My condolences to all the people who lost or are still missing members of their familys and friends because of the Tsunami that hit South-Asia.
A couple of years ago I had the chance to visit the islands of Koh Phi Phi in Thailand. Currently the Phi Phi islands are on the news because of the Tsunami that hit South Asia on the 26th of December. I know people that are in Sri Lanka and witnessed the flooding and the destruction caused by the Tsunami. It is a horrible time, which also made me think of the experience I had when I was traveling around the area.
Back in 2001, when I arrived in Koh Phi Phi, it looked like paradise to me. I stayed close to the beach, though up on a hill where I could overlook the sea. Just yesterday I saw that beach again - on the news. All the huts where gone, even the one I stayed in, debris all over the place and corpse of killed people. I wonder what happened to that little Reggae bar on the beach, that played Bob Marley songs all the time, the friendly Thai family where I rented the hut, or Andrew, the guy from England who took me on a snorkeling tour to Maya Bay on Ko Phi Phi Le, the place where parts of the movie "The Beach" where shot. I suppose dozen of boats where in Maya Bay at the time the first wave hit the island on the 26th of December. I hope for the best, but I know that this might just be an illusion.
Three years ago it seemed to be such a peaceful place, there were no roads established, a wooden pier and a small landing platform for helicopters. I had to walk everywhere. Yet, Ko Phi Phi was already hit by a slow but deadly wave – called mass tourism.
The beaches on one side of the island looked nice, they where cleaned every day, but there where those beaches and areas that tourists normally wouldn’t go – and that’s where you would find the dumps, filled with "icons" of western tourists. It was bad enough that all the water needed to be shipped to the island, even worse was the fact that it was sold in little bottles that most people would just throw away. And if you did not decline the offer, every bottle came in a little plastic bag. I remember the hundreds of cans, mostly Coca Cola and Pepsi, which could be found all over the island. Washed into the sea those things would become lethal for all different kind of animals. Especially something very small called cigarette butt.
When I left Ko Phi Phi I thought differently about it. On the pier, I talked to a girl from England who had stayed in Ko Phi Phi for a couple of years. She was leaving the island on the same boat and she vowed to never come back. She said: "Ko Phi Phi used to be Paradise for me, but now its hell."
I hope that the Phi Phi island get a fresh start now. Where people are more aware of what they are doing to the environment when they throw away an empty bottle. Or when they stay in a resort on a wonderful beach – that used to be a nature protection area for sea turtles. But maybe that’s also just an illusion.
ALSO FROM CONDE NASTE MARCH 2005:
A new start for Thailand's Ko Phi Phi - check it out.