Monday, February 25, 2008

Getting to know Phi Phi Island

I know that some of you will think the pictures I'm going to show you over the course of the next few days are soooo beautiful and stunning that you must go there for yourself. Where is this island paradise, you may ask. Let me show you.

While the Phi Phi Islands are not marked on this map, they would be in Southern Thailand right between the red dots for Phuket and Krabi. You can see that just below Thailand is Malaysia. The island my sister and her family live on is just underneath where this map ends. Ok, got your bearings? On we go.

Phi Phi Island - Aerial View - Before Tsunami

This first aerial view is very small, but I wanted to show you the whole island. It's not very big at all. We were there for 6 days, and I only saw the strip of sand (an isthmus, if you will) that connects the two mountainous regions (or two long, tall limestone ridges as Wikipedia calls them). There are no motor vehicles on the island. You get around by foot and some of the locals have pedal bikes.

These pictures show how narrow this piece of land is, yet somehow, there are umpteen amounts of shops, restaurants, hotels, scuba/snorkeling outfits, Internet cafes etc on this strip of land.

I believe this picture above was taken before the tsunami. The strip was still lush with vegetation at the time. As far as I have heard/read/been told, the tsunami came from both sides. From the right it was 10 feet high and from the left it was 18 feet high. Wikipedia states that the total number of fatalities is unlikely to be known, however, local tour guides cite the figure of 4,000. Very sad. I would never have known that there had been such destruction there only a few short years ago. I am happy that they have been able to rebuild and survive such tragedy. Although I did think about it while I was there, I never felt afraid for my life. There were signs posted for tsunami evacuation and I think now that the signs of a tsunami are more widely known, people would be able to reach safety faster and actually know that they would need to head for higher ground.

We arrived at around 3:00 pm and settled into our hotel. After changing and soaking it in, we headed off for supper. Like I mentioned before, there are many choices of restaurants on the island. We ended up eating at this Italian restaurant many times. They had great pizza. The owner was a gentleman from France who said he had travelled there 20 years ago and never left. He married a Thai woman and was awaiting his first grandchild any day. Don't you love hearing people's stories?

While at the restaurant we saw our first gecko (or chee-chuk as Sydney called it). Isn't he cute?

We also experienced our first gorgeous sunset of the week.

The island is jam packed with alley ways full of shopping kiosks, Internet cafes, hotels (as I mentioned before) and, oh yeah, 7-Eleven. 7-Eleven in Asia is like Starbucks in North America. Pretty much on every street corner (even on remote islands).

The next morning, we hit the beach. If you go back up to the aerial pictures of the island, you arrive by ferry on the south (or left hand side on the last 3 pictures) side, but the sun tanning is done on the north (or right hand) side. Are you ready to see beauty?

The tide is out so far in the morning that you can walk and walk and walk out into the bay. I don't even know how far you can walk because I turned around and came back and the water was only waist deep. For those of you who know, I have a bit of a fear of water, so that was really good for me to walk out that far. There's fish in them there parts, don't cha know?

Here's my sister's clan going for a walk. Even Jackson can still stand and it's only up to his mid-chest.

Doesn't every little kid want to be completely covered by sand? Here we go!

Hey Jack! How you doing? Only the arms to go!

Thanks Dad!

As much as I love the beach, I don't love having sand in every crevice of my body. He did not care one little bit. I love the feeling between my toes, but not between my ... well, you get the picture.

My sister and her family have been here a few times before, but more during low season. Jode said this was 10 times the amount of people that they had ever seen here before. I didn't care. I was just happy to be there (but a good mental note for next time.) :)

We rented 2 chairs each day (I think they were like $2 a day or something). Sydney LOVES to read. No, read that again. I've never met a kid who LOOOOOVES to read as much as her. She was reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy when she was like, 12 or something. I love to read as well, but I only read those when the movies came out ... I was in my late 20s and some of it was over my head. Craig loves to read as well, so they often read the same book and then talk about it afterwards. Pretty cool.

Jode bought a hat right off the bat to protect the pink hair. :)

As much as I wanted to lay in the sun all day, I was good and took a break so that I wouldn't be burnt too badly on the first day. Have you ever done that? Kinda wrecks the rest of your vacation. I've learned to take it slowly. That way I actually get a better tan and it'll last longer. Only took me 35 years to figure that out ... no, I learned that about 10 years ago when I went on my Indonesia/Australia trip. Worked like a charm.

We invested in some paddles and balls to keep us entertained, but most of all we just lazed around and did a lot of nothing. It was WONDERFUL!

This last shot was the best shot I think I got of the beach. It captures Ashtyn doing what she did best ... drinking a "shake," floating in the water and people watching. It also shows the beautiful clear water (isn't that stunning?), shows that the water isn't too crowded with people and just brings me a sense of calm and peace that comes with relaxing.

Let's say it together ... aaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Forget Disneyland ... this is the happiest place on earth!

First, I'll address some of the comments on my last post. Sonya asked if it was weird to be pretty much the minority (especially when we were in line up to cross the border). The answer is yes, it is weird, but in a good way. I love experiencing new cultures ... yes, I have a problem experiencing their cuisine and a lot of people can't understand how I survive, but somehow I do. I think the things I see, get to do and the people I meet out weight the food issue for me. I love pretty much every aspect of travel. Nancy also said that it looks like a culture shock experience, but fun at the same time. Again, I love it. I love seeing how other cultures do things and yes, some of them seem "weird," but I've learned that it's not weird, it's different.

As you can kind of see in the picture below, many backpackers are making their way to Phi Phi Island. As you get onto the boat, they grab your bags from you and start piling them up in a huge pile in the center of the deck on the boat. Sydney and I are leaning up against them here. Phi Phi Island attracts people from all over the world, but from what I could see, they were mostly backpackers.

The scenery on the hour and a half "cruise" was amazing.

It was such a relaxing ride. I watched the ocean for any sign of dolphins, seals or what not, but I only saw a few fish jumping. It was still beautiful. Jodi and Ashtyn sat inside as Jode has some anxiety when watching Jackson sit like this with his feet over the side. I didn't think of it until he was walking around trying to step over people who were laying on the deck. Watching him walk like a drunken sailor (the boat wasn't rocking too bad, but enough to make it a little uneasy for a 7 year old to walk), I could see why she didn't like to watch him.

The water was like glass. Someone totally could've been waterskiiing behind out wake.

It was fun to sit in the sun and just chat with Syd. I couldn't tell you now anything significant we chatted about, but it was just cool to chill and spend time with her (ok, we did check out some cute guys on the boat, but she's 15. What kind of Aunt would I be if I didn't do that with her?)

The fishing boats were beautiful.

My heart did skip a beat when I looked into the cabin where the captain was steering the boat and I saw 2 Thai men sleeping on the floor. I then saw someone sitting in the chair to the right of them. He was watching where we were going. Phewf!
My first sites of Phi Phi Island. The clump of rocks in the first 2 pictures below is called Shark Point. These will come into play when I do my snorkeling post.

I don't know if you can tell, but I really liked this boat. It looked so huge as we sailed into port and as we got closer and closer, I had to take a few pictures.

Here I come, Phi Phi Island!!! Our hotel was the roof you can see just to the left of the tall building in the picture below.

What a wonderful week we had ahead of us.
To be continued ...

Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Dec. 27, we headed out on a road trip to Thailand. I know that these are typical road trip pictures, but they were so cute that I had to add them. This is about 3 hours into our 7 1/2 hour drive. Do you notice that it looks like Jodi should be driving, but really it's Craig driving (you can see the glove compartment in front of Jode). Also, if you look closely, you can see that the other side of the freeway is on our right, not our left as it would normally be in Canada.

This is what we saw when we got to the Thailand border. Looks like chaos and it kind of is, but everyone has to get out of their vehicles and walk across. It was quite hot, so we hoped we wouldn't have to wait too long. While we waited we watched the monkeys climbing the rafters above us.

A couple of the monkeys starting doing something nasty (ok, it's nature and beautiful?) and I said something like, "Oh, oh. Those monkeys are fighting, " to which Jackson replied, "No, he's just giving her a back rub." Out of the mouths of children, hey? :)

It only took us about 30 minutes to cross through the line up, which I was really surprised at.

Then we had to wait for Craig to go through a different line to get the papers filled out to get the car across and we were on our way again.

We needed to get to the town of Krabi to catch a ferry over to Phi Phi Island (unfortunately, pronounced Pee Pee). You can imagine how a 7 year old boy is when you talk about going from Crappy (Krabi) to Pee Pee. Good times. :)

One of Thailand's ways to make a living is by "growing" rubber. There are rubber trees that grow and when you pull away the bark, there's this sticky substance that can be used to make rubber, like the rubber in latex gloves. This is rubber in the back of this truck, so I like to call it my "where the rubber hits the road" picture. Ok, collective groan. (on a side note, does anyone know how to blur out the license plate on this picture?)
Here we are patiently waiting for our ride to the ferry. Do you notice that these girls are wearing jeans? JEANS, PEOPLE! It's hooooooooot outside. At least they have flip flops on unlike their mother who wears socks and shoes a lot of the time. :) Ha ha, I'm just bugging them. I can't even imagine living there long enough to get used to the heat that much. I had a sweat going on pretty much all of the time, but I loved it.

Finally our ride came to pick us up and take us to the ferry. Yes, Craig is hanging off the back fo the truck. They will fill a vehicle until it's overflowing. Just when you think, "oh shoot. sorry, no more room" they will find some.

Walking the line to the ferry. I had no idea what to expect, but since I had been to Phuket before (just north of Phi Phi Island) and it was beautiful, I was pretty excited to get there.

As I mentioned at the beginning, we were travelling on Dec. 27. One day after the anniversary of the tsunami. It's very hard to believe that only 3 years ago there was turmoil and tradegy going on here. Very sad.

I'll leave you with this one picture of us on the ferry waiting to set sail. What I was about to see would stun and awe me and continue to drive my thirst for travel.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Day was a lot of fun. We woke up around 8:00 am and all filed into the living room at various intervals. The kids were very patient as they always recreate the Christmas story with the nativity set they have. I don't have any pictures of it because I was video taping it. It was quite funny, but too long to post here.

Jode asked me to take pictures because they are usually all opening presents and forget to take pictures, so I did ... and I did ... and I did. There were a lot of presents to open.
Hugs all around. My favorite part was actually watching the child who was giving the gift because they looked so nervous and anxious and wanted to person who was receiving the gift to like it SOOOO bad. I think it's a great lesson to learn that giving a gift can be a great feeling too.

There were seriously so many gifts that I can't even tell you about them all. Lots of jewellery for the ladies, books for the kids, scrap booking things for Ashtyn, clothes for Craig, Lego for Jack, and old Christmas movies (remember Rudolf, Santa Claus is coming to Town and Frosty the Snowman?).

After the gifts were opened we started putting them to good use. Here's Ashtyn using her Sketching supplies ...

and Jackson putting together one of his Lego pieces (this boy even sweats playing with Lego!)

and Craig started working on the Christmas dinner. Ok, Jode helped some, too, but Craig did most of it (right, Jode?). He bbq'd the turkey and made 3 different kinds of stuffing (Stove Top, homemade stuff from scratch and vegetarian).

While we waited for dinner to be ready and our guests to arrive, Ashtyn sauntered over to me and asked me to massage her feet. Well, that got the ball rolling and soon it was Jackson's turn and then he surprised me and even gave ME a massage.

Because living overseas means that a lot of people are away from home over Christmas, there were many people to celebrate with. Some of these people are from the States, some are from Edmonton and some are from Holland. It was a great time of fellowship and eating.