On the move again, from Koh tao to “Surat Thani, on a ship that could load cars and trucks, a moving shelter where I slept the night and woke up closer to my destination. For four hours my head was in dreamland, despite some loud travelers and their irritating small talk, I suppose the fatigue of the last three days diving was catching up with me. The only thing that was shaking my peace was the fact that I couldn’t shoot while scuba diving because I had lost my water proof camera before ever having the chance putting it to use.
The ship’s horn went off, I packed my stuff into my backpack and followed the crowd into pickup trucks which dropped us at some cafe that looked like travel agency shop or rather a travel agency that looked like a cafe. My ticket included the ship plus a mini van to Phuket, for each trip I had a piece of paper as proof of payment, and it happened, I lost the second piece of paper. I lose stuff like that pretty easily, I was frustrated but I wasn’t surprised especially because I was half asleep at this transit stop. Part of it was probably because of an interesting encounter that threw my guard off. The travel agency had several tables for us to sit at before our minivans arrive, in front of me, sat a guy with a familiar face, yet a stranger to what I usually see in this part of the world, I had a feeling he was Moroccan because I had heard his English accent when he was talking to other travelers on the minivan, he seemed very outgoing, quite my opposite, I could have easily asked him where he was from to find out if he was one of my people, but I didn’t, he eventually initiated the conversation and asked me where I was from, he was surprised I was Moroccan too, when what astonished us both was that we had the same name, Yassine, we couldn’t believe what was happening, he was even from my hometown, Casablanca. Small world.
After several minutes of panicking over a piece of paper, I somehow managed to get on the minivan that would take me all the way to Phuket.
The minivan would stop at different locations to drop passengers at their destinations, resorts, hotels and hostels, when it was my turn, I got off the van not knowing where to go exactly, finding addresses is a daunting task, even more so in a busy place like “Bangla road” in Phuket, back then google map couldn’t load while offline, the hostel didn’t have any signs on the main road, and if it did, it probably wasn’t clear enough for a foreigner to see. After about 20 minutes of demystifying addressees I finally found the door to enter, I settled my backpacks at my dorm and went to check out the city with my camera, there was way too many massage shops with girls cat calling tourists to persuade them to go inside their shops, one even grabbed my hand to pull me, there was also too many Arab restaurants, with halal signs, which was ironic since who cares about halal anything in a place like Phuket, maybe I’m wrong, but that was just my first impression.
I had been very shy meeting new people in “Koh tao”, I realised I had to get out of my comfort zone, and talk to some random girls in the street, it wasn’t easy, but I talked to three different groups of girls, my stroll ended at “Patong” beach shooting a sunset time-lapse. When I got back to my hostel it was easy for me talk to other travelers who were at the lobby, I right away joined a group playing card games that left faces with marker drawings, this soon turned to drinking card games, The group included a couple of British people, a girl from the Philippines, a Japanese guy, a Chinese girl, an American girl, a German Indonesian girl, and more, so many different life stories and backgrounds, for each their own reason for being there, sitting in one table was itself something fascinating. They told me I shouldn’t have come to Pukhet in those days because there was a curfew going on where no one is allowed outside from 10 pm to 4 am. , this didn’t bother me because it actually made us bond more and play games for the whole night, also, I was on a journey and cared less about places and more about the people. I always felt bad for travelers who were on a short trip because of how rushed they seemed to be when rushing is almost the opposite of travelling, I do understand their circumstances, like Kunihiko who only had four days of vacation and chose Phuket because of its nightlife reputation, but ended up coming on this curfew period.
The German Indonesian girl was also backpacking, she had me laughing my ass off listening to her crazy stories while we were all playing “never have I ever”, she had done so many things she was not supposed to do as a Muslim, this girl and I shared a big mindset on life I had at the time.
As the night went on, people started leaving the table until there was only the two of us, we moved to the lobby and laid on one big cushion, wrapped on each other sharing more and more stories. I haven’t done anything crazy in a while so we slept together inside her dorm while everyone else was in deep sleep.
The next day, with almost no sleep, I got up from bed at around 10 am to go to my own dorm and sleep for real this time. I had breakfast outside and when I came back to the hostel late that afternoon my friend from Singapore was waiting for me, I introduced her to my hostel friends and then we all went to have dinner at a famous restaurant at the top of a hill overlooking the city. We went to a club in “Bangla road”after, but didn’t stay long.
Back to the hostel, we played drinking games all night long again, and at some point I lost a dare and had to sing the Moroccan national anthem on top of a table topless.
I don’t remember who got the idea of us going to the beach right before sunrise but it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been to the beach at night before but I had never swum under the moonlight, it was one of my happiest moments ever. In a surreal time, we ran into the Indian ocean and plunged into waves, waves that were confused by our presence and laughs, dusk turned to dawn then to blue skies, I didn’t think about bringing my towel because swimming was not the plan, the plan was just to walk or sit on the sand and talk.
This whole series of events wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t got out and talked to strangers in the city earlier that day, because I wouldn’t have gotten out of my way to join this group of people and probably stayed by myself in the hostel lobby instead.
Sunday was Cherry’s last day before going back home, we gathered at the lobby and went to get breakfast together. I was still sleep deprived so I drifted in a 5 hour nap that afternoon and when I got up Cherry was ready to leave so we took a few group pictures and said goodbye outside the hostel. Later that night, I went with Kira and Reeza to get some food from a night market, when we got back we played some cards in a much smaller group than usual, people had left mostly because of the curfew, I wanted to leave as well, the only question that was still in the air was where to? Kira suggested Koh phi phi and added she could join me even though she had been there a couple of times before.
I took a shower and left with Kira in the morning, the boat trip to Koh Phi Phi had views of paradise on earth, I stayed on the dock the whole journey, Kira had been on the same ride before but she was seeing it for the first time through my eyes and excitement, she pointed out some famous islands like she was a local, to local people I probably looked like that white guy who had a Thai girlfriend, she felt that too. Following Kira made me stress free from all the planning and hostel hunting, she had the smallest backpack I had seen any backpacker with, she clearly knew how to travel, I was happy she was with me on this new adventure.
Seeing “the beach” was no longer a dream but something I was looking forward to do in the coming few days. Two years earlier I had uploaded a cover photo on Facebook of this beautiful island after watching the movie ” the beach”, at that point in time I was seeing that picture with a “one day” mindset.
We walked for fifteen minutes across the lively island before arriving to our new accommodation, it was a private room with a queen bed , the bathroom was shared but had an amazing elevated view, The Rock Backpacker hostel was in a very strategic place since it was right beside an emergency ship for disasters like tsunami, and was only a two minute walk from the beach.
I had contacted Yassine, the other Moroccan guy, and asked him to join us for brunch, and then explore the island together, he was in Phi Phi the whole time I was in Phuket, we decided to go to a famous viewpoint which we had to climb up endless stairs for, it was well worth it, the pain faded as we arrived to a view that made my eyes smile and my heart at peace, the fact that this viewpoint was managed by a Muslim community made it extra special for me. At night I went with Kira to Banana bar, a place where one can buy a join and smoke it. I got high super fast since that was the first time I smoked since I started travelling four month earlier.
The next day Kira and I went on a tour that included “the beach” among other attractions. The tour seemed unappealing at first but it was the only way to see my long waited destination, my favourite part of the day was swimming in this lagoon with turquoise waters and tiny fish around me. “The beach” was crowded, like we had expected, we were in a good mood to be disappointed so we scanned for places with less people and went all the way to the extreme left and swam and hung out there.
Koh phi phi had a different vibe than Koh tao and Koh phangan. For some reason, I connected with it more, and would love to go back to it in the future.
Here is a photo diary: