About 48 hours ago we walked back into our home in Brisbane after 10 days abroad. The first 24 hours were a blur after our sleep deprived bodies gave into the effects of sitting in Cattle Class of an all-night, budget flight from SE Asia. As soon as we sat in our comfy recliners, in front of our large screen TV, our eyes lids became heavy, our heads began to droop and soon we were off in the land of nod.
Our latest journey took us to an island in the Andaman Sea, Koh Yao Noi, roughly halfway between Phuket and Krabi in Thailand. It’s great to be able to travel to distant lands and meet a variety of people and learn of their culture and way of life, and to remind ourselves of our good fortune to have been born in this time and place.
In the last 48 hours I have enjoyed drinking water straight from the tap (faucet), brushed my teeth and rinsed my mouth without fear of becoming ill, flushed my used toilet paper down the loo instead of having to place it in a bin by my toilet to remind me of mistakes I made when choosing my last meal. It’s ultimately the little comforts of home you miss most when travelling that remind you of your good fortune.
The island resort was far from your average Thai village, it was mostly secluded from the general public, hence no hawkers to disrupt our peaceful existence. The only Thai people we encountered were employed by the resort and thus paid to be nice to us and to pander to our every whim. Most spoke some English, some very fluently. The resort of Paradise Koh Yoa employs most its staff from the local village, taking them straight from school and teaching and training them on the job. It gives the locals a way of getting ahead that they would otherwise struggle to do. The best wage in the village is as a fisherman, the next as a worker on the rubber plantations. In most cases, whole families are involved in collecting rubber, as the income one person can obtain from tapping is usually insufficient to raise a family.
In the local village the main street is lined with small shop fronts, selling mainly food or touristy souvenirs. Many also dispense gasoline on the sidewalks from drums tapped with hand cranked bowsers or by the litre in recycled soft drink bottles. Work Place Health and Safety is unheard of and has no jurisdiction here. A few have basic safety precautions (note the fire extinguisher in the bottom left hand corner); most have none.
Although, due to its geographical location, this Island was spared the ravages of the Boxing Day Tsunami that devastated much of the region in 2004, there are still reminders and warning signs that Mother Nature can be unpredictable.
The bay is dotted with Limestone islands jutting out of the sea, many with sandy white beaches and azure coves tempting us into the water. Tiny fishing boats congregate on the waters surrounding them, dragging nets to catch prawns, crabs and lobsters.
National Park officers now control the islands and charge each visitor about $10 USD to visit, as I snorkelled around several of them and saw sparse numbers of fish and only dead, bleached remains of what was once coral, I can only surmise that they have shut the gate after the horse has bolted.