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Published: August 1st 2008
Ok, all, a long-awaited blast from the wandering one....
Here's a quick blurb on PP, day two (even though as I send this it is now Day 5). Some of this is geared for those who know or knew Koh Phi Phi, some, well, sorry, you might just have to pretend you understand the beautiful Thai island down in the Andaman Sea.....somewhere. Think palm trees and tropical weather, fruity drinks and clear blue waters......Oh, and the movie "The Beach," with Leonardo DiCaprio.
I was here for a number of months doing some relief work after the December 26, 2004 tsunami. I made friends with the locals, many with whom I have kept in touch the past 1.5 years. The island was pretty devastated, and not much was left stnding. Resilience, perseverence and hope presided in many of the locals, and now, less than two years after the tsunami took it's course on this tropical island, things are looking pretty prosperous. Ok, come with me on a trip to the tropics....
Ah yes, PP is and always will be.......Paradise. It is looking beautiful here, I must admit. There is much greenery and flowers everywhere, many nice looking villas and resort-type accommodations, but, alas too much commercialism. It's back to where it was pre-tsunami. Maybe worse. Buildings are going up on every conceivable piece of real estate. Crazy, obnoxious tourists are everywhere, prices on accommodation and food are skyrocketing and the beaches all don colorful umbrellas, half nude and sometimes topless gals, and all manners of water sports. Bummer. I kinda liked it better when "topless" palm trees were all one saw! No one was on the beach except to clean it up, and the locals were so happy the volunteers were here and helping, they made everything afordable to us and made us feel like this was our home.
Despite all that, I have been able to reconnect with so many of my Thai friends here on the island. I have been surprised, really, how many people remember me -- and by name even! On every street corner it seems, I hear "Sunisa, Sunisa you come back PP Island!!" OH, how I love this place!! I have spent more time with my Thai friends than any Westerner thus far. Of course, the majority of the people overrunning this place are early 20 somethings, all backpackers mainly from Europe. They are drinking and carousing and have no respect one bit for the locals. One young, thin girl I saw today, was walking down one of the pathways towards town with her skimpy (and hey, let me emphasize SKIMPY) bikini on, butt crack and all showing. No care in the world. No mind that Thais are thoroughly disgusted by this. Who is getting a bad reputaion, for people who flaunt themselves like this? We Westerners, that's who!
I saw my buddy John today. He still has the massage shop but he is running a hotel near by as well. He had shown me the place, and a number of rooms as well, prior to me leaving in June 2005, and now he is the manager! He has decided to not have a coffee stand right now because there is too much competition. And he's right! There are so many coffee places! No Starbucks of course, but little coffee stands that sell lattes and mochas and every conceivable blended fru fru drink one can make with coffee or espresso (the kinds I just love...).He says he can't keep up with the competition, cause they are all using big machines to make the drinks -- remember he used to do it all by hand?
There are no cars on the island, but there sure are many bicycles. "Beep beep" is all I hear walking down the pathways from the riders behind me.
It rains pretty much every afternoon, but only for less than an hour, then it clears up and we usually have beautiful sunsets. I was out walking on the beach in the rain the first day I got here. No worries, I'm on an island. It's warm and nothing I have on can't NOT get wet. Besides, things dry, right?
I have reconnected with many, many friends on PP, and many people have recognized me from my volunteer days (some I personally never even knew). Man, I had absolutely no idea so many people would remember me, but after takling with a few of the locals I know, they all told me that post-tsunami was a special time for them as well. So many of we volunteers got to really know the locals, since we spent so much time with them; eating, sleeping with (well, you know what I mean!) and working along side them. In turn, the locals got to know us -- we weren't mere tourists who came and left within a matter of days. We were there to build back their island, and they treated us with respect and hospitality in return.
I will never forget the time I spent on this island shortly after the tsunami. It was definitely a special time in my life and made a lasting impression in my mind. Despite the building up of this island, the locals still have their charm and sense of humor. That's what makes this island so special. That's why I will never forget the friends I made on this island. That's why I will always call Koh Phi Phi my home.
I am off to Koh Lanta tomorrow, with a Thai friend I made here last year. She has never been there, and this will be a good opportunity for her to see another Thai island, not too far from Phi Phi. I am planning on island hopping my way to Malaysia.
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