Return to paradise

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
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Trip End Dec 05, 2005


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Sunday, July 3, 2005

I decided I'd get away to the islands for a few days before my eye surgery as I wasn't sure how much traveling I'd be able to get in afterwards. I booked a flight online for the next morning to Phuket (ya, spur of the moment).

I arrived in Phuket later in the morning and caught a minibus to the Patong Beach area and got a hotel a couple blocks from the beach. On first exploration of the town, it seems very touristy and there's little sign of damage from the tsunami. That first day I just laid out on the beach. There were plenty of overweight older folks in too tight swimsuits. I went out in town that evening and discovered just how touristy it is - loads of bars, clubs and prostitutes about. I think some of the prostitutes were transvestites, though I always avoided looking them in the eye so they wouldn't bug me. I found an Irish pub with a western guy playing cover songs. There was a group of Aussies there who were doing just as much singing as the singer.

The next morning I got a minibus back to the main town where I caught a ferry to Ko Phi Phi. We passed along Ko Phi Phi Leh where "The Beach" was filmed. Phi Phi was devasted by the tsunami (Dec 26, 2004). Waves came in from the bays on either side wiping out 70% of the buildings. Walking through town there were remnants of buildings, buildings tipped over, debris and signs for buildings that just weren't there anymore. That first afternoon I just laid out by the beach and noticed people doing clean-up work around the island. That evening I happened to be at the bar where they had a new volunteer meeting so got more info on helping out. I watched "Mr and Mrs Smith" at one of the restaurant/bars in town then went to a bar for a rather lame "half moon party".
I took a walking tour around the island in the morning and saw more of the destruction. Even shops in the middle of town further from shore were badly hit.

No funds from the international relief have made their way here...that's right - $0. The Thai government helped at first, but after six months seems to have forgotten about the little island. There's an independent aid organization on the island that's really good and all donations go straight to helping the people and businesses get back on their feet. They employ about 90 locals and many westerners volunteer while visiting. I helped out painting and fixing up a guesthouse. HI Phi Phi has setup a temporary aid station with volunteer nurses since the hospital still isn't up and running (they're working on that too). The best thing you can do to help would be to go there in person and volunteer. Second best would be to just go, visit and spend your tourist dollars supporting the local businesses. If you want to donate or get more info about HI Phi Phi, you can visit their website: http://www.hiphiphi.com. There were lots of cute girls volunteering so that was an added bonus. :) In the evening, there was a party at the guesthouse I helped out at and I met a couple cute Dutch girls and hung out with a couple Brits I was painting with earlier that day.

Another ferry ride, this time to Krabi. From the main pier I had to catch a minibus into town to another pier where I'd catch a longtail boat to Railay Beach. I waited a while for other tourists to show up to split the cost but none did so it ended up costing me like $15 for the ride to Railay. I wandered around East and West Railay and had some lunch. West Railay is nice and I laid out there a bit in the afternoon. Just had a calm evening back at the bungalow.

I followed a path out to Phranang Beach in the morning. That's gotta be one of the prettiest beaches I've been to. Very beautiful! Just relaxed there for the day before catching the longtail boat back to Krabi town for my flight back to Bangkok.

I wish I had more time to spend at these places as all had things to do I missed out on. Could've taken snorkeling tours from Phuket, snorkeling and boat tours from Phi Phi, would've done more volunteering on Phi Phi, and kayaking around the limestone cliffs in Krabi. At least I got the chance to see them though.
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