E-mail Update - 2005-10-27

#1 - Friends and the Island

Hey Everyone,

In the last e-mail update I focused more on the diving on Koh Phi Phi island. In this e-mail I am going to talk more about living there & friends.

The first thing to realize about Phi Phi is that it has no roads & no large vehicles. There are a few motorcycles with side cars that they use to transport things, but that is it. So you walk everywhere. That is unless you are there for a long time & decided that you needed to invest in a bicycle, like some people I know did. The lack of cars alone starts to give you a sense of how chilled out it is on the island.

Basically you can walk to everything in 30 minutes & from where I lived I could walk to anything in about 20 minutes. My walk to work & into town (same place) was 5-10 minutes. Although there is no real town center, there is Ton Sai which is next to the pier & is what most people consider town. The place I lived at was called Rimna Villa. It normally cost 300 baht per night, which is what I paid when I first got there with Nina.
However, once I came back to stay long term as a Divemaster I got a deal so that it cost me 200 baht per night ($5 USD). For that you get a bed, fan & sit toilet which you use a bucket of water to flush. The sit toilet was a luxury. There had been several places in Thailand where I did not have this. The room also included toilet paper, which was unusual for a room in Thailand. In Thailand you do not put the paper in the toilet, instead you put it in a bin next to the toilet. I think it is because everything just goes straight into the ground (no real septic). That took a little work to get used to :) My room also had a balcony & wooden bench which was nice to chill out on sometimes. The only real bad part was that the walk there was on boards which felt like they may collapse at any moment. Even though they never did break I felt like I was on a trampoline walking to my room. The nice thing was that he kept me in one of the “nice” room which required me to walk less than 10 seconds on these boards ;) The manager of Rimna speaks the best English of anyone I met in Thailand so that was nice to have because it was easy to ask for things.
He even showed Nina & I a trick for turning a negative questions into a positive. We had asked about getting a discount since we stayed there for several days (something which is common in Thailand) & he said no but gave us information for some walks that were really nice to do in the area. We walked away happy with the information, until it hit us that he had basically just put us off in a really smooth way. Quite the cool trick :)

Phi Phi as a town has most of the things you really need. There are a lot of things that would be very nice to have such as a post office or ability to send mail, a real grocery store & a night market where you could get cheap food. It does have Internet, mini-marts, travel agencies & even a cell phone shop, so basic needs were met.

Phi Phi also has the 2 best restaurants that I went to in Thailand. The first one is Cosmic which does amazing pasta & the best pizza in Thailand. The other is Papaya which is the best Thai food in Thailand (with the biggest portions as well). The only bad thing is that they are expensive compared how much I had been paying to eat. For breakfast I would almost always have an egg sandwich from a food vendor on the way to work. For lunch it was usually either the lunch on the boat which was rice & chicken. If I was not on the boat it was usually either a chicken sandwich or something quick from the bakery like eggs & toast. It is not that there wasn’t more options, but they were more expensive than my poor Divemaster budget could afford :) I would usually catch a mango shake at some point in the day as well, the shakes on Phi Phi are sweet & cheap, like 30 baht (75 cents US)!

The Thai people who live in Thailand are among the friendliest anywhere.
I think one difference is that they have been helped so much by the backpackers when their island really needed it. The people who travel one week a year & spend load of money still have not come back because they are afraid of seeing an island that is not perfect. The backpacker volunteers came in when the streets were still full of rubbish & stinky.
They helped to clear everything & open businesses one by one. There is still volunteering going on even though it is for only a few projects now. Basically the main project is the beach clean-up & Dive Camp. Beach cleanup is when the tide is out that the volunteers will walk out & pick up rubbish that was in the water. The Dive Camp which is what I volunteered for when I got to Phi Phi with Nina & did in the last few days before I left for Japan. The first time I did it as a snorkeler. The second time I was a diver which was nice because I got to apply what I have learned & because I did not have to constantly surface, which allowed me to get more done. It is physically easier than doing the snorkeling.
Either way it was always a good feeling to look at all the stuff we would pull out of the water at the end of the day. You know that you did something to help out. I think there will be rubbish coming into the beach for years to come, but by trying to keep it managed we can prevent build up & eventually get most all of it back out. The beach cleanup continues to this day, 2 of my best friends from Phi Phi are coordinating it.

Talking about volunteering leads right into the next topic, which is the people I hung out with in Phi Phi. There were basically 2 groups that you were if you stayed more than 1 week. The first is the divers. However, the second group was the volunteers which I was part of especially during the last few weeks I was in Phi Phi before going to Japan.

When I started at Visa Diving doing my DMT I made friends in several other dive shops that I would hang out with. However, by the time I finished & started at Barakuda I found that I spent most of my time with Paula, Nick & Jason from Visa diving, they were my best diving friends on the island.
I also hung out with Ai my instructor, who moved to Aquanauts at the same time I left Visa, & her co-worked Bassy. Even being at a different shop I have still felt like part of Visa, which is cool.

When Nina & I volunteered at first I got to know a few of the long term volunteers like Matt & Marge. When Tash & Grant my friends from England came to Phi Phi they volunteered & started hanging out with the volunteers. Since I spent a lot of time with them I got to know the volunteers quite well & spent a lot of time with them especially during the last 10+ days before I left for Japan. There was an event called Bucket corner which has special significance. Basically bucket corner is where they mix Sang Som with shakes to make “buckets” of alcohol. It makes for an interesting night, let me tell you ;) At the last bucket corner I was able to get my own shake “The Snickers Shake” introduced into the rotation. Basically it is a mix of peanut butter, chocolate, banana & ice which was then mixed with the Sang Som. It had an approval rating of over 90% & was described by many people as the best shake ever at bucket corner. I can not however, take credit for the name :) It really did taste great & my name was on the line while the extensive taste testing went on, so it was quite a nerve racking process!

The last week I was in Phi Phi was a sad & stressful, but exciting one. I was excited to go to Japan, but sad to be leaving all of my friends, several of whom I knew I would not be seeing again soon. I also spent a lot of time trying to get things ready for the trip & getting things in line for my IDC (Instructor Development Course). That meant trying to borrow materials that I needed, finding out information & scheduling everything. I would like to say thanks to everyone who lent me think for the IDC (Jason & Ed from Visa, & Terry & Dennis from Barakuda). Also a HUGE thanks to Ed for returning his entire 30% discount for the IDC, that was great of him. It saved me hundreds of dollars, so that was very cool of him. I also left some stuff with Nick in his room in Phi Phi, because you accumulate things when you stay in one spot for more than a month. I ordered equipment at a big discount through Steve the owner at Barakuda.
It was really cool of him to help me out, because I had the equipment waiting for me in Phi Phi when I got back to do my IDC. I needed a BCD, Console (with SPG, Depth Gauge & Compass) Mask, Snorkel, Dive Knife/Sheath, & Wrist Slate, so I had quite a bit equipment to buy. I had a very stressful week because it was very slow & the diving was not that great for the first part of it. Plus I did not really sell anything so I was making no money, which is never good. At one point about 3 days before I was to leave Phi Phi I was actually quite happy about it.
However, the next day brought me back to the things I love, which were the friends, diving & the local people. Sometimes you can find the negative in the most positive situations, without even trying! I think it is always easy to fall into a routine or look at the negatives. Positive people are able to put things back into prospective & look at the things that are right.

The night I left was ok, but difficult, I hate saying goodbye to people I know. There were not that many people at the meal, but most of the people I hang out ate with the other 4 people who were leaving because they are not divers & just eat earlier than we do (because we don't get done from work until 9pm). Nick from Visa showed up as did 2 of the volunteers who waited to eat with me. There were also a bunch of Nick's friends from home there. There were a bunch of other people who passed by who had ate earlier but stopped in to chat. After supper I went out with the volunteers (5 of the 7 of us were leaving). I had to be very careful so as not to drink very much since I needed to get up early to make the ferry at 9am. I did well even though I stayed out late, by not drinking much at all. I was able to get up early & get everything I needed done & still make the ferry.

Ok the next message will talk more about the trip to Bangkok & the future,…promise :)

Love & Peace