Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Paradise found

On approach to Koh Phi Phi, I was surprised to see that the sun was out, after battling monsoonal conditions on Railay, Phi Phi was bathed in yellow light.

After working my way through the 30 odd touts that had gathered on the dock, I headed for ‘The Rock’ a backpacker haunt that is meant to be cheap and cheerful.

On the walk through the main street I noticed an abundance of tattoos and tans, it seemed that everyone was adorned with some form of body art- that looked surprisingly good. I guess anything can look good in paradise. I spied an older man in a tropical print shirt that didn’t seem too out of place and for the first time I understood this phenomena and realized that Hawaiian shirts can look good but only in the tropics.

On arrival at the hostel I was greeted warmly but disappointed to find they only had dorm rooms available and no lockers, again ruing the fact I had my laptop on board I decided to do my insurance company a favor and stay somewhere else.

Immediately across the road I saw Sacha’s Guest House, an unassuming building with a bright orange sign. People were spilling out onto the veranda and the host seemed genuinely friendly. I quickly settled and set about exploring the island.

I decided to take a walk down to Charlie’s Beach where the Tsunami did the most damage; it is a natural beauty at a distance although on closer inspection I was alarmed at the piles of rubbish littering the shore and a hoard of tourists in g string bikini’s who didn’t seem to notice. I later found out that the rubbish blows in from Phuket and before the Tsunami the resorts that used to be in abundance along the beach hired people to keep things in pristine 5 star order. Disgusted I set about my own personal clean up and within minutes managed to amass more than I could carry.

Afterwards I booked into a dive course and met Mark from Watford- he came complete with an authentic cockney accent and called me ‘Kaffren’ from the offset.

Mark was a chippy before he became a dive instructor and I instantly warmed to him, with 1200 dives under his belt and the bluest eyes I have ever seen (I wonder if they had been affected by the sea?) I decided that he would be the right person to put me through my 3 day intensive PADDI course.

The first day involved lots of school work and required that I learnt about decompression illness, nitrogen narcosis and a whole hoard of other nasties that he assured me I wouldn’t get if I paid attention. It was then that I told him the truth, ‘all I really want to do is find Nemo’, he laughed and said ‘typical women, all you ever want is bloody Nemo’.

Our first day of diving saw us take the boat out to ‘the wall’ a great dive site about an hour away , I was strangely calm, despite being unable to sleep the night before because every time I closed my eyes I saw sharks.

At the moment of decent, I remembered my training and was immediately overawed by all the colors that exist underwater. Despite being encapsulated by an ocean of blue, I saw the brightest pinks, lushest greens and the most intoxicating purples I have ever seen.

In seconds, rough and tuff Mark transformed into someone resembling a Bolshoi ballerina and I realised that it was me that must have looked clumsy and goofy. I love that about diving; the fact that whoever you are above water counts for nothing and even the most unlikely become the daintiest dancer.

After a while I got my groove and before I knew it, we were getting up close and personal with nemo and his friends.

The following day we went to another spot called the pinnacles where I got the fear when some 3 meter leopard sharks decided to circle me and in my opinion they were doing so to signal lunch to each other.

In the afternoon I went back to my guesthouse and met Caroline the owner, flustered after just giving an interview to Getaway we chatted the afternoon away.

Caroline moved to Thailand 11 years ago after meeting a Thai man whist backpacking, settling in Phi Phi and opening a restaurant. When the Tsunami hit her sister was visiting from Sydney. Asleep upstairs above the restaurant she awoke to madness all around her. With no time to grab anything, she climbed onto the roof with her 5 month old son.

Assisted down by a nameless English man she fled to higher ground. Caroline told the story in a matter of fact way, there was no dressing anything up ‘see this, I think there must have been about 100 bodies between this building and that one’, staggered looking at a space not wider that 10 meters. Caroline recalled that about 60/70 people died in the adjacent buildings and spoke angrily that so many people didn’t even have a chance because they were asleep and it was not there fault.

Caroline told me the story of Sacha, the guest house was named after her 3 year old daughter Sacha who did not make it, her body was found a few days later along with her sister.

Caroline required no sympathy just an ear to listen. As the afternoon progressed, she pointed out all the people on the street that lost someone ‘see him, he lost his grandma and see her she lost her kids’, tragedy was all around.

Caroline decided to transform the restaurant into a guesthouse because she saw that her building was the only one left standing on the entire street and she said ‘I think that means something don’t you’, I did.

Caroline then told me that she was in the process of adopting another baby from Bangkok, I was inspired, she said ‘I experienced loss and so did this baby and hopefully together we can just be a happy family’.

1 comment:

Saffron saffronbrown@hotmail.com said...

Hi, do you happen to have an email address for Sacha's Guest House in Ko Phi Phi? Please email me!