tiny little island. At only 2 sq Km in size, Lipe is overflowing with love. Love of family, friends, community, and life. Love for the rush of endorphins we get whenever a daily surprise is finally revealed.
Now that my next season is approaching its debut, I patiently wait. Each day crawls by while weeks simultaneously seem to fly away unnoticed. The tidal wave will be here soon. The world is eager to break out of its 'Covid shell' and see the Sun. "If you build it, they will come," and that is exactly what we are doing now. We are rebuilding our Island of Dreams one bamboo bungalow and one diesel pump at a time. I am confident in what we are doing and what we hope to achieve this season. Friends from all of the far corners of the globe are one-by-one finalizing their arrival dates, family members are scouring ticket prices, and guests are confirming their reservations. This year will be unique as were all the rest; but this year in particular will define the future of this island and this club.
Everything we have done has lead us to where we are now, and everything that we do will lead us to where we will be tomorrow. Five years later, here I am, climbing my crate tower every morning, deranged as ever, but thrilled with the vigor of Life on Lipe.