Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ko Phi Phi

As to have a bit of continuity I figure I'll do this chronologically. Despite being in Melbourne for a week now it's probably best if I tell you about our last week in Thailand before I fill you in on Australia.
After the ming of Patong, we were looking forward to the bliss of Ko Phi Phi. A former Muslim island of fishermen and coconut farmers; it was 'discovered' by tourists about 20 years ago. 9 years ago the film 'the beech' was recorded in the smaller of the Ko Phi Phi islands, this has led to an invasion of tourists to the small island.
It was devestated by the Tsunami on Stephens Day 2004 and the entire island had to be evacuated. Over 2000 people died and 70 percent of the islands buildings where destroyed. If you do some google-ing on the Tsunami it's a devastating read. Leviathan unleashed.
There aren't many reminders of the Tsunami, infact in only two places did I see any mention of it. One restaurant has a thank you to a Swedish company for the financial help and one newsagent has pictures of when it struck. I have read though that a lot of the original Phi Phi people have left the island never to come back and a lot of the businesses are run by Thai people from the mainland. It is still quite Muslim and you have to take your shoes off in a lot of places, but it is becoming increasingly Buddhist. I wonder do the Buddhists on the island believe that the Tsunami was Karma? I won't theologically muse on that here; I'm doing enough musing about the current bushfires in Australia. Anyways...
The first thing that struck me when on the island was how many young people there were. 18-23 year olds weighed down with giganormous backpacks, or walking through the streets with a beer in hand or hobbling on a crutch due to some adventure sport accident. It was like another scary movie called 'Revenge of the Backpackers'. The only problem is, we also had a lead role. It seems like the island has lost it's innocence and has now prostituted itself out at a great expense to itself.
Myself and Jane wondered a lot whether tourism was good or bad for the island. If anyone has some good social/economic insights, I'd love to know. We wondered would the people be happier out fishing away as they used to or however they kept themselves going with a much simpler life than there is now. Seven-11's, ATM's, internet cafe's and an Irish Bar jump out at you on the streets, even if there are only about 5 streets, if they can be called that. Things I'm sure are much more expensive for locals and it seems like money definitely talks in Phi Phi. They want it and we bring it.

Having said that, the island is truly beautiful and the beach is amazing. It is a cliche holiday postcard paradise. The ride over on the boat is fantastic. We were greated by a nice kid who put our bags in a glorified wheel barrow and led us on our way to our accommodation. What a place. Possibly the worst living arrangements known to man. I won't go in to too many details for fear of boring you. But lets just say an obnoxious rude manager, a 200 meter climb up steps to our 'cottage', ming ming ming bathroom with cold water, dirty sheets and frogs, geckos and other creatures in our room. Not cool. We made it our goal to not let it ruin anything. We pretty much succeeded, apart from the severe lack of sleep due to the creatures exploring our room, and eating my Galaxy bar. Yes, they ate my last galaxy bar; how infuriating.
Anyways, we had a chilling time. I read a few Kellerman books and we chilled on the beach. Coffee was nice and there was good food. There were plenty of tours to do to such things as 'James Bond Island' and 'Monkey Island'; apparently monkey island has no inhabitants, but it when you go to visit it you see about 8 monkeys and 500 tourists. We left that option out.
On the Monday I got to see the Superbowl which was sweet. The only good purpose the Irish bar served us. Those pesky Steelers. Most nights we went to a wonderful bar that was on the beach with room for only about 14 people. It was really lovely just chilling on the beach.
We pretty stayed out from dawn till dusk as the place we were staying in was so horrible we just kicked it in the village. We enjoyed our time in Phi Phi, and like I said it is an incredibly beautiful island however it does feel a bit tainted and I fear for it's identity.
One thing I have to add is the music. Oh dear. First day on the beach I heard Oasis, U2 and Bob Marley. U2 I can definitely cope with but Oasis on a tropical island? and Bob Marley, talk about riding the cliche. I walked past a bar the second night there and turned to Jane and said 'What is the deal with all the Oasis on the island?"; a thick Irish brogue replied to me "Sorry buddy, my playlist - it'll be over soon". Most places abused our ears with James Blunt; is he the worst of our time? Quite possibly. The rest was a best of Shaggy, Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus and Pliers and that awful 'a la la la la long' song by inner circle. Seriously, the music was so awful everywhere we went. The only solus was Dire Straits and U2, doesn't say much does it!
We went back to Phuket and had an amazing time in the North of the island for an all too short one day. So beautiful, no tourists and possibly the nicest people who ran the cottage we stayed in. The nicest food of our time in Thailand was kept for the last two days, in north Phuket and also the last night in Bangkok. Nicest accommodation was most definitely North Phuket, check out the little bungalow we had.
A week ago we left Thailand to go to Australia where we currently are. I'll fill you in on Oz next time.