Monday, July 13, 2009

Paradise Lost (Phi Phi Islands, Thailand)

Our day began fast and panicky.  We needed to take the ferry from Phuket to the Phi Phi Islands, and we had to arrive at Rassada Pier by 8:30am to make the boat.  If we missed this boat, then we would not be able to scuba dive in phi phi later in the afternoon.  Since Dave had a flight to catch in Phuket the following day, it would be our only chance to dive with him.  Of course, we were misinformed of the departure time by a late night reception clerk. As a result, we were still on the way to the docks at about 8:35am.  Packed into the back of a Thai Pickup truck in pouring rain, negativity swirled about.  Dave attempted to temper our negativity with optimism, but I did not think that optimism could halt our boat's departure.  We leapt out of the bed of the truck at the docks, and our boat was just beginning to untie.  We raced through the ship yard, Dave handled the ticket purchasing, and we made it by just a few seconds.  

The boat ride to Phi Phi was calm and peaceful.  Kristin went to the interior of the boat to nap, while Dave and I discussed the past on the back deck of the ferry.  We met a very interesting young man from Chile named Patricio.  He had just worked for 6 months in Australia doing fruit picking piecework to presumably finance his travels.  Him and his buddies would pick mandarins on an Aussie farm, and get paid per fruit picked.  He asked us why Americans didn't seem to travel very much, and we talked about the culture of work in America.  After speaking with him for a while, our eagle eyed Chilean friend spotted some dolphins swimming alongside our boat.  We watched these shiny gray fish swim and jump, and it could not have been a better way to wrap up a great transfer.  We were pulling into Ton sai Bay, Phi Phi Don.

The Phi Phi islands number 2.  One has lodging and a small population; the other is a designated national park.  Phi Phi Don is the inhabited island and where we would be staying.  The island has no streets, with most transport done by dragontail boat.  The other island is Phi Phi Leh.  It has become pretty famous since being featured in the movie, "The Beach," and has an unbelievable crescent shaped bay that barely opens up to the ocean beyond.  We would need an additional transfer to reach our hotel at the northern tip of the island.  Our hotel was extremely nice and absolutely terrible. All aesthetic things are perfect and beautiful, but they rip you off for everything and attempt to hold you prisoner in the resort.  The Phi Phi Island Resort and Spa charges a huge amount for a transfer off of resort grounds, and do not allow outside dragontail boats to pick up from the shores of the resort.  As a result, you are required to purchase excursions and food at the resort unless you want to pay 800 baht (almost $30) for a ride to the main area of the island.  I have taken to calling the place The Phi Phi Island Resort and Prison.  In all honesty though, it is not a bad place to be held prisoner.

After checking in and having to pay 900 baht (!) for an additional bed for Dave (for 1 night), we were signing up at the resort dive center because we had no other choice.  We had a great dive with our dive master Song, and unfortunately, since our underwater camera quit working, I cannot provide pictures of the dive.  We were surrounded by all types of coral and fish.  It was like taking a 40 minute trip to some strange world.  The visibility was supposedly not too good, but after learning in an Oklahoma lake, we were both pretty blown away by everything.  After the dive, Kristin decided to hit up the gym in the hills at our resort.  Dave and I just sat on the front porch and ate strange fruits.  This is when the storm began to roll in.  It got pretty ugly and, 29 hours later, is still raining.  Numerous times throughout our stay, I have kind of half expected to see Keeanu Reeves allowing Patrick Swayze one last ride just off shore.  It is storm of the century stuff.

We went swimming in the rain after Kristin finished at the gym.  Initially, we thought the showers were a refreshing novelty.  Little did we know.  After our swim, we had drinks and dinner at the beachfront restaurant while the winds raged.  A band was walking around and playing music for each table.  Since we all come from Texas, they played country for us, The Eagles.  We did not even know that The Eagles were country.  Later in the night they played the song "Daniel," which was extremely coincidental because that is Kristin's brother's name, and it was his birthday.  Happy (belated) Birthday man.

We had our first great night sleep in some time, resting until 9:45am.  We almost missed breakfast, which was actually free.  It was a great spread, and we all stockpiled food on numerous plates. I even stuffed a few fruits and a danish into my pocket.  Apparently, I left my shame somewhere along the way.  We said our goodbyes to Dave and he was 2 boat rides and a plane trip away from returning to his home in Kuala Lumpur.  After breakfast, I accidentally stole a razor from the hotel convenience store.  I seriously cannot remember how it happened, but the thing was in my pocket later on in the day.  Fruit, razors, danishes...I am becoming a petty thief.  We pretty much lazed the day away.  The rain was coming down like mad.  We walked around the resort grounds to assess the damage done by the storm.  It looked like a typhoon hit, and at one point, our path was even obstructed by a gigantic felled tree.

We were watching shark week a few months ago, and found out that more people are killed by falling coconuts then by sharks each year.  As a result, we were extra cautious to tread lightly around the towering palm trees on this day.  We noticed several coconuts on the grounds about the resort, and as the trees violently swayed in the 30 knot winds of this monsoon, we were certain the day would not be without some unnecessary casualties.  When the tide went out, we began to explore the sea bed and nearby areas.  The tide goes out so far, that when a boat arrives at low tide, the passengers must be shipped in on a small utility truck after docking about 200m from the resort.

It is crappy being straight up stormed out in paradise.  We sort of planned on the Phi Phi portion of our trip to be a vacation within a vacation.  Here we are with world class beaches just steps away, and we can barely leave our bungalow because of the winds and the rains.  It is pretty damn annoying.  We can both totally fathom how awe-inducing this place could be with great weather, but we will probably not get to experience it.  The forecast reads like an epitaph for our phi phi vacation, 90% chance of storms and 25-30 knot winds, for the next week.    

We ate dinner at a Thai restaurant in the hills behind our resort called Ruenthai.  We had interesting shakes to start off.  Kristin had apple, guava, and mint (a calming mixture); I had coconut and carrot (supposedly it aided with digestion).  For an appetizer, we had chicken satay with peanut sauce and pickled cucumbers.  For our mains, Kristin had a wide white noodle stir fry, and I had a chicken, potato, and peanut Thai curry.  It cleared out my sinuses, but my coconut and carrot concoction blocked the inevitable heartburn.  After dinner, we walked down the beach and enjoyed a break in the rain.

Dave and I commuting to the Phis - oh I bet buddy

we caught this guy catching a hell of a nap

Engine room of our transfer vessel from Phuket to Phi Phi

An island

Pulling in to Ton Sai Bay, Phi Phi Don

Boats in the harbor

The docks at Phi Phi Don city

Phi Phi Don city

Kristin enjoying her welcome drink

Our Bungalow

Rambutan head on her way to the gym

The storms came

My words could not describe the strength of the wind,
how about this?

We did resort grounds damage assessment

Broken restaurants

Another shot of swaying trees

Blocking the path back to our bungalow

View from our balcony

Lizards love storms

Even in awful weather, Phi Phi still looks nice

Our secluded beach

Main building of Phi Phi Island Resort & Spa

A rainy day, this picture was taken at noonish

Dragon-tail boat

We know, we know

Low tide kids

It goes out pretty far at low tide, here, Kristin ponders the great expanse

This was all underwater a few hours prior

The "Ferry"


Kristin called this "chocolate chip beach"

Branches on cookie dough beach

Self portraits

We walked a long ways and the tide began to creep back, we
feared that we would be stranded

The decorations are to appease spirits, I think

Krabi in the background - low tide

Going for some coconuts

The view from our table at Ruenthai restaurant

1/2 of the dining party

the other half

An orange mango beverage

Our App, chicken skewers with peanut sauce

My presented dinner, in a dunce cap

I poured the curry over the rice and our
server acted like she had never seen a move like
that before

Kristin's chicken wide white noodle stir fry, served in a leaf
We goofed off the whole dinner and the thai waitress seemed to
be annoyed, we loved it.  You don't have to tip here!  I am starting to
prefer bad service.  It saves money.

To calm the storm that I created in my stomach

Lobby at night

Very loud bull frog

1 comment:

  1. How bad could it be to be hit upon the nog with a coconut in paradise!! You guys look like you had a lot of fun. Liked your cabana hut!