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So That Happened…
May 27, 2011  |  by jess m  |  Elephant Books & Coffee, Koh Lipe, Places we love

When we left for this trip, the only plan that we had was to have no plan at all. We wanted to be open to anything that came our way, and were excited to be able to let go of everything and just see what happened next.

It’s entirely possible that we may have taken that “why not” spirit a bit too far.

As we’ve said before, we came to Koh Lipe on a one-week detour from Malaysia, just to get a little extra taste of Thailand. One week turned into two, then four, and somewhere around week five we both came to the conclusion that we didn’t want to leave Lipe. Ever.

We started kicking around fantasy plans about what we could do here so we could stay. We both share a dream of having bungalows on a fabulous beach somewhere in the world, but some initial research quickly revealed that we don’t have the money for that just yet. One day we were walking through town and saw a shop for rent. I wondered aloud what we could put there, and Jess C quickly responded “a book store.”

It was an explosion of pure genius.

Talking more, we realized that the island is packed with coffee drinking tourists yet has no book store, and no place to sit and have coffee and hang out. It’s screaming for a San Francisco style coffee house. We started looking around at available shops, and eventually came across the most amazing space, in quite possibly the best location on the island. A few weeks spent on the phone with lawyers and a two visa runs later, it was ours.

Elephant Books & Coffee was born.

We love this idea for many reasons. There’s a huge hole in the market here that we think we can fill. We get to spend our days meeting people from all over the world. The island shuts down in the low season, allowing us to continue our wandering for 4 months of the year. And maybe best of all, we’ve made some incredible friends here who continue to provide help and support in this adventure.

Of course now the actual work begins, and we’ll post to the blog about it if you want to come along for the ride. We plan to spend the low season here on Lipe renovating and readying the shop to open in October. We need work permits and visas. We need books. We need furniture. We need an electrician. We need staff. We don’t know where the coffee comes from. Honestly we’re still not sure where anything comes from. We don’t speak or read the language. Not to mention the fact that we have we have no clue how to actually run a coffee shop and bookstore.

Lipe may be lousy with snakes and frogs and bugs that want to kill us, mysterious bouts of skin festering, and heat that makes sweating profusely a full time job. But we love it. It feels like home to both of us and we can’t wait to share it with you.

Come for a visit any time after January. We’ll be here.

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26 Comments


  1. This makes me feel happy.

  2. I was starting to wonder what happened to you two. I’m really excited for you both, sounds like a fantastic opportunity and what a beautiful island to end up on. I’ll have to drop by and visit on my next trip out that way.

    Congrats!

    • Please do. And I guess next time we can apply for that Matador thing you sent us. When are you heading out again?

    • Not sure how soon I’ll be out that way as I’ve just started a new venture that’s going to require at least the next 6 months of my time but if all goes well money won’t be a problem.

      I know you American’s (Canadian’s too) are big on your coffee but don’t forget about tea, seems to be a big trend lately. On your next visa run make a trip to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia and make some contacts at the tea plantations there. You could have someone there bring the tea a far as the boarder or Langkawi and then import it over to the island. They’ve got some really nice blends, it will be a hit for sure!

  3. Wow! You guys are amazing!

  4. Holy moly what amazing, wonderful news! Congratulations to you guys! Love it.

  5. Darla Anderson

    Congrats Ladies….assume you will add a couple computers for those poor souls who don’t have netbooks and Nooks :-)That of course would be my major concern. And, of course ya gotta have iced coffee’s and maybe a friendly pooch as a greeter. Newspapers from the major world cities are always fun for some (if there are any left)and of course a “swap” book section as no one drags them home and,and,and….

  6. I was not sure what happened to you guys. I an so excited for the two of you. I know that you love it there and will do very well with your project. Keep us all posted as to your progress, we miss hearing from you. Love Patti

  7. Wow! The best of luck to you both…it sounds like an exciting adventure…Would love to visit sometime (Darla, not so much!)…but then again I don’t mind traveling alone!

  8. Very exciting to read as the adventure continues. Please keep us up to date. I have enjoyed your blog so much.

  9. WOWIE ZOWIE, this is cool! I know a great iced coffee drink based on Nescafe, sugar and condensed milk. Let me know if you want the details.

  10. Holy SHIT!!!!! So amazing. You guys are so cool. I cannot wait to come have your coffees. Mmmmmm… And books! I love books.

  11. You two are my heroes – totally inspired by everything you’re doing. If you’re accepting applications for staff from any Americans, give me a shout. I can’t make a latte for shit but I can pour like a badass and I’d be a great greeter! CONGRATS! xo

  12. Amazing! You two were always fearless, good luck. Did not make it to Koh Lipe in ’97 now I have a reason to go, I think my kids would understand the need to travel to the other side of the planet for coffee and books. In the 90′s it was a challenge to find real coffee in Thailand but the Tea was good.

  13. NO. WAY.

    That is so amazing!! I am so excited and happy for you guys and so not-so-secretly jealous!!!! I can’t wait to hear all about the process. And I am going to feel REALLY cool that I know the owners when I come out to visit someday.

    Congrats and good luck!!!

    xoxox

  14. Hey you guys – that’s so great! Jess C – please call when you can; much news abounds.

    Love you!

  15. My friend Burma alerted me to this blog and told me to tell you she sent me! (Burma Domenico was Jess C’s teacher.) I immediately read all the blogs from the beginning and was surprised and thrilled by the last blog. Good for both of you! So many people talk about their dreams but don’t take the first step towards fulfilling them. You two are living yours. Best of luck with the business and keep those blogs coming!

  16. PS My husband and I are curreently living one of our dreams in Switzerland and just returned from Asia. If you are interested, my blog is lostandfoundinzurich.blogspot.com

  17. Wow. I guess it will be a while before you come back to the ‘Ville for Derby. I hope to get there.

  18. Hey Jess,

    I miss your blog; time for an update! How’s the bookstore coming along? Hope you guys are doing well!

    Best,

    Mark

  19. Jennie Lindstrom

    HOLY MOLY!!! This is amazing. I don’t know how I’m just seeing this!! Congrats!!! I’m so excited for you girls – truly an adventure. I want to visit!!

  20. This is so fantastic! I read San’s post about missing you guys and began to wander what was up with your slow wandering so I checked the blog. Wow, I’m stunned. I hope all is going super! So amazing that you guys have the guts to do this (and good luck with the bugs, snakes, heat, and festering things). Hope to check the place out one of these days. Best, Lucy

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