Oh man, that title sounded ridiculously funny in my head and so I went for it. Sorry I’m not sorry.
Thailand’s Andaman Coast is considered by many to be home to the most beautiful beaches in the world. It is also home to some of the most ridiculously named locations in the world— Phuket (poo – ket), Krabi (crabby), and Ko Phi Phi (koh pee – pee). After spending almost a week relaxing on Ko Phi Phi’s white sand beaches and observing the local wildlife (read: European and Australian frat boys on bros-only trips), I can confidently say that it is the most beautiful island I’ve ever visited.
From the sheer limestone cliffs to the hundreds of fish species that reside in the coral reef off of Long Beach, Ko Phi Phi captured my imagination and my camera shutter. Everywhere I looked there was something new to shoot—colorfully decorated water taxis built like traditional dhows, fire throwers spinning flames just beyond their fingertips, and dudes… SO many dudes. It was disarming how many groups of men had traveled together to Phi Phi in order to party each and every night, small bucket of alcohol in hand. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that they were heading for a sand castle competition, but instead they were heading into an evening of emergency room visits and gifts that keep on giving long past Phi Phi. If I had been 22, I think that I would have gotten myself into some serious trouble. And by trouble, I mean at least one facial tattoo and a story about a guy named Sven that I would brag about to my friends and never mention to my mother. In contrast, however, I danced my face off with Erin and Erin alone (Kiera couldn’t get over the fact that she had taught students older than some of the guys), caught up on sleep lost while traveling across the globe, and experienced the island sans hangover. Overall, a total win.
One night, Kiera and I became curious about the damage done to Ko Phi Phi during the 2004 tsunami. We dug around a bit and learned that nearly every structure on the island was leveled and an estimated 3,000 people lost their lives—a staggering number given that the island played host to approximately 10,000 tourists and locals on the day of the storm. It is hard to believe that such a picturesque and fratastic place could be masking the scars of a relatively recent catastrophe. In addition to providing a reminder to always be aware of the naturally existing risks in each place, it also served as a humbling reminder of how quickly life can change and the value that should be placed on living in the moment. While traveling, I often catch myself dwelling on happenings back home, my plan for next week, and other things outside of the right here and now. I need to place more emphasis on being totally present during each experience, as I may never get to enjoy another trip, another island, or another day. My Papa Max did, however, tell me to always carry a lucky rabbit’s foot, so I should be good-to-go for at least a few more.