Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February 8, 2009 - Phi Phi Don, Krabi Province, Thailand

Maya Bay on Phi Phi Leh - after the hordes have gone home.

As we made our way from Ko Lanta to Phi Phi Leh, the stunningly beautiful island where the movie "The Beach" was filmed, the highlight of yet another windless day of motoring was spotting several sailfish jumping out of the water. Over the past week we've learned that in order to enjoy cruising in Thailand, one must treat one's sails as ornamentation, rather than as a means for propulsion. Once one accepts that one is going to be motoring everywhere, cruising here becomes much less frustrating. We've been doing so much motoring this past month that we haven't needed to run the generator to charge Mata'irea's batteries since leaving Singapore.

Unfortunately, the notoriety gained from its starring role in "The Beach" has all but ruined Phi Phi Leh. All day long hundreds of longtails and speedboats loaded with tourists seeking unspoiled paradise buzz in and out of Maya Bay. During high season, Maya Beach, at the end of the bay, is standing room only. The noise from the unmuffled engines of the longtails destroys any notion of peace and quiet and the trash left behind by the tourists spoils the sense that one is far from civilization.

We timed our late afternoon arrival at Phi Phi Leh to coincide with the departure of the daytrippers, hoping to enjoy the island without having to anchor in the midst of the crisscrossing wakes thrown by a multitude of tourboats. But unfortunately, for the fourth night in a row, a seabreeze induced chop set into the bay, and we spent the night violently rolling back and forth. As the first of the tourboats arrived the next morning, we realized that there was no reason to stick around, so we headed for Phi Phi Don.

"It's official," announced Sten as he made coffee one morning in Phi Phi Don. "I hate longtails."

Phi Phi Don, also known as Ko Phi Phi, was almost completely wiped out by the tsunami. The waves that hit the beach and swept through the village in Tan Sai Bay crested at 5 meters above sea level. But today, the main indicators that a total disaster happened here four years ago are the signs indicating the evacuation route should another tsunami hit and the fact that almost all of the buildings are brand new. 75% of the buildings on the island were completely destroyed by the tsunami, most of the rest were damaged.

Bhudist shrine under a banyan tree. Wherever we go in this world, banyans are revered.
Anchored in Tan Sai Bay on Phi Phi Don we were much closer to the epicenter of Thailand's tourism industry than we were on the southern islands. On board, wakes from passing speedboats makes conditions pretty uncomfortable during the day. On shore, there is no escaping the crush of sunburned, inebriated humanity here. As it was the weekend, we didn't want to push on to Phuket - we would have to pay additional fees for clearing in on a weekend. So, we decided that if you can't beat them, join them. We spent two days here doing all the touristy stuff we could think of. We browsed through shops, ate expensive food (compared to the prices down south), checked out a few bars, and I even convinced Sten to join me for a pedicure - but I think he only agreed so that he could sit in the airconditioned shop for 30 minutes.

We did a little snorkeling in the bay and enjoyed the attentions of some very tame fish. Every time I looked back there was a school of fish following me. I felt like the Pied Piper.
"Do you think she has some bread?" I could imagine them asking each other.
"Of course she does, they always feed us."
"Then why doesn't she give us any?"
"Maybe she doesn't know we are back here. Go nibble her toe to get her attention."

Ingredients for red curry and green curry

Fresh red curry

On our last night on Phi Phi Don we took a cooking class at Pum Cooking School. After teaching us how to make red curry and green curry, Mai, our instructor, taught us how to make Thai fishcakes (think crabcakes, but spicier), pad thai (a yummy noodle dish), fish saut้ed in green curry, tom yum soup (a spicy sour soup), stir fried chicken with sweet chili sauce, and for desert, mangoes with sticky rice. There were four of us in the class. The other students were a couple from Israel. Now, we consider ourselves to be pretty well traveled, but over several courses, we discovered that these guys had been everywhere. We were very impressed.

No comments: