Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Koh Phi Phi

As I cross the plank to the ferry from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi island, I realize, “Getting on a boat to the islands of Thailand should be a lifelong dream come true.  Instead, it’s just another day.  This is how absurd my life has become.”

Although, as a huge fan of taking pictures of Asians taking ridiculous pictures, this ride might turn out to be a lifelong dream come true.

I sat during the entire ride on the front of the boat with my feet dangling over the edge singing futbol songs with drunken Spaniards, sharing a wink and a giggle with the old man sitting next to me who didn’t speak a word of English, and squealing with glee every time a wave crashed over us.

“You’re like a little boy.”

“Yes.  Yes I am.”

This stop was a bit of a Tale of Two Islands.  The first four days were extremely quiet and we had a chance to explore the area and really enjoy the fantastic scenery.  On day five, the 18-to-22 year old party crowd started streaming off the boats fresh from the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan, half of them sporting broken bones or fire burns.  All of them wasted and hungry for more.  Suddenly, our quiet evening walks on a half-empty beach were completely consumed by overdriven bass, fire shows, body paint and buckets of Sang Som.  Damn kids!  Get off my lawn!  (Shit, maybe I really am getting old.)

But Koh Phi Phi really is a stunning place, my first chance to see the incredible geology of these islands.  Somehow, it all seems unreal, beyond description.  It is one of those places where you have seen the pictures a thousand times, but when you actually see it with your own eyes, your brain still tries to tell you that it can’t be real.

It is, however, strangely saturated in Hello Kitty bicycles.  On an island where the flat and easily traversable part can be covered in about 7 minutes on foot, there were hundreds of bicycles and 80% of them were pink with little white kitties.  The only explanation I could come up with is that they were part of a post-tsunami humanitarian aid package from the ever-thoughtful Japanese.

My friend Orly had to return to (gasp!!) work after joining me on the road for a couple of weeks, so we went out for an amazing massage and a nice dinner on the beach for her last night on the island.  The massage was so amazing, in fact, that I went back to see the same scraggly-toothed old woman the next day for another.

“Mistah, where you lady friend?”

“Oh, she had to go back to Israel today.”

“Mmmmm.  Good good!!  You want ficky ficky?  I so horny!!!”

“Err…ummmm…gahhhhh…maybe later?”

There’s always a cue for me to leave a place and move on, although I can never really know what it will be.  This one was pretty obvious.


In December of 2004, a 9.2 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused a tsunami wave that came from both sides of the beautiful hourglass bays, 10 feet high on one side and 18 feet on the other.  Four thousand people died on the island that day and 70% of the buildings were destroyed.  Although the island has been rebuilt, it feels like many of the locals and much of the peace and quaintness of the place were washed away with the storm.  Koh Phi Phi is geologically fascinating, but somehow I felt it was lacking in soul.

Speaking of storms, I’ve been monitoring the flooding situation in Bangkok daily because I have friends and family coming to visit very soon.  If the situation on the ground weren’t bad enough, the government seems to be doing everything they can to make it worse.  One day they strongly deny that any part of inner Bangkok will flood, and the next day they order evacuations of vast sections of the city.  They set up emergency response operations at Don Muang airport and two days later it was under water.  The governor of Bangkok and the new (and very young) prime minister seem to spend more time pointing fingers at each other in the media than working together to solve the problem.  Yesterday, the governor claimed that if the national government would not provide the pumps the city was requesting, that they would throw out the national flood management plan and implement one of their own.

To make things even better, there are hundreds — if not thousands, no one knows for sure – of crocodiles that have escaped from various reserves and parks on the outskirts of the city that are now roaming the streets of inner Bangkok.  (I hear they love ladyboys.)  There was also a report yesterday that 15-20 black mambo snakes are on the loose from an exotic animal preserve in the north part of the city.  If you’re only worried about human waste, dengue fever, and leptospirosis, I’d suggest you think again.

And, it would seem, the worst is yet to come as more crops are lost, more jobs are lost, and disease begins to spread in the stagnant water.  There are already shortages of water, electricity and food, and the economy is taking a beating because of shuttered factories and a huge drop in tourism dollars right at the beginning of what is normally peak season.  As I write this, all of the highways south from Bangkok are cut off by water and the only way to get there is by plane.

Well versed in “disaster capitalism” myself, I have decided to start hoarding Chang beer in case supply lines are cut and then I can mark it up 500% and sell it to thirsty tourists.  After 18 months on the road, the bank account is starting to look a little grim, so I have to come up with something.

One Response to “Koh Phi Phi”

  1. Rick Tousley says:

    Incredible pictures, Casey!
    Holy crap, the color of the water is amazing. Electric jello.
    I’m blessed to know you buddy. Enjoy!

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