E-mail Update - 2005-08-03

Ko Phi Phi Paradise

Hey Everyone,

Guess what? The travel plans have undergone another drastic change. I am now staying in Ko Phi Phi, which is one of the areas hardest hit by the Asian tsunami. Nina & I visited it for 2-3 days to do a few scuba dives, see the beach & see what effects the tsunami had. What we found is real developing story & an island with a great vibe. We did 2 scuba dives the first full day we were there. The next day we went on the tsunami walking tour. The first thing we saw was the makeshift medical center that a person who had came to the island originally for 3-4 days had setup to help the local people. There we saw 2 videos. This first was of the destruction that was caused. The second was from a Swedish couple who were trying to get a boat to go fishing that day. They survived, but it was incredible to see what happened in about 20 minutes. At first the tide went out & all the boats were stranded. Then the water came back rising very fast. It is not one huge wave like some people think it is.
There are numerous waves that just keep having the water rise higher & higher. However, it happens very fast. The island has 2 beaches which you can now walk between in about 3 minutes. When this happened you could not see one beach from the other. There are no roads & no cars on the island because it is so small. There are just paths the people, bicycles & motorbikes go on. The streets used to be enclosed by the shops around so it would take a long time to run to high ground. Also people tried to run to the other beach, which also had waves so they got trapped. The water rose up to 10 meters on one side & about less on the other side. This means that people had to get to the 3rd floor of a building to be safe, assuming the building held. Most buildings did not have that many floors & some that did were not strong enough. The result was over 2000 people dead and/or missing. We then went on to see one of the buildings yet to be cleaned up & areas where things used to be. After the videos & during much of the rest of the tour Nina & I were both in stunned silence. It was a very powerful site. All the money that was raised was rejected by the Thai government, the money donated never made it to Ko Phi Phi. The government has done almost nothing for the island; all they asked for was volunteers with specialties to help. Nina & I decided to spend the rest of our time in Thailand at Phi Phi & volunteer along with doing other tourist things. One thing they say is that volunteers are great, but even tourists are much appreciated because every dollar helps people get back a little from all they lost.

Even 2 months later not much had been done for the island, but eventually an organization called Hi Phi Phi (Help International Phi Phi –
www.hiphiphi.com) came to the island & started helping out. It was started by people who used to live on the island, saw everything & came back to help. They have worked with other organizations & the local people to do wonders. Now there are so many businesses back open & the island is coming back to life. However, a lot still needs to be done. If you have the desire to help this process please go to the site & make a donation. I have seen this organization up close & volunteered with them. I know that they money goes directly to helping out. No one gets paid they are 100% volunteer; every dollar goes to the Thai community where it is needed. So far Nina & I have been working with dive camp to recover rubbish from the bay by snorkeling. But there are tons of other jobs being done. The majority of the work on the island is done & now it just needs the tourists to come back. One number we got is that tourism is down 90%. I have decided to spend the majority of the rest of my time on the island becoming a PADI Divemaster. This will allow me to spend money in the community where most people lost everything & are trying to get back on their feet. It will also allow me to reach a goal I wanted to attain. Becoming a divemaster will allow me to travel & work while I see the world. Assuming everything goes well & I can pass the program I will be able to work for dive boats around the world. Scuba diving is something I absolutely love, it is a completely different world! I am also probably going to work a job at night while I do this training. That is not 100% set, but I think my next 2 months on Ko Phi Phi will be very busy. After that I will be traveling to Japan for a few weeks on October 1. Past that I am not sure. I would like to return to Thailand to work more as a divemaster or become an instructor, but that is to far for me to plan. The only thing that is holding me up right now is that I originally had a dive shop I was going to do the program with, but changed my mind as they changed from their original promise of how things are going to work.

Right now I am in Phuket for the night. I came here with Nina, she caught the bus back to Bangkok, so we had to say our goodbyes, which was tough.
She traveled with me for 4 weeks & has to go back to Germany to get ready for the new school year. Tomorrow I am going to Burma to get a new 30 day visa for Thailand (you only get 30 days & have to leave the country to refresh it). I am going to try to get back to Phi Phi the tomorrow night of the next day & start my 3 day PADI Rescue Diver program, before getting into the Divemaster program. I am not sure how long that will take, but I have been told that 3 weeks is about as fast as you can do it & slower is better to develop your skills. After that I will try to get a job on a boat in Ko Phi Phi to work before I fly to Japan. Ko Phi Phi is so beautiful & everyone is so nice, it is one of those places you can just spend so long at. If you are looking for a great place to go in Asia you should go here!

I will try to catch everyone up on the rest of my Bali & Thailand trips when I get a chance, but things have been very busy since arriving in Thailand.

Take Care