A World Apart (Phi Phi)

The sunlight is dazzling.  White sand glare and turquoise water sparkles chase my gaze into the shadows.   A curious ginger cat is sniffing at my fingers.  Leaping onto the bisected tree trunk which serves as my bench he mews in greeting and climbs into my lap.  Momo (what’s the Thai for maitre d’?) pads barefoot across the restaurant bearing coffee and fresh fruit (“Smoothies not possible now.  No power until this evening.  Same every day.”) as the gentle swell strokes the shoreline.

Our ramshackle bamboo bungalow’s door opens onto the water where a sprawling tree trails its fingers along the surface.  Ten metres off-shore the reef teams with life, an underground metropolis of soft coral, fans and giant clams.  Clown fish skitter between anemones.  Parrotfish dart from shoal to shoal. Groupers pout at passers-by and angelfish float with along the current.  Come evening, the generators hum beneath the murmur of the tide and the rising water swallows the graceful arc of sand turning rope swings into buoys.

Days pass in a haze of hammocks and snorkels, lazy lunches and impromptu evening volleyball games.  At sunset we dive into the retreating tide, laying in the sand, water lapping at our shoulders, while the sun sinks behind the horizon and turns the water, the sky, the air, our skins, the deep and glowing pink of a Homer epic or a love song.  As the darkness gathers, we sit, feet in the sea, elbows on the table, bellies full of fresh grilled whole fish, tracing the condensation on our beer bottles.  The multicoloured lights dissipate into the darkness.  Sharing stories with new-old friends our laughing voices sink into the sea, expand into the stars.  The moonlight bounces off our broad toothed grins and turns smiling back towards home.

On the other side of the island, town throbs with four-to-the-floor bass punctuated by explosions of shrieks as twenties tweens tumble out of paint by numbers pubs and stumble along the uneven alleys.  The crowds bray and sway as fire dancers spin into the night and the music hammers on propelling the carnival fervor to its daily interminable inevitable ruin.

In our private paradise,  (over the hill, past the lookout, through the jungle) on the other side of the island, we are a world away.




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