Monday, April 18, 2005

Koh PhiPhi After The Tsunami

April 8, 2005

Koh Phi Phi (pronounced 'Koh-Pee-Pee') really got clobbered by the Tsunami. The port I arrived at is a narrow peninsula between two wider island areas. The wave that came in took out half the peninsula then it swung around and hit it from the other side too.

Here is a view of this peninsula as I arrived. You couldn't see the ocean on the other side before the Tsunami hit. It was full of resorts and palm trees until 9:30 December 26th.

This boat has been abandoned here where it landed on the rocks next to the walkway and restaurants nearby.

I walked to the other side of the peninsula where the Tsunami had hit.
When I stood on this beach, my spine shivered as I thought of so many people who died right where I was standing and I felt the ghosts all around me on this beach. The man pointing behind me is recounting the story of that day to other people who have come to look.

It's 5pm and I sit down on a plastic deck chair looking out over the devastated beach. Four men are nearby with a booth showing before and after pictures of the resorts that no longer exist here. They sell soft drinks and I am the only customer.

They smile and treat me like an honored guest as I sip my coke and look out at the water. This is one of my hosts standing where he had seen the devastation first hand.

This is a billboard of before and after pictures to show the resorts that once existed on this beach.

A few feet ahead of me, the beach drops down suddenly by five feet where the Tsunami ripped the beach from the ocean. In it's place there is only mud and rock remaining for a hundred metres.

Dead beach all the way out until you see the waves moving again.

A Thai man walks past my table and puts down his bag while he rolls up his pant legs. I look in the bag and see a framed family portrait. He picks up the bag and is joined by two young boys; his sons I presume. They walk solemnly way out to the end of the torn up beach and I see them plant the picture in the mud and then they crouch down by it for close to an hour. Then I notice similar portraits laying out in the same beach, far out from me.

I stand up and am just about to head out to look for myself when two cats materialize by my chair.

They start meowing and standing up on their hind legs until I sit back down. Then they both lie down on either side of me and go to sleep. I feel the ghosts on this beach and I think of the intuition of the cats. I think of cats as being very intuitive creatures; familiars who help to balance out the ghostly scenes like this one.

This tree has been made into a Buddhist Shrine and the wrapping of silk around the base tells the people here that a Spirit lives in this tree and that it is not to be disturbed.

There were very few tourists on the Island; perhaps a hundred or so. This is a Frenchman I met. I think his name is Yvon. He is a 60 year old retired Fireman. He has travelled all over Asia and was in Indonesia when the Tsunami struck. He spoke no English and I had to use everything I learned in High school French to talk with him. Even in a disaster, the French still can find the best restaurants in any town. Merci Monsieur!

This is Alan? from Calgary Alberta. He watched 'The Beach' next to me in the cafe that you saw Yvon sitting at. Alan decided to help out with the reconstruction work here in Phi Phi for a few days. At this point, the Island is fully functional as far as all the basics are concerned. The main work now is the reconstruction of the resorts.

Jack and his friend both saw many of their family die on the day of the Tsunami. Right next door, I had a massage from a woman who owns her own shop. She told me she was given no money to repair and rebuilt but she said that the Farangs were incredibly generous. They helped her repaint and clean out the debris and even bought her new massage beds with money right out of their own pockets. To be accurate, I didn't poll very many people here. This island felt like the scene of a giant Wake. It was like a celebration going on at a funeral. Everyone was so friendly and yet everyone was having nightmares and thinking that this could happen again tonight. The woman on the massage bed next to mine said she was scuba diving at the moment the Wave came in. She says she was saved because she was under water at the time. I didn't take pictures of these people for the most part because I just didn't have the heart for it. I just wanted to leave. That night there was a tremendous Thunder and Lightning storm; the perfect ending to a night of so many ghosts. I left the next morning for Krabi.

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