|It feels like ages since I've written - much longer than the 10 days or so it has been! I left Phi-Phi yesterday so thought it about time I let you know how the sun,sea, sand and surf have been treating me! I put some pics up earlier so here's the attached tale!
I met my old (but young) friend Emma (who's based in manila) at bangkok airport for a flight to Phuket - we had absolutely no idea where we were going to go/stay - neither of us were particularly keen on going to the island - but it was the only place we could get a flight to that particular saturday! We spent the 50min flight doing a quick lonely planet review and decided on Kata beach....a much lesser of many evils (in form of package tourists - sex shopping and the like) of phuket.
We shared a taxi ride with David from Melbourne - a pleasant stranger who turned out to be a great host for the next day or so! Our worst fears were confirmed when we arrived on Kata and on one long beach of purple umbrellas all that could be found were very large, over-tanned, swedish package holiday tourists! We decided to stay the night and head off somewhere else the next morning so found quite a sweet little guesthouse. The sweet little guesthouse turned out to be an expensive air-conditioned closet for our clothes though as while walking on the beach we bumped into David and Ben - the intrepid sailors who provided great accomodation under the stars on a yacht that night! We had great fun; drank rum&cokes and ate incredible home-made hamburgers courtesy of Ben (who's permanently travelling around the world on his yacht)!
As we were too late to catch a ferry the morning we left for Phi-Phi island the day after.
Our first few hours on Phi-Phi were ones that I'm not likely to forget in a hurry. If you look at my pics you'll see me doubled-over with my 20kg backpack on what looks like the top of a mountain.....well it was!. After some unfortunate mis-directions to a place we wanted to stay (Viewpoint Resort), Emma and I landed climbing up to the top of the VIEWPOINT overlooking phi-phi town in about 38C with fully loaded backpacks. The expletives that eminated from my mouth after getting to the top and finding no accomodation will not be repeated here. It was quite a painful ordeal - confirmed by the fact that strangers took photos of us with our backpacks because they said no-one would ever believe them if they told the story. The agony on peoples faces after arriving at the top WITHOUT any luggage made us realise just what a feat we had accomplished. I can't remember the exact height but it was well over a few hundred meters straight up!
After our little adventure we did eventually managed to find Viewpoint Resort; turned out to be a lovely little home for the next week. Emma and I had a great 4 days simply hanging out on the beach, drinking coconut shakes, indulging in mid-afternoon Singha Beers and spending the evenings wandering around the lovely little "town", eating and every now and again indulging in a few more singhas! Phi-Phi was exceptionally hot - the nights cooled down to about 30C so our AirCon room was a welcome escape from the heat. Even as a south african I found the heat pretty intense - but definitely not a complaint - it was rather blissful - and helped the tan along nicely!
Phi-Phi is a beautiful place but sadly the impact of the tsunami is still clearly evident. I saw a photo taken from viewpoint before it hit and it is so sad to see the difference from the photo I took. It was quite a weird (and not a great) feeling sitting drinking beers on a spot where you know hundreds of people died. The bar I landed up spending most of my time at was built from broken boats and rubble after the tsunami - it was called the Millie and Tia Sunflower bar. It'sowned by a Thai guy called Ben and a woman called Maura - Millie was Ben's english wife (and Mauras daughter) and Tia the granddaughter who both died. The area the bar was on was most badly hit and Ben lost 20 members of his immediate family. There is a little memorial garden next to the bar with plaques and photos of some of those who died (including a south african couple) and the palm trees that remain standing (not many) all have yellow ribbons tied around them.
After seeing photos of the ravaging effects of the wave it was so admirable to see how people have tried to rebuild - many using the left-over rubble. The sad thing is that the Krabi (provincial government) has not provided any assistance to this part of the island. There is quite an uproar as they have denied "rebuilding" permits to the local people so they are not allowed to rebuild until they have permission. In effect what the government is trying to do is make them sell the land cheaply (with no building rights) and then grant the permits later and the sell the land for investment at a much higher price. This issue has now however made it to Parliament and hopefully these people will get the help they so desperately need soon.....
The photos of the 2 little kids with a bucket of water was taken just next to what was left of a wooden hut - they were having there morning shower where their home obviously used to be....but they could not have looked happier!
Emma sadly had to leave Phi-Phi early and go to Hong Kong before Manila but I decided to stay on and do my Open Water Dive Course......
I thoroughly enjoyed it and managed to complete it within 3 days. Luckily I was the only student so had a one-on-one course with my instructor Paul. On my last 2 dives out at sea we swam with school of sharks which was incredible....not quite the dangerous south african kind but still quite big :-) As I had to be up early for dives and also do lots of theory/reading work I didn't have a big party time but spent really lovely evenings watching sunsets at the sunflower bar chatting to some friends I'd made there.... Most of phi-phi was filled with blonde, gorgeous swedes so it was quite funny to watch the goings on between them....a definite entertainment factor - and I got to practice my swedish which was quitey handy!
Anyway, after a great week or so there I left yesterday and have come over to the other side of Thailand to Koh Tau - will spend 5 days here doing a bit of chilling out again before flying back to bangkok on saturday and on to sydney......sadly Asia is almost done! Am having a great time, have a tan, feeling healthy and seem to have rid myself of almost all my stresses!