March 13, 2013
Today we’re going to Koh Phi Phi. Christof booked the ferry yesterday, which includes a complimentary mini- van ride to Phuket town. We wait at the travel agency and are the 2nd of five couples to be picked up. The ferry is quite basic and since there is no seating on the top deck, everybody scrambles for a spot near the railings. It’s so hot you could fry an egg on the burning-hot metal deck. Taking a cue from the Asian women around me, I open my umbrella and hide in its wonderful blue shade until the boat leaves the harbor. All around us sun-starved northerners have undressed, spread beach towels out and are broiling themselves to well-roasted perfection.
During this trip we’ve become aware of our age and are mildly surprised to discover that somewhere along the line we became the middle generation. Always too busy to notice our gradual descent into deep middle age, now that we’re surrounded on all sides by travelers no older than our children, it’s become an unavoidable reality. Christof marvels that people so young can travel to places as exotic and far away as Thailand. Even young women now travel the world alone, a dream I had in my youth but gave up due to perceived safety issues. A woman traveling alone was thought to be ‘inviting trouble’. We’re happy that young people have more freedoms than we did, (and we had many more than our parents), and that so much has changed for the better.
The European work-and-travel crowd, having finished their time in New Zealand and Australia, are ‘chilling’ and spending their hard-earned money resting on Thailand’s beaches before drifting off to other Southeast Asian hot spots.
When the crowd stirs I look up and see everyone posing for ‘selfies’ with Koh Phi Phi Ley looming out of the emerald waters as a dramatic backdrop. Perfect shots for Facebook to make every one at home die of envy. The next wave of ‘selfies’ are taken shortly before we dock at Koh Phi Phi Don, the largest island of a group of six. It has no roads and its remote coves are accessible only by foot or long boat. On shore a horrible stench greets us and is made worse by the tropical heat and crowds of people pressing through narrow, sandy alleyways. Keeping up with the sewage produced by so many visitors is a challenge that isn’t being met.
After half-heartedly looking at a hotel and realizing we’re feeling too hot and bothered to make a decision, we buy a bun and sit down on the wall across from the bakery, resting in the half shade of the palm trees while looking out across the emerald bay. The last thing we want is to stay in the busiest part of the island. Tonsai Village is where the ferry comes and goes all day long and where at night, the noise from Thai boxing matches, fire shows, bars, clubs and beach parties fill the air. None of this is our style. Hopping into a long boat only 10 minutes later we find ourselves in a pristine cove where we find a charming air-conditioned hut close to the beach. Sitting at the resort’s open-air restaurant during the evening, we watch young Thai men skillfully ferrying a constant stream of foreign passengers to and from Tonsai Village through the black velvet air in their colorful long boats.
March 14, 2013
A wonderfully relaxing day spent swimming in crystal clear water and lying in the shade on the beach. Our chairs are positioned under some palms near the long-boat dock, and all day long the high pitched whine of the outboard motors approaching and leaving the cove weave their way into our day dreams. Christof has a conversation with a family – we guessed they were Russian – but as it turns out she is Swedish and he’s from Ecuador. They come to Koh Phi Phi every year so that he can work as a singer in the clubs during the evenings, which leaves them enough time to explore the beaches together with their children who are not yet in school.
Because the Thai islands are visited by divers from all over the world, Christof rents us a mask and snorkel. Neither of us enjoy the experience. Either the water gets under the mask and up our noses, or it fogs them up, making it impossible to see a thing. If the mask works then it’s the snorkel that causes problems. When we accidentally dive just a smidgen too deep, we end up breathing in water instead of air and come up sputtering.
It’s much easier to swim without any bothersome apparatus. The water is so clear we can watch schools of brightly colored fish by just looking down. During the late afternoon I book a Thai massage. This time, in contrast to our debacle at the airport, it’s a pleasant experience and leaves me feeling relaxed and peaceful.
Long Beach is a divinely beautiful spot, exactly what we were picturing when we dreamt of relaxing on an Thai island!