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Amber Paulen

Island Hopping

Sun-warmed and sanded, white sand to flaxen, cerulean seas in ripples or crested ribbons. Lately, it has been one liquid expanse traded for one other: beaches and beaches for as far as the eye can see. And in case you were wondering, this is certainly not me complaining.

On Phuket Island I had the pleasure of riding behind Simon’s masterful motorbike driving. We stole through Patong during the heat of high-noon, through scattered sun beds, jet skis and hotel high-rises to more southernly sands, where I found that Phuket doesn’t have to be what it’s generally known for. My greater impression was probably thus formed for our stay in Phuket Town was more fruitful of Thais than tourists.

Contrary was Ko Phi Phi, where tourists had staged a perpetual invasion. Herded onto the boat then herded back off again, swiftly led through the labyrinth of shops, bars, restaurants, tour agencies, tattoo parlors, bars and shops then lost when we had to find our way back out again. On Ko Phi Phi the limestone cliffs are incredible, the color of the water unnamable and the whiteness of the sand only surpassed by its fineness. Yet, as if in defiance of sheer beauty it’s overrun by bucket-bingeing partygoers.

Yet, I was one among them, and it’s apparent why they go—but still, I was left with the very heady feeling that tourism is just another colonization. It can’t be denied that money supports families and that Thailand has a decent economy, but like all beauties overrun, there is a high price of spoil.

No matter, on Ko Phi Phi we peered underwater at a world which seems to continue impervious to our degeneration. Underwater fishes feed off bright spirals, slink into black crevices, dart around bubbling burnt terra-cotta; underwater, the fishes come in all colors, with flashes of yellow stripes, black speckled polka dots and blue-red-orange iridescence; underwater it’s fins, gills and guppy mouths and just for a little extra adrenaline, the occasional stealth shark.

Good news! We’re going snorkeling again soon, now off of Ko Lanta the long where we’ve been lately passing the time. I can’t say that I’m a converted enthusiast, but with eagerness I await finding what a little less nervousness and a little more patience might spy. Until next time…


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