There were only two people on the ferry's roof before me, and while I wouldn't have guessed it at the time, they were to be the fun company I'd keep through the end of my second month in Thailand.
I sat down under one of only two spots of small shade, and was asked where I was from by one of them. The never-fail travel icebreaker set off a casual conversation that lasted much of the hour and a half ferry ride from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Don. As we cruised along under the intense tropical sun, passing beautiful islands set in blue waters, I got to know Josiane and Katharine from Quebec, Canada. They were on a 6-week trip which began in Malaysia where they placed 6th in their class at the world championships of dragon boat racing. Josie was a sport nutritionist who worked with athletes, including Olympians competing in Beijing as we spoke. Katharine was a social worker. As a reminder, I'm in my 9th month of unemployment.
The girls were headed to Long Beach, a short longboat ride from main pier on Koh Phi Phi. Far less developed than the isthmus of the island, it offers perfect views of Koh Phi Phi Leh (the island featured in The Beach movie). I'd wanted to arrive on a beach by longboat since Koh Phangan, so I decided to join them. Besides, Long Beach looked like paradise from the ferry, whereas I could only see a congested bay from the main pier.
We set aground on the beach, booked rustic bamboo bungalows, and explored our surroundings. I went for a swim, only to find a lot of rocks. The view of Koh Phi Phi Leh was perfect though. This must have been the beach from which they shot movie scenes as the characters contemplated their swim to the secret island.
We enjoyed a great dinner on the beach at sunset.
I was blown away by the amazing sunset that first night. I was taken aback by the images I saw on my camera. I can guarantee the sky was not on fire as it appears in the photo above.
Meanwhile, the view of sunset over Phi Phi Leh was slightly less dramatic. The girls found the bungalows a little too basic, and given there was nothing to do at night, we decided to take a longboat to Koh Phi Phi Leh for an island tour in the morning, and get dropped off at the main pier to seek a more sociable scene.
The fact that a roach crawled up my stomach in the middle of the night only served to reinforce my worst nightmares, and the need for some concrete walls.