Applying World Understanding to Ko Phi Phi

First: my wife is good at this.

Second: One time when I’d had a few drinks and was out for Page’s birthday, I tipsily drew a line between people who appreciate the finer things about other cultures and those who don’t, and called it “World Understanding.” About ten seconds later, I realized it was the most pretentious thing I have ever said. So, to be clear, in this post (and in all future posts) I am the Supreme World Understander.

Third: what to say about Ko Phi Phi? After five days, no one thing stands out. It is tremendously beautiful. It feels fairly remote, though in truth there’s a fair amount of facilities. The central town area on the other side of the island (a orange-skinned, white-dreadlocked hell of desperate pheromones ice-blended with acute capitalism) is maybe six blocks in total size, and presumably has most things you need. But the town feels far away.

It is an island, and in the old sense: there’s no cars, no roads, and everything is via water taxi. In the area we were in, a more remote northern section of the island that’s unconnected to the rest, our stretch of beach had perhaps five little hotels, and maybe three or four shack-like local businesses, including a small outdoor restaurant and bar. The feeling is sea shanty, and in a nice way: casual, friendly, away from things. It reminded me of Isla Holbox.

The water (as Page has mentioned) is a bathtub.

It’s hot. I mean, really hot. The hottest I’ve ever experienced. And I’ve been in Hong Kong on what I was told was the hottest day of the year, and I grew up in a place that regularly hit 110 degrees F. It was so hot that if you stay in the shade on the beach, and you thoughtfully get in the water to cool down every 30 minutes, by 1 or 2 PM you still seriously consider, then wisely decide to go inside for an afternoon siesta / internet research sojourn. With all that said, though, I still enjoyed the heat. It was just mildly uncomfortable enough to make me constantly appreciate the fact that I was on vacation.

But all of this probably doesn’t do justice to how beautiful the area is. The water, sky, and horizon switch between light azure and emerald as the day goes on. The cedar smell of the teak longtail boats, with colorful flower garlands on the prow, pointing between top-heavy, surreal limestone karsts. It is nice, man.

Perhaps my favorite part of Ko Phi Phi was the remote beach of La Na Bay. Our helpful hotel-non-Thai-person-who-pointedly-makes-friends-with-you-because-this-is-a-high-service-sort-of-place told us there was a hidden cinderblock path along the ridge of the island, cutting through the jungle, that would let us walk to a beautiful secluded beach. The next day, we packed a day-satchel and dutifully checked it out. When we finally got there, we emerged on a huge, crescent bay, and there was not a soul there. The water was even stiller, even more bathtub-like than the other side of the island (how is this possible?), and we had a whole bay the size of a small city completely to ourselves. I floated in the middle of the water for a long time, my eyes fixed on the horizon between the two arms of the bay’s crescent, the water flat as a pale blue sheet. That was the first time on the trip that I felt madd relaxed.