Trip Start Jun 29, 2005
235Trip End Nov 30, 2009
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Unlike Railay, parts of Koh Phi Phi were absolutely obliterated by the waves, and hundreds of people died here. There is reconstruction going on all around but despite this, huge areas by the waterfront are still vacant and waiting for developers to sink their hungry teeth into. For once politicking may be working out for the general and environmental good.
When I arrived I could hardly recognise the place - everything within 50 metres of the west beach, both left and right of the jetty area, is gone. The large tree used to mark a junction of pathways, one that lead from the jetty to the west beach and that was flanked on both sides by shops. The other was very pretty - a white sand path running along the top of the west beach. On the beach side of the path, nice trees, shrubs and the occasional tiny beach bar provided shade and divided the beach from the cafes, restaurants and bungalow receptions that ran along the other, right out to the Sunflower bar area. My recollections of the effect was as if walking through a green and very mellow cave, with a nice sandy floor. Unfortunately most of it was reclaimed by the sea...
The series of pictures above mark the approximate location of the beach bungalows Ains and I stayed in on the last visit - where not even a stilt pole still stands. Many of the coconut palms have been severed. It must have been an awesomely powerful set of waves.
Still, both locals and tourists here now seem happy. It's coming into high season and the crowds are already about to lend support to the island. There's a good growth and progress vibe which is infectious and helps deal with the little inconveniences that one comes up against on a regular basis, like walking through construction zones pretty well wherever you go.
I came in on the morning ferry (9.30am) from Krabi after another taste of the boating mafia that seems to have gripped the area. Because of it I ended up doing a circular journey from Tonsai to Ao Nang, then bus to Krabi, only to sail by Ao Nang again an hour and 200 baht poorer. The upside was I ran into Curtis, Canadian rock climber extraordinaire, on the ferry heading to the island. He was off to see the gang from the Perhentians, so I would get to catch up with them again after all.
Within an hour of arrival we'd met up and I was checked into a fantastic large bungalow at Tropical Gardens. Although a long way up the hill, the ambience and facilities were second to none at the 400 baht/night price point, only 100 additional on very basic rooms less than 50 metres away). With a pool, queen sized beds, designer bath, great music, friendly staff and an excellent variety of plants and wildlife in the garden, I highly recommend it (you'll love it Anna).
Later that afternoon I felt better than I had in days, so decided to help out with some volunteer work, hauling seedlings about the place in preparation for planting. It was good to contribute and the locals certainly appreciated it, giving us little Longang fruits and smiles all round for our toils. A lot of sun, sweat and mosquito bites later I retired for some dinner, and not long after that the combination of heat and light meals in recent days hit me, I went feverish and slept for about twelve hours straight. I obviously wasn't quite over the illness that had beset me in Railay.
So despite catching up with some great people, including kiwi Lindsay, the first two days I ended up laying very low, still recovering from the dreaded Tonsai Squirts (see below). In hindsight this was fortunate as it saved me from a lot of heavy drinking, but it also got in the way of a few activities I would have liked to do.
I was just so lethargic that I missed out on some good climbing and camping on Phi Phi Lei, the smaller island on which most of the movie "The Beach" was filmed. Enjoying the excellent food, long boat rides to explore more of the island and further volunteer work was also out. Experiencing the nightlife with some restrained partying only happened on the last evening.
What I did get around to included climbing to the Viewpoint, a twenty minute hike up a steep hill for the sunset, which was very nice indeed - although a little sobering when you saw the memorial plaque for a Brit called James Hurren lost to the wave. Another day saw Scottish Liam and I on a snorkelling mission to Shark Point on Long Beach - also good excepting the less than 1 metre visibility. You win some, you lose some.
We did also get out diving around Phi Phi Lei on the last day, which was a nice way to end the visit. Two morning dives took us to a couple of lovely dive sites, one of which was inside the famous lagoon harbour from The Beach as mentioned above. Unfortunately there were hordes of boats inside little Maya Bay and the water quite polluted with oil and litter.
The dive sites themselves were very pleasant, Maya having some great swim-throughs and drift currents to cruise on, although both lacked an abundance of fish life that characterised sites in Indonesia and Malaysia. Still, we saw Leopard sharks, Blue tipped manta rays (very cool), Moray eels, a sea snake and some varieties of tropical fish that I hadn't seen in more southern waters. In all it was just good to get into some diving after a few weeks off.
Well, that's about it. Even writing has been difficult in the past week, so (as usual) please excuse any typos or slack grammar that my lazy editor forgets to pick up. Thanks again to the Perhentian crew - especially Liam, Dawn, Sochelle and Curtis for some more good times and a special thank you to Bou, that was a cranking massage that made me feel human again. Love ya work!
Next entry -> a quickie on Phuket
Lucky me travel affliction of the week
You've heard a little about my first real sickness of the journey, so here are some more gory details. It had to happen sometime, you can't travel in Asia for too long with succumbing to a bad case of the trots, for me what I'd call a severe dose of the Tonsai Squirts*.
It hit fast, explosively and got worse over the first few days. I didn't throw up - it was all one way traffic downwards - but the stomach cramps and diahorrea were first class and it took a few days to feel half human again. General lethargy was the order of the day until I got too keen to do something (the volunteer work) and then the affliction returned with a vengeance, just to punish my sorry ass. It's now more than a week later and I'm still feeling the tail end (pun intended) of it.
I blame the Andaman Resort restaurant, but a number of friends became quite ill eating elsewhere during their stay on Tonsai, so it seems to be one of those sacrifices you have to make to get away from the more commercial areas. Lack of electricity and water makes cleaning things difficult which ends up knocking the visitors around.
Beware if you visit, but it is a great place and in the end there's nothing much you can really do to avoid it.
* Probably not a real illness name, but please see a doctor if symptoms persist.
Where I stayed