Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Travel Blog: Thailand

11th November - Koh Phi Phi

Something strange is going on in Thailand.  Remember when we were in Koh Tao, in their monsoon season, and it was scorching and didn't rain a drop?  And in Koh Chang, at the start of their high seaosn, and it rained at least once a day?  Well, we arrive into Koh Phi Phi - bearing in mind it is their high season, hottest part of the year as of 1st November - and it is cloudy.  Not only is it dull and cloudy, but as we are exploring, about 40 minutes away from the village and our hotel, it starts to pour down.  When I say pour down, I mean tropical rainstorm/monsoon heavier than I've ever known, lasting at least an hour.  We had to literally wade through the streets, knee deep, to get back to our hotel and that is honestly no exaggeration.  So, not the greatest start to Phi Phi, especailly when one has spent a mere 15 hours getting here.  And that journey was eventful...

On such long journeys it is common to travel through the night, which is good because you aren't wasting any days travelling.  So from Koh Tao we got on a nightboat back to the mainland, lasting 8 hours.  We walked onto this boat and I could not believe my eyes.  There was one deck, inside, covered wall to wall with tiny attempts at mattresses.  our tickets had numbers, and sure enough there were numbers around the room matching each 'mattress.'  But these numbers were so unbelieveably squished together, that if you were slightly taller or fatter than the average person you'd have no chance.  And there were no seats or chairs on the boat, your given mattress was the only thing to sit or lie on, and there was no room to stand up should you wish to.  So, taking it all in, we took up our cosy bedside position, awkwardly making friends with our neighbours.  There was no shop, no proper toilet ( a squat toilet - a hole in the ground - is considered sufficient in Asia) and the heat was unbearable.  When the boat set off, all the lights went out and the whole boat went pitch black.  I looked at us all, squished together lay down like sardines on a fish market and I could only compare it to one thing: a slave ship.  While we may not have been handcuffed, we didn't have a choice to move anyway and it was honestly like a scene from 'Amistad.'
Saying this, after I spent the first 2 hours looking out of the window at the amazing display of stars, I slept through the rest of the journey, so it couldn't have been too bad.  Then, when we docked at 5am, someone fell into the water whilst getting off the boat!!  I guess he was still half asleep....it's not funny really, there's no health and safety round here.  Following this, we had our usual long distance shannanigans where different jeeps and trucks pick us up and drop us at random travel agencies for hours, then drop us at the coach station, then drop us at the pier for our last leg of the journey to Phi Phi.

Phi Phi is said to be the most beautiful of them all, and even through the cloud she delivered.  With crystal clear waters and countless white beaches and coves we spotted on the way in, I couldn't wait to get exploring.  Then, to my amazement, I discovered this island had no roads, or vehicles.  A taxi here refers to a large cart on 2 wheels to carry your luggage to your hotel!  It's incredible.  However, the no road description paints an entirely wrong view of this island - the main village is the biggest and busiest I've seen out of all the islands we've visited, and making your way through the hustle and bustle is hard.  There are many shops, markets, restaurants, hotels and bars - countless bars, that get very lively at night!  So it really does make you wonder how, with no roads, this thriving civilisation exists.  How did they transport all the concrete and machinery to build all these buildings?? Most locals have bicycles, and the police have scooters, but that's it.  You see staff from the bars and restaurants hauling around their stock with their carts I mentioned earlier every day, and it's really endearing.

Phi Phi was hit by 2004's tsunami, but there is no sign of it today.  We are staying quite high up on a hill, and the hotel next door has an evacuation sign.  If there's a warning of another tsunami, people would flock there to safety.  Which is quite reassuring at the moment, until tomorrow when we're moving beachside!  The main village is built on a very narrow strip of land,with sea on both sides so it is evident how the whole island would have been devastated by it. [This makes me feel guilty for moaning about getting caught in the monsoon earlier.  I wasn't lying, the paths transformed into rivers but it must have been nothing compared to the tsunami floods].  A few restaurants have photographs inside of the rebuild, and there are a few books about it in the bookstores, so it has made me want to research it more.  I found an interesting fact when I hit my first source, Wikipedia. (Obviously!)  On Phucket, the neighbouring island to Phi Phi, two separate British tourists noticed the warning signs of a tsunami.  One was a teacher, and the other a 10 year old girl who had been studying tsunamis in geography.  Apparently the water receeded far more than usual, and bubbles could also be seen.  The Brits were on separate parts of the island, and both managed to get their beaches evacuated to safety before the tsunami hit.  This made me feel really warm inside.

OK so now it's time to plug Rik's travel blog, here it is:

You may think, if you're reading mine, why should you read my travel partners, as it will be exactly the same. I can't tell you how wrong you are my friend! Me and Rik see the world in VERY different ways, and therefore find different things of higher importance to mention in our blogs.  Plus it is a lot funnier than mine, so have a read :)