Phi Phi Don was my first island. It felt as my life had somehow started afresh back there, even though I wasn’t aware of it at the time.
It was 2010. We were on holidays in Phuket and it was my first Asian trip. I didn’t know much about that part of the world but I was pretty sure it should be something very special. Having too many expectations doesn’t work well for me so when we arrived in Phuket I didn’t find the Thailand full of culture that I was hoping for. It was simply not interesting for me: grey sky, nothing from asian buildings, dirty streets and strange Bangla Road ladyboys at night. I had enough of it pretty much straight away so my best friend and I decided to go to Koh Phi Phi Don island for two days to check out something different. Of course we weren’t expecting to find many cultural sights on a small tropical island, but we were at least hoping for a piece of secluded paradise. And Koh Phi Phi Don was exactly what we wanted.
A beautiful beach with only a handful of people on it, white sand and majestic views of small idyllic islands scattered in the ocean. And yet it was perhaps even more than paradise. Just picture this: laying on a warm beach, staring at the beautiful surroundings with Bob Marley songs playing from a hip beach bar behind us and forgetting about any problems we might have before. Yes it was paradise! It was perfect and nothing could be any better that time.
At sunset the beach started to fill with people and so we moved to a coastal cafe to continue our conversation about how good our lives are at that moment. Handsome young Thai performers enacted a fireshow which seemed to fit the atmosphere so well. The music became louder and louder and the crowd became livelier with every song. It was like a dream. We were dancing on warm sand, sea water the temperature of a warm bath kissed our feet and all the stars of the heavens were above us. It was truly magic.
Though the next day we were soon back to reality when we experienced a rough storm whilst at sea. We were in a small wooden boat with a friendly Thai captain who managed to keep a smile on his face during almost all of the whole sailing experience. However when fog suddenly covered everything around us, rain started to fall and big waves started to appear, his smile disappeared and soon turned into fear in his eyes. I looked at my friend and realised it was a very bad sign for us. The boat started to swing on waves and we couldn’t see anything around although Phi Phi Don beach and a few islands were not so far away.
With cold rain and a fear that our boat could possibly sink made my body shake and tremble. Even life jackets and a wet towel on my shoulders didn’t make me feel any better. I’ve never been that scared and cold in my life. Eventually our thai super captain’s smile returned as he brought us to our destination of Bamboo Island. He pointed us towards a restaurant where we could wait until the storm finished. We were looking forward to dry our clothes and towels a little and try to get warm, but this ‘restaurant’ turned out to be a meagre table in the middle of the jungle with roof made from palm leaves. Oh well, at least we were under a roof… We couldn’t get any warmer though. Luckily the local whiskey helped. After few shots we felt much better. And after an hour or so we were on our way back to Phi Phi – happy and alive.
However the situation on the land wasn’t perfect as well so having just a few options to do on a small tropical island during bad weather conditions we decided to have foot massage in a random shop. Of fortune turned into luck as it happened to be one of the best massages in my life. I can still remember that pleasant pain I felt while a masseuse was using a special wooden instrument pushing on my feet points and the nice cream with a luxurious cooling effect she used after. Yet it was still raining outside and the streets were now full of water when we had finished. What a shame for us to have to put our relaxed and fresh smelling feet ankle-deep in water. But after experiencing the storm on the boat, we were grateful that were in fact on land and not still lost at sea.
We left Phi Phi the following day. My friend told me how much she didn’t want to leave the beautiful island. I didn’t feel that way at first but when we were on the ship ready for departure and my friend left me alone whilst she went out for a quick cigarette, I suddenly started to cry. It happened so quick, I couldn’t recognize myself. Something happened inside of me. I can’t tell what exactly it was but as soon as we arrived back in Moscow I knew that I must return to that magic island.
I desperately tried to find someone to come with me because I was afraid of traveling in Thailand by myself. From time to time I found people that were ready to go but at the last minute when we were about to buy tickets something would happen and they would pull out. So time passed and my dream started to evolve. From my initial desire to go back to Phi Phi Don for at least a few days it now changed to one month. After reading Alex Garland’s book “The Beach” and realising that the ‘beach’ wasn’t actually at Phi Phi but somewhere around Koh Phangan, I decided I would love to go there instead. And why should I limit myself just to Phi Phi Don when there are so many beautiful islands in Thailand? So while I was earning money for my Thai islands trip, the dream evolved further and eventually led me to Bali. By that time I had given up looking for company to travel with and Bali seemed like the safest place in Asia to travel alone.
Eight months passed since I left Koh Phi Phi Don and I finally had bought my one-way ticket to Bali where my new life was about to begin.