Phi Phi Island, Ko Dam the grand playground and a bit of reflection.

With all the holiday celebrations –Ok Chinese New Year is coming up too, so almost all the celebrations past us we headed to the grand playground of Thailand, Phi Phi Island. The island sits about twenty miles east of Phuket and an equal distance from the eastern mainland so accessible from all directions. The island is stunning in its geology and lay of the land, large cliffs pound straight out of the sea and ragged ridges join them. The bay at the south end is the home of the one town and the home of the nuclear sized tourist industry.

We found and ideal anchorage location midway in the bay and dropped the hook as the prolific array of vessels zipped, chugged and bounced by. There is no concern for wakes or bouncing your neighbor here, absolutely none. Timing is everything and we arrived about four, just at the daily migration off the island was subsiding but we still got hit by the wakes of passing boats.

We made it to shore and tied the dink on the jetty surrounded by dive boats and small excursion boats. The jetty was packed with people coming or going off the boats and a chorus of hackers hustling for the various venders.

This is a no vehicle island so the narrow pathway between shops is picturesque. Small shops featuring the usual array of tourist stuff, dive shops and excursion venders lined the walkway. The traffic was chaotic at best as hand carts full of dive gear, restaurant supplies and luggage off the boats pushed by.

As I passed the corner of Dive Shop and Another Dive Shop I heard a familiar voice calling my name as I was greeted by Ellias, the dive guide I dove with in Gillie Air, Indonesia. He invited us up for a chat on their lawn furniture outdoor office. The report that a Whale Shark had been spotted today prompted us to sign up for a dive the next day.

Jess had been pondering her fate and was thinking of jobs in Thailand when she struck up a conversation with the dive shop owner. He gave her several suggestions of people looking to hire help.

We arose early the next day to go for our dive only to find Missy a bit under the weather so she bailed and Jess and I threw our gear on the dive boat and hopped aboard when it pulled up to Furthur, curb side service! No Whale Sharks to be found but the dives were great, turtles, large eels, Lion Fish and a few black tip reef sharks, a first for Jess.

Back on the dive boat I struck up a conversation with one of the other dive instructors, Shari’. She is a refugee from Calgary now living in Thailand, what a contrast. She had just finished teaching a private open water class and I congratulated her student, a young man from Belgium. I laughed as I told him he was lucky to have such an attractive dive instructor, mine had been an old Navy Seal and a hard ass.

That night we hung out with the dive guides and walked around the labyrinth of shops. The sheer numbers of people here is staggering, thousands and thousands with someone trying to sell them something every minute and every step. The competition and the young age of the visitors keep the prices down so we had good meals for two to three dollars each.

Armed with local knowledge and Missy back in the pep, she and I jumped in the dinghy very early the next day and headed to the dive site we had done earlier. I found a good place for the dink between several massive rocks, set the small anchor and dropped in. The rocks made for some interesting configurations under the water and the fish life was pretty good. I was not sure that I had hit the right place to see the sharks so I was very happy to see several swim by. This was a first for her as it had been for Jess the day before—saw shark, check the box.

After the dive we went ashore at the site where they filmed the movie “the Beach” which is now a massively abused tourist location.

the island we dove through. Seeking solitude we headed north to Ko Dam group where we found a quiet anchorage amidst massive rock out crops. The scenery was spectacular. The sun set just over the largest rock formation creating a unique picture. The next day I discovered a cave in the large rock and explored it by kayak and snorkeling. I found a huge cavern with massive high ceiling and amazing rock formations. At the end I could see daylight under the water. Jessi and I donned dive gear and went back. We dove into the cavern and I dropped down the other side only to discover we had made it all the way through the island to the other side. This was an amazing experience.

I have been communicating with Nok, my special Thai friend, regularly. She has found a place in my heart and I miss her terribly. The canyon between our life styles is very deep, as is the custom here, she supports her family and they depend on her. She feels trapped in a life that she is not happy with but she accepts it and makes the best of it. Any change in that life is seen as impossible by her. I also have my lifestyle that I am committed to, by choice not by custom but not flexible none the less. This is the peril of a traveler and it can be hard. I am grateful for the time we spent together and the great memories. I know we will see each other again and stay in touch so we will see what the future will bring.

There is a cost to being a traveler meeting so many wonderful people; you have to leave them at some point. Some stay with you for months, some for hours yet all touch your heart. When the pain of an especially hard farewell hits my heart I have to remember that had I not set sail there would be no such person in my life. It is hard to ignore the “what if’s”, what if I stayed in Niue, Indonesia, Thailand or any other country I have found love in. What if I give up my dream to live someone else’s or what if I convince someone to do the same for me? Neither has much chance of success so I will sail along and see what the next port brings. I have found the cruising world to be a cornucopia of new friends, my crew, other cruisers, other travelers and the locals I have met fill my heart and there is not an unloved moment to my day.